Love and War

Chapter I - A Patriot

I, Marian Jane Foster, am a woman.

I am not married, not engaged, and certainly not in love.

I am insignificant to every respect of the word.

I am a woman.

I am a patriot.

A knock on the hard oak door made Marian look up sharply, her gray eyes peering through the mousy curls that framed her face. "Bloody hell," she cursed, hastily shuffling the piece of parchment she was writing into a larger stack of paper and shoved her quill into the inkwell. "Yes?" she said, her voice now clipped and proper.

"Missa Marian?" a voice said and the door opened just enough for a slave to poke her head through.

Marian felt relief flood her body, "Oh, Maggie, it's just you," she breathed, moving her hand to her forehead, pushing her hair back. Maggie smiled, if only a little, and moved further into the room, wiping her palms on her stained apron. "I'll be damned if I have to suffer through another of Elizabeth's rants," Marian continued, picking at a loose thread in the sleeve of her simple dress.

"You shoulda be cussin' like that, Missa Marian," Maggie scolded, giving her master's daughter a reproving look. "And I think Missa 'Lizbeth's been asking for you to call her mother."

The younger girl felt the blood rise to her cheeks and she balled her small fists. "I don't care. She's lucky I don't call her what I want to call her."

The slave only clucked her tongue and shook her head. "Shesa getting scared wid all the fightin' goin' on. She says she wants to go back to- to-," Maggie bit at her lip, a slight blush creeping into her face.

"England?" Marian offered quietly, her knees now drawn up to her chest. Maggie nodded, her eyes becoming brimmed with tears. "I don't want to go to England," Marian whispered, her eyes now on her mahogany desk. "Father would never make us leave. He can't, not in the condition he's in."

But Maggie's usual smile faded. "Missa 'Lizbeth will find a way, darlin'. Wid ya father the way he is, I'm 'fraid shesa masta of dis house."

Marian looked up with eyes bright with regretful tears. "I'm afraid you're right."

--

Downstairs, Elizabeth Anne Whitely Foster was tapping her foot impatiently while trying to keep the tall wig on her head from falling. "Where is that girl? I called for her twenty minutes ago," she ranted to no-one in particular, her watery blue eyes narrowed. Her skin was paper-white, despite the obvious lack of powder that came from a day lazing at home, and though her dress was what she called "unfit for company to see" it still was woven of expensive Chinese silk and covered a tightly pulled corset and set of skirt hoops. "If she's not here in the next minute," she began, but stopped herself when she heard heavy footsteps coming from the grand staircase in the next room. "Ooh, that girl," she murmured, storming into the next room. Behind her, she didn't noticed the manservant roll his eyes.

"Marian, I sent Margaret after you twenty minutes ago. Honestly, what do they teach in finishing schools today?" And off she went, touching on every subject from the dismal weather (despite the fact it had been blue clouds and sunshine for the past month) to upcoming parties in the span of merely a minute. Needless to say, Marian felt like jumping in front of a galloping horse.

She smiled every so sweetly and blinked her eyes, "You wanted to speak with me?" she managed to say through clenched teeth.

Elizabeth only wrinkled her nose, "You look like a horse when you do that," she spat, literally turning up her nose at Marian. Her stepdaughter only rolled her eyes, receiving a swat on the shoulder from the fan Elizabeth was clutching in her white, claw-like hand. "What did Madame Leur tell you about that?" she scolded, her eyes wide from the child's 'impertinence'.

"You wanted to speak with me?" Marian repeated, refraining from swatting her stepmother back. With a clenched fist instead of a fan, mind you.

Finally, Elizabeth came to what little senses she had with a huff. "We're leaving for England," she said with a wide smile. If Marian had ever seen a hyena, she would have thought her stepmother was a distant relation.

Marian felt her body begin to shake with rage, "But," she stumbled, a hand at her throat, "My father! He can't be moved from the house in his condition, let alone make the journey to England! What kind of person would-?"

But Elizabeth held up her hand for silence, and surprisingly, Marian did so. "Doctor Morse has assured me that your father has improved enough to be able to. Do you think I would risk my husband's life just to be able to sail three thousand miles in a stinking ship?"

Her stepdaughter frowned and began muttering under her breath in a very unladylike manner. "Marian?" Elizabeth prompted, her voice sharp.

"No, I do not," she admitted, though she had her doubts.

"Good," her stepmother snapped, eyes narrowed to slits. "I've managed to get us passage on one of the generals' ships returning to England. God knows Cornwallis owes me that much," she said as a bit of an afterthought. "We're leaving before the week's end, and pack only what you need. The rest of our things will be coming along on the cargo ships."

But Marian didn't care. England was the last place she wanted to be; surrounded by ignorant Loyalists and their unbearable wives. She couldn't leave.

She was an American.

She was a patriot.