He carried her. He carried her across that line which changed it all. His name was Edmund Small and he'd known her since they were children. Her name was Amanda Cross, but now her name was Amanda Small.

The house wasn't much to look at. Their parents had worked together to build it for them, since they were both only children. And, truth be told, they still were only children, after all. Edmund was seventeen and Amanda was fourteen.

Having grown up in one-room houses with sleeping quarters so close to their parents, it didn't seem unnatural at all for them to be making love as soon as it was probably possible and most likely unavoidable. After all, the nearest neighbor was a day's wagon ride away and Amanda was just half an hour's walk from his house. Edmund had made that walk on so many occasions that his feet knew the way in the dark. Lately, it had been in the dark when he'd visited, anyway. Long after sunset. When all the parents were asleep.

We are not true
We are not pure
We are not right
Oh, but still I'll
Sing to you at night

It had been hard for Edmund to figure out for the longest time. He knew where things were supposed to go, but he could not escape the feeling that Amanda was not sharing the same release and rapture he enjoyed when they found time to be alone. If she had been beautiful, perhaps it would not have mattered so much to him. But she was plain; flat-faced and flat-chested; tall and awkward with freckles and jutting bones. He felt as if she was doing him a favor when they undressed in the dark. This would have to change, he thought. She was worthy of whatever happiness there was in all this newfound world. But how was he supposed to know what to do? There were no books. There was no talking to either set of parents about such issues. There were no peers within reach. It was a lonesome journey to find out what was needed.

Too selfish by half
Too ugly by far
Oh, but when your songs
Have been sung
Come to me

Talk was running at a fever pitch between the two parents' homes as love was doing its natural exploring in between in the newest home on the range. The talk had nothing to do with gossip about Edmund and Amanda, however. It concerned the news which was slowly filtering into East Tennessee about what Lincoln was doing up in Washington, DC, and what was going on in Richmond with Mr. Davis. It was the perfect spring morning of June 1, 1861, when the fathers of both Edmund and Amanda made the decision to join the Confederate Army and travel with others in the area to fight for a cause they hardly understood. They did understand that it would be hard keeping Edmund out of it all, to take care of Amanda while they were gone.

Rumors are rife
The winter blows cold
Reminds me of such
Wretched times

And yet all the same
I will never deign
To think ill
Of you

When all's well
My love is like cathedral bells

Amanda spent her days sweeping the floor and quilting and canning and helping her mom take care of the animals. She spent her nights alone in a very empty house. There's a kind of loneliness that only young lovers can know. Her mother and Edmund's mother were lonely, too, but they overcame it with ease and grace. Amanda was graceless in that bed at night. She tossed and turned and cried and when she did manage to sleep, she had the most horrible dreams anyone could imagine.

In one, there was a line of small children, traipsing hand in hand through a mown field. Her vantage point was from the tree line which they approached. As they got close enough to see their faces, she could see that their eyes and their mouths were sewn shut and what looked like a merry gait now was clearly a frightening escape with the children running, as best as a group of blind children can, from some horror beyond belief close behind them.

Amanda saw the horror in her dream and remembered it for just a split second. Then she repressed it and spent several days trying to recreate the dream exactly so that she could see exactly what the horror was. It seemed very important to her, but it was gone back there, the minute her subconscious mind realized it was something she should never look at again. As it was, she spent each night thereafter thinking of the awkwardly stitched eyelids.

We are not true
We are not pure
We are not right

Almost a year after their journey began, the men found themselves under the command of General Albert Sydney Johnston at a battle near a place called Shiloh, 250 miles west southwest of the home where Amanda sat and waited for Edmund to come home each night.

Amongst all the dross
The lies and the grief
There are so many things
You just would not believe

A full ten thousand of Edmund's fellow soldiers were killed in that battle. It seemed to last forever and it seemed to be over in an instant. He watched his father standing one minute on two fine legs and standing on two stumps the next, as a cannonball cut his legs right out from under him. Edmund ran to him but only got halfway before the rush of battle carried him beyond. His last view of his father was of a man too young and too alive to be looking down at his lost legs, like a member of a circus show comprised of fully grown midgets, as he bled to death.

Edmund felt as if he had lost everything. He'd lost his faith. He'd lost his youth. He'd lost his father. He had lost almost everything.

Everything but the girl.

When all's well
My love is like cathedral bells


Lyrics from Love Not Money, 1985, by EBTG
Black and white photo on the cover of a
young boy and girl watching each other piss.

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