FourA Chapter by emily
Under the cover of darkness, I snuck along the walls of the house. I dashed across the yard and hid in the shadow of the barn.
This was always the most frightening part of sneaking out. I had a horrible fear of being caught out here, alone, at night, either by my parents or anyone else. I slunk into the shadows of the trees and crept nearer to the slaves’ cabins.
I peeked out from behind the bushes to get a better look at Isaiah’s cabin. It was tiny, like all their homes. I had been inside it before, of course. It was just one room with a hearth, bed and table.
Cabins were usually crammed with entire families, but the women who had cared for them as children had long since died or been sold, and Daddy’s lenience had allowed Hannah to move in with Eli more than a year ago. Isaiah had stayed behind to give Hannah and Eli their privacy. Now he was the only slave who lived alone and, though he still had his friends, I knew his life was lonely. When we were kids, he used to have awful night terrors. He would scream and scream for his mama, whom he had been literally torn away from when he was eight years old.
Shortly after Hannah moved out, Isaiah started sleeping in the attic. We never spoke of his reasons, but I knew he didn’t want to go back to that empty cabin. I stayed there with him for days. He had started screaming again, sixteen years old and still screaming for his mother. I was the only one who could make him stop.
But by then, we were too old for that kind of thing. That was when our simple friendship really ended. When Hannah explained to me the implications of “sleeping together” I was humiliated. Isaiah was embarrassed that I had seen him so vulnerable, so weak. In the end, he had moved out without saying a word to me. The incident did nothing to help the tension between us.
I could see the fire glowing through the window. There were two shadows inside that appeared to be the silhouettes of Isaiah and Hannah. I assumed that they were having a similar conversation to the one she and I had just a few minutes ago. Since she was his sister, though, Isaiah’s talk with Hannah was bound to be much more awkward than even mine.
I decided that I would rather not become a member of that conversation and hung back in the bushes.
I didn’t hear anything come from behind me until a twig snapped and inch from where I stood. I turned just as a dark figure leaped towards me.
A hand clapped over my mouth, but not before I could let out a frightened shriek. I would have been terrified, but then I heard Eli’s familiar, contagious laugh.
“I see no one in England taught you to defend yourself against attackers.”
"Sweet Jesus! You scared the hell out of me, Eli!"
“Lord, Eli! Do you want her to wake up the entire plantation?” I heard Ruben’s voice from outside the trees.
Ruben was always more serious than the rest of us, and with good cause. He was older, about twenty, though no one knew for sure, and he was the only one of my friends who had actually been taken from Africa. When he was five he was brought to America, the only one of his family to survive the trip. As far as I knew, he didn’t remember much of the experience. With us he always managed to be good natured and loyal.
Eli was a totally different story. He was born there on the plantation, never knew anything else. Eli was more proud of who he was than anyone I knew, slave or not. His skin was lighter than the others, his features slightly different from anyone else’s, and I often wondered if he wasn’t half-white, one of the illegitimate slave children Mama and the society ladies always gossiped about.
Half-white or not, I could not deny that Eli was the most entertaining person I had ever met. He was always dancing and singing and leading the hollers in the field. If he wasn’t drinking, he was talking about drinking or suffering the morning effects of drinking. He was one of the only people who could ever get Hannah and Ruben to loosen up. That was why I loved all of my friends. They fit perfectly together. We fit perfectly together. In my whole life I had never felt more accepted and at home than when I was with the four of them.
I gave Eli a punch in the arm and he laughed even harder. “They didn’t teach you how to hit either.”
As soon as we were out of the woods, I found myself crushed in a hug between both of them. “It’s good to see you boys.”
“Glad to have you back, little sister,” Ruben said, ruffling my hair.
“Yeah, things just aren’t the same if the master’s daughter ain’t sneaking off to see us at night.”
“Shut your mouth, Eli.”
“Where’s Isaiah?” asked Ruben.
My face flushed for no real reason other than the thought of the conversation he was having with his sister. “I think Hannah’s pestering him about something.”
“Really?” Eli grinned. “Would this pestering have anything at all to do with a certain girl he’s sweet on?”
“Maybe a girl who should be off limits?” Ruben joined in.
“A girl who we caught with him in the barn last winter!”
“Oh no. No, no, no. We are not talking about this,” I insisted strongly, pushing them both off of me. “You two already know too much.” I paused, curious. “How much do you know?”
“Everything,” they said in unison. They chuckled under their breath, like they knew something I didn’t know.
I pretended to pout. “Aw cheer up, Adeline.” Ruben said, putting a brotherly arm around my shoulders.
“By the way,” I gave him a little push, “thanks, you two, for selling me out to Hannah,” I said sarcastically.
“Had to do it, Adeline,” Eli insisted. “He was annoying the hell out of anyone who came within ten feet of him.”
“Plus, you know Eli could never keep secrets from his ‘darling baby doll!’” Ruben said playfully, obviously mocking an endearment Eli had used for Hannah. Eli pushed him, looking disgruntled.
“You hush up about it, Ruben,” he scowled.
“Aw, poor Eli’s getting grumpy! He’s gone a whole hour without a drink,” I poked at him.
“Exactly! Let’s pick up the pace, y’all,” Eli said. “I’m dying here. Isaiah had better have some tar water or something.” He was referring to the alcohol one of them always had stashed.
“I hope,” Ruben said.
“Come on Adeline, don’t be so upset,” Eli said cheerfully. “Even if you don’t drink I’ll bet Isaiah’s got plenty of horizontal refreshment for you!”
He knew I would get him for that and he was running as soon as the vulgar words were out of his mouth. I chased Eli all the way to the cabin with Ruben trotting behind.
All three of us burst through the door at the same time. Luckily, it seemed that Hannah and Isaiah were done with their talk.
Isaiah’s eyes lit up when he saw me. “Addy!” He cleared the tiny room in a second, wrapped his arms around my waist and embraced me. It made me blush to think that the other three could see us.
When he let go of me, I took his hands and said. “It’s so good to see you, Isaiah,” I beamed, for lack of anything better to say. I really wanted to say so much more, but I was incredibly aware of three pairs of eyes watching us.
“I’m sure you two have seen enough of each other already,” Eli said in an uninterested tone. “Where’s the whisky, brother?”
Hannah cleared her throat. “Oh,” said Eli making his way to her. “How’s my beautiful girl?” He put an arm around her waist and gave her a quick kiss. Though the three of us exchanged teasing smiles, it made me happy to see them together. Hannah and Eli were so incredibly perfect for each other.
“Now we’re going to need the whisky!” Isaiah joked. Eli let go of Hannah to catch the bottle that Isaiah threw to him. Hannah crossed her arms and looked so exasperated that I broke into a fit of laughter.
I sat on the bed next to Isaiah and we all shared the drink, though Eli drank most of it himself and several more besides, while I tried to avoid having any at all. I had learned my lesson the hard way after drinking a whole bottle of Eli’s so-called “tar water” one night and having such I headache the next day I could barely open my eyes. Hannah had laughed at me every time she came by to check on my condition, until I nearly fainted trying to make it to the door to lock her out.
Ruben had his harmonica out and was playing a tune. Hannah was trying to escape from Eli who could hardly walk straight and was trying to get her to dance with him. Isaiah and I had been sitting and clapping along to the music when suddenly took my hand and pulled me up. He took me by the waist and we danced. Eli and Ruben were hooting and hollering at us. I just felt so giddy, despite having so little to drink. It had been a long time since I had felt so happy. I had forgotten how wonderful my friends were.
At that moment I wished more than anything that I had not gone to England. I wished I could have spent the last year right there, dancing to my friends’ music and laughter with the only boy I really cared for.
Ruben finished the song and all three of them cheered for us. It was getting late. Usually our parties were over before midnight, due to the fact that all of the boys and sometimes Hannah were required to be out in the fields by dawn.
“Come on y’all,” said Ruben, who always seemed to be the voice of reason during the parties, “First light to full dark tomorrow.”
“Just like every day of our lives!” laughed Eli, nearly incoherent.
“Come on, boy. You’ve had too much to drink and you’re already going to be sore tomorrow,” Hannah, who had also been drinking a bit, said.
She leaned over to me. “He’s got something to tell you,” she said under her breath, nodding towards Isaiah, “It’s important.” Then she steadied Eli and helped him out the door.
“I’ll see you at dawn, then, brother,” said Ruben, who was still sober, said to Isaiah. They gave each other a masculine handshake before Ruben walked away.
“Sorry, that got a little out of hand,” Isaiah said, wiping his brow, when they were gone.
“No,” I protested. “That was more fun than I’ve had since I left home.”
“Well, I’m glad you came.”
I smiled and looked into his eyes for a minute. Isaiah took a step closer and I put my arms around his neck and kissed him. It was almost totally dark in the cabin. The fire was nothing but a glowing pile of embers, and the dark made me bold.
It started out soft, like others had, but this one was growing into something new. It was harder, fiercer, and more powerful even than the one we had shared just hours ago.
Our hands were everywhere. I reached under his shirt and ran my fingers over the planes of his back, his stomach and chest. I hitched my leg around his waist, trying to better reach his lips.
One of his hands slid under my skirt. Fingers traced up my calf, rolling my stocking down. The coarse hand searched further, rubbing the skin under my thigh, holding me there.
Isaiah took a step back and we stumbled, landing on his mattress. I didn’t stop. I straddled his hips and kissed him harder. Our tongues met inside his mouth, and I heard a moan of surprise break in his throat. My skirt had come up around my waist and he ventured his hands underneath. I felt his hot breath in my mouth and reached for his shirt buttons.
Without warning, he broke away from the violent kiss. His hands shot out from under my skirt and took me by the shoulders, holding me at a distance. I could barely breathe and I took in gulps of air, “Addy, wait! We can’t… we can’t do this here,” I could barely understand him as he tried to catch his breath.
“Why not?” It seemed to me as good a place as any.
“It’s not safe. If someone was looking for you now they would find you in a slave’s cabin.”
“Isaiah, you’re not a…”
“Yes, I am,” Isaiah’s voice hardened, “and if anyone found you out here, it wouldn’t matter if you think I am or not. That’s why it’s not safe here, not safe for you, not safe for me.”
I saw his point, though I was more worried about him than myself, “The attic?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “Go, I’ll be there in ten minutes.” He gave me a quick, hard kiss and let me go. I ran as fast as I could through the dark plantation. I climbed the wall and dropped into my room. Then I sat down on my bed to regain my breath and wonder what would await me in the attic.
© 2012 emily
Added 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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