Twenty SevenA Chapter by emily
I had not intended to return to sleep once Isaiah and I had finished, but sleep had somehow found me. We had made love slowly and indulgently, relishing ever second. It was the first time we had ever been together in the light of day, and the new experience left me so exhausted I fell asleep almost immediately.
When I woke again, I was almost surprised to see he was still beside me, watching me sleep as the mid-morning sun shone in on us. It occurred to me that, for the first time, neither of us had anywhere else to be. We had never had that kind of freedom.
I smiled sleepily at him and Isaiah smiled back, still saying nothing. He pulled closer to kiss me on the forehead and I giggled, feeling completely happy.
“Good morning,” Isaiah said quietly.
“Good morning,” I sighed.
We lay in contented silence for a long time. Finally, Isaiah said, “I just wanted to be here when you woke up. I don’t know how much longer I can keep you here.” He started to get up, but I pulled him back.
“No,” I insisted gently. “Please stay.”
He did not resist me but smiled softly and let me bring him back down next to me. I sat up and kissed him. When I let him go, Isaiah pulled back and propped himself on an elbow and looked at me.
“So,” I said, “what is it like in the North?”
Isaiah laughed. “Cold,” he replied with a chuckle, “and incredible.”
And with that, we began to talk. He told me about his journey north, the people he had met and the places he had seen. He told me about the North, where people like him were treated better there were sprawling cities instead of endless plantations. Isaiah talked of the war, how close the Union was to victory, the harsh life of the soldiers and the terror of battles.
I, in turn, told him everything I had been holding back. I spoke of my fear when I found out I was having Jordan, the night I turned the wagon around, and the salvation Hannah had given me. He laughed when I told him about Roy’s utter failure to give me a son. He cringed when I spoke of my marriage.
I realized how long it had been since Isaiah and I had really talked, just talked about things that mattered. It was just like the early days, the days I missed, when we could be friends, without the complications.
After a long, long time of listening and laughing and storytelling, I looked out the window to see the sun raised considerably. “Damn!” I exclaimed, sitting up quickly. It was late, and I had stayed too long to go unnoticed. “I have to go. They’ll wonder where I am.”
Isaiah looked regretful, but let me go without resisting. “All right,” he said with a sigh, standing up and following me to the door. “Pack your bags today, so we can leave as soon as it gets dark.”
I nodded. “I will. I’ll meet you back up here at dusk.” Isaiah smiled and kissed me before I slipped into my room.
As I bustled around, trying to get dressed as fast as possible, I noticed a new note sitting on my bed. I picked it up, immediately recognizing Hannah’s scrawl.
Roy came home early. I think your mother somehow managed to tell him you were expecting. As of right now, you are very ill with the baby, but I can’t hold them off forever. Come down as soon as you can or she will come looking for you.
I felt a shiver of panic pass through me. Roy’s presence certainly complicated things. I had hoped to leave before he got home. Having him here would make it all the more difficult to find time to prepare. It also meant I had to keep up a more heightened pretense of my pregnancy. I silently cursed him as I found a random dress to throw on and headed down the stairs.
When I reached the first floor, I expected to be immediately struck by Roy’s hostile presence. But I searched the corridors to find the parlor door firmly closed and locked. I looked around to make sure no one was coming and pressed my ear to the door, trying to hear who was inside. I heard men conversing, probably Ethan and Roy, but the wood was too thick for me to tell what they were saying.
“Adeline?” a voice called from the end of the hall. I gasped and turned quickly around to see my mother stepping quickly down the hall in my direction.
“Mama!” I exclaimed in surprise, louder than I hoped.
“Adeline,” she said, “your maid told me you were sick. Are you all right, darling?”
“Oh,” I breathed, relieved, “yes, yes I’m fine. It was just…” I did not know how to phrase it, so I put my hands lovingly, if awkwardly, on my stomach.
“Ah,” said Mama, concerned yet skeptical. “Well, now don’t be angry with me, but I sent word to Roy about… that. I know you probably wanted to tell him yourself, but I simply could not wait!”
“No, of course I’m not angry, Mama,” I said graciously, trying not to appear completely annoyed, “I do so love it when he comes home.” How ironic that I was finally getting a handle on my lying skills.
If she suspected my dishonesty, my mother did not have the chance to say so. The heavy parlor door opened and Roy strode out, followed by Ethan.
“Adeline,” he said, sounding shockingly kind. “How I’ve missed you.” No one was more surprised than I to have him kiss me on the cheek.
“Roy?” I said, making it almost a question. “It’s so… good to have you home.” I untangled myself from his arms and looked curiously back at him.
If the kind words were a shock, the look on his face was even stranger. For all the pleasantries, his eyes held a cruel, severe hardness that counteracted the warmth of his tone.
“Indeed. Shall we go to luncheon, then?” he asked politely, extending his arm to me.
“I … suppose…” I said tentatively, taking his arm with guarded concern. As we walked to the dining room, I wondered for a moment if he had finally really lost his senses.
Roy did not speak of the baby during the meal, though I did catch him casting glances at my less-than-round stomach. I suppose it was not exactly the man’s position to bring it up. Everyone spoke cheerfully of Ethan’s wedding plans and congratulated my brother on having landed himself such a lovely bride.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the parlor, listening to the men assure each other that the south would most certainly rise from their failures and defeat the Yankees still. In the early evening, Ethan’s fiancé, whose name I eventually discovered to be Abigail, came again for dinner. Though she had little of merit to say and Mama fawned incessantly over both of us, it was nice to have another female presence in the house while the men took brandy.
When I looked out the window, I could see the sun beginning to set. I realized I had not yet packed, as Isaiah had advised me to, and that I would have to make my way to the attic soon.
Abigail had gone for more tea a few minutes ago so it was only Mama and I left in the parlor. When I excused myself, I gave my mother a torn backwards glance. I had realized it might be the last time I ever saw her. Even when I thought of the things she had done, I was sad to leave my mother.
As I made my way down the hall, trying to shake off my childish attachments, I nearly crashed into Abigail, who had been running full speed towards me.
“Adeline!” she cried, looking both horrified and scandalized. “Oh Adeline, you’ll never believe what I’ve just heard!”
I felt cold. “What? What is it?” What could she have learned just walking through the house?
“Well… well I was just walking by the men’s smoking room, and the door was open a little so I stopped for a minute to listen,” she said, sounding both panicked and guilty, for eavesdropping, I suppose. “And then, I don’t know why, but your Leroy was saying things about you; bad, bad things that I don’t care to repeat.”
“What did he say?” I asked harshly. This would hardly be the first time Roy spoke badly of me, though it annoyed me that he was daft enough to leave the door open.
She put her hands on her hips, momentarily offended. “Well a lady just wouldn’t say.” She shook her head as if she had almost forgotten where she was going with the story.
“Anyway, just when I was wondering why in the world he would say those kinds of things about his own wife, especially when she was having his baby and all,” I rolled my eyes, annoyed that even Abigail knew now, “I heard the very worst thing of all! Oh, Adeline! It’s just so shocking and frightening and you’ll never ever guess and…”
“For God’s sake, what was it, Abigail?” I cried, trying to keep myself from shaking her in frustration.
“Well, Adeline, they said they were going up to catch runaway slave that’s been hiding in your attic!”
I froze, terrified. “No,” I breathed, “no, they couldn’t…”
“I know! Isn’t it just horrifying that a slave could…?”
I was off and running down the hall before she could finish. I had to see for myself if it was true, if they really knew. As I ran, I heard Abigail call after me. I did not stop, not even when my mother joined her. I turned the corner and pushed open the door of the smoking room.
It was empty.
Heart pounding, I raced up the stairs, not listening to my mother’s protests as she and Abigail followed behind me. I was far enough ahead of them that they could not catch up with me before I reached my room.
Though I had a thousand terrified thoughts and questions flying through my mind, I could not let myself think about it. I needed to get to the attic.
When I tried to push open the door in the ceiling, but it would not budge. “Goddamn it!” I cried, cursing out loud and throwing punches at the ceiling. Now I knew they had to be up there. They were keeping me from helping Isaiah.
I paced around my room, frustrated and terrified. There was another door to the attic, I knew, but it was out in the hall. I could not go out there, not with Mama and Abigail right outside my door. After much panicked deliberation, I pushed my bed away from the wall so I could balance on the headboard, trying to get better leverage, and pushed as hard as I could.
My arms were aching by the time I finally got it to move. I groaned and shoved the door aside as best I could. As I suspected, a large trunk had been placed on top of it. I peeked into the room.
They were all there, Roy and Ethan and Daddy. And Isaiah. They had him on his knees. Daddy held a rope, the end tied around Isaiah’s neck, and for a moment it looked like they were trying to contain a snarling wild animal. I had never seen Isaiah so angry, or so helpless.
“I’ll ask you once more,” Roy seethed. He pulled a riding crop from his belt and held it against Isaiah’s face. “How long has she been hiding you here?” Isaiah responded with nothing more than a few shaky, angry breaths. Roy drew back his arm and the crop snapped against Isaiah’s cheek, drawing blood.
I must have reacted to this with a noise, because suddenly all four of them turned to look at me. Ethan and Daddy’s faces hardened, Roy’s broke into a cruel grin, but Isaiah’s eyes held more fear than before.
“Adeline,” Roy smiled, “how good of you to come.” He advanced on me and hoisted me into the room by my wrists. “It would seem we have an intruder in our attic.” He took me by the chin and turned my face harshly towards Isaiah. “You wouldn’t know who this is, would you?”
I knew his intention. He knew exactly whom he was dealing with, exactly why Isaiah was there. But he was going to let me decide. I could save myself by denying Isaiah or doom us both by telling the truth.
I was opening my mouth to insist " bravely, if stupidly " that I certainly did know him, when I caught Isaiah’s eye. He was subtly shaking his head, eyes insistent. I barely caught the silent word.
I stared at him, trying not to look too shocked, since all three of them were still glaring at me. Isaiah wanted me to deny him. He wanted to keep me safe.
“No,” I said quietly, unable to meet anyone’s eyes. “I… I don’t know him.”
Roy’s face was conflicted, but his voice was cool. “Well then,” he purred, passing me off to Ethan. I watched in horror as he took a pistol from his coat, “it seems we have no use for him.” He cocked the gun and pointed it at Isaiah.
“No, don’t hurt him!” I cried. Before I could think of what I was doing, I had broken out of Ethan’s grip and thrown myself across the room in front of Isaiah.
“Addy!” he yelled, panic-stricken.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, trying not to see the disappointment in Isaiah’s eyes. I touched his face, wiping the blood from his cheek. It didn’t matter what I did anymore. There would be no more denying it.
All of us stared at each other for a long moment. Roy’s smile grew. “I see,” he growled. “What do you say, darky?” he asked, turning to Isaiah. “Should I show you what you’ve subjected her to, leaving her alone all this time?” Roy grabbed my wrist and pulled me away from Isaiah, running his hands over my body.
Isaiah lashed out, nearly making it all the way over to Roy before Ethan yanked his rope and he fell to the ground. “I’ll kill you,” he choked.
“I doubt that, darky,” Roy said calmly. “Now, Adeline, would you like to see what we managed to accomplish before you arrived?” Roy nodded towards Isaiah and Ethan and Daddy turned him around, rolling up his shirt.
They had whipped him again. Isaiah’s back was covered in the blood from at least six lashes with the riding crop. Isaiah’s shoulders shook and his head bowed. The sight sent a jolt of rage through my body.
“You b*****d!” I screamed, jerking out of Roy’s grip. “You b*****d!” I moved to hit him and felt warm satisfaction as my nails scraped across his face. “You b*****d, you goddamn b*****d!” Roy’s face filled with fury and he caught my hands, twisting my wrists and turning me back around, pressing his chest to my back and trapping my arms under his.
His fear was evident, though he tried to hide it. It had become clear that they could not contain both of us for long. His handsome face was marred by the three angry red scratches, one of which was starting to bleed.
Roy turned coldly to Ethan and handed me off to Daddy. “Get him out of here. Tie him up and stand watch until I get there. And get some brine for those cuts! I’m not done tanning his hide yet. ”
They nodded and Ethan pulled on Isaiah’s rope, trying to get him to follow. But he struggled, breaking out of the hastily tied bonds at his wrists. Ethan tried to restrain him, but one arm was not enough. Daddy let go of me to help him.
I threw myself at them. Roy held me back, but I managed to catch hold of Isaiah’s hand. “Don’t take him,” I begged, realizing I was crying, “please don’t take him!”
“Don’t worry, Addy,” he breathed, holding fast to my hand as he fought them off, “I’ll be all right. I promise.”
Before I could respond, I lost my grip and fell to the floor, Roy nearly toppling over me. They had outnumbered him now, and were leading Isaiah away with his arm twisted behind his back.
Those were the last words I heard, called over his shoulder as they led Isaiah out of the attic.
© 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..