Prologue to True Freedom

Well, this blog has been a little inactive due to NaNo. But I suppose that’s a good thing, since it means I’ve been writing! 😀 And I’m at 42020 words. Which is pretty good, and I’ve decided to post the entire prologue to my NaNo story. Keep in mind it’s a rough first draft, typos may occur.

                                                                                                                             True Freedom  
                                                                                                                             By  Azlyn Rose        
Prologue
Grace watched, riveted, at Pa screaming in pain as the overseer brought the whip down over and over on his exposed back. Her babyish, deep brown eyes filled with tears and spilled down her cheeks, and she too felt like screaming along with him, feeling the pain that was shown clearly in his eyes. Grace opened her small mouth, but no words came out. Had someone of her young age ever felt such pain? She should do something, get someone to help, fetch Ma, Abby, anyone. But already a circle of people stood around the whipping post, watching silently. There was nothing anyone could do when Overseer Boris punished someone. Instead, Grace could only watch, unable to turn away from the horror scene which took place before her. Blood splattered the ground nearby. It was as if her tear filled eyes could not move away from what she saw.

“Lord, help us.”
Grace managed to turn her head away from Pa and try to find the speaker. Who said that? Who was this Lord who could help? But a final, pathetic scream from her father tore her eyes away from searching the small group for the speaker and back to her father. Pa lay there in the dust beneath the whipping post, unmoving. The overseer’s whip cracked one last time and Pa only flinched, and didn’t move again.

“Let this be a lesson to all of you!” Boris growled, spitting in the ground by Pa’s head. “This is what you get when you sneak away to go to one of those christian meetings.” Grace wondered if that meeting had anything to do with this “Lord.” Boris cracked his whip in the air and turned around, back in the direction of his bungalow. A murmur went through the group of slaves standing there, and two men came forward and dragged Pa carefully to the hut where Grace’s twin and mother sat, weeping. Grace followed behind, dragging her feet in the dirt, her eyes never leaving Pa’s bloody back.

“Grace, go get Old Laura.” These kind words were spoken by one of the men carrying Pa, and she lifted her eyes and dashed off in an instant. Running as fast as her young legs would carry her, she hurried past three more rows of small houses for the field slaves and to where Old Laura lived at the end of the fifth row. She nearly collided into the elderly lady as see came out of her hut, carrying a bag in which Grace knew contained a few meager medical supplies.

“Whoa, child, I’m on ma’ way. Your Pa be needin’ help.” Old Laura said. Grace nodded wordlessly, still unable to speak. “You come to, Grace. I’ll need ’nother pair of hands.” Grace nodded again, and through her pain and the tears that flowed down her face she felt a hint of pride that Laura was trusting her to help with such a task. Silently, the two hurried towards the hut in which Grace’s pa lay.

When they entered, Grace once again had a near-collision, but this time with her twin, Abby. Their young eyes met for a second before before Abby turned away, hiding her dry, yet filled with sorrow eyes by running behind the other nearby huts. Grace was tempted to follow her, and inside walked into the hut with Laura. After seeing the sight that followed upon entering, she was even more inclined to flee.

Pa lay on a small cot on his stomach, groaning softly. Ma sat beside the cot, weeping and looking sick. Ma had been sick an awful lot since she found she was expecting a baby. The two men who had carried then him in quietly exited the small house once Laura arrived. Laura quickly shooed Ma out and sat down, taking a jar of slave from her bag, she opened it an begin to rub it around the cuts and on the ribbons of flesh left of her Pa’s back. Grace watched everything she did, her young eyes absorbing everything. Laura’s face was grim as she worked.

“Will… will Pa be ok?” Grace asked timidly after a minute or so.

“You may be young, child, but I ain’t going to lie to you. I can’t say for sure if he will live.” Old Laura replied tersely. “We jus’ have to hope nothin’ gets infected.” Grace nodded, and hoped as hard as she could.

A few days later, Grace and Old Laura once again sat at Pa’s bedside, but only much more grim then before. Pa tossed and turned with a violent fever, moaning. A few of the smaller cuts had begun healing, but not before infection set in. Grace dipped a cloth in a bucket of cool water and mopped his forehead repeatedly, just as Laura had instructed. Abby sat a few feet away from Grace, staring silently. Ma sat in her rocking chair, rubbing her slightly swollen stomach and watching her husband. Old Laura had told Grace when Ma was not present the his chances of survival were slim. Grace had only nodded solemnly, with a seriousness beyond her 7 short years. Yesterday Ma had gone up to the big house and begged with Master Campbell, owner of Marabeth Plantation which the slaves working on, and asked that he send for help for her husband. But Master Campbell had refused, and Ma knew why. Pa was the type of slave who didn’t want to be chained up. He longed for when he might escape. Grace wondered exactly what Pa had been doing when Boris dragged him back and whipped him. He had mentioned some sort of “Christian” meeting he had tried to attend. Grace would have to ask Ma about it later.

But she did not have a chance to ask Ma. Instead, the next day she stood in the small grave yard at the end of the row of houses, standing on one side of Ma while Abby stood on the other. Tears ran openly down Grace and Ma’s face, but Abby just stood their, watching silently as three other slaves lowered Pa’s body, wrapped in cloth, into a small hand dug grave. It was very early in the morning, before the slaves began work. Boris had allowed them a few extra minutes to bury Pa before they all went to the fields. Dirt was shoveled back into the hole, and a small head stone put in place. One by one the slaves turned away from the new grave, and but Ma stayed their till every slave was gone, and she too turned away slowly, still holding her young daughter’s hands.

Pa was dead. Grace almost couldn’t believe it, had she not seen overseer Boris whip the life out of him mere days ago.

~~~~

Five months later, Abby sat leaning against the side of the hut in which their small family lived with Grace, shuffling her small feet in the autumn leaves. The screams of a mother giving birth could be heard from inside the small hut. Old Laura had promptly shooed the twins out after Grace had been sent to fetch her once Ma said she was having her baby. Grace had wanted to stay, but Abby was more then happy to wait outside while old Laura and a few other women help Ma deliver the baby.

“I hope its a girl.” Grace said, breaking the silence between them.

Abby looked up. “I want a baby brother.” She said. Just then a particularly loud scream came from inside, and Abby flinched.

“Why did you want to stay in there anyway, Grace?” Abby asked curiously, looking at her twin.

Grace’s small shoulders shrugged. “I…I wanted to help Ma. She sounded like she hurt.” Abby nodded. She understood what her sister meant, though she would rather let someone else do the helping.

Abby suddenly realized that that the noises from inside had stopped for the last few minutes. Grace met  her eyes, and they jumped up together. Old Laura stuck her head out from the ragged blanket that served as as a door. Their was a sparkle in her old brown eyes.

“Come on in, girls. You have a new baby sister, and what a sweet bundle of joy she is.” Abby felt a smile warm her face. She followed Laura and Grace into the hut.

Grace let out a small squeal when she entered. She ran towards Ma, while Abby stood at the door way a moment to take it all in. Ma lay down on the small cot in the one room house, smiling. A bundle of rag was cradled in her arms. The women and Grace crowded around Ma, peering into the bundle. The was when Abby realized it was more then just rags in her arms. A tiny brown face peeked out, taking in the world she had been born into. Abby stepped closer for a better look. Two perfect brown eyes looked back. A fuzz of dark hair like her own frizzed on the baby’s head. Her small mouth opened, and a giggle escaped, reveling toothless gums. Abby smiled back. The baby had Pa’s twinkling eyes. Maybe, just maybe, this little girl could help bring back the joy that left when Pa died.

“What’s her name gonna be, Ma?” Grace asked, interrupting Abby’s thoughts.

“I’m going to name her Ellie.” Ma replied, her eyes never leaving the baby’s face. “That was the name of my sister. Ellie was like sunshine to my family, and I’ll be sure this Ellie the younger will be too.”

In the next month, it was evident Ma had named her correctly. Elly giggled and laughed, showing her toothless gums. When Ma had to go back to working in the fields now that she had her baby, Abby and Grace went to Old Laura’s hut, Ma bringing along Elly to leave the sisters in Old Laura’s care while she worked, like many mothers did. The twins would spend hours playing with their smiling sister while Ma worked. Of course, Elly couldn’t really play yet, but she could lay on the floor and coo up so sweetly at her sisters, and Abby and Grace could be delighted for hours. Months passed, and sweet Elly truly brought joy to the family. She could never truly fill the place Pa had left, but she did bring warmth back into Abby and Grace’s hearts.

But, the happier times did not last forever, as they never do.

~~~~

Abby, Grace, and Ma walked slowly to Old Laura’s hut, tired after the long work day. The twins had been working in the fields since the age of ten, and for two years now they had worked alongside Ma from dawn till dusk, leaving 5 year old Elly at Old Laura’s house. It was what happened everyday after work was over.

Today, however, Abby was surprised to see a small commotion of sorts happening at Laura’s house. Master Campbell was outside Laura’s hut with a rich-looking couple. Laura appeared to be asking something, though her eyes were dropped to Master Campbell’s feet, it was obvious she was pleading. Elly and her friend Cass hid behind Laura. The rich couple stood a few steps behind Master Campbell. Overseer Boris lingered in the background. A fancy coach with a driver waited in the small gape between rows.

“Old Laura, Mr. and Mrs. Smyth here are just needing a girl to for a personal servant for their daughter. She will be treated just fine and dandy on Oak Hill plantation in Tennessee.” Master Campbell’s voice carried over to where they were walking.
“Master, please. Don’t take Cass or Elly. Their Ma’s will be back from the fields soon.”

“The Smyths have been friends of mine for years, and they just stopped here and mentioned that their daughter is needing a personal slave girl.” Master Campbell went on, ignoring Laura’s pleading. “I told them I had some young girls for them right here to chose from. So now, if you will just hand over those pretty young girls, Laura, Mrs. Smyth will chose one for her daughter.”

As if on a silent command, they all broke into a run. No, not Elly! Abby thought running faster.

Laura shielded the girls behind her back. Abby could tell she did not want to give them up either. Brit, a boy among the small handful of children that were orphans who lived with Laura, ran out and kicked Master Campbell’s shins. He push Brit away with a shove. He landed in the dust.

“Need we use more force, Laura?”

“No, Master.” Laura said quietly, and stepped away, reveling the two girls standing side by side. Elly had a smooth, round face. Her hair was neatly done in braids, while Cass’s hair had leaves and grass stuck in it. They had obviously been playing. She was pretty too, but didn’t outshine the sunny Elly. Abby saw the disaster seconds before it happened.

Mrs. Smyth’s delicate, gloved hand stretched out and pointed at Elly just as Abby ran in. She punched Campbell’s stomach, then grabbed Elly and hugged her fiercely. Boris withdrew his pistol as Ma knelled as Master Campbell’s knees.

“Please, master, don’t sell my child!”

“I’m afraid I already have.” A sly grin snaked across Campbell’s face as Boris stepped in front him and thrust Ma out of the way and grabbed Elly out of Abby’s grasp.

“Ma! Ma!” Elly cried as she was dragged away, tears flowing down her face.

“Please, Master! Let me have a moment with my child!” Ma cried, her tears matching Elly’s.

“One minute.” Campbell consented, and signaled to Boris to stop. Boris growled and let go. Abby, Grace and Ma ran towards her, trapping her in a hug. Finally, Ma took a step back and held Elly fiercely by the shoulders.

“I love you, my child. Don’t forget that.” Elly nodded, crying. Boris grabbed her again and shoved her into the coach, Mr. and Mrs. Smyth following. Campbell climbing in last for a ride back to the big house. The driver flicked the reins and the coach rolled away. Ma and Grace cried openly. Abby realized fully that her little sister was gone, but not a tear rolled down her cheeks. It was as if she couldn’t cry, but felt the pain twice as deep.

“Now, what are we going to do with these two.” Boris said sinisterly as Brit picked himself out of the dirt to stand beside Abby. “Attacking Master Campbell is not something I let go unpunished.”

Laura stood in front of them, like she would let Boris take anyone else. Ma was to busy weeping to notice.

“Please, master. Master Campbell doesn’t allow whipping of children of this plantation.” Laura said softly.

“Hardly children they are anymore! They should be punished.” As if to echo his words, Brit jumped out, fists raised. Abby managed to grab him just in time.

“Smart move, girl. You just stay outta trouble now.” The overseer said with a sneer. He walked away cracking his whip in the air once.
Abby noticed Ma still slumped by the dirt track in which the wagon had disappeared, Grace standing their with her. She walked up and touched her lightly, and wordlessly the three walked home. The sun was setting, and Abby knew they were all thinking the same thing. The sun was sinking from her meager life of slavery.

Ma’s sunshine was gone. It was evident to everyone that even with Grace and Abby, she was sad all the time. When Ma fell ill a few months later, Grace wasn’t exactly surprised.

~~~~

It was just a cold a few days ago. Grace thought as she and Old Laura sat on the floor beside Ma, who lay on the cot. Abby stood back a bit, near the wall. Ma had a fever. A bad one. Sometimes she would toss and turn on the cot, throwing off her blankets. Other times she would all the thin blankets and the few extra items of clothes and still be shaking with chills. It didn’t help either that it was winter and cold seeped in from around the door and the curtainless windows. A fire struggled to burn in the small hearth. Grace saw Abby pull on a thin shawl and go to find more wood, even though they both knew the chances of finding any where slim. But Ma was currently chilled and shaking, and they might as well try to build up the fire. Old Laura, who had seen many slaves though all sorts of illness, did not know what was making Ma sick.

“I think this had something to do with how she’s still mourning her dear Elly.” Old Laura said, breaking the silence.
Grace looked up and nodded. It was like the grief of her little sister being gone for three months now had taken over her body.
Just then Abby re-entered, a gust of cold air following her. In her arms were a few sticks.

“I couldn’t find all that much, but it might help warm her up.” Abby shrugged and added them to the fire. Grace nodded. Master Campbell did not distribute as much firewood to heat the small huts as he probably should. As a result, the houses were always cold, subjecting many to illness. Grace hated winter. It always came and stayed far to long for her taste.

Brit, a boy from Laura’s cabin, entered just then. His cheeks were rosy from the cold.

“I managed to find more wood, Grace.” He said, depositing it near the fire. “Not that much, but I heard your Ma was cold.”

“Thank you, Brit. Anything helps.” Grace smiled a little. She was glad that she had a few friends like Brit to help out. He nodded and smiled back, warming up his bare arms on the fire. Abby was building up. Like many of the slaves, he did not have a jacket to wear in winter yet. They all looked forward to Christmas, when new cloth with be issued out to make clothes with. But in the mean time there was nothing else to do to help Ma except wait and keep the fire stocked up. Grace and Laura both knew she might not make it through next couple days. As usual, Boris refused to do anything.

The few days Grace stayed with Ma constantly and she drifted in and out of fever and chills. Grace tried to get her to sip some broth, but it was hard. Her body was growing weaker and weaker. Boris did allow Grace to stay and care for her. A few times Abby offered to to help, and Grace readily rested her tired eyes. She heard Laura telling Abby while she was sleeping to make she Grace rested, otherwise she might get sick.

“Caring for someone is a lot of weight to put on that child’s young shoulders, Abby. Make sure she gets rest too.”

“I’ll try, Laura.” That was the last thing Grace heard before she fell asleep.

When Grace awoke, Ma seemed worse then ever. She was burning with fever, even though the house was cold. Grace could do nothing but mop her forehead with a cool rag. That night her breathing slowed. The twins held her hands as she breathed her last, killed by the evils of slavery.
Grace wept for all this was worth. She hadn’t been able to save Pa She couldn’t stop Boris from taking Ellie. Ma was now gone too. Grace made a vow to herself never to loose the last of her family. Never would she loose Abby.

~~~~

Abby still felt the same in inability to cry, but the pain was deep. She wished she could cry away her sorrows like her twin, instead of keeping then built up inside. But her eyes where dry. Abby let go of Ma’s still hand and grasped Grace’s instead. She had to hold on to what was living. And she had to not let go.

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