To The Lonely Seas And The Sky -- Part 15d
Careening toward the 6-month mark of story writing. Thank you once again to all of my readers who continue to follow this adventure! It is my pleasure and privilege to continue to develop this unpredictable story.
The rest of the day passed as quietly and unremarkably as the days before it. Ellie and Thomas awoke the next morning and returned to their duties in the back yard, the sunny day overtaken with darkening clouds by the late afternoon.
"Anoeder storm," Thomas clucked his tongue and gazed up at the sky, which was quickly turning an ominous shade of purple. "I suppose it is to be expected as de winter comes."
A stiff wind whipped up as if to confirm his statement. While the autumn air temperature was still mild and tolerable, Ellie noted a hint of a chill on the breeze--a warning that colder weather was not far away.
Thomas's gaze returned to the cooking fire. "It may be wise to put away our smaller items tonight, lest we find dem scattered across de yard by morning."
Ellie nodded in agreement. "A good idea. I will go for fresh water to rinse the cooking cauldron." She said, picking up the buckets and water pole near Thomas's supplies. She set the wooden yoke over her shoulders, straightened the buckets on the ropes and took firm hold of the ropes to keep the buckets from swishing around in her skirt.
"I will empty the laundry water in de meantime." Thomas said, picking up the first 50-pound cast iron cauldron with ease.
"Thank you, Thomas!" Ellie called over her shoulder as she moved through the thin grass in the side yard toward the road.
A stone-rimmed well in the side yard sat idle, its water supply run dry. It had worked well initially, Thomas told Ellie, but within a week of the battle, the occupants of the house had noticed that the well was low on water. The stream down the street became the primary source for drinking water, and the frequent walks to gather more water were routine by the time Ellie and Carina arrived in Gettysburg.
It could be worse, Ellie thought as she passed the well. Besides, I rather enjoy these walks. Her eyes wandered to the sky as heavy, billowing clouds seeped silently into the atmosphere. Though the sun wasn't visible behind the storm, the clouds were beginning to fade from purple into a dark blue, indicating that sunset was underway.
Ellie unconsciously quickened her step for the stream. One night, she had lingered too long on the banks of the creek and found herself walking back to the house in the dark. While she normally didn't mind being outside after dark, when the sun set on those fields, Ellie swore she could hear the cries of dying men and see their twisted shadows in the grass, ghosts returned to haunt the sinister battleground veiled in the shifting shades of twilight. While Ellie knew she wasn't actually seeing or hearing men in the field, she still couldn't keep her skin from pinching into tight goose bumps and her heart from pounding when she found herself alone after sundown.
Turning off the tree-lined dirt road, Ellie followed the trail down a small hill to the stream where clean, clear water ran freely. She knelt in the soft dirt, filled her buckets, took up the yoke, and pushed back up the hill. The return trip was always a bit more difficult with water in her buckets and the task of maneuvering the ends of the yoke so as not to tangle them in the vegetation along the path.
When Ellie reemerged onto the road, the clouds hung low and heavy through the tree branches. Ellie picked up the pace of her walk, grasping the ropes and trying not to spill water as she hurried back to the house under the protective canopy of branches and broad, browning maple leaves. Within a few minutes, Ellie reached the farmhouse and turned up the front brick walk, many of the uneven bricks recently repaired by a soldier who had taken pity on the poor state of the home that had sheltered him for the past several months. While he had managed to make the front walk a bit more presentable, he hadn't been able to scrub the blood from the bricks. The dark red stains were a reminder for Ellie that even after the most vigorous cleanings, some stains do not wash away.
Veering left into the sideyard, Ellie noted that Thomas had put her cauldrons against the house to drain and prevent them from collecting rain water. Her washing bat lay below the cauldrons. For a moment, Ellie considered putting the bat inside to keep it from the rain. Not that its condition could really decline, Ellie thought with a half-smile. She had mastered the ability to wrap her hands so that the splintery bat didn't leave her with a thousand prickly reminders of the day's laundry.
Ellie removed the yoke, emptied the water from one bucket into the other and slid the yoke under the cauldrons next to the washing bat. She set the empty bucket in line with the cauldrons, one edge of the bucket against the house to allow the inside to dry. Thunder rumbled behind her. Ellie glanced over her shoulder at the sky, where twisted, curled clouds lurked in waiting.
Suddenly, a sharp, abrupt sound interrupted the silence and caught Ellie's attention. She shot to her feet, taking cautious steps toward the back yard as she followed her ears to where the noise had originated. It was very nearly nighttime, the thin remnants of daylight almost entirely engulfed in the inky darkness, but Ellie's exceptional eyes pierced through the blinding nightfall.
In the backyard, the cooking fire had been reduced to coals, giving off a faint light as they simmered in the firepit. Mere feet from the pit, Ellie could see Thomas, who stood with his chin lowered and his gaze averted...directly in front of the gray-haired woman.
Ellie realized that the gray-haired woman was holding a cast-iron rod nearly one foot long and three inches thick right as she brought it down with force across Thomas's face. Thomas fell to the ground, catching himself with his forearms and turning his head in Ellie's direction as his expression betrayed the presence of a throbbing, stinging pain.Last edit by AN Admin Team on Feb 20, '17