"I'm sorry Miss but your name was on the flight manifest, and that flight was shot down and so the army thinks you're dead," said a very apologetic clerk.
"I was in the washroom when the flight left, my name may have been on the manifest but I was not on the flight. So how do I convince them that I am still alive? I would really like to go home now," said a very tired and frustrated Lizzy. She had been trying to get on a flight home for three days and had no idea that her death had been reported to the 4077 or that at this very same moment Charles had swan dived into a bottle of scotch and would not come up for air for over a week.
"I'll see if I can find the forms for you to fill out so that we can verify that you are alive," the clerk spoke with such calm that Lizzy suspected this sort of thing happened to him every day. "I would suggest that you call your next of kin though, they are usually the first to be notified in the event of your death."
"Hello, Jane!" Lizzy shouted into the telephone, "Its Lizzy, Jane. I'm fine, I'm coming home as soon as they'll verify that I'm still alive..No darling, it's not true, I couldn't call you if I was dead..I'm sorry it's 2 o'clock at night Jane..No, you are not dreaming, turn your light on Jane..I love you to..Goodbye Jane, I'll see you soon!"
Except for her pocketbook and shoulder bag with a few personal items, all of Lizzy's things had been destroyed when the flight she should have been on was shot down. She no longer had the contact information for her friends from the 4077. It was with a bit of regret that she considered her situation. She had every intention of delivering to the folks at home that their loved one's were in good health. She knew if she called Peg Hunnicutt or Mildred Potter that she would most likely confide in them and while she was certain that neither woman would be unkind to her she was uncertain as to how well they would react to her new situation in life. It was with a heavy heart that she decided it would be for the best if she didn't contact anyone, it made her sad to think that her friends would think that she had snubbed them. But a personal slight was better, in Lizzy's mind, that to have them think ill of her and her child.
Lizzy waited for the army to confirm that she was alive so she could go home. She used the time to ponder about how close she had come to death and how she could make the best use of the new life she had been given. She was thankful for her unborn child causing her to be ill enough to not get on the plane, "I think we're looking out for each other already kiddo," she said gently caressing the slight puff that was starting to show in her lower abdomen.
She was going home to live with Jane, and was surprised at how easy it would be for her to lie to the small town residents about a fictional husband who died in the war so that her child would not be an outcast. She considered that she would be able to find work as a nurse and therefore provide a stable income for her new family, but would that be the best life for her child?
A Winchester heir, regardless of its gender would be well cared for indeed. Perhaps she would contact Charles and ask that while she did not intend for him to marry her, that he should provide for his child's future. She smiled and her whole body relaxed at the thought of Charles being able to keep his life and happiness without inconvenience to either of them, and yet their child would be able to attend college and have a secure financial future. She would not ask for money for herself, only that Charles provide for college and help their child in whatever profession he or she would choose.
Lizzy was overwhelmed with her emotions and soon found tears streaming down her face, she dug in her pocket book to find a handkerchief when her hand brushed against the small package that Charles had given her. Sniffling she pulled it out and opened it. It was his copy of 'Rome & Juliet' with a note inside.
She opened the note and read:
My Beloved Elizabeth,
With the uncertainty of the Army mail system I do not know if any correspondences we would share would reach their destinations. With this in mind, I would request that you contact me at my parents' house in Boston. I do wish to see you once I return home. I am uncertain what that future will bring, but I do know that a future without you will be bleak indeed. Please do me the honor of renewing our friendship, I look forward to seeing you again under more peaceful circumstances. Please give my best to your family, I trust their health will improve upon your arrival.
Elizabeth's tears turned into a full out crying jag at reading Charles note. She had not until that moment allowed herself to think about how much she missed Charles and how a future as his wife would be a happy thought indeed.
Lizzy returned to civilian life and with the help of her sister Jane they bought a small house together on the outskirts of town. The two sisters enjoyed each others company and the planning of a new member to their family. Jane was worried about how distracted and broken-hearted Lizzy looked when she thought Jane was not looking. She hoped that her sister was doing the right thing by not contacting Charles, but said nothing to upset her sister in her delicate condition.
After Lizzy's memorial service at the 4077, life in camp returned to normal, with the noted exception of Charles. He blamed himself for Elizabeth's death and had not one moments peace since she left. Everything reminded him of her, his books, his music, the things that he sought refuge in from the war before he met Elizabeth, now only increased his sorrow. One day after mail call B.J. received a package from home that had new pictures of his wife and daughter. No one was aware of the fact that Charles grieved for the child he never knew, or that he was destitute over the fact that he did not even have Elizabeth's picture. After B.J.s package came, Charles once again found his comfort in the bottle and in his inebriated state he lamented his loss of her photograph to Hawkeye.
Hawkeye made good use of the information while Charles was sleeping off his latest drunk. When Charles awoke he found an envelope with the snapshots that everyone in camp had taken of Elizabeth over the course of her tour of duty. There was even the picture from her official army file, compliments of Klinger. Charles was touched by their gesture and made every effort to pull himself together to get through the end of the war.
July 27th, 1953
THE UNITED STATES, NORTH KOREA AND CHINA SIGN AN ARMISTICE
Elizabeth dropped her morning paper after reading the headline. Tears of joy were streaming down her face, "Jane, did you see this! The war is over, Charles will be coming home soon," she cried with relief and happiness.
Elizabeth wrote to Charles the letter she had been working on mentally since she found out she was carrying his child. It was more difficult to put her coherent thoughts down on paper than she thought it would be and she spent several weeks working on it. When the letter was finally mailed to Boston, she began to patiently wait for a reply. After several more weeks and no reply came, Elizabeth began to wonder if Charles was ever going to write to her. She resolved to put him out of her mind completely, if he chose not to contact her again she would be just find with out him she told herself through her tears of disappointed sadness. "We will be just fine," she sniffled aloud, caressing her ever-increasing abdomen, "..just fine indeed."
Elizabeth's letter was received by the housekeeper and placed in a pile with the rest of Charles correspondences awaiting his return. Charles would not return to Boston for several months. After the war ended and the 4077 was torn down, Charles hid himself in Tokyo and tried to enjoy a much-needed vacation. Charles golfed and thought about Elizabeth, he wondered if she enjoyed the sport and how lovely she would have looked in the short golf skirts. He took in the opera and leaned over to the empty seat next to him to ask Elizabeth if she was enjoying herself. He was slowly driving himself mad, and one night after chasing down a woman at the theater with the same color hair as Elizabeth, he realized that nothing would ever bring her back to him. Charles was a man without hope, he hit the bottle hard and this time, it hit him back.
It was a very altered Charles returned sometime later to his parents and sister. He had lost about 30 pounds and had about him the rough haggard appearance of someone who has slept little and drank hard. His family was shocked and concerned, his father took him aside and questioned him about what was wrong. Charles told his father about Elizabeth and how he fell in love with her and wanted to marry her, and how she was now dead. The elder Winchester was sympathetic to his sons loss, but knew the importance of Charles pulling himself together.
Over the next few weeks with the help of his family Charles slowly regained his composure He knew that his life would never be the same without Elizabeth, but tried to think how she would not want him to end up a bitter lonely old drunk. He instead tried to focus on the brief joy that he had shared with her, and how she made him want to be a better man. He did not leap out of bed each day, but he no longer cursed the dawn for ending his dreams of Elizabeth. As the days passed into weeks, Charles slowly began to heal and eventually worked his way through his correspondences. Elizabeth's letter was at the bottom of his very large pile and Charles did not even notice the postmark when he opened it and began to read.
My Darling Charles,
How shocked you must be to find that the family emergency that called me home was not due to an illness of any sister, but to my own delicate condition. I am sorry that I was not able to tell you in person my love. I was worried that you would feel a sense of obligation to marry me, and I did not want you to marry me for your sense of duty or pity. I would rather live a life of spinsterhood and have my child alone that to trap either of us in a loveless marriage.
This being known, I would also like to share with you how deeply I did and still do love you. That if we did not have an impending stranger between us that I would want to renew my friendship with you and hope that you would love me as much in peace as you did in war. I have no money, no family name, nothing I can give you except my heart. If you find that would be enough to fill your life, then I would be pleased to share that life with you.
If however, you feel that my heart is not enough and a life with me would not be the path you would choose then I would ask nothing more of you, except this. You know full well the child that I carry is yours, please do not be unkind when you think about him or her in the future. I do not ask for anything for myself Charles, but I do beg you to put aside some small funds so that our child would be able to attend the college of his or her choice and allow them to fulfill their potential. I leave this matter in your capable hands, and trust in you to follow your heart in all things.
I will contact you no further. I wish you good health and long life, and I thank you for the time that we shared. I will treasure our love and our child always.
Charles dropped the letter, it fluttered to the desk next to the envelope. He sat their stunned, unable to think or breath. He was a fool, his wounds had not healed. He was bitterly empty without Elizabeth and the ache of her writing this to him before she died was beyond his comprehension. He wanted to scream, to tear out his hair and pound his head on the desk that she could so reach out from beyond the grave and touch his heart so deeply.
He looked down at his desk where the letter had fallen, her elegant handwriting looked so dignified to him. His eye caught the envelope, his brain catching up, telling that was not an army postmark, that was not an army address.
425 Watercress Drive
That was an address here in Massachusetts, didn't she have a sister living in Springfield? He saw the postmark date his jaw dropped.
She was alive, and living in Springfield! Charles stuck the letter in his pocket and rang for the car. Charles knew that he did not have a moment to spare, it was Thanksgiving and with a quick calculation of the date he knew that Elizabeth was about to have his baby. He had to find her, he had to tell her that he loved her still and ask her to marry him. With a renewed hope in his heart and the feeling that he was once again master of his own destiny, Charles ran from his office. He found his father and explained that he had received a letter from Elizabeth and was going to drive to find her. His father asked why he did not just call and speak with her over the telephone, but Charles was insistent, he needed to see her with his own eyes. He told his father the entire truth about Elizabeth, that not only did Charles want to marry her but that she was also carrying his child and very near her due date. He asked his father to make his apologies to his mother and the rest of the family that he would not be there for the holiday meal. His father wished him Godspeed and told him to call as soon as he was safe. He said that he would not tell the rest of the family until Charles was certain of what he was going to do, "Remember son, you haven't seen this woman in several months, you may have a lot to talk about before you jump into marriage," the elder Winchester cautioned.
"Father, I have lived a life without Elizabeth and there was no joy for me in the world," said Charles as he put on his topcoat and hat. "I am not jumping into marriage, I would rather say that I have waited far too long for it." It was a long hard drive from Boston to Springfield. For the first time in months Charles felt himself coming back to life, his heart filled with hope. He did not arrive at the Bennet house until after dark. He could see there were several cars parked in the driveway and all of the lights were on in the small house. He steeled his courage as he knocked on the door. He felt his heart pounding, and he was uncertain of what he was going to do when he saw Elizabeth again. The door opened and a lovely young woman who resembled Elizabeth answered, "Hello, may I help you," she asked.
"Yes, I am doctor.." started Charles.
"Oh please come in! My sister is in the bedroom," she interrupted him, pulling him in side and ushering him through the crowded house full of nervous looking guests and open a door to bedroom. He watched her walk inside the room and heard her say, "Lizzy, the doctor is here."
"Thank you Jane," he heard Elizabeth say in a breathless voice.
As Jane walked out of the room, she took Charles topcoat and hat. Charles stepped in and saw Elizabeth lying on the bed with a sheet pulled up over her very swollen belly. She was sweating and panting, obviously in the throws of hard labor.
"Charles," Elizabeth exclaimed in surprise, panting, "what on earth..are you..doing here?"
"I came as soon I received your letter. I would have been here sooner but I thought you were dead," he explained weakly.
"Why..did you think..I was..dead," Elizabeth asked breathing harder and wondering why he was asking her such foolish questions when she felt as though she was being ripped in half.
"I was told that your transport was shot down," he explained.
Elizabeth made no reply, her face scrunched up in agony, her hands clenched the bedding round her. Charles acting quickly removed the sheet to see the baby's head was crowning. "Push darling," he said urgently, "I can see the head."
A few moments later the anxious relatives were relieved to hear the sound of a baby cry. Jane rushed into be by Lizzy's side and saw Charles gently wrapping his daughter in a towel. He handed the baby to Jane and turned back to Elizabeth who was still breathing hard.
"What's wrong with my sister," question Jane in a worried voice.
Charles examined Elizabeth's belly and said with a smile "She's still in labor, she's having another baby."
"It's a girl," exclaimed Jane rushing from the room with the baby in her arms. "Lizzy is going to have another baby."
"Twins," the family seemed to shout in unison, pandemonium broke out as everyone gathered to see the new baby. Jane handed the squirming bundle to her aunt and returned to Lizzy's room to help with the second child.
"CHARLES," Elizabeth screamed at the top of her lungs.
"No darling, you had a little girl, you must think of a different name," said Jane sweetly as she wiped Lizzy's brow.
"I believe she was speaking to me," Charles said politely "It's almost over darling, breath," he said encouragingly.
"You? You are Lizzy's Charles," questioned Jane.
"Jane..now is not..the time..for introductions," panted Elizabeth.
"I can see the head, push Elizabeth! Push," Charles said excitedly.
Elizabeth heard her baby cry and collapsed against the bed, the room swam before her eyes and she could hear Charles telling her that she had a son. She smiled weakly and said in a voice no louder than a whisper, "I am glad that you were here to greet Charles Emerson Winchester the Fourth."
Charles gazed down in wonderment at the two sleeping infants. He lightly brushed his fingertips over the tops of their heads and felt tears of joy wet his cheeks. He turned to Elizabeth and asked, "What do you want to name our daughter?"
"I was thinking of Cordelia," she said with a bright smile.
"Cordelia Elizabeth Winchester," Charles said returning her smile, "I like the way that sounds."
Elizabeth laughed and said, "Technically both of their last names should be the same as mine."
Charles knelt by the side of the bed and took Elizabeth's hand, "I would like all of our last names to be the same," he said kissing her hand. "I have spent the last several months thinking you were dead, and my life was a dark place without you," he said looking deeply into her eyes. "I should have asked you this before you left the 4077.." Charles paused to get down on knee, still holding her hand he said, "Elizabeth, Will you marry me?"
Elizabeth was crying to hard to make a reply, she simply nodded. Charles kissed her and Jane, who had accidentally overheard the entire conversation, shared with the rest of the house, "Charles just asked Lizzy to marry him and she said yes!"
Charles family welcomed Elizabeth and her children warmly. His parents were delighted to have grandchildren and his sister was thrilled to be an aunt. Their wedding was a small ceremony presided over by Father Mulcahy. Jane and Honoria were Elizabeth's bride's maids, B.J. and Hawkeye were Charles grooms men and Colonel Potter gave the bride away.
The Winchesters of Boston sent out an annual Christmas card and at regular intervals a new name and face was added to the photograph. By 1963 their family was complete with Charles & Elizabeth the proud parents of Cordelia, Charles, Richard, Victoria, Edward, Martin, and Ophelia.
Life in the Winchester house was filled with noise, children and all the turbulence a large family creates. It was everything that Charles never knew he always wanted. Charles became the head of thoracic surgery at Boston General, and managed to never put his job before his family. Elizabeth was a superb wife and mother; she did eventually finish medical school and to no one's surprise, became a teacher at Harvard.
Their children... well, that's another story.