The end of the novel about injustices faced by Native and African Americans in history.
|Chapter 14: Sirius Jr.
Weeks passed, and our meetings at night grew more grave and imperative. Thanks to Claudia’s rumored yet meaningful sacrifice, the Davis family was able to meet with their useful abolitionist. Her name was Selah, a white woman who was even the same age as me. She was young, and I didn’t expect someone at such an age to reach out to the minority. I would be lying if I said I fell in love with her. White men were able to take the virginities of black women, but white women would lose their purity if they were to relate themselves with black men. In the end, the white woman would be shamed while the black man would most likely be killed. Despite this consequence, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. She seemed to be giving signs of returning those feelings, but I couldn’t tell if I was simply fantasizing.
I had to listen attentively to her plan, but oftentimes I would get lost in her beauty. Usually, she would call out to me in a sincere yet vital tone of voice. I could easily see through her sympathy, but if we were to mess up once on this runaway mission, we would lose our lives. Hell, we were already threatening our existence by plotting out this strategy.
We were all around in a circle, attempting to hold hands despite our restraints. My mother started off with a prayer before we decided to depart.
“God, help us successfully escape to the North, and finally live a life full of freedom, and one without torment and injustices.” She started. “Also, we ask you to watch over our dear friend Claudia and protect her with your mercy. We pray that one day, we will reunite and will all be free persons in the United States.”
After the sign of the cross, we all stood up and prepared for the days of travel we had ahead of us. Selah grabbed me by the wrist beforehand. “Sirius, once we reach Massachusetts and our freedom is guaranteed, perhaps we can…” She paused. “We can get closer?”
“Hmm?” I raised an eyebrow. “What will others think of you? Your purity will be erased.”
“You’re really thinking about that? We will be in the North then, there is nothing to worry about. Interracial marriage is legal up there and we could be happy. Or, was I reading the signs wrong? ”
I shook my head. “No, Selah. It’s not like that. I never been to the North before, so I didn’t know if we could keep this relationship open. You know I would be more than happy than to date freely. I’m sure that we will be emancipated too, and interracial marriage won’t be the biggest problem in the world.”
I was relieved that Selah felt the same sentiments towards me despite our different races. The desire to gain freedom and wed the love of my life motivated me to carefully yet quickly escape the South. The Underground Railroad was the escape route we would be using in order to get to the North. The route we would be taking contained traveling mainly by land rather than water. When we started our travel, I noticed the amount of hidden safe spots such as houses. We could also use the environment itself to our advantage.
The estimated walk to Massachusetts was about fifteen days. It was much easier for us to move since Selah removed us from our restraints. We would often take breaks when we felt exhausted or famished. We had food and clean water to eat and drink thanks to Selah. Our naps had to be cut short if we wanted to reach the North quickly. While the route may have seemed dangerous, it was still our best option. Luckily, we were not yet caught. It seemed as if God was on our side as of now.
Ten years passed since the development of the Fugitive Slave Act. Now with the secession of South Carolina and many other southern states, it seemed as if this was the perfect time to escape. The North and South seemed to continue their heated dispute in the month of March. Hopefully, this debate would distract them long enough for not just my family to escape, but other African American slaves that deserve their freedom.
Our perilous journey continued for a little more than two weeks. Unfortunately, we never united with Claudia during the trip. We didn’t know if she was still alive, if she escaped, or if she was still giving her body away to prostitution. We reached the border of Massachusetts, drained and desperate for a greater shelter. I couldn’t rely on living with Selah, at least until slaves were officially emancipated. I didn’t know if her family approved of their daughter's wedding a black man or if they were abolitionists themselves. Despite being white, she was unable to own her own home. White men were seen as superior in American society. I would rather live in a shelter home for slaves rather than living under a roof of her and some random white man who needs to own the house.
As we were following the lead of Selah, there was a raucous bellowing. “HEY! YOU THERE!” The male seemed to be an officer. Whether he was a northerner or southerner was beyond me, but all that mattered was that he was white. He wouldn’t be yelling at us if he was an abolitionist, so he must have been pro-slavery. The officer yelling seemed to be some sort of signal. The chaos was just getting started.
“Let go of me!” My mother yelled. I instantly turned my head back to look at her, watching as approaching officers pushed her down to the ground. “Mom!” I was going to help her from the white men pinning her down, but my arm was pulled. “Selah?”
“We have to get out of here. Let’s take your siblings and run as fast as we can!”
“Are you kidding me? Selah, I can’t just leave my mother like that!”
“No, she’s right!” My father joined the conversation as he was pinned to the ground as well. “Listen to her, Junior. She will continue to help you. I know it.”
Firstly, they seemed to be checked for any weapons. Would they be sent back to Georgia? I was the oldest in the family, and I came across the hardest decision of my life. Should I save myself and my younger siblings at the cost of my parents? Or do I stay loyal to them, after all they have done with me and take the fall with them? If I took the fall, Selah would most likely be killed in the South for helping blacks. I couldn’t let her die after all she done for this family. I couldn’t just stand there and take the time I didn’t have to make a decision. “I love you all… remember that…” I quickly faced my sister. “Hallie, pick up Ali now. We are running for it.”
“We are just abandoning them like that?! They are our parents, Sirius! We can’t do that to them-!”
I swallowed a knot in my throat before becoming stern with her. “I am the oldest! The only one who could make the decisions here is me. I did not stutter, you are to pick up our little brother and follow me right now! It’s not like I want to do this! I am doing it for the better of our future! Mom and Dad are both strong… they could resist the amount of pain inflicted on them for a long time. Our family will come together again someday…”
“Fine…” Hallie finally picked up our younger brother.
Selah held my hand before dashing off. My older sister followed me. Neither of us looked back once. That is, other than Ali, who was doing nothing besides screaming and crying. He was just a child and adored our parents. Separating from them definitely hurt him the most, especially since we didn’t have the time to say a proper goodbye. There were other muffled yells coming from officers chasing after us. We managed to outrun them and make it to a supportive abolitionist center.
“I’m staying here with you. You and your siblings will be safe…” She whispered to me, leaning in to kiss my forehead. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t save your parents… I really wanted to bring all of you here together…” Tears filled the corner of her eyes. “I’m so sorry!”
I frowned, wrapping my arms around her. I should have been the one mourning over the separation from my parents. However, I was the one giving comfort. “Selah… it isn’t your fault. Don’t blame yourself. We just live in a cruel world where blacks are seen as inferior…Because of prejudice, we were divided. It’s not your fault, it is the world we live in.”
“I can’t help but feel guilty, though. I promised that all of you would start a new and improved life in the North. But here we are… without your parents that I’ve known and loved. I wanted them to attend our future wedding. Besides…” She pointed in the direction of my younger siblings. Ali was seated on top of my sister’s lap who was currently trying to comfort him. He hasn’t stopped once, and we had no idea when he would. He would probably be traumatized for the rest of his life.
“Hey…” I hummed, kissing the top of her head. “Everything will be okay. My parents have been fighting for a long time. They are survivors, there is nothing to worry about. We just have to hope that slavery will be abolished and that we can all be together again. As of now, we have to focus on hiding, keeping us alive, and calming Ali down.”
It was astonishing that I never once shed a single tear during an unexpected situation. I only felt a great burden, especially now that I was the leader out of the four of us. All I could do now was hope; hope that I can successfully lead my siblings and for my parents to survive the racial cruelty in the South.
Chapter 15: Alretha Rose
I was constantly screaming from the life of misery I experienced. Even if Sirius and I were both caught at the same time, we were separated along the way. I don’t know if the both of us were sent back to Georgia but on different plantations, or if he was in another Southern state. Either way, I was left with nothing, while hopefully, my children prospered.
McArthur was responsible for the punishments I endured. They consisted of typical beatings both morning and night. He didn’t kill me yet, which I assume it was because he lacked a large number of slaves. When I returned, I was relieved. Despite the amount of loss I felt, Claudia was still alive and she seemed to be well. My restraints worsened and most times it was complex for me to move. However, Claudia and I would often talk, since her restraints were fewer than mine.
“I’m sorry…” She started with a frown. “You don’t deserve to be separated from your family. Maybe Sirius is just late, perhaps he will be brought here later today. But…” She placed a hand on my shoulder. “I understand that you’re worried about your children. But at the same time, you’re relieved. You’ll do anything to make sure they’re happy, and now it hurts that you lack them. I may not be a biological mother, but I cared for Hallie as my own. I understand your pain, but that’s a job as a mother, to sacrifice it all for your children even if it means your life is endangered in the process.”
I frowned, staring down at the crops as I was pulling them out. “I know...I’m glad they managed to escape. But...I miss them dearly. I wonder how Ali is managing without me. I’m sure Sirius Jr. will forget about me after some time. Hallie will miss me, but she will eventually get over it. As of Ali, it may take months, even years until his trauma wears off.” I explained. “I also miss my husband. I hope he is alright-“ I was cut off, interrupted by my own screams of terror. I fell forward onto the ground as I was whipped from behind. McArthur decided to show his face in the afternoons.
“Where is your husband?! Tell me!” He snapped.
His words made me question. If he didn’t send his dear plantation white friends after my husband, then where was he? Did he manage to escape from their grasp? I hoped he was safe, wherever he may be. I answered his question truthfully, nails digging into the ground and soil. “I don’t know where he is….”
Again, he asked me. “You expect me to believe you? Where is Sirius?!” His tone of voice seemed even more aggravated than before. He tossed his whip to the side and grabbed me by the hair. He pulled on a clunk of hair hard enough to pull it off my scalp, causing me to cry in pain. “Tell me...or you will lose every part of you…” He spits on me, then dropped me so I was back in the dirt.
“Alretha!” Claudia called out to me. I couldn’t see what she was doing since my face was in the soil. Either way, I heard her voice attempting another negotiation with our slave owner. “George...let her be...take me to the bed right now if you desire-“
“Not everything is about sex, Claudia! I lost one of my slaves here, and all you can think about is me?! Gee...African Americans, you are nothing other than property consumed by the seven deadly sins-mainly lust that is…”
My hand gently rubbed the back of my head. When I turned around to face the two, all I saw was McArthur push my best friend to the ground. For once, he didn’t accept her offer. I couldn’t help but wonder why what realization did he finally come to? I looked at him, replying in the same manner. “I don’t know where he is, I’m telling you the truth...we were separated, and I don’t know where he was taken. Perhaps another slave owner took him…”
“Fine, I have a better question for you, then…” He dropped the handful of hair before approaching me yet again. His hands reached over to my neck, holding me tightly. “Your children, you must know where they went, correct? You attempted an escape to Massachusetts. Are they still there? Where can I find them? Who helped your pitiful family travel to the North?”
I struggled to breathe. Despite this, I couldn’t help but snicker. I looked him straight in the eyes before speaking again. “What makes you think that I will tell you? I’m not just going to rat my children out like that. I’m their mother, and even if we are apart I will still protect them. But here is the difference between my answers. I don’t know where my husband is, so I responded truthfully. However, I know all the information about the location of my children and who provided assistance. Too bad you’ll never know, you’ll kill me before you ever find out the answer. The difference is oblivion and consideration.”
“You little…” His grasp around my neck only intensified. I gasped for air, my incapability of breathing worsening. After some time he released me, returning to the old-fashioned way of beating me. He whipped me across the face and on the back numerous of times for hours.
During the night, he was again occupied with Claudia. I was surprised he even bedded with her that night since his previous words were contradictory. This gave me the slightest bit of time to myself, where I mourned and wrote. I missed my family. At this rate, it seemed impossible that I will ever meet them again. So, what else did I have to live for? It was time for the end, as in for the novel and my life.
Usually, the white slave owners would gather all of the agricultural equipment when the sun would set. This was because they didn’t want the slaves to have access to them when work hours were over. They feared that they would either use them as weapons against their owners or possibly used to kill themselves. Tonight was different though. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of scattered hardware around the fields. Although, I was discreetly appreciative of their careless move and decided to use it to my advantage.
I picked up the knife placed on the ground despite the number of restraints I had. After my hours of punishment earlier in the day, I was chained around the neck, on both of my wrists and ankles. Either way, I managed to position the knife at my stomach. With shaky yet bounded hands, I stabbed myself and fell to the ground immediately after. My blood encircled my weakening. I felt as if my senses were beginning to fail me. Other than my vision blurring every now and then, I heard a voice that was too familiar. Was it real? Or was it a fantasy?
“Alretha!” He shouted again.
I blinked constantly in an attempt to better my vision. When I opened my eyes, I stared up at the figure before me. For a moment, I smiled. “S-Sirius…” I extended my arms toward him. If I could just touch his foot, then I could finally clarify if he was real or imaginative. I was interrupted as a shot sound blasted and echoed throughout my ears. Then, there was a scream and the sound of a collapsing body.
“Alretha… I finally found you…” Sirius, as well, smiled weakly at me. His arms moved in towards mine, taking ahold of my hands. “I never told you about it, but this was my nightmare…” He started. “When I would wake up randomly in the middle of the night. It was because I was worried our children would be separated from us, and that I would lose all of you in general. The circumstances are different, but it still happened. And here we are… you’re dying on me and we are here without our children, not knowing how they are doing…”
“Sirius…” I tried to move in closer to him, interlocking my fingers with his. “You don’t have to worry about the children. They are obviously doing better than the both of us right now…” I forced out a small laugh. “You came back… where were you taken?”
“The other side of Georgia. I managed to escape from the officer that brought me there. I constantly told him the location of the plantation here but he didn’t believe me I guess.” He gently shrugged his shoulders. “But you’re right… I’m sure they’re enjoying life right now.”
“I love you, you know that right?”
“You’re so stupid…” Sirius kissed the backside of my hand. “We are both dying and we are going to the same place. I’m going to see you in a few minutes.” He chuckled. “But you know I love you unconditionally.”
“I can’t believe we are teasing each other as we bleed out…”
It was incredible that we found a way to humor ourselves as we approached death. We even discussed the possible futures our children would have. Sirius Jr. would definitely marry Selah and have multiple children. Hallie would face discrimination as she tries to pursue a similar career path as me but in journalism. She would probably marry as well, whether it may be a black or white man. Ali, he was the one we were uncertain of. We didn’t know where he would be in his love life or what he was interested in doing, but we did know that his intelligence could make anything possible for him. Then, another conversation arose.
“What is it, love?”
“Did you ever finish your book?” Sirius asked.
I laughed, then nodded. “I did. Unfortunately, it may forever be buried in the ground.”
Thirteen years, that’s how long its been since my siblings and I ran away to the North. Lots have happened in both our life and the American nation as a whole.
The Civil War officially started on April 12th, 1861, and ended on April 9th, 1865. As a result, the Emancipation Proclamation was established and slavery of African Americans was finally abolished. The South rejoined the union and Reconstruction plans were discussed in order to rebuild from the destruction. Racial discrimination amongst blacks and whites were still an ongoing debate. Since slavery started, there was no official solution to the prejudice we felt. On the bright side, amendments were passed and blacks were finally viewed as citizens.
Sirius Jr. and Selah obviously got married. They were in love before we even reached Massachusetts. Now that interracial marriage was legalized, they didn’t have to worry about hiding their relationship from society. They had two children, a girl and a boy named Sawyer Rose and Shiloh. Selah’s history of assisting the escape of former slaves was never shared with anybody. She pursued a career in educating, becoming a teacher for elementary students. Sirius Jr., after the many debates on whether blacks should work towards the courthouse, got a job as a lawyer.
Hallie pursued a job in journalism. After the constant discrimination that she experienced a low-education for being black’, she finally proved to a news industry that she could write just as well as a white could. She also wedded a man named Gabriel and had one son named Flynn.
There was not a lot for me, not a lot of change other than the fact that I grew. I’m eighteen now and I was able to attend school. I was reaching the end of my senior year of high school and I was completely undecided about what I wanted to pursue in college. I knew I was intelligent and that I could get any job I worked towards. I could have definitely gotten into the best college as well. With my thirteen years in cold Massachusetts, I was able to fall in love with figure skating. It became a habit, then a hobby, and then I found out perhaps this was my greatest habit. My older brother may be disappointed in me when I come out to him, so I didn’t plan on telling him any time soon.
We had not a single clue on whether or not our parents were alive. If they were, they would currently be at age 51. Despite being held captive in the South, most blacks seemed to stay there and continue their lives on their farms. If mom and dad were alive, they would have definitely come to us as soon as possible, which would be at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Right now, it was 1873.
During the weekend, I decided that I should return to Georgia. If I was going to find out the missing pieces, I would have to visit the plantation of horrid memories. Traveling between the states was also easier because of the new progressions in transportation.
I decided to go alone and deliver the news to my older siblings when I return. It was almost impossible to find a time where we were all free since I was at school or doing homework, while they were working. The family was the most important value for us. However, sometimes we were too busy for each other and it got to be the most. Even if I’m older now, I am still extremely sensitive. Besides, my siblings are the only ones I have. I hardly made friends in school and I still considered myself young to start a family and find a lover.
“Ali!” A woman called out to me. Despite the plantation being entirely different, there was a familiar face. She seemed to own this land herself now and had a decent-sized house behind her. A man was accompanied by her along with a boy who looked thirteen and a girl who seemed to be at the age of twelve. She dropped her basket before running over to me.
“Claudia.” I smiled, embracing her. I was happy that she had finally had her own family despite the pain she felt from McArthur. Even if I was young then, Hallie informed me about the sacrifices she made during her life. “You have a family! You have to introduce me to everyone!”
She laughed. “My husband over there is Claude. We adopted our son Cameron here and Charlotte, Charlie for short, is our biological daughter. I know, I am 51, and it's awkward raising them but I’ll deal with it. I always wanted a family of my own, and now, here I am.”
“Nobody is judging you, Claudia! I’m happy for you!” I admitted honestly. I waved to her children and to her husband, introducing myself to the family. “So, I’m assuming…” I hardly wanted to finish, turning my head to the side.
“I’m sorry…” Claudia placed her hands on my shoulders. “Your mother stabbed herself after the extreme abuse she felt by McArthur. As of your father, he was shot. Your parents were separated for a few days and when Sirius finally returned, he was shot and killed.”
“I never imagined that my mother would accept defeat that quickly… I know she experienced pain though…” I frowned. “Thank you for telling me-” I cut myself off. “Wait! Her book!” I picked up a spade from the ground and rushed over to the center of the plantation. I still recall the area she buried her papers in and how deep she would put them in.
“I wanna help!!” Charlie proclaimed, hurrying by my side. She used her bare hands to help me dig up the ground. To our surprise, we found numerous pages with my mother’s writing. All of the books were still here.
It was my mother’s dream to publish her work and make society known for the wrongdoings of slavery. While slavery may have been abolished now, she would still want her book to be known. “Mom would want her story out…” I wiped the dirt off the pages. I planned to give the papers to my sister, have her reread and rewrite it, and then publish it. “Thank you, Claudia. I never got the chance to show my appreciation. Thanks to you, we were able to escape to the North. We survived in secret for five years.” I smiled. “Sirius Jr., Hallie, and I, all truly appreciate you.”
“Thank you… I knew your mother. She loved her family, and she would have definitely had more children if she could. I had to keep them busy because I knew she wanted to spend quality time with her family. I’m glad you were able to successfully escaped.” We hugged once more before she stepped away. “I know Georgia has a lot of trauma for both you and your siblings, but you can come down here anytime if you want to talk or just spend time with us. If not, I’m sure we can go to Massachusetts.”
“Yeah, definitely. We will keep in touch. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more about how the family changed. Perhaps we can talk about that another time. I want to get this book edited and published as soon as possible.”
“Alright, Ali. See you again sometime.”
The rewriting and publishing process was supposedly long. Those in the writing business adored my mother’s writing thankfully. The hardest part was reading it because of the number of marks tainting the pages. Before the book was issued in both newspapers and printed as a book itself, the publisher asked me what the title should be. I began to wonder why my mother didn’t name her incredible work of literature. I felt a burden because I didn’t know if the name I would give the book would be satisfactory for her.
“I think we should call it Torment and Injustices.”