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Even though several years had passed, Jay still remembered the time he heard the sound of gunfire.
In 1775, he was 15, and he realised that the people around him had become angry. Although he only got in touch with them when he needed money, he could tell that they were angry. Very angry.
But he didn’t care at all, for he didn’t think anything that worried those people would have affected him.
“How can I care more about others’ lives, when I’m still struggling with mine?”, he pondered.
At night, Jay would think about his mother, who left him for good when he was only ten. They lived a very hard life of course, earning their living by picking up trash and paper in the street. But when they got home—just a little room that could hardly contained anything more than two people—they still enjoyed each other’s company.
At that time, having and supporting each other was the only thing they cared about. He would pay anything just to get back to the old days, even if it was a hard time.
Lying in his shabby little bed, which was made out of paperboard and clothes picked out of trash, Jay remembered the scene when his mother left. The woman struggled to breathe, and failed. She tried to reach his face, but failed again. Watching her mother lying in the bed, it was the first time in his life that Jay felt despair. He hated the feeling that he couldn't save the only people he cherished. Jay couldn’t bear it, and ran out of the room with tears in his eyes and never went back again.
Jay once wanted to find a job to support himself, but gave up within two years. He couldn’t find any store that would take him as a staff. Without any proper education, what kind of job could he find? Street cleaner? Not strong enough at all.
He tried everything he could except for those he detested from the bottom of his heart. Those jobs, in mother’s words, were pure evil.
He lived a vagrant life, moving from place to place. Picking up rubbish and paper was the only way he could get money until he learned about stealing. He only stole purse when he actually couldn’t find any thing to sustain his life, especially when harsh wind blew ruthlessly in the winter.
He hated to steal, but not as much as he hated to die.
Three years had passed, and Jay had just got through another winter. Today is delightful, he thought. Finally the snow had gone, leaving no trace behind, disappearing in the warm ray of light from the generous spring day sun. Jay had never been so relaxed since five years ago. All he wanted to do was to walk around and appreciate the beautiful spring scenery.
He got up from his bed and dressed. Finally, he didn’t need to suffer from coldness in the next several months. He checked himself in a broken mirror, and found out that he had started to grow a moustache. That was a surprise for him.
He nearly forgot his age through these years of struggle. Everyday was the same—weather excluded of course—boring and desperate. Jay was looking for a chance to change, but had no idea how to start.
What is the meaning of life? He could’t find anything meaningful in his life except for living itself.
It wasn’t the first time that Jay took a drink in the pub. When he wanted to reward himself for keeping himself alive through some extremely difficult time, he would take a drink. It was also the way he reminded himself that he still had something fun to do.
People in the pub always ignored each other, shouting purposelessly just because of the effect of drinking too much alcohol. Jay didn’t drink much, and started to consider what to do in the new spring. Picking up trash and seeing it could merely maintain his living. Hence, he needed to find a way out.
The pub was never quiet. However, people today seemed to be angry instead of reckless. They were angry about something. He didn’t care much. During the past several years he was out of touch with the world. The only way he knew some news was through newspapers he picked on the street. But he didn’t know much words, so newspapers were not effective at all.
Something about British government? Something about these people taking Americans’ weapons away? Young people following Captain John Parker? Well, he didn’t have weapons. No effect for him. Though he was young, he was also weak and naive. It seemed like he was not one of the “real” colonists.
As he was thinking, he heard a group of people whispering in the corner. They were all teenagers. He noticed a girl who was the same age as him. Although she was only wearing some old grey colour clothes, she was very attractive. Her eyes were brown, so as her hair. Jay loved this colour, as his mother had owned and he also owned this colour of hair and eyes. He never met his father though, nor did he care. Her appearance was delicate and showed a natural kind of beauty without any kind of make-up.
Jay wanted to know who she was. But he also knew that it was just a crush. Nothing would happen as soon as they would get out of the pub. People would not want to mess up with a poor vagrant unless they were crazy.
Jay smiled bitterly and shook his head. Be realistic, he thought.
He started to study the rest of the group. The eldest boy seemed to be very serious, while the second eldest boy seemed to be humorous. They were both very strong. Their heights were also way above average. These two boy were the girl’s brothers, he guessed for they looked very similar with same kind of dress and same colour of hair and eyes.
Jay could easily imagined them throwing him out of the pub like a piece of trash if he tried to talk with their little sister. However, their strength didn’t give him a frightened feeling. He thought that these two brothers were brave instead of violent. They were kind and willing to protect others. He could tell these personalities for he had met many different kind of people.
What he truly was afraid of was the boy in the darkness. He had blond hair, but even this colour didn’t reduce the creepy feeling he brought to Jay. He never talked or smiled. He had no facial expression. It seemed like he surrounded himself with darkness and a mysterious air. Jay could tell that this boy was really strange.
Other people were normal. However, Jay thought that they were just a bunch of friend hanging out, until he saw that they all carried a knives in their belts. The second eldest boy even had a gun. His heartbeat immediately accelerated.
Creepy. He immediately turned his head away from them and pretended that he had seen nothing. No matter who they were, it was none of his business. He just quickly finished this drink and forgot about them.
Bur he did listen to what they had said. He believed that they would gather somewhere else together this evening. He also found out that the place they chose was very near to where he lived. Now he wanted to take a glimpse at what they would do at night. Just for curiosity, just a few minutes. Maybe I can see the girl for just one more time, he thought to himself.
The location was Lexington, on the Charleston river.
Jay kept listening to what they said, but the rest of the conversation was nothing significant. He left the pub as the group of teenagers did, and went to the nearest river to wash himself.
Although winter had gone, the stream was still cold, penetrating his skin and making him tremble. But he was delighted. Spring had come and he had decided to find something fun to do in order to celebrate the departure of winter. After the encounter with those teenagers in the pub, he found that the thought of meeting them again was very exciting. Especially meeting the girl again. He just had to be careful not to be beaten up by her brothers. Maybe be careful with the boy of darkness, too.
“Tonight will be fun.”, he tried to convince himself.
Jay took a nap before going out for his adventure. He enjoyed watching the stars at the night, which he looked like black velvet with diamonds, smooth, elegant and mysterious.
He finally walked to the place he over heard from the teenagers. He found a camp near the river. To be more specific, a barrack near the river. Exciting. It was strange that he never thought of this place before. Just lived, lived, and lived. He now enjoyed this naive kind of excitement.
But nobody appeared, and he could only see the dim light in the barrack. He climbed up in the tree and watched it for a long time. Nothing happened. He was a little disappointed. However, the excitement hadn’t totally left, intriguing him to wait even longer.
He now thought about what the teenagers would do in such a place. But they had weapons, he remembered. They might be soldiers, young colonists who fought for Captain John Parker.
Who cares about the Captain anyway, he thought. Jay was just coming here to have some fun.
Wind was blowing gently. The air would warm up in the next few months. Pleasant, he thought. He gradually felt asleep lying in the branch of the tree.
Jay was woken up by gunfire.
The huge noise made him jumped up falling off the tree. He didn’t realised anything until he hit the ground.
“Ouch!”, he yelled. But he soon realised that there was something way more dangerous to worry about.
He saw the girl’s second eldest brother holding a gun. And he seemed to be overwhelmed, too. Apparently, he didn’t know who had done it. All the colonists were confused, while the British soldier immediately filled themselves with rage. They opened fire on the Americans.
The young people then realised they had to fight back, but it was too late. Several people had fell down to the ground and they were in a very difficult position. Jay saw the girl’s eldest brother, too. Jay also noticed that a British soldier was aiming at him. He rushed out and ran toward him without any further thought.
He heard himself shouting: “Lay down! Lay down!”
But the gunfire was too loud, much louder than his shouts. The eldest brother didn’t notice him at all. Jay rushed toward him. When he reached the brother, Jay pushed him down. The bullet rushed and passed right by his ear. The extremely terrible noise nearly made him faint. But he struggled up and looked around, seeing a fist rushing toward his face.
He was hit and fell on the ground. Before passing out, he saw the girls’ brothers leaning down toward him. Their worried faces were the last things he remembered.
When he woke up, he found himself in a unfamiliar place. He looked around. The light was dim, and he couldn’t see very clear. But he could recognised the face above him. Apparently, she was a nurse in the barrack.
“You’re awake.”, she smiled. Now Jay would rather to pass out again, because he didn’t know how to answer. His heartbeat accelerated, but he pretended that he didn’t hear what she had said.
“Here’s the newspaper today. If you are feeling better, I can lead you to the Captain.”, she said, and left to look after others who still hadn’t woken up.
Jay’s vision followed her moves. He saw that her eldest brother was injured, too. She was helping her brother wrapping up the wounds. The second eldest one, named Jack, was also receiving help. He was telling jokes in order to relieve the pressure.
His sister stopped him seriously, and said that making the eldest one laugh would hurt his wounds again. Now the two brothers laughed together at their sister’s words.
Annoyed a little bit, the girl returned to Jay. He immediately acted as if to read the newspaper. He recognised a few words. Captain John Parker? Uh, he read all the words he knew, but still didn’t know what had happened.
“So, what do you think about it?”, she asked casually, checking him temperature. He didn’t know how to answer. He then decided to be frank.
“I can’t read.”, he said embarrassedly.
“Okay, then I’ll read for you.”, she said with another smile, which made Jay’s heartbeat even faster. Then she began reading. Her voice was soft and gentle.
The article in the front page was all about the battle. According to the article, Many soldiers died, but her voice remained calm. Jay now understood that they were fighting for the Captain. However, he still didn't know why the people were fighting.
She finished reading.
There was a silence between them. Finally, it was her who broke the silence.
“Well, thank you for saving my brother Charles. He was always in at the frontline of the army, so was my second eldest brother Jack. I often worry about them.”, she said and frowned.
Jay still didn’t know how to answer.
“Do you want to see the Captain? He actually saw you in the battle, and he wants to see you. He told me that when you are feeling better, he would like to meet you in his office. Are you feeling better now?”, she asked again, sounding embarrassed a little bit.
He nod. The girl then led him out of the room, and went through the corridor to the Captain’s office.
When the reached the door, the girl spoke again:
“I’m not going in, but if you want to find me and my brothers afterwards, you can go to the patience room again.”
She was about to turn around and leave when Jay said:
“What’s your name?”
“Oh, sorry. Catherine. My friends call me Cathy, and my brothers call me Catty. I don’t know what’s in their brain. Oh, and yours?”, she cheerfully spoke.
“Jay.”, he said.
“Nice to meet you, Jay.”, she said, smiling again and then left.
Jay took a deep breath, and went into Captain John Parker’s office.