To The Lonely Seas And The Sky -- Part 7c
This is the final "subsection" of Part 7. Please ensure that you're reading this story from the beginning! All characters are fictional, though the period of history described here is accurate to the best of the author's knowledge, travels and research.
Every day, the number of soldiers in the field dwindled. The layers of bodies thinned as the attendants removed the dead and carried the injured upstairs to face the surgeons. As days passed by, the focus shifted from retrieving those few who remained alive in the fields to burying the dead and tending to the survivors who dwelled in and around the farmhouse.
In increasing numbers, Ellie had observed strangers in the fields, on the property and in the house. Women, their noses buried in handkerchiefs, came to pick through the bodies, searching in desperation for their sons, their husbands, their nephews, their fathers. Ellie watched and wondered if she had been like them once--bent at the waist, sick from the smell and the flies, disturbed to their souls at the horrific scenes around them. She seemed to remember that at one time she had been, but those days seemed like years ago. Now, she tended her duties automatically, barely fazed by the smell and presence of death.
Soldiers came and went from the house, the sheer number of those who died on the property too staggering to count. But somehow, Ellie could remember every face she had tended, every mouth that had sipped water from her canteen, every pair of eyes that thanked her, often wordlessly, as Thomas and the other attendants carried the body away.
And the soldiers knew Ellie, too. Some knew her by name. Others knew her simply as the girl with the water. Her presence was always welcomed, her assistance always thanked. Some of them, she saw time and time again, day after day. A few of them were claimed, their family members finding them amidst the myriad of faces in the house, in the yard or in the field. Some of them died with their hands grasping hers.
A few times, a family member had approached Ellie, seeking a particular man. Often, Ellie could offer them no assistance, knowing their soldier may be long dead and buried by now. But every now and then, with a description and a name, Ellie had been able to lead them to where he lay in the field. Despite the devastation inherent in such a reunion, it was an event that Ellie herself longed for--just to know her father had survived would have been a blessing. And each time a woman collapsed at a soldier's side in grateful tears, Ellie wondered if somewhere in the endless distance, her father lay among them.
While Ellie knew she could never remember all of the soldiers she had tended, she began to look upon her countless charges not as horrified, mutilated bodies, but as men--men much like her father. Men much like Solomon. And it was in that mindset that she tended them from sunrise to sunset.
One afternoon, Ellie sat with Solomon on the porch, the two of them silent in the midday heat. The days preceding had also been unusually hot, causing many of the men to sleep the hours away.
"I suppose it's time I go to the spring." Ellie said, reaching for her canteen.
Solomon nodded, flushed from the heat. "It seems a good afternoon to sleep." He surmised, his fatigue evident in his posture and his expression.
Ellie smiled at his plans for the remainder of the day. "You said that yesterday, too. You oughtn't sleep too much. Perhaps one of the attendants can help you to your feet and you can learn to walk with a crutch." She suggested.
Solomon smiled, his eyes tired. "That would be nice." He replied.
Ellie wiped his forehead with the damp hem of her skirt. Solomon exhaled, lowering himself to the porch floor and resting his head on the blue uniform jacket Ellie had folded into a pillow.
"Sleep well, Solomon." Ellie said, placing her hand over hers.
Solomon nodded, beads of sweat reforming on his forehead in the humid heat.
Ellie pushed off the ground, rising to her feet.
"Ellie," Solomon asked quietly from below.
Ellie sat back down at his side immediately. "Yes, Solomon?"
A smile tugged at the side of his mouth. "I just..." He began, then stopped. "Would you sing to me?" He asked as Ellie wiped the sweat from his forehead again. "I sleep so much better after you sing."Last edit by AN Admin Team on Feb 20, '17
From 'The Great White North'; Joined Mar '10; Posts: 2,234; Likes: 7,034.Nov 12, '13Never fear--they're on the way! I recently returned from leave and will very shortly have time to write again.