“I seen you and you’re gonna get a whoopin’!”
Susan let out a deep sigh, rolling her eyes skyward, as she exited the forest that adjoined her parent’s farm. It had been an exhausting day of farm
chores and she hurried to finish them and sneak off to the river and be with her love. The final moments of her life on the farm were coming to an end
this weekend, or so was the plan. She thought that she had been careful, but her overindulged younger sister must have followed around by the logging
road and caught a glimpse from the outcroppings that project over the river bend.
“I don’t know what you think you saw, but you’re obviously suffering delusions again”
, Susan quipped “Think you’ve been in the
sun too long?”
Mary skipped in a circle around her older sister, smiling devilishly. “Either you do my chores for a whole month or I’ll tell Daddy what you
and that man have been up to again!”
Susan stopped dead in her tracks, eyes ablaze, hands fisted by her sides and through clenched teeth told Mary “Do it, I’m going to leave and
never come back and what do you think your life will be like with Daddy then?”
Susan couldn't take the words back, it was too late and as she
stormed away she looked back to see Mary's puzzled stare. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Mary hollered as she ran up from behind.
Susan and Mary were the last remaining daughters to a man who thought he had been cursed by God. He had wanted sons and though he and Mother tried for
five times, only girls would be born on this farm. Their older sisters had escaped. Two were married off when it was discovered that they were with
child. They had moved north to Nashville and wrote home only once a year. All of this had left him a bitter and hateful man. The girls were not
allowed to socialize, listen to music or own a television set. Celeste, third daughter in line, hung herself from the hayloft in the barn two winters
ago. Susan had been the one to discover her body, hanging limp and grey. The rope had cinched itself so tight; it looked as if Celeste’s head would
pop off. Susan climbed up the rickety ladder to the loft and cut her sister down. She knelt beside her sister’s body and said a little prayer
“Fly away to the heavens that surely await you. You’re suffering is over”
. Susan had no idea that her
suffering was about to
Their Father, with only two girls left and realizing that he needed more help on the farm had sent word out in the nearby town that he was looking for
a hired hand. A few days later, that
person appeared. He was simply stunning. His eyes dazzled and sparkled with the sun and he had a beaming
smile that exuded confidence and an, almost, inner peace. He stood tall, many inches above Father, and worked tirelessly that season from planting to
harvesting corn and tobacco, the sales of which would sustain us through the winter months. He was a migrant farm worker and had traveled all over the
south for years, but had a new plan that he shared with Susan.
At first Susan and Robert would steal glances across the yard. As she would be hanging laundry on the line, he would pass by on his way either to the
barn or to work on equipment or whatever duties her Father had laid out that day. Her stomach would become queasy with excitement and there seemed to
be electricity sparking between them. They would banter back and forth, outside of Father and Mary’s earshot, of course, and Susan would lay awake
at night wondering what he was thinking and remembering how peaceful and in love she felt when she was snug up beside him, in the barn where he
stayed, when she was brave enough to sneak out of the house. He’d wrap his strong arms around her, caressing and holding tightly while he talked of
magical things and his wild ideas. He talked of a world where everyone was equal and there were no color or social divides. She would laugh at his
naïve and dreamy talk, but felt spellbound and mesmerized as his deep voice hypnotized her into a feeling of peace and love. The world seemed
brighter and the birds sang more beautifully when they were together. Even the grass and the flowers had a deeper hue that summer after he arrived at
In the evenings, as she would be drifting off to the world where she and Robert were the only people on the earth, her Father would call to her from
downstairs and she would be snapped back into the harsh reality that had become her life since her older sisters’ escapes and her Mother’s death
during Mary’s birth. She had now become the wife to an evil monster and mother to a spoiled and insolent young girl. As she tottered down the stairs
toward yet another daily chore, the smell of diesel and mud wafted up from him, as he waited for her at the foot of the stairs. Susan had learned
early on to drift away in her mind and hide her tears until he had finished with her.
Robert caught her by the wrist one afternoon as she passed beside the barn, her knees nearly giving way beneath her. “Let’s meet tonight to
finalize our plans”
, he said, “right after supper”
“You know how dangerous this is!”
Susan whispered “If Daddy catches us, he’ll kill you and…and…”
Susan couldn’t bring
herself to utter the obvious punishment that she would endure, the shame was too great.
Robert reached up to move her curls from her face and caress her cheek. He slipped his fingertips underneath her chin and raised her face to meet his.
When their lips touched, she felt as though her heart was going to pound out of her chest.
“You are going with me in March, to Memphis, when I leave”
, he said emphatically “and I won’t take NO for an answer”
Robert had told her of his meeting a man in Atlanta a couple of years ago and his plans to meet back up with him in Memphis at the end of spring
planting. He had heard talk on his trips into town that there was to be a march on Washington DC and he simply had to be a part of it. He was going to
abandon her Father and wanted her to do the same. He said a change was coming and he wanted her to be part of it. “We can both escape”
“But, I’m damaged goods, you should be ashamed to be seen with me”
, Susan’s voice quivered as her eyes brimmed with tears.
“We’re all damaged”
Robert responded“and I couldn’t be more in love with you, there would never be shame, only pride that you have
So, at that moment, the plan was finalized. They would suffer one more winter and make their getaway in the spring, right after planting.
It had been a particularly brutal winter for the south and spring brought forth a record and freak snowstorm. The secret lovers had planned their
escape for Sunday the 24th while Father and Mary were at church, she could pretend to be ill and stay home. It seemed a simple enough plan, but on
Thursday the snow began falling and didn’t seem as if it would ever stop. By Saturday it had snowed nearly 2 feet! Robert snuck to the back porch
Saturday afternoon as she was carrying in wood for the stove. He begged her that they leave in the morning, regardless of the weather. Robert said
that they would be harder to track and no one would even bother as the snow was so deep and folks were struggling with their own situations as it was.
She agreed and turned to go into the house.
edit on 21-5-2018 by TNMockingbird because: (no reason given)