“Please listen to me, are you there? You have to come back!”
I look at Isaac curiously, and he shakes his head.
“Please! It’s Jarrah! They arrested him!”
* * *
It can’t be. They can’t arrest him--not Jarrah. He can escape anything. He got out of there--of course he did. He’s fine. He woke up and ran off when he heard the cops.
I feel weak, suddenly, and I close my eyes, trying to will whatever is happening to go away. But it’s there, that nagging feeling in the back of my mind that not everything is going to be okay, and he’s going to need my help like I needed his. I now know what I have to do.
Whatever did happen between us, he got me out, and I have to get him out.
I’m about to yell out, “We’re coming!” but Isaac sees the desperate look on my face and quickly muffles my mouth.
I frantically shake my head, trying to get out of his reach and call out to Marianna.
He whispers to me, “What are you doing? She’s obviously lying!”
I wriggle out of his reach and hiss, “I don’t care! Jarrah would never leave me in jail!”
“He brought this on himself! You told me he turned us in! ”
“I lied, alright?” I growl, biting Isaac’s hand so he can’t silence me.
“MARIANNA!′ I yell.
Isaac growls and says, “You’re an idiot.”
“ALICE!” she shouts back.
“Don’t tell her I’m with you. Just in case,” he whispers, and I nod reluctantly.
“Alice! Is that ye?”
“Oh, thank heavens I found ye! Come down then!”
Isaac grabs my wrist firmly, and I turn to face him.
“Listen to me. We can’t trust her. If anything happens, how am I supposed to find you?” he whispers.
“Whatever you do, don’t leave Preston. If I don’t come back and find you in two days--move on, alright? Forget me.”
Isaac looks at me long and hard, before nodding. I squeeze his hand to reassure him.
I slowly make my way down the tree, not even caring of the dangerous height I’m at and more concerned with what’s happening with Jarrah. I grab the limbs of the tree automatically, and the next thing I know I’m facing Marianna on a tall, white horse.
“Come on!” she says, and I jump on.
“Where’s Isaac?” she asks.
“We got split up a few miles ago,” I lie.
She looks at my suspiciously but says, “I’m serry ’bout that.”
Marianna pulls the reins of the horse, and we head straight back for the inn.
I turn one last time, to see Isaac peaking through the tree, staring at me worriedly. He becomes nothing but a speck moments later, consumed by the forest. The wind whips at our faces fiercely, the trees nothing but a green blur as we race to Merrick.
I do not need the grief I felt when I walked away from Tom and never saw him again. Years ago, it consumed me, the guilt of leaving someone I loved for my own selfish gain. How was I any different than Jarrah? I left Tom so I could get to safety. Maybe Paris is his safety; it doesn’t mean he cares about me any less.
I was a hypocrite, and only now when Jarrah is in danger do I see my stupid mistake.
“What happened? Why did they arrest him?” I ask, breaking the silence.
“They found Jarrah in me storage room, ‘n charged him for assault an’ ’arbouring fugitive slaves. Lord, I was drunk. I’m so sorry...it’s all me fault,” apologizes Marianna, “when the cops arrived ye were already gone. ”
“Why didn’t you stop them?” I shout, ignoring her meaningless apology.
“I fough’ back, said isnae fair adall, but apparently he’s wanted in Kentucky, beat up some officers ‘n God knows what else. His da’ refuses to bail him out--or ever see ’im again. You lot were the only ones who could help me.”
“Let me be clear--I’m not helping you, I’m helping Jarrah. You’re still a racist bitch and it’s your fault he’s in this mess.”
She purses her lips, but nods. “Fair enough.”
“So what happened then?” I ask.
“Well, I told ’em they cannae just arrest him without evidence, ye know? I explained erry’thing. I said that I found two slaves hiding in my storage room, and I didn’t know who they were. But since ye were gone when they showed up, I reckoned they’d just leave, until they saw Jarrah. I told ’em he was just some plastered bloke who ended up back there after a brawl in the inn, I said not to mind him, but they identified ‘im pretty quickly an’ took ’im away.”
“And how am I supposed to help?” I ask bitterly.
“Well, ye see love, I struck a deal with ‘em then. I asked, how much would it take to bail him? They told me he was worth a pretty penny, least six hundred. And I dinnae have that amount selling drinks for a livin’.”
“You think I have a secret stash or something? You got him in this, get him out! Sell your inn for all I care!” I growl.
“Ah, see, I came up with something better. Took them to my inn for a pint, and got ’em all tipsy. Nice fellows, really. I asked them, what’s worth more to ye? A mere white man who got in some fights, or two young, wanted slaves all the way from Mississippi?”
I squint at her suspiciously, waiting for the story to continue. She smiles for effect, then continues. “An’ they said well! If ye get us two slaves, reckon we can make the exchange for the boy. Slaves are worth far more sold to a plantation than a man charged for ‘illegal activity’. I said fine, I’ll get ye your slaves and ye dinnae have to mention ever seein’ Jarrah. They make their profit, I make mine, and everyone goes home happy. ’Cept ye, of course.”
My eyes widen, as the end of Marianna’s plan hits me. Too late. The inn comes into view, with a few officers on horseback, waiting to arrest me.
It’s too late to run now, and I am only thankful that Isaac did not join me. Atleast one of us is free.
“Sorry,” she whispers to me, a small smile playing on her face as she slows the horse.
* * *
NONE OF MY READERS LIKE YOU SO GO BACK TO YOUR LITTLE SNAKE PIT.