A Beginning

By Simply Shelby

Sarah Phillips gazed outside the window of the Pennsylvania printer house. She would usually be doing something, but she was worried; deeply concerned. Where was he? What was keeping him? He was three hours late, for God's sake! She sighed and shook her head, biting her tongue. A frown creased her forehead and she whispered, "Come on, James, where are you?"

James Hiller slouched deeply in his chair and twirled his quill around his fingers. His other hand was bound tightly to the leg of the chair. His eyes were closed, but the room was pitch black, anyway, and completely silent. He pushed a stray blonde hair out of his eyes. This was not a comfortable position to stay in for three hours. Three hours! Sarah must be worried out of her mind! Oh, God, please keep Sarah hidden! "Stay, Sarah,"

Sarah was at the window again. She had gone ahead and set up the printer herself and had later gone to bathe. He was still not back! Moses had retired an hour ago, but Henri sat at the kitchen table watching her curiously. She felt his eyes on her. "I am worried, Henri," she explained, "Very worried," she tucked her robe closer to her shoulders.

"Do not worry, Sarah," Henri comforted, "You know James: get into trouble, but always get out. I think Moses calls it... full of resource."

"Resourceful," Sarah corrected absently.

"Yes, that is it!"

"Henri, would you like me to put you to bed tonight?" Sarah whispered.

"Yes, yes, please, Sarah!" Henri agreed.

"Go on up and change. I will be there shortly."

She said a quick, but meaningful prayer, "God, protect James,"

The unseen clock chimed. James was guessing midnight. He had an awful headache. Why he was being held in the dark, he wasn't exactly sure, but from what he had caught, he was to be questioned at midnight. And, sure enough, the door opened, letting in a stream of light that burned his eyes. There was a man holding a candle. He shut the door and sat down in the chair across from James.

"So," the man said in a clear British accent, "Mr. James Hiller,"

"Yes, Sir,"

"Do you know why you are here?" the man asked.

"No, Sir,"

"Would you like to know?" the man asked again.

James squeezed his eyes shut, blocking the pain, "That would be favorable,"

"I apologize for any inconveniences, Mr. Hiller." James didn't open his eyes. The man went on, "But complete discretion was needed. We all have been following your articles very carefully..." James opened his eyes. The man's voice had changed somehow. The man continued, "They have decided, Mr. Hiller, that you are too much of a threat to the British..." James froze at the man's next words, "You must be eliminated."

James closed his eyes again. So, they were going to kill him.

"...We must not let that happen."

James' eyes flew open and stared at the man, "Explain."

"Ah, yes, I'm sorry if my accent threw you. You, young man, are an incredibly talented youth. You also tell the Americans what exactly is happening in the war. You have made many men and women realize the need for freedom." The man glanced at his feet, "Including me. I am indebt to you. You saved me; now I will save you. The British will come looking for you early this morning. You will not be there. Understand?"

James's eyes widened, "What about Sarah? Moses and Henri, what of them?"

"They will be fine, I assure you, your friends are not wanted by them."

"You can assure me they will be safe?" James asked.

"Yes, I can,"

James nodded in consent.

Sarah made sure her robe was tucked firmly around her. The redcoat soldiers were giving her looks she did not like.

"You have not seen him since he left this morning? Are you sure?" the man in charge asked.

"I am positive! I would not be up waiting for him, if I had!" Sarah cried, "What has happened to him? Why do you want him? What has he done? Please, tell me!" her green eyes blazed.

"I am sorry to have frightened you, Miss Phillips. Now if you will excuse us..." the three men got up to leave.

"Yes, go ahead."

The men left, leaving Sarah to her worries.

"God, protect James, wherever he is."

Three hours had passed since the man had entered the room. James had been filled with questions, but the man had explained that he could not answer them. Even his name was to be left unknown. A messenger entered the room and whispered something to the man. He nodded and the messenger left.

"The soldiers have left. They have received a tip that you were headed to Boston. You will be escorted home, but I'm afraid you will have to leave blindfolded."

James nodded as the man tied a cloth around his eyes, "Thank you, Sir,"

The man never answered.

The men had left hours ago, but Sarah stood her post by the window. She was beginning to wonder if she should continue her vigil much longer. Daylight would be here soon. A familiar figure appeared out of the shadows, raising her spirits. Sarah threw the door open. James smiled at her. She couldn't bring herself to move, she was so overcome with relief. Thank God.

James smiled at Sarah, a bit surprised to see her up at this time, but he remembered the redcoats had questioned her. Her emerald green eyes filled with tears and she leaned into the doorjamb for support. He rushed forward and took her into his arms, "Aren't you a sight for sore eyes!" He stroked her soft, red hair and breathed deeply. She was shaking...trembling? "Sarah, Sarah," he whispered, "Sarah, what's wrong?"

Sarah didn't move. She only shook her head, burying it deeper into his shoulder. James put his hands on Sarah's shoulders and pushed her gently away form him. She was crying. Her lips were moving- the same words over and over: Thank God, thank God, thank God... "Oh, Sarah," he moaned in sympathy, brushing a tear from her cheek, "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have worried you."

Sarah tensed under his grip, "Worried me!" she whispered, "Worried me!" her green eyes flashed.

"I was... detained, Sarah, on my way back."

"Detained!" she yelled harshly, "Detained! And, what in God's name detained you for so long!"

"Sarah..."he began.

She was shaking, this time from rage. She jerked out of his grasp and glared at him, tears streaming down her face, "What did you do? Why were they looking for you? What stupid prank did you pull? What did you do, James? I worried! I've stayed up all night long assuming the worst! God, James, I thought you were dead!"

"I would have been had I been here," James whispered, calmly.

"Dead, James, that's what I thought -what?" her face paled as his words registered, "What do you mean?"

James opened his arms slightly, "Come here, Sarah, I don't want you dropping of your feet."

She stepped into his embrace, tentatively. She was unused to this side of her friend, not to mention it was improper. But, it was just her and James. No one was there to yell at her about propriety. "What do you mean, James?"

He smiled grimly and wiped her tears, "The soldiers, Sarah, did they ask for my whereabouts?" Sarah nodded, "Do you know why?"

"They said they needed to speak with you,"

James sighed, "Not quite, Sarah. I said I was detained and I wasn't lying. I was...kidnapped and warned. It seems my writings have proved to be a threat to the British. They came here this morning to arrest me and silently kill me. After all, I am an orphan; no one would notice. But, before I-"

"I would notice," Sarah said, her voice lower than a whisper.

James glanced down, "What?"

Sarah gazed into James's deep sapphire eyes, her own eyes shining with an emotion James couldn't decipher, "I said, 'I would notice,' "

James froze. "Oh," his face was etched in disbelief, "I didn't think any one...well except for Ben- I mean, Dr. Franklin..." he stuttered, "I just thought...You would?" he finally finished.

"Yes, James,"

She was so beautiful, her hair, her eyes, her manner, the way she was always scolding him, and now this… she'd always had a way with words. James leaned down to kiss her. Her eyes slipped closed, but James caught himself. He let go of her and stepped past her, his back to her. His jaw clenched firmly. "I apologize, Miss Phillips, it was impulsive of me and I behaved with a conduct unworthy of a gentleman. Please forgive me."

Sarah stared at James for several minutes, wondering. He hadn't moved a muscle, waiting for her response. His voice snapped her out of her reverie.

"I-I understand if you cannot forgive me, but I beg of you to accept my apology."

"I…um...I accept your apology, James."

"Thank you," James walked toward the stairs, leaving Sarah to watch him, feeling disappointed. She knew that it would have been improper, but she had wanted that kiss…

"Wait," James breathed andshook his head, slowly.Steeling his determination, he strode swiftly across the room, wrapped his arms around the girl and gently brushed his lips across hers in a feather-light kiss. Just as swiftly, he let her go and fled from the room.

Sarah was still reeling from James's impulsive action. A light blush graced her cheeks as she reached up slowly and gently touched her lips, awed. It was a beginning; unstable maybe, in the middle of a war, yes, but a beginning, nonetheless. And Sarah couldn't be happier…