In this story series Annabelle follows her sister Constances example in Civil War era North Carolina with intimate letters between sisters.
April 2nd, 1862
Mama was overjoyed at the news of your safe arrival and Papa too. I believe that he still has doubts as to the suitableness of your Mr. Whiteside, though I do think the name is a fit description for you. We were so excited to receive your letter that we all gathered in the parlor to hear me read it out loud not realizing at first the personal nature of your correspondence. I managed to pass over the more intimate parts of your narrative. Papa snorted at the presumption of the war department and proclaimed loudly that, and I quote, "Win this war and we will have another government to overthrow." Mama was more suspicious at the gaps and later compelled me to show her the letter in its entirety.
I read your letter three times to myself after retiring to the privacy of our, I mean, my room. You were always a forward girl and I blushed at the account of the scandalous way you walked unescorted with the soldier. I must remember that as mistress of the manor, you must provide hospitality even when all the rules of social graces cannot be followed. Still, the shamelessness caused a heat to rise in my very loins.
Edward Tilby continues to come calling. He asks after your health, but less frequently each time as he presses Papa about me instead. I would rather mate with a damn Yankee! He has been attached to the recruiter's office, but spends more time making social calls and bragging about the deserters he is on the lookout for than filling the ranks with new units. The assignment seems fit for him as I doubt he could find the dangerous end of a musket.
I do not know if I can make myself so daring as you. The very thought causes me to tremble. I have no wish to deprive our valiant warriors of any kindness that I might do though. I feared that no opportunity would present itself. However, providence interceded. The Warren house was converted into a convalescence home for the wounded. Soldiers arrive by ambulance and remain until they are fit for duty or healthy enough to return home. I presented myself to the surgeon in charge that very first week. Sweet sister, the wreck Union weapons make on our fair boys is beyond my poor ability to describe. Every night I cry myself to sleep as I offer up prayers to the Almighty for their recovery.
I feared that changing bandages and cleaning wounds would be all the comfort that I would be allowed to provide. Fortune turned my way just this last week though. There is a young Texan in my ward who could not be any older than I. He has earnest blue eyes under a tassel of tow hair. He is well formed and will be a fine husband when he returns home, which will be soon, for his injury has permanently shortened his leg. He will limp badly I'm afraid. He received a letter from home and as he could not read asked me to convey the contents to him. It was from his girl he said as he produced a picture of a homey waif with pigtails in a calico dress from his breast pocket. I must say those Texan's are a direct and plain spoken people. I blushed at your letter, but the things she wrote were so graphic as not to bear repeating. I found myself fidgeting like a school girl trying to get some relief on my overheating fanny. The words were having a similar effect on my ruddy Texan. I could see him stiffening to attention. The hospital gowns allowed for considerable freedom of movement and he was taking advantage of that by saluting vigorously. I was afraid that he might hurt himself, perhaps even throw himself from the cot so I offered to assist him. He said that my ministrations would always be welcome. I instructed him to lie still as I finished his letter. The details of her affection for him had given me a lesson. Though I found sitting difficult in the moist puddle collecting under me I dutifully resumed the salute of the flagpole he had begun.
My hands could barely grasp the intended muscle, being large and knotty. I worked with a steady stroke that I dare say he found much preferable to his own fevered pace. It was clear that my deft massage of his straining appendage brought him immeasurable relief as he repeatedly informed me that it felt good and pleaded with me not to stop. Stopping was the furthest thing from my mind! Fearing that he was coming to some harm because the heat I felt in my fingers I pulled aside the bed covering to gain a better examination of his need. The young man was swollen to bursting and was an angry purple in my grasp. He pressed me to continue and assured me that his sweet Pauline had many times performed similar service for him, which I well could believe. I bent closer as he informed me that he was very nearly at an end. With a great rush of air he spent himself then collapsed with a sigh content and relieved. I was surprised by the sudden explosion and could not avoid being spattered due to my proximity. It splashed in my face, hair, eyes, across my apron and some even in my mouth. In my shock I swallowed reflexively and found it to be creamy with a salty taste. Hurriedly, I cleaned him to soft moans, the floor and what I could of myself.
Not having placed the privacy screen before undertaking the reading the other patients in my ward saluted me with a cheer for the noble service I had rendered to their fellow soldier. All to a man they begged for me to visit them next to read and massage the wounds of war away. I was overcome with tender regard for these men. I promised that I would do all that I could in their service, then wiped more from my cheek with my finger and licked it clean to roars of approval. I am satisfied that even in my quiet home front that I too will be able to aid our boys as you are.
Momma Jammy fairly swooned at word from her daughter. She warns that her Millie avoid any lay about bucks with easy smiles and to remember that she is a proper house slave now. She scolded me something awful for the stain on my petticoat from the hospital. I paid her no mind as I was in a hurry to relieve the flaming itch that caused me much discomfort sitting at his side. I miss how we would rub each other when in similar distress. I can never quite reach the same spots you could.
Following in your footsteps, Annabelle.
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