Finding My Freedom

[Possible Trigger Warning: slavery, preying on those weaker]

Barbury sat at the kitchen table of the manor house. The early peas were abundant, and Auntie had instructed her to shell them all. The Master was expecting important guests.

Never brought no good to Bella Falls Plantation, them special people, she thought when she had overheard Auntie talking about it. The kitchen was in an uproar with everyone lending a hand. Old Jamus, heavy-footed, carried meat from the meat house time and again. No expense seemed to be spared. With both Master Grey and Captain Banks coming to dinner, this was certain to be a big night for the Master’s daughter, Emily.

His quick steps and hard-heeled boots pulled Barbury’s attention, but it was only to shield her nose slightly by tucking her chin towards her shoulder. His foul scent of stale sweat and late afternoon rum, infiltrated the warm spices from the cooking. She gulped and prayed to God that he wouldn’t call upon her.

“Phebe,” the Overseer’s voice was sharp as the whip’s lash. He used both upon the servants of Bella Falls as often as he felt the urge.

The girl’s fairy-light steps crossed the now silent kitchen. Bubbling pots and cracking fires seeming loud in the air.

“Yes, sir,” Her Irish accent placed her above Barbury, but the girl herself was kind to all who worked in the place.

There was the sound of quick movement and Phebe squeaked as the man took hold of her. Then the shuffle as the left.

“Not right what he be doing to her,” Jamus said from somewhere behind Barbury.

“What you goinna do? The Master won’t listen.”

***

Barbury sat stiffly upon her pallet. The dinner had been well-received and as payment she held the slice of watermelon to her lips. It lacked sugary-sweetness; it wasn’t ripe. She had to eat the whole piece and be thankful or the lash would find its way to her back.

There was a stumble, the heavy rasp of breath. Her smell overpowered by his.

“Phebe?”

“I cannot do it any longer. I am running. I’ve come to say goodbye.”

“I would come with you if I were not such a problem.”

The two embraced before Phebe pulled away. “I’ve never thought your sight a problem. I will think of you.” And she withdrew.

***

Toby pulled Barbury up. “Come now, Grandy. Mistress Emily has called.”
Barbury’s bones ached, and she wasn’t as fast as she had once been. She placed the knitting to the side.

Just outside the bunkhouse, Toby pulled her to a stop.

“Barbury. I’ve just sold you to a new family. I hope that you will work just as hard for them as you have us.” Emily’s words lacked compassion for the old woman.

But the next words did not. “This is the old Mammy I spoke of, Darling. She’ll make a find nanny for our children.” Phebe’s gentle hand brushed Barbury’s face leaving behind the sweet smell of freedom.

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