Nothing could be done now, she had aborted, her brother was dead, all Rich had were his reasons, which didn’t make sense. He remembered her beauty. He did not even know she had a family, that’s how struck down he was upon meeting her, she was solemn, tall for her age–still young, much younger than him–and a black body he romanticized calling it “onyx,” that he could not forget even after he bade her goodbye that day and woke in the night hard with desire and the need to quench his thirst for her. She happened to be in town the next day, when he also happened to be there, though he rarely went to town in successive days, at least until, but after two days a third was called for and on the fourth they found a place outside town where he peeled her dress from you, she had nothing underneath, nor did he wear anything there and she smiled when she saw his member rigid, even seeming to move as though it were dowsing for her entrance. Each day after that he came to town and they met out here, as though by assignation, rolling together in the high grass that was warm and layered and a good place to sleep after their bodies were spent, happy, and she told him she wanted only to leave this place, she knew it would be hard if not impossible to get from here to where she wanted to go, where there were women like her who had ambition and desire and sought their consummation. Where is that? he asked, but she didn’t answer, just pointed and said, Out there . . .
He wanted to take her. He was surprised he loved her. A white man was forbidden to love a black woman, even if a black man loving a white woman were grounds for immediate execution . . . what, after all, had the war been about if not to keep black people slaves, obedient to whites who were taught they were saved because there was a race of people who belonged below their own station, and no wonder, poor whites were such trash in the sight of those who owned more land that their only recourse was to denigrate the black person in the effort to think better of themselves in the face of their own judges. But that was nothing compared to the way he felt with her. And she never told him her name, nor did he tell her his. They planned to go away together soon. Then she found herself with child.
Then her brother learned of their trysts, he would not say love, and for some reason he did not want to admit what was so obvious that no one need tell him more than his sister, who did not trust him anyway, he was so headstrong and full of hate. She went to a woman on the outskirts of Woolwine who concocted a brew and after several weeks of drinking it down each night–during which time she never saw nor heard from the father of her fetus–the misshapen thing was purged with the help of the woman and that was all.
Her brother, she knew, finally, was afraid of her lover so he went after the younger brother whose Christian name was the same as that of the president gunned down at the war’s end.
His name she knew, and for that very reason. Her lover would not tell her his own, nor would she tell him her name as long as he preferred anonymity, knowing, she thought, he would break his silence once they were gone from here and were living “out there.”
Her brother went to town and every chance he had he seized upon the opportunity to stalk Abraham through the Woolwine streets, taunting him mercilessly, keeping on him until the boy got close to his other brothers reaching safety for that stay in town.
Rich told Abraham nothing about the brother or his sister. She came to him one day and led him to their place and told him the baby was gone. Could they make plans to go now?
Rich told her what her brother was doing to his brother. She dismissed it and sought to take the conversation back to where she had hoped it would go . . . Where do you want to go? When? How will we travel? What will we do when we find a place we want to live? Are you sure this is what you want? Aren’t you afraid of being seen with me, of people knowing we share not only the same house but the same bed, eat together, talk and laugh together . . . as though we were one, as though we belonged with one another, as though love were possible even between such as you and me . . . but she did not get back, he was too aflame, burning with rage at her brother, telling her how close he was to his little brother and what he had to do now to make her brother end his crazed pursuit.
They planned to meet again, but it was too late, her brother was adamant, and so was Abraham’s older brother, so was she . . . She told him she needed him only because she loved him and he lost control, told her she was nothing, nor was her brother, or any of the race from which they came, read Genesis, he said, you know how Noah was betrayed, don’t you?
So he left her in the high grass and went to where her brother was stalking Abe, took note of it and then went to the saloon where his other brothers, Ira and Dave, were drinking in the saloon and over a drink of his own he told them something about the time had come, but said nothing in explanation, simply taking the knife out of its scabbard, asking them to feel the blade, but look out, it’s sharp and will slice you like a kitchen knife through butter in the heat of summer, and then they watched him go, stunned a little, knowing nothing about what he was about to do, which he did, that afternoon, while Abe cowered against the wall listening to the sounds of rage and agony that seemed to come from the other side of the wall but he knew it was happening just around the corner, at the entrance to the alley there.
(17 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander