It just wouldn’t be right to celebrate Independence Day without letting the Independence Islands celebrate with us! After all, these islands got their name during the War for Independence!
Here’s a short story about current day islanders and the history that made them who they are today! Happy Fourth, and may God Bless America!
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Love & Independence
Nate Wilburton had loved Cassidy Calvin for three years. Most of the time, Cassidy kept tucked away in the Calvin family home, but now and then, she emerged for special events, to do a bit of research she couldn’t online, or when the mainland demanded she leave her safe nest. That’s when she called him.
“Nate, I need to see the dentist next week. Will you take me?” Because, what? He’d say no?
“Nate, I need to see some documents at the Atlanta Library, when might you be available?” As if he wouldn’t make himself available anytime, anywhere, for any reason.
He’d dreamed of calling her and saying, “Cassidy, I need an expert island historian on retainer. I can’t afford to hire you, so would you marry me?”
Of course, he’d never done it. And he’d never even hinted at how he felt. He hoped.
But when she called on July first and said, “Nate, I know this isn’t your purview, but Lew Fenwick can’t help set up the stand for the fireworks display this year—sprained his wrist, poor man—and Papa’s desperate to find someone. I told him if you couldn’t do it, you’d know someone who might.”
“When do you want me there?”
That voice that haunted his dreams filled his ears with laughter. “I just won the bet with Papa. I said that’s what you’d say. He said you’d remind him that you are a transportation specialist, not a jack-of-all-trades.”
“He forgets that I’d do anything for you.”
Nate’s heart bottomed out and stalled. Did I just say that?
“And that’s why we love you so much. See you in an hour?”
By the grace of God, he managed to agree and disconnect without saying anything else mortifying. And, he spent the next hour rehashing those words. Did she say “we” love because it’s just casual or did she choose it because it included her?
One hour later, Nate arrived at Calvin House. He parked in the drive and gazed at the way the front glowed in the morning sunlight, roses dripping over trellises that crawled up the front columns of the old place. Cassidy emerged onto the porch with a smile and a wave. “Papa says to come on in and see what he’s planned for this year.”
Nate jogged up the steps to the house and gazed down at her. “You well this morning, Cass?”
“Very well, thank you. Come on in. Mama’s making lemonade.”
The Calvins greeted him as they always did—warm, friendly, hopeful. They wanted him to become a permanent fixture in the Calvin home, but a daughter with a Ph.D. was more intimidating to an island boy with a high school diploma hidden away with a final report card that proved they’d given him mercy instead of him actually earning it. He hadn’t found a way to prove that someone like him could appreciate someone like her.
But I will. Someday.
“We’re going to try making the stage be the launch pad this year. Why set up two separate things? So, we’ll just have to have everyone move the chairs away from it, but in the long run…” Mr. Calvin explained their plan, point by point, using apples, oranges, and the salt cellar to show what he meant. “Think that’ll work?
“Sure thing. I’ll get right on it.” He turned to Cassidy. “What are you working on today?”
“Just cleaning up some of this year’s play’s dialogue. I write too formally for casual speech—even for eighteenth-century speech.”
“Eigh—oh. Right. Seventeen hundreds. So… let me guess. Nathan Hale?” He knew the brave patriot was a favorite of hers.
“No, we did that year before last.”
“Um…” By the way she didn’t fill in the answer, he knew she wanted him to guess. “Then I’ll say Patrick Henry.”
“No.” This time, she smiled. “I’ll give you one hint. Ships.”
“The Boston Tea Party?”
When that smile turned… it couldn’t be… but it was. Definitely tender. His heart began a proper but lively minuet.
“The King George Islands Great Smoke-Out.”
She urged him out the French doors to the terrace. “You know the story. We heard it a million times in school. How the islanders heard about the Boston Tea Party and staged their own, but this time dressing up as natives and burning the tobacco on the ships to slow the British down, and that’s how we became renamed The Independence Islands. It was our own declaration to side with the colonies for independence.”
“But colonists didn’t dress up as Indians. They brought the Creek in to do it—they set one of the man-o-wars over off Hopper on fire and engaged in a skirmish designed just to keep the British occupied while the Creek stole most of the tobacco and set fire to the supply ship.”
Even as she spoke, she shook her head. “No, no. They heard about Boston and imitated it—swapping tobacco for tea. But they didn’t involve anyone but themselves.”
She was wrong. And he could prove it. And then… A smile formed and drooped almost as quickly. Would she hate him for showing her up or respect him for correcting island lore with factual history? He had documentation—primary sources. He could prove it.
And this was his opportunity. “If I prove that the Creek stole most of that tobacco and split it with the islanders, who sold their portion to the French to fund their own resistance efforts, will you be my date at the festivities?”
She gave him a long, searching look before saying, “We’ll both be here anyway… how’s that a date?”
Emboldened by the way she looked at him, Nate decided to go for broke—and he might be. She was his best client, but it was time. Right? “It’s a date because on a date, I get to kiss the girl before I go home.”
Expressionless—that was the only way to describe her features. His heart began to droop again when that blank look slowly transformed into a smile that even he could see meant to be flirtatious. “I’m going to hold out hope that your confidence isn’t misplaced, then. Deal.”
“Prepare to be wowed, Miss Calvin.”
For the first time ever, Cassidy switched from “we” to “me.” “I always am.”
It took two days to set up everything, and when he’d finished, filthy and drenched with sweat, he went to his SUV and pulled out a bundle wrapped in linen. He carried it to the terrace where Cassidy sat, her hair pulled in a low, side ponytail and cascading down one shoulder. He’d dreamed of that hair.
She looked up, smiling. “You done?”
“Sure am.” He held out his bundle. “I know I can trust you with this.”
Her fingers didn’t just brush his, they covered and held. Cassidy’s expression said things he couldn’t hope for. “You can. What is it, though?”
“A few greats ago, my grandmother was a Hooper. And she was the one who told the Creek it was time to come.”
The sort of joy he’d only seen in her when she made a significant historical connection spread over Cassidy. “Really? How did I not know this existed! Was it Lavinia Hooper’s? The girl who ran away to live—?”
“Did she really come back only when her Creek husband was killed in battle?”
Again, Nate nodded.
This time when she searched his face, he saw her looking for some indication of native ancestry. “Was she really pregnant?”
He just smiled.
“You’re really the great, great… way back grandson of Chebona and Lavinia Hopper?” He’d heard her whistle low before, and it always did unsettling things to his insides. “I just scored a date with the coolest guy on the islands only to find out that he also has the coolest history on the islands!”
“Happy reading. I’ve got to take Miss Evelyn to get her hair fixed.”
Cassidy caught his arm with his hand and a moment later, slid that hand down to his. “Thanks for this, Nate. But even more, thanks for finally asking me… out, so to speak. I’d begun to think it would never happen.”
She wanted me to ask. All the way to his car, the words grew larger and louder in his mind. She wanted me to ask!
Cassidy sat, the journal still wrapped and on her lap. It would be there when she got to it, but first, she wanted to revel in the moment. He’d finally gotten past his weird inferiority ideas and asked. And he mentioned a kiss. I’ll take that kiss. Finally.
Her father appeared, and Cassidy couldn’t help but tease him. “You couldn’t have asked Nate to do this a couple of years ago? Maybe suggested the smoke-out play back then?”
“Why?” He lowered himself into the chair beside her. “What are you talking about?”
“First, it brought me a bit of history that I think will shake up islanders… I’ll have to get this to everyone right away so they have a feel for what they should say.”
“I’m leaving that bit as a surprise.”
“What’s the other bit? The ‘second’ that follows first?”
Cassidy reached for his hand and squeezed. “I have a date for the party—with Nate.”
“Praise the Lord.” After a moment later, he jumped up and pushed in the chair. “I have to tell Leslie.”
Left alone again, Cassidy unfolded the old, linen cloth—probably a dresser scarf from the mid-nineteenth century. Beautiful hemstitching that still held firm. Once white, most likely—possibly a pale blue. Inside, a hand-bound leather journal. The first entry, 1774. She paused. Touching this without gloves would be criminal. “Mama! Can you bring me some document gloves?”
She flipped through the journal until she found the right date… just a few days before the great smoke-out.
Papa has said they will have their own party here on Hooper Island—just as the patriots did in Boston. We’ll steal the tobacco off the ships and burn it. King George’s army will not oppress us anymore.
Later, when the family was in the music room, I crept outside and into the garden to meet with my love. Chebona waited for me, but this time I didn’t jump when he rose out of the shrubbery. He says I am learning. I heard pride in his tone—love. When I told him about the great plan, he frowned. “A waste,” he said in the choppy way he speaks. He has no use for extraneous words. He prefers looks, touches, kisses. I like his kisses. He says I will be his wife as soon as the British are gone. Mama will have vapors, but I care not. I love him.
By the time I had to hurry back—before someone decided I’d gotten ill and came looking for me, we concocted an alternative plan. It’s superior. Now, if I can only convince Papa to do it. I must wait until Mama has gone to bed. She’s still convinced the Creek wait to scalp us in our sleep. Papa says she’s ridiculous, and I agree. Chebona just smiles and says if anyone touches my head, they’ll lose theirs.
A few days later, the entry confirmed the new plan. And following that, the day. Cassidy read with growing eagerness.
I met with Chebona tonight—with Papa’s approval. He’s known of our trysts all along. He says I may not marry my love but that he understands my admiration. “We marry others of the faith, Lavinia. Only of the faith. If he were a Christian, I could not refuse a good man, but…”
But I know something Papa doesn’t. I’ve taught Chebona all about Jesus. He believes. When this is over and he is ready to take me for his wife, I will tell Papa all about it. I wrote out the story months ago, so he cannot claim that Chebona is only playing a part to win a wife. I will belong to my love. It will be hard, living as the Indians do, but he is worth all discomfort.
Chebona and the men will wait for my signal tomorrow night. When I walk along the garden path, whistling, they’ll take their canoes and rafts out to the ships under cover of darkness. They’ll hide on the south side of the supply ships while the British are battling on the man-o-war to the north. They’ll steal most of the tobacco and other supplies—all they can fit on the rafts—and paddle back to the shore. Between the two fires, the British may never know that the supplies were not lost in the flames.
And then the entry that told it all…
Cassidy forced herself to go slowly, to turn the pages with care. Everything was exactly as the story had always been told but for one exception. The true heroes were the Creek warriors who had stolen supplies to help the colonist resistance.
The next entry, written in a different ink, sent her heart soaring.
Chebona came to me in the garden just before dawn. He was filthy, sweaty, but his dark eyes glistened. He said, “No one hurt. No death. Your father’s men?”
I assured him that there were only minor injuries except for Jonathan Crawforth. “The fool jumped up and gave a war whoop and caught a musket ball to his chest. He’s dead.”
Chebona’s eyes glittered in the fading moonlight. “He wasn’t honorable,” he said.
I couldn’t deny it. Jonathan tried to take liberties any chance he got. He hated the natives because Chebona had broken his nose when he caught Jonathan trying to force a kiss on me.
Then Chebona said it. “With no battle…”
Chebona did not have to even ask if he could kiss me. I kissed him! We walked hand-in-hand to Papa’s library where he sat praying, praising God for our victory. Papa rose and thanked Chebona for the Creek’s service to us. After telling Papa where the colonists could find their share of the bounty, he asked to have me for a wife.
Papa explained about faith. Chebona listened with great respect until Papa finished and said, “This I believe when Lavinia tells me of the Great Savior.”
“That is a bit convenient, don’t you think?”
I pulled my journal from its hiding place behind books on the top shelves, ones even Papa rarely reads, and showed him the dates—including the one where Chebona believed and asked who should baptize him.
“You’ve been baptized?” Papa asked.
“Ask Reverend Calvin. I was there.” Joy filled me. I’d be Chebona’s wife. But then Papa shook his head. “I didn’t want to hurt you, Lavinia, but your mother would never approve. I cannot in good conscience send you to live with people who live as they do. They’ve done us a good service, have been paid for it, but you will remain with us, and Chebona will go be with his people.”
Then he sent me out to walk Chebona to the edge of our land. That bit of graciousness is the reason that I cried as Chebona and I climbed into his canoe and slipped away. We paddled down to the tip of Sparrow Island where a smaller Creek encampment had been living. Chebona explained to them, and they welcomed us.
An entry two months later had a nebulous date, as if she hadn’t been keeping track very well with life that didn’t revolve around calendars.
Here I stay with my love. I wear the dress of the Creek women, braid my hair like them, and they teach me how to cook their foods, and I am happy. I know Papa sent someone to look for us, but the Creek we know on Hooper do not know where we are. Someday, I’ll go home and visit, but we need time for my parents to come to terms with my choice. Likely when the baby that I suspect grows in me is born. How can grandparents refuse the pull of a beautiful baby?
There Cassidy paused, her heart stirred. There were legends of Lavinia Hooper, of course, but no one knew where they began and ended. “Now we do,” she whispered. “Because Nate knew the value of a journal and actually read it…
The story playing out on the stage sent shockwaves through the guests. Whispers, gasps, questions. Cassidy felt rather than saw Nate appear behind her. “You need to tell them, Nate.”
“No… you wrote it. You need to.”
“I can’t get up there, as you well know.”
He came around and knelt before her. “I can get you up and down from there if you’ll let me. There’s half a sheet of plywood in your shed to make a ramp for your chair, or, I can set up a chair by that microphone and carry you. Either way. But it should be you.”
With options like that, she couldn’t refuse. “I’ll do it, but only if you’ll carry me.” She grinned up at him. “I can’t resist that opportunity.”
“You’re going to get yourself kissed, Miss Calvin.”
“That was the idea…”
The grand plans to use the fireworks display as a backdrop and cover for his planned kiss failed. Nate found himself helping Lew Fenwick with that task, too. Not until the smoke and scent of sulfur had dissipated, not until the last guest had gone and her parents had disappeared upstairs, and not until he’d managed to carry her down to the beach and onto a blanket he’d set up, did Nate have an opportunity to make that kiss happen.
And by then, he wasn’t in nearly as much of a rush. They lay back, watching the clouds try to hide the moon and stars. “They’re like God’s fireworks, aren’t they?” she whispered. “But God’s don’t disappear. They stay there, waiting for us to be able to see them again night after night.”
Nate rolled over onto his side and propped his head in his hand, watching her. “Did you know I’ve been in love with you for three years?”
“I’ve known for two…”
“You couldn’t have given me some kind of hint that you wouldn’t mind…?”
“I cooked up every reason I could think of to get you over here, to take me somewhere…” She giggled and turned her head to look at him. “I lied to you a few times. I didn’t even hide it. I kept hoping you’d call me out on it.”
Nate confessed his insecurities with her degrees, considering his less-than-stellar academic prowess. He just didn’t expect her to laugh. “I became an academic because my dream of being a prima ballerina died in that accident, not because it was my first choice. I love learning, but I kind of like you more…”
“About that kiss…”
She grinned. “Took you long enough.”
“I haven’t yet…”
This time, her eyelids lowered, and she sighed. “I know. Trust me, I know.”
What could Nate do but rectify that situation?
From somewhere down the beach, a spray of fireworks shot into the air. Although his lips were occupied, his mind couldn’t help but say, Got those fireworks after all. Happy Independence Day to us.
Thank you for reading our Independence Islands short story!
The Independence Islands authors, Melissa Wardwell, Kari Trumbo, Rachel Skatvold, Tabitha Bouldin, Carolyn Miller and I wish you all a very Happy Independence Day. Please do take a minute to learn all about the books and don’t forget to find out how to get your collector postcards by visiting HERE.
The first book, Dual Power of Convenience, releases in just three weeks!
Dual Power of Convenience
by Chautona Havig
All they wanted was a happily-never-after. It was supposed
to be a match made on paper. With him halfway across the globe, they’d
never have to see each other again. So what’s Richard doing back on
Visit the other authors at their websites to learn more about their books:
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