The drooping branches covered with apple blossoms created a private bower filled with soft pink light. The sweet smell of flowers was strong, but not enough to mask the fresh-bread scent of the girl beside him. Ichabod tried to etch the scene into his mind so that he could bring it out again when he was far from home.
“I still don’t see why you have to go. You are to young to fight.” Jemima brushed at the dusting of flour coating her apron, refusing to meet his gaze. Jemima had been helping her mother with the daily baking when he had signaled her to meet him
“I turn sixteen today, and that is old enough.” Ichabod took her hands and waited until she looked at him. It was the first time he had touched her as anything other than a childhood friend. Finally, her warm brown eyes met his. A flush crept over her face making the dusting of gold freckles stand out. She tried to tug her hands out of his, but not very hard.
“When will you go?” Jemima’s voice had grown soft so that he had to strain to hear her. She no longer pulled her hands away, gripping tightly instead.
“Tomorrow. I promised ma I would spend the night in prayer before making a final decision. I couldn’t deny her even though I am sure this is the right thing to do.”
“What will she do without you. Your pa is scarcely cold in his grave.”
“That is exactly why I have to go. Pa died fighting for what he believed in, but the war isn’t over. I need to go finish what he started.” Ichabod looked down into her face, no longer flushed, put pale. Her eyes had gone wide.
“You are actually going to fight the British? Papa says that there is no way we can win this war. He says that we should just give up and pay the stupid taxes before we are all killed.”
“Does he really think that the Lobster Backs will go quietly home if we let them get away with this? ‘Cause they won’t. They will stay and make us pay for daring to rebel against the crown. If that happens we would be better off dead.”
Jemima gasped. “Ichabod Perry, you can’t mean it! It is a sin to wish to be dead.” She tried again to pull her hands away, but he continued to hold them.
“I don’t want to die, but I want to live in a land where I can be free to make myself heard. A land where I can marry and raise children without being afraid that some far off king can take all that I have worked for, all that I love. Jemima, my pa paid for that freedom with his life, can I do less than offer my own for what he believed in, what I believe in?”
Ichabod’s heart leapt in his chest. That was what he had been hoping for.
“That’s why I came over today. I am leaving before first light tomorrow and I wanted to see you before I left.” Ichabod released one hand and placed it under her chin, drawing her gaze up to meet his once more. “Jemima, I know that I am only sixteen and you are just fourteen, but I know my heart. Will you wait for me while I am going off to war? Will you promise to write to me? I don’t know how often I will be able to get mail, or write back, but will you write and let me know how you are and how Ma is?”
Jemima’s face flushed scarlet at his improper request. He knew he should wait until they were older and received her father’s permission, but he was going away into a fearful future and wanted something to encourage him until he returned. He could feel the heat of her blush through his fingers, but her eyes stayed steady on his.
“I will wait for you Ichabod Perry. I will wait for you until the end of time.” Quick as a darting bird, Jemima rose to her toes and pressed her soft lips to his. She pulled away and her soft brown eyes filled with tears. “Just make sure you come home so I don’t wait forever.” Then she put her fingers to quivering lips and fled through the apple blossoms.