You are primarily a YA (young adult) romance writer, so what inspired this more adult-themed short story?
I cut my teeth, so to speak, on historical fiction. It was my first love as both a reader and a writer. I enjoy writing YA, feel called to write it even, but always return to the slower pace of life historical fiction gives. Part of this is my love of history itself. I enjoy learning about old places and old things. I like knowing who went there before and what their lives were like. I am particularly drawn to the late 19th century, from the American Civil War to the early 1900s. This story came out of all of that and the seed of an idea about setting almost an entire novella in one room.
Did you say one room? In light of that, what is the setting?
The setting is an unnamed Southern town in Louisiana, one year before the American Civil War ends. Linnea Hewitt has spent two years waiting for her fiancé, Harmon Ranger, to come home from battle. Having not heard from him for some time, she takes up a search in the local makeshift hospital, where she finds him barely alive, minus his legs. The majority of the story takes place in one bedroom of her home while he comes to term with who he is now and the strength their love gives them to survive together.
What spiritual or moral issues are addressed in this story?
I’m told that almost all of my stories have a moral. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but this one, in particular, looks at slavery, of course, as well as the right and wrong of war. I like this quote spoken by Linnea: “God would smile on many except they’ve wasted these years filled with hate. A man cannot own another man, regardless of the color of his skin, and brother shouldn’t kill brother out of fear or salvation of pride. Look at the results. I do not think He wanted you to not have legs or Lincoln to lack an arm. I know He didn’t want the many I visited, while looking for you, to die.”
Can we read an excerpt?
This scene comes in Chapter 1, the first time Harmon has to admit he needs Linnea’s care:
She barely gave him space to speak, but whirled, her hands finding her hips. “You’re a fine soldier, Harmon Ranger. You did your duty to the cause. You gave of yourself, for what reason
I’m no longer sure of. But that is past. You endured the war. I ask now that you survive it and keep the promise you made to me.”
“What promise? What do you speak of? I recall only walking away, my heart heavy at leaving you behind.”
Tears welled in her eyes, spilling over reddened cheeks, and the dream he’d held for all that time wavered, replaced by a woman, wearied with time. Her cheeks lined, her brow wrinkled, her hands, once inexperienced and girlish, now creased with care. What the war had taken from him – his legs, his pride – it had stolen from her as well, and perhaps, greater even. She’d lost her soul.
He pulled in a labored breath. “Tell me my promise, and I will keep it.”
She clutched at her skirt, pleating the fabric with her fingers. “To never say goodbye.”
And the moment returned: their kiss, his longing to stay, to make her his wife.
“I need you,” she continued, “and more now than I did before. I will not let you go.”
“But I have nothing left to give …” The words ripped from him, a scream. “I’m half a man and no man at all. I will not walk ever again. I will not dance with you as we once did. I cannot even stop from wetting myself. What remains of me is not deserving of such attention as you wish to give. I am broken … ruined … damaged.” His voice faded away.
She returned to his side, kneeling, one hand finding his face. “Your heart is whole,” she said, “and your mind will heal, given time. Those are valuable to me.”
“And the rest? If I cannot ever give of my flesh?”
“I will not believe that either. You are missing your calves and your feet, that is all. Let me love the man that remains.”
He silenced, and minutes later, she arose and swept from the room. He stared after her for a moment, then peeled back the bedcovers to see his legs, and his heart constricted in his chest. He recovered his nakedness, one hand clutching the sheet to his waist.
She desired his heart, but he’d given her that already. She asked for his mind, as well. He could work on that. But what kind of man was he to never have a body to give her, to never love her as she deserved?
Humiliation cloaked him, its scent worse than death. For death was final, the end of all things, but this uselessness he must live with and look her in the eye as well.
99 Cents. Limited Time
Harmon Ranger went off to war, a Confederate soldier full of bravado and courage. But two years later, minus his legs, he only wants to die.
He is half a man, now, and no man at all. There is no recovering from this.
Except his fiancé, Linnea Hewitt, says differently. There is life in what remains, she insists, and in her arms, the love he left behind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Best-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors. She is co-founder of THE EDGE.