Amie understood that to mean that Hamilton had had a choice. Of course he would choose to attend a gala affair, to be toasted and who knows what all. He did like to dance with pretty women. Again, her stomach protested.
"Father, I need to go home. The heat is overwhelming me today," she said limply.
When she reclined on the porch that afternoon, her old nanny walked by. Amie called to her.
"What sugar? Do you needs me to do something for you?"
Amie kept her voice low. "I haven't been feeling well, sick to my stomach this past week."
"Humhuph," she said crossing her arms looking her over. The woman had helped birth her and had taken care of her ever since Amie was slapped on the bottom and made to cry. "Have you missed your monthlies, baby girl?"
Aime's eyes went wide. She had not thought, had not suspected such a thing. She had hardly been with Hamilton, only a few times.
"It only takes one time sometimes," she nodded knowingly. "My baby maybe's goin' to be a mama. I knew there was somethin' glowing on you," and she whispered, and it sure 'nuf ain't cause of your yearning fer your man, now is it?"
Amy's face burned with embarrassment and did not answer.
Yet, that man she didn't yearn for rode in with his horse lathered that evening. He sat tightlipped at the table not saying a word to her, only answered her father's questions with hardly more than a grunt.
Once upstairs, he shoved her hard up against the bed. "So you ratted on us to the enemy. You know some people have hung for less."
"What?" But she knew he'd found out about her warning Daniel. She was relieved except for the fearsome look in her husband's eyes.
"You did, didn't you? You warned Daniel Wise so he could escape to fight for the North. You're disloyal to the Cause, woman! How would you feel if he raised his gun against me? Huh? Would you mourn?" Hamilton grabbed her up by her collar and slapped her.
Amie was shocked, shocked speechless. No one had ever lifted a hand against her. He dropped her and let her fall to her knees. but he pulled her by the hair until she was forced to look up at him.
"Did you think I wouldn't recognize Jasper on your horse coming from Daniel's place? Do you think I'm an idiot? If the men I was with had recognized either the boy or the horse, it could have been me hanging from that rope for colluding with the enemy." He pulled her up and backhanded her again. "Don't you know that this is war?"
Amie was quickly becoming aware of its cost. The genteel southern way she'd been raised with had been shattered. Then he left. She didn't know where he went, perhaps at his father's, but was just glad he was gone. She stayed up in her room hiding the bruises on her face and waited on pins and needles wondering if he would return that night. She finally fell asleep after the sun rose above the tree shadows, relieved he truly was gone. She slept past noon, exhausted.
It was the last she ever saw him. He died for his beloved South. Hamilton's father came over to tell them. His face moved like ripples in a stream, one moment proud of his son, the next, broken over his death. Amie tried her best to share his grief, but only felt numb.
"It's my duty now to take his place," her father-in-law announced suddenly with a wild gleam in his eye. "Yes, that's what I'll do."
"You sure bout this, Missy?"
Her own father came home a shell of a man. His house was infested with his enemy. Most of their slaves were gone except those who chose to stay and share crop the land.
He told his superior officer of how she had saved his neck. The men loved seeing little Isabelle toddling around. When they looked at her, she reminded them of their homes, wives, and children they had not seen in ages. Tender looks melted at her generous smiles, a relief from their onerous duties. One would give her a horsey ride while another would carve her another animal for her menagerie. Then there was Daniel. No one could rock her to sleep like he could with his soft singing. Amie loved listening, never far away.
A time to be born and a time to die;