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Running a farm in the winds of the Loire leaves little time for worry. A husband dead to illness, and an only boy stolen by war, there remained just three daughters and a doddering mother to care for the land.
Months went by without any news. All we could do was keep working. One morning, as the dawn squinted through the barn's slats, I sat milking. My feet slid into the mud under the cow's hooves; I'd spilled warm milk in my distraction, and it now churned the earth. I licked my finger, a spot of warm, smooth milk disappearing down my throat. But the taste was mixed with salt.
My silent tears didn't go unnoticed.
Claudette, my eldest, set aside her pitchfork. She cocked her elbows on her hips, staring at me. "Mother."
Hiding her motives, she grabbed my arm, and steered me towards the path through our grove. Silence reigned between us as God's song, the wind, rustled each leaf. In this tranquility, she led me through the dipping branches until we came upon the well-known clearing. Then my daughter spoke.
"This endless moping must stop," she hissed, her face piqued. While none would call her beautiful, Claudette still had a pretty figure. Yet, her forwardness and unruly temper had driven away several suitors. I had already begun to fear that we would be spinsters, alone together. Coyly, I denied any such feelings, but even my lie was lackluster.
She huffed into the otherwise quiet morning. "Henri has been taken away, yes. But he's with the army now. Glory! Excitement! It is a good thing. I, for one, am proud of his service." Without another word, she stormed off back to the farm, leaving me in solitude, a rising sun gently caressing my hair.
I took a moment to stare into the fields. A ragged cart was tracing its way into town, two dirt-spattered children laughing in the back. They threw hay at each other and squealed without a care.
My son had laughed once.
Was it right? Was it honorable that my boy should leave, his hand forced by a tyrant? I once loved the Emperor. But my husband, my Philippe, had died under the weight of Napoleon's taxes. My boy was now stolen. How could I love the Emperor anymore?
Back to The Faith: Book I of the Uprising Trilogy book
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- Deborah Smith
- T. R. A. Lynch, Sr
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- Flora Annie Webster Steel
- Mobashar Qureshi
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- Salman Rushdie
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