Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)
By Shirley McClay
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She stroked her belly to calm the babe in her womb as she gazed around at the beauty and opulence. Elizabeth carefully lay down on the luxurious four poster bed and sobbed as her dreams spilled out of her broken heart and soaked the ornate bedspread.
Hours later Elizabeth sat at the massive dining table and faced them. Mother’s emerald gown shone and glistened like the gemstone it resembled. Father seemed distracted, pushing his steak and potatoes around his plate.
The slaves serving them were silent shadows in the background.
Elizabeth’s fork clattered on the herringbone china plate and she rose, trembling. “Your son was captured by the enemy…the very people that you have chosen to befriend.”
She knew hate glowed in her eyes, but Elizabeth no longer cared. “You sit here in comfort and wealth while your son sits in a prison, put there by these…. people.” She spat the word as if it tasted of bile.”You are waited on hand and foot by slaves who you view as stock animals. These slaves are the people that your son is willing to die for. How could you?”
Elizabeth reeled from lightheadedness and her voice cracked as her heart shattered. “How could you?”
She choked on sobs of bitterness and fled past the stunned slaves to the seclusion of her sitting room.
Elizabeth pushed back the curtains of her window and peered through the shadows. A wagon rumbled away after unloading its produce at the kitchen. If only she could leave so easily… but how? Eight months pregnant, her husband captured by the rebels, their home and lands seized… what other choice did she have? Her own family was so far to the North, there was no way she could travel safely with a war going on and a baby soon to arrive.
Elizabeth stared out at the darkness that seeped deeper into her soul. What hope was left for her? Had God deserted her? She was just as imprisoned as her husband.
In desperation Elizabeth finally turned to the One who could help. “Oh please… do not abandon me, Father. Give me a ray of hope. Help me to forgive and love even when my heart screams against it.”
At a knock, she opened the door to her mother and father-in-law. Tears streaked their faces as well… but instead of the hopelessness that emptied Elizabeth’s eyes of life, theirs’ sparked with determination, excitement and... perhaps fear?
“Come to the library, my dear. Please… just give us a few minutes.” Thad’s sincere gray eyes were set deep under bushy black eyebrows that matched the thatch on his head.
Her shoulders slumped, hair askew, red and blotchy from sobbing, Elizabeth studied them. What choice did she have? “Give me a moment please.” She took a few minutes to refresh herself and met them in the library.
They rose from their chairs at her entrance. Ruth smiled hesitantly while nervously patting the intricately braided gray-blond hair that framed her delicate features. Without a word they walked over to one of the stately bookcases. Thad gripped a vase attached to the side of the shelf and pulled. The whole shelf slid outward and a hole gaped behind.
Without pausing to take in her reaction, they stepped through the opening and disappeared. Elizabeth‘s heart raced and her hands shook. What strange capers were they up to?
She tentatively slipped through and found herself in a huge room. Bunks stood along the walls and clothes hung neatly on hooks. Several people were in the room reading books, knitting or sewing, eating from trays of food, or simply resting on a bunk. Children played quietly with handmade toys. Everyone in the room, except for the three who had just entered, was dark-skinned.
Elizabeth gasped for air and groped for something to support her as she realized the truth. She was witnessing a very dangerous secret. This home was a vital part of the infamous Underground Railroad.
The room started to fade and Elizabeth felt herself falling. But her father-in-law’s strong arms caught her and he whispered into her hair. “My heart is one with my son and my daughter. Let us care for you and our grandchild. Be at peace.”
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