My eyes darted around, careful to remain subtle. And in a moment of daring, I spoke.
No response, complete silence, save for the harsh scrubbing against the washing board.
Ma’s eyes finally turned ever so slightly to regard me. “Hush, child. We got work, an’ I ain’t fancy no whippin’ just ’cause you got it in you to be noisy. ”
I opened my mouth to protest, but clamped it shut and looked down just as I heard the familiar click of dress shoes hitting against the ground.
It was already the fourth time this month.
“Started her monthlies yet?”
Mama kept her head low. “No, sir. ”
Fear- or anger – I didn’t know which, welled up in me.
I’d had the curse for two months now, how long could it stay hidden? If I got found out, I’d be sold to the highest bidder faster than I could blink.
But I was mad too. Oh no, not only at Best Friend, but at Mama too.
She was weak. I hated it; sometimes even hated her for not being strong enough. Not strong enough to stand up to Best Friend. For saying ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir’ in that soft, subdued tone she always used when around him. I despised being born to a slave; it made me one too.
On sleepless nights, I’d lie and pray, to be something, anything but a slave. Even Best Friend’s worst kept dog.
” Well, listen good. The minute she’s old enough to bear, I’ll have someone ready to buy her. ”
I glared hard at the ground. How would he feel if someone took Amy away from him? He really was the Devil’s best friend.
“Yes sir. ”
A cool, hard hand clamped tight over my mouth as I lay on the ground, half-asleep.
“Hush. It’s me. ” I heard Mama’s voice.
“Mama? What you doin’? ” I asked, looking at her haversack. “Where you goin’? ”
“Not me, hun. We. We goin’ North. ”
I was wide awake immediately. North. Where we’d be free. But one thing…
“But Mama, how we gettin’ there? ”
“We walk. ”
Lazy John, true to his name, snored on the chair by the door. Mama used the chance to move in and unlatch the door.
For once, as it swung open, it didn’t screech like a dying animal.
“I oiled it. Shush! ”
It felt great to be outside for once. Not under the boiling heat, not practically dying of thirst. Just the cool, silent night.
But this was where I made a huge mistake.
“Let’s go. ”
“Wait, Mama. I wanna- ”
The clattering of hooves and the whinnies, froze me in my tracks.
No. Not right now.
Hadn’t he left for business?
Mama’s shout jolted me into action.
The heavy thumping of boots and loud swears filled the air as the door swung open, Lazy John now wide awake.
“Don’t you worry your lil’ head, now hun. ”
“But Mama, we’ll be caught an’ whipped till the meat hangs off our backs, ” I sniffled.
“Trust me, hun. We’re goin’ North. ”
And for some reason, those words filled me with joy. So much that I thought I could fill the whole wide world.
“We goin’ North, Mama. ”
I heard Mama shuffle in her bag for something.
“Yes, hun. North. ”
And Mama’s cold knife moved against my throat.
April Ang (2H)