Southern Comfort: Forbidden Fruit under the Hot Sun
Reds and purple dominated the sky as the sun set on a plantation outside Arlington, Virginia. Lady Lucinda brushed crimson rouge on her cheekbones as she contemplated the news of Mister Lincoln’s war against the South.
The nerve of that man to deny our rights!
Putting politics aside, she drew a black line across her lower eyelid. It looked too heavy in the mirror; not that it was too much, but it was as thick as the one on the upper lid.
A bit more on the upper lid. Nicely balanced.
Now bronze on the eyelids themselves. Lighter shade higher on the brow.
All this primping was just for dinner with tiresome friends of her Aunt Elizabeth; it was Lucinda’s style to always look dressed up when visiting. No one ever saw her without her best clothes, makeup and hair.
Despite these considerations, she had other things on her mind - thoughts of William Hawthorne, the handsome Yankee trader from New York who had come to town on business shortly before the hostilities broke out.
Will I ever be able to see him again?
Pale beige powder on a spot she had missed before; the perfect picture of a Southern belle, Lucinda was not one for the frivolity associated with the role. She had a mind, strong opinions, and couldn’t stop thinking about the war.
What will happen if Sherman’s army succeeds? Is this the Biblical Armageddon. If so, is Billy Sherman the Anti-christ, or is it that the Confederacy is the Babylonian Empire?
She trimmed some split ends from her shiny brown hair. She caught the trimmings in a porcelain dish she kept for just that purpose.
She had only spent one afternoon with William, but it was like heaven to be with him. A picnic together by the river. He took her to places she had never been. Places she never knew existed. Forbidden places.
He didn’t exhibit the outward manner of gallantry that the local boys exhibited; he didn’t even kiss as well as some of the Southern gentlemen. Despite a certain boyish clumsiness, he seemed to have a deep respect for women that made up for the lack of sophistication.
Beyond mere respect, he seemed to hold women in awe. She giggled just thinking about it she brushed her hair. A man in awe of women. So unlike the Southern men, all riled up for war against the Yanks, so full of rebel swagger. William, in contrast, was as shy as a fawn.
She never experienced such a sense of power over a man. Anything to experience that again - to be in control of a strong, powerful man.
She thought back on their parting.
“I’ll be back, I promise,” William had said before he left. “I’ll write to you every chance I get.”
But the letters never came. Years passed, and Lucinda joined the war effort as a nurse for the Army of Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee.
One day, she was tending to wounded soldiers near the towpath on the Potomac. There had been terrible battles all the way up to Harpers Ferry and there was no one but she tending to the Yankee prisoners who were injured.
She made the rounds and saw one after another suffering young men, each of whom made her think of the handsome Yankee she so missed. Then she recognized William’s face among the wounded.
She was overjoyed to see him, but he was a prisoner and had a gaping wound in his chest that he would not likely survive.
“Lucy,” he whispered when he saw her. “Is that you?”
“William! Yes William, it’s me. I never forgot about you.”
“I never forgot about you either. I couldn’t write because they censor the mail. Correspondence with a rebel woman is counted for treason,” he replied.
He pulled a diamond ring from his pocket.
“I had been carrying this around all this time. Will you wear it? Will you marry me?”
Tears welled up in Lucinda’s eyes.
“Of course,” she said. “I would love to be your wife.”
They shared a kiss, and for a moment, all the pain and suffering of the war faded away
The next day, she went to his cot, but there was a different soldier there.
“William! Where is my William!”
She moved up and down row after row of wounded soldier, frantically searching for her fiance. Finally, a Lieutenant approached her. She could tell by his expression that he did not have good news.
“Ma’am, that rebel soldier William Hawthorne passed away from his injuries last night.”
“I see you formed an attachment to him. I am sorry. May the good Lord have mercy on his rebel soul.”
Lucy was heartbroken, but she would always treasure the memory of their love and the brief time they had together. She tried to see his face in every wounded soldier that she treated, rebel or Yank, but nothing healed the ache inside.
(c) 2023 Roxane Hall - All Rights Reserved