Fort Ellis, Montana

 

Spring melted into summer, and summer came and went. While he had sent Geordie a letter back in June saying he would be in Texas before the end of the year, Jim still hadn’t talked to the colonel. Nor had he mentioned his plans to his best friend. I’m being a coward, he admitted. He’s going to try to talk me out of it. I know he will. And he can be a most persuasive fellow—I’m not sure I can withstand his arguments.

And still that small voice said Wait.

Then it was the middle of September. There were snow caps on the higher peaks already, flurries had been seen around the post, and the tanks that delivered water to their quarters had frozen over several times. Granted, the post was always colder than elsewhere in the area—Rob said it had something to do with its elevation and the shadowing mountains. All I know, Jim griped as he returned from a routine two‑week patrol, is that September should not be this dang cold. Even wrapped in his heavy wool coat, he was still chilled.

On his way from the stables to make his report at headquarters, he spotted Danica ahead of him, seemingly making her way homeward. His immediate thought was, It’s too cold—she shouldn’t be out here with just that light shawl. The summer had been hard on Danica, as she’d never recovered completely from the trauma of her son’s birth. That Sandy—as “James Anderson” had quickly become on Kat’s young tongue—was a difficult, sickly child hadn’t helped matters.

It took him a moment to realize she wasn’t walking very steadily, was in fact weaving almost drunkenly along the path worn through the grass. He altered his course abruptly, lengthening his stride to come up beside her.

“Danica?”

“Oh, hello, Jim,” she said with a welcoming smile, one that looked out of place on her drawn, flushed face. “I didn’t know you were back already.”

“We got in not too long ago. Are you ill?”

“I’m fin—” she started to say, then stumbled and collapsed unexpectedly.

 

–from Farewell and Goodbye

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