From our Classic Archives, originally published January/February 2004 issue

In the spring of 1998, I was jolted from my cozy cloistered existence with books and a neurotic cocker spaniel by the death of my bulwark and best friend of my life, Mom. Months of shaky grief.

By September, I realized I had to help myself, and that I needed to make meaningful contact with other people. So, I attended a Civil War Roundtable meeting, making a genuine effort to be friendly to those around me.

The Roundtable hosts the same group each month, many appearing nearly old enough to have fought in that war. That evening, though, I forced myself to sit beside an unfamiliar face, an intense young man who had brought re-enactment photos to display. We exchanged inconsequential banter, and I suppressed a feeling of disappointment at his early departure.

Shortly thereafter, a letter arrived in the mail, penned in Civil War story-type prose. This was from Mike Pierce, my seatmate at the Roundtable. The letter was disarming and touched my imagination. Alone after dark at my first Civil War re-enactment in Louisiana, and locked in my B&B just up the road from the local prison, I penned him a long, wordy Victorian missive that basically said, “Thanks but no thanks.” Off it went, and I determinedly put the sweet little “out-of-time” episode from my mind.

Some weeks later, a large envelope arrived in the mail. I recognized the handwriting as Mike’s. The envelope had a lump in it. I pulled a paper towel with something in it from the envelope. Being a  woman with a flunking grade in encounters with the male of the species, I had a real fear that there was a dead mouse (or worse) in it.

Out of the final paper fold rolled… a red rose. I felt my stubborn heart and mind soften. Well, okay, maybe it would be nice to have someone to talk to besides the dog, I thought, cautiously.

That red rose led to our first meeting at the Fine Arts Museum, to many wine tastings, to a whirlwind tour of France after hearing Rice University’s students play “An American in Paris,” to dancing the Virginia reel in hoop skirts under starry skies, and to beating my engagement ring (blindfolded) out of a piñata on a sunny winter morning at a painted country church near Houston. And to Mike’s help in gently saying a final farewell to the dear, neurotic dog.

And it brought me to my greatest love, my husband, Mike Pierce.

Linda Pierce from Texas

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