Finally, I am going back. In the time I’ve been gone, my granddaughter—the first English child to be born in the Americas—will have turned from a squalling baby into a toddler with words and a personality. Three years is far too long a distance.
I wonder if the colonists believe I have forgotten them.
Despairing of Sir Walter Raleigh ever mounting a successful relief fleet, I have bought myself passage on a privateering expedition. This time, there’s no capture by Spanish ships, no war, no unseemly weather to get in my way. We anchor at Roanoke on Virginia’s third birthday, a happenstance which makes me smile even as it saddens me.
I bring only the basics ashore. Food—a sample of the long-ago-promised cargo now awaiting unloading—is packed in a sack I carry on my back. In one hand I grasp a small cloth doll. I want my arms empty, so they can be filled with my granddaughter. She will only know me as a stranger, but I hope to win her over with the gift.
Doll held proudly aloft, I emerge into the colony I left three years ago.
It is not there.
It is impossible to think I am in the wrong place. Before my halted feet is the fence which ran the perimeter of the settlement. A fence I helped erect. Beyond, though . . . nothing. Not a single building remains. There is no man-made ditch, no paths of dirt worn by the travel of feet, no livestock turning heads at my arrival.
It is an empty expanse of grass. I walk forward, almost expecting my footsteps to echo, the land is so empty. My throat is thick with some emotion I can’t describe. Virginia’s doll drops from fingers gone numb. She lands on the mossy earth, cotton dress spreading around her. The only member inhabiting the colony. A population of one.
I left one hundred and seven men and women here. Ten children. And my baby Virginia. I feared they would be angered by my failure to return. I never thought that when I did, there would be nothing to return to.