Negi crouched low in front of the fire, prodding the coals that glowed beneath. The massive pig was still slowly turning from the great heave she'd given the spit a few minutes ago. She turned away from the browning parcel of pork, swiveling on her heels toward another of the pots. Satisfied that the sprouts were cooking nicely, and that the potatoes had not yet burned, she turned back toward the pig, and fire that roared beneath. With her stick she doused a flame that reared like a breaking wave of the sea, in another futile attempt at a lick of the human's food. Negi's soaring soul crumbled at the thought that no-one in power would even judge her human.
The hypnotic crests and falls, tiny tongues of the glowing coal fire, lapped her concentration. She staggered to her feet and spun the spit again, before settling down to listen. Negi could not hear the typical murmur of work. 100 men were no longer shading the cotton with their backs, watering it with their sweat and blood, and plowing it with tattered tools in tattered hands. They were all recuperating in their dorm, awaiting the coming of spring. But Negi had to make the White man's Christmas dinner.
Negi refocused, her nose warning that one of the many pots contained something now charred. She scrambled around the ring, and ignoring the scalding agony heaved the potato cauldron off the fire with her bare hands. Still panting from the exertion, Negi jumped to hear a woman's scream. She heard the dimmed reports of a fight, of two bodies slamming together, in spite of the walls between them. The woman soon started to protest, from a whisper to a scream, but apparently her assailant was unmerciful. Negi grimaced, and instinctively twisted her hands into tight, deadly balls of bone.
She did not know if it was the slight shadow or the sound of breathing that alerted her to a visitor. She leaped to her feet as she spun toward the door. She charged at the newcomer, and crossed most of the room before she braked. It was her Master's daughter.
“What you want, white girl?” Negi spat.
“I would give you a gift. A Christmas present.”
“Negi don't believe in presents no more.”
“You can hear the screams. If nothing else, I want you to be free of that.”
“Spare me pig, if you care that much.” retorted Negi. “You whites are all the same. Me thinks this is trap.”
“You do not believe in presents, but Negi, I do not believe in slaves.”
“So now you want me to disappear—poof?” Negi asked, but curiosity was welling up within her. The white girl had actually used her name.
“I have prepared you enough food to get to the railway. I can finish the dinner.”
“White girl cannot cook! White like Chief—no cook.” Negi protested, her mother's training possessing her lips.
“You must go now. I have taken your place. Take the pack and hit the road, Negi.” shouted the exasperated girl.
“Like your Jesus...”
“Yes. Go” said the girl
Negi, seeing the truth in the girl's eyes, ran for the door. All she could bear to shout back was “Thank ye. Thank ye.” She kept running until the boundaries of the fields were crossed, and she was in a public place. Then she slowed, but kept moving for two hours. Fields, barren as her life, stretched out on either side, but Negi knew her direction. Once she looked back toward her abandoned home, and saw that the smoke no longer rose from the kitchen hut. She wondered what thrashing her saviour had paid for the precious gift. When Negi was too starved to walk any further, she collapsed on the soil and
threw open the parcel. Before devouring her rations, she sat in the position of respect beneath a loving Saviour. All she could say was “Thank Ye. Thank Ye.”
Negi devoured the crusts of bread and cheese. It was old and hard, as if the girl had been preparing that stroke for some time. It was actually worse than the daily slave's rations, and certainly was nothing compared to the bountiful meal that even the slaves would enjoy on Christmas. But beside it was a letter that declared her free, which sweetened immeasurably the food on which she fueled. And better still she had discovered freedom for her soul, in a Saviour who even gave his life.
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