| Flora rubbed her tired eyes and straightened her back. She had been a housekeeper in this building in Philadelphia since she got off the dirty ship one year ago.
She smoothed her dress and tried to push away the memory of the last night's nightmare. Her dress was comfortable, clean, prim and... stolen.
She figured out early on the ship that her multi-colored clothes will not do in her new home, so she took a small trunk from a woman who seemed to have too many. She smiled when she thought how proud her father would have been of her.
Flora entered one of the offices and dusted the desk around the neat stack of papers. An unfinished letter on the desk started neatly with "Philadelphia, Wednesday Evening, 2 July, 1777." She smiled, as she knew who the letter was for. Reading didn't come easy to her, as she struggled to learn both the language and the letters from a down-on-his-luck clergyman. She kept house for him in return for his lessons.
She smoothed again her dress. Reading didn't come easy, but stealing did. When hiding in the depth of the forest, hunted like the deer, it was a very handy skill. Her nightmare showed its ugly face again, and she shivered remembering the last hunt. Someone had told about their hideout, and she woke up to the howling of dogs and the ground trembling under the horse hooves.
She rolled until she reached the entry to the underground hideout and stayed hidden until the hunt ended. That's when she resolved to leave. That's how she became such a consummate thief. All the places she passed through across the Old World had laws that rewarded the hunt, killing, jailing or beating of gypsies.
The room needed little attention, and she moved onto the next. She knocked at the door and startled when an answer came back. She didn't expect master Jefferson to be in his office. It wasn't only that. It was that she developed a certain fondness for him and for some reason, or rather lack of it in her addled brain, she thought he returned it in kind.
She cracked the door, and he motioned at her to come in without lifting his head from his papers. She busied dusting, swiping and moping while her thoughts whirled through her mind. Something snapped, and she opened her mouth to speak.
"Master Jefferson, today is 3rd of July. Yesterday has been a year since you signed the Declaration."
He raised his head in surprise.
" Yes, my dear, it has been a momentous day for us." He then chewed on his lip, deep in thought.
It had been momentous for her too, as it meant she wouldn't be hunted anymore. She liked especially the part where all the men were created equal. And women too, she hoped. It surely felt good to not be anymore the scourge of the society.
"Did you plan any celebration?" she blurted and then she lowered her head as she felt she overstepped her bounds.
"Oh dear, it completely slipped my mind. I guess because there is still so much to be done." he sighed.
He started to scribble something on several pieces of paper.
"Take this to Adams and this to Hayes, the harbormaster. Tell them I'll be waiting for them in my office within the hour. There is much to be done."
"Oh, and forget about the housekeeping today, we'll need all the help we can to make to tomorrow a day to remember." he threw after her as an afterthought.
"Tomorrow?" she asked a bit uncertain.
"Well, we cannot possibly do anything today, my dear; it is already too late, don't you think?" he answered her baffled look with a wink.
She scurried away and fulfilled her tasks precisely. She kept her face low, as her olive skin and curly dark hair could still put her in danger. In her labored reading of the Declaration, the issue of slavery was missing. As master Jefferson said, there was still much to do.
Flora still smoothed her dress and had to roll her shoulders more than once to ward off tiredness the next day. It was because of so many details, she had to attend to. Measuring hundreds of yards of red, white and blue fabric for the ships, catering water and snacks to the parade and helping with the bonfires. The nightmare had not visited her that night.
The gun salute startled her, and she instinctively raised her hands above her head and searched frantically for a place to hide. She bumped into a man with a face of a similar shade as hers and an equally curved nose. He steadied her as he watched her with a quizzical eye.
He wore an unusual outfit, with fringes and colorful designs. She gave him a grateful smile and left, thinking she might add a bit of color to her dresses after all.
She never noticed his eyes as they followed her and the promise they held.