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"Get in the house, now!"
Elice Weld shielded her eyes and watched the ground fog rising in the distance. She didn't know what was coming her way, but she could guess. The rumors that a Union cavalry unit was in the vicinity had spread like a wildfire on a Kansas prairie.
Rain had fallen all morning. Now the clouds had separated, and the sun heated the earth, causing the evaporation of the water-soaked ground. The cavalry rode through the mist like dark, avenging wraiths bent on the destruction of all mankind. She could see seven men silhouetted on the horizon.
"Izzy, go." Elice didn't want to frighten her daughter but the urgency of the moment could not be denied.
"Go to the cellar. Now."
Izzy's voice echoed in Elice's head, filling her with a wild panic she didn't know how to stop. Every time soldiers approached she was terrified. The last four years had been the longest years of her life. "Do as I say, quickly." Elice hugged her daughter, turning her at the same moment and with a gentle shove sent her through the open door of her house.
Elice knew the panic in her voice would mobilize her young daughter. She despised the fear and the terror. She loathed the war. She looked up. The fog was dissipating, and she could see the dark blue of the Union coats. She didn't have anything left for the soldiers to take. Good God, they'd taken everything already--everything save her daughter and her hope for the future.
She inhaled a quick breath then stood on the steps, hands folded together in front of her, watching the dark wraiths inch closer. She knew from experience she couldn't fight these men. She would do as they said and when they left, she would put the pieces of her life back together.
Until the next time…
"Mama," Elice jumped when her daughter tugged on her skirt before looking at her with sorrow-filled eyes. "Are the soldiers going to take my doll?"
"No," Elice ruffled her little girl's hair. "Go back inside. Go to the cellar and don't come out until I tell you it's safe."
"What about you?"
"I'll be fine." But Elice knew she might be lying to her child. She wasn't always fine when the soldiers invaded their home. "Now go and don't make me say it again. Stay there until I come for you."
Izzy nodded before she turned and walked through the parlor to the stairs leading to the cellar.
The Three Novellas in A Valentine Anthology are:
The Lending Library by C.L. Kraemer
Chasing Rainbows by Genene Valleau