TITLE: A Heart's Journey - Chapter 4
By Michele Fleming
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“When are we going to be there?” Ana knew that this was the first of many questions, for Lucy had never been very patient.
“Well, it’s actually going to be a few days yet before we get to our last stop in Texas.” Mr. Schneider began to explain. “But, we will have to make a few stops along the way.”
“Why?” Lucy wanted to know as she made herself comfortable on the footstool in front of Thomas’s chair.
“To by supplies and to rest from riding the train.”
“Where will stop?”
Mr. Schneider smiled, and gave a pat to the girl’s head.
“Our first stop will be in Shreveport, Louisiana. We will actually try to get a couple hotel rooms there for the night, so we can freshen up a bit.”
He sat waiting for the next question that was sure to come.
“When will we be there?”
“We should be there tomorrow, around noon.”
“Tomorrow! That’s a long time,” she whined dramatically.
Ana felt the need to rescue the poor man. “Lucy, quit bothering Mr. Schneider. We will get there, when we get there.”
“Here, play with the doll Jacob gave you for a while,” she suggested as she led her sister over to the sofa.
Lucy stuck out her lip in protest, but did as she was told. Not long after, she was asking Liza if she could go and lie down for a nap.
“My doll is sleepy,” she said rubbing her eyes and finishing with a large yawn.
“Yo doll, huh? Alright, I’s be thinkin a nap would be a good idea,” Liza said and began ushering her toward the sleeper car.
Ana spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the bible story book that Jacob had given her. Page after page of unbelievable and amazing stories, some she remembered from years past, but many that were brand new to her. The more Ana read the more she wanted to read, and before she knew it Liza was telling her it was time for supper.
Afterward, Mr. Schneider asked Ana and a bored Lucy, if they wanted to learn to play checkers. Taking turns playing against each other, they played on for several hours. They even talked Liza into joining in.
With their thoughts occupied by the game, it took a while to notice that Lucy had become very quiet. They looked and found her sound asleep sitting up in her chair. Liza scooped her up and headed for bed, as Ana helped Mr. Schneider clean up a bit.
A few minutes later they said their goodnights. Liza had already lain down, so she did her best to say her prayers all by herself, determined to talk to God as much as she could.
As Mr. Schneider promised, they arrived in Shreveport about lunchtime the following day. He helped to unload their things and they headed across the street to the hotel. Ana couldn’t wait!
The first thing she wanted to do was to get a bath. She felt as though every inch of her body was covered in coal dust. She was also looking forward to getting out of a few layers of clothing, even if only for a little while. Mr. Schneider secured their rooms and helped them carry their things in.
“I’m sure you ladies would like to freshen up and then take it easy for the rest of the afternoon, so if you would like, I will head downstairs and have them send up a bath and a little lunch for you,” he offered.
“That would be wonderful’sa,” Liza said, adding a grateful smile.
“Thank you, Mr. Schneider,” Ana told him, he then turned and made his leave.
In no time they all had a bath and their stomachs were full. The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing the various shops along the boardwalk and enjoying the bright, sunny, summer day.
They took their time, especially in the mercantile. They had the biggest selection that Ana had ever seen. She could have stayed in there all day. But, they had promised Mr. Schneider that they would meet him in the hotel for supper and it was about that time.
As they headed toward the hotel, Ana began to feel as though they were being followed. She looked around and did notice a small group of men, but decided to ignore them. Once they arrived at the restaurant they found Mr. Schneider waiting for them. He led them to a table, where they sat and began to look over the menu.
After a few minutes, Ana realized the men that had been following them had entered the restaurant as well and were watching their every move from a table nearby. Mr. Schneider noticed and said something to them.
“Good evening, gentlemen. Nice evening out.”
“Um-hum,” was the only offered response from the group.
Ana began to study the group. There were four total and not one of them appeared to be of decent character. One in particular, was piercing Liza with dark, evil eyes.
As the fear began to rise within her, Ana found herself wishing they would leave. The one watching Liza finally took his gaze from her and spoke.
“Well, lookie here boys,” he began, “looks like we got us and educated slave.”
“Is she really readin’ that thing or is she pretendin’?” another wanted to know as he stood and headed over our way.
Liza quietly put the menu down, keeping her eyes on the table. She had always been strong and confident, but Ana watched as all of that slipped away.
“Now, gentlemen, we don’t want any trouble,” Mr. Schneider said as he started to stand.
“Trouble?” the evil eyed man began. “Trouble is slaves that can read and think they can waltz around our town as they please.”
“Now, sir, let’s not do this. We’re only passing through and we will be out of here in the morning.”
“I think you need to get out of town now, and take that peace of trash with you.”
“How dare you dare talk about Liza that way!" Ana screamed causing the man to come at her. She picked up the nearest thing for defense she could, which happened to be a steak knife and pointed it at him, daring him to take another step.
“If this don’t beat all!” the man laughed and the rest of the men joined in.
“Ana Grace, sit down!” Liza begged.
“Yeah, little girl, you mind that slave woman of yours.”
“She’s not a slave! She’s a free woman, so quit calling her that!”
“Ana! Let me handle this!” Mr. Schneider ordered as he made it to her side and took the knife from her shaking hand.
He then turned and addressed the other man with more calm than he felt.
“Let us take our food upstairs and we will leave you gentlemen alone.”
“That’s a good idea, Jim. Let’m head on up stairs,” one of the other men said in attempt to calm the escalating tension.
“Get on up there then, and you best be on that train and out of here in the mornin’!” he growled his warning.
Mr. Schneider gathered up his plate and drink and the women followed his lead. They then made their way up the stairs and to their rooms.
“You ladies get in there and lock that door, you hear?” he said when they reached their room.
“Yes’sa, Mr. Schneider. I’m sho’ sorry fo the trouble’sa,” Liza said, with a quiver in her voice, still upset by the whole thing.
“No apologies necessary, Ms. Liza. They are a bunch of belligerent fools and we shouldn’t worry about them anymore.”
They headed inside, sat and began trying to finish their meal. All Lucy wanted to do however was sit in Liza’s lap and hold on for dear life. This is how she fell asleep, and after Liza put her to bed she came to Ana’s side.
“Ya shouldn’t a done that, Ana Grace,” Ana knew she was referring to her outburst.
“I couldn’t let them talk about you that way, Liza,” she argued as her own tears began to fall.
“Now, now,” Liza said as she wrapped her arms around her. “I’m used to people like that. They don’t both’a me.”
“Yes, they did bother you Liza, I could tell.”
“Well, don’t let it both’a you, sweet girl. It’s all ov’a now. Les’ try to git some sleep.”
Ana decided that was probably for the best and began to ready herself for bed. As nice as it had been to walk around a new town she couldn’t wait to be on that train in the morning.
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