Una Meredith sat silent in her customary pew. Around her, the other members were preparing to leave the church and hurry to their Sunday dinners. She didn't move.
The last of the congregation left the double doors of the sanctuary. The organist finished playing the postlude, stood, and went to prepare dinner for her family.
The church was quiet. Dust motes danced solemnly in the shafts of bright sunlight from the windows. A lone fly buzzed busily in and around them.
Still Una sat reflectively. It had been a week since they had received the news: Walter Blythe, dead. They were the two elements that should not mix-Walter, and death-but they were.
One of the church doors creaked in the back of the room. The small sound was large in the stillness. Una didn't turn to see who it was. It was probably a child who had forgotten his Bible behind and was coming to retrieve it.
Quiet footsteps reverberated in the silence. A man was coming down the aisle. He stopped beside Una and stood there until she looked up at him.
Those deep, kind eyes...that gentle, caressing look...
"Una," he said, brokenly. His voice sounded curiously childish again, but Una didn't realize it. She rose and flew into his arms. "My Una."
"Walter," she breathed, her voice coming in gasps. "We thought you were...we thought you had died!"
"No," he said, his breath stirring the soft hair above her ear. "It must have been some other Walter Blythe."
She suddenly pitied the unknown mother of that other Walter Blythe...the mother who thought, mistakenly, that her son was still alive somewhere...the mother who might, at that moment, be standing at the door of her son's bedroom, whispering to herself that he would be back soon, that the war could not last forever...the mother who was so looking forward to receiving her next letter from her beloved son, in that old and oh-so-familiar scrawl...
But she was glad that her Walter Blythe was here...so strong, so hale, so hearty, so...alive.
"Your mother!" she gasped. "She's still grieving you! Come, Walter, let's take you home."
She was halfway to the big double doors when she realized he had not moved. Turning, she held out her hand to him. He came forward and took it. It was small in his large hand.
"Take me home to mother, Una," he said, his voice tired and small. "I feel like a prodigal coming home."
She smiled then, and an answering smile leapt to his face.
As they left the church, the big clock overhead struck one.
The mantel clock whirred and chimed one. Una Meredith sat up in bed, her eyes wide and her heart racing. With a sudden, convulsive movement, she pulled the worn, faded quilt to her face and burst into tears.