Born and bred in The Smoky Mountains, newlyweds John and Marsha Weather, are separated by the war in Vietnam. He struggles through army life while she set out to reconnect with her roots and discover her purpose. Both suffer their separation but vow to keep their love alive.
Marsha decides to join the Peace Corps to get as far away as possible from any potential bad news about John’s safety. Can she outrun the ill winds of war?
Will the unpredictable winds of change blow them together or blow their love away forever?
What have I done?
Why did I do that? Sending the love of my life packing? Probably headed for Vietnam! Marsha Weathers wished she was standing there numbly watching Johnny go marching off to war, yet she was anything but numb. She was the opposite. She was a bleeding, open wound after telling him she wouldn’t wait for him as he marched off to a war she didn’t support. She couldn’t live in the agonizing limbo of wondering. Is he alive? Is he wounded? Is he dead? Am I a widow? Would the military show up on her doorstep with terrible news? Was he a Prisoner of War? Missing in action? She wasn’t emotionally equipped to wonder and wait. She simply didn’t have what it took. She was only nineteen.
She’d never forget—and probably always regret—her actions. She’d removed her wedding ring. The one she promised to wear for life as John’s wife, only to see the tears rolling down his cheeks. He reluctantly, carefully, tenderly placed it in his breast pocket right over his heart, pausing long enough to just hold it there. Then he held her, and she stayed in his arms until her sorrow overwhelmed her, and she pushed him away. At least he knows I love him, will always love him. I told him that, but I can’t wait in anguish. I simply cannot.
What she could do was admit she loved him. It was a real, deep, and profound love. One tailor-made for him and him alone. My love is abiding. Better to send him off while I can. Knowing he is certain that I love him. His kiss and arms made that at least a certainty. He is not going without a piece of my heart. He had the whole thing, and she knew he knew that. Now he had a part of her that was tangible. She had given him her most cherished possession, her wedding ring that he had carved with his own two hands.
She was glad she was still in the chapel where she could weep and pray in peace without any watchful eyes. John had found her there when he came to say his Lottery number was called, and he had no choice but to go serve his country. He was in the first drawing, almost certain to go fight in Vietnam. She begged him to dodge the draft, run away to Canada, but not John. He was too honorable for that. He loved God, her, his family, and his home in the Great Smoky Mountains. He’d do his duty. That I know for certain.
He promised to return.
Despite the toll of the bell tower, she really didn’t know how long she stayed planted in the pew. Finally she got up, drained, and headed to her dorm room. She barely knew her roommate. Hadn’t really been there long enough before heading off to Woodstock to get to know her. She did know Mae Ella was inconsolable and homesick. Her fiancé had enlisted well before the Lottery, hoping that enlisting would spare him, give him a safer option. But he’d been classified as 1-A. Cannon-fodder. Currently, he was fighting in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Marsha tried to distract her. “Let’s go to Alumni Hall. It’s movie night.” Marsha really had no time to spare for that, but if it’d help Mae Ella, she’d just burn the midnight oil to make up the time. Mae Ella simply turned her face to the wall.
Marsha took that as a no, so she went to the library instead, not wishing to further intrude on Mae Ella’s worry and homesickness. Mae Ella was still facing the wall when Marsha left for class the next morning.
But when Marsha returned after class, she found the other bed was stripped, framed photos gone—along with Mae Ella. But she had left a short note. She had gone home to her mother to wait out the war. Being away from home and her love was too much for her.
Marsha bore her no ill will. She got it. That was why she didn’t want to exchange letters with John. It was too damn painful. Thank heaven she was still surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. These weren’t the Smokies, but they were part of the same chain, and they centered and rooted her. She sat on Mae Ella’s bare bed with a sigh, but before she could think twice, the door to the room opened.
Cyd Robinette was at her door with a duffle bag slung over her shoulder and her arms filled with bedding.
Marsha had met Cyd on the way to Woodstock. Marsha had been tired from the long trek on foot after she and John had been forced to abandon the flower-and-peace-sign painted bus, which had joined the parking lot that was once the road to Woodstock. Cyd had driven up on her motor scooter and offered Marsha a ride the rest of the distance to the concert. The two of them had formed a bond during the whole Woodstock experience.
“Phew,” Cyd puffed, blowing her bangs off her sweaty face. “Catch that before it falls, will ya?”
Marsha grabbed a handmade quilt and bedding teetering in Cyd’s arms.
“Heard you needed a roommate.”
Shocked silly, Marsha threw herself into Cyd’s arms, and they did a happy dance. But all too soon, Marsha collapsed with tears flowing again.
“What’s wrong?” Cyd asked. “Did someone die? It’s too soon to know you’re pregnant from Woodstock. What’s all this about?”
Through her sobs, Marsha explained. “John got drafted.” As tears poured down her cheeks, she pulled herself together. “But how did you end up here?”