Possession – Chapter 20

The Continentals were storming the city of Charles Town in an attempt to retake it. The British had known for some time that rebel army would try to reclaim the city, but they’d been unaware of when that attempt might occur. The British army were prepared, however. The colonials’ success was uncertain, for the British were dutifully holding their own against the rebels.

One month had passed since Tavington had left for Fort Carolina, and he still had not returned to Charles Town. Juliana wasn’t distressed about it. It had come as no surprise to her that Tavington was still away; she’d expected it. And she didn’t expect him to show up anytime soon, but she really wished he would make a miraculous appearance about now.

Juliana knew that the Continentals would be rounding up the slaves and taking possession of them and that she and William didn’t stand a chance. She’d already fallen into their hands once before; now that she and Tavington had settled their issues, the prospect of spending time with the rebels wasn’t appealing to her at all. She had some fighting skills, courtesy of Tavington, but they would only be good against one adversary, maybe two, if she were lucky. She and William would not be able to hold their own against a whole group of attackers. They would have to try to escape somehow.

Juliana went to the front door, where William was already standing guard with a rifle. The Continental army was just down the street, and both William and Juliana could hear the sounds of gunshots. In the darkness of the night, they could see the sparks fly out of the guns as they were fired. “We’re gonna have to leave,” Juliana told William. “We’re not gonna be able to hold off all those soldiers if they decide to come this way.”

William considered her words. “Where do we go?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Juliana admitted. “We should try to find a British camp or a fort or … anybody. Anybody else but the Continentals. We just have to get away from here.” It was dark out, and Juliana was thankful for that. They would probably stand a much better chance of escaping unnoticed than if it were daylight.

William nodded. “I’ll get the horse ready,” he said. He left to go prepare the horse, while Juliana took up watchful post at the door. She had a loaded pistol in one hand and sword in the other to ward off attackers. At the first sight of a Continental soldier, Juliana would be prepared to fire. She didn’t think she would have to use the weapons at first. It seemed as if the ruckus would pass them over.

Then, a couple of soldiers began to make their way up the path to the house. Juliana’s heart rate quickened as she discretely cocked the gun.

“You there,” one of the soldiers called out, “who lives here?”

Juliana remained silent, which appeared to anger the rebel soldiers, judging from their facial expressions.

“Hey, girl, I’m talkin’ to you,” the same soldier said as he advanced. Juliana slowly brought the pistol up and pointed it at both of the men. She didn’t aim specifically at either one, but she would shoot the first one who made an aggressive move.

The sight of the pistol temporarily stayed the soldiers, but they only looked at each other and smiled. That certainly wasn’t the reaction that Juliana had been expecting, and it unsettled her.

The men looked at Juliana again and resumed their approach. “And just what are you gonna do with that?” the second soldier asked, mockingly.

Juliana’s heart was beating in her ears, but she forced herself to venture out onto the porch and hold the pistol steady. “If you come any closer, you’ll find out,” she replied. She slid the gun over to the soldier who’d spoken. The soldier chuckled but didn’t stop walking, and he brazenly stepped up onto the first porch step. Juliana didn’t offer any warning before she pulled the trigger. The bullet shot from the barrel of the gun and hit the man squarely in the chest, knocking him backwards to the ground.

Both Juliana and the remaining soldier looked at each other in stunned silence for a brief moment. Then, before the officer had the chance to draw his own weapon, Juliana attacked with her sword, rushing off the porch and lunging at the man. She caught him quickly in the shoulder, causing him to yelp in pain. He pulled his sword and began to fight back, matching her strokes. But he was on the defensive, and he was already injured, which put him in a much worse position than she. He thought he might have a chance to best her until the last moment, when she thrust the sword through his gullet, sending him crumpling to the ground, the weapon still lodged firmly inside his torso.

William returned to the front door, where he found Juliana, frozen and standing over the two dead soldiers. He grabbed her hand, knowing that if anyone found them with the dead men, it would spell certain trouble for the two slaves.

“Come on,” he said. “The horse is ready. We gotta go.”

Morning finally made its appearance after Juliana and William had spent an exhausting night on horseback. William had managed to remain alert through the night to steer the horse and to keep a sharp lookout for colonials; Juliana, on the other hand, had been unable to keep sleep from closing in on her. She’d given in and fallen asleep at some point with her head against William’s back.

William woke her up with a gentle nudge, and she stirred, not knowing where she was. She didn’t really care at the moment, as long as they weren’t anywhere near the Continentals. But she asked, just the same. “Do you know where we are?”

William shook his head. “I don’t,” he replied. “But I think we better follow them.”

Juliana followed his gaze. A few yards ahead of them, a unit of British officers were turning onto a road. Juliana and William looked at each other, knowing now that at least they had a chance of being saved. William gently spurred the horse to a slow trot, following the soldiers’ path. Somehow, they managed to remain largely unnoticed. Juliana suspected that soldiers must be concerned with bigger issues than two stray slaves.

Juliana and William discreetly followed the group up the path, which led to a large farm. There was already a mass of British soldiers gathered around the house. Juliana and William moved from the path and tried to keep a little distance between themselves and everyone else, at least until they had a better grasp of what the situation was. William steered the horse behind a large tree, which largely obscured them from view.

Before either of them had the chance to survey more of the scene from their distant perch, they heard the familiar thundering sound of pounding horse hooves. Everyone else on the farm heard it, too, Juliana realized, because they all looked in the same direction that she did. Coming up the same path which Juliana and William had just traveled were a hoard of men on horseback. Men in red, dark-trimmed coats on horseback. Could it be? Could Juliana and William really be that fortunate?

The cavalry unit quickly approached, and Juliana could clearly make out Tavington’s form on the lead horse. She knew it couldn’t be anyone else. No one else she knew was arrogant enough to ride a horse at nearly full-gallop so effortlessly, with one hand resting confidently on his hip. Juliana had come to regard the mount as a Tavington trademark, and the sight of it made her want to jump off her horse and run over to him. William must have been aware of what her reaction would be because he grabbed her arm and held it tight. Juliana looked at him and then at Tavington again. They both watched the Dragoons ride past. When they stopped, Tavington continued until his horse was only a few feet away from the porch steps. Juliana could not hear what was being said, so she contented herself with watching the scene that played out before her.

It was obvious by the deference immediately given to Tavington that he was in charge. For the first few minutes, nothing much seemed to happen. Tavington exchanged seemingly calm words with some of the officers.

Then, his voice suddenly cut loudly into the morning. “Who carried this!” Juliana heard Tavington loudly demand. She saw a young, blonde rebel soldier stepped forward. Not surprisingly, British officers surrounded the young man and bound his hands.

What didn’t sit well with Juliana was the civilian, probably the head of the household, who stepped forward toward Tavington. When the two spoke to one another, nothing looked out of the ordinary … until Juliana saw Tavington pull out his gun and point it at the man’s head. Then, she watched in horror as he turned the barrel of the gun on the group of children huddled together on the porch. The civilian ran back to his family, and Tavington withdrew the gun, to Juliana’s relief. That relief was short-lived.

There was a abrupt commotion in front of the house. One of the family’s sons, Juliana assumed, ran at the soldiers who were holding the bound rebel soldier. Juliana watched in mortified disbelief as Tavington immediately took aim at the boy and fired. The bullet hit the boy in the back and tore out of his chest. He dropped to his knees, the life quickly draining from his body.

Juliana felt like she was going to be physically ill. Tavington – Will, the man she had allowed herself to get close to, the man she had trusted, the man she had fallen in love with … he’d just shot a boy in the back, killed him in cold blood. Tears sprung to her eyes. She slid off the horse, intending to get sick behind the tree, but a British soldier grabbed her roughly by the arm.

“What are you doing over here?” he demanded brusquely. He looked up at William, still mounted. “Get off of that horse.” William obediently dismounted.

The soldier turned his attention back to Juliana. “What do you think you’re doing over here?” he demanded a second time. “Did you think you could hide from us? Is that it?”

Juliana couldn’t force any words from her mouth. She looked to William because she didn’t know what to say.

Still gripping her arm tightly, the soldier grabbed a handful of Juliana’s hair and violently pulled her away from the tree. He pushed her toward a lieutenant standing nearby. “Sir, I found this one near the tree with that other slave over there,” he reported, pointing to William, who remained near the horse.

The lieutenant took one look at Juliana and immediately recognized her. He’d seen her with Tavington before at Middleton Place. He didn’t know how she’d ended up here. That wasn’t even important. If Tavington saw this brute manhandling his property, he would be furious.

Juliana squirmed. It was only a small movement, but the pain in her scalp was becoming unbearable. She couldn’t help but move and hope that it would force the soldier to ease his hold on her hair.

Instead, the soldier yanked her by the hair again, causing her to cry out in pain. “Quiet!” the soldier ordered.

“What’s going on over there?” Tavington demanded. He turned his horse and guided it over to where this new commotion had arisen. What he saw nearly made him lose his composure. “Let her go,” Tavington said with forced calm.

The soldier, confused, looked at Tavington. “Sir?”

“Was there something unclear about the order, Private?” Tavington asked, fighting the urge to clench his teeth.

“N-no, Colonel,” the soldier stammered. He let go of Juliana by forcefully pushing her to the ground.

Tavington was ready to dismount and pound the soldier to a pulp, but he decided against it, for appearance’s sake. He was silently grateful for the lieutenant, who walked over and helped Juliana to her feet.

“Ready!” an officer called out. “Take aim!” Juliana turned in time to see a small group of soldiers taking aim. For the first time, she noticed that there were rebel wounded lying on the ground in front of the house. The British were aiming at them. Juliana looked at the porch. She couldn’t see the men who were lying down, but she saw another group of British soldiers aiming. “Fire!”

Juliana saw the soldiers fire on defenseless, wounded men. And it was all on Tavington’s order, she realized. She glared at him through tear-filled eyes.

“Are you alright?” the lieutenant asked Juliana.

“I’m fine,” she said, her eyes still on Tavington. His eyes met hers, briefly, but they revealed nothing to her. She turned and made her way back through the crowd to William and their horse.

Juliana paced inside Tavington’s personal quarters at Fort Carolina. She didn’t have any idea what she should say, what she should do. The reason she didn’t know what to do was because she didn’t know how she felt. How could she love such a man? She had to be truthful with herself – his behavior wasn’t a complete surprise. She had known what he was capable of the first night she’d met him. But she’d had the gall to think that he’d changed and that she had been the one to miraculously change him. He hadn’t changed. He hadn’t changed one bit.

The door swung open and Tavington walked in. “I heard about the attack on Charles Town,” he said. “I thought for sure that the Dragoons would be sent into the city. I was worried sick about you.” He walked over to her. When he touched her, she backed immediately backed away. “Come now,” Tavington began knowingly. “Don’t tell me you’re still thinking about what happened this morning.”

“Of course I’m still thinkin’ about it,” Juliana said.

“I took the actions that were required of me,” Tavington insisted.

“That is not what happened this mornin’,” Juliana fumed. “This mornin’, you shot a little boy in cold blood, outside his home.”

“He was hardly a little boy,” Tavington argued tritely. “He was at least 13. He was probably older.”

“That is completely beside the point,” Juliana countered. “What threat was he? What threat was he to you or your men? He was scared. What would you expect?”

“I would expect him to obey and respect orders from His Majesty’s military officers,” Tavington replied. Juliana, frustrated and angry, turned away from him, but he caught her by the arm and drew her to him.

She tried to wiggle free but didn’t put much effort into it. “Please let go of me, Will. Colonel.”

Tavington wasn’t going to be able to smooth this over so easily, he realized. He released his hold on her. “I must say, my dear, that I am at somewhat of a loss,” he said. “I’m the same person I was one month ago, two months ago. Will Tavington – I’m no different.”

“I know,” Juliana said. “And that scares me. You’re the same as you’ve always been, and I just didn’t see it. Before, I never allowed myself see the person in you who would point a gun at children. If I had, I assure you, I would not be here. At least not willingly.”

“Perhaps I didn’t handle this morning in the best way,” Tavington considered. “But Juliana, I’m gong to explain something to you. War isn’t neat or fair. Things happen that we can’t explain, predict, or prevent. Civilians do fall victim to the perils of war. It’s a nasty business. When you’re an officer in the military, you have a duty. You get your orders, and you follow them.”

Juliana nodded, although it was not necessarily in agreement with all he’d said. She nodded because it was time that she relayed some information to him. “Perhaps you would feel differently if you had a child of your own,” she proposed.

“Perhaps,” Tavington conceded. “But that is not a scenario with which I have been placed.”

Juliana swallowed and took a calming breath before speaking again. “Don’t be too sure of yourself about that,” she warned.

Tavington regarded her with utter confusion, and Juliana was quick to elaborate. “I think,” she began, “I think I’m gonna have a child.”

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