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Fighting against the strong wind, I tied up the opening of the tent flap. The wind wanted to keep the tent open; to let us freeze right down to our marrow by allowing the elements of the cold autumn night to attack us. I wished we could have made a fire. But the breeze would have blown it out instantly. My body shook uncontrollably; shivers ran up and down my limbs. I hugged myself and pulled down the sleeves of my measly sweater. I tucked my legs up to my chest and tried to warm my shoeless feet, covered only in drenched, soiled socks. Maybe this was not such a good idea. Maybe we should not have left. Or we at least should have made more preparations. Brought more food, appropriate clothing, some blankets. At least some shoes. Some bandages would be nice too. I looked down at my legs. My ankles and shins were covered in blood. Scratches and scrapes and cuts everywhere. They stung. Stung like tons of bee stings. They were filled with gravel and dirt. I really needed to clean them before they got an infection. That would be just what I needed! Ha!
Elizabeth grabbed my arm. “I am scared!” she screeched above the howling wind rustling our tent. She dug her long fingernails into my flesh. I shook her off.
“I’m scared too. It will be okay.” I thought about home. My house was a dangerous, harsh place right now. But at least I would be warm and dry. I hoped Mother was okay at home. I hoped she was not being pushed around and hurt and taken advantage of. Patriot soldiers are not the most gentlemanly folk. I know that from the past two weeks of soldiers taking over my house without the slightest bit of consideration. Coming in, plopping their muddy shoes right on the sofa, and demanding a large mug of beer in their hand in thirty seconds flat. Breaking things, ruining the carpets, and dropping food all over the floor. No “sorry”s or “please”s or “thank you”s. No manners. No respect. I’d like to know who their mothers are because they obviously didn’t raise their sons to know common courtesies.
Elizabeth hugged me tightly. She was shaking like a leaf. I put my arm around her thin shoulders. I remembered Mother’s words to me last night, the last time I saw her.
Run, Faith, run! Go to your aunt’s house. Get away from here. You will be safe as long as you go to Tory territory. Take care of Elizabeth.
I had shed a tear and told her how frightened I was.
It is okay, Faith. You will be fine. Don’t worry about me here. I will manage the soldiers.
She gave me the tent.
You can sleep in this.
Then she gave me a bag of a few food scraps she had thrown together in haste.
Go. Don’t wait. Go now.
I stupidly did not even put warmer clothes on. I took Elizabeth by the hand and told her we were leaving. She didn’t even get the chance to ask where we going before I heard glass shattering in the parlor and a soldier yelling as glass shot into his eye. The noise scared me out of the house. My shoes we far on the other side of the house and I didn’t dare get them. My sister and I bolted out the door.
I love you, Faith.
I turned and smiled weakly at Mother as we ran. A cannon boomed and I ran faster. Elizabeth struggled to keep up.
Now it was our second night in the tent; much more frigid than the first. As my sister drifted into restless sleep, I thought about that day’s journey. Crossing streams. Fighting our way through thick woods. The battle scars on my legs made it easy to remember. Everyone had battle scars these days. Many men had literal battle scars. I’m sure Father did, though I hadn’t seen him in months to know for certain.
We would get to Aunt Rebecca’s by tomorrow morning, I knew that. It was not much farther. I tried to sleep. Not much success. I could barely stay awake, yet I could not fall asleep. Strange. The wind was so strong I thought the tent might blow away as easily as a fallen maple leaf. I tried to warm up by taking advantage of Elizabeth’s body heat. To no avail. I felt like I’d never warm up, and this night would never end.
My empty stomach felt like a hollow cave. It gurgled, as if moaning and begging for sustenance but not having the exact words to request. Feeling my way through the dark, I found a stale piece of bread and chewed it slowly. That was almost the end of our bantam food supply. All that was left was one more piece of bread. That would be saved for Elizabeth in the morning. Once we got to Aunt Rebecca’s we would be warmed up and well-fed. Aunt Rebecca would sit us in front of the glowing fire in the hearth and whisk in mugs of piping hot cider and cinnamon oatmeal and hickory bacon and we would be able to eat until our bellies burst open.
Keeping that thought in mind, I tried to smile and laid back down to sleep. My sister was now completely asleep. I shifted her a little to the left to make room for myself to lie down. I curled up like a cat with Elizabeth like a tiny kitten next to me. Everything will be all right.