A a young girl living in the colonial days of the early 1800's seeks refuge from an abusive father, discovering the a secret of her ancestry.
ďPapa, stop it!!Ē I cry, wincing under the dreadful blows of fists. Tears fog my vision as the pounding force drives me further and further into the unforgiving corner of cold walls. Thereís no blood; the roaring pain flashing all over my body has never escaped me that easily. The pain balloons inside me, until I canít imagine holding on to my life of ten years any longer. ďIím sorry! Iím sorry! Iím sorry!Ē The words burst out of me, though I donít know what Iíve done wrong. I never know what I do wrong. Was it the death of my mother? Am I to blame for Papaís loneliness? I donít even remember her. Still, steady as an Indian dance, the blows keep coming, coming, comingÖ
Numbness is all I know; itís all Iíve come to long for, my only salvation from the fires of pain consuming my muscles and bones. It has finally come, all sound erased except for the pulsing heartbeat drumming against my skull and the ringing in my ears. My voice no longer exists, replaced with muted prayers, prayers that lift my blurred eyes from the crevice of my arms to the only light source, a single window, sunlight reflecting into my eyes from the golden grass of the prairie land. I know not who or what I pray to; I only know I wish I could grow wings and escape this hole. I would fly out that ever-greeting outlet of freedom. During that brief time of fancying escape I notice the ringing in my ears is dying down, along with the numbness.
Suddenly, at the sound of shattering glass, my eyes jerk away from the symbolic light of hope. I cover them with my bruised arms just in time to protect them from the stray shards flying at me. I look up to see Papa no longer looming over me. Instead, heís thrashing the rest of the empty whisky bottles off the table and onto the floor. I am imprisoned in my corner, the only bare floor taking the shape of my bodyís shadow.
Looking up, still mute in fear, I catch a glimpse of Papaís cold empty expression. Something about this look sends chills throughout my body. Thereís no love in those eyes, no hint of compassion. I donít remember when there ever has been. At the moment I just wish heíd leave me be. As if reading my thoughts, he turns away and staggers out the front door. The passing of his shadow across the window tells me heís headed for the vacant barn.
A long-held sigh escapes my lips, and the fear that had been plaguing my mind is suddenly replaced with determination. Slowly, I push myself into a sitting position and force my shaking hands to rip shreds from the hem of my skirt. After wrapping my hands with the bundle of cloth pieces, I begin to quietly sweep away a path through the sea of shattered glass. Standing up, I strain my ears to check if any footsteps outside might come back to finish me, but after a few minutes I decide I have enough time.
I rush to the back room, dancing lightly past the glass and straight to my chest hidden in the far corner. In it lies my most treasured possession, a colorful blanket woven by the very hands of my unknown mother. Ducking into the nearby cupboard, I snatch handfuls of bread and smoked meat, piling them into the middle of the blanket. Folding in my rations neatly and tucking the bundle under my arm, I search for my only wrinkled bonnet and musty arm-wrap.
On my way out of the room, I halt before a tinted portrait of my papa. Though thereís no color, it couldnít be clearer how light-skinned and light-haired he was, quite in contrast with my year-round tan and ebony black hair. I never understood it, but maybe itís time to figure it out. I turn away from the picture, hoping to never have to see that face again.
Peeking out the front door, cautious and on edge, the beating warmth of the late summer sun coaxís me out into the light. The barn door still closed, no sound coming from within, I make my first unsure step towards freedom, never to turn back again. The future ahead, although unclear, offers perhaps the discovery of who I am and where I belong.
With a surprising surge of adrenaline, I flee the shadow of the weathered farm house, charging like a pheasant into the comfort of tall prairie grass. My skin feels like itís throbbing, raw from the recent beating, but I continue, forcing each leg to brush forward through the coarse grass. This is it! Iím finally leaving! The mere thought of it puts a grin on my face. Endlessly, I run, unable to let myself rest, until a glance back shows the farm to be far enough away to be nearly hidden by the horizon. I slow down and fold over grasping my thighs, heaving a gasp for air. The rush of adrenaline is beginning to calm down, a boiling pot taken off the fire, and thoughts are starting to race through my mind. Where am I to go? Where will I sleep? Who will help me?
It is almost too overwhelming to keep thinking. Turning around towards the sun, I reach up on my tippy-toes to peek further out on the plains. A far distance away, I can barely make out the silhouettes of trees. Seeing no other mark of distinction, I make that small oasis my destination.
With a goal in mind, I am less worrisome and begin to walk leisurely there, but it is not enough to smother the troubling and fearful thoughts. Reaching into my memory, I find a song that Iíd heard sung before many times. It the last fingerprint of my mother in my mind and heart. The meaning of the words is unclear, but they have always sounded so soothing.
ďVo go hii sso
Hos ssta ma hi
A no da va hi
Baby no zi i va hi
Vo go, vo go, vo go!Ē
For the first time in my life, I begin to feel a sense of peace. The wind rushes through the blades of grass, making a swooshing sound like waves on land. The blue sky hugs me from my waist up, and I am swimming waist-deep in my never-ending sea of grass. The work is not tiresome, though I do feel slightly weak. However, the hours go by, my tension from before slowly releasing with every stroke of grass on my body and every gentle brush of wind on my cheek. All the while, I am singing another song, one of my favorites, for I believe it was probably my mamaís favorite too.
ďEh-lu hon-kwah lo-nah, ee-yah-ah-neh
Eh-lu hon-kwa hli-tohn ee-yah-neh
Kay-lah ai-yahn toh-wah
Iíve finally reached the first tree. I put my hand out to it to feel its rough bark, leaning my weight on it to examine the area. Resting in the shade, I feel I have made a small accomplishment. I realize now, that the trees are actually rooted on the top of a small hill. So here, with my back against the trunk, I can see the plains stretch out from me for miles, a golden blanket reminding me of my own. The blazing sun is now showing high noon, and I discover the small rumblings of my poor neglected stomach. Sitting under the shade, I unfold my survival bundle and begin to munch on some bread and meat. As I sit there, satisfying my hunger, I feel a slight tremor from underneath me. What is this? Since when did Earth get hungry?
Following the tremor, a sound meets my ears. I look up, and to my surprise, I see thousands of beautiful black beasts stampeding across the field in front of me. Iíve heard of them before, bison. My papa used to always leave the house for days to hunt these things. Theyíre not too far from me, close enough to be of some concern, but they donít seem to be heading my way. What does cause concern, however, is the question of why they are running. I stand and squint to see past the brightness of the sun. It appears that there are horses running along with them. It takes me a moment to realize that not only are there horses, there are also men, such dark bare-backed men. Curiosity drives me to want to run down there with so many questions to ask. This is the first time I have seen people like me.
Opening my mouth to shout out something, a scream comes out instead. A hand has just grabbed my shoulder. He followed me! My papa is behind me and I will be tortured again! I jerk free from the hold and run for my life. I wonít go back! Never! The only direction to go is toward the stampede and dark horsemen. Rushing out from under the shade of the tree, I scramble down the hill as fast as my little feet will let me. Reaching out to the dark people crying for their attention, for their help, I catch a glimpse of the closest man turning my way, right before my ankle rolls, buckling the rest of my body on top of it. I feel my entire body rolling the rest of the way down the hill. Though it wasnít too much left, I am quite shocked and distracted when I plop on the bottom.
Breathing shallow, the sound of running bison quite loud, I also hear a young voice cry out from behind me. Quite confused, I look back at the hill and find a young boy close to my age carefully rushing down. It wasnít my papa who grabbed my shoulder. I am still free. The boy reaches me, crouches down, and touches my head. I notice his skin; it looks like mine, golden. His rich eyes look concerned as he peers into my face, seemingly asking a question in some unfathomable language. However, it occurs to me how familiar his words are. Some of them I have even spoken. This is the language of the songs I sing.
He shouts to someone, startling me slightly, and the young dark horseman rides over. He climbs down, the man and boy conversing. Before I know it, I am gently picked up by strong yet comforting arms. I feel tears form in the corners of my eyes. I had never had such caring attention. Even better, I feel somehow, I am connected to these people. My mother must have been one of them; I have found family. Exhausted and quite overwhelmed I nod to sleep to the beat of riding horses and the song of a familiar language, in the arms of a man whose skin reflects mine, and whoís hair shines like mineÖ black as ebony.
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