TwoA Chapter by emily
My mother chattered at me as we made our way through the house, catching me up with gossip and other pointless information that I missed while I was away. I wasn’t paying attention. My brief meeting with Isaiah had left me feeling giddy and a little lightheaded. The memories I had been suppressing for months was returning, and for once I didn’t have to fight them back. I wanted to remember.
I was in the attic. I was packed, prepared, and pestered into readiness. I was supposed to be sleeping, and probably should have been. I had hours in the carriage ahead of me tomorrow, then days on a train and weeks on a boat.
But I couldn’t leave yet. I had to say goodbye.
“You can go on up to your room, Adeline.” My mother snapped me out of the memory. “I’ll send for Hannah to help you unpack.”
I nodded and began the two stair-flight climb to my room.
Things had been tense since I told Isaiah that I was leaving. Actually, things had been uncomfortable between us for a long while. But my leaving was making everything worse.
We had been learning hard lessons in life. As we grew older Isaiah and I were losing hold of each other. I was sixteen then, he was seventeen. We were too old to act like children anymore, but still too young to know how to let go of our friendship.
It had been a few years already since it became clear that we could not be friends like we used to be. We both knew what it looked like when a young woman was seen with the slaves as much as I was, and our meetings had become restricted to our few stolen, late-night hours in the attic. But neither of us knew why things had become so especially difficult in the past few months. Or at least neither of us would admit it to the other.
I had reached my room, a welcoming sight, exactly as I remembered it. The white iron bed was pushed against the left wall, a wardrobe and vanity mirror to the right. There was a large bay window across from the door. Only on a few desperate occasions I could remember Isaiah having come through there.
I was pacing. I walked from one side of the room to the other, sat on the bed, stood up, paced some more, sat in the chair and stood again. I was worried that he wouldn’t come. I wanted to make peace before I left. I didn’t want him to be angry with me for leaving. I missed our friendship terribly, and I feared that if I failed to make things better in that last night we would never be close again.
I went to my vanity and sat down with a sigh, relishing the familiarity of my own room. I gazed at myself in the mirror. The reflection had not changed in a year. I was still very delicate, though taller than I would have liked, and blonde as any southern belle. My nose was small, my mouth round, and my eyes long-lashed and slivery gray. My cheeks had a rather embarrassing tendency to flush at the slightest offense; such was the nature of a sheltered upbringing. My hips and breasts had come in somewhat awkwardly on my thin frame, and I knew from Isaiah’s shy, discomforted looks that he was well aware of their existence.
Isaiah thought I was beautiful. I knew he did. He was the only person ever to have told me so.
Turning away, I looked up to the ceiling and saw the door leading to the attic. No one would see the crease if they were not looking for it. I could stand on the chair and push the door up, then easily climb through. I had been doing it for as long as I could remember.
I had practiced what to say, but, knowing Isaiah, it wasn’t likely that I would get a word in if he were angry.
I stopped pacing when I heard a noise outside. He had come. I smoothed my hair and nightgown, not wanting him to think that I was nervous. He leaped into the room with ease and faced me.
There was a knock at my door and I rushed to open it. I was excited to see Hannah. She had always been my personal maid and close friend. But more than that, she was also Isaiah’s younger sister.
I didn’t know how much she knew about us; I didn’t know how much I wanted her to know. She had a reputation for being fiercely protective of the people she cared for and menacing towards those she didn’t. But I thought maybe she could tell me how Isaiah had been doing, what was really on his mind.
I smiled on seeing her when I opened the door. She had always looked older than me, even though we were nearly exactly the same age. She was taller and leaner, but still more voluptuous than me. She had curly hair and the same black eyes and chocolate skin as her brother. The two of them had been sold to us when she was seven and Isaiah was eight. We had been fast friends, all of us being around the same age. We had always been together.
“What do you want, Addy? We’re planting tomorrow and you should be asleep." He was as cold as ever.
“I… I…” Everything I planned to say was gone already. “I… wanted to say goodbye.”
“And what do you want me to say?” his voice hardened, and I could already tell this would not end well.
It occurred to me that I actually did not know exactly what I wanted him to say, so I let the words fly without thinking about it. “Just say everything will be all right between us when I get back. I want to know I won’t lose you no matter what happens while I’m away.” That was at least awfully close to what I wanted him to say, though based on his demeanor, it was unlikely that it would actually be said.
Isaiah shook his head. “I can’t promise that,” he said icily. “How can I say that everything will stay the same?” He turned his piercing eyes to me. “Do you really think we can keep this up forever? We can barely keep it up now.”
“Isaiah…”I wanted to stop him before he got carried away.
“Everything is going to change, Addy. What if you get married and don’t come home, or what if you bring him back with you? What will you want from me then?”
“Are you all right? Adeline?” Hannah had made her way through the doorway and brushed past me without breaking me out of the memory. She stood behind me now, waiting for a response.
“Oh, Hannah,” I said, turning to hug my friend. “I’m sorry. I’m a little tired from the trip. It’s good to see you.”
“That’s not going to happen and you know it, Isaiah,” I snapped back at him. We had fought over the topic of marriage before, though at the time I had no idea of why he was so sensitive about it.
“Well what if it does happen? What are you going to do, bring me with you so you can find some other place where we can keep pretending like we’re just a couple of kids forever? You know it can’t be like that!” His tone had changed. Isaiah had let his guard down, and for the first time I could see that the idea of losing me really worried him.
“Well what do you care?” I yelled at him. “You’ve been acting like you don’t give a damn about me for months! I don’t know why you suddenly care so much about my life and what I do when I’m away, but I came here tonight to because I care about you, Isaiah, and I’m tired of fighting about…” Isaiah’s face was suddenly unreadable and smooth, like he was hiding something. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head and bit his lip, looking uncomfortably down. “It’s just… It’s because… Addy I… I…”
I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. Isaiah’s feelings took over before he could finish whatever he wanted to say. He reached out, took me by the waist and pulled me to him, crushing his lips to mine.
I touched my lips involuntarily.
“What? What are you smiling about?” Hannah asked bluntly.
“Oh,” I said lightly, “It’s nothing…”
I had never been kissed. I had never even been that close to anyone. There was something wild and urgent about the way he held me. It had frightened me.
“Your parents said I should help you to dress for dinner,” Hannah said as she put away my things. I did not respond.
My hand was out before I knew what I was doing. I pushed him away before smacking him across the face. Isaiah rubbed his injured cheek with a hurt look in his eyes. “I’m sorry.” He sounded so sincere that I immediately regretted hitting him.
I was not sure what to say. Something I did not understand had stirred inside me. I didn’t know if I should say something or run away or talk to him about it. What I really wanted was to pull him back, and I was not ready to handle that kind of emotion right then.
“Don’t,” I said, backing up with my hands extended, so Isaiah would not follow me, and lifting the latch of the door in the floor. “Just don’t.”
Hannah was slipping a simple gray dress over my head when I finally came back to reality. I decided to use the opportunity to my advantage.
“So, how has everybody been?” I asked casually. “How are Ruben and Eli,” I paused, hoping that she would catch on, “and Isaiah?”
“Well not much has been happening around here. Everyone’s excited to have you home, of course.” Her eyes shifted around the room, as if someone was listening to us.
She lowered her voice. “Listen, the boys wanted to celebrate your being home. Come down to the cabins tonight, they’re all glad to have you back,” she paused, and I wondered if she was trying to make a point, “especially Isaiah. Eli and Ruben have been giving him such a hard time. He hasn’t shut up about you for weeks.”
She knew something. I panicked internally for a minute, worrying about how much she had figured out. But Hannah said nothing more on the subject.
“You can tell them I’ll be there.”
I sat in my room until I was sure he was out of the attic and far away. Then I climbed out my window. I had to get out, get some air and clear my head.
After falling painfully to the ground, I ran to seek sanctuary in the barn. I climbed the ladder to the second level and sat with my arms wrapped around my knees.
I was so confused. In a million years I would not have expected that to be the reason for his distancing himself from me. For whatever reason, boys never seemed to take a shine to me. So to find out that Isaiah of all people felt that way was more than I could bear.
I knew I couldn’t leave things with him like that. I did not know if I could leave at all now, knowing that Isaiah felt that way. But I certainly didn’t want to talk about it with him.
But I was most afraid of my own reaction. I had thought I was supposed to be afraid or angry or embarrassed, but I hadn’t felt that way at all. All I had wanted in the world was to kiss him back, and I just couldn’t let myself do that.
Hannah finished with my dress. “Best to be getting down to dinner, then,” Hannah said. “I’ll see you tonight. Meet us at Isaiah’s cabin.” I nodded as I left the room.
At dinner, everyone in my family expected me to be bursting with information about England’s glories. I did not feel much like talking, though, so I modified the story I had told Hannah.
“I am so very famished from my travel,” I announced, touching a hand to my forehead for emphasis.
“You should be getting to bed early, Adeline, after such a long day,” Mama said while the slaves cleared away our plates. Hannah reached down for my dish and flashed me a look.
“Yes, I believe I will,” I said. The sooner I was away from my family, the sooner I could get to the cabins. I was excited to see my friends again. No one objected when I excused myself for the night shortly after the main course.
Up in my room, I changed into a more sensible skirt and blouse outfit, something that I could scale that wall in. Then I sat on my bed, waiting for darkness to come and remembering.
I sat in that barn, alone and crying, for a long time. I had barely noticed the sound of someone else in there with me, someone climbing the ladder. I didn’t even know he was there until I was looking up into the deep, emotional expression in his black eyes.
Isaiah wrapped me in his arms and I did not object. He wouldn’t have pushed me. He wouldn’t have asked for anything more that night if I had not wanted it too. He was gentle and warm, embracing me like a friend.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.” I knew he couldn’t stand that he had made me cry.
I didn’t know what he was thinking. I didn’t even know what I was thinking. All I know is that when Isaiah touched me, something inside of me snapped and I felt like I had never, ever felt before.
So I rose up to meet him on my knees and kissed him.
I opened my eyes and smiled, laughing quietly at myself for remembering everything in such impossible detail. How could I have been so stupid as to think I could forget?
I could tell he had not expected the kiss. Isaiah’s whole body tensed up in surprise for a second. Then he relaxed and took me by the waist, holding me to him. I could feel his smile under my lips.
He rolled on to his back and I came down on top of him, sprawling clumsily across his chest. I had to put a leg on either side of him to keep from falling off, but I did not stop kissing him. Neither of us truly knew what we were doing. Isaiah had never been kissed either, I knew. But our lack of experience somehow did not ruin anything. I remember Isaiah’s hands were on my back, drawing me into him. He had more self-control than I did. I could tell he was being very, very careful, almost like he was afraid of what would happen if he let himself get carried away.
I could tell that we would go no further that night. And, at that moment, that was fine by me. I was perfectly content just to lie there kissing him forever.
It was all very strange. I had suppressed the memory of that night for so long that I had begun to seriously overestimate what had really happened. For more than a year I had built it up as a scandalous event from which I could never recover my innocence. But Isaiah had handled me so carefully, I almost felt guilty for remembering that night in such a way when he had been so cautious and kind.
I don’t know how much time passed in that barn. Eventually, I was so exhausted I simply could not continue. My head felt light and hazy, and I let it fall onto Isaiah’s shoulder. He kissed my neck with swollen lips and sighed before I rolled onto my side next to him.
We laid there in white moonlight for a long time. He had closed his eyes, lying on his back. I could tell that he was not yet asleep, but I was not about to disturb him. I was afraid that if we talked, the moment would be over and I would lose it forever. So I gazed at him in silence until I finally drifted off.
I sighed and opened my eyes. It made me sad that that night was just a memory. I wondered how long it would be until we were as close as we were that night, if we could ever have another moment like that. I wondered what it would be like to be even closer.
Sometimes, in England, the girls in my dormitory would stay up late and tell the kinds of stories they would never speak of in the daylight. It was then that I had been told that love " the kind of mysterious physical love that Mama had never fully explained to me " did not have to be, as I had been taught, an act done only to please one’s husband and create children for the country. It could be more than that. Much more. So much more it had made me blush just to think about it. Some of the girls had even done those things already.
A kind of chill ran down my spine. Kissing Isaiah was one thing, but going any further was something that had not even crossed my mind that first night. Soon after, though, when I found myself lying in bed at night, thinking about that possibility, I found myself trembling with something I failed to completely understand.
When I awoke, there was a weak light shining through on us. I had been sleeping the crook of Isaiah’s arm with my arm thrown across his chest.
I knew that if I didn’t get back soon I would be in serious trouble. Hannah would be coming to my room to wake me and prepare me for my long trip ahead. If she found an empty bed I could hardly imagine the consequences.
But I couldn’t bring myself to feel ashamed or afraid. I felt so right there. I felt more content than I had in my whole life, just watching Isaiah sleep, listening to his even breathing.
I wished then with everything I had that I did not have to leave.
Isaiah stirred and sighed next to me. I giggled and kissed his nose, his eyelids, his throat, and finally his lips before he opened his eyes and softly smiled at me.
“Good morning,” I whispered.
He chuckled and sat up to kiss me. “Well good morning to you,” he said. Then there was a long, solemn silence. Both of our smiles disappeared. The reality of daylight was harrowing. “You’re leaving.”
It was not a question, and it hurt. I bit my lip. I wanted to stay with Isaiah more than anything, but how could I not go now? What would my parents think?
I did not have any more time to think it through, however. The barn door creaked and footsteps pounded across the floor.
Restlessly, I walked to my vanity and sat at the stool, running a brush through my already smooth hair. It was dusk. Almost time to escape to the cabins.
Isaiah and I flew apart.
"Someone’s down there," I whispered.
"Quiet," Isaiah hissed.
We sat in silent dread, knowing that everything could be shattered right then.
Remembering that moment, the fear of being caught, reminded me of how careful we would have to be, reminded me that we would be lucky to find any little time together at all, that what we were doing was really, truly dangerous. The night before had been like a wonderful dream, and in those few seconds we had been smacked in the face with reality. We had realized what would really happen if I was caught with a slave.
“Hello?” I breathed a sigh of relief to hear Eli's familiar, mischievous voice. “Not meaning to interrupt your tender moment, but we thought we should warn you that if Adeline’s not back in her bed in two minutes Hannah will have both of your hides.”
“Eli…” Isaiah growled in warning.
“Does she know?” As much as I worried about Eli knowing, I knew it would be much worse if Hannah found out.
“What kind of friends do you think we are?” I was surprised to hear that Ruben was down there as well.
“Could you two give us one minute please?” Isaiah asked, sounding so incredibly exasperated he almost made me laugh.
The ladder creaked and two faces popped up from the hole in the floor. “All right, we’ll stall her, but we warned you!” They looked at us with playful grins. “Adeline, you could do better!”
“All right, we’re going!” Ruben said, raising an eyebrow.
“Jesus, Isaiah. Save the heat for your lady friend!” Eli joked. They laughed and before Isaiah could object Ruben pulled Eli out of sight by the shirt collar. I could still hear him protesting jokingly as they pounded across the floor out the door.
I often forgot how much Eli and Ruben knew because, honestly, they were the least of my worries. Other than the indecent comments that usually came with their company anyway, I would most likely go unaffected. Still, it was embarrassing that they had interrupted such an emotional moment between Isaiah and me. That morning was the last time I had seen them, and I just knew they had been saving up their jokes for my return.
He spoke only when they were definitely gone. “I’m so sorry, Addy. They knew I followed you here. I shouldn’t have told them.” I nodded. With Isaiah apologizing so earnestly it was impossible to me annoyed by anyone.
“So you’re going,” Isaiah said. Again, it was not a question.
“I have to, Isaiah. My parents will know something’s wrong if I ask to stay.”
He gave me a sad look, but I knew that Isaiah understood. He pulled me closer with his hand on the back of my neck. “I’ll miss you,” he said quietly.
I was trying hard not to start crying again. “I’ll miss you too,” I said. I took his hand in mine and kissed it. “But I’ll be back. I promise.”
I smiled a very small, sad smile that was meant to reassure him and gave him a light, lasting kiss. Then I let go of his hand, walked out the door of the barn, and crept back into my room.
I fell back on my bed and sighed. The harsh light of day had returned me to reality when I left the barn that morning. From the moment I walked away from Isaiah I had been trying to convince myself that I could forget what had happened, that it couldn’t have been so wonderful as it was and I could easily leave him behind when I became a great woman. Of course, it hadn’t worked. I missed him every day, and, after more than a year, it was now all I could do not to fly down to his cabin and throw myself at him.
It was shocking to think that I had been able to live with absolutely no contact with Isaiah for more than a year. As far back as I could remember, I had barely gone more than a day without speaking with him. I remembered the letters I had started, the failed attempts to put how I felt into words.
Dear Isaiah, I hope this letter finds you well. I find myself quite lonesome without your company here in London. I am desperately in need of a good friend…
Isaiah, What happened between us was a grievous mistake on my behalf. I must insist that upon my return you not act upon any foolish misgivings you may have about our relationship …
My Darling Isaiah, I miss you more than I ever thought possible. Some days, I feel that there is nothing I would not give to be near you again. Some nights I cannot sleep for the ache in my heart…
I had burned every one of them.
Even so, it had been ridiculous to even imagine that I could forget about him. Isaiah was the closest friend I had ever had. There was no one like him in the world. He was brave and unfailingly loyal, but often too reckless for his own good. He was smarter, more eloquent, than most slaves; he could even read and write. He had always been a little shy, though most people took a natural liking to him. And he was sincere, so sincere. That quiet earnestness, the genuineness in his smile, in his eyes, was what made me feel like flying when I thought about him.
There were other things, too, things only I knew. He was strong, of course. Nothing could keep him knocked down for long. With his life, what choice did he have but to be a fighter? But I knew just how sensitive he could be. I knew he was still so naïve, sometimes impossibly so. I knew he still made ridiculous plans for the future. He got ideas into his head about running away and changing the world. I knew that his difficult life had not hardened his heart, making it easy to feel close to him, and often making it too easy to hurt his feelings. I knew when he was trying to hide how someone had hurt him. I knew every time. Behind the struggles that defined his life, I knew he was just a boy who wore his heart on his sleeve.
I had hurt Isaiah, and, truly, Europe had not been worth it.
I sat up with a start when I heard a thump outside of my room. Isaiah had already climbed through the window before I could turn around. I could only gape at him in shock.
I looked at him. His eyes burned with something I had not seen in him before. He was intent on something that I wanted too, even if I really wasn’t sure of exactly what it was.
“Isaiah…” I probably would have finished with something like ‘what the hell are you doing here’ but I never got the chance. In two long strides Isaiah cleared the distance between us, took me by the waist, and pressed his lips to mine.
This kissing felt much different than before. This time I could tell that he was being much less careful. The strength of the kiss forced my mouth open, and his tongue slipped inside. I felt my back slam into the wall next to my bed. He held me there, pressed between him and the wall. I locked him to me, holding him with my hands on either side of his face.
Isaiah’s hands trailed up my body, feeling the curve of my corseted waist. He stopped at the top of my blouse, then hesitated a moment, resting his hands lightly on my breasts so I could feel the coarseness of his hands through the fabric, before undoing the buttons of my blouse, quickly moving all the way back down to my hips.
I couldn’t think to stop him, even though I knew the intent. I was not totally sure what would happen next if I let him continue in such a manner, but, at that moment, I wasn’t afraid. He moved his hands under the open shirt and found the strings of my corset.
As he did this, I broke away for air and Isaiah moved his lips to my neck. Over my ragged breathing and pounding heart, I heard footsteps in the hall.
“Isaiah,” I breathed, “Someone’s coming, Isaiah.” He looked up and, obviously hearing it too, quickly brought his lips back to mine.
“When can I see you again?” he asked urgently. “Alone?”
“The attic,” I answered automatically. I kissed him quickly between words. “Meet me… meet me there… midnight…”
“The attic…” he repeated, “…yes…” he said the words into my skin as his lips trailed from my neck to the exposed skin of my chest above my slip.
“Oh… oh…” I was trying to form words but they refused to come with him touching me like that. “Oh…go… you have to go,” I said finally, trying to push him towards the window and redo my buttons at the same time. I kissed his bottom lip as he climbed out.
Then he was gone into the night, and without a second to spare. My door clicked open. It was Hannah.
I was both relived and terrified to see her. Being caught by her was considerably less dangerous than being caught by anyone in my family. But Hannah, in the past, had proved to be one of the most frightening people I had ever met. And if she were to find out, there would be hell to pay. Her protectiveness towards Isaiah and her temper would be combined in a total attack on me if she thought I was putting him in danger.
I must have looked especially suspicious. I stood with my back to the wall with a forced smile on my face. She looked me up and down disapprovingly, not looking the least bit convinced.
“You missed a button.”
© 2012 emily
Shelved in 1 LibraryAdded on March 3, 2009
Last Updated on March 13, 2012
AboutHello all! My name is Emily, I'm 18, I am definitely not at home in this tiny MN town, and soon I will be the most famous author my generation. I go to Barnes and Noble to see where my book will sit .. more..
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