Unearthly battle cries sound in the distance.
“Them Yankees be comin’!” one of the men in our clan shouts.
Fleeing slaves run in the direction of the river. Instead of following them, I run in the direction of the plantation house.
“Whatchu doin’ girl?” Hezekiah, who is a head taller than I and easily twice my weight, grabs me by the arm.
“I have to go back for Missy,” I tell him.
I flinch at his ferocious scowl. “You leave that witch to burn along with her pretty things. She and Massa can both go hell.”
We both know that burning would be the least of her worries, being at the mercy of looting soldiers.
“In some ways, she was just as much his slave as we were!”
He spits at me; the ball of his saliva nearly hits my muddy boot. He walks away, shaking his head. I understand his sentiment, but I cannot leave her behind.
The Yankees’ cries remind me that there is no time to lose. I sprint, quickly covering the distance to the mansion. I nearly trip up the patio stairs and then stumble into the dark bowels of the once imposing home. I race up the long staircase to her room.
Even from the hallway, I can smell her familiar perfumes and bath oils. It clashes with the aroma of my earthy, mud-covered clothes. Hushed voices cause my muscles to tense. He is in there. Master Greene. Unsheathing my dagger, I am confident that he cannot harm me now. I step inside. Missy is lying on the floor like a rag doll. Her face is gaunt; her eyes are hollow as she stares up at me in confusion.
“You came back?”
The master steps out of her closet. I try to regulate my breathing as rage strengths me.
“Stupid, stupid slave girl.”
“You don’t seem so sinister now hiding away from the Yankees in your wife’s closet!”
“Diamond, don’t,” pleads Missy.
I stare into her hazel eyes.
“If you want to spare yourself from them, run. I will catch up to you.”
Greene breaks into laughter before he lunges at me. I slash the blade of my dagger across his pale throat. I watch him choke and sputter and I wonder if I will go to hell for relishing in his death. Then again, he relished in my beatings and rape.
A cold, dainty hand pulls on mine. Missy’s innocent gaze asks me so many questions.
“We have to run and we cannot stop. Do you understand me, Missy?”
We retreat toward the ravine. For a fragile girl, she runs quite fast. The pulse in my ears is so loud that it nearly drowns out the approaching enemy’s yells. I stop at the riverbank and glare at her.
“We will have to wade across. Once we are on the other side, I ask that you only refer to me by my given name.”
She nods, averting her gaze. Her power wilts away faster than the roses of her prized gardens upon winter’s approach. I do not know how long she will last, but I have spared her from becoming a spoil of war or worse. As we submerge our bodies into the cold water, I feel a strange sense of freedom. With the invasion of the North, we are both homeless and without family. The current pushes us farther away from my hell.