"Julie!" I heard my nick-name being shouted as the slave lifted me from the wagon. I decided to look for the owner of the voice rather than concentrating on the queer feelings I felt every time this slave touched me. I caught sight of a black haired girl in a red dress running towards me. As soon as my feet touched the ground I walked quickly towards her, and we gave each other a brief, tight, hug. The girl grabbed my wrist and began dragging me behind her.
"Emma," I said with a laugh, "Where we going?"
"To get ready for my wedding!" She said with a giggle.
"Wedding? You're getting married? To who?" I asked shocked. I lifted my skirts with my free hand so I could take bigger steps and keep up with her.
Emma laughed at all my questions and linked her arm into mine. "Billy proposed to me. He talked to my Father the other night. Of course Father was happy, for you know Billy's family is one of the wealthiest in this town. Billy asked if we could be married before he left, and of course Mother was appalled with that idea, because she always wanted a big summer wedding for me." She drifted off with a dream look in her eyes, then patted my hand that was on her arm, "Anyway, Billy explained that he wanted to get married before he left so if anything should happen, I would be well taken care of, and wouldn't have to worry." Emma giggled again, "Father agreed and the wedding will be in a few hours, and I need your help to get ready."
"A few hours! Emma that's not much time; what are you doing out here when you should be getting ready?"
"I couldn't bare the thought of getting ready without my matron of honor there to help me. You're the closest thing I have to a sister, Juliet, and I really need you there." I felt my happiness grow, but I couldn't dwell on it for long as Emma kept talking without taking a breath. "Mother is about to make me go crazy, so you'll keep us from attacking each other." Emma said with a laugh. "Speaking of Mother, she must be in a panic by now, we need to hurry."
We ran through the crowded streets. We past many groups listening to speakers talk of the tyrant Union in order to rally more soldiers. We crawled through the lines as men and boys alike were waiting their turn to enlist. Several of the young, cocky ones as we bumped into them asked of our names so they could name their guns after and when they fall asleep by their guns they can dream of us. Others promised that many Yanks would be killed in honor of us. Though she was very soon going to be a bride, Emma laughed flirtingly at all the promises, and I just gave a small blush and a shy smile.
As we neared the hotel that Emma and her family was staying at, she grabbed my hand and picked up our pace. Emma didn't slow down as she threw herself at the door. I tried slowing down some as only one person could enter the door way at a time, but ended up losing my balance as Emma dragged me behind her and fell down as I tried not stepping on her skirts. I jerked my hand from hers and landed on my hands and knees. I looked up in time as the hostess entered from another room.
"What in the name of heavens are you…" The hostess stopped her scolding as recognized Emma as she was helping me up, "Oh, mercy, child." The hostess put her hand on her heart. "You better get up to your room, Mrs. Lawson is feeling ill with worry, Miss. She's been demandin' tea to be brought up to her, a cold warsh clothe to soothe her head. More pillows, less blankets, a warm bath to be readied in her room. She isn't my only customer, I'll have you know, and my daughter and workers have others they need to tend to."
"Yes, Mrs. Montgomery," Emma stopped the hostess from saying any more and stood up straighter. "That may be true, but none of your other customers have the same influence that my mother does, nor near the money." The hostess's face paled as she realized that she complained to the wrong people. "You will be well tipped for your troubles, not to worry Mrs. Montgomery, my father and I understands how demanding Mother can be. But do know this, I will not stand having my mother being spoke about behind her back with out her to defend herself." Emma gracefully lifted her skirts and marched up the stairs.
I looked over to the hostess and gave her a curtsy. "I apologize, Mrs. Montgomery, for running in here."
"JULIET!" Emma's voice yelled from the top of the steps. I glanced up at them then back to the middle aged lady. I gave her an apologetic smile and walked up the steps as gracefully as I could.
I just reached the top step when a door flew opened and a woman stepped out dramatically. "Emma, my child, where have you been? The wedding will start in less than three hours, and look at you," Mrs. Lawson waved her hand at Emma, "you're a mess! Child, what am I to do with you? First your father allows you to get married two days after the Callaway's boy asked for your hand, no time to prepare, no time at all." Emma's mother turned around and walked back into her room but I could still hear her talking, "Thank the good Lord that there is a war to keep the people's minds off on how fast this wedding came about. Oh, what on earth will old widowed Hemmingway think of this?"
Emma and I glanced at each other and laughed. Mrs. Lawson was right, we were both a mess. To get us ready in time for the wedding would be a miracle. We walked into the Lawson room and Emma was immediately surrounded by three black women all hurrying to get her ready in time.
Mrs. Lawson and I stepped back as we watched. Mrs. Lawson would give pointers to the slaves every once in a while but mostly she kept an eye on the time. When they were finally done, the slaves stepped back and let us take in a full look of Emma in her mother's wedding dress. While getting Emma ready, Mrs. Lawson kept thanking God that she and Emma were close to the same size when she was younger. Of course a few alterations had to be made, but nothing drastic.
"My dear, you look beautiful as can be on such a short notice." Emma smiled and brushed the skirt of her wedding dress.
"What do you think, Juliet?" She looked up at me with curious eyes.
"I think many more guns will be named Emma." I let my smile get bigger as Emma blushed at the remembrance of the foolish boy's promises. "You look lovely." Mrs. Lawson suddenly let out a gasp. I quickly turned to her, I saw her looking me up and down with horror filled eyes.
"Juliet, I've completely forgotten that you haven't had any notice on this. What hotel are you staying at so we may get you a dress?"
I felt blood rush to my face. "I don't think I was told. Anyways, I didn't pack a dress for an occasion such as this. I-I have nothing to wear."
"Oh dear, oh dear. What can we do? We can't have you be dressed like that. Oh, my poor nerves." Mrs. Lawson placed her hand her chest and sat down on the bed.
"You can wear my red dress." I gave Emma a confused look, and she pointed to the dress that was laid out on the bed next to her mother. Mrs. Lawson stood up.
"But, Emma, there's no way-" Mrs. Lawson interrupted my protesting.
"Yes, this will work. Not the best, but it will work." She grabbed the dress up with one hand and snapped her fingers at one of the slaves. "Here take this to Mrs. Montgomery ask her to have it ironed it out as soon as possible. Well, don't just stand there, shoo!" Mrs. Lawson shut the door and turned back to us. "Alright, while we are waiting on that we'll start on your girls' hair."
The two remaining slave girls got to work on our hair as soon as we sat down. Emma's mother stood barely an inch away from the slave girl working on Emma's hair. She kept pointing out stray strains of hair and telling the girl what she didn't like. I glanced at the mirror's reflection up at my girl and gave her a small smile. She smiled back at me and continued with my hair; twisting, pinning, curling, until it was in an elegant bun that had some locks twirling from it and a lock of hair on each side of my face curling into springs. Emma's hair was more or less still down, she glanced at me through the corner of her eye and winced as her mother pulled on her hair some.
From the mirror's reflection, I caught sight of Emma's girl looking at mine and rolled her eyes as Emma's mother kept fussing with the way she was trying to put it up and my girl had smirked, and touched up my hair a little. This surprised me. I've never seen any slave sass someone of a higher standing in life. I've heard of it, of course; and watched from a distance on several occasions as some of my father's friends carry out punishment for imprudent slaves.
"Well, it's about time." Mrs. Lawson brought me from my thoughts as she walked to the door. I hadn't notice that the other girl entered again with Emma's red dress. "Come here, Miss Juliet, lets hurry to get you dressed." The older woman beckoned me with her hand.
"Mrs. Lawson, I hate to be rude, but Emma and I don't exactly share the same…" I broke off my sentence and blushed deeply at the personalness of the conversation, so instead I gestured to my body and then Emma's. When standing Emma was an inch or two taller than me, but she had a smaller waist, the dress would be too long and too small.
"Now, don't worry none, my dear. The dress will fit." Mrs. Lawson waved off my words, and I bit my lip nervously at the determination that was in her voice. I sent a pleading look at Emma but all view of her was being blocked by the two girls who worked on our hair.
"Come along, Miss Juliet, step out of that dress. And you girl," Emma's mother snapped her fingers at the girl who had ironed the red dress, "Help her, and tighten her corset." I walked behind the dressing curtain and the slave girl followed me.
My hand automatically went to my stomach as the girl pulled the strings to tighten my corset. I started to breath like Mother had taught me. Short, slow breaths through my nose. I held my arms up and the girl slipped the red dress over my head.
I felt the girl tug on the sides of the dress trying to get the buttons to work. Finally she let out a sigh and called out to Mrs. Lawson.
"The dress ain't gonna fit, ma'am." Mrs. Lawson walked to our side of the dressing curtain and tried the buttons herself.
"Well, you just need to get the corset tighter." She wiped her hands on her dress after she couldn't force the buttons either.
"Tighter?" I squeaked.
"Yes, tighter. Here, come along, child." Emma's mother pulled me by my elbow out from behind the dressing curtain and towards the bed post.
"Now I want you to wrap your arms around the post and hug it." Hesitantly, I did what she said.
"Now, you put you foot on the end of the bed there." Mrs. Lawson continued to give directions from behind me and from the corner of my eye I saw one of the slaves tattered shoe on the foot board of the bed. "Alright, good." Mrs. Lawson voice sounded pleased, "Now Miss Juliet, suck in as much as possible, and try not to breathe." I nodded my head, and took a deep breath, begging my body to shrink.
"Now pull!" The slave pulled, and I felt the corset get tighter. I let slip a small gasp and my right hand let go of the bed post and to my abdomen.
"Again." The sharp voice barked again. My eyes widened as my hand went back to the post. Surely, this corset couldn't get any tighter.
The corset slowly got tighter. I started to get dizzy from the lack of air. I felt something snap inside of me, followed by a sharp pain that made me give a small quiet cry. The slave started tying the string. I felt tears well up in my eyes as even the slightest movement caused the pain to return again and again. When the corset was tied the red dress was put on again. A perfect fit.
"You look absolutely darling," Emma raved as soon as I let go of the bed post and turned to face everyone. I glanced as Mrs. Lawson, who gave me a short nod of approval.
"Now, Miss Juliet, pinch your cheeks, dear, you're looking a bit pale."
The wedding was done quicker than a traditional one. There were a surprising amount of couples who were getting married before the young brave men raced off towards war.
The pain in my abdomen went numb and warm when I stood perfectly still, but that was impossible to do during the wedding. The walk down the aisle, taking the flowers that were used in the weddings that were earlier today, trying not to fidget while Pastor Marc spent a few minutes reflecting on watching the young couple as they grew up. He joked about how Billy could never sit still during church, and how sweet Emma was during her baptism. Then I handed the flowers back to the happy bride, then the walk back down the aisle.
Though no matter how quick it was, it wasn't short enough. I couldn't stop the tears, so I just forced a smile and pretended that they were tears of joy for my friend.
I watched as Billy helped Emma into the carriage before he climbed in himself. After a quick kiss between the two, Emma turned around and waved to her wedding party. I blew her a quick kiss and decided against raise my hand to wave her away. I took in a painful deep breath as new husband and wife rolled away and looked around at the busy street, wondering where on earth my family were off too. Movement from the corner of my eye caught my attention.
Emma's brother, Antony, walked towards me. He flashed me his mischievous grin and I felt my legs go weak. "Shall we go for a walk?" He held his arm out to me, and I gladly accepted.
We walked to a less crowded part of the town, we didn't say much. Mainly just said 'hello' to people we knew on the street. Something on Antony's face showed that he had something to say, and when I asked about it, he just gave me a tight smile. I took this as my first chance to truly look around the town.
There were lots of people around. It reminded me of the fourth of July celebrations, only everyone was dressed in their Sunday's best instead of patriotic colors. This fact painfully reminded me that I was no longer apart of Union and that the handsome man holding my arm and his new brother-in-law were going to war to fight for our freedom as our fathers before us.
Antony pulled my arm abruptly, causing me to lose my balance and stumble. My ribs screamed in protest. Once I got back my balance, he was still dragging me behind him. He led me to a alley between two buildings and forcefully, but gently, backed me into one of the walls.
"Mr. Antony," I was breathless from the pain but I managed to giggle and continued in a whisper, "What are you doing?" His dark eyes and the sober expression he had on his face told me that he had something important to say.
"Juliet." My smile faded as I felt myself blush. The intensity of his dark eyes was so strong I couldn't look at them anymore so I looked down. It wasn't the fact that he'd said my given name without permission, we've used our names anytime we weren't in public. But he had never said it with such passion, desire and… and… something else that I couldn't name.
Antony lifted my chin with his knuckle and thumb, forcing me to look into those intense dark eyes. I tried looking at other places on his face, his half-smiling lips, the sharp edges of his jaw, his curly black shiny hair. But no matter where I looked, I was drawn back into those dark eyes. I was swimming in those eyes. I barely heard him whisper my name again. Those eyes became my world. They grew bigger, more intense. I saw longing in them.
Then they closed. I was free from their spell, but being suddenly brought back to reality left me confused and dizzy. Something touched my lips. It was soft and warm and made me just as confused as the eyes did. I felt my knees give away and felt myself falling. A strong pair of hands quickly grabbed my arms, and the warm lips pulled away.
"Juliet, are you okay?" Antony asked, his eyes were less intense and filled with concern. I swayed a bit and but Antony's hands helped me stay on my feet. I closed my eyes. He'd kissed me. No one has ever kissed me before.
"Juliet?" My eyes opened, and my blush deepened. Antony looked somewhat relieved. "Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah. You just took me by surprise is all." Antony smiled and blushed.
"I'm sorry about that. I didn't plan on doing that, it's just…" He looked away from me and scratched his forehead and laughed nervously. He looked at me once more. "I actually wanted to tell, um, ask you something," he looked down as he took my hands into his and brought them up as if he were examining them. His thumb stroked the back of my hand softly.
"I wanted to ask if you… if you could…" Antony looked like he was struggling for words. I took one of my hands out of his and touched his cheek. His eyes instantly flashed back to mine. This seemed to bring back his confidence.
"Juliet, I've loved you since we were little and I've been meaning to propose for a while now, I… I… I just never was brave enough to ask you. I know it's too late to ask you to marry me now, because I'm going to war and all, but I want to ask you, if you could, maybe, wait for me?" Antony nervously twitched around when he was talking, but his eyes never left mine. I nodded and gave a shy smile.
He dropped my hand and I gave a squeal of pain as he picked me up by my waist and spun me around. Once he set me down again, he gave me another kiss. Antony wiped away my tears, not noticing that they were of pain instead of joy.
We headed back to the busier part of town. I felt Antony's look at me every few minutes, and I would always blush and look down at my feet.
"I thought for sure that I'd see Adam here. Is he still at college?" Antony's question took me by surprise.
"No. He's-he's…" I kept my eyes straight ahead. I knew if I looked at Antony I would start to cry again, but for a completely different reason.
"Juliet." Antony whispered my name again, it gave me small comfort. "He's, what?"
"He's already gone. He joined the Union's Calvary, and left early this morning." Tears threatened my vision but I fought them off. I felt Antony looking at me.
"I'm sorry, Juliet." I nodded not trusting my voice.
"JULIET!" Both Antony and I looked around to see who was calling my name. Antony was the first to spot the man and pointed my father out to me. He was across the street waving to us. Still linked to Antony's arm, we walked towards my father.
"Good evening, Mr. McKay." As Antony warmly shook Father's hand, I looked up at the sky and was surprised to see how late in the day it already was.
"Good evening, Antony. How's your father doin?" Their handshake broke, and I let go of Antony's arm to grab Father's.
"He's good. Regrets that he's too old to fight for the Cause." Father let out his heart warming chuckle.
"He's not that much older than me, but I'm glad he's staying behind," Father unlinked our arms and put his arms around my shoulders. "Someone needs to protect our beautiful women." He pulled me closer with his arm and kissed my temple, unaware of the pain I was in from the simple movement.
I stopped listening to the conversation and looked around the street. Another couple left the church. A woman in a ruby dress laughed at something the blue dressed confederate soldier said. A young boy, couldn't be no older than 13, turned away from the sign up table with his head down. A slave dressed in ragged dull clothes walked through the crowd with a picnic basket that held a loaf of bread.
"Now, if you excuse us, son, I must take my daughter away for supper." They shook hands again, and Antony raised to tip the imaginary hat at me while giving me a wink.
Father and I were quiet as we walked towards the hotel. This silence made me uncomfortable. Father was usually a man of many words. He always had a compliment on something, whether it be the weather, or how old widowed Hemmingway should keep her mouth shut and mind her own business.
"Antony is a good boy. Always has been." I turned my head to Father and saw him looking at me. I blushed and looked back down at my feet.
"Yes, he is a kind soul." I bit my lower lip.
"He will make a good husband some day, any father would be proud to have him as a son-in-law." I glanced back at Father.
"I already agreed to wait for him, Father." Father's lips twitched into small smile.
"I'm sure if you wished to marry him before he leaves…" The older man didn't continue his sentence. I stopped walking and quickly faced him. A sharp pain shot through my abdomen, I quickly grabbed both of my father's arms for support as my legs went out from under me and closed my eyes, willing the pain to go away.
"Juliet, what's that matter?" I opened my eyes, and saw concern on his face before my tears blurred my vision. "Are you okay?" I shook my head in answer, and let out a small cry as I felt him pick me up bridal style. The only thing I was aware of was the excruciating pain, and my father's heartbeat.
A/N: yeah, i know, it's been forever and a half... But I haven't gave up on this story. This chapter was not wanting to flow right, and now i'm tired of it. So if you see any mistakes, then please tell me. oh and if anyone is interested in becoming a Beta reader, please let me know, and I might update faster... ta ta!