So, this is what God must have been experiencing before he made the world.
It was completely silent and dark, almost to the point of driving one insane. In any normal circumstance, I probably would have gone crazy by now, but for some reason, I felt awfully calm. My body felt like it was steadily sinking in water. I could feel my hair ballooning out around me, certain strands touching my skin.
I didn't think I was dead. I was breathing, and if I was dead, there would have been no reason to inhale and exhale. That meant that I was still alive, though, and I wasn't sure if I was even that anymore either. So, if I wasn't dead or alive, what did that mean? Wait, if I could breathe, then I wasn't underwater. If I wasn't underwater, then what was this?
My feet touched solid ground gently. My clothes settled around me, silky and soft on my skin. I distantly heard chattering and laughing, along with the clinking of dishes. The noise seemed so foreign after the long while in dimness and muteness. My eyelashes fluttered against my skin as I tried to clear my vision. Everything was a swirl of colors, my head whirling a bit throughout the confusion.
"Miss?" Someone – a man, I assumed – asked, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jumped away from the touch, gasping a little. The sounds grew louder, and finally, everything came together. As I took in my surroundings, everything seemed so much more complicated than just floating in nothingness.
I didn't remember entering a house; nor did I remember putting up this dress on. It was a pale golden color, along with a corset that was so tightly tied around my stomach that it restricted my breathing quite a bit. I reached up to touch my hair, just to make sure that it wasn't floating around. It seemed to be in a sort of fashion piled on the top of my head. My fingers ghosted towards the hair in tendrils around my face.
I glanced around, my eyes wide and my knees feeling about to give out from right underneath me. Everyone seemed to be talking amongst themselves, the women swishing in their skirts and smiling while the men, oddly proper, responded to the flirtatious smiles that were sent their way.
"Miss?" The same voice said again, this time a worried tone to it. I turned towards the man standing beside me, seemingly concerned. His gloved hand was still poised in the air, as if contemplating whether or not to try and touch my shoulder again.
"Are you all right?" The man asked, placing his hands behind his back. He seemed like a nice man, quite a bit older than me. His face had a few wrinkles on his face, signaling the first signs of aging.
"Yes, thank you." I replied, and once the sound was out of my mouth, I nearly choked. That was not my voice. I did not have a British accent. That much I knew.
"Sir, do you know where we are?" I asked nervously. Sir? Since when did I talk like this? This was not right, not right at all.
"Ah, yes." The man replied, gesturing for me to follow him. I did so, smiling politely at everyone who smiled at me, nodding at those who did so towards myself, also.
"We are at the Shaw residence, Miss…?" he trailed off in a question, looking at me expectantly. After skipping a beat, I realized he was asking for my name.
"DeWolfe." I said, surprised at how easily the surname rolled over my tongue. Was that really my name? It sounded so foreign, yet so familiar at the same time. I decided that it was, and the man nodded in approval.
"May I ask why we are at the Shaw residence?" I asked, and the man turned to look at me. The lines between his eyes were a bit more prominent, marking his misunderstanding.
"This gathering is for Robert coming home safely."
"Robert Shaw." The man clarified, smiling at me warmly. "Their son."
"Where was he before this?" I felt horribly uninformed and puzzled. Nothing made sense. Surely, if I was should be here, this would have jogged my memory somewhat? The man was still smiling with a sort of pity in his eyes. It was obvious that he thought I was somewhat mental. Maybe I was. I knew I didn't belong here, but I couldn't quite place where I was supposed to be.
"He was at war, Miss DeWolfe." The man let out a chuckle, his eyes sparkling in what I could easily interpret as amusement.
"Oh, that's wonderful." I said absentmindedly, ignoring the strange glance that I got from the man. My eyes were watching another young man descend the spiral stairs. He seemed a bit older than me, maybe in his early twenties. His dark hair was combed, and his eyes were a deep brown, however, they seemed empty and he looked vaguely jumpy. I felt a rush of sympathy wash over me, as his gaze connected with mine. I smiled a little, and he returned the expression before continuing stepping down to floor-level.
"It seems you've already picked him out of the crowd." The man was smiling knowingly at me now, as if he knew exactly what was going through my mind.
"Excuse me," I whispered, touching the man's arm politely. He nodded and allowed me to walk away. When no one was watching, I made my escape. My mind was whirling again, and I knew that I needed to breathe. I slipped out the double-doors, stepping down the porch stairs. I slowly made my way towards the iron-bar fence.
I gripped the iron bars, staring out at nothingness. Why was this so hard to understand? All I really knew about myself now was that my last name was DeWolfe, I now had a British accent that I was sure was not there before, and that this was not my home. I wasn't even sure if this was my era.
"What year is it?" I mumbled to myself, trying desperately still to make sense of all this. It was either a very elaborate prank, or an incredibly realistic dream, I finally decided.
"1861." A voice answered from behind me. I let out a little shriek, whipping around to look at the new arrival. To my surprise, it was Robert. He looked like he was about to be sick, but tried to smile at me graciously all the same.
"Excuse me?" I blinked at him, trying to calm my speeding heart. I really didn't know why I was so jumpy; the only reason I could think of was that I was simply in an unfamiliar environment.
"The year," Robert explained, walking over to stand beside me. His gloved hands reached out to grab the iron bars, mirroring my stance. "is 1861."
"Oh," I replied faintly before I really realized what he said. "Oh, no."
He side-glanced at me and his eyes seemed dance with amusement. I was happy that I was able to entertain him, even if it was at my own expense. "You seem a bit distressed," he observed. "Did I startle you?"
"Yes, a bit." I admitted, letting a sheepish smile form on my features. His own grin grew wider at my expression, and it no longer seemed forced. Whatever had been bothering him, I seemed to have gotten it off of his mind, even if it was momentarily.
"I apologize, Miss...My God, how rude of me. I haven't even gotten your name."
He cocked his head at me in a question, and I began to panic a little. I wracked my mind for an acceptable answer, when finally, a name popped up.
"Adelina DeWolfe, sir." I did somewhat of a bow-slash-curtsy, trying to conceal the wide beam on my face. I knew my name. That was my name. Oh, hallelujah! A few pieces of the puzzle had finally fit themselves together.
"Please, call me Robert." Robert seemed very entertained by talking to me, and I felt a blush color my cheeks. I must have been making a complete fool of myself. Here I was, speaking to some man who was obviously very influential in this time – or, at least, was from a very influential family - or else no one would have cared had he returned from war or not, and he was probably thinking how silly I was.
"Robert." I repeated quietly, returning my gaze away from him. I heard him sigh and shift positions from foot to foot, and I knew that whatever had been troubling him was back in his mind and agitating him even more. I took a deep breath before deciding to intervene.
"Robert?" I turned back towards him. He met my stare, raising his eyebrows in a bit of a question. "Are you all right?"
"Yes." Robert answered automatically. He looked down at his hands that were still holding the fence. He released his death-hold and flattened his palms against the outside of his thighs before sighing and turning back towards me. "Actually, no."
I was silent, avoiding his gaze because I wasn't sure how to respond. Was I supposed to egg him on, or would that have been considered rude? Was I supposed to just let it go, or would that have been conceived as impolite, also? So, instead of saying anything, I just looked at him searchingly. If he didn't want to talk about it any longer, that was fine.
"I've been promoted to colonel," he took a deep breath before continuing. "of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry."
"That's wonderful." I beamed at him, but the expression faltered when I saw him smile weakly at the trees in front of him. "Isn't it?"
"Yes." Robert confirmed quietly, swallowing thickly and staring straight ahead as if determined to not make eye-contact with me. "It is to be the first colored regiment."
He glanced at me then, as if expecting me to run away screaming. I just looked at him blankly, letting my eyelashes flutter to communicate my confusion.
"A regiment is a unit of one-thousand soldiers." Robert explained, as if he believed that was what I didn't understand.
"I am aware of that, thank you very much," I snapped, a little offended that he believed I was really so incompetent as to not know what a regiment was. Robert seemed taken aback, and hastily I added, "sir."
Robert blinked a few times, stunned at my sharp answer. Then, he smirked. "I apologize." He said softly. Before I could answer, we heard footsteps approaching, and Robert turned towards the intruder. It was another man, a few inches taller than Robert. His dirty hair was matted to his forehead, and his grin seemed drunk, the bottle of wine confirming my suspicions. The clothing he wore was ruffled and messy, and his bow-tie was loosely tied around his neck.
"What's the matter, Robert? Too much punch?" The man asked, laughing as if that was the most hilarious thing in the world. Robert chuckled nervously, before shifting away from the man. The smile had suddenly turned forced on his face. I nearly choked at the smell of alcohol on the man's breath, but I simply coughed. That caught the man's attention, and he smiled at me.
"Hello, there, Princess."
"Hello." I replied politely, nodding at him in acknowledgement.
"Who might this be?" The man asked Robert, his speech very obviously slurred now. "She's quite gorgeous."
I ducked my head to hide my blush, and Robert chuckled again at my bashfulness. "This is Adelina DeWolfe," Robert introduced me, smiling widely. "Adelina? This…strapping young man -" he winked at me then, and I bit back a laugh. "- is Cabot."
"I prefer Forbes, actually. You should know that." Forbes teased Robert before holding out a hand for me to shake. I took his firmly, and Forbes seemingly lost interest in me. He faced Robert again, and the two began to talk about the regiment. My mind wandered elsewhere, until I heard Robert say, "My mother is insisting that I have someone help me."
This sparked my interest, and I tuned back into the conversation, blinking once. I could be good at helping. Besides, it was a war. I'd always wanted to be in the military, hadn't I?
I'd always wanted to be in the military. The thought occurred to me, making my heart soar. I had remembered that I'd always wanted to be in the military. Yet another piece in the metaphorical puzzle of my previous life fit together, but the riddle was still very far from being solved.
Forbes put on a shocked face, slapping his hand on his chest in a joking manner. "What about me? I am perfectly capable of being at your aide, Colonel Shaw."
"Not if you're always drunk, you're not." Robert laughed as a genuinely puzzled expression crossed his friend's face.
"Robert?" I said suddenly, calling all attention to me. Forbes and Robert looked at me curiously, and I swallowed nervously, clasping my hands together. "I'd like to be your assistant, if you'll permit it."
The words scrambled out of my mouth and I immediately wished to take them back as the two men faced me, all signs of joking lost. The silence was deafening. Robert's mouth dropped open in a very ungentlemanly way, and Forbes placed his hand under the shorter man's jaw to close it, but he too looked quite shocked, his sea-colored eyes wide.
"You're not serious, are you?" Forbes asked. "Princess, I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but there is a war going on at the moment."
"I am perfectly aware of that, thank you very much. I am not as incompetent as you seem to think, you know." I said sharply. Forbes seemed to like this reaction, and he smirked.
"I don't believe that you are ready for a soldier's life, Princess." Forbes chuckled.
"Well, I'm not going to be on the battlefield, now, am I, sir?" I pointed out, spitting out the title as if it were a horrible insult. "I'll be Robert's assistant – unless, of course, you are envious of someone else consuming all his attention?"
Forbes' smirk grew wider, and he clapped Robert on the back. "I like her, Rob." He declared. "You should agree to have her be your aide. I'm sure that it would be pleasant having her around."
The shorter man's eyelids blinked once, then twice, as if he really wasn't sure what to say. He looked at me, then back at Forbes in uncertainty.
"Miss DeWolfe," he said, his dark eyes trained on me. "are you positively sure that you want to join us? The army is hardly any place for –"
"A woman?" I replied. "Or, as Forbes so kindly put it, a princess?"
Forbes choked back a laugh.
"With all due respect, if I'm not able to fight because of my gender, I would like to be able to do something to assist you." With an afterthought, I quickly added, "Sir."
Robert nodded slowly, not saying anything for a while. I watched him intently. Forbes had once again lost interest in me, and his eyes were now trailing a brightly-colored butterfly as it fluttered in disorganized patterns. Finally, the dark-haired man sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"If you're positive –"
"Then it's settled." Robert said, clasping his hands behind his back. "Miss DeWolfe, we depart for camp tomorrow at dawn. Do not be late."
With that, he turned on his heel and stalked away, leaving me to bask in the glory of finally living my dream.
oh, i must say, i am really excited about this story. normally, i do love triangles, and i may or may not do that in this story. anyways, i do hope you enjoyed reading this! please review, it'll make my day.
if you don't mind me asking, what was your favorite line from the chapter? favorite part?
also; how do you think i portrayed robert and forbes? i know most stories portray robert as serious and worried and forbes the exact opposite, so i tried to do that.
please, please, please review.