Bang! A possum fell dead. A teenaged girl, holding a rifle and looking very proud of herself yelled, "Yes! Got the critter!"
"I wish you would shut up. Now, you know I HATE guns, and stop wearing boys' clothes, Ceres!" shouted a blonde girl.
"Aya, I'm hearing your Southern accent again. You know Mark would not speak to you for a month, if he hears that. Also, don't pester me about my wardrobe. You know how much I dislike dresses, petticoats, hoopskirts and whatever else women have to wear!" Responded Ceres.
The girls were over at Aya's house. Ceres was taking care of a possum problem of Aya's. There were going to the house to eat lunch.
"So, Ceres, what do want for your birthday?" Aya asked.
"Peace" was the response.
"You really hate the war, don't you?"
"Yes, I do."
"Don't let Mark hear you! He would not speak to you for a month if he heard that" mocked Aya. She was kidding of course. They both teased each other about their crush on Mark Winter.
"Ceres! Aya!" A voice rang out.
"Speak of the devil!" muttered Ceres.
Aya yelled, "Hello Mark!"
Mark was standing on Aya's front stoop, with a gun and a note.
"Ohh, did you already take care of the problem?" Asked Mark, looking disappointed.
"Sorry! The opportunity came up and I took it—Sorry!" Ceres apologized.
"What's with the note?" asked Aya, with a hopeful expression.
"Oh, this is for Ceres!" Aya's face fell. "Your mom gave it to me to give to you!" Mark handed the note to Ceres.
Ceres quickly read it. Then she cried out, "Yes! He's home!" She took off towards her home. Mark and Aya shared a look.
"So, he's home," Aya said.
"Yah, her brother's home . . . I'm going to question him about life in the army!" Mark raced off too.
"Oh, great, now I've got to run too," sighed Aya.
Ceres ran all the way from Aya's house to hers, thinking "yes, today is a great day. June 27, 1863, is a perfect day. No….scratch that, this WEEK is perfect. Nothing could ruin this week!"
Ceres ran into her house, slightly surprised by the men in blue uniforms outside. They looked surprised to see a girl in boys' clothes. But Ceres ignored them. She raced in to the living room. Then she saw her brother for the first time in three years, and with a cry of happiness, she hugged him.
"Dan, how are you? Home for good? Who are the people outside? Why are you still in uniform?" Ceres questioned.
"Hi Ceres. I'm good. Now, those are my friends, because I have to report to General Meade right after this," Dan said.
"What! You're not home permanently?!!" Ceres cried out, now looking as though she was going to cry.
"No, I'm not staying." This comment was directed to the entire family, not just Ceres. "I came to warn you. The Southern Army is near, and so is ours. There's going to be a battle, so be careful." Mark came in during this statement.
"Really? Cool!" He exclaimed.
Dan's friends had also entered. "Not cool." Battle is horrible." One of Dan's friends made the comment.
"Spencer, stop it! You're scaring them," snapped Dan.
"Sor-ry, I'm just speaking my mind! Just telling them what it's like. You know that!" Spencer yelled.
Before this could turn into a real argument, Aya walked in and said to Spencer, "You're cute!" Aya had never been very subtle. Needless to say, Spencer turned very red at Aya's comment.
The next two days passed almost uneventfully, if you did not count the fact that the major part of two opposing armies passed through the town. Dan, Spencer and the others left to return to the Union camp. Ceres' parents had to go help a neighbor get out of town, so Mark and Aya stayed with Ceres. It was now June 30, 1863. The town was deserted. Even before the armies had come through, the town had been partially abandoned. The heat was unbearable and there was no wind at all, even at night. Everything was so still. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a bayonet.
Ceres, Mark and Aya were all sitting in Ceres' room, because it was the coolest. Even so, it was still stifling hot in the evening. There were talking about what was going to happen.
"I'm going to help them!" Mark decided.
"No!" both girls cried.
"And why not?"
"Because it's dangerous and besides, did you not see how many troops both sides have? Nothing you would do would help!"
"You have a point there," said Mark quietly.
"I'm tired," Aya announced. She left to the guest room. Because both Aya and Mark lived on farms, they were staying in town with Ceres until further notice, because of the troops and the battle that was coming. Ceres and Mark were now alone.
"Mark, I don't want you to go. " Ceres said. Then she added, "To join the army."
"Again, why not?"
"Because I hate this damn war! You might die. I---we don't want that to happen."
"I can't leave you alone, anyway. Let's see how this incident turns out." After saying this, Mark left.
BOOM! The sound of the cannon shook the house and its frame. Ceres jumped out of bed and ran down to the kitchen to find . . . no one. Her mama and papa were not home and now it didn't look like they would be able to make it. Ceres could hear the popping of rifles and the roar of the cannons just outside of town. She thought, "Crap! Mama and Papa aren't here. I'm all alone with Aya and Mark. I've got to wake them up and get dressed too."
Ceres ran to get dressed and wake up Aya. After putting on her clothes, she went to wake up Mark and Aya.
"Aya, Aya, wake up!" Ceres yelled the last part.
"What?" Aya said groggily.
"Aya, there's a battle outside! Wake up!" Ceres yelled again.
"What?!" This cry came from the now fully awake Aya. "Crap!"
"Get dressed. I'm going to wake up Mark. Also, my parents can't get home." That got another "what!!" out of Aya, but Ceres was gone.
Ceres walked in to see a shirtless Mark on Dan's bed, fast asleep. Ceres squeaked and turned red. At the same time, cannon roared outside. This time, Mark woke up with a start.
"What's going on? Where's the cannon? Why is cannon going? Oh crap, the fighting!" Mark looked questioningly at Ceres.
"Mama and Papa aren't here, Aya's getting dressed, and I suggest you do too." Ceres said this calmly, but she was still red. "Meet you in the kitchen."
"What are we going to do?" Aya wailed.
"I guess we wait it out." Mark reasoned.
The day continued in such a vein until about 10:00 p.m. Finally Ceres whispered,
"Is it over?"
"No, just stopped for the night." Mark whispered back.
Soon they were all asleep. Ceres woke up first, at the sound of a rifle shot. "I always was a light sleeper" she thought. Then she realized what position she was in. Mark had his arm around her and her head was on his shoulder. Ceres turned red and tried to move, but Mark's arm would not let her go until …. BOOM!
This woke up both Aya and Mark. Mark looked down and turned red. He let go and said, "Sorry."
After that, nothing much happened until about 3 p.m. The cannons went quiet one by one. Then they heard a loud rebel yell. It sounded like the entire army was yelling this yell signified and advance in the lines. They seemed to be charging. This charge (later known as Pickett's charge) seemed to last 45 or 50 minutes, until …. The cannons started going off again.
As night fell, silence fell too.
"Wonder how many are dead?" Aya voiced a question that no one wanted to answer. Ceres closed her eyes and prayed that her brother wasn't among them.
The next day………
The cannons were going again, by sam. The cannons were closer today. They also could hear the cries of the wounded men.
"I'm going to have nightmares for years. And I'm not going to join the army." Mark said quietly.
"Oh." Aya said.
It was as if a bubble finally popped in Ceres.
"How long is the battle going to last? It's been 3 days! Surely the amount of smoke and ammunition and wounded men should have stopped them by now!" Ceres broke down and started crying.
When Ceres finally fell asleep on Mark's shoulder, Aya said,
"Will she be ok?"
"Yes, she will. Ceres is the strongest person I know. Waking up to cannons is just a little tiresome," Mark said.
Much, much later……..
The cannons had stopped. The rifles had stopped. Knock! Knock! Someone was at the door. Aya got up and say that it was Spencer and Dan.
"Spencer, Dan! Thank the Lord! Are you ok? Why are you hear? What's going on with the battle?" Aya's voice was very nervous. Mark was listening but not moving. He didn't want to wake up Ceres, even to see her brother. She needed the sleep.
"The battle is over. General Meade himself dismissed us and we're physically ok." Dan sounded exhausted.
Aya said, "Come in, let me wake up Ceres." She ran to do that.
"Where are mama and papa?" Dan asked.
"We don't know exactly. They were helping a neighbor move to safety when the fighting started." said a groggy Ceres. She went and hugged her brother. "Hey where's Spencer and Aya?"
"I don't know," said Dan. Then…..
"Hey that's Spencer's voice," stated Dan.
Both Aya and Spencer came in, holding hands.
"Ahhhh….." Mark said in a vaguely foreign voice. "That's what happened." He smiled down at Ceres.
"Its extraordinary, how something so good can come from something so horrible." Ceres smiled back at Mark. "But that's life in the small town of Gettysburg."