Twenty SixA Chapter by emily
Just as Hannah said, Isaiah was already there by the time I reached the attic. He looked healthier already, the bandage covered by what I recognized as Eli’s borrowed clothes.
He beamed unabashedly when he saw me and I could not help but return the smile. He crossed the space and kissed me without a word.
I wondered briefly if this was what a normal relationship would be like, feeling glad to see each other at the end of the day instead of relieved after being apart for months. I had never experienced that feeling.
When Isaiah broke away, he smiled again. “How was your day?” I asked, not sure exactly what to talk about first.
“Long and dull,” he answered honestly, “Yours?”
“The same,” I laughed.
Isaiah laughed with me, and then pulled me closer. “I missed you,” he said, more seriously.
I sighed happily and he brought his mouth back to mine. From the way he kissed me, I could tell Isaiah was ready to fall into bed right then. I was more than willing, but I was afraid I would lose my nerve if we did, and I needed to tell him.
“Isaiah,” I said when he moved his lips to my throat; the only time I could get a word in at all. “Isaiah, we should talk.”
He looked down at me, concerned. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I assured him, realizing I had been unclear. “I just think we need to decide where we go from here.” This seemed to be the best method for telling him, easing it slowly.
Isaiah smiled, seemingly relieved that nothing was amiss, not yet anyway. “You’re right. We never got around to that last night, did we?” He chuckled and I had to smile back.
We sat on the cot together and I saw Isaiah’s eyes become significantly more serious. “Addy,” he began, “I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve decided… I am willing to stay here, if that’s what you want.” I felt myself gaping at him, but Isaiah continued.
“I’ll take a different job and sneak in whenever I can until the Union finally wins this war. If you want to stay, I’ll stay as long as you want.”
Isaiah’s face was completely sincere, and I knew he meant it. I was too shocked to respond yet. I never thought he would make such an offer.
It would have been so easy to say yes. I would be able to stay where I had always been. I would have been able to keep Jordan from him. This offer gave me everything I had wanted, everything that had made Isaiah leave last time.
But, for him to be willing to give everything up, to come back and be a slave again was to undo everything he had worked for the past five years. I could not let him do that. Not for me.
“No,” I shook my head, “Isaiah you can’t do that.”
His face fell with confusion. “But I thought it was what you wanted. I thought…”
“Isaiah,” I cut him off, “All I want anymore is you.” I took a deep, brave breath. “I want to go north with you.”
Now it was his turn to look shocked. But unlike mine, Isaiah’s surprise was mixed with a hidden joy. “Really?” he asked cautiously.
I hesitated, but then nodded, “Really.”
An awed smile broke out on Isaiah’s face and he embraced me tightly. I hugged back, trying not to hurt him. When he let go, I looked into his eyes for a minute.
“Isaiah, there’s something else…” I said after a moment.
The smile in his eyes faded to a look of confusion. “What is it?
I sighed and ran my fingers nervously through my hair. This was it. “Isaiah, I have to tell you the truth.” He looked concerned but let me continue without interruption. “You have to know why I got married.”
I avoided Isaiah’s eyes, too afraid of his reaction to meet his concerned gaze. “I have a daughter.”
I dared to look up, only to find Isaiah looking back at me with confusion, hurt, and a glint of anger. This was exactly what I had feared.
“Oh, Lord,” he breathed. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” I could not read his tone.
“Isaiah, Isaiah, listen to me…” I tried to calm him down before he could get carried away.
“Well what am I supposed to do now, Addy?” Definitely anger. “When were you planning on telling me that we to take the McCalvin baby with us?”
“Isaiah, would you just listen to me?” I yelled, managing for once to sound more frightening than him. Isaiah fell silent and I continued. Afraid that I would be unable to tell the whole truth, I had decided to let him figure it out himself.
“The wedding was in July, two months after you had to leave,” I began, trying to ignore the pained look on Isaiah’s face at the mention of what had happened. He must not have known I had been married so soon after his departure.
“And you know I never would have done anything with him before we were married, before I had to.” Isaiah cringed and I continued. “Jordan " my daughter " she’ll be five in February.” Isaiah looked at me quizzically, obviously confused as to how this was relevant.
I took a deep breath, willing myself onward. The last words of my explanation were hurried, strung together in a rush of fear. “But she was born after nine months,” I touched my stomach involuntarily. “Nine. Full. Months.”
He furrowed his brow, working it out in his head. I saw a wave of stunned realization pass over his face.
“Nine months?” I nodded. Isaiah hesitated for a moment. “But… but that means…”
I felt my bottom lip start to quiver and nodded again.
We stared at each other for a long minute. In my state of nerves and suspense, I could not bring myself to say anything more. Finally, Isaiah spoke.
“Oh,” he breathed. “She… she’s…” he caught me in his eyes. He knew. “She’s mine.”
Still unable to say anything, I nodded.
For as long as I had known him, I had never seen anything like the look in Isaiah’s eyes right then. In fact, I had never seen anyone look quite so shocked, so bewildered. He shook his head in disbelief and I braced myself for the worst. But then, after what felt like an eternity, he pulled me into a comforting embrace. I knew then that all my fears had been wasted. There was no way the truth could come between us.
He held me close like that for a long time. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked yet again.
I winced. “I thought you would be angry. I was that afraid you wouldn’t want her”
“Angry?” He sounded truly surprised. “How could I be angry? She’s my baby, Addy.”
“I know,” I said, almost embarrassed, “I was just… afraid.”
He must have been able to see how upset I was. “Shh…” he said, stroking my hair. “It’s all right.” Isaiah was quiet for another long minute before starting again. “Is she… white? I mean, how could you have raised her?”
I shook my head. “She would never have passed for Roy’s daughter. She lives with Hannah. But she knows I’m her mother and…” I wondered why I had not mentioned this before, “… and she knows about you.”
This looked like it may have shocked Isaiah more than anything. “She does?” I nodded into his shoulder. He pulled back, keeping a hold on my shoulders. “Can I…” he paused, unsure, “can I meet her?”
I hesitated, but then remembered that Hannah had prepared me for exactly this, “Of course.” I let go of him and headed for the door in the floor. Isaiah followed me. “No, no, stay here. I’ll get her,” I assured him. “I can’t let you go down there.” I somewhat expected him to resist, but Isaiah nodded and went back to sit on the cot.
I slipped out of my room into the hall. From downstairs, I could still hear my family moving around, but I assured myself no one would come to check on me. Quietly, I crept down the hall into the closest spare room.
Jordan slept peacefully on the bed, a baby angel resting on the pillow. I watched her for a moment, waiting a little longer to change her life forever. Then I remembered the suspense Isaiah must have been in and reached down to shake her awake.
She stirred and mumbled, “Not yet, Auntie Hannah, please?” I whispered her name and she opened her eyes, “Momma?” Jordan asked curiously. “What are you doing here, Momma? Is something wrong?”
I shook my head and smiled. “No, baby, everything is fine. Come on,” I extended a hand to her, “you get to meet your Daddy tonight.”
Her face lit up like I had never seen before. “Daddy!” she whispered excitedly. “He came back!”
I smiled and nodded. Jordan took my hand and followed me into my room. When I lifted the attic door, she said, “Momma, is that a secret room?”
“Yes, darling,” I said, “and now it’s our secret room.”
Jordan smiled and climbed onto my back. Then we crawled into the attic together. I could see Isaiah as he stood in anticipation. I had never seen him look so nervous.
They stared at each other for a long time, standing somewhat awkwardly apart. I did not dare speak while they took one another in. Then, unexpectedly, it was Jordan who moved towards Isaiah.
He bent down to look her in the eyes. She put both her small hands on his face. “You are my Daddy,” Jordan said, as sweet as she was blunt. “You’re Isaiah.”
He uttered what sounded like an amazed laugh. “Yes, I am. I love you, little Jordan, and I’ll never leave you for the rest of my life.”
She threw her arms around him and Isaiah hugged her back. In his brief glance at me, I saw his eyes were misted over, and I thought for a moment I might see him cry for the first time. But when stole another glance, the look was gone.
He lifted Jordan up, swinging her around. She laughed happily and Isaiah kissed her on the cheek. Then they both turned to me. Jordan extended her short little arms to me and they both brought me into their embrace. We held each other, all three of us, finally together.
“Why are you crying, Momma?” Jordan asked, looking concerned.
I looked to Isaiah and smiled. He kissed my forehead before I turned to Jordan. “Because I’m happy, baby, because everything is happy now.”
After a while, we all somehow managed to fit on the cot, Jordan lying between Isaiah and myself. She talked to him about everything she could think of and he told her his stories " happy stories " until she drifted off to sleep.
We waited a while to talk, until Jordan was soundly sleeping. “You know, we were right around her age, when we met,” I said after a long time.
Isaiah smiled. “I know,” he beamed. “I remember just what you looked like, and she looks just the same.” He propped himself up on his elbow to look at me, and I could tell he was remembering those early days. “She’s so beautiful,” Isaiah said finally, brushing a finger along her cheek. “So much like you.”
“Yes,” I said, blushing a little, “but she has your eyes. I wanted her to have your eyes.”
Isaiah laughed quietly and looked down. “I wish… I would have known,” he said more seriously.
“I know,” I apologized again. “It was so stupid of me not to tell you. I just…”
“No,” he cut me off, “I mean wish I would have known when you were going to have her.” I did not know exactly what he meant, so I let Isaiah continue. “I wish there would have been some way for you to tell me.” He looked me straight in the eye. “I would have come back. I would have taken you away and been with you and taken care of you " both of you.”
When he said that, I imagined my past differently. I imagined that I would have reached him when I found out I was having a baby, that he would have come back and taken me away and kept me from marrying Roy. And when I had her, he would be there, holding my hand and telling me I would be all right (though men were never, ever supposed to be in the room). He would have been there to hold her. I would never have had to hide her. Isaiah would never have to leave us.
It was an image as wonderful as it was painful. If that had happened, it would have saved all of us so much hurt.
I returned from my thoughts to find Isaiah looking at me earnestly. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you or for her. You shouldn’t have had to do this alone. It must have been so hard.”
“You were only seventeen,” he went on, not seeming to hear me. It seemed that the reality of the situation was only just occurring to him. “I mean, we were just kids. We didn’t know what we were doing. I shouldn’t have… I should have been careful. I should have taken precaution. I should have… I can’t believe what I did to you.”
“We’re lucky it never happened again,” I wondered if he could even hear me. “I never even thought about… even just yesterday. God, how could I be so stupid?”
“Don’t say that,” I urged. “Isaiah, it’s all right.”
“It’s not all right. I should never have left,” he said regretfully. “I shouldn’t have run. I should have taken responsibility for what I did. I should have been a part of her life. I…”
“Isaiah,” I interrupted him before he got carried away with guilt. “Don’t think like that. I wish you could have been here, too. But you know better than I do that we can’t change the past, even if we want to.” I took his face and turned it to me, forcing him to look me in the eye. “We can only be thankful that you’re with her now.”
He reached over Jordan’s sleeping form and took my hand. “I’m going to take care of you, Addy,” he said. “I’ll make up for this somehow. I’m going to take both of you away from this place and stay with you forever.”
I smiled and Isaiah wiped away the tear that fell down my cheek. “When can we go?”
He beamed at me. “How does tomorrow night sound?”
“Perfect,” I whispered.
Isaiah kissed my hand and we lay down to sleep, thinking about what tomorrow would bring.
Morning came quickly and the next thing I heard was the sound of the door in the floor being opened. I opened one eye long enough to see Jordan crawling out of the attic. It was dawn, but I knew she was already supposed to be beginning her chores.
Isaiah still slept, pressed against the wall next to the cot. I watched him lie there for a while, then, realizing sleep would not return, stood and went to the window.
I opened the window to a brisk January morning, a new layer of frost covering the empty fields. It was a perfect winter dawn, so much like the first dawn I had spent with Isaiah, after that night in the barn. Another dawn that marked the beginning of another new day. In the early morning light, I could already see the slaves at work. They sang a song I rarely heard, one of happiness.
I had not heard him wake, but soon Isaiah came up from behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist. He pressed his chest to my back and held me close, swaying slowly to the music that rose from the fields.
I turned my head and put a hand on his face, bringing my mouth to his softly. Neither of us said anything as I turned to face him. Isaiah held me by the waist, drawing me into him.
He took his lips away from mine and kissed down my neck, to the base of my throat. As he planted kisses across my collarbone, I felt Isaiah’s hand slide down one strap of my slip, pulling the low neckline down until just one of my breasts was exposed. He kissed me there, the softness of his lips and the roughness of his hands creating a beautiful contrast. I closed my eyes and threw my head back, my smile unbroken until he found his way back to my mouth.
Then I let his hands travel under my nightgown and we went together back to the bed.
© 2012 emily
Added on August 14, 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..