Not all those who wander are lost
“Haven’t your mother told you that it’s wrong to hit girls? Or worse, shoot them?” she whispered into his ear, her voice quivering with rage. She knew that he was too weak to hurt her again. His eyes flickered, and she wondered if that was the only response he dared give her, after the dangerous words she had spoken. Then she hit him again, at the same place, and the power behind her blow caused him to doublefold in pain. She herself couldn’t feel the pain it had caused her, because the anger within her was too great.
“Come on, boy”, she hissed, and then swallowed deeply, for she could feel the blood running down her arm, fast and warm. He spat; pale, trembling, and a trickle of blood ran from his nose to the mouth.
“Kill me, then”, he murmured hoarsely, “little girl. If you dare.” Annabelle grinded her teeth at the sound of his voice, and gently touched the hilt of her dagger.
“Death is too kind”, she whispered, “but I’m willing to make an exception. See you in hell.” With a quick movement she drew the dagger across his white throat, just above the dark blue collar, before she had time to think twice about it; before the burning anger within her had cooled down.
One year earlier
There was something special about John. She had known it since that day in July in 1863, when the sky had been unusually blue for a summer day and as clear as the mirror-smooth lake by the oak grove. The wind had fled, as if to make room for the dark afternoon sun’s last, caressing rays, and roses and pansies had stood in full bloom, shining with splendor and pride. Birds were singing beautiful songs that compelled Annabelle to sing along.
She sat there, on the green, soft grass with the dark red chiffon dress spread around her like a flower, outside the Johnson family’s white brick house and thought about how happy she was.
Annabelle Johnson, a talented, yet slightly stubborn girl, had everything a young girl at the age of sixteen was expected to have - money, clothes, admirers. She had also been given the gift of singing, and her voice would be likened to the sparrows, when they sang to welcome the spring.
Most of all she was happy because of how well her family had - yet - survived the devastating, raging and flaming war that took North America by force. The war that had claimed the lives of many, way too many young men’s lives. The war that had plunged so many families, rich and poor, into deep mourning - wherever you looked, there were ladies dressed in black and crying, fatherless children, all too well aware of life’s dark justice. There was no end when it came to the sorrow.
The family’s estate was far out in the country between north and south, way too far away from civilization, which explained why the war had not quite reached them yet. Her father, an elderly gentleman with estates spread far along the northern, free Virginia, had been fortunate enough to invest in a fair share of plantations the year before the war -estates which he then had sold expensive during the war’s first year. However, he suspected, with a frown and a cigar in one corner of his mouth, that if he would have waited, he would’ve gotten a lot more for them.
Her father was such that he always thought of what could happen, rather than what actually happened. But Annabelle loved him more than anything else, just as she loved her mother. They were always together, mother and father, whatever happened, whatever was going to happen. They loved each other more than life itself.
That was why they decided to immigrate to North America in the autumn of 1846. Originally, they came from a country far beyond the ocean; a cold country called Sweden. There they had lived poor, until one day, when Annabelle’s mother found out that she was pregnant; their fourth child. It was then that they decided to leave their old life behind; they wanted to give their children - the born ones as well as the unborn - a rich and healthy life in the mythical land beyond the great Atlantic Ocean, for they had heard that America was a land like no other, a country where there was money and food like nowhere else.
They already had three children since before: Daniel - who quickly became Dean when they arrived to the new country - and Sam and Rebecca, who, however, were far too small to understand their parents’ plans of freedom. They had a lot to do before they finally got on the boat and could put Sweden behind. It was a long and difficult journey at sea, but once they stood on solid ground again, they regretted nothing. Just weeks after the boat arrived at the New York harbor, they got their own land just outside the small village of St. Rose, a bit north of Richmond, just where south became north.
When they had lived in America for just a few months, a girl was born, a girl who was named Annabelle Evelyn Johnson. She was beautiful and healthy at birth, and further evidence of America’s fertility. With her hazel eyes and brown curls, no one saw her as anything other than american, for the american language came naturally. Nobody could see that her family had come from a land far, far away.
Annabelle was happy. Actually, if she ignored the full hospitals farther toward Richmond, and all the mourning people dressed in black, she could have thought that the war wasn’t anything but a lie, because her life went on as usual. Very small changes, however, had taken place, such as the good old Mr. Cooper and his eldest son, Jeremy, known as one of Annabelle’s admirers (and according to her parents her betrothed), had gone off to fight to defend their home, the Southern states, with their lives.
Well, sure, she had noted the lack of food, and all too often had to eat chicken instead of beef, and her closet had not gotten as many new dresses lately, but none of it bothered her, for she knew that no matter what happened, she would survive.
But then John came. It was that day in July, the day that always was on her mind. He had looked so interestingly different, when he with determined steps got out of the black wagon, arrived directly from Richmond. He had been dressed in a dark suit with white details - yes, he had looked like a really handsome young man, like someone that her mother and father wanted her to marry, if they hadn’t planned to marry her off to Jeremy Cooper. His almond brown, unusually tousled hair had glittered in the sun, and the deep green eyes seemed as if they could see into her soul. His lips had formed into a wry smile, and Annabelle’s heart had caught on fire. He had been so beautiful, yet so dangerous, and not alike someone Annabelle had ever met. She wanted him as her own, and she always got what she wanted.
Annabelle had then quickly rushed up the stairs, and her well-worn shoes had sounded loud against the bright wood. She had run to her room, where she breathlessly swung open the closet doors and began to choose between dress after dress, muslin and chiffon. She knew that the first impression was the most important, and that a man like John really couldn’t see her, Annabelle Johnson, wearing an ugly dress. She regretted that she hadn’t listened to all the times that Adrienne, her maid, told her to always be dressed up.
“Oh, Adrienne!” Annabelle had sighed to the woman, only one of the many servants that the family had. Adrienne descended from France, but had lived in America since birth. “There is a young man outside, you have to lace my corset, and quickly!” Adrienne had sighed in reply, and then asked Annabelle to hold her breath and squeeze in her stomach. “Thank you. Help me with the dress on, now”, she murmured, quietly, as she bit her lips to make them redder. The dress, a bright purple one made out of chiffon, suited her auburn curls and hazel eyes perfectly.
“Now I must hurry! I pray he’s still here.” Annabelle still remembered how she almost had stumbled on the many skirts when she rushed out to meet the young newcomer.