Kissing a Confederate boy was like kissing the devil himself. Nelson & Cora. Chapter 4
March 31, 2013
A VG Serial: Nelson & Cora
Alberdeen, Kentucky, 1866
Cora stood next to the wood burning stove and waited for the water in the kettle to boil. It was still dark outside. Her father and brother had been out late last night at the meeting. Her mother had stayed out with them until midnight. Her father came in a few hours after her, and her brother had not yet returned.
Cora knew they were disappointed that she was not accompanying them to the meetings. But, she wasn’t ready. They knew it, and so did she. When talk turned to the politics of Reconstruction or to what was remaining of the soldiers and the War or the Freedmen’s Bureau, Cora, as much as she hated to admit it, lost interest.
President Lincoln had preserved the Union, and then John Wilkes Booth had assassinated him. It was devastating. It had only been a year’s time since they lost President Lincoln. People needed time to grieve. That was what Cora kept coming back to, over and over again. People had to have time to grieve. War was a horrible, tragic thing. Even though Kentucky had always fought on the side of the Union, as a state, so many people supported the Confederacy. Neighbors turned on each other, didn’t trust people they had known their whole lives. Those things take time to heal. People needed time to recover and get back to being people.
The whistle from the kettle startled her, and Cora focused again on the task of making coffee. She could hear her mother stirring around in the back of the house. Cora started cooking breakfast. Even when their evenings were irregular, Cora always made a point to get up at the same time each day and make breakfast. It helped her if she could have a routine.
Her mother, Laura, came into the kitchen just in time to take her seat at the table before Cora fixed her mother’s plate. Cora pulled the biscuits from the stove. She sat across the table from her mother. It would depend on Laura’s mood as to how much of a conversation they had this morning.
“Everyone there?” Cora asked. She tapped her foot against the leg of her chair.
“No. No, the Jenkins were not. And, it looks like they will never be back again,” Laura said. She never had much tact. Cora’s father said she had always been that way.
“Why not? What happened?” Cora asked.
“Went to Virginia,” her mother said as she drank her coffee and went about lighting the lamps on the table. Sunrise was still an hour away. Cora noticed that her mother had a disgusted look on her face.
“I don’t understand. Is Ann well?” Cora asked. She was nervous. She and Ann Jenkinsmhad been friends for a few years. Cora was surprised to hear that she wouldn’t see her anymore.
“No, Cora. Ann is not well, and neither is her family. Ann has gotten involved with a boy. A boy from that school. They never should have let her work there, never. This sort of thing wouldn’t have happened. Kept her away from there, all this could have been avoided,” Laura said.
Laura moved around the kitchen, finishing what she would do before she let Cora take over the chores for the day. Her mother was a seamstress, and Cora did the chores of running the house.
“But, why did they leave for Virginia?” Cora asked. She wanted to know, but she didn’t want to annoy her mother. If that happened, she would never find out the rest of story.
“Because the boy, that boy, is from a Confederate family,” Laura said. Cora’s mother was spitting out the words as she said them.
“So, what did they do? What did her parents do? Did they punish her? Did they disown her? Keep her at home until she reformed? No, no. Of course not. They accepted that boy. Can you believe such nonsense? Accepted him. Confederate. Accepted him. Appalling. That’s what it is. Just plain appalling. And, shameful,” Laura said.
Cora worked her way around the kitchen, cleaning and straightening as she went. Her mother sat at the table with a coffee mug between her hands, staring down at the table.
“I don’t understand it. Still a child, still their child. She should not have been allowed to see him. If they had been stricter, if they had reminded her of her place, none of this would have happened. If they had kept her out of that school, away from that place. She could have found other work,” Laura said.
Cora wasn’t listening anymore. She was thinking of her friend and how she would never see Ann again. She hoped that Ann and the boy were happy. Cora hoped they could make a good life in Virginia.
She was amazed that Ann’s parents would accept the relationship. A Confederate? For her family and for their friends, Ann might as well have kissed the devil.
Cora jumped a bit when she heard the banging coming from the back of the house.
Her father, William, was up and getting dressed. He appeared in the kitchen a few minutes later.
He kissed Cora’s cheek as she handed him a cup of coffee.
“Good morning, my sweet Cora,” William said. He yawned and took a drink of coffee.
“Good morning. How was the meeting?” Cora asked. She walked to the stove, split open a biscuit and put it on a plate for her father.
“Thank you, sweet sunshine girl,” William said. She was his only daughter, and even though she was no longer a child, he still doted on her.
Cora sat back down at the table and waited for her father’s answer. Laura frowned.
“I already told her about Ann and that boy,” Laura said.
“That’s hard news for you. I’m sure,” William said. He and Cora sat across from each other.
“Why would that be hard for her?” Laura asked.
“She and Ann were friends, Laura. I’m sure finding out that your friend can no longer be in your life would be hard to take,” William said.
Cora smiled a little as her father spoke.
“They weren’t all that close. What’s important to remember here is that Ann betrayed her family. And then, her family accepted it. Just accepted it,” Laura said. She poured another cup of coffee for herself and sat down again. She shook her head.
“Yes. Ann did exercise poor judgment. A tough situation for everyone, certainly,” William said.
“Tough? Poor judgment?” Laura said. She continued to shake her head.
“Betrayal. That’s what it is. Plain and simple, betrayal. Ann is a traitor. And nowmthanks to her actions, her family can no longer be trusted. They had to leave their family, their friends, their business. For what? For her to be with some boy, somemConfederate boy she barely knows,” Laura said. She moved her coffee cup back and forth between her hands.
“Yes, Laura. But Ann and our Cora were friends. It is difficult to lose a friend, even under the best of circumstances. This was certainly not a good situation,” William said. His voice was calm and steady.
If Laura heard what he said, she didn’t respond. Silence filled the room.
“How was the rest of the meeting?” Cora asked. She had never been able to let the silence stand for long.
“It’s a long road ahead of us, Cora. A long, long road. Reconstruction, rebuilding, there’s no easy solution, no easy fix. And, of course, there’s still Texas,” William said.
He looked tired.
Chapters of the serial are published on Sunday.
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