MARCH / APRIL 2013: BY CAITLIN HORTON
Captain Steve Rogers pressed through the freezing mud that clung to everything, including the better part of his thick blue cargo pants. Behind him the Howling Commandos followed, their own internationally flavored clothing in about the same condition. He glanced down at the caked mud on his boots. Without the Super Soldier Serum his feet would’ve been frozen blocks by now. He sometimes admittedly forgot he was so different from his team, but now was not one of those times. He called a halt at the edge of a shelled field and allowed a half hour’s rest.
Rations were hauled out of packs and he left them sitting around to do a little scouting ahead. The bombed out field and the recent snowfall melting into it made it nearly impassable. They would need to skirt around it, but which way? He eyed both routes carefully, trying to determine if they were wired. Heading down the right hand trail, Steve followed it for several minutes before kneeling down and examining the ground for traces of recent human activity.
This last mission had gone very well and another factory of The Red Skull’s was completely obliterated. It was the miserable traveling conditions until they reached Allied territory that made every victory seem like they were on the losing side. It was exhausting, cold work that nobody enjoyed, but it had to be done.
That field had been intact when they passed through previously, but that had been a week ago. During war one false move meant death, which is why he always went first. The serum would heal him, most likely, and he couldn’t ask his men to act as land mine fodder.
He was so focused in his searching that the tiny snapping of the twig registered two seconds later than usual. He whirled around, his pistol clenched firmly in his right hand, his round Vibranium shield in his left.
Two pairs of little eyes stared out at him from a bush. Human eyes. Some inner realization made him pause, made him lower his gun a few inches, made him think about what he was seeing.
“Come out.” He tried to inflect authority into his voice, not an easy task for a guy still not used to weighing more than 100 pounds.
Dead leaves rustled and two tiny figures emerged from the growth. Their clothes were filthy, caked with mud and torn from shrapnel fragments, their faces thin and cold and above all, terrified. Steve held out a hand and knelt back down. Neither child could have been more than 7, one looked much younger, around 4, and neither wanted to come closer. He pointed at his shield and again at his helmet where the A was emblazoned.
The older girl suddenly began to cry and charged at him, flinging her arms around his neck. The other little girl held tightly to her muddy rag doll and just stared at him. She pointed at his uniform and whispered one word.
They were French then. Steve tapped the star on his chest. “Why? Well, Star Spangled Man…Allies!”
She stepped forward and shyly offered her hand, which he took.
His men were shocked at the condition of the children, even more so at their presence in a war zone. Steve wiped their faces with water from canteens and gave them rations before French Private Jacques Dernier questioned the older of the two girls.
“Ah, their names are Colette and Emilie. They are sisters who used to live in a farmhouse not far from here. Colette says it was bombed yesterday and their caretaker was inside when it happened. She thinks their parents are working for the Allies, she used to overhear them speaking about their work. Their names are Hugo and Antoinette Agnès.”
Steve’s brow wrinkled.
“Why would they just leave them here?”
Jacques shrugged, his arm wrapped protectively around little Emilie. “At that time this was safe ground, held by the Allies. They could not have known the German bombers would take out one home in the middle of nowhere.”
Steve let out a deep breath. War really was hell and sometimes, when you saw the little casualties, it hurt so much more than you ever knew was possible. “Okay, we’re heading out. I think the right hand path is safest. Dum Dum and Gabe, you carry the girls. Bucky, you take point with me and Jim and Jacques, you take the back. Keep the girls in the middle. Let’s go.”
They reached Allied territory quickly, in spite of the new cargo, and upon entering the large American camp everyone stopped what they were doing and stared. The little girls sat on Dum Dum and Gabe’s shoulders, singing Les Marseillais loudly, though Emilie didn’t know all the words and giggled a lot during it. Peggy Carter, her usual radiant self in brown uniform, whisked the girls away to hot baths, another meal, and bed before contacting the French Underground.
Their parents arrived two days later and Steve witnessed the reunion, just before he had to leave for England. The Agnès had heard their home had been bombed through a reconnaissance air flight and feared the worst. Yet miracles still happened in the middle of war and seeing them clutch their little girls tightly, kissing them over and over made Steve realize something important. If they had trudged across that field or gone to the left, those girls would never have been found. They’d have died out there yet didn’t. God knew and Steve believed wholeheartedly that divine influence guided his actions. Life would continue to march on and take him with it, but the image of those little girls, safe, he would carry for the rest of his life. It gave him hope in tomorrow. ♥
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caitlin Horton is a 20-something reader, seamstress, and history buff. She lives a life blessed in the knowledge that she is God’s child, and her life has a purpose within the scope of His plan. She encourages her readers to remember, every day can be like Bilbo’s “adventure” if you’re willing to take the “ordinary” and add some “extra” in front of it! She also blogs about her crafts!