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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Encourage Writing Inc.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter One

Submitted: October 17, 2016

Reads: 199

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Submitted: October 17, 2016





Part One


“My only love sprung from my only hate.”

~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet



Chapter One

The sky was black when they came. The stomping of boots through mud rang through the air like the pounding of thunder in a summer storm; indecipherable shouts following them as they grew closer. The room was as black as the sky, the moon not visible on this night. The scent of dogwood blooms drifted in through the open window, a signal that spring was upon the land yet again. A breeze drifted through the window, carrying with it the sounds of the soldiers’ boots and hastily shouted orders to settle in. She knew, without having to look, that they had stomped right over the flower beds that she had so carefully planted only a few days before – the closeness of their words, of their boots plodding into the mud.

The room slowly began to glow as the soldier’s torches neared the house. Fear gripped her in its poisonous claws. Would they burn her home down? Is this why they came? But as moments passed, and only the smell of burning oil wafted in through the window, she knew they were Confederates.

Foot falls came rushing down the hallway, loud enough to not be her sister, but quiet enough to not be her father. No, his foot falls were plummeting down the stairs only a few feet from her bedroom. Her bedroom door creaked open, and her mother’s amber hair poked in, already pinned into curls at the top of her head.

“Evelyn, are you awake, hon,” her mother whispered, as if she didn’t wish her daughter to be awake, and dreaded to wake her now.

But Evelyn had woken at the first sounds of the soldiers coming down the drive. Dread had washed through her then, and had ceased to release from her body. Her trembling hands had gripped the bed sheets, balling the soft cotton in her fists until her hands had started to cramp. They still held the material now as she lay on her side facing the window. Slowly, she turned over, sitting up to face the doorway.

“Why are they here,” she asked, urgency causing her voice to break.

Her mother hesitated, her face barely visible in the darkness of the room, backlit by the candles in the hallway. But Evelyn saw it, the worry etched between her brow, and her mouth forming a frown that crinkled the skin. “I’m not sure, hon. Your father has gone to find out.”

The door opened wider, her younger sister now bursting through to jump onto Evelyn’s bed. Frail arms curled around her body, cold hands touching her side and causing her to shiver. Ginny pressed her head into Evelyn’s breast, and she was sure that her sister could hear her heart racing.

“Have them come to kill us,” the girl asked, her voice whining slightly, large blue eyes staring up at her.

Evelyn brushed the loose pale curls back from her sister’s face, forcing a small smile that she hoped would comfort the girl. “No, of course not, silly girl,” she said, looking to her mother for confirmation of her statement. The question was there in her eyes, asking the same thing her younger sister had.

Are they?

“Come, Virginia. Back to bed with you,” her mother said, entering the room to gather the girl in her arms. The girl took one last look at Evelyn, trepidation shining there, unhidden. She was young enough that she didn’t have to be brave for appearance sake, not like Evelyn did.

Her mother took Ginny by her arm, telling her that everything was going to be fine, and to stop her moaning. But Evelyn heard the apprehension in her mother’s voice, heard the same questions that Evelyn was asking herself.

Why were they here? The war was much further north than her little town of Harrisonburg. They said the war hadn’t even spread to Arkansas yet. Most of the battles had taken place up north, where the Union soldiers seemed to spawn at an alarming rate, growing in numbers by the day. From last she heard, and perhaps it was just pessimistic gossip, but it seemed that the Confederate army had lost the battle at Fort Sumter. Whispers of treason had flowed through the gossip, as though some in the army were conspiring with the Union. Treason, they said, was the worst form of desertion a soldier could commit. Punishable by not only death, but by torture to find out what information the soldier had sold.

But they were just rumors, weren’t they? Gossip to keep the lords and ladies occupied in their comfortable houses, while less fortunate people had gone off to fight a war they weren’t sure they agreed with. She’d heard the whispers of the slaves in the kitchen, had seen them close their mouths when she approached. If the North did win, it would mean the end of their slavery, and surely a rebellion would take place. Would they kill her quickly, or take pity on her younger sister? She doubted it.

The booming voice of her father startled her out of her thoughts and brought her back to the present time. “What is the meaning of this,” he asked in an authoritative tone – the one he reserved for when she had been caught swimming in the river in nothing but her shift. But now, it seemed even more pronounced, even more imposing as he addressed the soldiers.

Climbing out her bed quietly, as if afraid they might hear her over all the commotion outside, she crept to the window and looked down. There, in his dressing robe with a candle in hand, stood her father speaking to what she imagined was the captain of this regiment. Medals shined in the candlelight, decorating his jacket just above his heart. He looked older than even her father did, a bald patch resting at the top of his head as if he had worn a helmet far too long. His voice was as official as her fathers was when he spoke.

“I have orders from General Bragg to be here, sir. The Union has moved in on New Orleans, and will soon try to gain control of the river. We’ve been sent here for your protection,” the man said, sounding almost menacing as spoke about the Unions advances.

“They’re heading towards the city? I’ve heard no news that they were even here,” her father replied, a waver in his voice as realization set in.

The war had finally come to them.

“Yes, sir. I’m Sargent Quill, and this is my regiment. As I said, we’re here for your protection,” the Sargent said again, silently making the point that they wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. “Now, we’ve travelled a long way, and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a good meal. Perhaps someone in your kitchen could make us a hot meal. There’s only twenty-six of us left, sir. We lost some good souls along the way.”

The Sargent wasn’t asking. Her father knew this by the tone in the man’s voice – hell, she knew it just by looking at him from her window. Narrowing her gaze on the soldiers trotting about behind the two men, she noticed the way in which some of them were limping, arms held in slings, torn fabric wrapped around their heads. These men had, indeed, seen war. Their uniforms were dirty and blood-stained; even the Sargent had his arm wrapped in fabric, cradling it to his chest in a way that seemed formal, but she could tell it was from pain.

“Of course,” her father replied, bowing his head in polite gesture. “I’ll have my cooks fix something up for you in the morning.”

He turned to walk back into the house, but the Sargent interrupted his movements. “I didn’t catch your name, sir, and my men are hungry from the long journey. We was hopin’ for somethin’ tonight, if you don’t mind.”

Again, the Sargent wasn’t asking – he was demanding. Her father stopped mid-stride, and even in the dim light from the torches, she could see his lips press together in aggravation, his brow furrowing into a scowl. Barely looking over his shoulder, he replied, “My name is William Beaufort, and this is my plantation. My cooks are asleep, Sargent, and I’d hate to wake them at such an hour. I have some bread and cheese in the pantry that I’d be happy to bring out, but you won’t be gettin’ a hot meal till mornin’. And I’d appreciate if you’d take your horses to the stables ‘round the back of the house.”

With that, and without waiting for a response, her father headed up the porch steps and back into the house. The Sargent stood in the flower bed she had been so careful to plant only days earlier, the crushed petals pressed into the mud when he walked back towards his men. She knew she should be worried about the soldiers that were now residing on her land; should be worried about the war that was soon to come; but her only concerns were of the flowers now crushed into the mud.

Sleep had eluded her for most of the night, and by the time the sun was just starting to rise, she was just starting to fall asleep. A soft tapping on her door caused her eyes to snap open, as her sister rushed into the room with a broad smile on her face.

“What is it,” Evelyn asked her, putting a hand over her face to block the sunlight.

“There are lots of very attractive soldiers here,” Ginny replied, bouncing up and down on the bed with excitement. “And I’m to come out to society next weekend, and can be courted by one of them!”

Evelyn had forgotten all about her sisters coming out to society. There was to a be a fancy dinner party, followed by a ball, where the entire town- or at least, the important members of the town- would be in attendance to witness her young sister being presented as a woman. Evelyn remembered her own ball, years and years ago when she was just ten-and-four. She had felt like a lamb going off to the slaughter, as every one of the eligible men, no matter their age, had come to witness her presentation to society. There had been many offers of engagement, the last one made by her father’s own business partner whose wife had just died a month before. After that, her father had stopped taking requests for his daughter’s hand.

But Ginny, the ever delightful and sociable youngest daughter, would more than likely marry herself off, as flirtatious as the girl was. Her father had put off her coming out to society for two full years compared to Evelyn’s. She suspected that he feared having to turn men away with a shotgun as he had with her.

“Isn’t it just so wonderful,” Ginny exclaimed, falling back on the bed with a sigh. “It couldn’t have been more perfect timing. Maybe we’ll both find husbands!”

“The world does not revolve around finding a husband,” Evelyn grumbled, sitting up blearily. “You were so afraid of them last night…”

“That was before I knew they were Confederate soldiers. They’re not here to kill us. They’re here to help us… by marrying us!”

The girl jumped off the bed, rushing to the door, before adding, “And please, please, don’t make papa send them away. All the men here are terrible.” With that, she rushed out of the room, presumably to get dressed for breakfast, which wouldn’t be for another two hours if the clock in her room was correct.

A sudden rumble from a carriage down the drive came through her window. Getting up from her bed, the sheets rumpling to the floor, she went to see the Randal family pulling up in their extravagant carriage, the two horses pulling it looking as annoyed as she felt. Margaret Randal, although her best friend and confidant, is not someone she had the energy for today. She was almost as flirtatious as Ginny, but in a more sophisticated and pretentious way. Margaret’s sole concerns were of fashion and gossip, and rarely on philosophical or political matters- not the way she could talk to Peter Randal, Margaret’s twin brother. Evelyn knew that if she did not dress in the latest fashion, as Margaret always did, then she would hear a great deal of complaints and insight on the matter.

Please let Peter be with them, Evelyn thought, exhaustedly, before walking to her wardrobe to begin the process of dressing. 

© Copyright 2018 D.C. Towns. All rights reserved.


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