Setting his cup of tea on the coffee table, Jack sat down in Dottie’s old chair and reached for the multitude of bags she kept to the side of it. Last week, he’d found a box full of knitted scarves, mittens, and hats tucked away at the back of the guest-room closet. He’d taken them into town and dropped them off at the Catholic church. The priest promised that they would find use in wintertime. It was hard getting rid of Dottie’s things, but he felt like he didn’t have much time left, and the last thing he wanted was someone else going through her things when he wasn’t around anymore.
The first bag he grabbed held balls of yarn. Pink, white, and yellow. Jack dug his fingers into the yarn and knew right away that these had been meant for Emmie. Dottie was forever knitting that girl homemade dresses and doll clothes. He considered tossing it all in the donation box, but something stopped him. He wondered whether Emmie’s mom knitted? Maybe she would appreciate the yarn. He could mail it to her and explain…what? That Dottie bought it to make Emmie things? That would not go over well.
He set the bag off to the side. The next bag he grabbed was heavier. Jack lifted it over the arm of the chair and dropped it into his lap. He pulled out a long brown-and-blue scarf, its soft wool caressing his calloused hands. He remembered the day Dottie bought this yarn. She’d come home excited to have found the perfect color for him. He’d shaken his head at her enthusiasm while she held the ball of wool up to his face. Complemented his eyes, she said. He wasn’t sure that he needed a scarf that matched his eyes. Yet here it was, ready for him to wear. Jack wound it around his neck, disregarding the warm summer air. Dottie had spent hours knitting this for him, and he was going to wear it.
Jack pulled out the remaining item. It was a book with a creased, untitled black leather cover. Even without opening it, he knew it was Dottie’s journal. It had been a long time since he’d seen this particular one.
She had called this journal a record of her “darkest time.” When she’d first said that, Jack didn’t understand. It was around the same time Emmie came to live with them, a time Jack thought of as the best years of his recent past. But now he knew what she’d meant. Now he understood why it was her darkest time.
In their bedroom was a bookshelf lined with Dottie’s journals. Each cover was a different color, with each hue symbolizing her feelings. The years he had been off at war were all black. Every one of them, except for the first and last. Jack had bought the first journal for her before he left. He chose one with a soft yellow cover because he thought it would make her smile. He’d asked her to write letters to him in that journal. He never thought he’d be gone for so long. The last journal—which Dottie had written in after Jack was listed as MIA—was one he was never tempted to read. The white daisies dotting the soft pink cover symbolized new hope. But the hope she’d then held in her heart wasn’t for his return. She’d thought he was dead. The hope was instead of future love. Dottie later confessed that Doug had given her that journal for her birthday.
Even now, Jack hated that cover.
The day he’d returned from war, Jack had brought his Dottie a gift from the shop on base. It was another journal for the love of his life. His return was the start of their new life. He’d even bought Mary one, sure that Dottie had passed along her journal-writing passion to their daughter. The journal he’d bought for Dottie was bound in a pretty baby-blue material with small yellow flowers. He still remembered his first night back home. They sat on the bed, both a little shy to immediately rekindle the intimacy they’d had.
“What are you doing, Dottie-mine?” Jack had asked when she laid a pink journal in her lap. Dottie’s eyes had filled as her fingers ran along the white daisies.
“Putting an end to the black days,” she’d whispered.
Jack watched her as she slowly opened the baby-blue journal he’d bought her to the first page. She wrote the date at the top right-hand corner and then glanced over at him.
“What will you write?” he’d asked.
Dottie wrote three words on the page in the flowing script he’d grown to love.
Jack is home.
With a teary smile, she closed the cover. Jack reached for the journal and tossed it on the floor before gathering the woman he loved more than life into his arms.
After all their years together, all the nights they had shared a bed, that night was the most memorable. They’d created another baby that night, only to lose their son one month after he was born. Basil Jack Henry. They named him after Jack’s father.
Jack glanced down at the black journal in his hands and knew he couldn’t read it. Not yet. But when he rose to head for bed, his tea forgotten on the coffee table, his hold on the journal didn’t loosen.
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Genre – Women’s fiction
Rating – PG