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This piece has been inspired not only by my love of history but also my love of literature and writing.
I peel my shaking hand away from his pale forehead. His sickly pale complexion makes me feel sick to my stomach. I slowly wring out the washcloth into the bucket I have drug up to the side of the bed. The sound of the water hitting the bottom of the empty bucket makes me sigh. In total I had gone through two bucket. “Father,” I croak out quietly as to not disturb him. He doesn’t respond, but instead he coughs violently in his not so peaceful slumber. I press the washcloth to his forehead once more and breathe a sigh of relief as his figure noticeably relaxes. I stand up from my crouched position and turn to walk away. The house is all quiet now.
Floorboards creak under my weight as I step onto them. I run my hand along the peeling wallpaper collecting dust and bits of mold. My hem of my skirt snags on a sliver of wood jutting out from the side of the floor. I stumble for a moment before regaining my feet and continuing on down the seemingly endless hallway. Of course, nothing is endless. All good things come to an end. They last for so long you feel as if you can hold on forever, and just as you understand the importance of what you have, it slips out from your fingertips as smooth as silk. You attempt to grasp for something to hold on to, but it is as useless as trying to grab hold of water.
The hallway slowly comes to a stop, ending in a spiral staircase that neither looks nor sounds safe as you descend it. I grip the railing tightly as I slowly make my way down the rickety steps. The discolored wood of the steps gives in an ominous look. The majority of it looks as if it was struck by lightning. A rusty red hue randomly mixes with the brown and black of the remaining wood. I silently curse myself for not grabbing a candle. Being well past midnight, the house appeared pitch black. It reminds me of many things, most of them not pleasant. One predominately relating to my father, the darkness is what enveloped you in death.
Once I reach the bottom landing, I wave my arms around as if I was a blind person. Loose floorboards tug at my skirt, and table cloths brush against my waist as I walk by. A turned up edge in the carpet catches my foot and sends me stumbling forward. I throw out my arms to catch my fall. The wood scrapes up against my skin, embedding itself in my palm. I feel a sharp stinging sensation and a trickle of a fluid down my arm. Pulling myself up, I fix my sleeves which had been pulled up and try to ignore the slow flow of blood down my arm.
I make my way into the kitchen. I fumble for a moment with the match in my hand before striking it to light a candle. I tear a small piece of bread off of the loaf in the cupboard, and I take out a small cup. I proceed to make myself some tea. My stomach rumbles as I hurriedly eat the bread. With my father constantly needing care, the intervals at which I eat could be anywhere from hours to days. I sit quietly sipping my tea. I’m alone with my thoughts. The threat of the ongoing war keeps me on edge, not to mention my father’s increasingly diminishing health.
The sound of arguing fills the streets most of the time: patriots fighting loyalists, fathers fighting sons, neighbors fighting neighbors. The war divided the colonies into sides. If we don’t stand together, we’ll accomplish nothing. Revolution had always been something I longed for. With the British taxing us constantly, we could barely afford to live. My father is in no shape to work; and, despite my looking, no one is willing to hire a woman. The longer I stay in this house the more I feel an itch to leave. Keeping a watchful eye on my father day and night is taxing. My face is now lined with worry lines. The dark bags under my eyes never leave.
I hear a loud thump come from upstairs. The candle slips right out of my hands and falls to the floor. I race toward the staircase and quickly fly up it. I don’t trip this time. Determination set on my face, I maneuver around in the dark. Once I reach my father’s door, I open it slowly. I expect to see my father on the floor in pain or something of that manner. What I actually see, however, is a book. My father’s hand is draped across the nightstand. I breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t know I was holding in. I pick up the book that had fallen open, and I begin the trek to the bottom landing once more.
I see my fallen candle still burning somehow. It’s holding on. It burns despite the wind sweeping in through the window. It burns despite the rush as I dropped it. It burns with a small flame. The color, however, has gone away. The once bright flame has been reduced to a flicker. It’s the same candle it was before, but now it has no spark. It’s not bright like it was before. It’s not giving off warmth and a feeling of protection any more. It has left me to fend for myself on this chilly dark midnight.
I grasp the metal of the platter on which the candle sits on. Slowly I raise it up towards my face and blow on it. The air makes a single dying spark flare up with light again. Using the barely flickering candle, I make my way upstairs once more. Bread crumbs lay forgotten on the floor. Reaching the door to my room, I walk in. I instantly begin coughing as dust from the room enters my lungs. I haven’t been in there in days due to going multiple nights without sleep. I set the candle on the dust filled nightstand and climb into the bed.
The door remains wide open. I pull the sheets up to my chest, and I bury my face into the pillow. For a moment I just breathe. I let the weight of life’s problems come off of me for just a second. For once I feel okay. Any thoughts of taxes, war, and my father go away. I no longer think of life. I no longer consider death. For just a moment, everything is gone. Sleep is a strange thing. You need it to survive; yet in doing so, you entirely forget yourself for hours.
Whenever someone dies, you say that they are at rest. Yet, we rest every night. Do we die every night? Do we leave this world behind for a couple of hours in hope to return to a better day? Sleep is supposed to be refreshing. It is how we stay healthy and conserve our energy. Yet all it seems to do for me is make me slower. Actions became increasingly stalled, and once I come out of this period of time, I long to go back. Is that what sleep really is? Does it make us better or worse?
When we sleep, is it making us healthier or is it making us crave for that time? It makes us fully ready and even wanting a time where all we do is sleep. All we do is float around the unknown, and we never have to face the hard cruelties of this world. Despite everything, sleep still takes us. It always gets us in the end. Some of us give in willingly. However, some of us put up a fight. Is that what it really means to die fighting? To try and fight that eternal sleep for as long as possible? The thing is, I don’t give in willingly. I fight. Yet, it takes me anyway.
To my uttermost surprise I sleep through the night straight into morning. I awake as the sun’s rays flood through the window. The eternal sleep hasn’t taken me. The colors of the world always astound me. Though the sun is so far away, it still burns bright. It gives a feeling that makes us safe. The yellow color floods the world daily making us feel secure. The bed creaks loudly as I shift my weight while rising for the day. I examine the clothes I have on. Most people would be disgusted with my attire; however, it has become somewhat normal.
The bottom of my skirt hangs tiredly. It’s practically shredded with holes. Dirt, burns, and water stains appear in blotches on the rest of my skirt. My blouse is still tucked in but has seen better days. Rips appear in random places along the sleeves, and dirt appears so much that it makes me look as if I have spots. I make my way toward my wardrobe and pick out another skirt and blouse for today. I make my way to my father’s room to check on him. I reach his door and stop dead in my tracks. My father lies on the bed looking too still. I rush over and check for a pulse. I find a very faint beat.
Quickly I take the washcloth which remained in his room and press it to his forehead once more. I make my way downstairs and out the front door. Grabbing my skirt and hiking it up, I run as fast as I can. The cobblestone seems to crunch under my feet as I tear across the streets. People give me strange looks as I run by. Loud voices fly everywhere. The sudden change in the volume of everything throws me off, and I have to stop for a moment to regain my thoughts. I lean up against the side of a house, collecting my breath and trying to concentrate. Suddenly the shutters fly open, and I jump back in surprise. "Watch it," a man growls and quickly shoves me forward once more.
Once I reach the office of the physician, I shout for help. Sunlight streams through the window into the room illuminating it. Compared to the darkness that engulfs the various rooms of my house for the majority of the time, this new brightness hurts my eyes. Soon I hear the pounding of footsteps on the wooden floor. In no time someone comes running out. “My father,” I breathe out while leaning on the counter, “he’s not moving, but he’s breathing.” The physician shoots me a nervous glance that sets me even more on edge than I already am. He reaches for a small black bag that sits on the chair in the corner of the room. “Lead the way,” he says with almost a sigh.
Quickly I reopen the door and head back out onto the streets. I am met with a tidal wave of people heading in multiple directions. The flood of people sweeps me into the current and knocks me down in no time. Sitting on the hard ground, people rush by me, around me, and even over me at times. The struggle to regain my footing is practically useless. No one hears me asking for help in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. Finally, a firm hand grasps mine and pulls me onto my feet. I see the physician, his face red from the effort of finding me and helping me up. He beckons me forward as to lead the way.
Hiking up my skirt once more, I lead the way as best I can through the churning sea of people. I am aided by the thought that someone is coming to help my father. I have to put faith in the thought that this man can fix him. My father means the world to me. Losing him would be like losing an organ. He was there for me in a way no one else was. Before she passed, my mother was a hateful woman. She always tried to teach me the ways of the world. She said a woman’s place was in the home providing for her husband in any ways she could. I never picked up anything quick. I was a slow learner, and my mother hated me for it.
She would beat me occasionally when I would ruin a meal or tear a skirt from the washing. She constantly ranted to my father about how I was a disgrace. However, he always cared. If my mother made me skip a meal for failing, he would bring me food hidden in his pockets. He always told me not to listen to my mother. That a woman has just as much capability to do anything a man could. He told me to follow my dreams and live my life. After my mother passed, he took care of me. He let me sleep in his bed when I was afraid of the storms.
Eventually, we reach my door. I fumble with the handle before pushing it open wide and racing in. The physician follows suit. He looks nervous as he ascends the shoddy staircase. His hand grasps the railing firmly as he slowly makes his way up. He walks slowly down the hallway despite my many attempts to tell him to move even a little faster. I reach the doorway of my father’s room and worry does not fail to make itself shown on my face. The physician bends down slowly next to my father’s bed. He searches for a pulse just as I did, and I catch my breath.
The physician turns back and nods his head slightly at me signaling his findings. I let out the breath with great hesitancy knowing that the chances of him surviving were exceedingly decreasing as the time ticks away. The physician seems to take his time. He moves at a very slow pace, but, sure enough, he does his job well. He turns around once more, his face looking grim. “Your father,” he speaks slowly as if searching for a word. “Your father seems to have fallen into deep sleep. He’s still alive, but the chances of him waking from his fitful slumber are… slim.”
I feel tears begin to well in my eyes. All these years my father has taken care of me. All these years he has provided and put my being above his own. He has managed to do this for all this time yet when my time has come to repay his generous favor, I failed. I failed in keeping him well and happy. I have failed at providing for him. I have failed at being a daughter. Quickly wiping any trace of tears from my eyes, I make up my mind. “Do you have a family?” I ask the physician. He slowly shakes his head in reply. “Would you mind?” I start to ask before second guessing myself.
There is so many different ways this plan can go wrong. There are so many unknowns and so many questions. Is it worth it? Is it the right decision for father? For me? I am about to forget the whole idea when I look at my father. His face is pale and sickly. He lies, though seemingly peacefully, with a look of pain creeping at the edges of his face. His complexion resembles that of dying man, and his hands are clammy, shaking under the covers. “Would you mind staying to watch over my father? I have some unfinished business to attend to.”
I race around the house, pulling bits of money from where I know they are hidden. I find the physician standing patiently in the hallway, and I hand him the money. I quickly pocket some for myself. “Remain here and watch over him until I return. I do not know when this date will be, but I will pay you more if need be when I return. I shall write; and if he wakes up, please have him read my letters.” The physician nods solemnly as I slowly walk toward my father’s room. I step inside and close the door behind me.
Not wanting to face my father more times than necessary, I make my way toward his clothes. I sift through his articles of clothing until I find a piece that seems as if it would fit me. I search a bit more and find two more outfits that seem my size. I quickly shove them into a small bag I have gathered along with a rusty, old pair of scissors from my father’s desk. Sweeping my bag quickly over my shoulder, it hits the edge of a small jar of ink sending it spilling out all over the surface of the desk.
I stop myself abruptly at the edge of my father’s bed and turn to face his pale being. His chest rises and falls steadily, but it’s barely noticeable. His face makes him look older and more tired than I have ever seen him. His usual live and energetic personality has been reduced to this: A person unable to even emit a sound that they are so plagued with sickness. “Father,” I murmur as I fiddle with the blanket’s edge. He doesn’t stir, not even in the slightest. There is no twitch of the hand, no movement of the eyelids, not even a hair on his head is caught by even the slightest breeze and displaced from its original position.
I try to form even a syllable, but nothing comes out of my mouth. My lips move in an attempt to muster even that of a whisper, but the room remains silent and my voice nonexistent. My eyes drift slowly up and down the length of the room and rest, once again, on the sallow physique of my father. Words tumble out of my mouth in a jagged inaudible mess that somehow twists and connects to form a single thought. “I have to leave.” He doesn’t shift. Not the slightest showing of action nor movement to stop me. Barely conscious in my actions, I lean down and press a soft kiss to his cheek. The coldness of it stops me in my wake.
It is like planting a kiss on someone who long since left the cruelty of this world. Someone who has given up the fight. Someone who has cut all restraints keeping them grounded in this world and fallen. Someone who has fallen so long and hard that they couldn’t get back up if they tried. Someone who has lost to the eternal sleep and won’t be waking up anytime soon or ever for that matter. It startles me to see my father in such a state. In such a horrific state that might be the end of him.
My feet propel me backwards until my back hits the wall. For the first I allow myself to express emotion. Dry sobs wrack my being as tears spill over the edge of my eyes. A hard lump gets stuck in my throat, and I begin coughing. It feels as if my lungs would rise into my throat at any given time and come out. Pain shoots through my body as I cough violently. Tears stream freely down my face and fall silently to the ground, as if they were never even present, as if they were not a result of such grief and suffering.
My sadness is replenished as my eyes flicker up toward my father’s sickbed. Using the edges of my sleeve, I wipe away the tears from my eyes, but they continue to fall freely. The ultimate sensation of sorrow and the sullen depressing state of my mind suddenly gives me newfound determination, biting my lip hard enough to draw a touch of crimson blood, I pick up my bag and make towards the door. Storming out past the physician, I make my way to the bottom landing and pull out the rusty pair of scissors.
Without a second’s hesitation I confidently hold them up to the side of my head and cut. Hair falls down everywhere. It’s my hair. The hair my mother brushed so tenderly when I was a child. The hair that she would then turn around and pull when I was in trouble. The hair that always managed to get caught in something. It’s all gone. Moving my hand up, I rest it cautiously on the side of my head. The absence of the long locks breaks me out of my temporary trance. I am really going to do this.
There is no one here to stop me; not my father, not my mother, not anyone. Throwing the rusted scissors back into my bag, I pull out one of the outfits of my fathers that I have taken. I slip out of my own tired clothing and into these new items. A ruffled shirt feels smooth like silk. The cuffs of the sleeves hang a little long, just past the brim of my fingertips. I slowly slide a deep navy blue jacket over my shoulders. The fabric is heavy and thick. I stumble slightly at the suddenness of the weight before catching my feet and return to standing in an upright position once more.
Quickly pulling on a pair of beige trousers, I take a moment to reflect. How odd I must look! A woman of middle class dressed as a man. With hair cut short and clothes to conceal my being, I move swiftly towards the hearth. Scooping up a bit of ash from the fireplace, I rub it lightly over my face as a bit more to add to my preposterous façade. My hands, already worn down from countless hours of tending to my father, now have soot spotted lightly around them. I examine my reflection precariously taking in every ounce of my new countenance.
My face looks tired, as if it hadn’t seen sleep in weeks. Blood stopped at the edge of my lip, waiting patiently to fall at any moment. My eyes, though once bright, now shone an undeniable ray of sadness. Where joy once was held, now, only grief, worry, and anticipation replaced it. My hair falls limply at the side of my head, hanging slightly below my ear. Though, it had not yet turned white because of neither age nor stress, it seems faded. My general appearance gave off a feeling of grief and brokenness.
Setting off only with a sigh and my small, yet sustainable, bag of my minimal belongings, I catch a quick glimpse at the exterior of the dwelling that I’ve called home for the entirety of my life, not wanting to resurface any sentimental or nostalgic feelings, I set in my mind an idea. I have a place to go, people to persuade, and a battle to fight. Inside my mind swirls dark churning seas of thoughts and ideas. Diving in feels momentarily like a breath of fresh air before reality sets in. Powerful water flows into your lungs, black spots swim around your vision until you sink the dark, bottomless depths. There you will never return from.
My feet pad lightly against the ground as I walk over the cobblestone. I hold my breath but not enough to draw attention or be noticed as I walk past a group of women around my age hanging laundry on a line of wire attached to two poles on the part of their lawn that is in relatively close proximity to their house. They pause and their eyes meet mine for a split second before they return to the labor in which they had been expected to accomplish. I think to let out a sigh of relief, but the rest of my body does not cooperate. There are too many people, too many opportunities for things to go downhill or haywire.
Searching the hillside, attempting to ignore the blinding sun, my eyes scan for a possible location to settle down for the night. Alas, no avail. I walk for about an hour out of the small town of my residence until I come across a sufficient place of dwelling for the evening. Rapping my knuckles twice on the door, it swings open to reveal a decent height, slender woman. She wears a long skirt that pools slightly around her ankles and is tinted a lilac shade. Her white blouse hangs puffed out from her obviously slender frame, and lace makes itself shown in small tufts of fabric around her neck.
Doing my best to sound even remotely masculine, I open my mouth to speak. “Excuse me, ma’am. Would you happen to have a room in which I could stay for the night?” I was aided slightly by the fact that my voice was rarely used and sounded as if someone was attempting to gain even a remote sound from an old, scratched up record that had seen better days whilst wasting away its time on a shelf. The woman didn’t even seem to give me a second thought as she let me into the brightly lit room due to bright sunlight streaming through the window.
I examine the layout of the house as the woman leads me inside and up the staircase. A plush armchair and a stiff looking couch stand circled around the unlit fireplace. A large book with crisp pages lies closed and rests on the top of a small table seated near the edge of the couch. A bookmark of some object can be faintly made out over the seemingly endless, large stacks of paper that makes up the contents of the book. The cover is a dull, faded maroon color that gives off obvious signs of use and wear.
The stairs look fine and shiny as if they were recently cleaned and polished to look brand new. The railing as we slowly ascend seems a bit more faded and dull. I see chips of wood sticking up in places from it. “Mind the rail,” the woman speaks from in front of me. Her voice, though warm, seem distant. Her face falls into a sad look as if natural, and she eyes the ground the entire way up. The walls are bare which gives off a feeling of emptiness which is odd situated next to the feeling of warmth.
Once we reach the upper landing, she leads me towards a door near the middle of the hallway. She pulls a set of keys out of a pocket in her skirt that appears homemade. Twisting the key and messing with the handle for a moment, she finally unlocks it. The door slowly creaks open to reveal a room in pristine shape. The bed is neatly made, the curtains hung over the window and not an inch out of place, and a quill with ink is placed neatly in the corner of a desk. I turn around once more to face the woman. Her face still remains emotionless as she speaks.
“There is young woman next door to your right and an older man to your left. I advise you not to make too much noise as the man likes his rest. If you need anything, please come find me. My room is on the first landing.” She turns around to walk away. Before I can stop myself the question is out of my mouth and heard. “Why are you so sad?” She pauses before slowly turning around to face me. Her mouth quivers slightly as she answers.
“Not that it’s anything to you, but I just received word nearly two days hence that my husband has been killed in the war.” She quickly turns around in attempt to hide the silent tears that stream down her face. I flinch as she slams the door on her way out of the room. Protests can be heard through from the left of noise from a gravely, low voice. I close my eyes for moment and let out a tear of my own before walking towards the bed. I dare not touch it for fear the slightest thing could make it unravel.
Setting my bag down near the corner of the room, I walk toward the desk where a piece of parchment is already neatly place out, awaiting a hand to form words. Slowly sliding out the chair next to the desk, I sit down and pick up the quill, my mind racing. Dipping it in the jar of ink and savoring the quiet sound that it makes, I place the quill on the parchment and begin to write as sentences flood into my head, and all the emotion I’ve felt comes flooding out into waves of words. The ink dries darker in some places than in others just as the rain falls heavier and the burden in bared.
My Dearest Father,
There are so many things that I wish to portray to you, father, but as our time left together is quite possibly nonexistent, I wish to let you know of my care for you. Your help has allowed me to survive to the present and without it, my father, I would be forever asleep under the ground as you and mother watch. Your sickness has fled into this life of ours like a flood, and I fear that such a thing could sweep you away leaving me alone on this dried up ground.
For this reason, I have fled. Like a coward, yes, but none the less I have fled. As the chances of your awakening are near impossible, I have come to realize that the foundation of my very being relies on your well being. Theoretically, this is my own revolution as I am to join the fight for freedom against the tyrannical ways of the British. As it is, that I know nothing of the art of nursing, I feel as if I would become more of a burden than any help to all the brave men who have sacrificed.
I shall instead partake in the actual battles of this life and in this fight for freedom. The near future is uncertain in this mindset of mine, but rest assured, I shall always think of you, father. To achieve the entrance into this fight I have gone under the pseudonym of Samuel Alderman and have taken the necessary precautions in order to remain unnoticed as someone of the opposite sex.
How I wish that I could once more speak to you father. How I wish that I could once more hear the sound of your voice. However, as I have discovered from countless physical prompts, the way of the world is harsh and cruel, and what we long for it but an ungraspable idea. The thought that you may never again awake from your slumber is poison that slowly eats away at the existence of my mind. Therefore, I write this letter in the hope that you may be able to respond.
In which manner it does not make even an insignificant change in my mind. Just to hear you respond would be enough. Just to read the words that your mind formed as merely thoughts before your hand carefully traced along the parchment. Father, I suppose that may be the real reason I write to you now. I know it’s a lot to ask, to leave behind the peaceful world you know in your head even now. The thought of your voice reaching me once more, the thought of the whispers of my name emerging from your lips and traveling to find me, it fills me with hope, father.
I feel that in this own revolution of mine, I am already well along the treacherous path to victory. However, father, victory is not exceedingly joyful. In this revolution of mine, victory is sour. There is no possibility of a joyous ending to the never ending story of mine. There are only the fantasies, the illusions, and what will happen. How this story is eternally doomed to be carefully written. Let it be known to ease your mind, father, all my strength emits from you. My last thought will be of your kindness and compassion towards even the lowliest of society. I fear not only the unknown, in these fearful days ahead but also the certain.
Your Beloved Daughter,
Finishing the letter with a last stroke of my hand, I place the quill once more on the desk and blow onto the parchment in an attempt to help dry the ink. My heart aches even more now as I reread the letter. Folding it up and addressing it to my father, I walk towards the door and pull it open. The hallway outside is quiet, and my footsteps are muffled by the rug that stretches down the length of the hall in both directions. I make my way down the stairway and to the first landing where I quickly spot the woman who let me in. She sits in the armchair with the book from the table sitting open in her lap.
The look of sadness from her face is gone and replaced by an intrigued look. Her eyebrow in tilted up in a questioning look as she pours over the many words manipulated by the author to form a story that provokes such fascination. I clear my throat, and her head immediately shoots up. I cannot describe the exact expression that was on her face, but it sparked a realization. This book was her escape. It was her fantasy land to cope with the horrors of reality. Somehow, I understood that she had read that far into the book in the two days she had known of her husband’s death.
She was escaping from the threatening fact that she was alone by taking her mind to where it was not alone in the alternate world of the book. Maybe, with her in that alternate world, her husband was alive. Maybe he traveled next to her through the journeys that the author took her on. Maybe he would comfort her when she needed it and would save her when she was in trouble. Maybe he was like father. Maybe he understood what no one else did. Maybe he cared.
I’m pulled out of my thoughts and back into reality by a sharp voice. “Excuse me!” she yells, her eyes looking furious. “Would you care to explain what you have disturbed me for instead of standing there with your eyes glazed over?” Realizing my mistake I quickly avert my eyes toward the ground. “Of course, ma’am. I sincerely apologize. I was just wondering when the boy would come to collect your post.” Her face doesn’t soften at all. She continues to stare at me as if she was attempting to stare into my very soul.
“He comes around at sunset,” she says monotonously. “Now would you care to explain why you seemed to be unable to move your eyes from me?” I debate whether or not reveal my secret at that moment. My thoughts soon invade my brain; however, one in particular being that making people believe that I am, in fact, a boy is of the utmost importance, and that I cannot afford to develop a soft spot for anyone.
Quickly thinking, I respond with the first excuse that comes to my mind. “Pardon me, ma’am. Your complexion resembles that of my younger sister who has since passed away. For a mere moment I thought that maybe she had returned.” Her face slowly softens as she apologizes for her rudeness and offers to wait outside with me as I wait for the post boy. I politely decline before stepping outside the door and letting it fall shut behind me. Gripping the letter tightly in my hand, I sit on the edge of the neatly kept grass in front of the house.
The sun slowly sets as the sky changes many different beautiful colors. Pinks, reds, blues, and oranges all make appearances to form a miraculous color display. I glance down to see a young boy not over thirteen running down the street with a bag filled to the brim with letters wrapped around his waist. He flails his arms wildly while he’s running as the sky slowly grows darker. He reaches the house out of breath. “I’m quite sorry, sir,” he breathes out raggedly. “The wind blew some of the letters into the woods earlier this morning, and I’ve been behind ever since.”
“It’s really no trouble at all,” I assure him, and his face lights up. “Thank you sir. A man down the street that way,” he says jabbing his thumb over his shoulder, “nearly took me up with a switch for making excuses. Well, I best be off now. Good day to you, sir.” He puts my letter into his bag with the others and starts off in a sprint down the road once more. I spin around on my heel and grasp the door handle, opening it, and stepping inside once again to the warmth of the now dimly lit room.
Making quick work of wishing the woman a good evening, I start up the stairs, making sure to mind the railing. I reach the top landing and enter my room with no hesitation. The bed, perfectly made, seems to stare at me. It seems to taunt me. It seems to dare me to touch it. It seems to beg me to see if it will unravel. I slowly make my way towards the bed, stopping at the foot of it. I close my eyes and lower my hand to place a finger on the sheets.
I feel the smooth cloth under the pad of my finger and open my eyes. The bed didn’t unravel. It didn’t break. It remained strong and intact. The sheets remained pristine despite being touched. Shrugging the heavy coat off of my shoulders, I feel weightless. I fold it neatly before placing it in the corner of the room near my bag. I slip silently under the covers and shiver. They feel cold at first before slowly beginning to warm from my own body heat.
I close my eyes, blocking off any thought of myself. I instead think of my mother. How would she react if she saw me now? She would be seething, to say the least. She would be furious, not only at me, but also at my father. My father. I don’t even want to think of him, sitting alone with no chance of seeing the world again. Resting coldly on his bed with only the physician there to care for him. With that fitful picture lurking precariously in the back of my head, a heavy wave of sleep washes over me, dragging me into unconsciousness.
A loud rapping at the door brings me out of my restless sleep. Rapidly getting up, a cold air wave rushes over me, and I have a strong urge to return to my previous spot under the heavy comforters. I reach back to the bed with an outstretched arm before the knocking sounds again, loudly. Sighing I walk towards the door and open it to see a girl, maybe seventeen or younger. Her long, dark hair falls well past her shoulders down to the middle of her waist. Her eyes are a bright emerald color that glints in the sunlight from my own windows.
A faded blue dress is adorned by her. It’s relatively tight around her torso before fanning out slightly around her waist. A brown shawl, the color of tree wood, is wrapped around her shoulders. A warm smile graces her face along with some visible lines on her forehead. Her eyes look tired and yet welcoming at the same time. “It’s breakfast, sir,” she says cheerily. “Mrs…” she trails off for a moment. “Ms. Caldwell said that I should get you up.” The smile rapidly fades from her face as she speaks. “I have to leave,” she says before quickly walking towards the staircase and descending it.
Mumbling incoherently, I retreat back into my room and close the door. Emptying out the contents of my bag in the corner, I find an outfit that’s suitable for the day. After briskly changing clothes and once again being thrown off by the heaviness of the coat, I meander slowly before finding myself on the bottom landing where the landlady, the girl next door, and the old man are seated around a table looking slightly impatient. “It’s about time,” the old man mutters loud enough for me to hear as I sit down at the remaining empty seat.
A decent sized plate of food is placed in front of me. It’s more than I’ve eaten in weeks. As I slowly start to eat the food, a sensation fills my mouth unlike one I’ve tasted in a long while. “This is absolutely delicious,” I say aloud causing the landlady to mutter a thank you as heat visibly rises to her cheeks. I leisurely finish with the rest of my breakfast before standing to clear my plate. “Don’t bother,” the landlady says before collecting everyone’s plates and bringing them to wash.
My chair scraping against the hardwood floor, I push it back and stand up. I rush back upstairs to grab my belongings. Swiftly I gather everything that I brought with me and run back downstairs. I make my way toward the door, bidding a quick farewell. As the door slams shut behind me, I feel a sense of freedom, a sense of longing, a sense of fright. My movements become stiff, and I am suddenly very aware of my surroundings. Grass ripples in the wind, rocks chip up from the ground, and the sun beats down. I have no one to rely on but myself.
I can see the buildings in the city. It’s not too far from here, but it’s a decent walk. My legs soon begin to ache and my back to ache. Once the city is close enough, I give a small burst of energy and begin running. There are countless people milling back and forth. It’s breathtaking. It doesn’t take long before my eyes come across precisely what I’m searching for. I make my way toward the small building in which my future lies.
A small bell on the door jingles as I walk in, and a portly man behind a smooth counter glances up and smiles. I open my mouth to speak, but he beats me to it. “So, you’re here to join up with the Continental Army?” My head moves up and down, almost in rhythm with the words that leave his mouth. He takes this into account before continuing cleaning his round glasses. “Good,” he mutters. “We need some more young volunteers. We’ll get slaughtered otherwise.”
I move to speak once more, but he cuts me of by holding up his hand. “I know, I know. You want to know where to go.” I nod furiously once more, and he sighs. Pulling out a piece of parchment and sliding it across the counter towards me, he starts instructing directions while pointing them out on a small map. My brain soaks in every detail as my mind registers what is actually happening. I am actually going through with this. There is no turning back. There is no saying no. This is my life, and I feel free.
My eyes glance fervently back and forth between the map and the road ahead as I take careful footsteps along the cobblestone. The wind blows at my hair, and it registers in my mind of how short it is. I’m not just anyone anymore. I am a soldier. I am a revolutionary. I will fight for this country with every ounce of my being because I have nothing to lose. Someone who can fight without a fear of dying, without a fear of having to leave someone or something behind, is the most aggressive fighter you will get.
Suddenly I stop. In front of me is a carriage filled with soldiers. Just like the man said there would be. Throwing any doubts behind, I swiftly get into the carriage in one motion and collapse from exhaustion onto the seat. I hear a harsh laugh followed by a terrible cough. I glance up at the man sitting across from me. A smile still graces his face despite the fact that his coughing sounds painful. A strange look must have crossed my face because he once again bursts into fits of laughter.
His hair hangs long and loose around his face. The blue in his eyes appears faded yet vibrant at the same time. He doesn’t appear to be too much older, maybe a little over twenty. His build has a little extra weight added to it but not enough to be considered portly. After calming himself down, he extends a hand in my direction. “John Hellewege,” he says with a smile. “Welcome to the revolutionaries. We’re all going to die.” This statement takes me slightly off guard, but nonetheless I return it with a smile. “Samuel Alderman. Pleased to have known you before we die.”
The rest of the carriage ride is filled with loud jokes among the soldiers and hearty laughter from everywhere. This is a group of men under the authority of General Marquis de Lafayette who had returned from France this previous summer. Some drunken slurs cause roars of laughter, and everyone seems happy despite the fact that the carriage they ride brings them closer to their death. Do they have families? Do they have someone to come home to? Do they have someone worth fighting for?
“So, what’s your story?” John asks causing me to look up from my previous position of staring at the ground and occasionally smiling. “Well,” I start, my brain clicking and whirling with ideas. “My mother was a nasty woman, and my father is nearly dead; so, I came out here to fight. He always wanted me to.” For the most part I stick with the truth. However, bending it occasionally isn’t the worst thing. “Man, that stinks,” he declares, and I only nod my head in a solemn manner.
“Well, I’ve got two younger brothers myself. I’ve always loved the revolution, and they don’t need any more mouths to feed at home. My dad taught me how to shoot and fight.” His eyes positively gleam with excitement as he talks about the revolution. We’re not just fighting for ourselves. We’re fighting for a nation. We’re fighting for our freedom to be who we want to be. We’re fighting for hope.
“So,” I begin in an attempt to start a conversation, “have any special ladies you’ll be fighting for?” I expected him to laugh it off, but his face turns a deep crimson as he looks away. “You do!” I shout out loudly making a few heads turn in our direction in confusion and curiosity. “Keep it down would you?” He says leaning over while batting away onlookers with a flick of his hand. “Sorry,” I murmur quietly while looking down at the ground once more.
He inhales deeply before exhaling and answering. “Yes, okay,” he says quickly. “There’s a girl who’s been nursing for a while, and we hit it off. She works at our camp if you would care to meet her.” I quickly nod in agreement. The thought of having another girl nearby sets my mind at ease. The carriage continues along bumpily. “So,” he says with a devious smile that sets me on edge, “how about you? Any special ladies in your life?” If I had beforehand taken a drink of something, it would no longer have remained in my mouth.
“No,” I manage to get out whilst choking on my own spit. When I finally compose myself, the entirety of the carriage is staring at me, and I feel the heat rise up into my face. “Resume your activities, please. Nothing to see here,” I proclaim loudly. I feel every bit of ladylikeness that my mother had tried so very hard to instill in me slipping away. No shouting. No running. No lying. Do not speak unless spoken to. Everything leaves my mind as I sit here with all these men. All these men who don’t have a care in the world. All these men who are only here to fight for what they believe in and make a difference.
As the carriage begins to slow to a stop, the pounding of footsteps can be heard as the whole of the men inside make way to exit all at once. I join in the countless pounding of feet, and my boots hit the muddy grass as I make my way out. I feel a hand grab my arm, and I whirl around to see John looking strangely excited. “Come on,” he says. “This way to camp. I’ll bring you to General Lafayette.” I tuck the paperwork I have received under my coat in order to keep it protected from the light mist that had started over the course of the carriage ride. I feel my boots getting stuck in piles of mud as we walk, and I attempt to clean them off by dragging them in the grass.
Just when I open my mouth to speak up about the distance we have yet to travel, we come over the crest of a hill. Tents are grouped together to form a colony the size of a small village. My mouth falls open in surprise at this fascinating sight. John leads me zigzagging through all the identical beige tents to a specific one near the middle. Outside are two stationed soldiers who look wary as we approach. John whispers something in one of their ears before the man disappears inside. He returns and beckons us inside. The flap of the tent is pulled back, and we step forward as the tent itself seems to swallow us up whole, never to be seen again.
As we step inside, I see a man sitting behind a desk. He has stacks of parchment on either side of him as he writes furiously on his own piece, occasionally dipping his quill in the ink. A smile illuminates his face as he finishes writing and picks up the paper carefully. His eyes scan over his work rapidly before he hands it cautiously to one of the men near him. “Deliver this to General Washington,” he says before his eyes rest on us. He immediately reacts to move to say something before he notices John and sits down once more.
“General Lafayette,” John says while saluting him, “permission to speak, sir.” The General nods and gestures for him return his hand once more to his side. John does just this and begins to speak. “I have with me Samuel Alderman who has joined up with the Continental Army only a few hours hence.” I take this as my subtle cue to step forward. “General Marquis de Lafayette, sir. It is an honor,” I say while saluting him. “A pleasure to meet you, Samuel,” he responds while gesturing for me also to return my arm to its original position. I step forward cautiously and hand him the paperwork that I was given.
He reads over it quickly and glances once again up at me. His eyes bore into my head, and for a moment I think that he knows of my femininity. He, however, returns his eyes to the parchment before standing up. “Welcome to the revolution, Samuel,” he says with a slight French accent. I feel my face light up with a smile. “It is honor to serve, sir.” I follow John as he leads me toward my tent. “You’ll be staying with me,” he tells me along the way. “We have another tent mate as well, but he is rarely around on account of the fact that he is a spy.”
The shock must be evident on my face because he quickly begins talking once more. “Don’t worry. We know where his loyalties lie.” I hear many voices of soldiers as we walk by. Some is laughter, some are solemn, and some are hushed whispers as we walk by. Finally we reach the tent that is labeled as our dwelling, not home. No one would call it a home. A home is where you feel safe. A home is where you feel accepted. This is merely a dwelling place before we’re all led to our imminent death.
John pulls back the flaps to our tent and enters quickly. I hear him emit a strangled scream from somewhere deep in his throat, and I quickly rush in to see what has caused such a pained noise. The sight that meets my eyes is not one of pain or tragedy but one of joy. I enter to see John embracing another boy who is a little shorter than him but around the same age. They soon engage in a conversation that is loud yet fast. I focus my gaze towards the ground for a moment or two as I let them converse before clearing my throat quite loudly.
They both immediately whip around to notice me waiting patiently for direction near the entrance of the tent. I raise my hand in greeting to which John responds by rushing over and grabbing my arm. He proceeds to bring me over toward the other boy. “Max, Sam,” he says gesturing back and forth between the two of us. “Sam, this is Maxwell Sadik. Max, this is Samuel Alderman.” I extend my hand, and he firmly grasps it in a handshake.
“This is our other tent mate,” John says, addressing both of us. My eyes widen in recognition. This is the man who sneaks behind enemy lines. This is the man who holds information that could very well win us a battle, maybe even the whole war. He doesn’t draw attention, however. He blends in. His hair falls not as long as John’s but nonetheless onto his forehead. His caramel brown eyes seem to be gleaming with energy and excitement. His uniform seems to be a little too big and hangs loosely at his arms.
While his uniform gives him an innocent look, the determination clearly etched onto his face shows a fearless leader who will fight. Someone who will fight for their country without hesitation while also playing smart and using strategy well. Someone who knows their enemies and uses it to their advantage. Someone willing to risk to help other people and, in this case, an entire country.
“Anyway,” John says grabbing my arm once more and pulling me towards the tent flaps, “we should probably get you a uniform.” Max’s face lights up in a smile as we begin to leave. “Uniforms are at the nurse’s tents,” he muses. “You probably just want an excuse to go and see Etta.” John stops cold and whips around. “Will you,” he says slowly with his tone rising, “please stop making fun of me?” By the end of his sentence, he is fuming; and Max is perched on the edge of his cot laughing hysterically.
“Who’s Etta?” I ask curiously while walking toward the two boys. Max looks up, still with a smile wide on his face. “Him and Etta have been courting for the longest time,” he says whilst jabbing his finger towards John. Realization quickly dawns on me like a downpour of rain suddenly making itself know to the world in a storm. “You told me that you just ‘hit it off’,” I pronounce loudly. Max continues laughing even whilst receiving some nasty glares. John’s face portrays such an emotion that he wouldn’t particularly mind sinking backwards into his seat and vanishing entirely.
I feel a smile begin rising onto my face as the edges of my mouth begin to curl upwards. “What do we seem to be waiting for then? Let’s go pick me up a uniform and allow you to talk with your courter,” I say with a smile. Swiftly moving towards the direction of the tent flaps, I pull them aside and walk out into the cloudy and misty atmosphere of the camp. I am soon followed by Max and a reluctant John.
Our feet crunch on leaves as we trudge slightly upward towards the nurse’s tents. The grass has become increasingly more slick and slushy in the time since we’ve arrived. As we become steadily closer to the tent, I see John’s angered complexion slowly melt into a smile. His eyes become more vibrant, and he no longer seems to be worried at the prospect of embarrassment. He trudges ahead as we get nearer.
The path becomes steadily more level, and it becomes increasingly easier to continue. Once the path evens out almost entirely, the nurse’s tents stand almost upon us. They are significantly both larger and longer than that of the soldiers’ tents. The entire area emits a sense of both seriousness and yet satisfaction at the same time. Max sweeps aside the flaps at the opening of the tent in one motion. They pull open to reveal a terrible sight. Cots line the sides of the tent, each one occupied and bloody.
Various painful moans and groans can be heard reverberating around the tent as if it is one continuously, never-ending, terrible echo. The stench of metallic blood is overwhelming combined with the smell of being cooped inside a tent for ages. I take a quick glance at the man nearest to me and immediately wished that I hadn’t and just kept my gaze straight forward.
Wrapped around his leg as a tourniquet is a cloth soaked with bright, crimson blood. His hand clutches at the bed sheets on which he lies with such a ferocity you would think he was attempting to strangle them. Another cloth is wrapped tightly around his head, but dark maroon blood can slowly be seen seeping through the fabric. The groans emitting from his mouth are enough to make anyone flee at that very instant. The pain he’s in is unbearable, and yet here he is. He being attempted to be saved, though, I’m not sure that he wants to be.
His face is contorted in an agonized expression filled with the ghost of horrors that no one should see. His hands have veins popping out at the immense strain in which he grips the bed sheets. I can see tears streaming down his face during this intense battle to remain alive. This endless struggle to delay the inevitable. This battle of the field taking place inside his own mind. The battle of will versus the reality of the situation. An unearthly scream is released from his throat and emits from his mouth. I turn away.
I turn my back on the situation. I turn a blind eye on those I need to aid my own quest to fight for my own freedom. Yet, this man was doing nothing if not the same thing. Is his freedom not just as valuable as mine? Did he not sacrifice himself for the welfare of this country? Did he not believe in something greater than the colonies and was willing to put himself in harm’s way to defend that belief?
I hear a voice that perks up my interest. “Etta,” Max calls out to the tent full of nurses attending to patients from battle. One girl near the opposite end of the perks up her head at, presumably, the sound of her name. She scurries over to us from her previous position of making up a cot. She slows to a stop once she reaches us with a smile on her face, despite the haunting fact that she is surrounded by men who will die.
Her light brown hair falls messily overtop of a clip holding it in place at the top of her head. Her eyes shine blue, resembling John’s, only brighter and more filled with life. Many freckles are distinctly noticeable splattered around her face and under her eyes. Her hands stay firmly clasped together in a professional way in contradiction to her eyes which sparkle with wonder. They flit back and forth, examining her friends and checking for any visible afflictions before resting on me.
Her eyebrows curve in a questioning glance toward both men. John steps forward and takes her hand in his before leaning down and pressing a tender kiss to her skin. “Good day, my dearest,” he says with a wide smile causing a deep crimson blush to rise to her face and show itself. I throw a questioning glance in Max’s direction, but he just holds a hand to his mouth in an attempt to conceal his laughter. “Good day to you,” Etta says with an equally wide smile as she curtsies in response whilst nodding her head.
John then steps aside allowing me to greet her. Stepping forward, I extend my hand in greeting. She returns the handshake with a smile. “Samuel Alderman,” I inform her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Her smile lights up once again. “Any friend of John’s is a friend of mine. Marietta Ververs, although as you may have picked up on, I prefer to be known as Etta.”
I smile widely as I return to my original position near Max. John then begins to instigate another conversation with her for a moment before the pair of them turn toward us. “Follow me,” she says before exiting through the entrance to the tent. Following quickly behind, we are led through the series of tents set up for the sick and wounded to a tent that is significantly smaller than the rest. Inside is another young woman who looks even possibly too young to be present this near to actual fighting.
She holds a needle in her hand and moves it back and forth with such speed and precision. Her eyes shine with concentration and determination as she weaves her hand back and forth. “Dosia,” Etta says with a tone in her voice that seems inviting and not disturbing. The girl slows her pace and eventually reaches a stopping point in her work. She looks up with childlike grin plastered on her face. Her hair, dark brown and pulled into a bun on her head, is frizzy with humidity. Her eyes are the shade of rich creamy chocolate contradicted only slightly by her tan skin.
She stands up quickly knocking over a wicker basket of needles and yarn. The moment it hits the ground, the contents splay out into many different directions. She lets out a high pitched squeal as she moves to gather all of her supplies quickly before they appear to fade into the background of the ground. I immediately drop to the ground in an attempt to help her gather all of her supplies. My finger pricks with blood as I make to grab hold of a needle. Once as much of her supplies that can be scrounged up is, she returns to an upright position and thanks me graciously.
“Theodosia, Sam here is new to the command of the General, and he needs a uniform,” she says, gesturing towards me with an exaggerated movement of her arm. “Do you happen to have any handy?” The young girl smiles before making her way towards another, much larger, wicker basket filled to the brim with navy blue uniform coats of the Continental Army. “Take your pick,” Theodosia says.
After sifting through the various sized overcoats for a couple of moments, I find one that will work. It’s heavy just like every other overcoat I have worn since I have started this endless charade. The buttons in front shine bright despite the lack of sunlight. The coat itself provides a feeling of warmth. The navy represents participation. I’m part of something. This is not just a fleeting moment of revolution, this is a movement. A movement towards the greater welfare of this nation. A movement toward the right thing. We’re taking an honest stand against tyranny as we fight for a just cause.
“Thank you, Theodosia,” I say whilst buttoning up the front of my coat. “It’s been a pleasure.” With a slight nod of my head I exit the tent once more with the remaining member of our quartet following behind. We walk slowly back towards the original nursing tent in a comfortable silence broken only by the crunching of twigs underneath our feet and the rustling of leaves on the trees provoked by a slight breeze.
The silence is broken by voices once we reach the entrance to the sickbed tent. We stop and unintentionally form a small circle. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Etta,” I say with a slight nod of recognition. She replies with a similar nod of her own head and a smile. “Splendid to see you again, Etta,” Max says with a mischievous smirk.
“Now,” he says looping his arm in mine, “let us leave them to say their farewells, shall we?” We begin walking down the hill attempting to hide fits of laughter that threaten to spill out from our mouths. Once we are a significant enough distance away, our footsteps change direction toward the side. We hurry around the back of the tent and intently take notice of their conversation. “I do this whenever we come up here,” Max says with a smirk before adding an afterthought, “which is quite often.”
The two of them stand, foreheads pressed together, speaking rapidly in a hushed tone of voice. Etta’s natural smile has disappeared and is instead replaced by an expression of concern. Her lips are pulled tightly together to form a straight line, and she listen intently as John talks. As they near the end of their conversation, as small grin appears on her lips. John smiles in return as he continues talking. There is a small moment when they stand silently, no lips moving, and no sound being heard, before John slowly leans closer.
There is a split second while their faces hover, too close for anything else yet far enough away that they could play it off if necessary. However, John leans in closer once more and connects their lips in a small chaste kiss. The edges of Etta’s lips turn up as responds by leaning into it. They stand there for just a moment, the duo looking entirely content. They stand there forgetting any thoughts of a war and death, forgetting any thoughts of the world around them. For that one moment, the world disappears, and it is only them. It is only the two of them, content in each other’s presence.
They pull away, both with wide smiles on their faces. Etta moves to tuck a stray piece of hair behind her ear and returns to the tent with one last glance thrown over her shoulder. As the tent flaps shut, John’s face is full of excitement and disbelief. He runs his hand through his hair once out of pure excitement before setting off down the hill with a swagger in his steps. It takes every bit of self control that I possess to keep me from making a comment to him about the scene I have just witnessed.
I glance down to see Max rolling on the ground with laughter. “I have so many scenes that I’ve witnessed to use against him if need be,” he says with a smile. “That’s what best friends are for after all.”
“How did we not get caught?” I question examining our surrounding and the surprising lack of shelter it provides. He shrugs. “I’m a spy. This is quite literally my job.” We begin to make our way back to the camp, staying unnoticed by John who simultaneously is making his way back as well. By the time we arrive, John has also arrived. Somehow or other, though, we have managed to make our way to the other side of the camp unnoticed by the very person on who we were spying.
Rapidly weaving through tents and soldiers, we arrive at the tent and hurry inside just as John appears from the opposite direction looking positively ecstatic. Arriving in the tent unnoticed, we attempt to appear as if we had been there for a long period of time rather than having just arrived. “Do you have a quill and parchment that I could possibly use?” I question honestly, and Max gestures to a small desk near the corner of the tent that I had failed to notice previously.
Sitting down cautiously at the desk, I ready a piece of parchment and a quill at the corner of the desk. Just as I move to start writing, a loud noise can be heard as John enters the tent pushing the flaps to the side. “I have returned,” he declares loudly with a hint of c***iness in his voice. A smile quickly creeps onto my face causing me to bury my face in my hands. Max, however, manages to keep a straight face. “Finally,” he responds sourly. “We’ve been waiting here for ages. What took so long?”
His face turns a dark red as he opens his mouth to speak. “You know what,” Max says cutting him off with a smirk, “forget I asked.” The heat in John’s face is clearly evident as he collapses onto his cot, letting out a sigh. He buries his face in his pillow, and Max and I share a silent glance. It’s short, but it contains an entire conversation in just a small visual contact of the eyes.
Turning my attention back to the parchment sitting in front of me, I consider what to write to my father. I plan to keep him updated for when he wakes, not if he wakes, when. He will awake to a pile of letters filling him with the information that he does not know. He will write back, and we will correspond like we should, like he’s alive.
My Dearest Father,
I have arrived at the camp merely a few hours hence of when I am putting my thoughts on this very parchment. Presently, I have gone undetected in my femininity, and I intend to keep it that way. I also intend, my father, to keep in correspondence with you during my time in this revolutionary battle. I have met with General Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Montier de Lafayette more commonly known as General Marquis de Lafayette.
He is aware of my presence in this camp, yes, but not that of my being. I have eluded his senses, I believe, for the time being along with the rest of those who reside within this camp. I have taken up quarters in a tent along with two other men who have accepted me very well. Yet, they are also fooled, and it brings me grief to lie to those in who I trust. One of these men is of that kind who slips behind enemy lines to collect information as a spy.
I shall not tell you of these men’s names in the case that, God forbid, this letter in which I am writing falls into the wrong hands. I have also met, however, some of the women who reside within this very camp, working as nurses, as seamstresses. However, this may not put you to ease, but my belief in fighting is only strengthened as I witness these women who look after those who have sacrificed for us all in the harshness of war.
I, myself, am not strong enough to help these brave men, and I feel my use would better be put to work outside of these facilities. Although you are far away from me at this moment, father, both mentally and physically, I feel a nearness to you, and I pray every evening for your health and well being. My father, my dear father, I pray not only for you but for the sake of this fine country. Oh, America, what is to become of thee?
With the harshness of this war waging on, It leads me even further to believe that our fine country will be reduced to ruins in attempt to gain our freedom. Bless those who work to keep it stable, but rebuke thee who tear it down as if it were nothing. Those who hurt when we’re down and those who follow the prospect that we are enslaved as a nation, to England. We act of our own free will despite the complaints and threats and slaughters of those around us.
I hope to have courage, in the time to come, to match the ferocity of those who are much stronger than I. I hope to match the beliefs of those who preach publicly about the tyranny of Parliament and its taxation of our fair nation. What is to become of us, father? I write in the hope that you may hold the answers and yet are choosing to withhold them from me. What’s to become of you, father? What’s to become of this nation of revolutionaries?
Your Beloved Daughter,
A feeling of satisfaction always seems to wash over me after writing. In the set of mind I possess, my father holds the answers to everything. His awaking would turn the tides of the very war. His correspondence would unlock the mysteries that lie unknown in my brain. His awakening would bring good to all. His awaking would cause belief in even the most lost of causes and that being the American victory.
A sudden feeling of coldness brings me swiftly back to reality. I blink twice to clear the fogginess out of eyes which have glazed over in the sense of being lost in thought. “Are you okay there?” Max asks with concern laced thick in his voice. I nod before shaking my head, clearing my mind of all thoughts and bringing me back to reality. “Just thinking about an old friend,” I say, lying through my teeth.
Max’s eyes briefly flit over to John, and they lock eyes for a moment. “Am I missing something?” I question, slightly confused. John shakes his head. “No, you’re not,” he responds. “We have and old friend. We both used to live in Britain.” Max picks up the conversation and continues talking. “Our parents moved us to America when we were about thirteen, and we left behind a pretty good friend. His best friend, in fact,” he says gesturing to Jack. “Nathanial Sousa. We kept in touch for a while, but recently he hasn’t been responding, and we’ve been worried.”
I nod in slight understanding, but another question seeps its way into my brain and leaks out of my mouth and into the air. “Why are you telling me this?” I question. “We’ve only just met.” I watch as their smiles return and their mood shifts. “I’m being honest,” Jack says. “Friends you make in the war rarely last. It’s best to have everything out in the open from the beginning. You establish a trust that way also.”
A lump rises in my throat and catches. I cough in an attempt to feel better, but it doesn’t go away. Friends keep everything out in the open. Friends don’t lie. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this happy or had this much fun. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a friend. I can’t remember the last time I’ve has someone to talk to. Yet, I can’t to talk to them. I can’t be honest. I can’t be a friend.
I can’t seem to force out any words; so, I revert to knowledge that must be gained. “When is your post collected?” I address the letter quickly as I hear a response. “All letters go to General Lafayette who has a specific person who will deliver them,” John says. “I thought you said that you didn’t have any family.”
“I don’t,” I say a little too quickly for it to sound like an honest reply. Now thinking before I speak, I slow down the pace at which the words leave my mouth. “I told you my father was nearly dead. This man is a friend of my father’s and is watching over him while I’m away.” Silently crossing my fingers behind my back, I search their faces for some trace of belief, and I breathe a sigh of relief when I find it.
Their eyes hold belief yet also a bit of curiosity to whether the words that I speak are actually the truth. “Okay,” Max says. “Is there any way to help your father?” I shake my head no in response. Suddenly a whistle sounds loudly throughout the camp. I move to rush outside to see what is happening, but a calming hand on my arm stops me. I turn to see a non concerned Max with his arm outstretched to meet mine.
“That’s the whistle for the evening. We have training tomorrow morning; so, we need a good evening’s rest,” he explains as I glance down at the letter clutched tightly in my hand. “It would be better if you delivered it to the General tomorrow,” Max says, almost as if reading my thoughts. Though, I suppose he was reading my gaze. Sighing, I place the folded letter on the edge of the desk which reside near the foot of my bed.
As I test my weight on the cot, it sinks in a bit as I sit on it, but it doesn’t collapse. Grateful to at least have my own bed, I slowly lay down. The pillow feels soft and inviting. Not nearly as comfortable as my own, however, it still provides comfort. It’s still inviting to tired soldiers. It’s inviting to soldiers who’ve done nothing but battle for their freedom day in and day out.
“Good evening, gentleman,” I mumble almost incoherently into my pillow as I lie there. However, I do receive responses of well wishes into the night as well, and I wrap the thin blanket tightly around my frame. I drift off, restlessly, to sleep, holding a secret tightly.
I am awoken by the shrill sounding of a whistle in the morning. It blows once, twice, and then three times to awake the endless amount of men in the camp. Groggily I sit up in bed to see both of my fellow tent mates already dressing themselves for the day. Instinctively, I shoot up at the sound of John’s coughing, thinking for a split second that maybe I was home. Thinking for a mere moment that it was my father in need of care.
Seeing it only being my respiratory afflicted companion, I slump down in the bed once more before managing to extract myself from its warmth to start the day. Waiting until both men exit the tent, I swiftly change into my own clothing for the day. As I begin buttoning up the front of my coat, John’s head peeks through the tent flaps. “Don’t forget to bring your letter to the General,” he says. I nod in response before he leaves once again.
Taking hold of the letter, still resting on the edge of the desk, I emerge from the tent and into the brisk morning air. Dew is still accumulating on the edges of the blades of grass as I make my way toward the desired destination. General Lafayette’s tent comes into view, and I slow to a stop. Handing my letter to the men standing guard in front, they nod slightly, and I retreat back towards my tent.
Contemplating the events of the day yet to come, I arrive back at my tent to see Max and John deeply immersed in conversation. Their lips move fast, and the sound emitted is not audible to anyone but themselves. The conversing between them slows to a stop as I approach nearer and nearer to the pair of them. “Someone’s not a morning person,” Max says jokingly, picking up on the sourness of not only my facial expression but also my attitude.
“When do we start training?” I ask only to be met with a response of another shrill whistle and a loud voice. “Training start now,” the voice yells. The mass scramble toward the open field just past the edge of camp is hectic. Bodies tripping and falling over one another, shouts and yells, and pushing and shoving one another in attempt to reach the final destination. Once the clearing comes into view, to describe such an area would no longer be truthful. Hundreds of maybe thousands of soldiers stand lined up orderly despite the chaotic rush to arrive.
The determination set on each man’s face is a drive towards victory that cannot be described. No thought of regret appears, no thoughts of turning back. Only a drive to be the very best version of themselves in order to make a better country for not only themselves but also their family. They’re fighting for their family. They’re fighting for their parents, their wives, and their children. Each member patiently awaits their return. Each member prays nightly to not receive a letter. Each member prays daily that upon the war’s end, an actual person will be standing there for them to welcome home with open arms.
On each man’s face is a drive to learn. It’s a drive to learn skill and strategy. Yet, it’s also a drive to learn mental strength. They need the mental capability to be willing to leave their families behind in order to help them gain their independence. They’re not only training to win, they’re training to be willing to lose. As my feet bring me forward, I fall into ranks with the other men, but my mind is elsewhere. My mind is anywhere but on this training field where is should be.
My thoughts scatter in a million separate directions. The mere art of concentrating is enough to make me vomit. I hear the whistle sound once more, but the thought barely registers in my mind. Somehow, my feet move in time with that of the soldiers, and I avoid being trampled by hundreds of men. The feeling of bile still resigns in my throat as all my thoughts swirl around me. Suddenly, the land in front of me is clear, and I can focus. I stop and start in time with everyone else. It becomes a second nature over time.
We are led through many different series of drills, both mentally and physically challenging. Sweat appears on my forehead not long after we start and increases as the day wears on slowly. The effort required causes my mind to focus more on my surroundings in order to pick up the strategy we use to win battles. This is the very information that might save my life. This is the very knowledge I require to return to my father when he awakes.
The days wear on long and hard. We disperse only after a long day’s work full of preparation and strategy. The audible grumble of exhaustion can be heard from everywhere as the trudge back to the dwelling places begin. My legs ache as I walk. My muscles scream in protest at every movement I partake in. The moment I enter the tent, I collapse onto the cot with a sigh of exhaustion. I hear a low chuckle from the opposite end of the tent, and I turn my head to see Max perched on the edge of his cot.
“Where’s John?” I question without moving from my previous position. “He went to visit Etta again,” with a smirk clearly noticeable in the tone of his voice. “I swear he spends all day up there.” It’s my turn to laugh heartily at the thought of my friend with his courter. “I think he plans to propose once this war is over, and they can settle down,” he says suddenly, but the joking hint in his voice is gone.
I smile at that prospect. At least someone will manage to find happiness amidst the wreckage of the remains of this war. Looking downward, I notice a small rip in the side of my coat. Swearing slightly, I stand up and begin to make my way out of the tent once again. “I’ll be back,” I mutter quickly before setting off up the slightly inclined hill. I reach the top, my muscles straining to hold myself upright. It’s not a far walk from the top of the hill to the seamstresses tent; so, I arrive quickly.
“Good day to you, Theodosia,” I say with a slight nod of my head. She returns it with a gracious smile before continuing working. I shrug my coat off my shoulder before speaking. “It would appear that I have gained a rip in my coat during training this morning. I was curious to whether you would patch it up for me,” I explain with a small grin as she takes the coat from my hands. “It’ll be done soon. I’d suggest waiting outside for a bit,” she says as she sits down, her hand moving rapidly, and her mind concentrated.
I take her advice and step outside. Turning my head to the right, I see Etta walking toward my direction. She stops short once she reaches me. ‘Good day, Mr. Alderman. Would you mind if I spoke to you for a moment?” I nod once, my brow furrowed as she takes a firm hold of my arm and drags me toward the opposite side of the hill near the washing lines.
She stops near the small stream that runs along the hillside and glances both directions before speaking. “I know you’re a girl,” she mutters making my blood run ice cold, and my eyes widen. I move to protest, but she holds her hand up to silence me. “Don’t attempt to deny it. I won’t tell anyone,” she says making me sighs in relief and mutter a brief thank you. “I just wanted you to know that I’m here if you ever need anything.’
I nod in appreciation before questioning her. “How did you know?” I ask quietly still nervous that someone might overhear. She shakes her head as she replies. “I have my ways.” Her eyes glint as she talk and despite the seriousness of the situation a smile still tugs at the edge of her lips. Just as soon as she arrived, she turns and begins walking back to her nursing station. “Good day, Mr. Alderman,” she says before departing, leaving me back at the seamstresses.
I hear the muffled voice of Theodosia, and I enter the tent once more feeling utterly on edge disheveled. My coat looks as good as new, and I offer a word of thanks to Theodosia before leaving the tent and setting back towards camp and the comfort of my own cot.
The laughter and joyful times turn into cries of despair and morning as the days turn to weeks and weeks to months. Disease sets over the camp allowing death to claim dozens of lives as his own and leaving mourning acquaintances in his wake. Winter brings chills as hopes of warmth that are nothing but mindless wishes in the freezing cold. Battle looms nearer as the war trudges on seemingly endlessly. Fighting among the redcoats and our men has already broken out leaving several dead, and many more wounded for our cause.
Max has departed once more to resume his work as a spy on the British, collecting information, and relaying it to us. Often I find myself alone in the tent with my own thoughts allowing me to contemplate decisions and ideas. Many letters are written under my hand and delivered to my father. Many days are spent wondering on the state of his health and the prospect of his awakening.
John and Etta’s time spent together grown increasingly more frequent as the two lovers are uncertain of the future and what it holds. The will of their relationship is strong yet, the uncertainty of the environment in which they reside is terrifying. Their bond is unbreakable yet, human force would not be the thing to break them. Etta’s support of my femininity has grown and helped in various ways in keeping the fact hidden from the minds of the remainder of the camp.
The hot summer heat of July scorches as we await the days in which this war will come to a close. Tapping my fingers endlessly on the edge of the desk, a quill sitting there as if waiting for someone to put into writing the feeling that wash over the entirety of the army. I look up as footsteps appear outside the tent, and the flaps are brushed to the side revealing one of the officers stationed just outside of the General’s tent. “Samuel Alderman,” I nod as he hands over a piece of parchment. “A letter for you, sir.”
My Dearest Samantha,
I want to wish you thanks, first of all, my lovely daughter. I feel I have failed you as a father and a caretaker by falling ill, and I wish to sincerely apologize. However, I feel as if we both have many apologies to administer. I do not know what had come over your mind in the sense of the mere thought of you joining up with the likes of the Continental Army. I know that the consequences would be far more severe than I could imagine if they learned of your true identity; so, I shall resign myself to keep quiet in the sense of your well being.
The physician in which you have instructed to remain near and watch over me has explained to me my condition. I have myself pieced together my absence mentally and therefore your reason for departure. He has, however, ensured me of now steadily increasing health, and I wish to inform you that I shall only become more well from this point on. By the time that you are to return home to me, I shall be fully healthy and be able to greet you myself with open arms.
I shall miss you dearly, and in allowing you to continue in this harsh journey that I feel you participating in the first place is but a terrible nightmare for my old mind, I feel once more that I have been anything but adequate in the prospect of parenting. I find myself at a loss for words as I attempt to describe my concern yet also the utter gratefulness I feel for your independence and the kindness of your heart, my sweet child.
The confusion in my emotions is evident as I put these thoughts to paper and address them to you as a male enlisted in the battle of our nation for freedom. I wish for nothing more than you to arrive here on our doorstep safe and sound. Please, if not for yourself than for me, stay alive. Save your strength and stay alive so that I am to see you again.
I cannot express my love for you, my beloved daughter. Every letter I have received from you has given hope in your strength that you may survive and return home to me. I believe that you have acquired friendships of trust, and though I am in agreement that you should continue withholding particular information about yourself, I believe that Ms. Ververs knowledge more helpful to your well being than hurtful. Stay alive for me.
Your Dear Father,
A tear pricks at the edge of my eye as I quickly wipe it away with edge of my sleeve. After almost a year of letters with no reply. After almost a year of a grief stricken mind worrying about a comatose father. After a year of not caring whether I live or die. Finally, a response is written. Finally, a response is received. Finally, belief is instilled. Finally, care is given. Finally, I feel satisfied.
Quickly I begin to scribble out a response when an out of breath John stumbles through the tent flaps. “We’re launching a surprise attack on a camp of British soldiers in the woods. Come on,” he says ushering me out of the tent. Quickly grabbing hold of a musket with a bayonet attached to the end as a deadly weapon, I fall into ranks with John behind me. I offer him a small in attempt to ease the nerves that I know are rushing through every vein of his body along with mine and everyone else’s.
The only sound that can be heard is the marching of boots and commands being shouted. I can feel adrenaline pumping through my veins as we approach battle nearer and nearer. My heart pounds loudly. I can feel it in my head and it makes me slightly dizzy as we continue on. The sound of footsteps fade as we approach in silence. We fan out in many directions to surround the treacherous redcoats.
A faint cry can be heard before thousands of footsteps pound forward. The time to fight for our freedom has come, and we are going to win. Avoiding trees as I make my way into the clearing filled with many soldiers of different color coats. Red and blue clash to form an unpleasant sight of disaster and blood. An unfortunate enough redcoat soldier has his back turned as I make my way up behind him. Running him through with the bayonet attached to my musket, I feel a pang of remorse settle in my chest.
Did this man have a family? Did he have people to come home to, people counting on his return? Did he have children anxiously awaiting the return of their father who had promised that he would be home in time for supper for their birthday? Did he have a wife who loved him dearly who was ready to whip up his favorite meal the moment he arrive home? Did he have someone who cared?
Shaking these thoughts away as quickly as possible, I drive the bayonet forward once more silencing his agonized cries of pain. Moving swiftly throughout the trees, I unleash a round of gunfire on a group of redcoats huddled in an attempt to form their ranks. Three quickly go down as the deadly object enters their body and robs them of their life on this earth. A bullet whizzes past my ear and plants itself in the tree which I hide behind. I whirl around and take fire to a redcoat who is unlucky enough to be hit, with deadly accuracy, in the head.
Someone catches my attention, and I turn to my right to see John motioning for me to follow him. I glance both way before making my way towards him. “I saw a group of redcoats run off,” he whisper as we make our way forward. “Let’s follow them.” Easily spotting them, I aim my musket and shoot with John doing the same. Two of them fall allowing the other two to keep running. They scatter in opposite directions, “You go after that one,” I say pointing to the one who went right, “and I’ll take the other one.”
As we run, the man turn around to fire over his shoulder. His bullet sails past me, slightly grazing my arm and opening a wound to start bleeding down my arm, coating my sleeve in the sticky substance of blood. Quickly bringing my hand up to cover my wound with the searing pain registering in my mind. I keep running with a newfound determination. I think of my father and his wish for me to stay alive for him.
I fire once, twice, and three times with shaking hands at the man. The first two bullets fly astray but the third hits his upper thigh and he falls hard. I catch up with his fallen figure and knock his gun to the side as he scrambles to push himself away using his hands. Bringing my bayonet up until it rests on the side of his neck, I question him. “Why are you retreating?” I mutter while poking the bayonet into his neck, drawing a little blood from his already bloody figure.
Tears stream down his face as he attempts to ease his unbearable pain. “I d-don’t know,” he responds whilst coughing. Blood is spat out onto his hand as he coughs, and I press the bayonet harder. “Why are you retreating?” I ask again harsher. Blood begins to flow down his necks as he responds. “Our Lieutenant had specific orders from the General to take his adversaries and retreat, and our Captain was to take over. I don’t know why, I swear.”
Feeling satisfied with the answer I have received, I thank the man before allowing the bayonet to claim his life. His body falls limp, and an odd feeling of satisfaction washes over me. It feel wrong to feel happy for taking the life of another person, but my emotions battle over wit. I feel like I am making a difference in the battle for our freedom. I feel like I am helping. Even if, by helping, I am robbing innocent people of their loved ones, it still feels satisfactory.
I return to my original position of running as my body aches in protest. I slow to a stop and position myself behind a large tree as I glance into a small clearing of trees. Both John and the man he was chasing after stare dead into each other’s eyes, their expressions unreadable. Confused, I don’t move to attack. I watch and wait for either of them to make a move toward the other.
I begin to grow impatient of the silence. Just as I make to move, I hear a voice. John’s voice. “How could you?” He asks in disbelief. “I trusted you. How could you?”
“How could I?” the other man responds with anger, his tone steadily getting louder. “How could I? How could you? How could you leave and act like your life meant nothing to you? How could you act like this friendship meant nothing to you?” John’s face portrays nothing but utter disbelief and betrayal. I see a tear slide down the side of his face and fall to his coat. “I had to leave. It wasn’t my choice,” John shouts back. “What you’re doing is wrong, and you know it. What your country is doing is wrong. How could you fight for such an unjust cause?”
The other man is tall and lanky. His dark hair is messy, and he clutches his hat in his hand. His musket lays lowered at his side. A long, red gash runs along his face just below his eyes and spills blood over onto his cheek. His face is hard and filled with anger as he clenches his teeth. His eyes are cold and form almost a grayish color tinted with blue. “I’m fighting for what’s right,” he responds calmly, yet you can hear the swirling storm of anger held behind the words. “You’ve changed, John.”
“I’ve changed?” John responds lividly. ‘I’ve changed, Nathaniel? How can you even say that? You, a British Lieutenant, fighting for a cause you never cared about b-” Nathaniel cuts him off before he can go further. “Well, I care now, John. This cause is important to me, and you’re too blind to see reality. You’re too blind to see what’s important.” John shakes his head as if connecting dots in his mind before speaking.
“I’ve never been blind, and everything is more clear now than it was before. I know who my friends are now, and you had better realize that it’s not you. I know who I care about and where my loyalties lie. I know what I believe in, do you? Where do your loyalties lie?” John asks looking the most sure about anything I’ve ever seen. Nathaniel’s glare if anything hardens. “My loyalty lies with England.”
A gunshot can be heard louder than anything I’ve ever heard in my life. The scene seems to play out in slow motion in front of my eyes. The bullet rips through air and strikes John directly in chest, right above his ribcage. Nathaniel turn on his heel and flees backward into the trees vanishing from sight. John seems to fall to the ground in slow motion. He lands with a thump as the color of his jacket steadily grows darker. An ear piercing scream rips out of my throat and splits through the sky.
Rushing forward, I begin trying to help John as best I can. “Come on, John, stay alive. You’ll be okay, I promise,” I mumble while throwing off my coat and tearing off a long strip of fabric. I wrap it around his chest as a temporary tourniquet and pick him up, wrapping an arm around my shoulder. I begin to shout for help, drawing the attention of some American soldiers passing by, searching for more redcoats. They immediately rush over and take on part of John’s weight.
We stumble forward while I mutter things constantly to John in an attempt to keep him from slipping into unconsciousness, a mindset from which he might never awaken. We trudge up the hill towards the nurses tent. It takes only a little bit, but in my mind it feels like eternity. “Help,” one of the men helping carry John shouts. Immediately, several nurses rush outside and take on his weight to bring him inside. I watch as his body is laid on a cot and a shrill shriek is let out.
Etta rushes over from her previous position of caretaking to her injured lover. She falls to her knees at his side and immediately begins putting together a proper tourniquet to slow the blood flow. “Etta,” John mumbles out in a choked voice. “Shh, it’s going to be alright,” she soothes as tears flow down her face. “Don’t talk, love. Save your strength.” Her hands move swiftly, not pausing to second guess herself for even a moment. She is the only one taking care of him, but she does it so diligently that ten nurses working together could not have done a better job.
“E-Etta,” he tries again, but she places her finger to his lips. “Etta, I love you.” Her face cracks from its collected form. Her eyes, usually full of life, are watery and broken. Her infectious smile has disappeared and is replaced with a quivering lip. Tears fall off her face and onto John’s coat, soaking is darker. “I love you too, my love. Now please stay awake. Please stay awake for me.” He nods in understanding but not in the sense that he’ll be able to follow through.
“Etta, please talk to me,” he forces out with a shaky breath. “Please let me hear your voice.” Without composing herself, she begins to speak, words tumbling over each other to the point where they’re indistinct, yet John still manages to understand. “I promised we’d have a future,” he replies to her rambling. “I lied. I’m sorry.” She rapidly shakes her head and takes his hand in hers.
“No, love, I promise you’ll be alright. We’ll get married once this war is over. We’ll find a lovely house in the country where we can see the mountains just like we always talked about. We’ll grow old together with a family of our own. Just please don’t leave me,” she cried all at once, and this time he’s the one to shush her. “Please, my love. I hate to see you cry. I’ll see you on the other side.” She leans in connecting their lips with love.
For a moment everything is all right. For a moment their future is laid out in front of them. They can smell the grassy countryside, they can hear the birds chirping, they can see the endless rolling hills. For a brief moment, they can relish in the idea of their own paradise. For a moment, the life in John is restored. His eyes are filled with nothing but love as looks at the woman who has made his life worthwhile. For a moment, all the beauty in the world can be seen in the love shared between the two of them.
John’s hand goes limp in his lovers hand and falls to the cot. A heart wrenching sob emits from Etta’s mouth as she lies her head down on John’s chest. Blood coats her hands as she cups his cheeks with her hands and places a short kiss to his cold, lifeless lips. Resting her forehead on his, tears flow down her cheeks onto John’s face. Muted words escape her lips. They are audible to no one but herself and the lifeless body of her lover.
Her hair falls out of the up-do it was in and drapes across her shoulders. “Please, my love,” I hear her faintly whisper. “Please come back.” Bringing my own hand up to my mouth in attempt to conceal my sobs, I watch as one of the only friends I’ve ever had is brutally ripped from this world. Another nurse grasps her shoulder loosely yet with authority and pulls her to a standing position.
‘No,” is what leaves her mouth. Quietly at first but then louder and more aggressive. “No, no, no, no please you can’t make me leave,” she screams to no avail as the nurse begins to usher her away. “No please!” she screams as she struggles against the nurse before her energy depletes, and she allows herself to be taken away. All the while she’s still protesting. His body is removed to make room for those of other injured men, but Etta’s screams still wrack her body and echo throughout.
I am, as well, ushered out of the tent and to the open just outside. The sky releases a faint mist over the area, much like that of the day I arrived. I don’t want to, but my eyes find their way to the frail figure of Etta sobbing in the grass. Her legs splay out on either side of her as she sits on her knees, resting back on her heels. Moving carefully, I walk towards her. Sinking to my knees beside her, I wrap my arms around her trembling figure. She turns to me, burying her face in my shoulder, and letting out her sobs. “Thank you for being here,” she mumbles at a tone so soft that it’s almost muted. I only nod in response as she continues to weep.
The only sound that can be heard are the multiple tears shed in the aftermath of the battle. An ominous silence settles over the camp. Men resign to their tents. An occasional sob can be heard, yet, the pale faces of all, perhaps, express the most emotion. Returning to camp with Etta by my side, I allow her to enter the tent. She sits, perched on the edge of the cot which once belonged to John. I don’t tell her it’s his, but she somehow knows. She lies down and slowly drifts into a restless sleep.
My legs begin to ache as I stay, unmoving, on my own cot. The cold metal of the side send chills over my body, yet I remain motionless. My face feels dry and cracked. If any tears flow down my face, I am unaware to the fact. My hands stay clenched together and rested upon my lap. Often I attempt to move, yet I find myself glued to the spot. The thought of forgetting, the thought of just pretending that everything is normal, and that none of this has ever happened, is absurd.
I hear some faint cries of surprise from outside, yet I can’t bring myself to move to figure out the cause of alarm. The young woman resting in my tent is fragile. I feel an urge to protect her from all harm as she slumbers. Her mouth moves endlessly in her sleep. Nothing leaving it makes sense as it is muttered, though, I suppose to her it does. After it fell, her hair remained absent from its up-do. Unable to figure out the reason due the sun that beats down despite the gray mantra of the camp, I resolve to ask her later when she’s comfortable.
The flaps to our tent push open, and my eyes widen in surprise. Max enters the tent with a smile on his face, obviously unaware of the tragic events that have taken place. He moves to speak as his eyes rest on the sleeping figure of Etta, and he resigns his mouth to its previous closed position. Pointing a finger towards Etta, he raises his eyebrows in a questioning glance directed towards me. He then registers my pale, shaken face and rushes toward my side. I shake my head as he sits down next to me. His arm snakes around my shoulders as I let the tear fall that I was holding in order to be strong for Etta.
“What happened?” he questions nervously. I don’t want to be the one to break bad news to him. I don’t want to be the one to cause tears to fall down his face. I don’t want to be the one to tell him that his best friend is dead. I don’t want to be the one to tell him that he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Yet, if not me, who? Would he rather hear it from me or one of the other men of this camp? Would he rather hear it from me or the heartbroken Etta who lies asleep on the cot without an owner across from us?
“We launched a surprise attack on a British camp near us in the forest,” I begin, my voice already cracking. “And-and-and,” I try to spit the words out, but they just won’t come. Swallowing my nerves and breathing deeply before speaking, I try again. “And J-John was k-k-killed,” I manage to remove the thought from my mind and put it into the air. I lower my head in shame. I was unable to stop the bullet from entering his body. I was the only one there, the only one that could have provided aid in any way, and I failed.
Max’s face portrays many different emotions simultaneously. His lip quivers as I speak, and his eyes harden yet are still soft at the same time. He doesn’t allow any tears to fall, but his eyes water. He clenches the post of the cot with strong hands as he remains motionless. His mouth pulls into a thin line as he attempts to form a thought and put it to words. “Max?” I question cautiously, attempting to keep my own emotions hidden once more. He shakes his head as he brushes off the question. “I have so much work to do.”
He moves swiftly as he sits down at the desk. He quickly begins scribbling away letters with anger, occasionally causing a small tear in the parchment from the force of the quill. He writes letter after letter before standing up. He turns to me with no emotion on his face. “I must deliver these to General Lafayette.” Rapidly, he emerges from the tent and makes his way in the direction of the general’s tent. Unable to comprehend the events that just took place, I sit for a moment before standing up and following after him.
He is out of visual range by the time I make my way outside. I start off walking toward the general’s tent, though, when I arrive he is nowhere to be found. I glance sideways to see a figure. Near the outskirts of the camp, a cluster of trees is placed. I watch as the figure, back pressed against the trunk of a tree, slide down to the ground and stays there. Slowly continuing forward, my ears are met with the sound of sobs. I begin to distinguish the figure as I get closer, and by the time I am mere feet away, Max’s sobbing frame is still unaware of my presence.
He jerks back cautiously as I place me hand on his arm, but he relaxes when he sees that it’s only me. Burying his face once more in his hands as he remains in his previous position, legs drawn up to his chest. “This,” he says in a choked way, “this used to be where he came. He t-told me one time that he used to come here to t-think.” I nod in an understanding way as he lets out his emotion as sobs wrack his body.
“I know,” he says suddenly, his sad demeanor slightly diminished. “He knew too,” he continues, sinking my already foggy mind even further into the depths of uncertainty. “Knew what?” I question. He pauses a moment, collecting himself to answer my question that is, unbeknownst to me, asking so much. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he replies, his voice sounding scratchy. “He and I both knew for a while now. We were aware of the fact that you are a girl.”
My blood runs ice cold, just as it did when I acquired that particular information from Etta when her personality was still full of light and happiness. My entire body becomes stiff, and my movements become nonexistent. My breathing stops, and the entire world suddenly feels cold. The world seems to spin for a moment before slowly spiraling back towards reality. I faintly register a pause in tension before my eyes widen in surprise.
I feel a cold pair of lips on mine as I attempt to comprehend the madness of the situation. The odd sensation that occurs is a feeling of warmth, blossoming in my chest, and warming the rest of my body. Unable to focus my mind on the reality of the matter, I remain frozen in place as the scene unfolds before me. “I’m sorry,” Max says pulling back. “I’m distraught and confused, please forget that ever happened.” I nod my head in time to the words leaving his mouth; yet, I wasn’t sure whether or not I agreed with them.
Reaching out and grasping his hand firmly, I slowly choose my words. “It’s going to be alright.” Using my hand, I motion towards the camp. We both stand up and begin the small trek back to our tent. Solemn faces glance out from tents as we pass by. Many were lost; yet, a reward was gained. The entirety of their camp was slaughtered, save the Lieutenant, and battle plans were discovered under the wreckage of one structure that had collapsed.
Arriving at the tent, I enter to see that Etta has awoken during our absence. Her finger drum against one another as she stares absently at the opposite side of the tent. Her eyes flicker in our direction as we step inside. Her lips curve up at an attempt to regain some of her former self’s positivity. “H-h-hello,” she manages to get out; yet, it is barely distinguishable as a word from the dryness and scratchiness that is annunciated with. Meekly raising my hand in brief recognition, I collapse on my cot. Both mentally and physically exhausted, one thing remains in my mind. I bring my hand up to trace my lips as I slowly drift to sleep.
Weeks pass and little correspondence is kept up between my father and me. Letters sent become shorter as the time wears on endlessly. My mind is unable to comprehend its own happenings, much less allow them to be accessed via my own writing to others. I attempt to put into words everything in my mind. My thoughts are clouded, and my focus is blurred. My own emotions, however, are not the only things to be confused regarding. As battle looms closer and closer every day, my focus is primarily on instructions.
Etta resumes her work with a lackluster atmosphere surrounding her compared the cheerful one of her past. Her eyes no longer hold brightness. They appear faded, dull, and worn. She offers a faint smile as she talks. It is but a shadow of her former self. It is but a mere memory of the lively young girl who provide hope to so many who felt lost. The energetic woman who provided as sense of hope to those awaiting death.
As the weeks wear on, my thought become clearer. My mind becomes focused. Sitting quietly at the desk, I pick up the quill. It feels warm in my hand, like it belongs there. It provides a feeling of safety to my troubled mind as I write. Finally, I find myself able to put quill to parchment and express the thoughts that haunt my mind.
My Dearest Father,
In light of recent events, I feel the need to inform you of the happenings of this endless battle. Emotionally, there is a treacherous battle raging inside my very mind. My feelings have twisted my life into a swirling ball of chaos. I wish to apologize for the briefness of my recent letters. I seemed to be unable to express to you the ideas that consumed my waking conscious. Now, however, I believe that I be able to portray to you these thoughts of mine.
As I have informed one of these men in which I have learned to call my friend has passed. The guilt of his death weighs heavily on my mind at all times. The fact still stands to be that I was the only able person with the ability of preventing his death at the time. My delayed motions have cost a dear friend of mine his life. They have cost his courter a wonderful man and her happiness. They have cost any future children that he was to have not only a father but life itself.
Every day is a struggle to stay alive, father. Yet, every day I struggle at the prospect that I may return home to you. I relish in the fact that I have family to return home to. I relish in the fact that you will be awaiting me with open arms despite my choices that have led us to this unfortunate position in the first place. I have faith that you will accept me and allow me to return to our home in order that we may be a proper family once more. Every day I think of the day that this fight may be over, and that I may catch the soonest carriage ride home to you.
Now, I am painfully aware of this information in which you do not yet possess. It seems that, in the fault of my own carelessness, the two men in which I have told you my trust lies have discovered the physicality of my being. In leaving a letter to you upon that of the desk in our shared tent, their prying eyes scanned it in the time of my resting. I was not made aware of their knowledge until recent events.
However, there is another issue in which I must bring to your attention. The remaining of the two men in which I put my trust has acted strangely on alibi of the death of our dear friend. We have shared that of a kiss, nothing more nothing less. I know it is wrong since we are not courting in the sense where such an idea is acceptable. Yet, I can’t help ponder it. He has since sincerely apologized for his forward actions and would wish me to forget the shared moment in attempt to preserve our friendship.
Despite his request and my untruthful response, I do not wish to simply forget such a moment. On the contrary, it was rather enjoyable. However, I find myself unable to express these emotions aloud to where his ears my hear it. I, instead, write to you in the hope that you may be able to guide me.
As, I feel the end of this war draws nearer and nearer, I wish you to remember that I love you very much, father. Without you, I would not be anywhere that I am today. You are the very reason for my existence making any difference in this harsh world. Remember, always, my great love for you father. Though my feelings may be confusing and my mind scattered, my care for you is certain. I believe in a greater power in this world will allow everything to work out accordingly.
I believe that it will allow me to return home to you. I believe that it will allow me strength to speak the words to people that I find troubling to express. I believe that, in the strength of this greater being, all things are possible. It is entirely possible that we are to win this war. Thanks to the aid of our allies, our likelihood of success has increased in threefold. During the remaining duration of this troubled time, I wish for you to be at ease. I wish for you to have faith that I shall return to you. I wish for you to believe that you are to, with love, greet me once more. My dearest father, words cannot express my love for you.
Your beloved daughter,
Samantha Hozier was shot and killed a week later in the siege at Yorktown. This siege lasted for nearly a month from September 28 to October 19, 1781. Her service to the freedom of this country under the pseudonym of Samuel Alderman will never be forgotten and greatly appreciated. Her feelings for Maxwell Sadik were never properly expressed. Only as she lie dying on the battlefield did she mutter, “I didn’t want to forget.” These words greatly shocked Maxwell as it was that he was the only one who understood their meaning.
Her letter to her father was sent and received only to be met with a response that was never to be read. Maxwell Sadik and Marietta Ververs were those who delivered the news of Samantha’s death to her heartbroken father. The remains of her body were never to be retrieved due to the fact that soon after she passed, the area was hit with a cannon, flattening the ground and erasing her remains.
Her loss will leave a great hole in those close to her and despite her femininity, she was recognized as a wonderful soldier and a hard worker by her commander, General Lafayette.