Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"The Bride Wore Gray:" The Battle of Antietam

Liberty Jordan is no weekend warrior.

She's a high school history teacher taking place in a Civil War re-enactment near Sharpsburg, Maryland when--

She finds herself in the middle of the bloodiest battle of the war at Antietam when she travels back in time...

She also finds romance...

Will Liberty survive the battle?

Here's the next installment of "The Bride Wore Gray."


Yankees, here I come.

Liberty climbed up out of the trench and took off. She grabbed onto her pants, which had come unrolled and dragged in the mud. Chaos surrounded her. Confederate soldiers scrambled in every direction. Panicked, excited, yelling. Losing all sense of direction and order.

She ducked low, trying to keep out of harm’s way. Jeez, they played rough. Men intent on scrapping and jostling with each other, picking up rocks and pretending to throw punches. “Taking some hits,” they called it. She had nothing but admiration in her heart for the five women soldiers who had fought in the real battle. They were true heroines.

You're as strong as they were and just as smart.

Don't let the kids down now, not after everything you've taught them.

Teaching was her life. She fueled her passion for helping kids get ahead in a world determined to keep them back by standing in front of a whiteboard every day, then counseling them after school.

Sweat dribbled down her cheeks. The day had started out as a field trip for her class, a once‑in‑a-lifetime journey to Washington D.C. for kids from the wrong side of the tracks. Now it was matter of personal pride. 

She had to finish what she started or she’d never be able to stand in front of a classroom of students again.

Fueled by new courage, Liberty splashed through puddles of water hugging the damp ground. Mud splattered her face, her hands. She wiped the slime out of her eyes and kept going. The grit in her mouth tasted awful, but she had no time to spit it out. 

Now she knew why her rented uniform came with a set of earplugs, along with a bottle of aspirin, an elastic bandage, a tube of antibiotic ointment, and small adhesive bandages hidden in an inside pocket in the uniform jacket.

She had everything but her lucky coin.

No time to get it now.

She'd left it in her van parked in the lot next to the three-hundred acre working farm. She’d also locked up her cell phone since using them was frowned upon except in emergencies.

She must be insane, running through the storm of shell and musket fire. The field was wet and muddy from the prolonged rainy season and the cannon fire was louder, more intense. Four, maybe five hundred cannons shooting off, one after another without stopping, the battle raging without anybody raising the white flag.

Damn, where are those earplugs?

Fumbling through her pockets did no good. She couldn’t find them and hold up her  pants. She kept going, zigzagging around a trio of Union soldiers. A rough hand grabbed her by the ankle and jerked her to a stop.

Crying out, she stumbled and fell. “Let go of me!”

“Sorry, ma’am,” yelled out the soldier in blue, his eyes wide when he realized she was a woman. “You sure look like a man in that uniform.”

Liberty pulled her hat down over her eyes, embarrassed by her outburst. My God, what was she thinking? That she could play soldier with the big boys?

You’re damn right I can.

Liberty got to her feet, huffing and puffing, her chest hurting, but she was determined not to let the kids down. Blowing out her breath, she whooped and hollered with the rest of them, hoping her students got it all on video. Running, running across the field.

With her pants falling down.


No wonder she tripped over her long trousers and landed hard on the bedrock. Yikes, that hurt. Her butt stung like she’d raked her bottom over a big nail. She turned and saw something sharp sticking up out of the ground.

Cracked, tinged with gray.

Liberty pulled out a long stick, the damp earth sticking to her fingers like moist coffee grounds. She looked it over with a careful eye. No, it wasn’t a stick, it was—

“Bones,” she whispered with reverence. A chill came over her. This was sacred ground. A relic from the past long buried here. Human bones eroding out of a crack in the bedrock exposed by the recent, heavy rains.

Wait, there was something else. Shining under the hot sun overhead. Coppery and bright. Something that wasn't human.

Scrapping away the earth with her fingers, she dug down into the wet ground and pulled out a piece of metal, rectangular in shape with three letters imprinted on it: NCR.

A belt buckle.

Union or Confederate?

Liberty held the buckle tightly in her hand, smooth and cool in her palm. A strong sense of the past gripped her with such intensity she couldn’t catch her breath. As if she’d freed a battle-weary spirit whose presence was so real to her, it was difficult to let it go.

She wondered what had gone through the soldier’s mind when he fell here in battle. Was he afraid? In horrible pain? Were his last thoughts of his beloved? The blood gushing from his wound and spilling onto the ground, his pulse becoming slower and slower until— 

“Watch out, Lieutenant!” someone yelled.

Rrroar! came the tremendous sound in her ears as a big, heavy lead ball screamed past her. Liberty hit the ground. Hard. Every fiber in her being on fire. 

Oh my God, I could have been killed. My brains blown out.

She dared to raise her head and saw the huge cannon pointed right at her, ready to fire again. Her heart beat faster than ever, the terrible realization of impending doom sending a sudden chill through her. She must be lying down in a blind spot on otherwise open ground.

They can't see me. I'm gonna die.  

What happens next when Liberty meets up with a Union soldier from 1862 pointing his musket at her and threatening to shoot her? Find out in two weeks...

PS -- I've got some exciting news re: a new project!!  More next time...

UPDATE: Okay, here's a hint: What do Sylvia Day and I have in common?

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