• January 17, 1863

    Eli is dead. I retrieved a letter from the General just yesterday. It read:
    Dear Miss Ana Winston,

    It is my mournful duty to inform you that your brother, Eli Robert Winston, has passed from this world into another, more beautiful one. His death occurred just earlier this day. I beg you not to cry. He was a magnificent man, and would’ve wished the best for his sister. He would not have wanted you to mourn his passing, but pray for him in heaven. I am terribly sorry for your loss.

    General Adam Willis White

    This letter does no longer exist. I burned the letter. It’s gone. Up in smoke. I will refuse to accept Eli’s death until the Lord has told me Himself. This parchment means nothing to me. It is a scam, a dirty, lying falsehood. A disgrace in Eli Winston’s name.

    January 22, 1863

    We held a small service for Eli. The entire town came to honor my brother’s memory. The church was decorated beautifully with wildflowers and the ceremony was short and beautiful. Rosalie, Charles and Nora had come all the way from Maine. The last time I saw my sister was before the war began. Nora was only four months old at the time.
    Mother and father sat in the first pew, adorned in black. Father held my hand the whole time, afraid that, if he let go, I might fall to the ground beside my brother and die. Beside my brother. And I wish I could for my life has no meaning, my life is nothing, if Eli isn’t in it.

    January 29, 1863

    Tonight was the most beautiful most amazing day of my entire life! But I feel guilty, for, should not I mourn my dead brother forever? But, to contradict that, would not he want me to be happy? Would not he want me to keep living, even if he had ceased to do so?
    Noah. Noah Winthrop. His name makes my heart do cartwheels in my chest. Noah is the handsomest. His manners are extraordinary – he’s very polite and kind and honest. He’s so sweet. For years the girls would swoon over him, every time he emerged from a building, with his golden hair swept off to one side. His caramel colored eyes shining.
    Noah made this the most incredible evening of my life. And if it is a sin to love someone so much, than I am surly going to hell.
    It all started this evening when he came knocking at our door. I was just cleaning the supper dishes when he rapped on it. And I could pick out his knock from anyone else’s.
    I raced to the door and swung it open. He stood before me, snow sparkling in his curls, a smile flickering across his face. I could have melted right there and then.
    “Good evening, Ana. I was hoping you’d be home. How are you?” Noah asked, his manners intact.
    “Good evening, sir! Please, come in! Before you catch cold!” I answered, ushering him in. He kicked the snow off his boots and entered. I closed the door behind him.
    “Thank you, Ana. Your hospitality is always appreciated”, he said, grinning at me.
    “Well, sir, your always welcome in this household”, I responded.
    “I apologize. I don’t want to intrude. I just – I’m sorry”, he said, staring at his boots, “If you would – please just accept these”, he reached into his coat and pulled out a bouquet of the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. I cradled them, in complete disbelief.
    “Why, sir, these are beautiful!” I gushed.
    “Yes, well, I was just hoping I could have your company this evening for a – um, ride”.
    “Of course, sir! Just give me a moment to get ready!” I exclaimed, leaving Noah in the sitting room with my father. I raced upstairs into my room where Rosalie was putting Nora to bed.
    “Noah Winthrop has asked me to go for a ride with him! And he brought me these!” I almost screamed and shoved the flowers at her.
    “Oh, Ana, I’m so happy for you”, gushed Rosalie. Her eyes shimmered with tears and her smile flickered, as if she was about to cry. She knew how long I had dreamed about him, how I talked about him all night if he had but smiled at me while passing down the street.
    “I must get dressed quickly, though”, I said while rummaging through my wardrobe. Only five minutes later I joined my father and Noah in the sitting room, dressed in my church dress – a baby blue gown with lace trim – and my hair braided and tied with a white ribbon.
    “Ana, you look – ” Noah looked as if he was at a loss of words. “ – beautiful”. I could feel my cheeks turning pink.
    “Thank you, sir”.
    “Well, shall we be off?” he asked, offering me his gloved hand. My mother got up, kissed me on the cheek, and helped me into my coat and gloves. “I promise I’ll have Ana back before ten”.
    “Ana may be out as late as she wishes”, said my father from the rocking chair. I smiled in gratitude at him, and he mustered a wave.
    “Just this way”, Noah said and helped me out the door. Before us was a small black carriage pulled by two white ponies. I gasped. A horse-drawn carriage, a snowy evening, and Noah, holding my hand in his own. I could die of happiness. There were a million things running through my head now but no word could describe how I felt.
    Noah helped me up and then tucked a thick quilt around me and slipped up next to me. He ushered the horses forward, and we were off, into the snowy mist.
    We talked, and held hands, and laughed, and when we arrived back at my home, Noah Winthrop kissed me.