Manhattan, 1901

Johanna Rossman stared at her reflection, a solemn expression on her face. So what if she was beautiful? She pushed her black, shiny curls behind her shoulders and sighed. Why is it that society felt that every beautiful young woman needed to be married off early? Okay, she’s a debutante, so she is just supposed to grin and bear it? She turned her head only slightly, so the light could catch her high cheekbones and long neck. Yes, she was beautiful. But it didn’t matter to her now. She slowly began to undo her corset, her body finally feeling at ease as the strings loosened. Everything had been so perfect, and then it changed.

Thoughts of the previous events ran through her mind at a rapid pace. She saw flashes of Cordelia’s morbid expression as life slowly left her face, Genevieve’s terrified cry in the night, and Theodore’s proposal. She stared at her reflection, tears streaking down her face now, and was fully prepared for what she was about to do. She reached for her cutting shears, and although her hands were shaky, she started to cut. Long strands of shiny black curls fell around her, covering her long skirts. She didn’t stop until her hair was boyishly short. She set the shears down and picked up her quill. Before her was a piece of stationery, and she set the tip to the paper and began to write.

 

My dearest mother and father,

Forgive me for what I am about to do, but I must do what is right for me…

 

She continued to write until she was sure her parents might understand, and left it by her mirror. She stood, and gracefully turned to her bed, where a full uniform awaited her, a blue jacket sitting on top. She would have to remember to thank Robert for getting it for her. She began to take off her skirts, the last time she would ever wear them, and prepared herself for a new life. Once she was in her new uniform, she picked up her bag full of new men’s clothing and her orders.

She set out into the rain, the sound calming her. She had always loved the rain, and she knew that the heavens were crying for her. She looked forward, trudging through the mud, not bothering to look back. A ship awaited her on the other side of town, and it was there that she would begin her journey to live for one she loved. The one whose life was taken from her. The rain soaked her new soldiers uniform, and for the first time in days she smiled, excited and frightened at the new life she was about to start in the war against the Spanish.

The Clearing

The two lovers kiss each other feverishly in the clearing of a field. The ground is soft, and the blanket they brought is warm. They stole away at dusk to be together. When they first arrived in the clearing, fireworks greeted them, as if there arrival was expected. The fireworks are long forgotten now. They whisper sweet nothings in each others ears and hold each other tight. Their innocence is lost among the sounds of crickets and the wind against the tall wheat surrounding them. “I want you to have this” he says, giving her his high school ring. “It’s my promise to you.” She smiles as she puts it around the chain she has on her neck. Her eyes sparkle as she looks into his. He would take her out of this small town in the middle-of-no-where. He would save her. They kiss once more, until she notices the sky has gotten lighter and dawn is upon them already. Her father is working the late shift at the hospital, but he’d be back soon. They run out of the clearing holding each other’s hands, knowing that they will do the same thing tomorrow night. Hardly sleeping and not caring, because they will be together. When the sun sets, and rises.

Late Shift

The doors fly open, and a stretcher comes rushing in with men shouting. If the shouting didn’t catch his attention, it would have been the squeaky wheels. The sound made his hair stand on end; they always brought trouble. Especially during the late shift.

“What happened?” he asks as he rushes along with them, notepad in had.

“Motorcycle crash, she didn’t see the truck. Tractor trailer- tired driver at the wheel. The helmet prevented head damage, but there’s internal bleeding.”

“In here!” He directs them to the nearest empty room. “1, 2, 3, lift!”  They transfer her onto a table. He feels for her pulse. There is none.

“She has no pulse!” He rips open her shirt to gain access to her chest. Nurses rush to bring him the defibrillator.

“Clear!” He shocks her once, right between her breasts. Nothing. He shocks her again, and then once more, but nothing can stop the flat line he is hearing.

Being a doctor, he was used to this, and it didn’t get any easier. But seeing her there has his vision blurred. She is… was so young, and he couldn’t save her. A failure for the night, one of despair.

He thinks of his family asleep at home, and a girl with similar eyes to the ones that are now closed forever. Out of the corner of his eye, comes a single tear.

“Mark it,” he says in a small voice.”Time of death, 3:15 am.”