“Off to War”

Chapter One


The war was all anyone could talk about these days and Elizabeth was tired of hearing about it. Especially since the whole thing was altogether ridiculous. The South didn’t have an ethical leg to stand on. Who in his right mind would think it just to own another person, to sell another person, to beat another human being, to separate someone from his or her family? It was obvious the Union had the moral high ground. And then for the Southern states to just leave? Secede from the Union indeed! Unimaginable! Yet it was happening. And now Americans were killing Americans. It was unthinkable.

Turning to John, she hoped she might engage him in less ghastly conversation. But to her surprise, she found him rather fixed on the exchange. Strange, she had never known him to be so interested in the goings-on of war. Then again, he was always looking for stimulating conversation. So, she was consigned to be a party, albeit a silent party, to all this talk of war.

Tucking an errant, blonde curl back into place, she noticed a loose pin in her hair. With gentle fingers, she secured it once again. A glance in her mother’s direction warned her that her ministrations had been noticed. Placing her hands in her lap, she refocused her attention on her and John’s fathers as they continued their discussion.

After what seemed like hours, the dessert plates were taken and the men stood, preparing to retire to the men’s lounge. Only John remained by his seat as he rose.

“If you will excuse me, Dr. Thompson, Father, I hoped I might take Elizabeth for a stroll.”

Elizabeth’s eyes shot to John’s face. What an unexpected indulgence! How long had it been since they had taken an evening stroll? Several weeks? She forced herself to remain in her seat and keep her hands in her lap, lest she betray her excitement. One glance at her mother’s sharp gaze reinforced her need to retain a ladylike posture. 

Dr. Thompson exchanged a look with John’s father, Dr. Taylor. A smile passed between them.

Elizabeth’s father nodded before stepping away from the table.

“Please take an outer covering, Elizabeth,” her mother insisted. “It’s still rather chilly out.”

“Yes, Mother.” Elizabeth stood, careful to slow her movements.

John offered his arm, a warm smile spread across his features.

It did melt something in Elizabeth, perhaps the iciness of the ceremony upon which she stood. For as she took his arm, she allowed her exterior to crack and returned his grin. Maybe with her back to her mother, she hadn’t noticed.

Moments later, draped in her cape, and without further ado, Elizabeth and John were off. They stepped out of the house and onto the sidewalk. Elizabeth took a deep breath, glad to be free of their parents and of having to stand on any form of ceremony save one. Amanda, one of the housemaids, followed along, serving as their chaperone. But it wasn’t the same as having her mother looking over her shoulder. For all intents and purposes, it was just the two of them. 

Glancing over at John, she drew closer to him, wrapping her arm even tighter around his. He offered her another smile, placing his free hand on hers that captured his arm. Her heart fluttered being so close to him.

Closing her eyes, Elizabeth clasped the cross that John had gifted her one long-ago Christmas. He was everything to her: best friend, confidante, beau, and, unofficially, fiancé. The features of his face, his dark brown eyes, square jaw, chiseled nose and brow, and brown hair, were as familiar to her as her own reflection.

Elizabeth allowed her mind to wander back to their conversations of late. She and John had talked and dreamed about marriage, but nothing had been set in stone. This was not for fear of their parents’ reactions. Quite the contrary. Their parents would be all too happy to hear of their plans. For now, it was their secret. It was, perhaps, a poorly kept secret. She would wager almost anything their parents expected their intentions to marry. 

Together they strolled down the street, Amanda trailing behind, enjoying the fine weather and beautiful scenery, making small talk. It wasn’t long before John turned toward the park. As always, Elizabeth enjoyed the easiness of these moments. They covered benign topics such as the weather and the goings-on of their families and mutual friends. 

Once they entered the park, John found a bench for them to settle on. Amanda chose one far enough away to afford them some level of privacy, yet close enough to maintain a proper chaperonage. John helped Elizabeth arrange her cape so she was covered and warm. It was an unnecessary worry. With him beside her, the coolness of the evening was the last thing on her mind.

A silence fell between them.

“How were your rounds today?” she offered into the quiet that had befallen them.

John had just completed medical school and was interning at the nearby hospital.

“Fine,” he replied, not offering anything further.

Such a simple response was quite unusual. He always had a couple of cases to discuss with her. When they were younger, they poured over their fathers’ textbooks together. And she had done her share of helping him study during his tenure in medical school. It had become a game of sorts for him to detail the cases he had seen that day and let her attempt to diagnose the patients. Yet this evening he remained silent. Why? Whatever was on his mind weighed heavily.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She tested the waters.

He stared off into the distance. “We visited a wing of the hospital that cares for wounded soldiers.”

“Oh.” Her voice was just above a whisper. How horrible.

“It was unlike anything I had ever seen before…bodies mangled…” He shook his head. She knew he didn’t want to impress any more imagery on her.

“I can’t imagine what that must have been like for…” She reached out to touch his arm.

He interrupted her, his words rushing from him. “And so today I enlisted in the Northern regiment.” His eyes held hers. They were serious.

Her heart dropped. What could she say? How could he make such a decision without talking to her first?

He stood and stepped away from her before turning back to face her. “I know. I know. I should have said something to you first. It was terrible, Lizzie, the pain, the death. What those men needed was more help on the front lines. That could have saved limbs. That could have saved lives. How could I not offer my skills to help so many?”

“I understand.” How could she be so calm? It seemed as if she watched herself from outside her body. Then her voice began to break. “But I can’t…I don’t…that is…I…”

“It’s all right.” He sat down and pulled her into his embrace.

“What of our plans?” she managed through tears.

“I still want to marry you.” He pulled back and cupped her face. “So much.”

“Then let’s get married now, before you go.” The words fell out of her mouth almost before she thought them. A tingle shot through her. What did she just say? Get married in the next few days?

John cocked his head as he studied her features. 

Elizabeth knew that look. She couldn’t hide her trepidation from him. He would know she didn’t want to throw a wedding together in a few days any more than he did, rush through a honeymoon, and then spend their first married year separated for who knew how long.

“That would make me happy. Truly happy,” he said. “But I won’t make you a war bride. And I won’t risk making you a young widow.”

Why would he say that? She reached up, placing her fingertips on his lips. “Don’t talk like that.”

He captured her hand in his. “It’s a real possibility.”

There seemed to be a hole forming in her chest where her heart had dropped. It ached. She threw herself into his arms. “I won’t think like that. I can’t!”

Elizabeth remained in his embrace for a few moments. What must Amanda think? It didn’t matter. After some moments, John pulled back only far enough to look at her. He hooked his finger under her chin to tilt her head toward him.

“Remember, I love you,” his voice was firm and confident.

“Always and forever?” She sniffed.

“Always and forever.” He pressed a kiss to her lips.


Abigail Thompson sat in her favorite chair in the family parlor, working a cross-stitch that would become a decorative pillow. She enjoyed this craft as it gave her ample time to work things out in her mind as she worked the thread with her hands. If only everything could work out as easy and clean as her designs did! Her mind wandered amidst the ornate décor of her parlor, but her thoughts dwelt on how weary she had grown of watching her daughter mope around the house these last few days. 

Since the night of John’s big announcement, Elizabeth moved about her days as if she were thousands of miles away. Always sad, always downhearted. Abigail could only imagine the pain her daughter went through knowing her best friend and beau would soon be off to the war, perhaps never to return. It could not be an easy prospect to face. Indeed, they were all shaken by the news. 

She admired John’s decision to fight for his country, to stand for the principles for which the Union stood. Still, she couldn’t agree with his decision to leave. As he neared the end of his internship, the prospect of his future lay before him. There was so much good he could do right here in Boston. So many people here needed him. Including Elizabeth.

Gentle footfalls neared the parlor. Abigail paused her work. Whoever dared disturb her solitude stopped just behind her chair. She turned as Amanda came around to face her.

“Excuse me, ma’am. I have the menu for this evening.”

Abigail set her cross-stitch in her lap and, smiling up at the girl, encouraged her to continue. “All right.”

“Roast, potatoes, carrots, green beans, yeast rolls, and custard dessert,” Amanda recited.

“Everything sounds fine indeed.”

Amanda curtsied and took her leave.

Every night since John made known his intentions to join the Northern army, the Thompsons and Taylors had dined together. John insisted on spending every available moment with Elizabeth. Even now, she was due back from the hospital. She spent her midday there to take lunch with him. Of late, their lunches had become more drawn out. It was doubtful that any of John’s supervisors minded, considering the circumstances. 

But no matter how long they were together, Elizabeth always returned in a sullen mood. Whatever did they talk about? What did one talk about when you were off to war in a handful of days?

Just then, the front door creaked. Had she returned finally?

“Elizabeth!” Abigail called out.

“Yes, Mother?” she heard from the direction of the foyer.

“Would you join me in the parlor?”

“Of course.” Elizabeth let out a deep sigh. She sounded so tired. No — weary, fatigued.

Moments later, Elizabeth came into the parlor, countenance as downcast as ever.

Abigail’s heart broke for her daughter. “Please, sit with me for a while.”

Elizabeth nodded, taking a seat on the settee near her mother’s chair. Folding her hands in her lap, Elizabeth looked at the floor. Was she truly as disinterested in her mother’s words as she seemed? It was clear all she wanted to do was escape to her room.

Abigail put her cross-stitch to the side. “Tell me. How was he today?”

Elizabeth’s gaze wandered toward the window. “Just as he always is…excited about the difference he’s going to make.” Was it Abigail’s imagination, or was there a hint of exasperation in Elizabeth’s voice?

“Perhaps he will make a difference. I’m sure he will save lives.”

Elizabeth became quiet and turned her attention to her hands, still in her lap.

“But it doesn’t help your heart to hear that, does it, darling?”

Elizabeth shook her head and fresh tears appeared at the corners of her eyes.

Abigail reached out and took her daughter’s hand. “Do not fear for him so, Lizzie. I understand that the doctors are kept far from the front lines in the camps where they can do the most good. He will be out of harm’s way.” She watched for even a glimmer of hope that she had assuaged Elizabeth’s fears in the slightest.

“John said as much, too. But I don’t know if I can take it. Not knowing day to day if he is well. If he is alive, or…” The sentence was choked off by Elizabeth’s sniffles.

“I know, darling, I know.” Was her voice tender enough? Or was she still the distant mother she had become with Elizabeth?

“If only I could go with him…” Elizabeth started.

“Shhh!” Abigail patted her hand. “Darling, you know that’s not possible. Women of our station do not say such things. We will support him in the ways we can. You can join a booster or write letters.”

Elizabeth nodded, but said nothing further.

Did Elizabeth think that Abigail didn’t understand? She did. Elizabeth wanted to go with him. But that wasn’t possible. Taking another long look at her daughter, she confirmed that Elizabeth’s tears had dried, replaced by a look of determination. There now, they would work together to support the cause. And that would be the end of it.


Henry Moore stood in his family’s parlor, hanging his head, not able to brace himself against the tidings he had just received. It couldn’t be so. He looked over at his wife, Martha. She had shut her eyes against the news their seventeen-year-old son brought. The color drained from her face and she reached for the arm of the closest chair. Was she going to faint?

Reaching out, he helped ease her into the chair and left his hand on her shoulder. Perhaps that would give her some comfort.

If only time would stop so they did not have to endure the pain of what lay ahead. The parlor whirled for several seconds. This room, filled with happy memories of family times spent together, would now forever be scarred with the memory of this exchange.

Their son, his bright-eyed boy Jacob, barely a man, had enlisted to go to war. Oh, he was old enough to be recognized by the state as a man, old enough to serve. So they could do nothing but let the fears come, and Martha, it seemed, did nothing to stop them. 

How could he do this to his hapless parents? He was too young to understand the ramifications of what he had done. But, of course, the Union army didn’t see things that way. No, he was nothing more than one more soldier added to their roster today. That was the price of war.

Henry and Martha’s older son, Benjamin, had already gone off to war months ago. At that time, they had been proud of his bravery and respected that he wanted to fight for his country. But he was a grown man! And they had been naïve to the burden of having a son at war. Every day after had been a lesson. Since the last time Henry saw his face, he feared for Benjamin’s safety every minute of every day. But at least he’d had Jacob at home. Until now.

“Mother, I promise, I’ll make you proud. Just like Benjamin!”

Martha shook her head. 

So that was it. He had seen how pleased they were when Benjamin signed on. Had he been counting down the days until his enlist date? Did he think this was what they hoped for? This was the last thing Henry wanted.

“You don’t understand, Jacob, I can’t…” 

Henry’s grip tightened on Martha’s shoulder, cutting her off. This was not the way to handle things.

“We are proud of you, son. You’ve done us both proud,” Henry said, doing his best to keep his voice steady. “I think your mother is just surprised. We both are.”

“I know I should have said something first, but I wanted to surprise you,” Jacob said.

“You certainly did that.” Henry smiled at Jacob.

Underneath it all, he hoped Martha would understand. He did not want to sound cold and heartless to her pain. No, he understood what she was going through. But the deed was done. And now Jacob needed their support. 

How could she give that? One look in his wife’s face and he knew. All she wanted to do was scream. But she would have to lean on her husband’s wisdom no matter how her heart cried out against it. At this point, there was no going back.

“Do you think they’ll put me in Benjamin’s regiment?” Jacob asked, his voice hopeful.

“No. Not likely,” Henry said, his voice even.

Jacob’s features dropped. Had that not occurred to him?

“But I’ll get to wear a uniform and carry a gun?”

Henry nodded. “Yes, you will.”

Henry’s stomach churned. The thought of his young son who used to play with wooden guns carrying a real weapon into a fight…it made him nauseated. He turned away lest Jacob see his sickened expression. Jacob was so eager. And he hadn’t a clue. War was a game to him. The reality had not yet set in. 

What could he say to help Jacob realize? He needed to give his son some words. 

Looking up at her son, Martha motioned for him to come closer to her. 

He did so, crouching in front of her so they were eye-to-eye.

“Just promise me one thing, Jacob,” she said, taking his face in her hands.

“What, Mother?” his eyebrows went up.

“That you won’t go rushing into any fight. That you will stay back and watch out for yourself.”

His brows furrowed, but he nodded all the same. 

Even if he didn’t understand now, Henry hoped that at that critical moment, he would remember and heed her advice. 

And so, Martha smiled at him and leaned forward to kiss the side of his face.

He accepted her affection, smiling back at her.

And Henry’s heart beat strong once again.


The doorbell rang, disturbing the Thompson family’s lunch. In the dining room, Elizabeth exchanged looks with her parents and brother as their conversation came to a halt. Who could it be? No one gave any indication they expected a guest. All they could do was wait until a servant came to announce the unexpected visitor. Each member of the family set their silverware down, dabbing at their mouths, each readying him or herself to receive the guest. They didn’t have to wait long until the butler appeared at the doorway.

“Mr. John Taylor is here to see Miss Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth’s heart tumbled. Why would John be here? He was much too early. Because he would be shipping out tomorrow, they had agreed he should spend the day with his parents. He and Elizabeth had planned to meet later in the afternoon. Had something happened? Fighting a wave of dread that rose from within her stomach, Elizabeth waited for her mother to excuse her.

“Go ahead.” Abigail motioned for her to follow the butler to the parlor.

Elizabeth stood and fell in step behind the tall man who looked after their home.

The parlor, adjacent to the dining room, was a short walk away. But today the hall stretched for miles as Elizabeth anticipated what news John might bring. 

Stepping through the doorway, Elizabeth was unable to catch her breath for a moment. John stood tall and proud in his Union uniform. A question bubbled to the surface, but her emotions overtook her and she could not form it into words.

John nodded to the butler before the man quit the room, leaving the door open and positioning himself on the other side as a chaperone. Only then did John speak.

He moved toward her, placing his hands on her arms. “We’re shipping out tonight, Lizzie.”

She held back from his embrace, moving a hand across her face in disbelief. “What? But you are supposed to leave tomorrow.”

“I know. Things have been expedited. I have been informed that our train leaves tonight.”

The room began to spin and Elizabeth’s knees became weak.

John pulled her into his arms, but she couldn’t gather her thoughts enough to embrace him. 

Tonight? She wasn’t ready! Her plans were not fully set in place yet…

“I know it’s a little sudden, Lizzie. But we knew this was going to happen. It’s just a little sooner is all.” He pulled back to look at her and brushed away the tears she didn’t know she had shed.

“I…I can’t…” she tried.

“Can’t what, Lizzie?” His voice was soft as he tucked that errant curl behind her ear. The touch of his fingers on her skin was gentle, soothing.

“I can’t say good-bye.” How could she? She could hardly form a coherent thought.

He wrapped his arms around her again. This time she clung to him and sobbed. It didn’t seem possible, but he held her even tighter.

“It will be all right,” he soothed.

She trembled.

He leaned back, only far enough to capture her lips with his. When the kiss broke off, he held her to himself again.

“I need you to be strong for me now, Lizzie.”

She wanted to. Breathing deeply, she attempted to rein in her emotions. 

All the while, he continued to rub her arms, her shoulders, pressing kisses to her forehead and her hair.

Why did he have to be so wonderful? Tears threatened to break through again, but she held them back.

Once she calmed, he used his finger to tilt her chin so she looked up at him. “Can you be strong for my parents?”

She knew what he meant. He spoke not only of today, but also if something were to happen to him. “Yes,” she lied.

“I know you can, even if you don’t,” he assured her, cupping her face.

She hung her head, fighting more tears.

“Write to me?” He hooked her chin with his finger so she had to look at him.

“Every day.”

“Wait for me?” he asked, his voice as tender as she’d ever heard it.


John’s face broke out in a slow smile at that. 

Elizabeth allowed herself to get lost in his eyes. They belonged together. In that moment, she knew…that’s why he wasn’t afraid. He would return to her because he had to.

His lips met hers again in a gentle kiss. She returned his kiss with everything she had, longing to communicate all of her love, all of her hopes and dreams in that one kiss.

When John broke contact, her head still spun.

“I must go.” He blinked, moving toward the door, his step wavering. Was the room spinning for him, too? “I carry you with me, Lizzie. Always and forever, remember?”

“Always and forever.” She fought down a fresh wave of emotion, refusing to cry in front of him again.

He reached over and pulled her to him for another quick kiss. Then he was gone, and she was alone. 

Elizabeth fell to the floor, sobbing. From the depths of her heart rose a determination to see her plan through. If his leaving was accelerated, so was her plan. She had to get things in motion. Wiping at her tears, she got up. There was much to do.


Charlotte sat at her small desk writing letters. She had been on a campaign since John enlisted, trying to secure more support for the troops and for the wounded soldiers in the hospital. She was proud of her work on behalf of the soldiers who couldn’t help themselves, but it wasn’t for their sake she made such tireless efforts.

The floorboard creaked behind her. 

Charlotte looked up from her work. Franklin stood in the doorway to the parlor. 

“Good afternoon, darling. You are home early. Is everything all right?”

His features unchanging, he closed the distance between them. Now over her, he leaned down to place a kiss on her forehead. “Our son has news for us.”

The pen slipped from Charlotte’s fingers. Could her heart take the news? 

Franklin stepped to a settee nearby and patted the seat next to him. “Come, my dear. Come sit by me.”

Her movements were slow as she turned in her chair and watched him. What tidings were these he brought? Did he know this news that John would bring? Should she stay where she was? What good would come of that? After some moments, she rose and took the steps to where her husband sat.

“Let us just sit together for a while.” Franklin wrapped an arm around her.

Her brows furrowed as she searched his eyes. Why was his behavior so suspicious? It wasn’t as if they had a loveless marriage, but he did not make a habit of coming home early to sit on the couch with her. 

He sighed. Taking her left hand in his, he softened his tone. “How are Rose’s studies?”

“Quite well. She is in her room even now, busy with schoolwork. Shall I have her come down?” Charlotte shifted to stand.

“No.” He moved his hands over her arms, stilling her.

They sat in silence for a few moments. What did he know? Was it bad? Charlotte couldn’t help the sense of foreboding that fell upon the room.

“What is this news from John?” Charlotte blurted out after several seconds as she turned to face him again, her eyes wide and her breathing ragged.

Franklin sighed again. He gazed into her eyes but he seemed hesitant to share. Still, he spoke. “John is coming home soon. He stopped by the practice before lunch and had a discussion with me.”

“And?” Her voice rose.

“Charlotte, he is shipping out tonight.”

“Tonight?” All the heat drained from her, and her body became weak.

“Yes, tonight.” Franklin placed gentle hands on her arms. “I know it’s not ideal, but we need to be supportive. He’s coming here from the Thompson’s home where he will have bid farewell to Elizabeth. You know how hard that will have been. We cannot make this more difficult.”

She nodded. Tonight. Her son, her John, was going off to war tonight. How was she going to say farewell to him? What would it be like to hold him for perhaps the last time? Her thoughts began to run away with her. This would not do.

Charlotte took a deep breath, this one more even. Then, when she looked at her husband, her mind was set, determined. No matter what happened, she would face this situation with grace. Even if Franklin had to hold her while she cried tonight, she would be strong for John right now.

A slight smile graced Franklin’s features. He kissed the side of her face. “If you’re ready, we need to go upstairs and tell Rose.”

Charlotte nodded, giving his arms a squeeze. “I’m ready.”

And in that moment she was. Ready for anything.


Would the Moore family ever be the same? If they had been splintered when Benjamin went off to war, as Mother said, would they now be hopelessly split as Father and Jacob left home and headed toward the train station? Mother had not been able to leave her room since news of the early departure reached their home. Had it just become too much for her to say farewell to him? 

And so, Father decided he and Jacob would slip out this evening while she napped. Try as he might, Father had not been able to disguise how this whole thing had affected his mother. How could Jacob not know why she kept to her room? How could he not hear her as she cried at night?

“Please help her understand, Father,” Jacob said as Father closed the door behind him.

“I will do my best. She will come to understand in time.”

Jacob nodded, his heart aching.

“Let’s get you to the train.” Father turned in the direction of the station, putting a hand on Jacob’s shoulder, clad in Union blue.

He certainly looked rather distinguished in his uniform, perhaps even a bit older. Father even told Jacob as much when he’d first put it on. But he felt a hesitation on this night. He no longer felt the confidence he once had. Yet he obeyed his father and picked up step with him.

They walked much of the distance in silence. Did Father, too, struggle with his own thoughts and emotions about what would happen once they arrived at their destination? Jacob did. How would they say good-bye? What would it be like to walk away from his father for perhaps the last time?

“Did you pack enough paper to write us?” Father broke the silence.

Jacob nodded. “I’ll write often and tell you all about what’s happening.”

Benjamin’s letters had become something the family enjoyed together these last couple of months. Jacob envisioned his parents and Susan huddled around the parlor’s fireplace as Father’s booming voice recited his letters from the front. As he imagined this scenario, he remembered the numerous letters from Benjamin that Father read in just this fashion. 

However, this time, instead of focusing on the letter’s contents, he let his mind’s eye take in the people in the room. He saw, for the first time, his mother’s reaction to these letters – relief that they had another letter, fear for her son’s safety, helplessness. How had he never noticed these things before? Had he been so caught up in the grandness of what Benjamin was doing to see her response?

And so Jacob determined that he would write without fail, but also that he would guard his words to give his mother comfort and not cause unnecessary worry.

“Will you write to me and tell me of Benjamin?” Jacob turned toward his father. As difficult as it was to see in the dimness of the evening, he thought he caught the shimmer of moisture in Father’s eye. Had he?

“Of course,” came Father’s strong, deep voice. “We’ll send word of your brother as often as we have it.” Father flashed him a half smile.

Jacob could not think of anything else to say the remainder of the walk to the station. So they passed the time in silent companionship.

When they arrived, they met with ordered chaos. Supplies were loaded and soldiers said their farewells to all manner of family. Women who joined the regiment as part of the Sanitary Commission, as well as a myriad of other passengers, milled about, saying their goodbyes and placing their luggage amidst the soldiers’ things. 

Jacob’s gaze wandered across the platform at the many family farewells. There was no shortage of tears. His heart ached to not have a final moment with his mother, but he told himself to be glad she had not come. He had no desire to cry in front of the members of his unit. And his mother’s tears would inevitably lead to his own. 

Father clapped a hand on Jacob’s shoulder, turning toward him. “This may well be the worst part of it,” his father said, his voice soft and low.

Jacob nodded, a lump forming in his throat. How was he to do this?

“I wish I had some great words of wisdom to impart to you.” Father looked toward the ground. The shaking in Henry’s voice was almost imperceptible. Almost. After some moments Father met his eyes again. “You are your own man now, and we are so proud of who you have become.” 

“Thanks, Father.” Jacob attempted to swallow past the lump. It was not easy.

Then Father’s eyes became serious as he laid a firm hand on Jacob’s other shoulder. “Be mindful of yourself, son. Be careful. Come home.”

Jacob nodded, and with a confidence he didn’t quite feel, said, “I will, Father.”

Father pulled Jacob forward into his embrace, and Jacob allowed himself to stay for just a moment. How long would it be until he would be with his father again? But it was over all too soon when Father clapped his shoulder again and pulled back. 

Offering Jacob a small smile, Father’s lips quivered, but he didn’t speak as he indicated with a wave of his hand that Jacob should check in with his commanding officer.

Reaching for his bag, Jacob then turned and moved away from his father. A prickling sensation pinched at him behind his eyes. He would not cry.

“Jacob! Jacob!”

He whirled around, eyes scanning for the source of the familiar voice. At last, he spotted his mother running through the station, barreling straight for him. Father reached out to stop her, but Jacob moved around him. He and his mother crashed into each other.

“Jacob, how dare you try to sneak out like that?” his mother’s sobbing voice admonished him. The tears rolling down her face wet his neck, and the tears forming in his own eyes wet his face. But in that moment, it didn’t matter who saw him crying.

“I’m sorry, Mother, I didn’t want to…I thought…I shouldn’t have.” He buried his face in her shoulder.

“It’s all right.” She stroked his back.

He rested for a few moments more in her embrace. Strong arms encircled both of them. Father’s. If only Jacob could stay in this perfect peaceful cocoon. But after some time, his father pulled back, tugging on Mother to do the same. She wiped Jacob’s tears away as she did so.

“I love you, Jacob. Take care of yourself,” she said, choking back more tears.

“I will, Mother. I promise.”

She nodded, straightening his jacket.

“You are so handsome in your uniform.” She offered him a smile.

One side of his mouth curved upward.

“I’m certain your commander is waiting,” his father interjected.

With slow movements, Jacob took a step back from his parents, gathered his bag once more, and, turning, walked toward his commander. After he had taken few steps, however, he turned and saluted his parents, wanting to show them all the love and respect he felt for them in that moment.

Smiling, they dipped their heads.

With that, he turned toward his commander and did not look back.