TITLE: A Heart's Journey - Chapter 5
By Michele Fleming
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Early the next morning they were on the train and pulling out of Shreveport. The trip from the hotel to the depot was uneventful, although Ana knew each of them had the previous evening on their minds.
As they walked through the hotel and across the street she caught Mr. Schneider surveying the surroundings…she did the same. A collective sigh of relief could be heard as the train reached the town limits.
About thirty minutes into the ride the train started coming to a screeching halt, sending the lot of them tumbling to the floor. Lucy began to cry and Ana and Liza, rushed to her. Mr. Schneider went to see what was going on, but he was no sooner out the door when he was coming back in, ushered by the barrel of a shotgun.
“Now, git over there with the women folk and don’t try anything stupid,” the man with the gun ordered.
Ana took a good look at him and was overcome with terror when she realized that he was one of the men from the night before. The three ladies took a seat and both Ana and Liza began to shield Lucy. Mr. Schneider stood in front, in an attempt to protect them.
“What is going on here?” Mr. Schneider wanted to know.
“Once my boss gits in here, he’ll tell ya,” he finished with a spit to the floor, all the while still pointing the gun toward them.
A few minutes later the evil eyed man, the one they called Jim, came through the door. He stood before them with a devilish smile curling the corners of his mouth, never taking his eyes off of Liza. She kept her head low and tried her best to comfort a frightened Lucy.
“What’s this all about?” Mr. Schneider tried again to get some answers.
“This is about that piece of trash, right there,” Jim said, pointing a dirty finger toward the frightened woman.
“I don’t understand.”
“Let me explain it to ya, then,” he growled as he headed over to him getting right up in his face. “I have a real problem with the likes of her. Walking around, acting as if she’s as good as me.”
“She should be on some plantation somewhere working her fingers to the bone so the ‘masa’ can reap the benefits. Staying put in her little shack at night until the ‘masa’ decides he wants a little of what she has to offer,” he finished with a knowing grin.
They sat in stunned silence, none of them knowing how to respond.
“I’m thinking that we’re gonna take that trash off your hands and take her and show her how a good little slave is supposed to act,” he said as he reached and grabbed Liza’s arm and jerked her to her feet.
Ana could stay quite no longer and jumped to her feet and began to attack the beast that was holding Liza.
“You’re not taking her anywhere, you filthy monster!” she pounded on him with all she had, her sister’s screams filling the room.
That was the last thing she remembered before she was sent flying through the air.
Ana awoke on the chaise, with a thunderous pain in her head. Slowly opening her eyes, she realized the sun was beginning to fade. Laying there for a moment, she realized she didn’t even remember lying down. As she forced her head off the soft cushions of the lounger, she saw Lucy and Mr. Schneider sitting at the dining table playing a game of checkers.
Mr. Schneider had his back to her, but she could see by Lucy’s face that she had been crying. Ana figured she had probably gotten upset because Mr. Schneider wouldn’t let her cheat. She looked around for Liza and decided that she had probably gone to the necessary. Standing on wobbly legs, she made her way toward the game of checkers.
As soon as she reached the side of the table, the two players looked up. Lucy began to cry and Ana looked to Mr. Schneider seeing a swollen face and a bruise encircling one of his eyes. She could also tell his mouth and nose had been bleeding.
The site of him caused the memory of what had happened to come flooding back and Ana felt as though she would pass out. Mr. Schneider quickly stood and helped her back to the chaise. Once seated, Lucy crawled up beside her and held on for dear life.
“How are you feeling, Ms. Ana? You took a pretty good lick to the back of your head. It didn’t break the skin, but you have a nice knot back there,” as he said this Ana reached up to feel, causing pain to shoot through her entire head.
“Where’s Liza, I think I need some elixir?” Lucy squeezed her tighter and when no one answered, she looked up to find Mr. Schneider with tear filled eyes.
“Mr. Schneider, where is she?” Ana asked again, the fear beginning to rise within her.
“They took her, Ms. Ana,” he choked out. “I tried to stop them, but there were too many.”
“Then let’s go back and get her,” She said matter-of-factly. “We will go to Shreveport, tell the sheriff what happened and we will get her back.”
“No, Ms. Ana, we can’t,” he said, beginning to cry.
“And why not?"
“They…,” he began, looking at Lucy and acting as though he didn’t want to talk in front of her.
“Lucy, why don’t you go climb up on your bunk, and I will come in and read you a story in a few minutes?”
“I don’t want to leave you, Ana!”
“I promise that I will be in there soon.”
Lucy looked at her with uncertainty, but slowly released her hold and began to make her way to the bunk car. As Ana watched her walk away, the fear inside her began to well up, threatening to explode at any second.
“What could be so bad that he didn’t want to discuss it in front of Lucy?”
As soon as Lucy disappeared into the next car, she looked to Mr. Schneider and willed him to continue.
“She’s gone, Ms. Ana,” he informed her.
“Gone,” Ana’s breath caught in her throat. “What do you mean “gone”, Mr. Schneider?”
“They hung her,” he finally got out in a gravelly whisper.
“What? N o…no…you’re mistaken. They only pretended or something to scare us! They wouldn’t be that cruel!”
After a moment of trying to process this new information a terrible thought came to mind.
“Did Lucy see this?” Ana asked trying to maintain control of her emotions.
“No, she didn’t. They bound her hands and feet and put her in the sleeper car. I freed her as soon as I could. They messed the engineer and the rest of the crew, up pretty good, too.”
“They are okay to be driving the train?”
“They said they were okay. We were scheduled to stop in Marshall, Texas, but I told them to keep going. We will stop in Tyler instead. We should be there anytime.”
“We can’t pretend this hasn’t happened. We have to do something.” Ana allowed her emotions to break free. “Liza was like a grandmother to us.” She said then covered her face with her hands as a torrent of sobs tore through her body.
“I know sweetie, I know,” he said trying to comfort her. “I have plans to go straight to the sheriff’s office when we get to town. I’ll tell them everything, from the restaurant last night to what happened today. I will give the names of the men I remember, too.”
“Jim…the main one…the one with the scary eyes…they called him Jim.” Schneider nodded. “They will pay for this, I promise. Maybe not here on earth, but God will make sure they pay.”
“God…you really believe there is a God after this. I was beginning to believe in all of that myself. But, Papa was right after all, there’s no God! If there was, He wouldn’t have taken my mama and my dear sweet Liza.”
“You don’t mean that…” he tried, but she cut him short.
“Yes, I do. There will be no more talk of God around my sister and me. Understand?”
“Yes, Ms. Ana, I understand,” the man said in a defeated voice.
Ana stood and made her way to the sleepers to tend to her baby sister. She climbed into Lucy’s bunk and sat holding the child, the promise of a story forgotten. A short time later the train began to slow and she made her way to a window where she could see the outline of the town ahead.
Ana spent one of the longest nights of her life in that town. She lay awake letting her mind wonder over the worst heartaches in her in her life. First her mother dies and leaves her and her little sister with a father, who at the first sign of trouble sends them away to an aunt that they’ve never even met. Then someone takes their dear Liza away from them! After all of this, she’s supposed to trust in a God that let it all happen?
Ana realized that they would have to go ahead to Aunt Josie’s, but as soon as they were back in Chattanooga, she planned on having a long talk with her father. He was going to learn exactly how she felt about him always being gone. By doing so, she was convinced he would quit the army and devote all his time to being a family, for once in their lives. She fell asleep that night snuggled up to Lucy, with plans for the future rolling through her mind.
The train pulled out of Tyler about four o’clock the next afternoon and Mr. Schneider informed them that their next stop would be in Hempstead. They wouldn’t leave the train however, since it would be late at night. The crew would secure supplies that they weren’t able to find in Tyler, and then they would head back out.
The evening was a boring one for sure. All Lucy wanted to do was sleep or sit snuggled up as close to her big sister as she could get. She did take comfort in the doll that Jacob had given her though. Ana teased her that if she squeezed it any tighter that it would start crying. Lucy smiled a little, but increased her hold on the toy.
Mr. Schneider had acted all day as though he was afraid to speak to them. He spent his time playing cards by himself or staring out the window, breaking long enough to make sure the girls had their meals and then he would be back to his business. That night around nine o’clock, Lucy began to complain about being tired.
“I’ll help you get ready for bed and tuck you in,” Ana told her, then stood and headed for the sleepers.
“I want Mr. Schneider to tuck me in.”
Mr. Schneider looked to Ana in surprise, but nodded his head and rose from the table and headed their way. Ana readied Lucy and Mr. Schneider lifted her up into her bunk, pulled the covers up tight and smiled at her.
“Thank you, Mr. Schneider,” she said in a sleepy voice.
“You’re quite welcome, little lady,” he said and turned to leave.
“Can I call you Thomas?”
“It’s “may I”” Ana corrected. “Besides, being so forward is rude behavior. If he wanted to be called Thomas, he would have told us by now.”
“No, no, Ms. Ana,” he began, while waving his hand in the air. “It’s quite alright. I would be very happy if you both called me Thomas from now on.”
“Good,” Lucy announced, “I like the name Thomas.”
“I’m glad you do, and I absolutely love the name Lucy.”
He then looked at Ana and offered a smile. “You two girls have a good night’s sleep. Remember, we will be stopping soon, so don’t let it frighten you.”
Ana suddenly felt ashamed at the way she had treated him earlier and tears began to fill her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Schneider, for the way I acted before.”
“Shhh…,” he began, as he made his way over to her and put his hands on her shoulders, “its okay…everything is going to be okay. I realize all of this has been hard on you…so no hard feelings.”
He finished with a quick hug and a kiss to her cheek. “Get some sleep now, okay?”
“Okay,” Ana answered as she wiped at her tears.
“And please, do call me Thomas,” he added when he reached the door.
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