Her heart was as pure as his was corrupt. Yet, they became childhood playmates, classmates, and best friends. He was drawn to her as a moth to light. She wanted to save him from himself.
“But, why, Billy? Why can’t we be together?”
William gently caressed the little hand clasped between his massive calloused ones. He squelched the urge to take her into his arms, realizing that would only make things harder for them.
“Abby, do you trust me?”
Abigail pondered the question carefully, recalling past incidents: the time he rescued her from town bullies making her a laughingstock with their taunts as they placed obstacles in her pathway . . . another day, when she was called upon by their teacher for an oral exam and froze, startled into mobility by a bumpy note passed to her under the desk from Billy . . . the day they ventured out on an excursion and became disoriented in the forest’s maze of trees, when Billy led them to safety. She smiled, remembering their first and only kiss, shared after her recovery from a mysterious fever . . .
William was thinking of this very incident himself while they sat together on the fragrant meadow lawn. The fear of losing her back then had nearly destroyed his fragile faith. But now he had the power of Jesus to overcome, thanks to Abby’s patience persistence of showing him God’s love, her life a shining example and testimony of the scripture they read together.
“Of course I trust you, Silly-Billy!"
A whippoorwill's distinct song sounded in the distance while William took a deep breath, drinking in the scent of wafting lilacs while he gathered his words. Neither saw the scenic wonder of the soft-eyed doe cautiously drinking from the stream beside them, or the magical poppy dance in the neighboring field orchestrated by the gentle breeze.
“Abby, you know how deeply I care for you . . .”
“And I for you, Billy. What do you imagine could possibly come between us?” her confident voice belying the butterflies playing tag in her belly.
“My dear heart, this must be our good-bye,” struggling to continue, the lump in his throat threatening to silence him, “the school board has forbidden any more contact between us.
Abigail, trembling and withdrawing her hand, “Since when do we care what others think, William Baker?”
“This time it’s different, Sweet Pea. I’m being sent away and I want you to try to understand why.”
The stubborn tilt of her chin cupped between his hands grew rigid and she shrugged away.
“All right, William, I’m listening,” her formal abrupt tone stabbing him to the quick.
“We are too different, Abby. We always have been, but neither one of us wanted to face it” . . .
“You mean because you are a Negro and I am Caucasian. You would break my heart because of a COLOR? I thought we were about showing people that God’s love can surpass prejudice.”
“THINK, Abby! Where did you think this relationship was headed? Did you really think we could marry and live happily ever after?”
“And what of our children, dearest? We are secluded here, shielded from ridicule. What if our children were sighted? What if they couldn’t be with us at St. Mary’s School For the Blind? Would you have them ostracized and tormented because they are neither in my world or yours?”
“We would protect them, you know we would . . .”
“Baby, you were born blind, and because you cannot see your light skin against my dark skin, and the disdain and cruelty sighted people are capable of, you think you can rise above it. Before smallpox robbed me of my sight, I learned that black and white do not marry without the severest of consequences, and I will NOT subject an innocent child, sighted or no, to such.”
A silence so deep it could not be breached, the tearful couple embraced one last time, going their separate ways to bear the burden of unrequited love. And the God Who created colors walked with each of them, their separation driving them closer to Him.
The year was 1930.
In 1960, William and Shakia’s daughter became the first black student integrated into the Kent County School System—while hundreds of miles away, Abigail, who never married, became the first blind woman to stand before Congress to fight for the civil rights of the blind.
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