Not Fair in Love and War

February 29, 2008
By Kylie Hammon, Huntingdon, PA

Maggie groaned as her long blond hair got stuck in the bread she was making. First of all, she was sick of eating only bread and potatoes each day, and, this was the third time her hair had been a nuisance today.
She stared out the fogged window at the cold, rainy day. She and her mother lived in Virginia, and the weather was being as depressing as their lives. Maggie soon stopped looking out the window when she heard the gunshots and cries of war miles away in the distance. Her eyes filled with tears and she looked down as she remembered the news she and her mother had received yesterday.

Maggie’s Dad had been killed while fighting in the Civil War. He was just a man who wished for all humans to be treated equally, and this caused his death. He would be buried with many other soldiers who were killed, as if he were an animal who didn’t mean anything. Maggie wished with all her heart for a proper funeral for her brave father, but she knew her family wouldn’t be so lucky.

“Maggie, are you done mixing the bread yet?” Maggie’s mom, Laura, asked as she trudged through the small kitchen. Laura’s eyes were puffy and red, and her dark hair was stringy and uncared for. Maggie knew her mother was extremely depressed because usually she was neat and clean, no matter what the conditions were. Her downhearted mom just upset her more about the loss of her father.

“No,” Maggie’s voice shook as she answered. They both knew that they could care less about the bread, because they were too shocked and scared to eat. All they heard all day was gunshots. All they could think about was the brave man who sacrificed his life for war. Thinking about him wouldn’t help now. He was already dead.

Maggie didn’t understand the purpose of war. The only thing it did was kill men who were fighting over something that could be settled with one simple debate. She wished that people would actually be as smart as they acted and stop fighting physically. But life would be too good to be true then.

Laura began to hum as if she were happy, then stopped as her voice cracked with misery. She strode to the table and took the bread when Maggie was done mixing.

“I’m not really hungry right now. Are you?” she asked. Maggie shook her head. “We’ll eat later. Let’s just sit by the fire right now.”

Maggie almost stumbled with weakness as she followed her mother into the cozy living room. She was very small and pale, and she needed something other than potatoes and bread to stay strong. Laura was rather plump and color remained in her cheeks. She helped Maggie when she couldn’t go on any longer.

“Well, at least the fire is warm!” Laura said, trying to sound cheerful. “Here, sit down.” Maggie was not fooled by her mother’s false happiness, but returned the strained smile and sat. It took all of her strength not to burst into tears. She missed her father. It was so hard to deal with the fact that he would never be home again, that her mother would never say how Maggie resembled her father again, and that she could never laugh with him as Laura screamed while a spider ran across the floor.

The warmth of the fire did nothing to make Maggie feel better. She just wanted to fall into her mother’s arms and cry, but she knew it would just make her mom feel worse.

The small room was the only cozy one in the house. Two photos of the family were hung on the wall, each of them showing a smiling set of parents with a truly happy child. A knitted rug kept the floor warm, and three cushioned chairs faced the fireplace. Maggie’s heart swelled with mixed emotions as she stared at the photos on the wall. Oh, how happy we were! she thought. Then this war happened…

“Remember when…” Maggie paused to clear her throat. “Remember when we used to sit in here and just talk with Father?”

“Yes,” Laura replied sadly. “I remember how we used to laugh, and how happy we were. But Maggie, life goes on. Whatever life will throw at us we do not know, but we must try and catch it. If it isn’t what we want, then we just have to hold on and wait.”

Maggie sighed. Her mother was right, but she was not the kind of girl who thought deeply into things. All she knew right now was the hatred that was boiling up inside her. But she knew better than to argue with her mother, so she remained quiet and lowered her tear-filled eyes.

Maggie awoke suddenly. She realized she had fallen asleep. Her mother was beside her, breathing deeply and peacefully.

What had woken her up? Maggie realized someone was pounding away at the door. She sat up quickly and shook Laura awake.

“Mother, there’s someone at the door!” she whispered frantically. Laura woke and jumped up, glancing around her with wide, alert eyes. One would never know she was sleeping.

Maggie shook with fear as she realized that there was a battle going on right in front of the house. She began to panic and started twitching towards the door.

“Maggie, stay in here,” Laura straightened her dress and walked quickly and quietly toward the door.

She never made it. The door banged open and there stood a Confederate soldier. He was tall and huge, and glared menacingly at Laura. She backed away and shielded Maggie from him.

Maggie didn’t even know the soldier, but she hated him. She hated that he supported the men who had killed her father, and she hated that he supported the idea of slavery. Just looking at the evil man made her sick.

The man glared at Maggie for a minute, as if he could read her mind. Her heart turned to ice. She didn’t want to be afraid of him, but something about him made her want to run far away.

“Both of you,” he shouted, looking away from Maggie and to Laura, “come with us, now!” He gestured toward the door where several other Confederate soldiers stood.

“What should we do now?” Maggie whispered hoarsely.

Maggie never heard an answer to that question, at least not from her mother. She gasped in horror as a stray bullet from the battle outside hit her mother square in the chest. She grabbed Laura’s hand and felt it turn to ice with panic and despair.

“Mother…” Maggie choked, as the once cheerful light left Laura’s eyes. Laura fell as if in slow motion and lay dead on the floor.

“Well, that’s one less mouth to feed,” said one of the soldiers. “Now! Come with us, girl.” He grabbed Maggie tightly by the arm, bruising her.

Maggie began to sob hopelessly as she was dragged away by the herd of soldiers, dragged out into battle.

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