It was after midnight. I could feel the night clinging to my skin as I staggered up the walk. I needed sleep, but my throat was dry and begging for one last drink.
My home loomed up before me, almost glowing white in the darkness. It was the vision that I dreamed about at night when I slept under the stars in the battlefield.
Home. I just wanted to survive the war and make it home, and I did...I did...God forgive me...I survived...
I steadied myself against one of the front columns. Why did I always have to think about the war? It was over. It
was over and I was home. Shouldn’t that be enough?
I opened the door and fell to the floor inside. At first I just lay there, my cheek against the cool wood, but
then I heard the footsteps in the upstairs hall.
I couldn’t let her see me like this, not again. Holding onto the staircase newel post, I pulled myself back up to my feet and lurched down the hall toward my library.
I couldn’t face her yet. I needed a drink...I needed one more drink and then I could go up and face her wrath.
Maybe I’ll get drunk enough to confess all of my sins...
I lit the lamp on my desk with shaking hands, my throat impatiently burning as a dim glow brightened the room. I held onto the desk for support as I reached for the crystal brandy decanter. The shiny scar between my thumb and finger almost white and everything below it ached. I knew if I closed my eyes, I would be back out on that field, pinned to the ground with a rebel pike through my hand. I knew I would smell my own blood and hear the cries of the men dying all around me.
I just needed a drink...One drink to quiet the sounds of the battle in my head...Just one drink and I could go to bed...
Two drinks later I sat at my desk, staring into the darkness. What was I doing? I had a beautiful wife upstairs, and I was out in the night keeping with whores. I was poisoning myself with the drink and making her hate me...She really was beginning to hate me...
I pushed my drink aside and covered my face with my hands. My stomach churned with sickness, but I swallowed it back. I could still hear the faint roar in my head, craving the amber warmth of whiskey that made sleep so easy, but I remained there with my head in my hands.
There was noise near the door, the sound of bare feet on the floor and fabric scraping against the doorframe.
I lowered my hands and saw her there, standing in the doorway in her long white nightgown. Her soft brown hair fell in a tangled mess around her face and down past her shoulders. Her eyes were red and her face still streaked with the tears that she had cried.
What had I done to her? This was my wife, the woman that I vowed to love above all others, and I was breaking her. What had I done?
I saw the gun then, my revolver weighing down her pale white hand. I wanted to say something, but my parched throat wouldn’t allow the words. She raised it slowly, her hand shaking as she sobbed.
Then came the explosion and a cloud of smoke. A burning pain shot through my chest and knocked me backwards and to the ground. Had I stood? I couldn’t remember.
The floor was cool again under my cheek. My hands went to the sticky wetness at my chest, but it was no use, I could see the blood flowing out of my body and onto the floor.
“My Becca,” I whispered as the darkness began to take me. “Forgive me.”