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Don't think of the blood of your comrades as it washes off your hands. If you think of how you failed to save them, you're setting yourself up for disaster.
I look down at the now pink water in my white porcelain sink, trying to think of how I could have done better. I scrub my hands until they are raw, trying to wash off the blood of those I failed to save; my friends, my comrades, my love. However the blood and memories of that night never seem to go away.
Another explosion sounded somewhere behind me; screams of civilians were heard in the distance. I looked down at my love, somewhere between the war raging around us and the screams of others; I found peace when I looked into his eyes. But I began to feel my peace slip away, along with the life in my lover's eyes. His breath was slowly coming to nothing; blood was seeping out of the wound on his chest. Every few minutes he would cough, trying to clear the blood that was starting to gather in his lungs.
Tears started to gather in my eyes, blurring my vision. "Please be okay. Please! Please! What would I do without you?" I cried, my breaths turning into sobbing.
He replied with one simple word, "live."
"You're the only one who knows. You can't leave me with this, alone. Please, William, please. Don't break your promise, please!"
He coughed, blood coming up out of his mouth. "Ali," he whispered, "I love you. You must keep on livin', darlin'; both for me and our baby." With that said he shakily reached up and caressed my face with his bloody hand. "Please live."
His eyes slipped closed and his breathing stopped. "Will?" I shook him, hoping he was still alive. Although I hoped, the logical part of me told me he was already gone. "William? William, please. William, wake up. William! Will! Wake up!" I screamed, pulling his head on my lap. "William…" I sobbed. I began to stroke his matted sandy blonde hair. I waited for his beautiful emerald green eyes to open, to tell me everything was alright. He didn't.
It was like the skies were mourning his death, too. The rain fell, washing away his blood and my tears.
Over the rain I could faintly hear someone call out my alias. "Andrew." They called.
I couldn't respond.
I still laugh at the way William and I met. I had been bathing in the river, because I couldn't bathe with the other soldiers. If I were to be found out as a girl I would surely be hung. He walked through the bushes not far from where I was bathing. I never knew someone's face could get that red. I giggled until I saw him leering at my Union soldier uniform. He was a Confederate, I could tell by the style and colors of his uniform.
"Ma'am, what are you doing with that uniform? It's for soldiers only." He questioned.
I didn't respond, I was too afraid he would turn me in or kill me. I couldn't help wonder which one would be worse. I couldn't fight back in the situation I was in either; I had left my gun at the base.
As if he read my mind he said, "Answer truthfully, now. I promise I won't turn you in or kill you; even if you are a Union."
"You want the truth? I ran away from home. I enlisted myself into the Union forces, pretending to be a man because my daddy was going to marry me off to a man I don't love." I don't know why I told him the truth. I must've been crazy. I guess I just wanted to get it off of my chest before I died. Being a woman in the war was tough.
I remember waiting with a baited breath for his reaction. We sat in silence for what seemed like hours. I was waiting; he was letting it all sink in. When his response finally came it surprised me more than anyone could ever describe.
"Well, my momma always taught me to respect and protect women, so I guess you're stuck with me protectin' you from both my men, and yours until this war is over. I promise." He stated his promise in a deep southern drawl; his voice could make any women swoon.
He did keep his promise, and from the beginning of the war, when he found me to the night he died, he protected me. In fact—as much as it depresses me—he took the fatal bullet that ended him… For me. Somewhere between the day he made the promise and the night he died, we fell in love, with the enemy no less.
I often question if I was worth it. Then I look at our beautiful baby boy, Andrew, and think 'if I wasn't, he was.'
Andrew is the most beautiful baby I've ever seen, his eyes are stormy blue; they seem to brighten when he giggles, he also has wavy, sandy blonde hair, just like his father. He has my ivory skin complexion, unlike his father's tan, and William's freckles. Andrew was the only thing I have left of William. I will protect him, even with my life.
Andrew was born on May 3, 1865, a few months after the war ended. William died December 5, 1864; I was just two months pregnant then. I had found out the day before William died, he had managed to find a sundress so I didn't have to wear my Union uniform, because of course I can't go to the old doctor on Main Street in my uniform; I was supposed to be a man, after all. William and I had managed to find time to get away from the war so he could take me to the doctor because I was starting to get sick during the mornings, so I slipped into the baby pink sundress with flowers littering the bottom and we head out. When we did reach the Doc's place we were lead inside by a plump woman with graying hair, we sat in the little room she led us to and waited for a few minutes when finally the doc walked in. He asked me what my symptoms were and I told him about my getting sick in the mornings, about me aching all over, and my tiredness. He sat there and thought a few seconds and I waited for what he thought was wrong with me. A minute later he said that he should take some blood to check something. After a few minutes he came back and told me news that had shocked me to the core… I was pregnant. After he told us that we sat in silence until I heard a 'thump' come from behind me. I looked over my shoulder and there was William, sprawled across the floor. I couldn't hold in my laughter, but soon after the laughter the tears came. What was I supposed to do? I was in the war, supposed to be a man. What if I started showing before the War ended? Would I be killed, would our baby? I couldn't even think about what I would do if they killed my baby.
The doc said I was about two months along. I was caught between the emotions fear and joy; not sure which I should feel.
If only I would have known my little baby would grow up without a father.
I would never know what he was going through because I wasn't a man, nor an expert on men.
All I could hope was to be the best mother I could, and I'll be darned if I wouldn't try my hardest.