Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Sneak (05/12/16)
TITLE: Forbidden Friends
By Sylvia Young
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And it had. Numerous young men had sought her out even as she tried to sneak away.
“Miss Charlotte,” one man murmured, stepping in her path. “Would you honor me with a dance?”
“Certainly,” she replied. “Just allow me a moment to catch my breath.” It was true she was in need of fresh air, but she didn't want company.
Charlotte slipped into the kitchen through the sea of black faces that pretended not to see her. The cook, with a knowing smile, pressed a piece of cake wrapped in a clean cloth into her hand.
Once outside, she race down to the river. There, Isaiah sat staring out at the rushing water, his dark skin glowing in the light of the moon.
“I wasn't sure you’d come,” he murmured.
“It’s Thursday, Isaiah,” she replied. “Of course I came.”
He turned, and she heard a sharp intake of breath that pleased her vanity. But he recovered quickly, and asked, “Did you bring it?”
Slightly stung, she held out the cake and his eyes chastised her. For just a moment, she wanted him to suffer as she had when he failed to admire her. Then, she produced a leaf of paper from the depths of her voluminous skirt.
Isaiah snatched the paper eagerly, ignoring the cake. Opening it toward the moon, he devoured the words she’d neatly copied from one of her father’s books.
Usually it brought her joy to see him feast on the written word, but tonight, she wanted his eyes on her.
Their friendship, born out of boredom and curiosity, had begun when they were only five years old, more than ten years ago. Each Thursday, they’d met to play, then as they grew older, to talk.
After finishing the page, Isaiah folded it and carefully tucked it into his pocket. She knew it would be hidden under his mattress with the others she’d written for him over the years.
“What do you think of my dress?” she demanded finally, breaking a rule by seeking out a compliment. A lady never did such a crass thing, but waited for a gentleman to offer the flattery unsolicited.
“It’s shiny,” he replied. His eyes went back to the water. “Jake got ten lashes today. He took some water before break. He was hot. Probably got a fever. Don’t know if he’s going to make it through the night.”
Her egotism forgotten, Charlotte gasped and rushed forward, getting close, but not touching. Never touching. “I’m going to tell my father.”
“Your father was there.”
That couldn't be true, she was about to protest, but then she saw in his eyes, those dark eyes that had begun to haunt her dreams, that it was.
“I'm leaving tomorrow. Don’t say nothing to stop me.”
“Anything,” she whispered. Having been his teacher for ten years, the correction came automatically.
He met her eyes. “I won’t forget, you know. Without you, I might’ve gone crazy. Probably would've gotten myself whipped to death by now.”
“Where will you go?”
“Can’t say. Don’t want to get you in trouble.” He was shortening his words now, rushing. He seemed restless, anxious to get away.
This would be the last time they’d meet. The truth settled on her like a heavy blanket, suffocating her, making her breath shallow.
She reached out and touched his arm.
At the contact, he flinched slightly, but didn't pull away. Then his hand was on hers. His skin was rough, but warm.
In that moment, she realized that she loved him. With wild abandonment, she threw her arms around him, holding him tight.
His arms encircled her, hesitantly, but no less passionately.
“No,” he interrupted. “Don’t say it. If you do, I won’t leave.”
“Charlotte, please.” His eyes begged her with feelings his mouth didn't have the courage to utter.
It was hopeless. There was nothing she could do to stop him. Rashly, she pulled his head down and pressed her lips to his.
For a moment, he was a rock, but then he relented. They released all their forbidden feelings in that one embrace.
Finally, he drew away from her. They said nothing. Eyes locked on hers, he took one step back, and then another, until he was out of sight.
She would never see him again.
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