Author has written 1 story for American Girl.
I hope this letter finds you well. I'm not just saying that for formality, either. Nothing really happens around here. Annabelle Cole is to be married in February. Finally, she gets her St. Valentine's Day wedding! If I ever get married (and I'm not saying I will), I'd rather have my wedding in the summer. The weather is so much lovelier! Anyway, she met an English gentleman in New York while visiting her father. They are to be married there, then sail to England in the spring. If you ask me, I think they should just wait until the war is over, but tis not for me to say. Be careful, be safe, and we're all praying for you. Oh, and Mother and Father and everyone else say hello as well. Merry Christmas!
He smiled as he read her letter. Annabelle Cole to be married! For some reason, she was always hanging around the store making googly eyes. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why. Maybe there was a regular customer or someone she admired. But those days were over. She was to be married, and here he was at Valley Forge as a soldier. War, he had quickly learned, was not fun. Especially here, where most everyone lay ill or dying. Ben was thankful he was healthy. Tired, but healthy, for the most part. "You're smiling," said Matthew, one of the friends he had made over the past two months. There were five of them: Ben, Matthew, John, Luke, and Daniel. All but John had joined at the same time; John had been there for a year already. Ben looked up. "Am I?" he asked. Matthew nodded. "Who's it from?" "Just a friend," Ben answered. "My master's daughter, Felicity."
"A sweetheart?" teased Matthew. Ben laughed. "She's but twelve years old!" "Poor Davidson," sighed Matthew. "The only friends he has are twelve year old girls." "Like you," retorted Ben with a grin. Matthew grinned back. "Oh-ho," he said. "Feisty, aren't we?"
"In my defense," said Ben. "You walked right into that one." Matthew opened his mouth in protest, then closed it. "I did, didn't I?" he laughed. "In seriousness, though, do you have anyone?"
"A girl?" Ben clarified. Matthew nodded. "No," Ben admitted. "You?" Matthew got a dreamy look in his eyes. "Rebecca," he said softly. "Her name is Rebecca." Ben propped himself up on his elbow. "What's she like?"
"Where do I start?" sighed Matthew. "Big blue eyes, golden hair, the most beautiful smile you've ever seen. When I kiss her, it feels like I've died and gone to heaven." Ben thought back to when he was sixteen and had an affair with a friend's sister, Diana. Not an affair affair, just an innocent relationship between a boy and a girl. Then Felicity came between them, and later Diana and her family moved to Maryland. He remembered one day when the store was completely empty except for the two of them. He suddenly had the impulse to kiss her, and kiss her he did, right on the lips. Both had enjoyed it, too, and that was the first and last girl Ben Davidson had kissed. "I'm going to marry her when I go home," Matthew went on. "I haven't asked her father yet, but I promised her I would. I even gave her a ring."
"You're brave," said Ben admiringly. "I'll probably never get married."
"Why not?" asked Matthew. Ben shrugged. "I'd be afraid she would laugh in my face," he said. "Besides, the idea never really appealed to me."
"You wouldn't be afraid if you really loved her," Matthew pointed out. "If it's the right person, you know quickly." Ben shrugged again. "It doesn't really matter anyhow," he said. "After all, I am only eighteen with an apprenticeship I have yet to finish."
"If you don't die first," said Matthew. Ben raised an eyebrow. "Thank you for that vote of confidence," he said sarcastically. "But I promised a- um, certain someone-"
"Felicity," cut in Matthew.
"Maybe," said Ben. "That I would come home safely."
"And I promised my Becky the same," said Matthew. "I'm just staying down to earth, is all."
"Of course," Ben teased. "Because a man in love is always down to earth, right?" "How would you know?" asked Matthew slyly. "Anyone you're not telling me about?" Ben blushed a little. "Well, tis not as if I've never taken an interest in anyone," he said. "But as for right now, no. Which is probably good because if I did, I'd miss her too much." Matthew smiled sadly. "So you know how I feel," he said. "Well, I'm going to sleep. Tomorrow is another hard day." Ben sighed. "And who knows if we'll even be here anymore."
"Exactly," agreed Matthew. "You see how many are ill. I'm pretty sure Luke is coming down with something."
"Maybe he will recover," offered Ben.
Matthew shrugged. "Maybe," he said. "Good night." He blew out the candle. Ben rolled over on the makeshift bed. Here they were in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, everyone miserable. It was Christmas time, yet no one was merry. About one in four of them were sick, not to mention all of them freezing and starving. Ben was thankful he had relatively decent clothes, though he probably wouldn't be allowed to step foot in the dining room at home dressed the way he was. He had been in the army two months and was already exhausted. Meanwhile, just twenty two miles away, the British were warm and cozy and happy, not to mention probably drunk. It wasn't fair at all. He thought back to last year at this time. He was with the Merrimans, barely seventeen years old. He remembered Felicity saying, "Enjoy this; it may be your last Christmas." And he laughed and assured her it wouldn't be. "I shouldn't have promised her so much," he now thought. Felicity had always resented his decision to join the army, and now he knew why. Yes, he was alive now, but a year from now? A month? Even a week? Who knew? He hadn't even seen battle yet, and he was already sure he was dead meat on a stick. "Remember what you're fighting for," whispered his conscience. He rolled his eyes. Conscience, shmonscience. Suddenly extremely tired, he yawned and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Nobody's spirits were better the next day, though they were never raised in the first place. Those who were able did the chores and helped with the sick. The hospital, Ben decided, was a living hell. Cries and moans of the dying rang everywhere. He hoped he would never have to endure that. That evening, the five of them sat in a tent, Ben writing to his parents, Matthew and John engaged in a game of cards, and poor Luke out cold. "Mail call!" cried Daniel, bursting in with snowflakes in his hair. Matthew hopped up. "Anything from Rebecca?" he asked anxiously. Daniel grinned. "Maybe,"he said slyly. John grinned too. "Why so excited?" he asked. "Because a certain someone has a lover," said Ben airily. All the boys whistled. Matthew shrugged. "I'm not going to deny it," he said. "Besides, you all are just jealous." Everyone laughed. "Not me," said Ben.
"Not in this lifetime," Daniel contributed.
"I'm already married," added John.
"You're lucky," said Matthew.
"How so?" inquired Daniel. Matthew grinned. "Let's just say that he knows what to do in a bedroom." Ben and Daniel doubled over. John smiled calmly. "From what I understand, Mr. Holloway," he said. "You know what do to as well as I." Daniel fell over, and Ben gaped at Matthew. "Matthew Holloway!" he gasped.
"Oh, as if you've never done it," said Matthew. Ben shook his head. "I can honestly say that no, I haven't." Daniel regained his composure. "Anyway," he said. "One for Mr Love-Machine-" he and Ben snickered. "One for Ben-"
"That's funny," remarked Ben when he saw it was from his parents. "I was just writing to them."
"One for Luke," Daniel continued. They all glanced at sleeping Luke. "I'll get him," Ben offered. Gently, he shook Luke. "Wake up, Luke."
"No, Mama, I don't want to go to school," Luke mumbled. "Five more minutes."
"You'll miss breakfast," said Ben. Luke sat up like a lightning bolt. "I'm up!" he cried. "Letter for you," said Daniel, handing it to him. "From Mama," said Matthew under his breath. Ben grinned at him. "Anything from Grace?" asked John. Daniel double checked. "No," he said. "Not yet." John's face fell. "Oh," he said quietly. "I'm sorry," said Daniel. Grace was John's wife, who, Ben happened to know, he loved dearly. He hadn't heard from her in six months. Ben put his hand on his shoulder. "She's all right," he assured him. "She will write, you'll see." John smiled sadly at him.
Later that night, while everyone traded stories around the fire, Ben wrote a letter to Felicity:
I hope that you and your family are well. I am, all things considered. I'm cold and hungry and tired (and I haven't even seen combat yet!), but at least I'm not ill like so many of us are. Everyday someone else dies. This winter is the worst I've seen, but that might be because I'm used to being in a warm house. As far as the war goes, no news is good news. I can't say how long it will last; all I can say is that I've been here two months and am ready to get out of here!
I've made some interesting friends here. There are five of us: myself, John, Matthew, Daniel, and Luke. John is the oldest; he's twenty two and married. Matthew is a year older than me, Luke a few months older, and Daniel a few months younger. Four out of five of us, I'm starting to think, are far too immature for war, though I've seen boys here as young as fourteen. I feel bad for them. For most of them, this is their first time away from home. Who knows if they will make it back?
Please give Annabelle my heartfelt (and I do mean heartfelt!) congratulations on her marriage. Say hello to everyone for me. Stay out of trouble, merry Christmas, and happy new year! Here's hoping for peace.
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