Six Years Past | Teen Ink

Six Years Past

August 8, 2013
By ChristineK GOLD, SLC, Utah
ChristineK GOLD, SLC, Utah
17 articles 3 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
“So the future seemed
To mingle with the past. For a short space
I saw revealed to the doubt the threads that bind
This little speck of time we call “To-day”
To the great cycle of unending life
That has been and that shall be evermore.”

A cool mist wraps around our home, sending a bitter chill through our empty halls. I walk numbly through them, my feet quiet against the frozen wooden floors. My hands pull my shawl tightly around my humbled figure.

I find my way to my husband’s study’s window. My breath is heavy and fogs the glass. An icy draft lifts from the window and pierces me with the cold late-fall air. The world outside is glazed with the frozen-dews of winter. All the trees stand bare, their naked limbs reaching for the distant sun. A soft hum vibrates through the cold fog that is settling onto the ground and that weaves through the lonely barren grounds of our farm.

My heart aches, as I gaze down at the entrance of our home. My heart tingles with deep remorse as my thoughts pull me back in time. Memories begin to replay in my head, penetrating my body with a subtle pain...

A knock echoed through the house. Eduard and I froze in our duties, my embroidery needle dangling ominously from my hand. Eduard met my fixed gaze with warning. Gently, he laid down the Bible, the words he was reading aloud still on his lips.

The knocker knocked again, this time with abundant force and impatience. Eduard nodded, swallowing hard. I stuck my needle into my sampler slowly, taking my time as I rose from my seat. I walked into the hall, Eduard cautiously followed me.

My hand wrapped around the front doors crystal handle. I eased the door open vigilantly, dreading the presence of who was likely standing behind it. My knees buckled underneath my skirts and my stomach turned as I met the gaze of a militia man dressed in a drab-blue uniform. His stern eyes avoided mine.

“I am Lieutenant Higgbee, calling the service of Mr. Eduard John Williamson to duty in the name of General George Washington on the report that every free, enabled, and able bodied man is called to fight for independence for the colonies of America.”

The lieutenant stared behind my shoulders. I could feel Eduard stiffen behind me. My heart raced as he stepped forward, sending me to cower behind the door.

“Do you have the calling written? Or am I just to believe you?” Eduard inquired, his words cold and stale.

“Yes,” the lieutenant replied, pulling a folded piece of parchment from his jacket.

Eduard snatched the parchment with hesitation and read it, his face twisted with pale sickness as he digested what the letter said. My eyes stared blankly at the inked words as my chin hovered over Eduard’s left shoulder. He glanced at me from the corner of his eye, his expression stern.

“When must I be prepared to leave?” Eduard asked.

“Now. General Washington needs all the men he can get. This country is in of need all, Mr. Williamson,” the lieutenant’s words ambled through the air. My hand grabbed Eduard’s arm.

“He can’t leave now, spring is approaching. We still have to turn our fields, half of our crops are going to be sent to your army,” I snapped bitterly, trying to hide my desperation.

The lieutenant opened his mouth to say something, but was stopped by Eduard’s hard glance. My husband turned to face me, his jaw clenched, his eyes lit with aggravation.

“Let me say goodbye to my wife and gather my necessities,” Eduard demanded, still holding my stare.

“You have ten minutes,” the lieutenant retorted firmly before turning his back and making his way to a wagon full of men, some whose faces I recognized.

“Annabeth,” Eduard whispered under his breath, guiding me into the house and closing our front door.

“Eduard, you can’t go. I need you, our son needs you, our coming child needs you; I can’t run this farm on my own. Eduard, I can’t let you go,” these words poured out of my mouth like a polluted waterfall, polluted with selfishness.

Eduard grabbed my arms, his green eyes shining with pity. He kissed my cheek and contained my shaking body. More words wanted to spit from my mouth, more words that would make him stay.

“Anna, listen Annabeth,” he whispered, pressing his forehead to mine, “we are patriots. We believe in America’s cause. Remember Anna? Remember what we decided? We decided to stay and wait for the army to come knocking, to let fate take its toll and pray to our Lord that it would have a good outcome. God has intentioned this Annabeth, this how He wants it to be. He would not lead me or us astray. This is my duty Annabeth.”

My lips trembled, my eyes holding back tears of despair. I nodded, remembering, but not accepting. My stomach twisted into a knot as a tear dripped down my cheek, an image of Eduard being shot brutally in the heart stabbing at the back of my mind.

My eyes stare blankly out the cloudy window as they had on the day Eduard was taken. The image of him looking up at me as the wagon jolted away, playing repeatedly in mind. Our eyes did not dare leave each other until the wagon had pulled out of view. I remember running out onto the porch to catch one last glimpse, but the wagon had disappeared in a cloud of dust. I could still hear its repetitive clanking if I tried hard enough and my son’s held-back sobs as he watched his father leave.

I leave the study, my feet quietly pulling my body forward into our bedroom. I wrap myself in the old quilts I had made for my dowry, burying my face in them, trying to capture a whiff of my husband’s scent. My heart-strings seem to shorten as I only smell my own being. The pain is distant and hallowed, reluctant to torment me as it had in the early days of Eduard’s absence. The early days, now only a blur of farm-work, sickness from my condition, and utter misery.

My brother’s cold eyes looked up at me, any sense of life shadowed with the darkness of death. They had said we were lucky to have him and that most were left to rot on the battle field because of time limitation or their bodies too disfigured that they didn’t dare bring them home to their families for a proper burial. Pessimism began to weigh my heart down and cloud my thoughts into a stale daze.

Patience tiredly whimpered, pressing her delicate face into my chest. I held her close to me with my left arm, my right, firmly encircled around Constant’s small shoulders. My swollen eyes absorbed Ephraim’s grey body, replacing his face with Eduard’s. Every vessel in my body froze into an icy longing. I swallowed hard.

“Mother, Mother, I can’t look anymore mother. Please Mother, take me away Mother,” Constant’s small voice pleaded, pulling me from my darkened trance.

“Yes Constant, let us leave,” I spoke gently, pulling away from Ephraim’s blanketed figure.

“I am glad your father is not alive to see this,” my mother said heavily as Ephraim’s body was shut into a thin-wooded coffin.

“As am I,” I mumbled wearily.

“It was his time to leave us; God would not have taken him away if it was not. Watch as this revolution unfolds, those desperate to fight will leave us in death,” my mother slurred slowly, “and those unwilling will leave us at heart. Your husband was a fool, God pardon me, a fool. He is the one that should be dead, he who didn’t want to aide our brethren, not my only son,” she said this with bitterness, her eyes glaring haltingly into mine.

“Mother,” I whispered defensively, my heart sinking into my stomach. Constant looked up at me, his eyes wide with uncertainty at his grandmother’s hostile words. My mother only glared at me with distaste and turned away.

“Grieve Sister Williamson but do not despair. Despair is against the eyes of our loving Father,” Minister Knore’s voice crept upon me. Constant’s hand gripped mine fearfully; his body gravitated into my skirts.

“Thank you Minister,” I responded, avoiding eye contact with his dark-fear mongering gaze. Patience wrinkled her face, her gentle eyebrows creasing in discomfort.

“You must pray that your husband’s fate does not resemble your brothers and pray for your children’s souls,” Minister Knore advised me, his glum face etched with false generosity.

“I have Minister. More than I can confess,” my voice sounded distant and weary as I said this, my body beginning to warm from anger. I had been praying relentlessly, more than the Minister probably ever had in his life.

“Your children are vulnerable Sister Williamson,” the minister warned, his beady eyes clouded with teachings of salvation. Constant buried his head into my dress, his free hand gripping onto my skirt.

“Minister, now is not the time. Good day and thank you for your service today,” I replied coldly, turning my back to him and guiding my children out of the worn church.

“I miss Father,” Constant wailed, his small body still in deep contact with my dress.

“I do too,” was all my mouth could render, my mind overwhelmed with thought.

I try falling back asleep, but my body refuses. I find myself leaving my bed and digging into my dowry chest, now filled with old letters, small valuable items, and cherished memories. The first, last, and only letter Eduard sent me finds its way into my hands, my eyes indulging in its sacred words. I fall onto my bed, burying the letter into my chest.

A knock echoed into the late night air. Constant raised his eyebrows idly at me, his hand slowly moving a toy soldier into position. The fire’s comforting crackle filled the room with warm silence. Rebecca looked up at me, her dark face withered with concern.

“Do you want me to get it Ma’am?” Rebecca inquired.

“That would be lovely Rebecca,” I answered kindly, “bring them in here if they are visiting.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Rebecca obeyed, leaving the room. Patience stood up and began to waddle after her.

“No Patience,” I said maternally, stopping Patience with a hard gaze. She tilted her head to one side, as if asking a question.

“I want to follow Ribaka,” Patience insisted, her small voice edged with worry. I could not help but smile at her attempt to say Rebecca.

“Come,” I prodded, pulling Patience’s body onto my lap, “she’s coming back right now, with a visitor.”

Patience smiled, her father’s eyes looking back into mine. I smiled in return and wrapped my arms lovingly around her figure. Constant quietly continued playing with his soldiers, resting his chin on the hard-wood floor. I couldn’t help but hope the visitor was Eduard finally being allowed to return home after four long years.

“It’s Minister Knore Ma’am,” Rebecca announced, Minister Knore slide into the room.

We stared at each other, my face twisted with disdain and his with a fearful pleasure. I squeezed Patience and handed her to Rebecca. Constant obediently scooped up his tin soldiers and followed Rebecca out of the room.

“I hope you already know the reason for my coming Sister Williamson,” Minister Knore muttered, his back turned to me and his face absorbing the firelight.

“I do,” I snapped back.

“You must make a decision Sister Williamson, for the sake of your children. If you do not, they shall be forever dammed in the eyes of God as every orphan is,” Minister Knore said slowly, eliding his words maliciously together.

“My children are not orphans,” I responded, my voice cold.

“Are they not? You have not heard from your husband in four years am I correct? No matter how much you have investigated his whereabouts, I have heard that you haven’t found the slightest sign of his existence. I heard that the last place his whereabouts were tolled were in the Battle of Long Island where eight-hundred men were killed or captured by the British out of a force of one thousand, am I not correct?” the ministers turned figure straightened proudly, his hands folding gracefully behind his back.

“How do you know this?” I whispered, choking through the sudden dryness of my throat.

“Your mother is a very informative woman when she must be for the sake of her loved one’s salvation,” Minister Knore turned to face me, he eyes gleamed with pure, elusive triumph.

“Leave Minister Knore,” I demanded quietly, my eyes glued to the floor.

“I will, for now, but your selfishness will not benefit you or your children’s salvation in the end. You know the fate of widows if they do not condemn themselves to the natural duties of a woman, the duties that our Lord has placed upon them,” with that Minister Knore tipped his austere-black hat and walked leisurely out of the sitting room.

Constant peeked through the unclosed door, staring at me with wanting eyes. I held my tears back, eager not to show weakness in front of my children. Instead of falling to a chair and pitifully letting out my anguish, I flew to my son and wrapped my arms around him. He rested his head on my stomach, his growing body hugging my skirted legs.

“He’s not dead Mother. I know he’s not,” Constant assured, his voice cracking with sadness.

“I know,” I sighed melodically as I kissed the top of his head.

“Mother,” I hear Constant’s voice call from outside our bedroom door.

Quickly, I burry the letter back into my trunk and snatch my shawl, pulling it tightly around my bust.

“Yes Constant?” I inquire, opening the bedroom door.

“William and Israel Lewis are going to watch the Mr. Carry break his new horse, can I go?”

“Yes, but be back by mid-afternoon. Have you had breakfast?”

“Rebecca is making some now.”

“Is Patience with her?”

“No, she’s still asleep. I checked on her.”

“Thank you Constant. Yes, you may go. I need to get dressed and help Rebecca clean and finish fertilizing.”

“Can’t Thomas and the rest of them do that Mother? You shouldn’t have to help them Mother, that’s what they’re here for. And Mother, especially, today,” Constant’s voice is quiet and cautious.

“You know that your father always helped them and today is no different, Constant, it is of no difference.”

“Yes, but you’re a woman and their strong-black men and Mother, why, why, today?”

“Constant,” I say coolly, “it doesn’t make a difference. Now go eat.”

Constant raises his eyebrows and runs down the hallway. I watch him sprint down the stairs then turn to get dressed.

Tiredly, I threw my hoe into the ground pulling the dirt forward into a heap. I took a deep breath as I wiped sweat from my forehead with my working apron. The sky above threatened a rainstorm.

“Are you alright Mrs.? You should go in the house Mrs.; it looks like it might rain. I don’t wantcha to get sick Mrs. Williamson,” Thomas voiced worriedly.

“Thank you for your concern Thomas,” was all I replied, as my eyes met those of Minister Knore, who was making his way up the road lining our farm.
Thomas looked to the ground and shuffled back to work as Minister Knore approached. I swallowed hard and wiped my hands thoroughly on my apron. Slowly and carefully, I placed the hoe in the tool cart and started reluctantly towards the minister.

“You should not be working alongside them, it is not your place,” the minister greeted me, harshly.

“Well Minister Knore, what do you have to say today? Which of my children are going to be dammed first today? Who should I stay away from now? My workers? Rebecca who has helped me the most out of anyone these past five years? My dog who dared to howl on the Sabbath?” I sneered through clenched teeth.

“I will pretend you did not say those words to me Annabeth,” my heart stopped with resentment as he said my name, I couldn’t find any words to reply.

“I have come to make a proposal,” Minister Knore continued, “Since the war has ended and has been over for a little over a year, it is time for you to make your decision.”

“What decision is there to make Minister Knore? Do you not realize that you and my mother have been plaguing me? Do you not realize that your consistent proposals and reminders of my sin, which I have not committed, are useless? My husband is not dead Minister,” I refuted as my hands pulled reticently at my skirts.

“We are not going through this again. He is dead. That is the only reasonable explanation for his belated absence. I am going to repeat your two choices dear Annabeth, your children will only be saved if sent to a school of God to be raised rightfully, or by you remarrying. I propose that I am the best candidate for the later. Your Mother has given me permission that I marry you, and marry you I will,” the ministers nostrils flared with imprudence and rage. My jaw tightened, the persistent knot in my stomach retying itself in my stomach.

“How dare you. How dare you and my mother. I will not marry Minister and as for sending my children off to a school,” I began, but was interrupted.

“May I repeat, those are your only two choices. If you do not choose them you and your family will be dammed. God will not forgive you,” I could not let the minister finish is vile speech; it was my turn to interrupt.

“I will choose what is right for me and my children Minister. This is a free nation Minister Knore. My grandparent’s parents did not come here in vain; they came here for religious freedom and freedom from an ill-fated government. I cannot and will not marry you. How dare you suggest such a preposterous idea? After five idle years of treacherous and continuous trial, you expect me to marry you? You, the cause of my consistent pain and despair. Yes, you haven’t saved me from the sin of despair Minister. You have caused it. If one of us should be dammed, it should be you,” I said this violently, but with control. I could feel my eyes dilate with pure outrage.

“You will be sorry for those words Annabeth. Very, very, sorry. I will give you one year. One year to decide and if you do not make the right decision, then one will have to be made by your mother and I. Good day Mrs. Williamson,” the minister’s nostrils flared wider as he turned his rigid back towards me and stumbled his way back to his church. He wacked my fence angrily with his bent walking stick and kicked at the dirt under his feet.

I wanted to shout obscenities after him, but Constant’s sudden appearance stopped me. He looked at me fearfully, then at the minister who was disappearing down the lane. I ground my teeth vigorously, my hands engrossed to my skirts muddied fabric.

“Mother?” he inquired, his hands wrapped firmly around a hoe.

“I am fine, I am fine,” I mumbled, adjusting his working hat.

“Why doesn’t he leave us alone?” Constant whined bitterly.

“Because he has faith in his beliefs. Hallow, angry, and false beliefs,” I replied snidely, “But do not worry yourself Constant. Your father will return. Your grandmother and the minister will be shown wrong.”

“What about the people at church? Will they? The ones who glare at you? I can’t stand it Mother,” Constant muttered as he began to dig his hoe deep into the earth’s surface.

“Yes. They will be too. Everyone,” I assured, my anger beginning to melt. I took a deep breath, smiled at my son, and worked my way back to the house.

My hand tightens around my brush. I set it hesitantly on my vanity’s worn surface. Patience’s cry draws me to her aide. My vision seems to blur as I gingerly carry her down the stairs and to the kitchen.

“You’re getting too old to carry Patience,” I say light heartedly, to restrain from tears. Patience cheeks color with a soft pink and she pulls me closer to her.

“Not by you Mother. I want you to always carry me,” she giggles. I smile and kiss her nose, setting her at the kitchen table.

“Has Constant already left?” I ask Rebecca, who eagerly pours porridge into Patience’s bowl.

“Yes, Ma’am. He didn’t eat very much Ma’am. I tried, but he seemed nervous Ma’am,” Rebecca replies worriedly.

“Thank you,” is all I can say.

Constant knows too much and always had. He knows that today is the year mark, the day were my decision has to be made. He was probably up as early as I, fretting as I was fretting.

I stare at the porridge Rebecca has made me, unable to touch it. Rebecca watches me with concern. Patience innocently plays with her food.

“Are you alright Ma’am? I heard you up very early this morning Ma’am,” Rebecca queries.

“You have been very faithful to me Rebecca. I thank you for all you have done for me these past years,” I say carefully as I leave the kitchen.

My body begins to feel cold and numb with nerve, though the sun has risen, spreading its warmth. I can’t avoid thinking about it now. Now I must assert my choice; an impossible choice, a choice that should not have to be made.

I wander into the sitting room, briefly glancing at Eduard’s Bible, resting in the place he had left it six years ago. My hands fumble through my writing desks drawers looking for a quill, but are stopped when they feel the soft edge of a letter opener. A chill runs down my spine, trickling through my fingertips as the cool silver pricks my hand.

The eyes of the townspeople bore at me through my mind, their judging looks and snide whispers biting at my soul, tearing it into pieces of disdain. Minister Knore and my mother’s stern glares pierce at my heart, the image of my husband rotting on a forgotten battle field shattering it into shreds of despair. Marrying the minister was not an option. Sending my children to a school was not either, a school that was far away and far too expensive for my means.

I trace the dull edge of the letter opener, taking in my beautiful farm from the sitting room window. I begin to pray, something I have not done for five years. My thoughts race through my mind, contemplating a choice that I had never considered. Something inside of me stirs warning me, telling me to stop, reminding me of my children.

My eye lids fly open; I hadn’t notice that I had closed them. I drop the letter opener and pull at my face. I begin to pace.

Suddenly I hear voices. I run to the sitting room door and open it eagerly. Rebecca rushes past me. A knock roars in my ears as Rebecca answers the door. Patience skips innocently after her. I glance out the hallways window and see Constant and his friends walking towards the house. Fear pounds inside of me, wanting to escape. My ears strain for the Ministers snarly voice to announce his arrival, but they hear someone’s unfamiliar mumble.

“Is the Mistress of the house here?” a uniform voice requests.

“Yes, I am here,” I announce, making my way to the door. Rebecca moves out of my way, Patience standing next to her.

A man dressed in the blue uniform of a messenger soldier greets me. His face is blank, lacking any expression. His hand reaches into his jacket and he pulls out a tattered piece of parchment.

“Mrs. Williamson, I have this letter for you,” the messenger proclaims, his voice unimpressionable.

He hands me the small, folded paper. Rebecca puts her hand on my shoulder, spreading loving warmth through my body. I see Constant standing still, watching my every move from a distance. My heart begins to race, my mind unsure of what to think.

“And also, some news about your husband,” the messenger resumes.

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