|As the sun set on the last day of her 14th birthday, Maria wondered what it would be like to be 15 years old. In a few hours she would be a different age, as if it were only attainable on a different planet. She simply could not imagine what it would be like. She would just have to wait and see. Waiting an hour for it to be the next day, was waiting an eternity. A new adventure would be open to Maria when she turned 15. Her father would allow her to work at his newspaper stand for him on the weekends. She could already picture herself surrounded by tents in the marketplace, selling newspapers to people, making money like the rest of the vendors. As the clock struck 12 she ran to her brothers' bedroom, where she found them laying out their clothes for work the next day. "HA! I am 15 as of..." she looked back at the clock, "30 seconds ago! I am now a working woman!"
"Yea yea, close the door." Dino said, unenthused. Carlo turned to her and said, "Hey that's great sis, because you owe me 10 cents."
"You owe me 10 cents. When I was 8 I bought you a toy with my allowance. I told you when you got your first job you had to pay me back."
"I don't remember that." Maria said angrily.
"Course you don't. You were only 1." Carlo said looking back at his clothes. Maria made a face and closed the door. She ran to her room to celebrate by herself, whispering as loud as she could, "I'm 15! I'm 15!" Bartolomea came in to find Maria dancing around like a clown.
"Ay Mama!" Maria said, straightening up. Bartolomea kept her strong face, hiding her laugh. "Just because you are 15, doesn't mean you will be working. Your father said yes, but I say no. You are still too young to be out there alone. We will discuss it tonight and speak with you about it in the morning before Papa goes to work." Maria bit her lip, not wanting to cry in front of her mother. She couldn't speak, for if she did, her voice would give way and reveal her swollen heart. Her mother just stared back at her waiting for an answer.
"Yes Mama." Maria said quickly. Bartolomea left the room, marching away quickly. If she had stayed she would have heard the sobs coming from Maria sitting at her open window. Her mother knew it was for her own good that she not be working just yet.
The night was long for Maria, but waiting to hear the final answer from her parents the next day was even longer. She sat at the table with them and watched them eat in silence. Papa had his newspaper in front of him, and any facial expression he made was only in his mind. Mama sat quietly next to him munching on her oats. Maria was dressed for school, waiting as long as she could before she had to leave. The suspense was agonizing. "Well Papa!?" She blurted. Salvestro's eyes darted across at Maria's and then slowly back down at his paper. He tried not to smile. Mama munched hard on her bread. "Maria, I don't think..."
"Bartola." Papa started, "she can handle it on her own. You can start this weekend." He said, not looking away from his paper.
"Sal'e!" Mama yelled. Papa just looked at her, wanting to smile, but keeping his face firm. "She can handle it."
Maria jumped up and ran out the door for school, skipping all the way there. Bartola wiped her hands on the dish towel and then slammed it on the counter. Her fierce attitude made up for her husbands lack of one. "You know she is too young to be alone out there. People will try to get two papers for one price without her knowing what happened. We will lose money. What is it going to teach her? That she put her heart into something only to find out that she cannot do it well."
"Bartolomea. Please. My morning was peaceful until now."
"Well, I am not happy. What are you going to do about that? Your wife is NOT HAPPY!"
"What if I give my not happy wife money to go down to buy a paper from Maria this weekend and see how she does? Try and get two papers from her. If she gives you two papers for the price of one, I will take care of things."
"Good. This is good." Bartola said. Salvestro put his paper down and headed toward the door. "But if she does good, you have to promise that you will not protest this again."
"I promise." Mama said, looking him dead in the eye. "If she does not do good, you have to promise she will not work there again."
"I'm late for work." Sal headed out the door, dodging the door slamming shut angry behind him.
The weekend was warm and bright, like every month of July was in Italy. Her town of Carinola was a little bit smaller than the cities around her. The city of Bari was only minutes away from where she lived, so it was usual to see a mixture in the crowds. She sat on Papa's wooden chair, anxiously waiting for the first customer to come to buy a newspaper. Before she knew it almost an hour had passed by without a single person. It was 8am now. Maria looked around at the people buying and selling, wondering what kind of lives they all had. People had animals on leashes with them, some were buying fruit, others buying painted pictures of far away places. What was it like to be one of those vendors that had so many people waiting in line? Maria looked down at the ground, only to be looking at a pair of black boots standing in front of her. She stood up out of her chair nervously and greeted the man. "Hello, would you like to buy a newspaper today?"
"Yes." The man said. He had a far away accent.
"You are not from Italy." Maria stated, wondering about him.
"America. I'm here to work until '53. Then I go home." The man looked at her for a moment. "What's your name?"
"Maria." She said. "I knew you were from far away. You are from one of those pictures over there. I have never seen someone with skin as dark as yours around here before."
"I suppose not. My name is Olivier (pronounced Oliveeay) Thank you for the paper...I'll buy one tomorrow also."
"Do you have much time to read when you are supposed to be working until '53?" Maria's sharp eyes matched her wit.
"If I can buy it from you, I'll make the time to read." Olivier squinted in the sunlight, as a smile crept across his face. Maria stared back at him. She was flattered on the inside, but didn't show it. "If I am here tomorrow." She said quickly.
"Will you be?" Olivier waited for an answer as Maria sat back down in her chair. "Only if I know someone will be here to buy."
Olivier paid for the paper and left with a smile on his face. Maria turned around to smile, when nobody could see her.
Over the months, Maria would work at the newspaper stand every weekend. Olivier would come to see her every time she worked and buy a paper from her. He could never stay long, but his visits were always enjoyed by both of them. They would laugh and talk and share stories. Olivier would tell her about America, and she would try to imagine what he described as the best place in the world to live. She didn't see how any place could be better than where she lived. "Maybe I will get a lot of money and visit there someday."
"I'll take you there." Olivier looked at Maria seriously. Maria put her head down for a bit. After a minute she said, "I do not know if I want to leave Mama and Papa."
"You could see them as often as you want. I'll bring you back to visit as much as you want. Like you were never gone." Olivier said meaningfully.
"If I go with you, I would not come back."
"Of course you would!"
"No. I would not come back. I would not be welcome."
"Why not?" Olivier asked confused.
"I am Italian. You are not. Your skin is darker than my family will allow for me."
Olivier remained silent. Maria said nothing as she looked away. She didn't know if she had hurt him or not by saying that, but it was the truth.
"Is that how you feel too?" Olivier asked her, knealing down next to her. Maria's face turned serious. "I like your color. Like this wood." She pointed to the chair she was sitting in.
"Mahogany." He said.
"Yes." She smiled. "I will sit here in the sun until I look like you."
Olivier laughed. "That will never happen. Nice try though."
Maria put her eyebrows down. "It will happen."
Olivier stood up again. "Maria, it's almost '53."
One month later, Maria found herself in love with Olivier. He didn't promise her the world, and she knew she would be just as poor as she was now, but she would be happy with him. He loved her as well, and their life would be good together. She had never been to America, but if it was half as good as Olivier made it sound, it was a dream come true for her. They were leaving by boat in the morning.
Maria went to her window and tied her curtains back to let in the moonlight. She had to pack a suitcase. Her mind was racing wild as she thought about what she was doing. Should she leave a note explaining where she had gone? What would her parents think when they found out? Would they ever find out if she didn't tell them?
Maria stopped packing. She sat down at her window and looked up at the moon. She wondered why she was leaving. There was no reason, except for that she loved Olivier and wanted to go with him, and she also wanted to live in America. But if she had never met him, she wouldn't want to leave. Maria loved her family and her life was pretty good here. Was this foolish of her to leave with no goodbyes? Was it foolish to leave at all? Maria got a pit in her stomach and began to wish she had never met Olivier to begin with.
She decided to pack her bags anyway, and that she would let her true feelings decide if she would leave or stay. She would be seeing Olivier in a few minutes at the dock. If she didn't trust the feeling she had when she saw him, she would turn and go back home. Otherwise, she was about to leave Italy, once and for all. She left her house, crying all the way there.
The early morning fog was heavy. She had on her coat and a hat as she carried her bag as best she could. She had a pit in her stomach when she saw the boat. She began to cry out loud, as she realized she was in control of her own fate and didn't know what decision would be best. She looked around at all the people waiting by the dock, wondering about their lives. Why were they going to America? As her eyes scanned the crowd, she had a warm, happy feeling come over her, and she didn't know why. Suddenly, she felt different. She began to smile for some reason, until she laughed excitedly. She began to imagine America and her new life with Olivier. She found out why she was so happy again. She had been seeing Olivier's face in the crowd without realizing it. He made eye contact with her and made his way over to her. She smiled from ear to ear as she leaped in his arms.
"You're here!" He said, swinging her around. "I was wondering what you were going to decide to do. I'm glad you decided to come."
Maria smiled with sparkling eyes. "Yes, I know this is the right decision. If I do not like America, I can come back to Italy if I feel like it. My family does not own Italy, they cannot keep me away if I want to come back."
"What did your family say when you told them?" Olivier asked. He was nervous to hear her answer. He knew her family didn't know about him before today, and they would not like him because of his dark skin. But, his nerves were unsettled because he thought about the problem he made for her. If he hadn't persueded her to love him in return, she would not have to be torn between her family and him. He felt her sorrow was his fault. Her unhappiness was his unhappiness. It was too late now. This was happening, and they had to face it.
"Well, I did not tell them." Maria said, looking down at her feet. Her eyes turned glassy.
Olivier took a step backward, wide-eyed. "You didn't tell them?" He put his hands on his hips and thought silently for a minute. She looked up at him in wonderment, as he looked back at her and didn't say anything. He pulled his watch out of his coat pocket. "The boat leaves in one hour. We'll go back to your parents now and tell them."
"Maria, you will live the rest of your life with regret, not knowing that there was a chance you could have had your family's blessing on your decisions. Tell them about America, all the wonderful things that await you there. They will be happy for you."
"No." Maria protested again. "They will not give me this so-called 'blessing'. They will erase me from their minds......and their hearts. I will not give them that opportunity. I will leave them first so they cannot erase me when I have already removed myself." Maria held her head up high.
"That's pure pride talking Maria." Olivier said looking at her straightly. "I can't make you do anything, but I will feel differently about you if you get on this boat with me without at least trying to settle things the right way." He held his arm out for her to take it, and he led the way back to her street. She led the rest of the way to her house, nervously shaking. She knew this was close to impossible to do, but she would show Olivier that she was not a coward. She would do it. She didn't know how she would feel, though, if her family did indeed cast her out. She couldn't coward. But what if she did?
They walked down the alley to where she could climb the stairs and go through her bedroom window, back into her house. She and Olivier stood, looking up at the stairs. She began to cry as she looked at him with the eyes of a broken heart. He looked back at her with strength. He wanted at that moment to call her his wife, but he knew he couldn't treat her as such yet. With one swift move, he hugged her tightly, trying to impart his strength to her. She began to cry as she felt his confidence in her, the same confidence that she lacked in herself. He had never seen her this vulnerable before. She wasn't used to this. He, however, was happy to be able to see the real Maria behind the pride she was so used to carrying with her character. He realized he could be a friend to her first, before becoming a husband. She didn't realize that was what she needed, regardless of race. She loved him.
Maria made her way up the stairs. When she got to the top, she could have kicked herself for not taking off her heels. She hoped nobody heard her. She slowly opened her window and made her way in, closing the window behind her....
"Where were you?" A voice from behind her made her jump. Her brother Dino stood in the doorway of her door. He leaned out and shouted, "Hey everybody Maria's here, making a grand entrance!"
"Shh! Dino, you will wake everyone up. I had to go check to make sure I closed down the newspaper stand. I thought I left it unlocked." Maria said, fixing her hair up. "Now get out, I'm tired." She said as Carlo came in the room behind Dino. "I guess you should be tired, runnin' around all night with your man friend." He said. Dino bolted to the window. He saw a shadow of a man standing down below. Maria's heart sunk.
"And not just any man friend, a dark skinned man at that. Well, let's welcome him in." Dino took a knife out of his pocket and started to open the window. Maria thought of Olivier and shoved Dino's arm away from the window. As quick as lightning Dino's fist bolted into her face like a sledge hammer. Maria was on the ground. The sound of Dino and Carlo talking was as if they were under water, or maybe she was. She couldn't tell if the lights had turned on in the room or if the moon had begun to shine brighter. She didn't know what was happening, as things got dark again very quickly.
The sound of the ship leaving the dock woke Maria out of sleep. She thought of the events that had just happened, what seemed like only minutes ago. She remembered what happened. She remembered Olivier. She jumped up faster than a racing fire and ran to her window. He was gone. "Olivier," she whispered to herself as she made her way out the window and down the street.
She didn't know where to go. Where could Olivier be? She ran as fast as she could down the road, heading for the dock. It didn't make sense that he would be there, but she would start there. Her face was smarting as she ran. Every step she took felt like her brain was rattling. She started seeing things double as she ran faster, and she felt like something on her face was bleeding. She heard a whistle blow as she ran past a police officer. She stopped and turned around to look at him.
The man in uniform got up from his bench and made his way to her, his whistle still in his mouth. "Where are you headed miss?" The question was a logical one, but Maria couldn't come up with an answer. "I think... I do not really know." She said. She looked around, wanting to give up hope finding him, but her heart was burning to see him again. Where could he be? The officer stood there waiting for a better answer from her. Maria finally looked at him in the eye and said, "I am looking for a man." She looked down, "A colored man." She waited for the officer to flinch at her description. He just stared back. Maria continued, "his name is Olivier. He..."
The officer nodded his head. "Oh yes, we found him. He was turned in to jail early this morning. Apparently he has a problem keeping with his own race. He was accused of stalking around a young woman's window early this morning while she was sleeping. He almost made a fool out of that woman had her brother's not found him first. I say he got what he deserved. Miss do you realize your lip is bleeding?"
Maria stayed silent. She wanted as much information as she could get. "I think I know that girl. Where is that man now? Which jail was he taken to?" She hoped it was within walking distance. The officer pointed his thumb behind him. "The courtyard prison." He said.
Maria flinched. "Prison?" She half protested. "I thought you said jail."
"Well now, it's all the same right? A criminal is a criminal."
"A prison sentence is with death in view. Will he be hanged for this crime, officer?" Maria said, her heart racing.
"Looks that way." He said. Maria wondered if she could come up with the money to get him out. Where would she get the money?
"Officer," she said, "I am worried about someone perhaps paying for him to out of prison. He may harm another person if he gets out."
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that happening. I don't know too many citizens who would want a colored man wandering in the streets again. It would probably be denied anyway."
"But IF if were possible, officer, how much would that person have to pay?" Maria waited for an answer. The officer blinked at her for a minute. "Well?" She said.
"I couldn't tell you that. Only the judge could. But I suppose it would be no less than 1,000. It doesn't look like he'll have a trial though miss. What he was getting ready to do is a serious crime. I assure you there's nothing to worry about."
Maria gulped. "Thank you for your assurance officer. I have to go now." Maria left quickly without letting the officer say another word. Where would Maria get 1000 from? She had to get him out of there, somehow. She loved him. This couldn't be happening. How could she bear to live without Olivier? He was her Olivier.
When she got to the courtyard, she wasn't sure where the prison cells were. She had always stayed away from the general area, from horror stories her brothers would tell her about the inmates. Maria marched up the steps of the courtyard, with her head held high, dispite her blood stained lip. She looked around for a door to go into, or a window with a clerk. There was nothing. The closer she got to the wall in front of her, the louder the voices got behind the wall. She walked behind the wall and there she saw what she was looking for. The prison cells.
Her eyes scanned the cells until she saw a dark figure standing alone in one cell, toward the end of the wall. She ran fast to the cell calling out as she ran, "Olivier!!" She didn't care if anyone heard her. She would be there with him if she could fit in between the bars. The man turned around, and he recognized her face. His eyes were swollen and his cheeks and lips were bloody. He couldn't smile but he tried. Maria ran to him and held his hand through the bars that separated them. He told her, "I was afraid for you. When you didn't come out of your house with your brothers, I knew it was because you couldn't." He lifted up his shirt and showed her the gash on his chest. "He missed my heart." Olivier sunk down and put his hands on his head and started to sob. "He missed my heart. He could have killed me. I wish he did!" Maria knelt down with him. "Olivier..." She didn't know what to say. She looked at him bruised and bloody. This was all her fault. Not really. It was his fault for taking her back to her family's house to begin with. If it were up to her, none of this would have happened and they would be on their way to America now.
Olivier looked up at her. "I'm to be hanged at the end of the month." He said sorely. Maria smiled with glee. "One month?" She squealed. "That will give me time to save up 1000 to get you out of here! I will get you out Olivier, you have my word!"
Olivier didn't want to give himself hope when he knew there was none. "You will get in trouble for bailing me out, Maria."
"Nobody but the law will know." She said sharply. "You have my word. If they say you will be hanged sooner, you must fight it."
Olivier stood up and thought for a minute. "It won't work Maria. I've got you in this much trouble already. Just forget about me and start your life. But you must visit America, at least once in your lifetime."
"Olivier, we will be in America together. You have my word." Maria said absolutely. She took out her handkerchief and gave it to him. "When you think those bad thoughts, remember me. I will be seeing you without bars Olivier. I have to go now, there is no time to lose." Maria jumped up and ran to her house to meet her Papa before he left for work. She didn't know what to expect when she got there.
She walked in through the front door quietly. Papa was sitting at the table with Mama looking over some papers. They looked like something for work, legal stuff she didn't know about, much less care about. She had more important problems to think about. Their friend Gino was there sitting at the table with them. Gino was a good friend of the family. He knew a lot about the laws of Italy, which made sense for him to be there while Papa was signing legal papers.
Maria took a deep breath, as she was about to ask her father a very important question. She wanted to take over work for him for a month at the newspaper stand. If he said no, she would ask him boldly for 1000. "...Give me strength..." She whispered to herself. As Maria opened her mouth to speak, she felt herself beginning to cower. She looked at Papa, sitting calmly reading over his papers, sipping on his coffee. Mama was just as calm, sitting next to him, reading the papers with him. Gino tapping a pen in his hand was looking across the table at the papers. Maria found it funny that neither of them looked up to greet her, not even once.
"Papa." Maria said, her heart racing. Salvestro looked up at her through his bronze-rimmed glasses. "Maria, come. Sign here." Maria knew she had to sign the papers also because she worked at his newspaper stand now too. She came and took the pen that Gino offered to her and signed where Papa's finger pointed. Immediately, Salvestro and Bartolomea each signed the papers and handed them over to Gino, who also signed. Gino stood up and put his hat back on and headed out the door. Now Maria had their attention.
Salvestro turned to her and said, "Tell me about this wonderful place called America." Maria turned pale. "Papa?" She said confused.
"It must be a wonderful place. I hear my daughter wants to go and get married there. Tell me about it."
"Well," Maria started, "I hear it's a nice place. There are big cities and people of all skin colors live there. Cultures mix. It is even common to have friends who have very dark skin." She waited to see if she struck a nerve with Papa. He just yawned. "Maria," he said, "You would like to live in America, non e' vero? I will allow this to happen. I know you are ready to make a new ife for yourself. This will be a good opportunity for you, so I have agreed to make it happen for you."
Maria thought of Olivier. "Papa, first I must say thank you. Second, I must ask you for 1000. To start my new life in America. You would not want me and my husband to end up on the streets, would you?"
"My answer to both questions is no. I have taken care of everything. You just smile and be happy." Salvestro said.
"When do I leave for America Papa?" Maria said, confused.
"Today. Right now."
"Papa today?! Right now? Papa how can this happen now? I will not go right now. I have..."
"You have what?" Papa looked up at her and took off his glasses. "You have a fondness for the night time? Friends who want you to be out in the night time? Friends with skin to match the night time? Maria day and night are opposites. That is why when it is day, it cannot be night at the same time." Papa made his point clear. Maria wanted to spit on the ground at his words.
"Yet Papa, I am privileged to know that on the other side of the world, the same world we are standing on right now, it is night time. Sometimes opposites work together to make a good thing. And day time, will turn into night time, even if it doesn't want to. One day this night time will do good for you and you will say Thank You." Maria went to her bedroom.
She had already packed her bags earlier, however she was not ready to leave Italy yet. Olivier was still here. She had a month before she could leave with him as she planned to. Bartolomea came in her bedroom and found Maria crying. She wiped away her tears and pulled Maria's hair back to braid it for her. "Maria, why the tears?"
"Mama, I can't leave today. I have to stay for one month. I cannot tell you why."
"Maria you must leave today. There is something wonderful that awaits you in America. A man that has asked for your hand in marriage. Your father and I approve. He is a good man." Bartola said, finishing up her braid.
"Mama, I am in love with someone here already. We want to live in America together. But he needs 1000 to be able to leave the proper way." Maria said, starting to cry again.
"What do you mean?"
"I cannot be too specific Mama, it is between me and him. But it is for a good reason. I don't want to leave yet Mama and I don't want to marry someone I have never met."
"It has already been decided. You have your bags packed. The wedding is in one month. You must leave today." Mama said, hiding her tears. She stood up, straightening out her dress and left the room quickly. Maria sat on her lop-sided bed, numb. She stared out the window, thinking of Olivier.
Papa came in Maria's room. "Maria, it is time to go. The boat leaves soon."
"I will not marry someone I don't know Papa." Maria said, still looking out the window.
"You already agreed." He said. Maria turned around to face him, wide-eyed.
"I never agreed to marry someone I do not know Papa."
Maria stood up in defense. "No, Papa I did not. When did I agree?"
"You signed the papers didn't you? I watched you sign. Gino watched you sign." He said. He leaned his head out the door. "Bartola! Come!"
"Papa!! You made me sign those papers! I thought they were papers about working at the newspaper stand. I did not know what I was signing!"
Bartola came rushing in. "Si Sal'e!" She said, looking for the fire. Sal pointed his finger at Maria and said to Bartola, "Tell Maria she agreed to wed a Mr. Frank Abrami. She signed the papers. You saw her sign. Do I need to call Gino to come here to prove it? You were there, tell her you saw her. She saw you sign. Frank Abrami you are to wed in holy matrimony in one month." He nudged Bartola on the shoulder and pointed to Maria. Bartolomea looked at Maria in surprise. "Maria, you signed the papers yourself." She said. The three of them stood together staring at each other, not saying anything. Maria got herself into trouble. She should have looked at what she signed. This was on her now. What about Olivier?
Maria was to host her own goodbye dinner for her family. Mama arranged it so that Maria would stay busy and not get the idea to run away. Maria already had the idea to run away, she just didn't know how to execute it yet. She finally decided to give in and just enjoy the rest of the night with her family members that she wasn't mad at. Aunt Rosa and Uncle Joe came too. She always enjoyed being in their company. There was a major elephant in the room. The fact of the matter was this: She was in love with a black man; and this Frank Abrami overseas somewhere wasn't her Olivier. This felt to her like the saddest day of her life, although she knew stormier days would soon follow.
Before she was escorted by her family to the boat dock, she needed to have one final conversation. She took a deep breath...
"Rosa, come please." Maria said walking into the family den. Rosa cleared her plate and followed her, taking a seat on the old couch. Maria let her hair down and shook her bouncy curls out as if setting them free. Rosa noticed her sad expression. "You always look so beautiful when you are not dressed up. Just Maria." Maria tried to smile, which was a mistake to do. Immediately her smile turned to a flash flood of tears. Tears didn't scare Aunt Rosa. She just looked through the tears and asked her, "what's wrong Maria?"
"I do not want to marry this man." She sobbed. "I did not know I signed those papers. I am to marry him next month."
"Ok so tell your parents. They will understand, my sister is a very understanding woman, she will tell Sal to stop this."
"I tried that already. They just argue with me. Gino already took the papers. Rosa... Rosa I...I love another man already. But he is not like us. He has the most beautiful dark skin you will ever see. He was imprisoned by my family because they did not approve. They want me to keep the blood lines Italian. He is still here, waiting for me to come up with money to take him out of prison. He will be hanged if he is not free by the end of the month. I need 1000 to get him free."
"I know who you're talking about. He is American right? I've seen him before. Joe told me about what happened, were you the girl?" Rosa looked intently at Maria.
"Yes, but it was a lie. He was not trying to harm me. He would not harm anyone. He is a good man. I need 1000." Maria answered straightly.
"Why do you keep saying 1000? Joe told me it will take 10,000 to set him free. that's more than Joe makes in 5 years."
Maria was wide-eyed. "10,000??" She didn't realize she was almost shouting. Suddenly everything in the room was spinning. Thankfully she was sitting down already. Her hopes and dreams for her life with Olivier became shattered completely when she realized that she would never be able to come up with 10,000. She didn't know what her next thought was. She wanted to go back in time and make this never happen. A voice interrupted her thoughts...
"Maria, time to go." Papa was standing in the doorway. Maria looked up at him, feeling a strong emotion, but not sure exactly what it was. Sadness, anger, despair? All of them at once? She turned back to Rosa, "You must write to me in America if you find out what happens to him. When I get there, I will work and get as much money as I can and send it over to you. You must pay for his freedom with it and write to me when it has been done. I will do everything in my power to stall the marriage so I can still be free for him."
"Maria, I will help you through this." Rosa said. Maria was surprised at her words. "Before I married Joe, I too...well...Skin colors come in many different varieties."
"Thank you Rosa!" Maria got up to hug her as Rosa's words sank in. "Wait, you loved a black man?"
Rosa just shrugged. "What can I say, it's my...as the English say...'Cup of tea.'"
"No not tea. That is your cup of espresso!" Maria giggled, wiping her teary eyes.
Olivier was asleep in his cell. There was nobody to visit him. He slept lonely and uncomfortable, waiting for an absolution of some sort. All he could do was sleep to escape his reality. The other inmates had to work outside their cells, some doing community work, others doing hard labor. Olivier had to stay in his cell. He was not allowed to mix with the community. Didn't matter to him anyway, he was in no condition to work. He heard footsteps coming to his cell, and the sound of keys jingling with every step. An official stopped in front of his cell and unlocked it holding the door open.
Olivier's heart sank. It hadn't been a month yet! He thought of Maria. He got a hard knot in his throat as he managed to speak. "What's going on Sir?"
"Time to go." The officer said.
The sun began to set as Olivier walked side by side with the jailor who was leading him somewhere unknown. Where was he going? Was the end of his life coming sooner than expected? Was he proved innocent and about to be set free? He tried to believe the latter as he thought about Maria's powerful voice demanding him to be set free with the bold eyes she wore when she protested her way against any odds. He thought about Maria. Maria... Maria.... He hadn't realized he was lost in thought and wondered if he was talking out loud. He had a tendency to do that sometimes. The jailor he walked next to didn't seem to act any different than he was when they started. Just staring ahead blankly. Olivier thought about what kind of life this man next to him was living. After he dropped him off wherever they were going, what would he go home to after work? Maybe he would come home to a clean house and smell dinner cooking as his beautiful wife came to greet him, the way Olivier always wanted. They would talk about the day's affairs like a normal couple and then, if he remembered, he might mention to her that he had to walk a colored man down to.....Where??? Where were they going? Olivier's thoughts refocused again when his calves struggled to keep up as they walked up a sudden grassy hill. What was on the other side? Death? Freedom? "...and the difference is?" He said to himself under his breath. "Sir, can I ask where we are going please?" Olivier was panting now from the walk. The jailor looked ahead and nodded, as if speaking the words "over there" was too complicated of a task. Arriving at the top of the hill, Olivier's mahogany skin turned a shade lighter as he lost his breath. He would never forget the sight he saw for the rest of his remaining life!
Meanwhile, Maria stood in line anxiously awaiting her turn to get on the boat. The crowds who were boarding had eventually arranged themselves into a single file line. She stood near an old gentleman with a bushy white beard. She wouldn't dare speak to a soul. It was as if her lips were glued together. Anger swelled up in her heart as she looked around at her selfish people she claimed to belong to. Realistically, the thought was inaccurate. With the exception of her parents, it wasn't anyone here who opposed to her marrying Olivier and was sending her to America to wed some man she had never heard of before. It was the fact that nobody here knew about her agony or cared enough to put a stop to it, and that was just as bad. Her father was watching her every move. Of course he would never tell her that he was about as sad as she was. If he had any sense, he would be thankful for his pride stopping him because Maria would have a few choice words to say in return. Instead they both stood silently. At last, he took a key out of his pocket and handed it to her. "Maria, this is the key to your future. This is the key that will unlock the house I bought for you and your husband. My wedding gift to you." Maria closed her eyes and for a second and opened them again looking at her father with a flaming fire of rage. "Thank you for giving me this key Papa." She said quietly. With one swift pitch she threw it with all of her might into the water and watched it sink below the dock.
"I'm sorry Papa. You saw it, my hand slipped. But you will do anything for my happiness right? You will even go beneath the dock and rescue the key for me? Otherwise you will look like a man who lets his daughter travel to a strange land without a roof over her head? Where is the future you promised me Papa?" Papa looked at her wide-eyed. "Maria there is only one key and it is now under our feet! Why?!"
"Why not?" Maria said as she stepped up into the boat not looking behind. Her mother yelped out, "Goodbye Maria!" Her eyes flickered when she saw Maria shoo away her parting remark with disgust. The seed of hatred was being planted into her heart and she was allowing it to take root. Until she thought of Olivier...This was the last time she would ever see him if she could. Would she really get on this boat and not even see his face one last time? 'I must see him one last time' she thought as she involuntarily found herself walking off the boat again. The jail containing him was only a few hundred feet over the hill behind her. If a steamroller were coming her way to stop her, it couldn't. She was beyond heartbroken at this point to care who tried to stop her. Was that her father calling out to her? Was it her own thoughts that sounded like his voice? She kept going, running up the hill yearning to see Olivier one more time. He was her Olivier.
As Olivier reached the top of the hill, the sight he saw was burned in him forever. His army training had kicked in as he ignored the grand crowd in front of him boarding the boat and only saw the one little moving target in his peripheral view. There he saw the sight of his life...Maria running up the hill nearly 300 yards from him. He knew it was her! More importantly, he knew where she was going. As quick as he could think to move, Olivier jumped up like a wild man yelping and screaming to get Maria's attention. If one did not know the circumstances, they might assume he should be in front of a sacrificial fire dancing for an ancestral ceremony, for the way he was jumping and hollering to get her attention. The jailor next to him had not tied Olivier in chains because he had been so cooperative up until now. He wondered now if he should have. Olivier started to make a run toward her, when a sudden loud gun shot went off behind him.
Olivier's screams for Maria turned into screams of terror as he landed on the ground searching his body for any pangs of bloody wounds. The jailor had shot the gun into the air. Maria thought she heard someone calling her name just a few seconds earlier, but now she was certain she heard a gun shot. Who was shot? She thought of Olivier in his cell. Was it him? She ran faster up the hill, her heart bleeding for him. Thoughts of him doubled over wildly racing through her mind. All she could hear was his voice calling for her, "Maria! Maria!!" A voice interrupted her thoughts as she saw Olivier standing up again in the grassy field, calling out her name like a mad man: "MARIA!!!" It was almost as if God kept the sun from setting so that they could see each other in the dusk. Forcing herself to break free from her momentary shock, she ran to him as fast as her feet would carry her, hoping he would do the same. She pictured the romantic scenes in love stories as the two characters would run across the flowery fields to embrace each other under the pale moonlight. Except, Olivier was not moving toward her. The gun shot moments ago was lesson enough for him to keep his feet solid beneath him. The jailor who stood next to him was standing in wonderment as to who this young girl was running toward him. The two men became taller to Maria as she got nearer to them.
The jailor eventually stationed himself in front of Olivier, ready to strike anyone who tried to touch the prisoner, as Olivier looked hopefully over the man's shoulder. He found it funny that Maria did not take the man's stance as a threat but instead as a challenge. It was as if she was now running faster ready to practice her self-defense abilities.
When she approached, she spoke to Olivier without hesitation, not even asking if she could. To her, the jailor was invisible. "Olivier..." She managed to speak until she burst into tears, cupping her hand over her mouth. "Excuse me sir," she said to the jailor as she moved in to hug Olivier. There in his embrace again, Maria was home. The sense of his very being reassured every aching limb in her that it was really him! Olivier had a look of quiet helplessness. The same look he had as a kid when he heard rumors of his friend being in an accident, only to find him at school the next day perfectly fine. It may nearly be impossible for Olivier to explain how he felt at that moment, but it was something along the lines of the happiest he had ever been and even more scared than he was when he thought he would never see her again, because this time that was an even stronger possibility. The future for them and specifically him was still uncertain. He held her tight as he thought about having to let her go again. Would he go with her? Would she have to cry for him all over again? Would she eventually marry someone else and forget all about him? Olivier's tears streamed down his face and landed on her shoulder. The jailor stood there and watched them. He didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. He could fire a warning shot but he couldn't speak a word to her? Yes indeed.