Janet R Stafford

SNEAK PEEK

 

 

Back in the summer my stepdaughter, Kirstina, suggested that I work on a series of stories for Young Adults featuring Frankie, Maggie's youngest daughter with her late husband John Blaine. Then a friend and beta reader, Laura, suggested that I add Maggie's oldest daughter, Lydia, to the mix because she liked the interplay between the two young women.

So now I'm working on the short story series which at the moment is called "Maggie's Daughters." The first one up is "The Enlistment," although I may change the title to "The Mustering In" to give it that 19th century feel. Central characters are Frankie and Patrick. Two pages of first draft pages follow. Enjoy!

 THE ENLISTMENT

“But why?” Frankie Blaine demanded.

She and her beau, Patrick McCoy, were sitting on the porch on a warm August evening in 1862 just as the sun began to set in the little town of Blaineton, New Jersey. It was the time of day that Mr. Borden, the town’s lamplighter, went down the street. He paused by the gas lamp in front of the Second Street Boarding House, lifted the pole, and touched the flame burning on the wick to the lamp. Immediately a warm glow lit the area.

When Mr. Borden looked in their direction, Frankie and Patrick waved at him. Once he moved on, Frankie heaved a sigh and glanced at her beau. “I just don’t want you to go, that’s all.”

“Yeah, well,” he muttered, averting his eyes, “we have to win this war, Frankie. I have a duty, you know.”

Frankie bristled. “A duty to do what? Die?”

Patrick could swear that when the girl was angry her eyes turned brilliant emerald. “Look, Edgar and I have been talking this over and…”

“I know! I’ve heard it all over the supper table every night for months now.” Frankie’s eyes pooled with tears, making them all the more vivid. “I thought you were back to stay after you came home in February.”

Patrick sighed and shook his head. He was a fair-looking young man of nineteen, with a shock of hair the color of mahogany and deep blue eyes like the sea. “I wasn’t near any fighting. I was behind the lines with my boss. We were embalming bodies. Can’t do that with bullets whizzing overheard.” His fingers laced together and then unlaced. “The reason I came home was because I was disgusted with Mr. Meany. I mean, he was overcharging the poor soldiers’ families for embalming. Working for him wasn’t helping anyone but him. I want to do something. To make a difference.”

Brushing unruly strands of red hair back from her face, Frankie muttered, “How? If you join the army, you’ll have a gun in your hands. You’ll be shooting at the Johnnies and they’ll be shooting at you. What difference could you make, besides losing your life and making us all sad?”

“Frankie, this war has been going on for well over a year. I can’t sit back and let someone else fight to make the Union whole again…” He couldn’t meet her eyes, so he stared at the square across the street. It was summery green and dotted with tall trees. The town’s history said that sheep used to graze on it in the early days. The yellow glow of oil lamps were appearing in the windows of houses on the other side of the square. Patrick heaved a sigh. “You’ve got to understand, Frankie. I don’t want to go. I want to stay here with you. But this is something I need to do.”

Frankie’s lower lip trembled. It wasn’t a good sign. It meant she was about to cry, and Patrick hated it when she cried. “How soon until you leave?” she asked. “How much more time do we have?”

“Um… the flyer said they’re gonna muster men in on August 25th.”

“No! That’s less than two weeks from now!” Frankie leapt to her feet. “How could you do this Patrick?” Gathering up her skirts, she bolted off the porch and into her mother’s boarding house, slamming the door behind her.

Patrick threw his head back and emitted a frustrated groan.

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” a voice behind him said.

Patrick looked over his shoulder at Eli Smith, Frankie’s stepfather. “That from the Bible?”

“No. Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Using his cane, the portly man thumped over and eased himself down onto the step beside Patrick.

“Well, I guess doesn’t matter if it’s Shakespeare or the Bible, it’s true…”

“Yep. That’s why we remember things like that.” Eli glanced at the young man. “What happened?”

“Told her I was mustering in on August 25th.”

“Ah.”

Patrick looked earnestly at Eli. “What should I do?”

Eli sighed. “Well, you’re dealing with a woman, albeit a young one. Results vary from one to the next. But I’d say give her some time. Then go and tell her how much you care about her and how sorry you are that your news upset her.”

Patrick frowned. “But –”

And,” Eli continued, “then say that you have a patriotic duty to perform and will try your level best to get home to her in one piece.”

“Aw, she’ll never accept that!”

“Fine. How about picking a nice bouquet of flowers and giving them to her?”

“It’ll never work, Eli. It’s Frankie we’re talking about, not her mother.”

The older man laughed. “True! Maggie isn’t quite as stubborn as her daughter.” He took a deep breath and added, “However, allow me to say that my lovely bride is not happy that Carson and I plan to cover the war for my newspaper and will be following your regiment. Nor is Frankie’s sister pleased that her husband will be mustering in with you.”

Patrick smiled faintly. “Guess there are no easy decisions these days.”

“With all due respect, my young friend, there are no easy decisions ever.” 

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