It got so that the partings seemed to no avail. Every time the battalion was set to sail a new problem arose—dysentery in the barracks, a storm at sea, unfounded intelligence. Four times she saw him off at the station—kissed him among the steam and clatter of the locomotive. Held him until the guard’s whistle, until the train’s slack carriages clanked taut and started slowly moving.

On the fifth occasion they laughed about it. ‘What’ll it be this time, locusts? Maybe snow on the tracks—not likely in this heat?’ Then the guard called all aboard, the train whistle sounded and Lonnie pecked her cheek and leapt aboard. As he disappeared in the steam and smoke, Alice had the odd sensation of not having properly said goodbye. And all at once she knew. She knew.

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