1941, Maycomb County, Alabama
As I walked into my snug house, I could hear the radio blaring in the living room. "Hey Jem," I said as I headed towards the kitchen, tossing my 18-year-old brother a quick glance. He was hunched by the radio, listening intently. He didn't respond. I sighed, but continued on my path to the kitchen.
"Hey Cal," I said, sitting down on a stool. "Bit chilly, isn't it?"
"Yes Scout, out of season for Maycomb, certainly," Calpurnia replied, dicing up herbs for the chicken. That winter, December to be exact, I was fourteen years old. I still preferred overalls instead of dresses, but Aunt Alexandra would have none of that. Dresses were to be my frilly prison. I could still hear the radio.
"Jem!" I shouted, sticking my head out of the kitchen door, "Turn that down please." He ignored me. Angrily, I walked over to him, then, hearing the words the reporters said, I froze in place.
"Pearl harbor has been bombed by Japanese planes," the reporters voice said. "The United States is at war."
"Jem?" I asked hesitantly. Looking up at me, he seemed to understand to question I couldn't bring myself to ask. He nodded, his brown eyes conveying his melancholy. He was going. Jem, my brother Jem, was going to war. I couldn't help the tears welling up in my eyes. "No Jem! No!" I was stomping my foot like a little girl, a stupid girl.
"Scout," he said, coming to me. He enveloped me in a warm hug, and I let out all my tears on his chest.
"Why do you have to?" I inquired.
"I'll be drafted Scout. I've got to," he replied simply.
"Atticus had to defend Tom Robinson, but that wasn't the only reason he did it," I countered.
"I just…" he stopped.
"Come on," I prodded him.
"I just want to do something, help."
"You can help here! Please Jem, I don't want to lose you," I pleaded, biting my lip to keep from sobbing.
"You won't lose me," Jem comforted me, holding me tight. "I'll be back soon, as soon as it's over." After my sobs had settled down, Jem added, "we can write." The yellow walls of the room seemed to be pressing down around me, suffocating me.
"I'll go too," I whispered.
Jem laughed. How he could be so brave I never understood. "Go on back to the kitchen, tell Cal." Wiping my eyes, I ran back to get Calpurnia, telling her the news. "God Almighty," she muttered, "Bless the dear boy."
We spent the rest of the afternoon quietly. Aunt Alexandra was at Mrs. Merriweather's and Atticus was at work. Jem read the paper and I flipped through The Monastery by Sir Walter Scout, as Jem called him. Jem…
Atticus walked through the front door and I ran to him. I hugged him, trying my hardest to hold in tears. I never remembered a time when I had cried so much. "Son?" Atticus asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Yes sir. I'm going," Jem replied, slowly folding up the paper, a habit he had adopted from Atticus.
Atticus nodded briskly, but I could see fear flash in his eyes. Looking down at me, he managed a smile. I didn't believe it for a second.
"Atticus, can I go for a walk?" Jem asked.
"Can I go too?" I asked.
"No-" Atticus started, but Jem stopped him.
"Sure Scout." He pulled on his jacket and, handing me mine, sprinted out the door.
"Where're you going?" I asked once I had caught up with him.
"Eleanor Drigger's house," he said, and I smiled at him. He blushed. Eleanor and Jem had been dating (I guess you could call it that) for a year now. He always told her how he would marry her; just drop by one her front steps one day with a ring. I thought it was sweet. When we arrived in front of the small brick house, Jem went up the stairs, two steps at a time, and knocked on the door. He stepped back a foot and clasped his hands behind his back. Jem whistled an old tune, while a mockingbird, up high in a tree, imitated him. After a few seconds, a pretty girl with braided brown hair and attentive blue eyes opened the door.
"Oh Jem!" she cried, throwing her arms around him. Their lips connected and I quickly looked down. It could hardly be proper to invade on a personal moment such as this. Once they had pulled apart, Eleanor asked, "So you're going?"
"Yep," Jem replied. "I've got to," he broke in, when he saw her beginning to protest.
"But Jem!" She looked over to me quickly. "Hi Scout!" she greeted, then, realizing what I had just seen her do with my brother, she blushed.
"What time is it?" Jem asked, examining the dark sky.
"Oh. We gotta go. Attics will want us to be getting home," Jem said. They kissed once more, and then Jem began to take me home.
"Why do you have to go?" I asked again. I could tell the question was starting to annoy him.
"Some things you just don't understand," Jem said. I hadn't heard him say that in quite a while.
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