To Love a Stranger by Wendy K

Word Count 530

May 17, 1863, 11:45pm

Lt. Scott Lancer stood on the Chickasaw Bluffs, above the Yazoo River, and looked down upon the city of Vicksburg. Tomorrow morning the Union troops would begin their assault on the Confederate stronghold, and the young cavalry officer found that he could not sleep.

At his back, in the shelter of the trees, were numerous campfires around which the men were huddled. As tired and hungry as they were, they couldn’t sleep either. They chose instead to cluster together and draw comfort from the flames as well as from each other.

Scott, always a private person, had withdrawn to the edge of the bluff to think on the battle to come. He knew that some of the men at the campfires behind him would not live to see the sun set tomorrow. He knew that he might not live to see the sun set tomorrow, either. While the blond officer did not want to die, he had come to terms with the very real possibility of it. It was simply a part of war and you carried on as best you could, all the while knowing that, at any moment, your life could be snuffed out.

In the camp behind him someone had broken out a fiddle and was playing Lorena. The mournful tune of lost love fit Scott’s introspective mood perfectly. He did not have a sweetheart but he did have people he loved. People who would be devastated if he did not survive the war. His grandfather, far to the north, in particular.

Scott also thought of the people he did not know but who had played an integral part in his life. His mother, Catherine, who had brought him into the world and had then died, never to see her son grow to become a man. Scott didn’t love Catherine. She was a stranger to him and how could you love a stranger? He did, however, feel a profound sense of gratitude. He also felt regret that he would never know the person his mother had been.

The anonymous fiddler at the campfire segued from Lorena into Ashokan Farewell, another melancholy tune, and Scott’s thoughts wandered further. This time they went westward, all the way to California. To a man who was not dead but whom he had never met. Murdoch Lancer. His father. Scott did not love him, either. For again, how could you love a stranger? 

Murdoch had apparently decided that raising a child alone was too much bother and had washed his hands of his son. He had sowed his seed but could not be inconvenienced with the nurturing of it. Carving his ranch out of the wilderness apparently took precedence over his own flesh and blood. Not once during Scott’s life had his father written or visited. No presents on his birthday, no cards, no notes. Nothing. The young lieutenant wasn’t even sure what the man looked like. If Scott did not survive the coming battle, would Murdoch be told? Would he even care? Would he feel any remorse or regret for not having known his son? Scott somehow doubted it.

For how could you love a stranger?   


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