By the time the sun was ready to rise over the hills, Eve’s family had been up an hour. Grandpa Jack, with his axe over his shoulder, had disappeared into the woods behind the Taylor plantation; her mother Ida was finishing up a hasty breakfast of cornmeal and eggs.
Eve sat by the lone window in their shack, a Bible in her lap. In a short while the big house, with its pure white pillars, would start to shine like a jewel in the morning light. Miss Ginny would holler for her breakfast. And Daniel…Daniel would take his horse to the lake and let it drink.
“Eve,” her mother said, “come on and eat. You know we gotta get up to the kitchen soon.”
“Yes, Mama.” Eve stayed seated, flipping the pages of the Bible. She couldn’t read very well but she believed every word their preacher said on Sunday mornings, and he told them that the Lord would give them the desires of their hearts. There must be a verse in the great book that could justify what she felt.
“Eve.” Ida’s tone was sharp. “Child, please don’t tell me you thinkin’ about that boy again."
Eve’s hands went slack.
“I done told you time and again, honey, it ain’t right.” Ida shoved away from the splintered table and began gathering clothes baskets with quick, loud movements. “You will get yourself hurt, Eve. You could get yourself killed. You got to live in the real world and stop dreamin’ about stuff that just cain’t be.”
Biting her lip to stop the pain of her shallow, angry breaths, Eve closed the Bible and placed it on the sill. She ate her breakfast without a word.
Her mother was the product of her own mother’s slave master. Seeing Ida’s shame, Eve had long fretted about her golden skin, and kept her soft hair pulled into a bun and covered with a handkerchief. They were slaves, they always would be, and it seemed that nothing could ever change that.
A few nights before, after the chores of the big house were completed, Eve had sat on the porch with Grandpa Jack to watch the stars. The sadness of the field slaves drifted in the darkness. “Has the Lord ever answered your prayers?” she asked him.
“Mmm,” Jack murmured, his voice as husky as the Alabama night. “Yes he has, Eve. Now, why you ask a question like that?”
“Well…” She turned her face away. “Sometimes it hurts…waitin’ on a prayer.”
Jack chuckled. “A longin’ fulfilled is sweet to the soul.” He leaned back in the rocking chair and took a deep, sleepy breath. “Just give it time.”
Before Eve went up to the house, she checked on the tiny garden they had behind the shack. She was kneeling down to the tender earth when she caught sight of the lake, and the young man leading his horse from it. Eve stopped, unable to move until Daniel was standing a few feet from her, lazily tying his horse’s bridle around a small tree.
“Mornin’, Eve,” he said softly.
Eve straightened, smoothing any wrinkles in her simple linen dress. “Mornin’, Daniel,” she managed.
He strode right up to her then, pulling her close to him so fast she had no choice but to allow it, and he kissed her full up for long, lingering moments.
Behind the shack they were hidden from the house, from a world that condemned all they were meant to share.
Daniel pulled away with effort but kept Eve in his arms.
“Why’s it got to be this way?” she whispered, her face against his shoulder.
“Listen…the Court made a ruling on a case for a man up in Missouri…they said slaves weren’t people. Can you believe that, Eve?”
She gave a shuddering breath.
“It’s alright,” he assured her. “People up north are riled now. Everyone’s talkin’ war; they’re talkin’ change.” Daniel touched his fingertips to her temple and lightly stroked the edges of her hair. “We just have to give it time.”
“Eve,” her mother called from the front of the shack.
They both stiffened and pulled back. “You gotta go,” she whispered, aching as she watched him back away.
“I love you, Eve,” Daniel breathed, before he turned and untied his horse, before she and Ida made the trek to the house with baskets of fresh linens, before the day progressed like any other day and it was unknown when the Lord would set men free.
"Each heart knows it's own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy." ~ Prov. 14:10
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision, a major catalyst of the Civil War.
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