~ by Sam Bovard ~
This is the winning entry in the 2014 Antiques Depot Writing Competition, Age 11-13 Category
The day the war ended was a day that brought relief and happiness to Miss Penelope Green. She was happy that the Union won, but her real excitement was the news that Andrew Boardman was coming home.
She had known Andrew her entire life. They had grown up together, running through the woods, playing in the ocean. The day that he had joined the army was one of the saddest days of her life.
Penelope could still remember October 22, 1861, the day that Andrew joined the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. He traveled by train to Concord, where the Infantry was being organized. She remembers waving goodbye on the small platform for Portsmouth, the salty air blowing around her and mingling with the salinity of her tears as she wondered if she would ever see the boy she held closest to her heart again.
Every time the mail came, for 4 years, she had prayed that she wouldn’t pick up old Mrs. Boardman’s mail at the post office for her, as she usually did, and see, instead of a letter from Andrew, a government-marked letter that everyone knew meant death. Every Sunday she went to the little chapel on the seashore, attending the less populated and less known service there. The rest of the town would be attending the service at St. John’s in town.
Penelope liked this little chapel because it was a place that she had shared with Andrew. They stumbled upon the tiny building after walking along the Great Bay. They had started their trek early in the morning, following the curved edge of the bay. The day was warm and beautiful, with big puffy clouds spotting the blue of the sky.
Andrew and Penelope witnessed Mother Nature wake up. The fish jumped in the bay. Frogs started croaking, making a melody. Sparrow hawks were soaring in the the sky, swooping and spiraling. At noon the kids had stopped in a shaded clearing for their lunches. As Penelope bit into an apple taken from Andrew’s mother’s orchard, she noticed Andrew staring intently down the seashore, squinting his eyes.
“What are you looking at?” she inquired. He started, jumping and blinking fast in surprise.
“Oh! I think I see something down the shore. It looks like a shack,” He answered, turning back to look at the mysterious structure, wrinkling his brow.
“What are we waiting for?” Penelope said mischievously. She raised an eyebrow at him.
When Andrew returned her grin with a match, the sixteen year olds sprinted down the beach towards the shack. Breathing heavily and rosy-cheeked, the pair stopped at the entrance to The Chapel on the Sand. A sign showing the name of the chapel was nailed above the entrance. A detailed hand-painted cross was the only ornament to the exterior of the chapel other than the sign.
Andrew and Penelope waited a moment before entering the one room chapel. The windows were clear glass in the walls that showed the shimmering water, with the exception of the simple stained glass window over the altar of a dove carrying a leaf. There were only two rows of pews, but they took up most of the room. The walls were painted white, and was cracked and chipped. The altar was a podium with a metal cross attached to the front. To Penelope, it looked like perfection.
As they walked down the aisle to the altar, their hands somehow became enclasped. Penelope pretended not to notice, and she knew Andrew did the same.
“Hello children,” A voice from behind them said, startling them, and causing them both to blush. When they turned around they saw the owner of the voice. A small priest was in front of them with a trusting smile on his lips.
“We’re sorry for intruding, Father,” Andrew began, “But we saw the chapel from afar and were curious to what it might be.”
“There is no need for apology, my son. The Chapel is always open to visitors. What are your names? I am Father Pines.”
“I am Andrew Boardman, and my friend here is Penelope Rose. We love the chapel.”
“It has certain… bonuses to it’s solitude,” Father Pines said, with a knowing smile, causing the two of them to blush even more.
Penelope thought about that day often when Andrew was away. She wondered what might’ve happened had Andrew not left for the army two months later.
She also thought about the night before he left, when they had talked for hours in the chapel. She had made a promise to him, and him to her.
And so, almost 4 years later, she waited on the same platform she had the day of the ocean tears. The early June sun was starting its climb, and the upside-down, heart-shaped Great Bay shined like warm silver. A gaggle of other women and children waited alongside her, most excited, but others had somber looks on their faces, and black on their bodies.
There was a rustling of the crowd as they spotted a slowly growing smokestack coming along the rails. This was the moment they had been waiting for for 4 years. The black engine came chugging into the station, and the heads of men poked out of the windows, calling out loved ones’ names. The doors opened and about twenty men poured out.
Penelope searched for that brown hair and blue eyes she had missed for so long, but she couldn’t see him in the crowd. All around her, people reunited, she saw old friends; Thomas Driver, who lived next door to her, and the shopkeeper’s son William Enger. Her panic was growing as she looked and looked. He had said he would be on this train in his last letter, so where was he? As the train started its departure, she was about to yell at it to stop when she suddenly spotted a familiar head making his way through the crowd.
She walked towards him also, until they pushed into an open space. She ran at him and jumped into his arms. He swung her around and then set her down.
“Did you miss me?” Andrew said, a cheeky grin on his face.
“Nope,” she said, hiding a smile, “Not a single bit.”
Andrew faked a betrayed face, and clutched his chest, as if he was having a heart attack.
“Okay, maybe I missed you a little bit,” she giggled. He stopped pretending and fiercely hugged her, as if he would never let her go. She hugged him back, her joking front dropping and tears flowing as she was embraced.
Then it was early spring again and they walked through the orchards, hand-in-hand. As they walked, Penelope noticed that one of the trees had been chopped down. Which wasn’t unusual because Andrew’s family were cabinet makers. but that was one of the trees they had played around when they were younger, and the tree that Penelope had secretly carved AB + PR into the tree. It was a sad moment as she remembered all the days climbing it or laying in the shade underneath on a hot summer day.
Andrew noticed her staring at the stump, and put his arm around her, pulling her close. “I loved that tree,” he whispered in her ear, with a smile, “Especially the crudely carved heart at the top, on the left.”
“You weren’t supposed to know about that,” She whispered back, turning red and looking away.
“Oops,” he said, “I guess you didn’t see the one at the bottom, right next to the roots.”
“What!” she exclaimed, running over to the stump, scanning the roots. Then she saw it. It was expertly carved, with both of their initials inside an ornate heart. She ran her hands over it feeling the smooth cuts.
Later in spring they walked to the little chapel, much faster than the first time, after discovering a dirt path that led to the chapel. Andrew was eager to get there, almost pulling her there.
“Slow down! We’ll still get there if we don’t sprint,” she said, her cheeks colored and her heart pounding hard.
When they finally got there, he seemed to be even more energetic than when they had started the journey, although he had practically run the whole way, with a heavy backpack.
They stopped outside and Penelope sat on one of the big boulders near the chapel. Andrew sat next to her. They sat like that for a while, looking out at the bay, just enjoying each other’s presence. Finally Andrew broke the silence.
“I have something for you,” He said, drawing a beautiful wooden box out of his bag and handed it to her.
“What is this?” She asked.
“It’s a gift and a hope. Open the lid, and you’ll see,” He said with a hopeful expression on his face.
As she opened the box her face changed from confusion to exuberance. Inside the box were six compartments. Inside one was a key to the box with red string tied to it. Inside another was a ring, engagement ring to be exact.
“Penelope, I have known you my entire life, and loved you just as long. When I was fighting, I fought for you. When I got your letters, they made me feel invincible. Everytime I look at you I love you even more. This box is made from the tree we marked with our love. If I could even try to explain the amount of love I have for you, I would talk forever. So please make me as happy as I could be by becoming my wife.”
Penelope closed her eyes and smiled. She wiped tears from her eyes, and opened her green eyes. “Yes.”
The Antiques Depot is hosting its fourth annual writing competition, encouraging young people and teens to explore the world of rare and special antique objects, and learn about our culture and history, while encouraging their creative imagination. The competition involves writing a fictional piece about an object they find in The Antiques Depot (no purchase necessary). The competition has a separate category for adults. The stories may be hand-written or printed, may be delivered either in person, by post, or by email, and must be submitted by July 20. Winning stories will be announced by July 28. For complete details about the contest, stop by The Antiques Depot at 23 Federal Street or call them at 508-228-1287.