Hands shaky, I stared blindly at the telegram I held, its smooth edges cool against my wet, rough hands. "PLEASE COME STOP" it said, "HUSBAND HURT STOP," it continued with the rest of the telegram telling me brusquely where to find him and who to contact.
"Will there be any answer ma'am?" the telegram boy asked.
"No. . . No answers." I said shakily, thinking, This must be the reason for the lack of letters.
I had written faithfully twice a week as he had asked me to, but lately response lacked. My eyes blindly followed the boy as he ran back to his bike, hopped on and rode off, intent on his next errand. Unconsciously, my hand crumpled the telegram and I turned on my heel, heading into my house to pack my bags. I called the Mr. Bromely that the telegram had asked me to call, my half washed dishes in the sink completely forgotten.
Mr. Bromely gently told my somewhat hysterical self that Dave had gotten hurt while leading a charge. Fortunately he had gotten hit in the shoulder instead of a more vital part. Dave's comrades had pulled Dave out of the line of battle and gotten him to a field hospital. At the moment, Mr. Bromely said, Dave lay quite still in his hospital bed and had not woken up yet—he had lost quite a lot of blood. Mr. Bromely's details did not help me and after I hung up I ran out of my house, my vision blurred by tears, to the house next door where my best friend Mabel lived. When she opened the door, one look at my face made her pull me in and give me a quick shake. My teeth rattled as her eyes searched my face and she blurted out "What happened to Dave?"
Her question broke my dam of tears and as my tears flowed so did my words. She held me while I finished with my tale and then took hold of my shoulders.
"Well, at least he's not dead!" she told me. Quickly my tears dried and then I told her I had to catch the next train out. Dave needed me in England.
My train took me quickly, if noisily, to the ship which awaited me. Anything I tried to think came out instead as, Dave. . . Dave. . .
Kind older ladies sat beside me occasionally and even less infrequently tried starting a conversation because their words fell on deaf ears. Dinner—some sandwiches I had brought with me and made by Mabel, went untouched. When the conductor called my stop, I got off with his help and waited as a baggage boy hailed a taxi. Quietly, the boy loaded my things into the cab and stepped back as we pulled away.
I gave the driver the wharf number and sat listening to the noise and sounds that surrounded the taxi as we drove through noisy thoroughfares. People hollered, babies cried, automobile tires screeched, vendors hawked their wares, the noise crowded in on me and I wanted to pull my head under my jacket and hide.
"We're here, Ma'am," the driver told me over his shoulder and then seeing how distressed I looked, got out and opened my door. Pulling me out he asked where I wanted my bags. As told, he brought them as far as the ship's gangway where a bellboy took over. After paying the driver, I turned to the bellboy.
"This way Mrs. . ."
"Woods," I told him, "Sophie Woods."
"Well, Mrs. Woods, if you would just come this way I'll show you your room." I followed him through corridors to a room where to my surprise, fresh flowers awaited me. Their fragrance drifted through out the room lifting my spirits a little.
I'm Thomas if you need me." The boy told me and left me to my solitude. With the rest of the voyage ahead of me and lunch before me, I decided to go upon deck and watch the Boston shore line recede. Sea air had a different smell and taste to it than I had become used to living mainly out in the country – a salty tang. Silver bells rang clear and crisp announcing lunch and I turned and headed inside.
In four days the coast of England came into view, excited people pointing it out. We disembarked and I hailed a cab, struggling with my two suitcases and handbag. Upon my asking, the driver took me to a hotel within my budget. Even though I needed to settle in, my hunger to see Dave drove me to seek a room, unload my luggage and run back out and hail another cab. To this driver, I gave the address of the hospital where, to all my knowledge, Dave still lay inert.
At the hospital, I went up to the front desk and told the lady who worked there, "I'm Sophie Wood, come to see my husband David Wood. Can you tell me, please, in which room he is staying?"
Like sunlight coming from behind a cloud, the elderly matron's face lit up. "Oh yes! You would be his darling little wife! He's been asking for you. If you will just follow me, I'll show you right on up!"
My heart clutched at the words "asking for you."
Meekly, I followed the matron up some stairs to a white door which she pulled open and bustled through. Beds lined the walls and many of the men either slept or simply watched us walk past. When my leader stopped at a bed that contained a sleeping man I caught my breath – Dave. His shoulder had a bandage on it that magnified it by ten.
"Mr. Dave!" the Matron crowed, "Guess who is here to see you!"
When Dave's eyes opened slowly and I could not hold myself back any longer.
"Oh Dave!" I cried and rushed to the side of his bed where I could bury my face in his chest.
"Sophie?" His husky voice said my name again. "Sophie?! Oh it's so wonderful to see you!" His strong right arm pulled me against him in a hug that exuded his strength and gentleness all in one moment. All around us those soldiers who watched the scene started clapping.
Dave's fingers searched my hair, losing its pins, while I cried. I didn't care—I had found Dave.