Felicia lay on the bed, unmoving. She is too weak to do more than breathe but she wants to. She wants to do more than just breathe as she lay on the bed, immobilized. She wants to speak. She wants to shout out the truth to the world so they know.
But she can’t. So she lays still and listens.
“She is a murderer!” Felicia hears her father shout. “She poisoned my child.”
Felicia shakes in her bed. Rosie didn’t do this. She is certain of it. Rosie could not do this. She was about to save Rosie and her child. There is no way in the world Rosie would attempt to kill her. There is only one person in the room capable of such. Her father.
But she can’t speak. She just listens as they hit Rosie. She can’t see a thing either. She listens as Rosie wails on about her innocence. Felicia can’t help her. And then she hears the verdict.
Rosie is guilty. She is to be hanged for trying to kill her master’s child.
No one knows of her pregnancy or her innocence. No one ever will.
When he came to, Eliot saw the others fanning him. For a moment he forgot all about what happened. Nothing clicked in his head. Then, like floodgates had been opened, everything came back to him. He sat up immediately and started searching the faces above him for the one he was looking for. Steve’s was not among the faces crowded over him. He was seated at some distance from the group with Maria. The doll was nowhere in sight. He pushed the others off and tried to get up but he had great difficulty. The cuts in his leg stung badly. Very slowly, he limped towards Steve.
“Why did you save me?” he asked meekly.
“You’re welcome,” Steve said blankly staring at him.
“I didn’t mean it that way. I’m just surprised. You chose to risk your life to save me, the only one who hasn’t hidden his hatred for you and your kind.”
“Well, quite unlike you, I don’t judge people based on their skin color,” Steve said rising to his feet. “It doesn’t matter to me that if it was I in your shoes, I’d be dead by now. It doesn’t matter that your kind always finds a way to victimize my kind. Because I see us all as equals. Because to me, you’re just another human in need of help.”
Eliot sighed. “I owe you my life.”
“I’m glad we both agree on that part.”
“I’m….” Eliot swallowed. This part was hard for him. But he needed to do it all the same. “Thank you. And I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry? You’re sorry?” Steve spat. “For what part exactly? For judging me even without knowing me? For calling me names because of my skin color? For calling me a thief when all my sister and I were doing was staying away from your people so we hid here? What good is your sorry? The minute we’re out of here, things go back to the way they were. You’re the predator and my kind the prey? Where you forget I saved your life once before and you throw things at me because I want an education?”
“Calm down, Steve,” Maria said tugging at his sleeves.
“I am not going to be calm, Maria. Someone needs to tell these people the truth. You treat us like we’re lesser humans. Like our skin color is a disease. You push us to the back of buses, the police victimize us, we can’t get good enough jobs and like that is not enough, our people are beaten and killed like animals.
“The most of your worries are what dresses you want to put on to prom,” Steve continued, looking towards Kate and Rachel. “The fact that you drink too much,” he said turning to Elijah. “And the fact that for no reason you hate blacks,” he said, turning back to Eliot. “You know what every black child fears as he grows older? He fears everything. He has to watch his every step because you never can tell which would be a crime in your world. So unless you really are truly sorry for how you treat my kind, I suggest you stuff it.”
The room fell silent when Steve was done. No one had an answer to any of the points he raised. It was Eliot who spoke first.
“I am truly sorry,” he said. “For everything you face every day. I won’t tell you I understand what you go through. I can’t apologize for what anyone else does to you. I can only apologize for what I did. And I am truly, deeply sorry. Please forgive me. If there is anything I can do to make things better.”
Steve looked up in surprise. He never expected for Eliot to apologize to him but he had. “I forgive you. Your apology is more than enough.”
“You want to know why I feel so much spite for the blacks? You want to know why I have always hated you guys?” Eliot asked.
“Yes, Eliot. We would really like to know why you have felt so much hatred for so long. What happened to you that made you so bitter? I know that most people just hate the blacks because they feel that we are below them, that we are less human than they are but, in your case, it goes more deeply than that. It is in depth and I think it is something that has grown in you over years,” Steve told Eliot. He placed a reassuring hand on Eliot’s shoulder and he nodded.
“You are right, Steve. My hatred towards blacks started out as pain and sorrow, which changed to sadness, sadness was changed to anger and then, anger became rage, it became hatred. It was a filthy black drunk that took the life of my sister,” Eliot said bitterly.
“What are you talking about, Eliot? I had no idea that you had another sister apart from Claire,” Elijah sat up, a bit confused. The whole gang had the same confused looks on their faces. It was obvious no one else knew about this. Not even Nathan that had been Eliot’s friend from high school.
“Yes, I had another sister and she died. She died while we were in middle school. She was my twin and you know what happened? It was the reckless action of a negro that caused the death of my sister.” He looked up at Steve and Maria and shook his head. “I’m sorry guys. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful or spiteful. It’s just that whenever I think of it, I get so very angry.”
“That’s okay, Eliot. You want to share your story with us?” Maria asked him.
Eliot chuckled, “You wanna know what’s ironic? It’s the fact that she really cared so much about the blacks but at the end of the day, she died at the hands of one of them, at the hand of one of you. All was not always as it is now, you guys. It seems to everyone that I have a perfect family, loving parents, a life to be envied but all that was not always so. Before Claire came into our lives, mine was a family that was broken, it was a family that was torn apart by the death of a child. We struggled for so long, we mourned a long time, separate from each other, everyone nursing their wounds. It was the arrival of a new one that helped to quell our pain and pushed us back on the right path. It was Claire’s birth that helped us to start moving on but still, every so often, we cannot help but feel the pain. The truth is we live each day with the pain. We have understood that it is a part of us. Every day we hurt but we try to hide the pain and hurt.”