This week’s Tuesday Tale :
Jeremy Wilcox never had reason to doubt his hearing, but after all the firefights he had lived through over here for this unending, ungodly war, he thought that maybe he could not rely on his ears as well as he once did. The war had taken its toll on Wilcox same as any other foot soldier. He only hoped he would make it home without a flag over his chest. From the looks of it, he might be getting his wish. Yesterday Wilcox’s regiment was given papers to return home. He didn’t have a clue whether that meant the war was over, even though that’s what the papers said. It was hard to believe the dirty thing had ended because he hadn’t seen the enemy go down. He had killed many a soldier, but who’s to say the enemy was defeated? Wilcox didn’t concern himself with politics except when he was drunk and in a foul humor, then he became a real lobbyist. He was sober now, at least he was pretty sure he was.
“What did you say?”
Jeremy Wilcox looked the girl up and down real hard. She looked familiar, but then all the foreign girls looked the same to him. She repeated herself in her best broken English. He had spent too much time over here to not have picked up some of the native language, but he, like a snobbish foreigner, prided himself that he could not understand any language fluently save his own tongue. From what she made him understand, he was the father of her unborn child.
Jeremy Wilcox was not a saint. He was certain that their wasn’t a saint in his family, but he also had a strong strand of honor that would not allow him to leave the woman unwed. The woman was in deep distress. It was an absolute evil to be in her condition and unmarried. Her family would disown her so she insisted that the ceremony must happen that very day before anyone found out. He consented, not wanting to admit his own lapse in judgement. How she found him again, he would never know. He had had one reprieve through this whole engagement and wouldn’t it be just his luck that the girl he got that night would turn up again, let alone pregnant?
Jeremy Wilcox was a man of pride though and he would not live with the knowledge that he had a bastard child somewhere out in the world while he sat comfortable in his homeland.
The matter was pulled off quickly and quietly. His company’s chaplin was quite accommodating. It helped everyone was in a good mood with their orders in hand to return home. And then Wilcox realized that going home would prove more complicated now. He had wed the woman, but he had not thought that that would make her his wife. His thoughts had only been for his own conscience.
“I come with you to America, yes?”
Jeremy looked down at his wife, only seconds his. She expected to return with him. It didn’t surprise him. He knew that was why he had married her, but he hadn’t thought about the practicalities of introducing her back home and that never would he be free to marry for love. He had tied himself. The horror of it, the entrapment he felt was suffocating. There was a picture in his wallet of his sweetheart. It bore through his pants like a hot coal. She would never be his to hold and kiss again. It was a fate almost worse than death. He almost wished there was one more battle to fight so he could die and not face the girl back home with his new bride.
In the light of the next morning, Wilcox found his animosity to his wife had only built higher in his sleep. He resented her and she knew it though she did not show it. She doted on him with the little pleasantries of food and comfort that could be found, but Wilcox refused her gesture. Where had his head been yesterday? Leaving a woman who may or may not be with child, who may or may not be father by him was not at all as unhonorable as leaving a wife in this country. But he did not love her, how could she then be his wife. His comrades had ragged him and warned him not to do it yesterday and today he wished he had taken their advice.
Jeremy Wilcox remembered with bitterness the day she had arrived in America. There had been a mound of paperwork and explaining to get her here. There was a moment of hope when Wilcox thought he could tell her that it was impossible. He almost had the opportunity to leave her behind and forget the dreadful thing had happened. But someone finally signed their name and cleared her to come. He had received the letter with great resentment. He would have to tell his sweetheart that there was no future for them.
He watched the woman climb off the boat, but he realized it was not his woman when she waved to another man and rushed into his arms. That was love, foreign though it may be. Those two had married for it and had fought to get her here with the passion of it. Wilcox had spent his time hoping that his wife would not be allowed in the country. His wife walked off the boat ramp unnoticed. She came up to him before he realized that she was his. She looked different with a swollen belly, but the sight of her in such a condition eased him mind. At least she had not lied to him.
He took her home and introduced her to his mother. His mother was the type of woman who could look a wart frog in the face and say something agreeable. At least, the foreign woman looked nicer than a wart frog, but she was not his sweetheart that everyone loved. No, poor Gertrude would never be his bride to show off. Instead this woman, this pregnant, petite foreign girl who knew barely enough English to inquire for the bathroom was his to esteem.
The child was born that Spring. The child, born of an Asian mother and a Caucasian father, was, most mysteriously, as dark skinned as a West African babe.
Jeremy Wilcox was in horror over the child. No one said a word. If gossip went around, he did not hear it. He was in shock the doctors said.
Gertrude came to see him. Her eyes burned with tears.
“I respected you for marrying her when you said this was your child. But, my love, how could you be so deceived? How could you have ruined us? That child is not yours. That woman should not be either.”
Jeremy Wilcox lifted his head to look his sweetheart in the face. She was beautiful in her blonde silk hair. He reached out his hand to touch her, but she was too far away.
“I could divorce her.”
Gertrude shook her head. “You could have done that over there, but you’ve brought her here. You are responsible for her.”
Jeremy stared at the ceiling. But wasn’t that what the woman wanted, to be brought into the country. Hadn’t he served her purpose? Wasn’t he finished with her now? He set a time to speak with her tomorrow. He would end this matter swiftly as he should have done long before.
“You cannot stay with me,” he told her the next morning.
The Asian woman replied calmly. “This is not your child, but still you have been good to me. The child… its father was your war friend, but he died.”
Jeremy Wilcox stared at her at the mention of his comrade. There was only one man that could fit the role. Henry Conrad was a massive man. He had stood over six foot, but wasn’t his height that got him. It was his big toe that triggered the IED. Wilcox cursed that toe every time he thought of his friend. Good ol’ Conrad, he had to go and get himself killed not a month before the thing ended. Jeremy took the child from the woman’s arms and studied the infant’s face. He had Henry’s nose and big feet.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this short story. What do you of Gertrude’s reaction? Do you think Jeremy decided to do?