By Writer of the Shadows
I heard a few whispers that Abraham Lincoln himself was going to meet the generals in his new army in a few days. Nobody knew where because they never pay attention. Stereotypical southern belles. God, I hate them. Social gatherings are everything to them. And to my mother who is forcing me to attend this horrid event. She thinks that I will start to like these events and then maybe be interested in marriage. I’m 16 and unmarried. Oh, how awful!
They all ignore me. I sit in a corner contemplating the ways to kill myself. Which, would be much more enjoyable than this. I honestly want to live a long life but anything would be better than this.
And maybe I won’t have to kill myself. A messenger walks in with a paper. He is young and I’m assuming that they find him handsome because the moment that he walked in they giggled. I mean really, why did they giggle? I didn’t think anything was funny. He smiles at them and walks to me. What the hell is he doing?
“You are Sarah Wescott I presume?”
“I have a message for you from Anne Marie Wescott.” He hands the letter to me and walks out. What does my mother want? The letter reads that she is going to make me a nurse if this secession becomes an act of war. Why do I have to help a cause that I don’t support? I use this opportunity to say that my mother is sick and I have to leave immediately to take care of her. I leave as politely as I can. I have to push my skirt through the gates at the front. I hate these things they are so impractical. I stomp back to my house and say that the gathering or whatever ended early. I pick up the newspaper and read that the Union has put up a new Fort. I put two and two together and arrive at four. Abraham Lincoln is most likely meeting with his generals at the new fort. I believe the ladies said that he was meeting someone in a few days, which translates to three days. The new fort is in Pennsylvania, which is only a two days ride from here in Virginia. I go out to the side of the house and come in a moment later. I grab a random paper off of the table and walk over to my mother.
“Mother, I just received a letter from one of my friends from elementary school, asking if I would like to come to her remote cabin for a week. I think that I would like to go.”
“Darling is this true?” I waved around the paper.
“It is. Can I go?”
“Most certainly. Oh this is exciting!”
“I would have to leave today though.”
“I will have you packed within the hour.”
“Thank you mother” but she is already gone. I grab some money from the safe and wait for my stuff to be packed.
I grab my bag and say my goodbyes. I walk out to the stables and lead my horse out of her stall. I grab my emergency pack, which contains riding skirts, a pistol that I stole from my dad’s collection years ago, and spare food. I jump on my horse and start riding as lady-like as I can. When I leave the town I change into my riding skirts and continue.
I stop at a few inns on my way but I finally reach the fort on the day of the meeting. I climb the fence and then walk to the actual building. I avoid the guards and knock on the front door. After a few moments I open the door myself and hide my gun in the folds of my skirt.
The moment I walk in five pistols are pointed at me.
“Relax. If I were here to kill you I would have done it already. Your security is not very good.” I pulled my own pistol out and held it in a position that suggested I was safe. “Believe me. You all would have been dead in less than a minute.” I notice that Abraham Lincoln is the only one not pointing a gun at me. I smile at him.
“What do you want?” I look towards the general who spoke and read his nametag. General Alexander Asboth. An older fellow with a beard who I don’t think could last in a war. I look towards Abraham Lincoln.
“I come from Winchester Virginia and I have a proposition.” At the mention of “Virginia” the generals cock their pistols. “Oh put your guns down before you shoot yourselves.” One of the younger generals tried to hide a laugh and they all slowly lowered their weapons.
“What is your proposition?”
“Well, when this war starts and it will, I will be forced to work as a nurse.” Someone starts to interrupt and I turn off the safety on my pistol. “I think helping a cause that I don’t believe in is pointless and I would rather not do it.” The younger general cuts in.
“You came all this way to tell us that you don’t want to work as a nurse?”
“No. I came here to tell you that the Confederacy does not have any spies in the union and vice versa. I think that we can change that.” Abraham Lincoln again.
“That’s a brilliant idea. I will send some of my men to the South and have them enlist in the army.”
“That would never work. The Confederate government would see right through it.”
“So what exactly are you proposing?”
“I would be the spy.” The generals laughed. “Think about it. All men think of women as ignorant.” The generals stopped laughing. “And in the South they are but I can guarantee you that I am not a normal girl. Besides, I’m from the South and everyone knows who I am. They wouldn’t suspect a thing.”
“How do we know that you are not spying for the Confederacy?”
“Oh please. They are monsters that own slaves. And all the women do is go to social gatherings and do everything to please the men in their lives and they never do anything independent! And they spend their whole lives looking for marriage so they can have a man to save them. Well I am sick and tired of being forced to do things that I hate and everything that I just mentioned is on that list. You can do a background check and all you will find is a 16 year old girl who is, heavens forbid, not married, who also hates these damn skirts and is the odd duck that no one likes.” The younger general, who looks around 20, looked at me with a respect that wasn’t there when I first started talking. I still haven’t seen his nametag though. Too bad, he is the first boy I could consider handsome. He’s also the only man in the room that is clean-shaven.
“We will do some reconnaissance and send you a letter regarding our decision.”
“Send the letter as if you were Rosemarie Van Halten. I’m supposed to be staying with her now at her “remote cabin”. She is my cover story because my parents don’t know about this.”
“Will do.” The younger general steps forward.
“You have a gun but can you even shoot?” I raise my pistol in one hand, aim at his cap, and shoot a bullet straight through his cap. The bullet embeds itself in the wall behind him. His nametag reads General Ashton Benning.
“Does that answer your question?”
I stayed in Pennsylvania for the night and rode home the next two days. I got home and a week later the letter arrived from Rosemarie like promised. It said that they would accept my services and that they were sorry about my grandmother. What happened to my grandmother? I walk into the kitchen to find my mother who is still overjoyed at the fact that I have a “friend”.
“Mother? I haven’t heard from grandmother in a while, is she well?’’
“My dear, I’m sorry to tell you about this but grandmother passed away the day that you left.”
“And you didn’t send word?”
“I wanted to tell you in person.” I’ve been home for a week. I stormed off then remembered and stopped with my back to her.
“I’ve decided that I will be a nurse.” I continued storming off.
The war has lasted two years now and I am still alive. The confederate generals have promoted me to secretary. Yay me. I have honestly no idea why. They must think me beautiful or something. It gives me the opportunity to listen in on their conversations with them not thinking anything of it. I know that something big is going to happen in Pennsylvania but with this they are being incredibly secretive. I said that I had male cousins who adore me in Pennsylvania and that I could go there for two weeks and try to convince them to join the Confederacy. They were all for the idea. I don’t have any male cousins.
I ride all day and all night eager to see Ashton and tell him the news. We have kept in contact and seen each other a couple of times in the border-states. This time I am going all the way to Pennsylvania again. I have time to think about exactly what I’ve been trying to keep off of my mind.
I reach the fort and am let in the front by the guards. They all know my face by now. I walk in and greet Ashton with a hug and smile at the others.
“Hello! How have you all been?” There are murmurs from the others but Ashton answers me.
“I’ve been well. And you?”
“I’ve been better actually because I bring bad news.” President Lincoln asks what the news is. “Well something’s going to go down here in Pennsylvania and I don’t know what. Ever since they appointed me to secretary they believe that I don’t hear what they are saying. With this, they have been especially secretive.”
“Is there a way that you can get the information?”
“Not quick enough, no. And I do not want to go there.”
“What would you have to do?”
“Well… Um… General Lee asked me to marry him.” I don’t think that I could have said that more awkwardly.
“He what!” Ashton seems really upset about this.
“I said no. He is 56! I’m 18! Do you really think that I would marry him?”
“Well no… but.” General Asboth interrupts him.
“If you do not have any more information, you may leave.”
“I am actually staying here for another week. I said that I have cousins here that would possibly enlist in the Confederacy and it would take two weeks to convince them.” And with that Ashton led me out.
We walked through the gardens at the town square, just talking about everything that had happened since we last talked. He made a major strategic move towards the south and my mother no longer hates me.
“She’s so happy because she thinks that I’ve changed.”
“Well, I’m glad you haven’t” I look at him. That was unusually sweet, not that I don’t mind.
“Thank you. You’re the first one who feels that way.”
Well I shouldn’t be.” He stops walking and turns to me. “You are such a beautiful person and I don’t understand why people don’t see that.” Did he just call me beautiful?
“That’s just how things are. People don’t like people who are different.”
“I like people who are different. In fact, I think I’m in love with you, Sarah Wescott.”
“You. You what?” Did he just.
He turns and screams, “I’m in love with Sarah Wescott!”
“Shhh. Be quiet.” I can’t stop smiling.
“Why should I? Everyone should know.”
I lost it. I kissed him. Now I am convinced that magic exists. We melt into the kiss, into each other. That’s when I remember that we are in public. I regretfully pull away.
“Why would you do that?”
“Do what? Kiss you or pull away?” I grin.
“Well I wanted to kiss you and I needed to shut you up. Then I realized that we are in public.” He looks around as if he forgot that we were still in the town square gardens.
“Oh. I am sorry for that.”
“I was the one that kissed you. If anything it was my fault.” We start walking again as if nothing had happened. “Does this mean anything? I mean, are we together now?”
“I suppose so. If you want to be.” The last sentence was so fast I almost missed it.
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I. You are wonderful.”
“I am. I’m glad you finally noticed.”
“Oh I noticed. I just wanted to see if you knew how amazing I was.” We laugh and continue our walk.
Two years later the war ends and the Union wins. Ash and I are still together and the day the treaty was signed, he proposed. Of course I said yes. And now I am sitting at home trying to tell my family everything.
“…and he proposed. I said yes.” They all looked so shocked. My mother speaks up first.
“Did Mr. Lincoln pressure you into this?”
“No. It was all my idea.” They’re silent again.
“I can’t take this. You, are no longer part of this family!” Now my father.
“You have until the end of the day to move your stuff out.” My parents walk out. My brothers give me a look as if to say, “I’m sorry”. And the worst thing is, I’m not even that hurt. I guess I knew it was coming. I solemnly walk up to my room. I pack all of my belongings and put them on a trailer. I jump on my horse and ride long and hard without stopping until I reach Pennsylvania.
I jump off my horse. When Ash sees me, he runs up and hugs me. I guess he saw it in my face. In the morning we received an invitation from President Lincoln to watch a play at Ford’s Theatre. We go that night and sit in a separate box. Halfway during the play, someone rustles our curtains but Ash doesn’t notice so I don’t say anything. Then I hear a gun shot and see a man swing towards the stage from President Lincoln’s box. I jump out of the box area and roll when I hit the floor. I bring out my gun as I run after him. I reach him in the alley outside the theatre.
We stand there, both with our guns pointed.
“Put your gun down.” I say as calmly as I can.
“You put yours down first.”
“Not a chance. You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” He hesitates for a moment then pulls the trigger. In the split second I pull mine as well. My bullet lands in his skull. His bullet lands in the wall behind me. Ash runs out to find Booth on the ground and me with the gun in my hands. I had never killed someone before. He tells me that the president was the only one killed and that we would need to hide the news of Booth’s death until they could figure out a good story where the South wouldn’t rise up again. I start to fall, unable to catch myself but he catches me. He hugs me tight and kisses my head. He carried me to the carriage and once we got home I spent the rest of the night in his arms while he read story after story trying to get my mind off of what had just happened.
In the years that came, no one remembered my name. Of course, no woman could have killed John Wilkes Booth.
On Wednesday, August 31, 2022, the Wellness Committee of D70 brought in Kyle Scheele, a motivational speaker and author, to talk to our entire student body at PCHS.