“Dear Jonah—” The letters began. They had met a year before the war. Oliver, with his easy manners, had taken Jonah under his wing and supported him for several months during the height of the Depression. Jonah was heartbroken when his dear friend, Tony, had been drafted.
Their letters were cordial, mostly requests from Tony asking to hear gossip from Talbot Cove, the town where we now resided. Oliver’s flowing handwriting began to become shakier. I remembered Oliver’s burned skin when I had last seen him at the hospital camp, shortly before his death. The last letter was written by one of the nurses. Oliver begged Jonah to find his girl. My breath caught when I read the next line: “Ivy is the most beautiful girl in the entire world. She deserves the world; hope she’ll settle for this.”
I poured the contents of the envelope into my palm. It was Oliver’s half of the locket.
After our misadventures with the law, Oliver followed me back to Margarethe’s cabin. The old cabin had not survived the centuries as well as Oliver and I had. We worked tirelessly cleaning and repairing the old cottage. After a week of backbreaking labor, I decided to treat myself to a well-deserved bath in the nearby creek. When I arrived back at the cabin, I saw a man on the roof.
“What are you doing?” I yell. Margarethe’s cabin was my sanctuary. Oliver turned and smiled at me cheekily. Six penny nails were pressed between his lips. He had repaired the gaping hole in the roof with clean, new lumber and was covering the entire roof with sheet metal to help keep out the rain. The new roof was his way to pay me back for my most recent death at the hands of federal agents.
Oliver and I worked well together as we turned the old cabin into our home. We were nearly finished with the growing list of repairs when I had the foolhardy notion that we needed a vegetable garden. It was a warm summer day. I had always been somewhat of a wild spirit, so I decided against wearing protective clothing to work in the garden.
I had begun to wrestle with a patch of wild ivy that grew near the back of the property. After a few minutes of struggle, my arms and legs began to burn. Oliver began to laugh at my discomfort. The wild ivy was, in fact, poison ivy. Oliver, the scoundrel, refused to let me hear the end of my mistake thus christening me forever as “Ivy”.
While I recovered, he removed all the poison ivy for me, clearing a large patch of ground for me to plant a vegetable garden. I never once heard Oliver complain in those days. Whenever I would ask why he stayed on the farm to help me, he would simply smile and say that he was taking care of his “Ivy”.
Oliver had expanded part of the cabin, creating a small workshop for himself. He had a special talent for metalworking. He loved creating different bits and bobs to share with people. I tried not to worry when Oliver had barricaded himself in his workshop.
“What are you working on?” I beg. “Please tell me.”
He shook his head. “Not yet.”
Oliver plopped down on the bed next to me. He held up a small wooden box. “Happy birthday, sug.”
“I thought we agreed not to celebrate birthdays anymore.”
He smiled. “Come on, now. You don’t look no more than—”
I eyed him. “Watch it.”
“Open it, please.”
I opened the wooden box to reveal the locket. “Oh, Olly. It’s beautiful.”
“Happy birthday, Ivy. I love you.” He kissed me passionately. “So much.”
“I love you too.”
Oliver kept half of the locket. The heart-shaped locket was a symbol of our love. No matter where we ended up in the world, as long as we carried the locket, we carried the other’s heart with us.
I fell to my knees, holding the locket to my heart. I missed Jonah. I missed his good heart and his wonderful sense of humor. My heart longed for Oliver’s embrace. I needed his strength to battle the terrifying future before me. But I didn’t have either of them. I was completely alone, with two young children who depended on me.
We left town shortly after Jonah’s funeral.