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Adam's Little Girl
Emily had fainted the moment that she read the telegram. Her sister Mary had been visiting, and roused her in a few minutes. When Emily’s eyes fluttered open, Mary saw the paleness of the dainty face before her. On the ground was the slip of paper. Mary’s eyes darted to it once more, to see the same dreadful words that had caused such a reaction. “adam rocksfield killed in action stop bullet to chest stop instant death stop”
Emily didn’t cry at first. The shock was too large, the wound was too deep for that. She only felt a desolation and pain sweep over her. Every second, she was hoping to wake up from this horrible dream; she expected her laughing husband to come bursting through the door.
But Adam never came. The rest of the day was a blur, as her parents hurried over as soon as they had heard. They tried to be comforting, but Emily felt as if every word was a sword, piercing her heart.
No one knew how the word spread so quickly, or how people could bake so fast, but after a short while, neighbors and friends came with bread, flowers, and goodies. Emily felt as though she would suffocate. She couldn’t smile, and her “Thank you” seemed to be from far away. It sounded soft and forlorn. As the visitors left, each group would exchange looks of pity. Everyone saw how lost those dark eyes had looked.
Finally, her parents hesitantly went home, the stream of visitors stopped, and she had her small home to herself. Passing the counter of food, she walked as if in a trance to her bedroom and sank into the desk chair. She saw her white face in the mirror, the dark curls that framed it, and her slender, graceful hands. Then her shoulders started to shake. Her whole body was racked with sobs as the reality of her dear Adam’s death flooded over her. She couldn’t stop crying, she didn’t want to stop; she just wanted her Adam back. At last, when the tears ran out, she fell asleep, still at the desk.
Emily woke up the next morning as she felt the baby kick. She looked down, and felt the protrusion of her stomach, a new feeling of dread being added. How could she raise her baby? Her baby, the sweet dream of starting a family—how could she carry on without Adam? Together, they had started decorating the small room down the hall. They had picked out the perfect cradle, and he had painted a darling little chest that held all the supplies they needed. Now, Emily felt sick to her stomach when she thought of raising a child on her own.
A quiet knock interrupted her worries. Emily pulled herself together as much as she could and went to answer. In the sunlight that flooded through as the door opened, she saw Leslie.
“Oh, Leslie,” she said. “I’m so glad it’s you.”
The woman smiled softly, and said, “Hello.” Leslie had long, red hair, piercing green eyes, and a gentle air about her. Emily gestured for her to come in, and led the way into the living room. They both sat down into the couch that was there.
“So,” Leslie said. “Want to talk?”
Emily sighed. “I hardly know what to say. My feelings are all so jumbled. I can’t take it in.”
“You feel like things are happening all around you, but your standing stock-still, right?”
“Exactly,” Emily cried. “I don’t know what to think; it seems like some horrific nightmare. You must understand, though.”
“Yes, I do. When my younger brother died, I lost the person I was closest to my entire life. Eric was so pure, and I couldn’t see why he had to have such a horrible illness. Why did he have to die?”
“Every time I think about it, I see Adam, with his clear blue eyes and dark hair. I see the eyes empty, with no sparkle. And I see the hole in his chest where hate stole his life. He had so much ahead of him. He promised me—he promised he’d come home.”
“Oh, honey,” Leslie said. “Life has to end for everyone sometime. I learned that. For some reason, it was His will that our men live with Him.” Her emerald eyes were sparkly with tears. “They’re in a happier world that we are—away from hate and war and sickness.”
“I always believed that, until now, “ Emily said.
“You do believe that,” Leslie said fiercely. “Emily, you have to—that is all that will bring you through. I know.”
“Oh, I do too,” Emily said repentantly. “But I need to be alone a little more—you don’t mind, do you, Leslie? I just need to think, and feel.”
“Yes, of course,” Leslie said. “I remember. I’ll drop in every day, all right? We can talk. Emily, don’t worry. In a while, your wound will heal.”
“Everybody says that,” Emily replied, “but I don’t want it to. I’d feel worse if I knew that I could live without him.”
“Don’t feel bad. Sometime, you’ll have his sweet memory without the pain.”
After Leslie’s visit, Emily could stand the comforting of her parents later that day. She prayed and thought and cried when left alone. The days dragged by, and the only thing that cheered her—or rather didn’t pain her—were Leslie’s daily visits. Once, Emily voiced her desperate worry of having the baby on her own.
“It may be hard, Emily,” Leslie said once, “but you must know that you can do it. I will help, your parents will. Have you been feeling okay?”
“I haven’t been sick, just tired. But I don’t know how I’ll pay for the baby. How will I take care of it?”
Leslie thought for a moment. “Mr. Sanders needs a clerk,” she said. “I’ll bet your parents could find a nanny for the child. In fact, I think you should start right away. You’ll feel better if you’re busy.”
So Emily had gone to work. She still had trouble with the sympathetic looks that greeted her everywhere, but she recognized that the work was good for her. She couldn’t think and feel so much sadness when her mind was busy. Leslie still talked with her each day, and those words were a soothing balm to her soul. Sometimes, Leslie would just read to Emily, or they would watch a sunset in silence. All of these things led to Emily’s first smile after a couple of weeks. The smile wasn’t the carefree grin of her days with Adam. It was wiser, more mature, with a hint of sadness that still lingered.
After a month, she laughed. There wasn’t anguish in every thought of Adam, and her dreams began to liven as she thought of her future son or daughter. More often, she began to talk about him.
“I met him when we moved here in 1915, when I was sixteen. He was so tall and handsome—and he was kind, too. He was the boy that carried my books and walked me home.” Her mouth softened into a gentle smile. “Life was good in this little town—it still is. So sweet and wholesome and good. This will always be my home. It will be Adam’s too. His body may be in German soil, but nothing will keep him from staying here. His heart always was with me.”
The weeks passed by one by one. Finally, she came to a Saturday evening that found her in the church garden, which was almost right next to her home. She was soaking in the rays of the setting sun, smelling the fragrance of the flowers, and she felt a shock of pain. A sharp cry escaped her lips. Her steps faltered, and after a gasp, she whispered, “This is it.”
A passing young boy ran for the doctor. She managed to get into her house, and many hard hours later, she held a small girl in her arms.
“What will you name her?” Leslie asked; she had come a few hours earlier, to help in any possible way.
Emily was silent for a long while. She had thought of many possibilities before she remembered the night before Adam had left as a soldier. They had read the Bible for a while, as they had done every night. On that day, they read about Esther, the Jewess heroine. Emily remembered Adam looking at her slightly swelled stomach, and said, “If our baby is a girl, she will be a heroine like Esther; only instead of a country she will save some soul from hate and heal their heart. This war can’t destroy everyone’s hopes.”
Now, Emily looked at the tiny head of dark hair, with darling eyes squeezed shut. She said softly, “Esther. Her name will be Esther.” Then, shining eyes, she realized that little Esther had already healed one heart. Emily looked up, and said softly, “Adam, meet your little girl.”
Seventy or so years later, Emily lay again in a bed. Her hair was snow-white, her face wrinkled, and her hands shaky. By her side was a middle-aged woman with dark hair and eyes full of love.
Emily’s body was weaker and slower than years ago, but her heart was swelled with pride as she looked once more on the form of her daughter. Esther had grown, an intelligent, kind, and happy woman. She had exceeded all of her mother’s expectations.
Also beside the bed, on a nightstand, was the black and white photograph of a young man named Adam, who had passed away so many years ago.
Conversation passed lightly between mother and daughter for a while until Emily fell asleep. After kissing her mother’s faded, soft cheek, Esther slipped out of the nursing home. Sometime during the quiet, dark night, Emily drifted into a peaceful, happy dream from which she did not awake.