Author's Note: In this chapter I hope to answer some questions that I have been receiving. I hope you enjoy. These first two chapters were more for background so I hope you forgive me if it feels a little slow. I am moving forward by chapter 3 so please be patient. The song in this chapter is also sung by Bessie Smith. Please forgive any mistakes.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee nor any of its characters, just my story that I stuck them in.
Sam was up by 5:30am and had completed all his chores by 10:00am. He loved summer; even though the work was hard he still loved the idea of having the rest of the day to himself to explore, play, and just enjoy the outdoors. He went to school in a building with two rooms- one for the smaller kids and then, once your knees got too big to fit under the desk, you moved over to the next room with the bigger kids. Sam had been moved two years ago so he already felt older and a little more confident than his friends of the same age. "She will probably be in my class." His mind drifted to Mildred as he walked slowly down the dirt road that was Sparta Rd. "She is as tall as me." He thought. He also remembered what his momma told him this morning. "Remember once you've finished your chores and clean up some go and pick up Mildred and show her around town."
"Was he never to be rid of her?" He thought. He came to the fork in the road where he could just keep on going and find Paul or, he would turn onto Passing Rd. "Just keep on passing by." He mimicked her voice albeit with a whiney, bratty attitude that he totally conveyed in his body language, which included gyrations of a funny sort. He wanted to abandon her, spend his time doing something that he actually wanted to do; but he knew that his ma would skin him alive if he didn't go. Sam gave a deep sigh and turned at the corner and onto Passing Rd.
When he saw her house in view he still wanted to pass by unnoticed. He didn't want to have to actually go to her door, and knock, and ask for her- like he had truly wanted to spend time with her or something. Then he realized that he wouldn't have to; there she was sittin' on the porch with Mrs. Thompson. Mrs. Thompson was rockin' on a rockin' chair and she was sitting on the porch step picking at the wood on the stairs.
"Mighty hot morning this here's turnin' out to be isn't?" Mrs. Thompson called out to Sam before he had actually wanted to be noticed. Mildred's head shot up to see who her mawmaw was speaking too. "Yes 'em" Sam said. "Good morning Ma'am … Mildred." Sam said wishing at this moment he had skipped this whole thing and found Paul instead. "Mildred, say hi to Sam. He was nice 'nuff to come 'round and spend the day with you." Mildred looked at her Mawmaw and then at Sam. "Mawmaw, aren't there any girls in this town?" She said. "You hush now fore's I whip that bottom of yours gal! Sam came all this way and you're gonna be neighborly; ya here! Now go on!" Mrs. Thompson quickly spoke in a lowered tone, in the hopes that Sam could not hear them where he was standing on the roadside; but he did.
Mildred stood up and tugged at her dress (it was blue this time) Sam noticed and walked down the stairs straight to Sam. "Sam, now you tell your momma that I will have some peach preserves for her. You can pick it up and give it to her when you come back tomorrow." Mrs. Thompson spoke while still rocking back and forth. "Tomorrow!" Both Sam and Mildred shouted; then Sam caught himself, he couldn't be rude to Mrs. Thompson. "Yes'em; have a good day ma'am" was all Sam could muster then he nodded and headed walking off down the road. Mildred held her head up and followed down the dirt path she had decided she wasn't going to speak to him at first; but she knew this was going to be a long day.
They walked for a while and Mildred was re-thinking her decision not to speak. "Where was he taking her?" "And why was it taking so long to get there?" She thought. Mildred stopped dead in her tracks. Sam had walked a few steps further, his bare feet becoming brown from all the dust that had now been stuck to the bottom, he noticed out of the side of his eye that she was no longer walking with him. "Whad ya stop for?" He asked. "Where are we going? " She asked while shaking her head. "We have been walking forever and there is nothin' in sight. " She said. "Did you want to go somewhere in particular?" He responded. "How am I supposed to know this is your town not mine!" She spoke with a look that suggested he was the stupidest person she had ever met.
"I will take you to the lake." He said looking at his dusty feet . "You never said nothin' bout no swimmin'; I didn't bring anything for that." "Fine, we will just put our feet in the water that's all. Why are you so nasty all the time?" Sam could not figure her out; he knew she must feel bad about her folks, but he never did anything to her- not really; so why did she always speak to him like that. "Look, I am doing this for my ma, I don't want to hang out with you! You are a nasty brat with a stupid name; you better start bein' nice to me or I'm gonna leave you out here by yourself." Sam spoke sharply. Mildred's eyes started to fill with tears and then she shouted "I WANNA GO HOME!" and she began to cry.
"Oh, drat!" Sam thought. "If she goes home and tells Mrs. Thompson that I made her cry I will never hear the end of it; my momma will get me good." He started thinking. "Stop cryin' I will take you back to Mrs. Thompson's I won't leave ya'; now cut it out." He said while trying to calm her down. "I DON'T WANT TO GO THERE!" She yelled. "I WANNA GO HOME I HATE IT HERE!" She dropped down to the ground and started to sob. Sam could not believe it. "What had just happened?" He thought. Sam quickly looked around him to see if anyone else was on the dirt path. "Could anyone else see what was happening?" He thought this time. There was no sign of anyone just the warm breeze sliding across the fields on either side of them and there were the sounds of grasshoppers in the distance.
"Hey now, it's not so bad here really." Sam said in a much more comforting tone. He moved closer to her and started to rub his hand on her back. "I just want to go home. I want my friends. I want my ma." Then it happened he felt the sigh leave her body as she said what was truly on her mind. "I want my papa!" She started crying in a deeper yet quieter way. Sam sat all the way down on the ground beside her and leaned her head over to his shoulder. "Don't cry. Don't cry. I know that I can't bring back your pa or ma but - I could be your friend - (a better friend)." He whispered. "You don't want a friend with a stupid name like Mildred. I hate my name. I want to be called what Papa called me; he called me Mercedes." She said while sniffling and having the words hitch a little in her throat. Sam wrinkled his nose. "You mean like that famous car?" He said. "Papa wanted me to be a singer and he said I should be the best or nothing; just like the Mercedes ad says." She pulled her head off of his shoulder and tried to stop herself from crying. "But no one will call me that anymore, not here; momma says 'It's not my name.' Mawmaw says 'Why would I call you another name than your own', and Alfred says 'I am never gonna be the best at anything.'" She cried some more. Sam stood up reached into his back pocket and pulled out his handkerchief, his mother always made him carry one, and handed it to her. She took it and began to wipe her eyes. "Well, I heard you singin' the other day." Sam said. "And I thought that you were the best I'd ever heard." He spoke again. "Really?" You're not justa sayin' that?" She wanted to test his sincerity. He continued on… "No I am not just sayin' it- I believe it to be true; so - will you let me call you Mercedes?" Sam asked with a tone of voice which was a lot more tenderhearted than before. Mildred looked at him and nodded then she did something Sam never thought that he would see; she smiled at him. He had to admit she had the smile of an angel too.
"C'mon, I am gonna take you to the lake, we gonna wade in a while and maybe, just maybe, you can sing for me too; how 'bout that?" Sam said and he smiled at her as well. Mildred got up dusted herself off and said "Lead the way." Sam and Mercedes continued on walking along the dirt path. Sam had no idea but he had just started the very best friendship he would ever have; for many years to come he would be grateful for the time he spent with that bratty girl in the summer of 1923.
It was December 31, 1933 Sam, Mercedes, & Paul had all turned 18 this year and prohibition had been lifted on the 5th of December. They had planned to go out to celebrate the New Year's Eve together two towns over from theirs. They had heard that there was a watering hole in King George's town and what better way to celebrate than with a large crowd. Truth be told none of them had been out of Caroline County before except for Mercedes and she really didn't remember too much about her old life outside of it. Her father had died and her mother never ever did come back to be with her. She heard her mawmaw talking to Liza Evans once saying that "The girl done got to wild with her freedom and wasn't plannin' on coming back." It broke Mercedes heart that her mother would abandon her and she didn't think she would have ever gotten through it if it hadn't been for her friend Sam.
All those days he held her hand and kept her calm when she was scared; the days when he listened to her fight and fuss and the days that, he just held her when she cried. He did keep his promise he gave her a long time ago and he became a much better friend than she could have ever imagined. Mercedes was looking at herself in the mirror. She still had not developed in the way that she had hoped mawmaw called her a "late bloomer" but she thought that she was no longer late now she was just rude; "no one should be this late to puberty." She thought to herself. She had heard herself called beanpole all her life but at least in one regard the boys were starting to catch up. Sam was now a full head taller than her, she would admit though she missed looking at him eye to eye, but it did look good on him. She looked at her new finger waves that she had in her hair and the new dress that she bought for the evening. She had saved all the money she had earned as a seamstress and she was finally putting it to some good use.
She heard her bedroom door as it was slowly creaking open, she looked over her shoulder, but then it stopped. "Must be the wind." She thought as she turned around and connected her garter belt to her stockings. She then heard the door creak again and it looked as if it was opened a little wider than it had been before. "Hello? Mawmaw is that you?" She grabbed her robe and put it on, then she walked to the door and opened it only to find 23 year old Alfred standing there. "Alfred you scared me why didn't you say anything?" Alfred just stared at her - his eyes then began to roam up and down her body. "Mawmaw taint here." He said. Mercedes could smell the stench of the strong hootch on his breath already. "You started early." She said. "I thought that the celebratin' wasn't startin' til tonight."
Alfred reached out his hand and grabbed onto her robe "It looks like your startin' late; I thought sure you'd filled out some by now. I'd been waitin' a while for you and I don't feel like waitin' no longer." He started to try to pull her close to him for a kiss. "STOP IT! You're drunk and mixin' me up with those hootchie gals down yonder where you be spendin' your nights. Now you let go of me and go sleep it off. " Mercedes grabbed his hand and forced him to let go of her robe and slammed the door on him. "You're gonna be mine's missy you just wait and see." Mercedes felt her skin crawling. Mawmaw was getting too old and he was gettin' wilder and wilder. She thought. She hated the way that he started looking at her and especially once he turned 15; she was only 10 at the time but she was taller and looked older back then. She never told anyone about the way Alfred looked at her not even Sam; for one thing she thought mawmaw would send her away. He was the man of the house and he was bringin' in money, he knew that mawmaw couldn't afford to have him leave- he was taking care of her. She also couldn't think about having to leave Sam. "What would she do without their picnics up on Grant Hill, their wading in the lake, and having a person who was there that would help with doin' chores and schoolwork together?" She had- had these thoughts before. "He just made this place seem less dull." She continued thinking as she pulled off her robe put on her dress; it was long and red with a white lapel and bow. She then placed on her white shoes with a black tip and her white gloves. Once she placed her hat carefully on her head and inserted the pins so that it would stay fastened tight. She put on the finishing crown- her first ruby red lipstick.
Mercedes normally would have waited outside in the front parlor for Sam but because she did not know where Alfred had gone she just waited in her room instead. Then her ear detected the honking of Sam's pa's Model T Ford. Sam told her that his father would let him borrow it tonight. She opened up her creaking bedroom door. "That dang door was a blessing and a curse." She thought. "It helped her to know if Alfred was peeking, but it also let him know when she was leaving her room." When she walked out to her parlor she didn't see him. She grabbed her purse off of the table and walked quickly out of the house only to be stopped by seeing Alfred leaning into the car window speaking to Sam. She was not sure what he must have been saying but she just wanted to leave as soon as possible. Mercedes walked up to the car and Sam spoke "Hey Mercedes!" Sam said. "Sam." She said as she smiled. "Why do you insist on callin' her a car. Y'all is the craziest kids I done never seen." Alfred spoke while shaking his head and slurring his words. "She is the best singer in the world that's why…aren't you Mercedes?; remember the best or nothin'." Sam spoke again confidently. Mercedes smiled again. "Can we go now?" She asked as she walked around and got in the side passenger seat. Alfred hit the door and nearly fell over from the motion and force that it took. "Y'alls be careful." Then he started walking away from the car mumbling under his breath "Great singer, I can make her sing alright." Mercedes hoped that Sam did not hear what Alfred had just said although she herself had heard it. She just wanted to go and have fun tonight and forget about everything else.
"What happen' where's Paul? Mercedes said as they started driving down the road. "His dad needed him do some things and so he said he was just going to meet us there." Sam replied he then said to her "We going be drivin' for' bout 40 minutes; why don't you sing to me?" Sam asked. " Oh, I heard a new one on the radio last week." She said and then she began to sing…
Twenty-five cents? Ha! No, no, I wouldn't pay twenty-five cents to go in nowhere. 'Cause listen here…
Up in Harlem every Saturday night
When the high brows get together it's just too tight
They all congregate at an all night strut
And what they do is tut-tut-tut
Old Hannah Brown from 'cross town
Gets full of corn and starts breaking 'em down
Just at the break of day
You can hear old Hannah say
Gimme a pigfoot and a bottle of beer
Send me again, I don't care
I feel just like I wanna clown
Give the piano player a drink because he's bringing me down
He's got rhythm, yeah, when he stomps his feet (Mercedes makes her voice raspy as she sings)
He sends me right off to sleep
Check all your razors and your guns
We gonna be wrestlin' when the wagon comes
I wanna pigfoot and a bottle of beer
Send me 'cause I don't care
Slay me 'cause I don't care
Trumpet solo (chorus chords) (Sam makes the sounds of the musical instruments by going Da da da da…)
Gimme a pigfoot and a bottle of beer
Send me again, I don't care
I feel just like I wanna clown
Give the piano player a drink because he's bringing me down
He's got rhythm, yeah, when he stomps his feet
He sends me right off to sleep
Check all your razors and your guns
Do the shim-sham-shimmy 'til the rising sun (Mercedes starts to shimmy her shoulders)
Give me a reefer and a gang of gin
Slay me 'cause I'm in my sin
Slay me 'cause I'm full of gin
They continued laughing and talking until they reached their destination. They could see the decorations draped along the outside of the watering hole and between two lights there was a sign that read "Goodbye 1933" and quite a bit of people standing outside laughing and drinking and talking.
"Looks like a good time." He said as he parked the car and got out. He went to the other side and opened the door for Mercedes. "Your grandma didn't give you a curfew did she? " He pulled out his watch from the pocket of his father's gray wool suit, that Mercedes had taken in for him at the waist for just this special occasion, (his father had not been feeling well for some time now and would not be strong enough, the doctor said, to be going anywhere tonight so he wouldn't need it) and looked at it. "It's nine-thirty right now." He said. "No" She said. "Mawmaw knows that I am with you; so it's alright." She spoke as she took his hand and he helped her out of the car. When they started walking toward the watering hole Mercedes started noticing that all the people were staring at them and people began to whisper. A couple of women gasped and moved over to one side and then a few men walked over to them and blocked their path.
"She ain't comin' in here!" One man said sternly and put his hand up and held it against Sam's chest. "Excuse me?" Sam said. Then another man stepped up closer to Sam and spoke again. "He said that her kind is not welcome in here." Sam looked back at Mercedes and then spoke to the man whose hand was still holding on to his chest. "Sir, I am asking you to move you hand from my chest and to move out of our way." Mercedes pulled at the back of Sam's coat "Sam, c'mon let's just go somewhere else." She said. "Yeah boy, the other man said, you better listen to your darky and get on outta here." A pulse of anger raced through Sam's chest. "What did you call my friend?" Sam asked while Mercedes still attempted to get his attention. "I called her a darky and if she is your friend then we do not want your kind in here either." The man with his hand on Sam chest then moved his hand and quickly punched Sam in the face. Mercedes screamed as Sam pushed her out of the way and then came to blows with the two men.
The other men in front of the watering hole started to encircle them while the women were screaming and running inside. Sam was giving as good as he got but there were two of them and after a while they got the better of him. Mercedes was screaming and crying as the men began to walk away once the fighting was over; most of them just walked back inside while one of the men who had fought Sam, kicked Sam while he was still lying on the ground and the spat on the ground beside her. "Don't ever come back here again." He said, as he walked inside leaving the two of them outside alone.
Mercedes ran over to Sam and kneeled down beside him on the ground. "Sam?" She whispered unable to understand or catch even the smallest of breath. "Sam, I am so sorry are you alright?" Sam took the side of his fist and hit it on the ground frustrated, embarrassed, and in pain; he attempted to stand up. Mercedes attempted to help him to the car she could barely look at him she felt so much of his pain. His left I was turning purple and beginning to swell, his lip in the right corner was busted, bruised, and bleeding; his knuckles where bloody and he was limping. "If Paul was here with me we could have taken them." Was all that he had said. Mercedes got up and helped to steady him as they walked back to the car. Mercedes drove the car all the way back home she felt so bad for Sam she knew that he was hurting but she did not trust stopping off anywhere else. She drove to her house and stopped. "Do you wanna come in I can tend to your bruises." She said once she had gotten out of the car. Sam just shook his head no and moved into the driver's seat. "I'll stop by and check in on you in the mornin'." She told him and then she just touched his hand and walked back to her door. Sam drove off down the road.
Mercedes walked inside to find the place reeked of alcohol. She knew that was not a good sign. "Mawmaw?" She called out. The lights were off but then she caught a whiff of a cigar and so she knew Alfred was there somewhere. "Alfred?" She called as she walked over and attempted to light the lamp but then she heard Alfred speak. "Mawmaw is dead. She collapsed over at Sue Sotherby's dis evenin'." "What?" Mercedes said. "She's gone and it's just you an me now gal, and I'm gonna like that, I'm gonna like that a lot." A drunken Alfred grabbed Mercedes by her arm and yanked on it tight. "ALFRED LET GO OF ME!" She screamed. Alfred snatched the cigar out of his mouth and threw it in the wood burnin' stove and grabbed Mercedes waist with his other hand. He started to kiss her alongside her neck and she continued to scream and fight. He held both of her wrists together in his right hand and slapped her across the face with the other. "You are gonna do what I want now gal, Your gonna learn how to make it worthwhile for a man to pay all the bills." He said with a tone of distain in his voice like he had resented her very presence there the whole time. "No" Mercedes cried, "Please no, don't, don't." Alfred then started tearing her new dress at the shoulder; that was now nearly exposing her right breast. "Now that is more like it" He grinned. She could feel his hot breath on her neck and face and smell the stench of gin and bourbon on his breath as well. She felt sick. "Please Alfred, I'm beggin' ya don't ." But Alfred didn't seem to care he then licked her face and started slidin' his hand up her dress along her inner thigh. "Yeah gal that's better". He got a surge of energy and screamed "NO!" She bit the wrist of the hand that was holding her hands together and she didn't let go until she drew blood. She then pushed him away from her so hard that he toppled over and hit the ground.
Mercedes ran out the door as fast as she could and down the dirt path. She was holding what was left of her dress together and all she knew to do; was to get to Sam. She ran all the way, she cut through the fields and came to the divide where Passing Rd met with Sparta Rd. She turned down Sparta and crying all the way then she made it to his house. The car was back in the yard so she knew he had made it home but she didn't know what to do. How could she be seen by him looking like this; she quickly looked over her shoulder to make sure that Alfred had not followed her. She took a small pebble and through it at the window of Sam's room. She did it once, twice, three, then four times until the light came on and Sam looked out of the window.
She hid on the opposite side of the car, in the yard, but she watched as he slowly limped out and called her name. "Mercedes , is that you?" He asked. "Sam" She felt a sigh of relief just saying his name. It was so good to hear his voice; she started crying immediately. "What's the matter?" He asked as he started to come near her on the other side of the car. "Don't. " She said. "Alfred tried to, he tried to, Mawmaw is dead Sam; and I can't stay with Alfred not no more." She was so ashamed to say what she was actually not trying to say. "He what?" Sam said then he walked over to her and he saw it. She was gathering what was left of the shreds of her clothing together and her cheek was swollen from where Alfred had slapped her.
Sam's eyes scanned her body and the pulse of anger he felt before came back again. "Mawmaw is dead Sam." She started crying again. Sam walked around the car and opened the door and pulled out a blanket from the back and wrapped it around Mercedes and then he hugged her. "I'mma scared of him Sam, I can't stay any longer." She spoke as he attempted to touch the side of her face. "He didn't- did he?" He questioned. She started crying again. "No, I fought back but he is not gonna let me stay there anymore without." She lowered her head. "Where are you going to go?" He asked. I don't know but anywhere. Sam thought for a few minutes and then he said "Wait here I will be right back."
Mercedes waited for about five minutes always looking over her shoulder to see if Alfred had followed her. She assumed he would know to come here; "Where else would she go?" She thought. Sam then came back out of the house he was holding things in his hands. He first handed her some of his mother's clothes and one extra dress that she could put on right now. Then he had a medium sized wooden box in his hand. He put the box on the hood of the car and then asked her for the blanket she had wrapped around her. She looked at him puzzled but he just nodded gently at her. She gave him back the blanket and immediately started trying to keep her dress together again. Sam turned his back to her, held up the blanket spread out behind his back almost like a cape and told her to change her clothes. This way she could change under the cover of his protection and he could not see her either.
Mercedes lowered her head in gratitude and changed her clothes. When she was done she simply rested her hand on Sam's shoulder. He put down the blanket and then opened up the wooden box it was filled with money. "We can leave with this." He said. Mercedes looked at the box and then back up at Sam. "We?" She was so grateful for his suggestion but she knew better. "Sam that is the money you have been savin for years for you to go travelin'. That is all your chestnut money." She was touched but she couldn't ask that of him. "So we can go travelin' together." Mercedes started to tear up but she had to say what she was thinking. "Sam we can't go together - don't you remember what happened this evening? You got hurt because we were together; I can't have you going thru that all the time on accounta me; besides your father is terrible sick and your mother needs your help here." Mercedes said.
Sam thought about what she said and it was all true but, what was he going to do? He didn't feel right letting her leave alone, what would happen to her? "There's got to be a bus leavin out of town going somewhere tonight. I'll just make sure I'm on it tis all." She said. Sam closed the wooden box and opened the car door for her to get in and he drove her to the bus depot and paid for a ticket for her to go north. He waited with her until the bus came up the dirt road and was coming to a stop under the one brightest lights in town. Sam looked at Mercedes and still handed her the box. "Sam I told you that I can't… " Sam then interrupted her "You can and you will. I am not letting my best friend go out into the world all by herself with no money in her pocket. It will be fine. There are other ways that I can see the world." He forcefully placed the box into her hand. It was just then they heard the two people who worked in the ticket booth scream out. "Happy New Year!" "Good Bye 1933!" and then the workers in the booth hugged and kissed each other on the cheek.
"Not the new year we expected was it?" She said while pointing to his eye and her cheek. "No, I guess not." Sam said solemnly. The bus pulled up in front of them and opened the door. Sam reached out and hugged Mercedes and she tenderly kissed him on the cheek. "Good bye Sam." "Good bye Mercedes". The bus driver looked at the both of them and said "Happy New Year" and they both just shook their heads, then Mercedes got on the bus; but they both new better-there was nothing that was going to be happy about the new years ahead; ever again.
Author's Note: Please review it helps me to know what you think and it warms my heart too! Thanks, Anna