July 26, 2013


Ivy Fenton sat on the bench in Fiddleton Park, waiting for John, a carpenter she had met two months ago at Solbol’s Christmas Ball.

“He’s not coming,” said Ivy's sister Emily, who waited with her. “He’s not coming!” Emily put her face to between the iron fence bars and looked out at the park.

“He’ll be here.” Ivy enlightened her, as her hands moved over the wrinkles of her blue dress. She looked toward the dirt road. He’s never late.”

“Do you think that Father…”

“No!” Ivy's head shot up and her eyes grew wide. “Father is short-tempered, but he would never intentionally hurt John.”

“He put his fist to John’s face, Ivy!” Emily reminded her. “Have you forgotten that father told him if he ever stepped foot near you that he’d see to it himself that he wasn't seen here in Newell again!”

Several days had passed since Benway's Horse Festival, Ivy reflected, when she and her family were watching the race and she told her father that she was hungry and would go off in search of sorbet; when really she wanted to meet with John. Her father must have known about her plan. He later caught her and John behind the stables in an innocent embrace. He was anything but calm.

“Oh, Emily, I do hope you're wrong.” Ivy let out a tired breath. “Father doesn't know the truth. John is not a rake, nor is he 13 years my junior like father believes. He is 9 years older than me. And even though he is 27, he seems older in his ways because of the hard life he’s had, as well as his age is arguable because he was an orphan and there are no records of his birth.”

“I do believe you, but Father thinks you speak poppycock. Father is stubborn and controlling and would have you marry skinny Albert Swenson from the bank if it were up to him. How much longer will you stay here? Mother is waiting for us.”

Ivy pulled her necklace out from under her collar. She looked down at the clock ring attached to the chain, a gift from John that she always kept hidden. “It’s 4 o’clock. We’ll wait another 15 minutes.

A half hour passed and Ivy still was not ready to go, she grew wearier. Already she had not slept the night through due to the excitement of their meeting. She leaned back against the park bench and closed her eyes, imagining John’s arrival, on his black horse, Radcliff.

One month later, just before dawn, John Smithey was encamped near Stoney Farm when General Bradden told the regiment that they would be moving out in the early morning hours to assist in holding the city of Plensington, for an attack on the British enemy.

John sat down one evening, on a tattered wool blanket next to the waning camp fire. He reached in the pocket of his coat and drew out a photograph of Ivy. His cold fingers brushed over her face, her blue eyes. He missed her, her smooth, sweet- scented skin, soft voice and gentle character. These images would be what would carry him through the difficult days ahead. 

Thankfully, before he had parted for Llewellyn’s Ferry to go off to war, Ivy's sister Emily gave him a photograph of Ivy. Ivy, Emily had informed him, was forbidden to go to town without their father, at least until their father knew for certain of John’s departure.

John regretted not being able to meet Ivy that day at the park. There was nothing he could have done, however. His house had suspiciously caught fire and he and his neighbors had put up a desperate fight to save it. Despite their efforts, the house burned to the ground. Later, when he returned, he would find out why the fire was ruled arson. Everything was gone, he reminded himself, except Katherine. Now more than ever he wanted to see her. He had to see her, even if not to be with her. There was something she needed to know.

His eyes lingered on Ivy's hair in the photo. She was brave to wear it down. “My sweet, Ivy, I’m coming home. I’m coming home, my love.”

He reached for his pencil and began writing with an anxious hand,

My Dearest Ivy,

I have not slept much since arriving here at Fort Magley. And 

I will admit that as much as I anticipate the war to be over, it
 is not what keeps me turning at night. I  miss you. Your beautiful 
photo is nearly faded, because my thumb has moved across your 
face more times than I can count. You are indeed a woman who 
has made my heart skip with desire many a times. There is nothing
 greater that I would love than to be in your company. Until then,
 know that I love you with all my heart.

Yours truly,