I never expected the letter. Nobody in my family did. But it came, and we could do nothing against it.
My mother sobbed, sitting in her favorite wooden rocking chair and weeping, her hands on her face. Her bony frame was hunched over, her green eyes overflowing with tears.
My father did not cry. He stood, leaning on his cane, head down, staring at the floor.
My sister was latched onto me, hugging me tight, burying her head in my shoulder.
“Please come back,” She hiccuped into my ear. “Say you’ll come back.”
“Don’t worry, Annika.” I said reassuringly. “This ‘war’ will be over before we even get to Helmington. Trust me, I’ll be back.”
I pulled her close and whispered. “Be strong for Mother and Father. They’re ancient now. You’ll need to pitch in, do my part of the work.”
Annika huffed, wiping away a tear. “It’s not that hard to milk a cow.”
“Have you tried milking that monster? She nearly took my head off the first time I did it.” I pushed her away and knelt in front of my mother.
“My boy, my little boy.” She weeped, as though I was seven and not eighteen. “My little, little boy.”
“Mother.” I caught her hands in mine. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. This war with the Rebels is ridiculous.”
“You should get going.” My father said, not looking at me. “You don’t want to be late.”
I picked up my old beaten-up black bag and heaved it over my shoulder.
And with that, I turned and walked out of the house. My mother’s sobs followed me.
I walked down the old dirt road, then paused, stopped, and turned.
The sun was high, casting its rays down on my little farm home, the one that had been in my family for four generations. The house wa modest, small and white, and beyond it stretched fields and pastures. I could see the horses galloping, kicking up dust as they frolicked.
I began back down the road. My hand found my pocket, and I drew out a piece of paper.
The Pervence Household,
All fit and able men over eighteen in your household are required to serve in King Amar’s army against the Rebels. Report to Miller’s Crossing at 9:00 am on June 14. Be prompt. A small bag of personal items is allowed.
Captain Felson of The King’s Army
I blew out a breath of air. Calmly, I tore the letter in half and let the gentle breeze carry the halves away. I felt satisfied when they got stuck in a bush.
I would have jumped, but I was so used to this now that I didn’t.
I gave the boy who trotted up beside of me a dark look, never breaking a stride.
It was Benjamin, my only friend.
The sun glinted brightly off of his glossy dark hair, and his nudged me with his elbow.
“Ready to kick some butt out there in the army?” He did what he must have thought was an impressive ninja stance.
“This whole thing is ridiculous.” I said, kicking him on the shin. “Surely the King’s Army can take care of the Rebels.”
“If they can, then why are they drafting soldiers?” Benjamin asked, holding out his own letter.
“How am I supposed to know?”
“Why don’t you know?”
“Why don’t you know?”
“I asked you first!”
I smacked him.
And kept walking.
On the road to war.