Mary stepped out of her car, which had finally made it to the top of the mountain, and into the mid-morning sunshine. A warm current of air rose along the Peaks of Otter and caught a wisp of her hair. She smiled, for she could hear him going on about her auburn hair and how the sunshine made it sparkle like highly polished copper.
She slowly made her way down a familiar trail a short distance from the side of the road and reached the large, flat rock that was their favorite place. She sat down on the ancient limestone and gazed out over the distant mountains and the valley below. The mountain laurel was in full bloom, its violet flowers punctuating the many hues of green. She looked up–nothing but blue skies—and she waited for John.
“There you are!” she exclaimed and she looked into his green eyes as he appeared before her on the rock.
“Your hair is all sparkles in this sunshine,” he cooed. Mary giggled and pulled him tightly to her.
They tried not to talk about what was most on their minds, but they couldn’t avoid it. John was leaving for basic training and then it would be off to England and then, who knew? Mary refused to talk about the future, because she knew that she would have no future without John. So they talked about what time John would have to catch the train tomorrow and about the swell time they had at the dance the night before at the Roanoke Armory. The talk was interspersed with periods of silence, verbal silence at least, but the kisses and the tears spoke of deeper things for which there were no words anyway.
When it was time to leave, Mary rose and made her way along the trail to her car.
“I’ll be seeing you,” she said with the brightest of smiles and a sigh.
Mary drove back down the mountain and into Bedford. She parked across the street from the Presbyterian Church where she and the other women in town had wrapped bandages to be sent to their boys overseas. They had kept their hands occupied if not their minds.
As Mary crossed the street, the cool air ran down the mountain slope and caught a wisp of her gray hair, but she seemed not to notice it. She walked two blocks further to the monument on which were inscribed the names of the now-famous Bedford Boys. Assigned to Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment, they happened to be in the first wave at Normandy. Few even set foot on the beach.
Mary knelt and ran her finger over John’s name. She looked down the street and back in time. She saw herself walking, John’s father holding her up with one hand while clutching a telegram in the other. That had been a beautiful morning, too.
Mary had had many positive moments in her life since then. She was an aunt and now a great-aunt and a revered part of a family that she loved. She had had a career and she had served her community.
Still, when the mountain laurel was in full bloom high up on the Peaks of Otter, there was only that moment. She embraced it now. Embraced it until the venerable rock that had become the sole destination of her sentimental journeys was well-spotted with her tears.
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