September 28th, 1860It was a cool autumn day in September. It was the year 1860 and me and my father were riding out west on horseback in hopes of finding food to bring back home for mother to cook for our family. There was a crisp breeze blowing up on our faces, we had our rifles strung along our backs, and we rode in silence. The leaves had started changing colors from green to golden and red. The red and gold leaves were dappling the forest floor around us as well. The afternoon sun shone between the leaves, making the scene even more beautiful than it already was.
There was a soft rustling sound in a bush nearby. I pulled on the reins and brought my horse, Balias, to a stop. He snorted at me as I climbed out of the saddle and landed almost completely silent on the ground beside him. Without making a sound, I pulled my rifle off of its strap. I scanned the area slowly, taking in every single bit of my surroundings. I heard the rustling sound again just off to the right of me behind Balias. I looked in that direction and narrowed my eyes, concentrating on the sound again. Then I spotted the bush where it was coming from. The leaves on the bush started shaking and from the bush a fat rabbit hopped into view. It was gray, with white flecks running through its fur and its large, beady eyes as black as coal. It didn’t seem to notice my presence yet, thankfully.
I slowly aimed the gun directly at the rabbit and held my breath for a moment. I must be quick, I reminded myself. Just shoot it and get it over with.
I placed my index finger on the trigger, but didn’t put any pressure on it just yet. The rabbit hopped a couple inches away from me, and I followed it with the gun pointed directly at it. Then, quickly, I pulled the trigger and the gun sounded off. The rabbit dropped without a sound and laid there bleeding out. I latched my gun back in place as swiftly as possible on my back and walked over to the rabbit’s corpse. I honestly felt a little bad for killing the poor thing, but my family had to eat.
I picked it up by its hind leg and carried it over to the black stallion, who had taken a few steps forward when my gun went off. Balias turned his big, beautiful head and bore his circular brown eyes into mine. With my free hand, I reached forward and placed my hand on his nose. He let out a soft sigh, flicked his ear, and looked forward again. I tied the rabbit to the side of the saddle, then swiftly hoisted myself back up onto the stallion’s back right into the saddle again.
“Onwards, Balias,” I said in my sort of deep voice as I tapped the heels of my shoes into his sides gently.
The black stallion started forward again, following my father’s trail. He was a good distance ahead of me now, but I was in no rush. We were going to be out here for another hour or two. I had already caught two rabbits and a squirrel. My father hadn’t had any luck in finding anything yet so far, unfortunately. We have a fair amount of mouths to feed. I had four brothers and four sisters, making nine of us offspring, then including my parents, eleven of us. My sisters, Josephine, Edith, and Vivienne were all back at the house helping mother with cleaning the house and our dog Tippet, who had been sprayed by a skunk earlier this morning. Two of my brothers, Jace and Sebastian, were out in a different part of the woods hunting like me and father were. The other two, Demitrius and Zachariah, were sent out to the town by mother to buy materials she had ordered so she could begin making a new wedding dress for our sister Lillian, who had gone with them as well.
When I had finally caught up to my father, he had finally caught a rabbit almost as big as the one I caught several moments ago. He already had it tied to the saddle and was mounting his horse when I finally reached him. He turned to look at me with an annoyed expression.
“Let's go find your brothers and head back to the house with what we have,” he said to me with a huff. He led his horse in the direction we came from, and I followed quietly. It was a peaceful ride for the most part. Every so often, Father mumbled something about having no luck with anything today. Balias would make a huff sound every once in a while. The birds in the trees would sing their pretty songs as well passed by and every occasion or so a golden leaf or a red leaf would shed itself from the tree and flutter down to the ground below as we rode our equines into the woods.
It was quite some time before we finally found Jace and Sebastian. Jace was already mounted onto his horse. Sebastian was several feet to the right of us picking what looked like to be a fat gray squirrel up off the ground. Jace had caught a raccoon, which was tied onto the side of his horse's saddle for safe keeping. When we reached them, Jace waved us over and called out," I think me and Sebastian have enough."
"How much?" our father asked them.
"Just a raccoon and a bird or two." Jace said.
"And a rabbit," Sebastian corrected him.
Our father let out a little sigh before speaking. "Well, it isn't much...But I suppose that'll have to do for the next day or so. If we have to, we'll kill a chicken or two. That's only if we get desperate, though."
It was going to be hard this winter. Our father, my brothers, and I are going into the field tomorrow to harvest some of the crops we managed to grow. Usually, we sold half of those crops to neighbors and anyone willing to buy them from us, but seeming as how hunting has been difficult this season, those crops may not get sold and rather be saved in the store house with everything else.
And with that being said, he led the way back to our farmhouse on his gray dappled horse with Jace and Sebastian right behind him on their horses and me behind them on Balias, who trotted happily right behind them.
My father, two brothers, and I had finally reached our two floor farmhouse at around two in the afternoon. We were riding our horses over to the stables where we normally kept the horses and then father would take our catch out to the backside of the house and help mother clean them and prepare them to cook or store for later.
“This should be enough for the family. Me and Sebastian can go out again to a different area and get more if needed,” Jace offered to our father.
“If we do, I'll catch more than you, I guarantee it,” Sebastian boasted.
“Is that a challenge, dear brother,” Jace asked seriously.
I shook my head as I led Balias into the stable. They always tried to best one another at everything. What Jace was good at, Sebastian had to be better, and the same in reverse; what Sebastian was good at, Jace had to be better. It had always been like this with them, even when we were young boys. I probably would have ended up the same way as them, but I was more focused on reading and learning other stuff such as the violin and piano.
The sound of my youngest sister, Edith giggling came from behind me. Then she tackled me, nearly knocking me over, just to hug me.
“You made it home, Roarke! How was the hunt? Did you get me anything?” she asked me excitedly.
She pulled away to look up at me with her excited brown eyes. She had her black hair neatly tied into a bun, but a few strands that couldn’t reach fell to the sides of her face. I towered over her, so she had to tilt her head back just to be able to look up at me. I smiled down at her and opened up the bag I wore and pulled out a few blue flowers and handed them to her. She gasped and took them from me.
“Thanks, Roarke. They're very beautiful. Where did you find them?” she asked.
She smiled up at me at that, then gave me another big hug before running off to go show Josephine and Vivienne what she was gifted. I turned back to Balias again while pulling an apple out of the barrel to the left of me. He reached his head forward as I held the apple up in front of his face and he took a huge bite out of the apple. As he ate, I placed my free hand on the top part of his head between his ears and started rubbing affectionately. I gave him the rest of the apple when he had finished with that bite, then turned around and unstrapped the gun from my back and hung it up on a nail on the wall closest to the entrance of the stables. I looked back at Balias one last time before walking out and heading back to that two floor farmhouse.
As I was reaching the farmhouse, I pulled out one of my favorite books, The Scarlet Letter. I climbed the stairs to the porch and sat on the bench we had by the window and opened the book and began reading almost immediately, enjoying the sounds of the birds chirping in the dogwood trees nearby and the cool autumn air rustling the leaves in the trees. Our dog Tippet burst from the front door and jumped onto the bench beside me. While I was reading, I gave his small head a couple pats. He nuzzled his head up against the lower half of my left side affectionately, then laid it down on my leg. He was a small mutt, and very affectionate. We don’t know where he even came from. One day Mother heard the sound of squealing come from the front side of the house. When she checked outside for it, she saw the poor pup laying in the grass squirming around and squealing for its mother, who was nowhere to be seen. She took him in and fed him and we’ve had this hairy mutt ever since.
When I had reached the part of the book where Hester Prynne was being led to a platform where the citizens of the town would publicly shame her for having an affair, I heard the wheels of the wagon my brothers and sister took earlier. I looked up to see them pulling in front of the white fence that bordered the yard around our house. Lillian hopped out of the wagon and came rushing up the stairs with a parcel in her arms. Lillian hopped out of the wagon and came rushing up the stairs with a parcel in her arms. I opened my mouth to greet her, but she rushed inside before I could get a single word out of it, slamming the door behind her as she went.
“Well hello to you as well, Lillian,” I muttered to myself.
Dimitrius and Zachariah followed after her. Dimitrius was more like me in appearance; he was super tall, muscular, black short hair, and blue eyes. Zachariah, on the other hand, was a bit on the shorter side and lankier as well. His hair was ginger colored and his eyes were darker blue than mine. He had a few freckles covering his pale face. He looked almost exactly like our mother. Everyone else looked more like our father.
Then there was me, of course; the tallest in the family, A bit muscled, but not like Dimitrius. My hair is black and I always had it brushed back to make it look neat and keep the hair out of my face. My eyes are a deep shade of turquoise as well and I was almost as pale as Zachariah.
“What was she so excited about,” I asked the two when they got onto the porch.
Demitrius answered,”The Cooper family down the road in that big house invited us all to one of their famous house parties when we were in town. The party is tomorrow night.”
“Yeah, Lillian is going to try to convince mother to go with us. You’re free to come with, as well,” Zachariah offered.
I shrugged. Parties weren’t really my thing, in all honesty, but since it was the Cooper family, this might be a once in a lifetime thing. Would it even be worth it, though?
With that being said, they went inside the house and left me to myself again. Tippet had even leapt off the bench and followed them inside, too. I went back to reading The Scarlet Letter, enjoying the silence once more. I could sit out here for hours reading, which is exactly what I did while my mother cooked the food we brought home from our hunt today. This was the usual for my family. I was the creative one, the one who read the most, painted the most, played the piano or the violin the most, wrote the most, and drew the most. Demitrius and Zachariah were the ones who roughhoused the most or played sports such as cricket. Jace was the one who helped Father with the farm the most. Sebastian was the more logical one, always playing chess with our sisters or Father whenever he got the chance to. He would always win those chess matches, too. Edith was the one who loved sewing and making clothes or blankets. It was a good portion of how she made money for the family, even. If someone needed a blanket or dress made or fixed and didn’t have time or the supplies to do it, they came to our home seeking out her help. Lillian and Vivienne both sang the most in their free time. And Josephine loved being outdoors with the horses or chickens. All the girls helped our mother cook, though. And Father would be in the storage shack or barn fixing our equipment and making sure everything was in order the way it was supposed to be.
As I read, the sky began to darken. I heard my mother’s voice calling every one of us inside to come eat. I closed the book and stretched for a moment. I was sitting in the same spot for too long. I felt stiffer than a wooden board.
I got up and strolled inside with my book still in my hand. Mother greeted me at the door and took the book from me. She smiled and ushered me to the dining room where my brothers and sisters were already sitting, waiting on me and Father still. The smell from the food was absolutely mouthwatering and I couldn’t wait to dig in. I plopped down in the seat beside Zachariah. All of our siblings were talking to one another about what they did during the day. I could hear Lillian going on and on about the party invite from Mr. Cooper. Apparently it was supposed to be one of their fanciest parties of the year. They had invited tons of people and who knows how many of them were going to show up. I didn’t like being in massive crowds like that, and it instantly made me want to not go.
Then, it was finally time to eat. Father had finally sat down at the table, we said grace, and plates started being passed around so we could get whatever food we wanted. And the food was absolutely delicious, too. She had cooked up the food we hunted today, along with corn on the cob, cornbread, and beans. I damn near inhaled the food because I was so hungry.
“Roarke,” Mother said while I ate as quickly as I could,” Slow down, youngin! It isn’t going anywhere.”
A couple of my siblings snickered at that. I swallowed my food and smiled softly at mother to acknowledge what she said, and continued eating, but slower this time. She thanked me and went back to eating her food. There was still chatter at the table, mostly just our parents asking Lillian, Demitrius, and Zachariah about what all went down in town. Lillian was the only one that really spoke about it, though. The other two were too focused on eating, nor did they seem to think it was that important to talk about all the details like Lillian did.
Finally, everyone had finished their food and started drifting off to their own rooms. I helped Mother carry the dishes to the kitchen and even offered to wash them for her. She told me that it was fine and that I could just go back to doing my reading instead. She gave me the book back, and I went upstairs to my room finally. I lit a couple candles so that I could see in the dark, layed down on the bed that was on the opposite side of the door, and continued reading from where I left off. I wasn’t reading for very long until I finally started drifting off into sleep.