Twenty TwoA Chapter by emily
“Isaiah… No… No! No!”
“Momma! Momma! What’s wrong? Wake up!” Jordan’s frightened voice snapped me out of the nightmare. I stopped yelling and looked around, still shaking.
I had been tossing and turning, I could see that by the way the blankets twisted. Jordan was kneeling over me almost protectively, her eyes full of fear and confusion.
I tried to calm down and comfort Jordan. “Oh… don’t worry baby. Momma just had a nightmare.”
She was not giving up easily. “Are you all right, Momma? You seemed awful scared.”
I smiled, hoping she could not see through it. “I’m fine, darling. Go on back to sleep.”
Jordan looked at me with concerned eyes, but did as she was told. I lay down next to her again, but I knew sleep would not return to me. When I could tell my daughter was sleeping, I stood and walked to the chair in the corner of the room.
I buried my head in my hands and tried with all my might not to cry again. How could this all be coming back around, when I had avoided it for so long? Jordan’s questions, the nightmares, the secrets, last time those things ended with me making some very bad decisions.
Or what I wanted to think of as bad decisions.
For try as I did, I could not make myself regret falling for Isaiah again for those few days. When I thought back on the mere hours we spent together, I could not make myself believe that I had made the wrong choice. It had felt so right.
But there was one thing I regretted more than anything in the world, more than marrying Roy, even more than I regretted allowing Isaiah to be beaten that first night. I regretted not telling him about Jordan.
Looking back on it, I knew it was probably the worst choice I had ever made. I had actually pushed Isaiah away from me in an act of pure cowardice. I had let my fear get in the way again, and now I had probably lost him forever.
Did I miss him? Of course I did. I missed Isaiah every day. No matter how hard I tried to repress it, I couldn’t let him go.
I worried about him too. Thinking about what could happen to Isaiah on the battlefield made me nearly sick with anxiety. As far as I knew, he had not contacted anyone, and knowing this did nothing to calm my nerves. I did not know what I would do if something really had happened to him.
I knew that it was probably better that way, that being away from him was healthier, and that a real life with Isaiah would have been almost impossible. But what I knew was not what I believed.
I believed that what we had was real. I believed that a life without Isaiah would have been worse than having no life at all. I believe that we had shared something so amazing no one else in the world could understand how we felt.
I believed that Isaiah meant it when he said he would love forever, and that meant he still loved me at that very moment.
But he also meant it when he said goodbye. And no matter how hard I tried I could not forget that he chose to leave me, nor could I erase the truth in that last, sorrowful kiss.
It was with thoughts like that with which I drifted off to sleep again.
I awoke again to the sound of Jordan clicking the door shut behind her as she tiptoed out to begin her chores. The sky was just past the pink light of dawn and I could already hear the slaves shuffling around downstairs.
I was tired, but not in the mood to go back to sleep. So I decided to start packing my things for my visit to my parents. I went painstakingly slowly, as I had nothing better to do, folding each item and putting it neatly in my suitcase.
I thought this would take my mind off Isaiah. When I dug to the bottom of my top drawer, however, I came across the items I had all but forgotten about.
Tentatively, I picked up the pins and held them in my palm. I had stashed them there after Isaiah last left, vowing to never wear them again. I could not believe I had actually forgotten they were there.
I just looked at them for a long time, unable to block out that same hopeless feeling that had overtaken me when he returned the pin, the final proof that Isaiah was really never coming back. I sat down on the bed, overcome with emotion.
“You awake already, Adeline?” The voice came suddenly. The door squeaked open and Hannah stepped in. Instinctively, I tossed the pins into my suitcase with a quick flick of my wrist, hoping she had not seen me looking at them.
“Yes, Hannah, come on in,” I said, keeping my voice level.
She eyed my suitcase. “Finished packing, then?”
I nodded. “I, um, wasn’t sleeping well, had to keep myself busy.”
“Ah,” said Hannah. I hoped she wouldn’t notice how distracted I was. “Well then get dressed and come on down to breakfast. Eli will be here soon with the carriage.”
I nodded and Hannah walked out the door. When she left, I grabbed the first dress I saw that wasn’t already packed and threw it on, momentarily forgetting about the pins.
Breakfast was quiet, as it always was when Roy was away, and that suited me fine. I was too wrapped up in my own conflicts to really care about anything else that was going on.
I decided not to confront Hannah about the letters Jordan mentioned. She was the last person I would mention Isaiah to at that point. I knew she could not help being angry with him for leaving so soon after returning. Eli would surely be more compliant, so I silently pledged to talk to him about it.
My parents’ carriage pulled up in front of the house soon after that. They were struggling with losses from the war, and their slaves, now sure of the Union’s success, were simply walking away. Because of this, Eli had recently been promoted to driver, despite his obvious involvement with what had happened in the woods. He hollered to us happily, unabashedly, from the yard.
“Eli!” Hannah called as she pushed past me in the doorway and ran up to meet him. Eli stepped down from the driver’s seat and caught her in his arms, swinging her around in the air before setting her down and kissing her.
I smiled to see them so happy. Eli had not, of course, been his carefree self for quite a while after Ruben’s death. He had found himself very suddenly alone, and with my visits to my family’s home dwindling, he and Hannah rarely saw one another.
It made me just a little sad, though, to see someone else so in love. It reminded me that I would probably never share that kind of feeling ever again.
“Come on, Adeline, we don’t have all day!” called Eli, his arm still around Hannah.
I snapped out of my moment of gloom and smiled. “Calm down Eli,” I said playfully. “I certainly wouldn’t want to make you wait one extra minute to get into bed together!”
He smiled and squeezed Hannah around the waist. “Hey, at least we’ve got someone to go to bed with!” Eli bounced back light-heartedly.
His joke stung, though, and Hannah noticed it. I saw her discretely jab him in the side with her elbow. “Eli…” she warned under her breath.
I could see that he realized what he had said and what it meant to me. “Oh, damn it, Adeline I’m sorry…”
“No, it’s all right,” I assured him with a false smile. I didn’t like them tiptoeing around my feelings. “Don’t worry about it.”
I climbed into the cab and neither of them said anything more. Once I was inside, I heard the unmistakable sound of Hannah smacking Eli on the back of the head. I peeked out the carriage window and stole a look at them.
“Ow!” he exclaimed under his breath. “I’m sorry, darling, I just wasn’t thinking.”
“Just… watch what you say this week. I feel like she’s not doing do well right now,” Hannah said softly. “I wish she could just move on. She could make everything so much easier on herself if she just stopped thinking about it.”
Eli extended a hand to Hannah’s face. “It’s not that simple. You know that. If it was you and me in their position, I know I wouldn’t be moving on too fast.” Hannah smiled and Eli laughed a little under his breath. “Just giver her some time, baby,” he said, pressing his lips to her forehead.
Hannah sighed. “All right, I have to go get the wagon. I’ll be to the Dupree’s by sundown, all right?”
I could hear the smile in Eli’s voice. “I’ll wait up for you.”
“You had better.” Hannah remarked teasingly with a coy smile. She gave him a quick kiss and turned back towards the house.
Eli cocked his head and watched her walk away. Then he hopped back up into the driver’s seat. “Ready to go, Adeline?” Even though I knew he wouldn’t bring it up again, I could hear the apology in his voice.
I nodded then realized he could not see me. “Go ahead,” I said quietly. He snapped the reigns and we started off down the road.
I knew Eli hadn’t meant anything by the joke, but it still made me sad. It made me sick to think I had been with Roy in that way many more times than I had been with Isaiah, and even Roy did not want that from me anymore.
When I thought of being with Isaiah, being so close to him, feeling his presence everywhere; when I thought of his arms around me, holding me close like he would never let go, wanting to scream and wanting to cry for that indescribable feeling we shared; hen I thought of making love with him and knowing that he loved me, it made me hurt more than anything else.
I knew I shouldn’t be thinking like that, but realizing that I would probably never experience that feeling again made me want to cry.
“You all right back there?” Eli called. “You’re awfully quiet.”
I shook my head even though he could not see it. “I’m fine.” I spent the rest of the trip drawing back long repressed memories of those nights. I thought of the smoky, warm little cabin and the cot in the attic and, for the first time in months, I smiled on memories of loving Isaiah.
When we pulled into the drive in front of my parent’s house, it was safe to say I was a little more than distracted.
“Adeline…” Eli shouted. “Adeline!” He pounded on the wall of the carriage to get my attention.
“Hmm…?” I sighed, not quite entering the real world yet.
“Oh,” I said, shaking my head and trying to return to reality. “All right then,” I nodded as we came to a slow stop.
While I collected my thoughts, Eli came around and opened the door for me like a good driver. Mama was on the front porch, waiting for me with less than half a smile on her lips.
“Hello dear,” she said stiffly. “Welcome home.”
“Good to see you mother,” I said, matching her tone. We made no move to greet one another any further. We were no fonder of each other than we had been when Isaiah last returned, thus the scarceness of my visits. We said nothing more as we walked into the house.
My father and brother greeted me with similar dispositions. I knew they were truly indifferent towards me now and completely furious that their efforts had resulted in the death of only one rebellious slave, not to mention that he wasn’t even the one they were trying to kill.
We all had tea and talked about nothing. The conversation was mainly directed at Ethan, who was apparently now courting an especially pretty young girl who’s name I never caught. I knew they were proud of him. At least one child was not a total disgrace to the family.
The day passed quickly, despite the perpetual boredom. Hannah arrived late in the afternoon, though I did not see much of her. Anyone who knew Hannah knew not to cross her while she waited for a night with Eli. I took the opportunity to go see Jordan, but was unable to find the time to ask Eli about the information she had given me.
I soon found that it was not long at all until I was saying goodnight to my family and climbing the stairs to my old room. I watched the sunset from my window, keeping myself from looking at the attic door, and eventually lay down in my old, familiar bed, falling quickly asleep.
But my sleep was interrupted when it happened.
It felt like I had not slept at all, yet it was already totally dark. I awakened slowly to a sound outside my room. I was groggy, half asleep, and unable to realize how odd it was that someone had just swung through my window.
I squinted into the darkness, trying to understand what had just happened. Then it dawned on me.
He said nothing for a long minute. “I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said finally.
I continued to squint at the figure. I was still confused, not even grasping what this meant. “Isaiah?”
Another pause, “I’m sorry… I-I shouldn’t have come. I…” he turned towards the window.
“No, don’t go,” I slurred sleepily, understanding only that I did not want him to leave. “Would you… would you just… stay… with me…?”
Silence. I wondered if he was even there or if I was talking to the wall. “All right,” he said hesitantly, “just for a while.”
Isaiah lay down facing me, wrapping his arms around me and burying his face in my hair. “I missed you,” he said finally.
I kissed his chest. “I missed you too,” I said quietly, finding myself nearing sleep again already. “Will you… will you stay now?”
Isaiah sighed sadly. “I don’t think so, Addy. This can only be for now.”
“All right,” I murmured, hardly even hearing him, “as long as I have you now.”
Then Isaiah tipped my chin up and kissed me. Those black eyes were the last thing I saw before I fell asleep again.
I woke again in the weak light of early morning. There was something nagging at me in the back of my mind. At first I had only a vague memory: looking into those beautiful, sad eyes.
I shot up in bed, looking around. He wasn’t there, of course. My bed was empty. There was no sign that anyone had been there.
It was a dream, I thought, sounding panicked even in my own mind. It had to be a dream.
But even as I thought it, I could not deny how much I wished it wasn’t.
© 2012 emily
Added on June 21, 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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