Author's note: I wrote for a contest at first but then I ran out of time and decided to write for my friends,... Show full author's note »
Warring in LoveI expected more normal days ahead of me. Now that Rosi was gone, I was for certain Simeon would only return affectionate intimacy towards me. But when the snow started to melt it was replace by a fire greater than I could fathom. I was tall enough to ride his horse and I spent every morning traveling through woods minding every detail before me. For no reason I ventured further than I should of, losing track of time but luckily not my path home. Twilight arrived swiftly and I smoothly guided myself home. A wave of heat met my skin as I came closer to the familiar path of his cabin. Fire licked at the hovering tree branches, melting into the snowy grounds. I scrambled off my horse, horror enveloping me at the thought of Simeon’s whereabouts. The cabin was breaking beneath the force of the heat. I rammed myself inside to find Simeon and Rosi trapped behind the partially fallen roof. She coughed uncontrollably, pounding at the large pieces of debris.
“Vinita! Over here!” Simeon screamed as I pulled the away the barrier between us. He collapsed against me; his suffocated breaths struggling out of him. I reached out for Rosi’s hand but a loud snap made her freeze. The cabin walls fell, knocking me and Simeon back outside. Simeon shot up and ran back into the flames. I seized his wrist, seeing hell spread out before him. God, he is not ready to die. He stopped in his tracks realizing it was too late for her. We rushed over to the horse and fled north through a path I’ve never seen before. The sky rained of ashes. Strange massive birds soared a great distance above us, flying perfectly narrow as if they knew their true destination was right before them.
“Where did that fire come from?”
“We’ve got to get out of here.” He faintly panted.
A great red light loomed through the trees, brightening our direction. I gasped at the sight of the destroyed village. Behind the long row of trees was a world of pure chaos. I felt so sick with confusion and terror I felt myself pass out in my own world of darkness.
I awakened, questions toppling in my brain relentlessly. We were on the side of a rocky path stained with soot and patches of blood. Simeon tied his horse to a great tree and sat next to me in the slanted ditch.
“What was Rosi doing there?” the question I wanted an answer from the most.
“She came to apologize.” He simply said, wiping his filthy hands on his tunic. Before I let myself go into a fit of rage I am reminded that she perished in that fire last night. Rosi was dead. And because of what?
“Simeon, why was…where…what is going on?”
He did not reply, letting the silence be replaced with the clatter of passing travelers. Simeon struggled to his feet and stopped the group, asking all sorts of question so quickly that even I could not understand him. We followed the group all the way down the path finding ourselves in the midst of other lost folk. Simeon held me close as we pushed our way through the crowd. Over the steep hill lay a city in ruins. Crumbled and beaten back into the earth.
In the midst of the fiery air that lapped at our faces, I awed at the destruction of the world I resided in. Simeon’s visage stayed solemn. His lips straight, no smile of course but no frown either. His listless gaze was elegant in the breeze of shriveled ashes. Chaotic droning filled my ears: wailing, sirens, and worst of all screams of terror. The only comfort was the firm grip of Simeon’s hand.
We traveled for a few days, surviving on generous travelers and abandoned resources, until we had Lolita stolen and arrived in an untouched city. In a dark alley Simeon pressed against the brick wall as if he were going to faint into sleep. I tugged at the tail of his shirt, wanting him to stay up late with me like we always used to. He slumped down and folded his arms over me. I was not tired despite the uncomfortable restless sleeps of the previous nights but I considered his weariness and let him dose away. Time passed too slowly and boredom settled too quickly. Echoing noises rang in my ears. The cold winds grew stronger. I decided to pray. I rarely talk to God because I am afraid I might say the wrong things, and I may not be the person he wants to hear from, but I try anyways. I requested refuge and elaborately thanked him for Simeon’s kindness towards me. When I finished I heard rushed footsteps coming closer. Fear slid down my throat as a shadow edged towards us. I buried my face in my hands and gave Simeon a slight shove. Simeon rustled and opened his heavy eyes in time to see the shadow come into full view.
“Excuse me sir.” A finely dressed portly man grinned. “But would like a more suitable place to stay?”
The hotel maids welcomed me warmly as I stepped inside the main entry hall. A group of grown men greeted Simeon and he followed them into a grand living room. The maids guided me up the stairs into a beautiful corridor and gave me a brief tour. Walls were plastered with vast paintings and dull portraits. I marveled at Hotel’s perfection and asked for a room that overlooked the city.
Back downstairs I was offered a cup of hot tea and a plate of crackers. I quietly entered the living room and gazed at the men circled around the warmth of the massive fireplace. Simeon stayed very still in his chair listening to the other men’s chatter. I took a seat in the corner of the room, in front of a chess game and pretended to be occupied with it as I eavesdropped. I tried to listen carefully. I felt myself sucked into a conversation that would change our relationship forever. The man, Mr. Harris, who had kindly let us stayed free for the night, mentioned the assassination that I have over heard several times during our expedition. That took place five months ago. Now a lot of countries are locked in a war that seems to be triggered by this. A man angrily ranted of the “Huns” whom I later founded out to be the Germans. Simeon said little, only listened to the detail of this bloody issue. I turned the game pieces into dominos and knocked them down quietly. A maid strolled by and poured me more tea.
“Sir, I believe it would be best, considering your situation, to enlist in the army.” Mr. Harris lost no eye contact with Simeon. “As an officer.”
Simeon glanced over at me. I blushed and nearly choked on my burning drink.
“What about my Vinita.” He said firmly. “I cannot just leave her alone on the streets. I have no family to look after her.”
“My sister runs a catholic boarding school for young ladies. I offer free enrollment for the girl. Not only will she have a safe place to stay but a healthy education to accompany her.”
The word school makes me want to puke. I leave their presence tired and completely bored again.
That night I still could not sleep. Simeon finally came inside our dark room and slipped out of his raggedy shirt, tossing it aside over the vanity mirror. He lit a plump cigar and deeply sucked in, leaning against the vast window that gave away full view of the sparkling city. The lights of city spilled across his weary face. I climbed out of bed and gazed at his darkening silhouette. Without rotating his direction he waved me over. I followed the origins of the smoky trail that flowed from the spicy tobacco. Simeon kept his focus on the scenery behind the laminating glass and sat down on the window’s edge. He opened his arms out to me and I fell against him, resting my head beneath his chin.
“God bless Mr. Harris.” I said watching a couple walk hand in hand down the empty streets. Simeon blew smoke that bounced off the glass and smacked me in the face.
“I shall like to try that.” I declared snatching the cigar. I bit its end and inhaled boldly. A cough sputtered out of my shriveled lungs.
“I do not think you are ready.” He said taking it back.
“Yes I am.” I laughed. “A woman I say. I’m fourteen. I shall smoke and drink merrily as you do.”
“Fourteen.” He asked as if it were unheard of.
His eyes descended. I was no longer a callow girl of childish innocence. Simeon kissed the center of my fragile chest and moved his fingers down my growing curves until he found my hands that rested on his lap.
“You’ve become a very beautiful young lady.”
“Simeon.” My voice was too mawkish. I coughed and looked back at him fearless.
“Could I be with you always?”
He did not look away or said anything for awhile.
“Wait.” He said. “Wait for a little longer until you are a fully grown woman. Will you do that for me?”
I nodded without question.
“Thank you dearest. Perhaps after three more years, we could move near the sea or better yet in the countryside.”
“That would be wonderful.”
“Then it’ll just be you and me.”
I was patient. As long as this was true I could wait for the longest time.
Despite its lavish beauty I hawked up a mouthful of warm spit and spat on the pavement leading to the tall iron gates. Simeon did not take notice of my disgust and led me through the entrance. Girls in elaborate uniformed dresses flitted about on the lawn, playing childish games that brought me a sense of my own arrogance. Blossoming trees bordered our path like a welcoming omen. I dreaded the coming moment of my first day here. A wrinkled face looked our way and approached us cautiously as if we were lost travelers.
“I believe you are my expected company.” She said wistfully her gray bangs covering her thin eyebrows. “I am Emelia Eichmann the headmistress of St. Rosetta academy”
“Simeon Hamilton.” He said in his most cordial voice. “And this is your new student Vinita Hamilton.”
She gave me a glance that lingered a bit too long.
“We shall make her into a fine young woman, provided with the most extraordinary opportunities.”
“No thank you.” I muttered hastily. Simeon casted me a warning glare but I folded my arms in a rebellious matter.
“Ah, but she is quite an honest girl, I see.” Ms. Eichmann smiled as if she were totally oblivious to my rudeness. “I tell you Mr. Hamilton we need more of that here than you think.”
After the endless boring tour of my classes and room, it was time for Simeon to leave. I thought of escape plans. I thought of any route that led to his destination but I lost all ideas and was hopeless to stay here. Simeon and I stood alone at the gates that would soon separate us for a good time. He knelt down before me like he always did and gave me strong hug.
“Will you behave?”
“Maybe. When will you visit?”
He sighed and held my hands in his.
“Whenever I can. I’ll write to you though. Will you write back?”
“Mmm.” I was not satisfied with mere letters. “I suppose.”
“Vinita, stop sulking.”
“But I want to be with you!”
“You’re better off here. You won’t stay here forever. I’ll be back for you.”
“Really?!” a spark of hope flickered in my heart.
“I’m certain. It’s time for me to go. Goodbye Vinita.” He kissed the tops of both of my hands, but this was not enough for me. Simeon rose up but I shoved him back down and held the sides of his face. Without hesitation I boldly kissed him on the lips. Girls squawked at the sight of this. Simeon was not tense as I expected. Suddenly I felt stupid and ran off, hearing the giggles of nearby students as I ran past them. But when I turned, I saw the most incredible miracle. Simeon’s smile did exist. He gazed back at me with that amused grin and waved goodbye. There was even a soft laugh behind it as he turned to leave the school grounds. I stopped in my tracks, watching him disappear until I could no longer see him.
War is truly inevitable. It is all I ever hear from the teachers and people I pass on the streets. I cannot imagine a world of peace – where men of all kind tolerate differences or at least share the same intentions. I hear that the trenches are most dreadful and I am glad that Simeon’s high rank does not let him participate in those places. He is stationed in France – Belgium, I think.
As I expected I hated school. As the school year went on I did poorly in mathematics and ballroom dancing. I complained to Simeon about this but his letters seemed to scold me into doing better. The months floated by and the letters came frequently. I realized how precious these messages were and placed them beneath my bed inside a large jewelry box the headmistress has given to me as a welcome gift. Simeon rarely talked about his job or the war I heard so much about. Most of his letters focused on what he ate and who he met and the descriptions of places he visited. Sometimes he asked me about school which I did not like to talk about either. I also complained to him about my violin class and how I destroyed the strings on the first try. I rambled on about the itchy uniforms and how girly and childish it makes me look. School proved to keep most of my thoughts from daydreaming about my future with Simeon, but I didn’t find that to be a good thing. I am not arrogant but a great number of the students and teachers were pompous buffoons. Except for Sister Roberta.
The only two things I like about the school were the choir program and Sister Roberta.
Singing appeared to be my only excelled talent. Our choir is the only group that gets to venture out into the cities when we perform in Church Masses. I am a very high soprano and my choir director said that I have the voice of a cheery sparrow. Sometimes Mr. Harris will be among the crowd with his sister, giving me a proud wink every time I glided upon the stage.
Sister Roberta had a more free spirit unlike the other teachers - who absolutely held down the students with boring rules and tradition. Being the youngest teacher she had more difficulty in expressing her authority over her pupils. Mouths kept flapping, despite her kind but firm calling over the chatter. I really wished they would cease their conversations for later. I was eager to learn the basics of painting landscapes so that I may one day be as skilled as Sister Roberta; whose paintings are quite known throughout the city outside our school.
Sister twisted her brush, sighing in defeat. I could not tolerate such rudeness.
“Oh do hush up please!” I shouted among the noisy classroom. The freckled girl next to me flicked a wad of paper in my eye. A flood of snickers passed through the class. Sister Roberta’s mouth shaped into an O as I turned her desk over and tore her notebook to shreds, making it rain over her specked face.
“The devil!” she screamed, grabbing my wrists.
Sister charged toward us and pulled us apart. Her deserved sovereignty overpowered her as she dragged the girl into the hall way where a teacher would escort her to the headmistress’s office. I followed her footsteps but sister gently placed a hand on my shoulder and said firmly with a smile “Miss Hamilton, I will not put up with such behavior understood?”
“Yes ma’am.” I smiled back.
Somehow Ms. Eichmann found out about the feud in class. She called me into her office with a disgusting scowl on her face. I knew she was bad news from the beginning.
“No food for half a week.” She spited. “That’s punishment for brutalizing one of our most distinguished students. You shall apologize to Cassandra!”
I balled up my fists and left her office, determined to eat anyway. There was a small garden beneath my balcony – I climbed down the tree bordering the railing and picked up some healthy blueberries and strawberries until I was full. I wouldn’t apologize to a rude brat – no matter how distinguished she was claimed to be.
After that hearty dinner I searched for Sister Roberta. I found her in the vast library under the glow of a night lamp reading Pride and Prejudice intensely. I pretended not to take notice of her as I skimmed my fingers over the rows of books. She finally put the book down and grinned to herself.
“It does one good to read a nice book.” She said directly to me.
“You’ve finished already?”
“Yes. Have you read it?”
“No, I don’t believe I have.”
She nudged the book into my hands.
“It’s my copy. You may borrow it.” She replied as if she read my thoughts.
It took me two nights to finish the romantic novel. A kindling friendship grew between us every time I visited the library - to find her with a new book to share with me or to gossip endlessly about the terrible girls that reside here. I found myself seeking out her company than the ignorant “women” of my classes. On weekends we took brief strolls around the arboretum and drank tea during breaks in the Great balcony that viewed the Red Garden. We never missed a weekend together and even spent Christmas there when most of the students were away to visit family.
I was about to turn sixteen. And I knew it would be one of the best birthdays of my life. Simeon sent the school a letter, informing Ms.Eichmann that he will be spending a few days with me. Sister has offered me the privilege of choosing a place for her to paint for my gift. I suggested that she paint the Red Garden for my birthday.
“We must wait until the flowers are in full bloom.” She said taking a long sip of her hot drink. “But I’m sure that will happen before your birthday.”
She was right. The flowers weren’t exactly mature. The petals were not red enough; even the sky was not rid of winter’s bland hold.
I want him to meet Sister Robert when he visits me for my birthday.