Hey guys...so you’ve probably noticed, but the story will be taking a darker turn from this point on. We’re nearing the end of the book, and I hope you stay patient with me (as school doesn’t end for me for another three weeks :((() but I’m working really hard on getting these chapters out.
Your comments are amazing-I love you all so much!! :)
Thank you for reading. Seriously. This book started out as a short story, and I wouldn’t have gotten here without each one of you.
“And lastly, for attempted murder, assault, holding fugitives, perjury, and running from the law, I am delighted to announce that the court has sentenced Jarrah Whitley to death.”
Twenty one years is a long time.
For me, it’s a lifetime.
I’ve only spent a year of it with Jarrah.
And yet, it feels like I’ve known him forever.
To see him standing there, so vulnerable.
He’s too far.
I can’t even watch him die.
I don’t know if I want to.
Perhaps it’s easier.
Just to hear the neck snap.
Or the audience cheer.
Maybe that’s why they do it.
To cover the sound of death.
But you can’t hide it.
It’s in your own mind.
The crowd is a machine.
they don’t know Jarrah.
Where they see a criminal.
I see the most amazing person I’ve ever met.
He might have done some wrong things in his life
So many more
And I’ll never talk to him again.
What were his last words to me?
He probably laughed.
He loves to laugh.
God, I love him.
Did I know it before?
Did I admit it?
He’s over there-and I’m over here.
So close and yet so far away.
Seperated by a crowd of people
That shouldn’t be here.
They don’t care-
Why should they get to see him
they can probably smell his musty scent
Or run their hands through his sandy coloured hair.
His eyes, piercing green as always,
Staring back at their own beady ones.
They can see the smirk on his face.
He’ll smile when he goes.
He won’t give them the satisfaction.
The Chief folds the papers in half and stands to the side, ready to give the order. They’re going to pull the lever-it’ll be over faster than I knew it was happening. I search for my voice fruitlessly, trying to protest. I open my mouth, but no sound comes out. Instead, someone else’s does.
“He dinnae do it! Leave my papa alone!” yells a small voice in the crowd.
“Be quiet, Leah! It’ll be all right.”
No, it won’t. Why is he lying to her?
“Papa...don’t let them take you!”
He can’t stop them.
No one can.
“I love you Leah, and never forget it!” yells Abraham.
“Papa! Why won’t they listen? Papa, please come back-”
Don’t you get it?
None of them are coming back.
Not even Jarrah.
Did I mention I love him?
Or should I say loved.
Soon enough, I suppose.
“Someone silence that insolent girl!” growls the Chief, and an officer makes his way through the crowd.
“Papa, don’t go!”
The officer grabs her wrist and begins dragging her away, when another voice cries out.
“Don’t you touch my sister, you little shit!”
Her brother’s fist hits the officer’s face square on.
The whole audience holds its breath, watching the scene unfold before them.
It all happens in an instant. The officer and Leah’s brother begin fighting one another.
Shots fire, and the brother falls to the ground.
“No!” screams a voice.
The rest of the family joins in to help-the officer’s comrades running forward to subdue the commotion. Abraham jumps down into the crowd, though his hands are cuffed, his angry roars louder than any fearful cry. A full blown fight erupts, and soon the whole square is in chaos. White pitted against black, slave against free man, the gallows lying in the centre of it all. I look nervously at Isaac, who shrugs in response.
I turn to Lewis, but instead face an officer with alarm written across his face.
“Come,” he says hastily, “We have little time.”
* * *
The officer urges me and Isaac towards the exits of the square. I don’t want to go to jail so soon-I can’t leave Jarrah. Why is he taking me away now? Can’t he wait? Or better yet, can’t he take me to the gallows? If he is to die, I need to see him in his last moments. I strain my neck to glimpse the sandy hair one last time, but I’ve lost vision of the gallows.
“We have to go back! Take me back!” I growl.
The officer pushes us through the brawling crowd and onto the streets, where other officers rush towards the square to settle the fight. Around them, the blacks push them to the ground. Gunshots ring in the sky, and clubs are being brought out. I look around for signs of Lewis, but she is probably scattered among them, making her exit. She knows the alleys of Preston well.
The officer leads us through small streets, navigating with determination. I tug hard, but Isaac does little to protest.
“Where are we going?” asks Isaac, “Not that I’m complaining or anything, but the jail is that way.”
“Who told you we were going to jail? Quit talking and follow me. Try and struggle a little more, like her, would you? It’s hardly believable and I can’t have anyone tailing us.”
“Take me back, please take me back. I can’t leave him, please.”
The officer stops abruptly. “Back? Do you realize how lucky you are, girl? Opportunities like this take months of planning, and even more luck-and you want me to send you into the pits of hell? You’ll thank me one day.”
“You don’t understand, I can’t let him die. Please,” I cry, as he drags me onward with Isaac’s help.
“And I can’t let you die,” says Isaac firmly.
“They’ll kill him. I can’t let them-” I repeat.
“Oh? And how are you going to help? A little black girl with her hands bound by chains. Will you cry on them until they change their minds? This would be so much easier if you would stop struggling. I’m trying to HELP you,” growls the officer.
I tug angrily at their wrists, but cannot overpower them.
“I don’t want your help!” I growl, glaring the officer right in the eyes.
“You didn’t say that yesterday,” he responds icily.
“What are you-”
It is then, when I look closer, do I realize I’ve seen him before. He’s the man who tried to buy Abraham and save him from the hanging.
“You know him?” asks Isaac.
“I guess,” I say uneasily.
“Now, don’t make me changing my mind about saving you and for the love of God stop protesting.”
“I won’t-help Isaac then. I refuse to leave Jarrah again.”
“For the love of God, Alice, would you stop being so selfish for a minute and think? Don’t you remember the last time you tried saving him? We ended up in this mess because of it! There’s nothing you can do for him now. This is our last chance out of here!” growls Isaac.
“THEN GO! TAKE IT!” I shout, “FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, STOP BABYSITTING ME AND WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF. I’M GOING BACK.”
Isaac looks at me like I’ve slapped him in the face. His eyes glaze over, and he lets go of my wrist like it burns him to touch it any longer.
The officer intervenes. “You’re a fool, girl. Listen to him. If you go back, you might not survive-”
“I don’t care! I need to stop them! I’d rather die now than hate myself for the rest of my life for doing nothing!”
The officer shakes his head in disappointment.
“Very well. Come with me lad, there is nothing more I can do for her than let fate play itself out.”
“No,” says Isaac firmly.
We both turn to him in surprise.
“If you go, I’m going with you. Like you said-I’d rather die now than hate myself for the rest of my life letting you go in there unprotected.”
Isaac stares at me and I know that his mind is already made.
Which of us is more stubborn has yet to be decided.
I nod, and turn to the officer. He looks at me with a worried visage, eyes begging me not to go. He is tall and built. He’s in his fourties, with black, shaggy hair covered by a police hat. He has a horseshoe moustache and a matted beard. His voice is raspy as if he’s been smoking all his life, but he has a kind smile and crinkling green eyes. I make it a point to remember his face. For some reason, I’m worried it’s the last kind one I’ll ever see.
“Let me unlock your cuffs. At least you’ll have a fighting chance.”
I let him do so, and find myself running back to the square with Isaac at my heel. It’s easy to find, with the gunshots ringing in the sky and the cries echoing around us.
I make my way through the crowd to the gallows, Isaac holding my sweaty hand with iron grip. I search the crowd for the familiar sandy hair, but there’s too many people to make it out. The full anger of the slaves has been unleashed on the whites, and it’s not a pretty sight.
Where would Jarrah go? I think. Some part of me knows he would want to help the slaves fight back, but they wouldn’t trust him because of his skin. No, he would have to get out of sight.
Well, that makes this easy, I sigh.
I push into the corners of the crowd, looking for escape exits he might have taken.
If they didn’t manage to put him back into jail, that is.
“We aren’t going to find him like this,” I say to Isaac, “we need to split up.”
“No way in hell,” shouts Isaac, over the gunshots that pierce through the sky. Officers being to surround the square, gaining control over the riot. They’re quickly approaching us, pistols in hand.
“Isaac, the faster we find him, the faster we get out of here.”
“What if we don’t find him? The odds are impossible!”
“Why did you come then?”
“To protect you! The reason I always come, for God’s sakes! Hell, I know you never caught on to it, but-ALICE!”
Isaac roughly pushes me to the side as an intense, searing pain shoots through my side. I let out a yelp, before I watch my best friend’s eyes widen in surprise.
Isaac falls to his knees, mouth still open.
Two red holes lie in the centre of his chest, ugly and exposed and full of hatred from the man who carved them through his heart.
A pool of crimson circles us quickly.
He struggles to say something, but no more words escape his lips.
I look into his deep, thoughtful brown eyes. The glint is gone.
I know he is dead before he hits the ground.
I turn in anger to face a white man standing behind Isaac, with a triumphant smirk.
“YOU COWARD!” I screech, lunging towards him with all my strength. My side protests the movement immediately, and I fall to the ground in pain.
I look down to find thick, hot blood staining the whole front of my shirt.
For a moment I gladly accept my fate, glaring at the man with the knife with a deadly, piercing stare I make sure to never let him forget.
No, man is too euphemistic.
“Fuck you,” I hiss.
Pure hatred courses through my veins, and I attempt another lunge at him before he steps out of my reach, stealing one last, proud glance at me, before he makes his way through the crowd. I quickly lose sight of the man in the sea of people, though I will never, for as long as I live, forget his face.
I turn my attention back to my best friend, who lies beside me. The knot in my stomach tightens, and a demon I never know existed inside me finds its way out through the hole in my side. The whole world itself seems darker without him already, like the sun covered with clouds that never fade.
“Isaac!” I whisper, “Isaac, wait. I’m sorry, let’s go back-we can go back to the officer. You were right as always, get up and we’ll go back. Come on, Isaac. Get up,” I say.
“Please,” I plead in a whisper. The words float in the air, soundless, weightless before they rise up into the darkening sky.
I run my hand over his warm cheek.
“Isaac, you have to come. I can’t do this alone, you know that. Come on, Zac, just get up. This isn’t funny.”
He lies like a rag doll on the ground, sprawled out in an uncomfortable position. For the first, and only time in my life, I see Isaac as vulnerable. His eyes are still open, but they are at peace. His brows aren’t furrowed-instead he lies expressionless. His fists aren’t clenched-but relaxed and open. I yearn for one of his rare smiles, one last time, but know I won’t be getting another one. I should close his eyes, but some part of me hopes maybe he can still see me.
“Isaac, I’m sorry. God, I love you. I’m so sorry. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, come on. You can’t do this now...we haven’t reached Canada... Or Tom...we haven’t found Tom yet...Isaac, not now. Come on...You can’t quit now...”
And then the words come-the words I have never let escape my lips until I knew they were true. They come crashing down, like a weight I will never lift off my shoulders for the rest of my life.
“You haven’t even forgiven me, have you?”
I lie down beside him, clutching his hand as if if I hold on tight, he won’t be able to leave. Tears roll freely down my face, and I let out a scream from deep within, a blood-curling scream that resonates in my mind. Grief flows through my veins; my whole body shaking fiercely.
I hate them.
All of them.
Every white person to have ever walked this earth.
I won’t forget what they’ve done to me.
They won’t forget what I do to them.
The shouts of the crowd die down, and the world around me fades to black. The pain in my side seems only a fraction of my grief for Isaac-like the relentless rain drizzling over a vast ocean.
I remember what he said to me, only minutes ago.
Minutes ago, when breath escaped his lips, and his skin was warm.
“I’d rather die now than hate myself for the rest of my life letting you go in there unprotected.”
I hope you meant it, Isaac.
* * *