War’s Shadow

This week’s flash fic is centered around Paul & Lydia Matthews, the parents of Ezekiel Matthews from my WIP A Time For War. They don’t have a POV in the book, so I figure it would be nice to write little flash fics about them and other side characters to share on the blog.

December 31, 1860

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“My dear, what’s on your mind?”

Even his wife’s gentle voice couldn’t stir him from his chair. Paul Revere Matthews, approximately under a month shy of seventy-one and hair turned completely snow-white, continued to stare into the crackling fire. Last week’s newspaper sat on his lap.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lydia kneel by the chair, felt her arm loop through his, and he briefly turned to her, just in time for her gaze to look upon the newspaper with a disapproving frown.

“Why must you re-read that? You could quote it if I asked.”

For a while, he said nothing. His thoughts were still organizing themselves. Finally, he cleared his throat, gave the newspaper a quick straightening out, then said, “I’m afraid, Lyddie.”

“Of what?”

He almost snorted. Of what? Surely she couldn’t be asking that. Surely she must be as concerned as he was, what with the state of the country being what it was.

“Fools,” he muttered. “They were all fools to think that compromises could keep this union together.”

“Paul, dear, what are you afraid of?”

He shifted in his chair, blue eyes meeting hers. “Lyddie, can’t you see it? With South Carolina gone, the rest of the Southern states are bound to follow. Buchanan won’t do a thing about it, and there’s no telling what Lincoln might or might not do when he’s inaugurated.”

Then he saw it. Saw it first in her eyes, then saw it spread throughout her entire face.


Lydia ducked her head, turning away from him, towards the fire. “You’re afraid a war might happen,” she whispered. “That our sons could…could…”


She raised a hand to her mouth and gnawed on a fingernail, giving him memories of when they were younger and first married and they had been learning more about each other every day.

Paul removed himself from the chair and settled himself next to her. “Ah, these old bones won’t be able to do this for much longer,” he quipped. “Such a shame too, with all the grandchildren we have.”

The barest hint of a smile appeared on her face. “Nonsense. You’ve always been in perfectly good health.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Have I?”

Lydia faced him and cocked her head, giving him that look that was half-exasperation, half-adoration.

Paul smiled and planted a soft kiss on her lips right there. “Lydia, love,” he started. “You know as well as I do that God ordains all things that come to pass. Now, we can certainly pray that a war won’t happen. But if it does, we must remember that God is in control and that He already knows the outcome.”

Lydia said nothing; merely nodded in agreement. Then she leaned against him and he wrapped his arms around her and tucked her head under his chin.

The newspaper lay beside him, forgotten for another minute or two, after which he picked it up, gave it one last glance, then tossed it into the fire.

©2022 H.S. Kylian (Hannah Killian). All rights reserved.

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