Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: fathers (06/06/05)
TITLE: Yesterday's Stranger
By Amy Brown
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Her voice was shrill, though I knew she wasn’t nearly as mad as she attempted to sound, one hand cocked on her hip, the other clenched into a gnarled fist with a bony dagger of a finger thrust at me from the distance.
I wanted to move, but not towards the field. If it wasn’t cotton, it was carrots, or corn, or cabbage. There was never a lack of something to do. Since birth it was all I’d ever known and I tolerated it well enough. But it didn’t remove the longing. A longing that would sneak out from around a corner and grab my soul, tearing into the center of my being, shaking me with such force I’d give into its calling desires to believe for more. Today I was longing, and had little interest in picking anything.
“You’re a foolish girl,” Mother had told me before she’d become ill and left us. “Just like your father and look where it got him.”
Where had it got him? Did she know? I never had understood the words ‘my father’. ‘My’ only made sense if it was negative. My chores. My ungratefulness. My well-deserved punishment. Surely I didn’t own such a wonderful thing as a father? A father whose face escaped my remembrance, whose voice I couldn’t recall, who I wasn’t sure I’d ever known.
“Cecilia, you know better than to make me come over there!”
I snapped back to reality. Fran wasn’t cutting me any slack today. So I turned my back to the house and trudged toward the field. Even still I couldn’t tear my mind from the man at the front porch. He was like me… no, impossible. His shoulders set confidently below his neck, his back straight. I couldn’t see his eyes, but his profile was aged with a sort of kindness and marked resolve from a strength I had only imagined might exist. I let out a sigh and ran into the field to pick what was not ‘my’ cotton and put the wondering about this stranger behind me.
The next morning the merciless sun had barely begun rising when Fran’s shadow filled the small doorway of the quarters. I mustered a bright “Good morning” and timid smile. She broke routine and headed for the far corner. That drew up a quick knot in the base of my stomach as she stopped right in front of my pallet.
“The master wants you at the house and he said to bring what you own.”
She had to tell me twice before my mind heard the message. My heart plummeted. This had happened before. One month to the day before Mother had become deathly ill, we had been resold! The blood drained out of my face and all became a daze as I carried my small bundle to the oppressive looming house. Wholly lost in despair I failed to see the same weathered gentleman that had me so intrigued the day before standing at the foot of the porch.
“Cecilia?” The name was personal.
I turned abrupt face. Who was calling my name? Then something in my inner spirit gave way, the longing that I daily fought to repress - to be known, to be loved. But I didn’t see anyone except yesterday’s stranger. Had he just called my name? I lifted my eyes to an unfamiliar face belonging to a man who fell to his knees weeping with tears as he reached for… me?
What was happening!?
My world was spinning, but I caught myself daring to believe. Could this be? How could he know me when I didn’t know him? How had he found me? HAD HE BOUGHT MY FREEDOM?! Instantly I understood those formally elusive words with such personal intensity I wondered how I’d ever doubted them.
I wanted to say so many things but was struck utterly mute. Then as if a damn burst forth, floods of words filled my mouth, but all my spirit wanted to do was cry out his name!
“… God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and the Spirit cries out, “Father.” So now you are not a slave; you are God’s child…” Galatians 4:6-7 NCV
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