The sun baked our backs and burned our limbs, our faces hidden beneath the shade of our wide-brimmed hats. We sat in the dirt on our knees, bent over as if begging to the sun to be merciful in her harsh, summer-time brilliance. I tossed a weed aside, sitting back on my heels and sighing. Wiping my sweaty forehead with the top of my hand, I looked around the farm.
I was certainly not one of royalty.
My younger brother next to me sat up from his crouched position as well. His face was smeared with dirt and clothes were stained. Mine were probably too. Jacob grabbed his canteen from beside him, sipping the sun warmed water. He ran the end of his sleeve over his wet lips and tossed the canteen aside. "Empty." he breathed. "I hope we can go swimming soon."
I smiled, imagining the cool stream water dancing about my sweaty limbs. It made me yearn for the water more and my mouth thirst for its cool freshness.
"Katrina, Katrina, look, there's Jon!" called out Jacob, leaping to his feet with renewed energy. He bellowed to the road, "Hello, there!"
I stood, as did my mother, who was about twenty feet away from where we were. Jon Hanway stopped before our farm, riding his handsome bay along the road.
"Hello, there!" he returned gaily. "Fancy seeing you about these parts!"
We all laughed-it was always fine to see Jon Hanway. "Oh, Jon, you've been gone so long. Come to dinner with us!" Mother called.
"I will not burden you with-?" he began, walking his horse nearer.
"Pish-posh," Mother shook her head. "I insist. You must tell us all of what is happening."
He smiled, his brown eyes sparkling. "If you insist, then." With a playful nod, he looked directly at me and trotted off back to his house as I lowered my eyes, feeling a blush rising to my face, even though my cheeks were already red with exertion.
"...I wonder what happened with Jon this time. He was gone longer than usual. Maybe he has news regarding Father and Luke and Ed?" Jacob went on, stretched out on the grass in the shade of a sprawling maple, looking to the ceiling of green branches and blue sky as the sun began to near the horizon.
"That would be wonderful." I turned and smiled at him, pinning up a second apron. "I think-,"
"Don't forget to comb your hair nicely, afterwards, Sweet." my mother declared lightheartedly as she passed, a basket full of our garden vegetables .
I rolled my eyes, though I had to smile. "Oh, Mother."
"Mrs. Hanway, Mrs. Hanway" teased Jacob quietly as Mother was out of earshot.
I turned sharply towards him. "Ugh....you are so incredibly...annoying."
He smirked happily as I returned to pin his wet shirt to the line. "Well, I don't know how anyone could marry you-you are so incredibly.....stubborn." he continued jokingly.
I chuckled, but otherwise was silent. I knew he was joking, but the topic of marriage. I didn't think it a terrible thing, to marry for love rather than silly little romances or money. It was certainly not my goal in life, though, unlike most of the girls I had met. It was a topic I had been thinking about for the past year-growing up, my perfect little world changing. What would I do?
Suddenly somber and thoughtful, I complete the hanging of the wet, washed work clothes. They would not dry much that night, but the morning sun would quite quickly the next morning.
I need to do something, I thought abruptly. Jacob, Mother, and I were caring for the farm, acting as if everything was normal....excepting that Father, Ed, and Luke were gone and war was developing, like dark, ominous storm clouds in the distance. And it was true, the farm needed to be tended by someone, and it was something I enjoyed. I had to face the facts, my world was changing, but how? Yet all women were expected to do was marry, have children, and care of house, helpless as war develops and enemies inch nearer. There was nothing I could do, all the same. And if there was, I was a farm-girl, of no subsequence of anybody, with no connections.
Or so I thought.