I was sitting alone in the garden. Jeff had gone to call on the Thompsons. Ever since the ball he had taken a fancy to that little Prissy Missy Thompson. I couldn’t believe it. Jeff! Jeff couldn’t be thinking of courting her, could he? His fancy to her had caused the two of us to have a lot of arguments recently and I was rather upset with the fact that he had gone to call. What’s more, he had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to come along. Good lord, no. Not only could I not stand being in the same room with Prissy, but there was also Albert, who looked at me with sheep’s eyes and made me feel uncomfortable. Something in the way he looked at me just yelled ‘trouble’ in my face. So I had stayed behind and was spending the afternoon in the garden, my favorite place in the world.
“May I ask what is it you are doing, Miss Sarah?”
I looked up from the papers in my hand and a smiled when I saw Sammy standing nearby.
“Hello, Sammy. I’m just looking over some of my mother’s poetry and other papers. It’s the only thing I have left of her and I like to go over it from time to time, it makes me feel closer to her. Come,” I scooted a little off the blanket on which I sat, “you are welcome to join me.”
“I never hear you talk of your mother much,” he said as he haltingly sat down on the very corner, and glanced at the faded papers scattered all over the blanket.
“I don’t find it very easy to talk about her, not outloud,” I confessed, "besides, she’s not really the most encouraged topic around here. It seems there was some sort of scandal caused by her running off and it’s rather embarrassing for the household, so nobody speaks of it.”
“Is this all your mother’s own writing?”
“Most of it, but not all. There are also collections of her favorite poems by Byron and Keats and Lord Tennyson. My mother was a great lover of poetry. It’s really the only inheritance she left me. That and her dress, which I keep in my room upstairs.”
“What about your father?” He asked, running his eyes over a few of the scraps.
“I don’t know anything about him,” my voice turned cold. “I don’t know anything and I don’t want to know anything. I want nothing to do with the man who ruined my mother’s life, with the man who broke my mother’s heart. She never got over it.”
“Is there any mention of his name, in any of her poems?”
I shook my head, “mother took the mystery of his identity with her to the grave. She was the only person who knew anything about him. I’m glad she didn’t leave any clues, I’d burn them without looking at them. I never want to meet that person! NEVER! But, if I did,” I suddenly pointed out, “I’d tear him apart with these two hands.”
“You wouldn’t really,” Sammy gazed at my ivory white hands as though trying to imagine me ripping apart another human being.
“Well, maybe not,” I shrugged, “but I’d sure tell him what I thought of him. I’d tell him the whole truth about himself and then we’d see what he’d have to say in his defense.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know…”
“He does,” I firmly stated, “the reason he abandoned my mother was because she told him she was carrying his child. I know that much.”
“She told you that?”
“No, I found out from Robert, who overheard it from Mrs. Hosehigh who was discussing it with her husband.”
“Did they know anything about your father?”
“Nope. Mrs. Hosehigh suspected that he was one of my mother’s rich admirers. Perhaps he was married, perhaps he was engaged; there are so many reasons why a man of good standing would never unite with an actress. But he really should have thought about that before he got her with child.” I set my lips in a firm line. I always got angry when I thought of my father, these moments were rare and far apart, but there was no way to stop them from never coming. Now that I could share them with somene else made suddenly made it easier for me to handle them. It was nice to be able to discuss the troubles that were bothering me with another human being, instead of telling it to the air. Sammy certainly didn't have answers to any of my questions, but he listened with the utmost attentiveness and was sympathetic and that was mattered the most.
"I should be going," he suddenly said standing up.
"Where too?" I asked, not wanting to lose his company.
"I've got a garden to tend too."
"Oh come on, it's not like the flowers are going anywhere. You need to rest from time to time, all work and no play make a very bad student," I suddenly giggled. "If only Mr. Jennings could be taught to understand such truth! He's always loading me up with endless lessons and reading."
"I thought you liked to read?" Sammy said, sitting down once more.
"I do, just not the sort of book Mr. Jennings has started giving me. I'm more of a novel person, I always look forward to when a new novel by Dickens will come out, but all Mr. Jennings gives me is dull books on ettiquete and proper behavior and droll stuff like that. I am a better student than Jeff though, at least I bother to read what he gives me. Jeff is not so easily made to study his lessons."
"So I guess all work and no play makes a bad student would be Jeff's life policy?"
"No," I sighed, "I'm afraid Jeff's policy is all play and no work, if you ask me, it's those Thompson's having a bad influence on him."
“Where’s young Massa Jeffrey now?” Sammy suddenly asked, beginning to carefully stack the papers that were nearest to him.
“At the Thompsons,” I snorted. “Who would have thought that vain, shallow, and downright annoying Prissy Missy would have caught Jeff’s fancy. Jeff deserves so much better than Prissy!” I rolled my eyes in annoyance.
Sammy had been stacking the papers slower and slower and then ran his finger of the corners to even them out. “Miss Sarah,” he said in an awkward voice, “what is the relation between you and young Massa Jeffrey?”
“Between me and Jeff? Certainly nothing of the romantic sort," I flippantly replied. “We are close, to be sure, but in a brotherly and sisterly fashion. I know he looks upon me as a sister and nothing more.”
“And you?” he almost whispered it.
I thought for a moment, “I love Jeff as a brother; I don’t think I could ever love him as anything else.”
“Uncle is so very disappointed in him,” I kept on.
“He says Jeff is too immature and reckless. He’s not very pleased with the way he is coming out. Not like Jeff is bad, but I don’t think Uncle thinks him dependable enough to help him run the business.”
“If you ask me, it doesn’t even seem like Jeff cares much for helping out with the running of the plantation.”
“He doesn’t,” I confirmed, “Jeff isn’t really big on taking responsibility. That’s one of the reasons why Uncle is so disappointed in him. But hopeful, Oxford will straighten him out.”
“Yes, in the fall Jeff will be travel to England to study. Uncle was thinking between Yale and Oxford and finally decided on Oxford, that's where Uncle himself was sent to study.”
A shadow passed over Sammy’s face. I wondered if perhaps he was jealous that Jeff could go to university and study while he, Sammy, couldn’t. I bit my lip, berating myself for having brought Oxford into the conversation at all.”
“I wish I could study too,” Sammy said at last, with a sad faraway look in his eye.
“I’m glad you’re not going away to study,” I spoke out. “Jeff will be gone and if you were to go away too, I don’t know what I should do.” It was true, if Sammy were to leave again, what would I do? It had only been three weeks since I had found out he had come back, but in that time, he had become my dear friend and confident. He was the only one besides uncle and aunt who knew of my secret and he was the only one I felt completely at ease with. He knew me for who I really was but never once made me feel inferior because of it. What was more, he made me feel like maybe I had some worth after all. I never felt so happy as when I was with Sammy, and I just couldn’t think of him going away somewhere again.
“You enjoy my company then?” He looked up at me with question marks in his eyes.
“I should be quite lost without it.”
“Are you serious?” He looked deep into my eyes, so deep that my heart skipped a beat.
“Yes, I am.”
“Sarah, can I ask you a question?”
“Remember that day, when you had a fight with Mistress Greensten, you asked me what my eyes saw when they looked at you?”
I blushed when I thought of that day. I felt my face go red and turned all the redder for it. If only there was some way to control the blushing and make it less obvious. “Yes, I remember,” I stammered.
“Would you find it hard to answer me if I asked you the same question?”
I bit my lip and cocked my head to the side. What did I see when I looked at Sammy?
“I see an artist,” I stated after a moment of thought. “A true artist, I see hands that though rough are gentle. That can take a flower and tenderly nurture it and make it bloom and grow like no one can. I see a great mind, a thinker’s mind, a mind that thirsts for knowledge. A noble heart, a courageous soul, quiet strength, fearless and brave.” There was no stopping me. “I see…I see a free soul in the body of a slave.”
What had I just said? Only after the words left my mouth did I realize what they meant. I drew a breath, I really had gone too far. But Sammy didn’t seem offended, quite the contrary.
“I hate being a slave,” he spoke in a quiet tone. “I can’t bear the idea that I am owned by another man. I can't come to turns with the fact that I have no freedom, no will of my own. I can’t stand being set apart as something inferior, something beneath others. We were meant to be equal, why should race or skin matter? My heart is just the same as any mans. I have a right to speak, a right to freedom, a right to live as God planned, not as man wishes.” He spoke the words hotly. “Being a slave restricts me, I cannot what I really wish to do and I can't be what I wish to be! I am constantly being held back. If I was a free man, how much I would do, how much I would say, but the invisible chains bind my mouth shut.”
“What would you say, if you were a free man?” I prodded him.
He shook his head, “I’m not a free man, so I can’t say it. I have no right as a slave to say it.”
“Sammy, you and I have always been open with each other, we have never kept secrets. Come, I’ve told you my dark secret, a secret that I would never dare tell a free man. Surely you understand you are free to tell me whatever it is you want to say. I will understand, at least, I will try to understand. Between you and me there was always something greater than the bond between master and slave. Tell me, Sammy, what is on your soul? What is it that you would say if you were a free man?”
I looked so pleadingly into his eyes that he gave in, but not without hesitance.
“If I was a free man,” he slowly spoke, “if I was not bound by chains and color and race. If I was equal with other men, and allowed to walk the same ground with my head held high, I would…I would…” He faltered.
“Yes,” I encouraged.
“I confess to a beautiful young woman that I fell for her the moment my eyes met hers. I would tell her that every time I plant the flowers, every time I till the soil, every time I water them, I do it all for her. I would confess to her that she has captured my heart and that all my waking hours are spent thinking of her. I would tell her that it never mattered to me, who her parents were, where she is from, what her past was. I would tell her that all I ever wanted was to make her future the most pleasant, bright future in the world. I would say how I wish to be the shoulder for her to cry on, the one to dry her tears, the one to constantly remind her that her life is filled with meaning and worth, she just has to look and see for herself. I would confess to her that I loved her, with all my mind, my heart and my soul.”
I felt the blush reach the very roots of my hair. My breathing became quick and irregular. “And who is this girl,” I barely forced myself to ask, “to whom you wish to confess all that too?”
“The girl,” his voice became so quiet I could hardly hear him, “the girl, Sarah, is you.” He leaned over and before I knew it, his lips brushed against mine and all of a sudden I found myself experiencing my first kiss.
Awwwww, aren't to two of them sweet? :) Sammy is such an amazing person, isn't he ;)