Several years after Hawkeye returns from the war, his father dies.
It is the most horrible thing to happen to him.
He somehow has survived the war; he doesn’t think he’ll survive this.
The service is small and intimate, and when it’s over Hawkeye can’t find it in himself to move. If he stays right here, right in this exact spot, right where his father is buried next to his mother, maybe this will all have been an awful dream. But he knows the truth and the tears come anyway.
He hears his name being called, and gives a perfunctory glance over his shoulder to show he’s heard.
“I’m sorry about your father,” Margaret says, standing too close. He’s had that said to him more times today than he’d like. He doesn’t deign replying. He’s sure they aren’t expecting a response anyway.
“I’m so sorry, Hawkeye.”
The name jolts him out of his reverie, and he’s surprised to find Margaret looking at him with sadness in her eyes. He thinks, why is she here in Maine of all places. “Margaret…”
Her hand is on his shoulder all of a sudden, and Hawkeye glances at it. He doesn’t know who she wants to comfort with the touch; it might be him, or the both of them. He’s even more astonished when she stands on her tiptoes and gives him a soft peck on the cheek, her breath warm and familiar on his skin. It feels like Hawkeye is a million miles away, in an entirely different country, filled with dust and the acrid atmosphere of war and disease and the worst of humanity grinding down to hopelessness under a hot, blue sky. His memory flashes back to the last time they had kissed.
Her touch goes away as quickly as it had come.
“I should go,” she glances toward the entrance of the cemetery, and not for the first time Hawkeye wonders what she’s doing here, beside him.
“Don’t,” he grabs her wrist, and stares, tries to make her stay. She is at once both familiar and not and a remnant of a life Hawkeye didn’t know he’d survive, but he had, and if she’s here, maybe, maybe he can survive this too.
She shakes her head though, like it’s all a big mistake, like she shouldn't even be here; doesn't know why she is. “I’m sorry,” she says and turns away.
And Hawkeye is left alone again.