September, 1991 in a suburb of Boston, Mass.
"Hi honey, I'm home!" Came a strong voice with a slight edge of dark humor.
"Emma! Where the hell were you? I told you to come straight home. I meant it!" The voice of the ex-major pierced right through her.
"I'm sorry, Gram. I had a rough day. I went to visit mom and dad. I'm really sorry."
Margaret's face softened at the mention of the sixteen-year-old's parents.
"Again? I swear one of these days I'll march right into your school and give those girls a piece of Army training. And honey you know you can always visit your parents, just call me first. I'll always take you."
"I know. I just wanted to be alone."
"I know." Margaret hugged her granddaughter as if her life depended on her. It did in fact. Emma was her life. The pair were remarkably similar, in looks and personality. They both stood at the same height-just a smidgen short of 5'5". Emma's hair was long and a golden brown, just as Margaret's had been when she was her age. They both had the same beautiful eyes, and were filled with the same passion underneath. They loved Christmas and hated vinegar. They always ate popcorn as they watched Jeopardy. They were both strong and determined. They had to be. Life hadn't exactly been easy for them.
"The mac n' cheese! It's boiling over!"
Margaret ran to the stove as Emma grabbed a dishcloth from the sink. Just then the phone rang.
"The world has marvelous timing."
"That it does. Will you get that sweetie, I can handle this. Oh make sure to screen it! I'm not in the mood to talk to idiots."
Emma grabbed up the phone just as it was about to cut to voicemail.
"Umm hi. Umm, is Margaret Houlihan there?"
"May I ask who's calling, please?"
"An old Army buddy."
"Umm okay, hold on a sec. Gram! He says he's an old Army buddy!"
"What? Okay hold on!"
Margaret came and with a look of wonder took the phone from her granddaughter. Emma also had a look on her face. Her grandmother never talked much about the war. She never even saw any of her Army friends once after the war ended. And now someone was calling her...
"Okay...Friday, 12:30, United Methodist Church, Hannibal.
Okay. I'll be there. Thanks, BJ. Yeah...it was nice to hear your voice too. Bye."
Margaqret hang up the phone and walked back into the kitchen. Emma followed hot on her heels.
"Not to ask a dumb question, but why are you going to be at a Methodist Church in Missouri on Friday at 12:30?"
"An old friend of mine has passed. You remember me talking about my commanding officer from the 4077th."
"Vaguely." Emma nodded her head slightly.
"I'm sorry Gram." Emma didn't know much about her Gram's time in Korea, but she enough to know that her grandmother loved these people deeply, even though she never saw them.
Emma hated it, but her grandmother closed up a lot when it came to her emotions. She never wanted Emma to know she was upset. That to Emma had begun at the funeral of her parents. Her Gram was a strong woman.
"So, are you going to book our flights?"
"Our? You're not going."
"What? Of course I am."
"And miss a week out of your first few days of senior year? I don't think so."
"Gram you can't just get on a plane to Missouri for a week and leave me here! Gram? Why don't you want me to go? Do you not want your friends to see me? To meet me? Why? Gram?" Emma knew she had hit the target, she could tell in the resigned look on her grandmother's face.
Margaret sighed. "I'll book our flights after dinner."
Emma gave her a quick hug and kiss and then turned to set the table.
This was not going to be easy. It wouldn't be easy going by herself. But with Emma? What was she going to do? To say? What could she say to placate both Emma and the members of the 4077th? How could she conceal who Emma really was? No, this definitely wouldn't be easy