Squaring away

I wriggled again, uncomfortable on the hard bench, and gained a stern look from my teacher. Pa had taken me out to the yard, early in the morning, and tanned my hide good and proper, while my Sis broke her fast and primped for church. Now, I was stuck in Sunday School, hungry and aching, under the squinting gaze of the young assistant pastor.

He was an earnest man, who looked like he'd be more comfortable stripped to the waist and sweating in a blacksmith's shop than trussed in his long, black robe with its starched, white collar biting into his thick neck. However, for all his looks, he was a reasonable teacher, and more of the village's children were passable with their numbers and letter than had been the case before his arrival.

Outside, the sun shone down brightly, illuminating the stained glass of the upper windows and casting coloured shadows, while the scudding clouds made them appear to dance across the dusty floor. Most of the boys sat on the window side of the room, and when they could, watched the breeze and it ruffled the long grass in the church yard, longing to be playing at soldiers rather than copying this morning's lesson. The other girls sat as far from the boys as they could, and worked, with some diligence, when they weren't passing notes about ribbons and shoes and hats.

I sat between the groups, mostly excluded from both; from one by virtue of my sex, and the other by my poverty and lack of interest in fripperies. My daydreams centred on the huge map that covered the far end wall of the room. It had come with the young pastor, and was mostly convenient for covering the loose, stained plaster from the leak that had sprung during one of the harsher storms, several years before. However, for me, it was much more than that. That map was my escape. I dreamed of seeing the far away places, whose names I'd learned to say in my head. I found some of the places the sailors at the tavern spoke of, but many others were still beyond my reach, but I didn't let that stop me from imagining the journey, and the arrival.

The other girls of my age talked of riches and husbands and families. The boys wanted to be soldiers, and win honour in battle. I just wanted to see more of the incredible sights that were hinted at by the stories I heard each night.

The End

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