A hand gently shook me and a soft voice called out, "Sarah, Sarah."
My eyes shot open and I sat up abruptly, I knew that voice, even though I hadn't heard it for over fifteen years, I could tell it from a mile away. It was the voice of my mother. I blinked a few times, to be sure I wasn't imagining, but no, there she was, my own mother sat in front of me. She looked very much as I had always remembered her, the beautiful golden locks were gathered up in much the same fashion as I was accustomed and she was even wearing that old brown dress that hung in my closet. Only she didn't have that tired, sad look, her face was calm and bright. Looking around, I was surprised to discover we were in the old basement Mama and myself used to live in. Everything was how I remembered it. I was sitting on the old bed, the table and two chairs stood in the corner, the closet by the wall and the crooked window which looked up into the noisy street. The only difference was here everything was still and quiet, nothing moved, nothing peeped, nothing breathed. What was I doing here? How was all this possible.
"Mama?" I tentatively asked, not believing what my eyes were telling me.
"My poor, poor, Sarah," Mama took me into her arms, "what sorrows you have had to live through."
I clung to her as tears began pouring out of my eyes. I hadn't realized just how much I had missed her until now. Those delicate arms that had once rocked me to sleep, the fragile shoulder I had laid my childish head on, and that lovely voice that would sing me lullabies. She had never been cross with me, the only thing she had ever given me was love and I had sorely missed that love after her death, because that love, the love of a mother had never been replaced in my life.
"Oh, Mama, I've missed you so," I sobbed.
"There, there," she soothed, stroking my hair, "I am proud of you, my dear Sarah, my brave little princess."
I pulled away and looked into her sky blue eyes, "am I dead?" I asked. That was the only explanation I could come up with as to why we were sitting together.
She let out a kind laugh, "no, you're not dead."
"But you are?"
"Then...how is all this possible?"
"I suppose you could say you're in that middle place between life and death," she explained, "sort of like a world between the two worlds."
"Oh." I was silent for a little while, pondering this very strange place to be, "and am I going to pass over to your world?"
Mama shook her head, "no, your life isn't over yet, Sarah. You are going to return to the physical realm. What you all call the world of the living and what we call the land of the shadows."
"Then...what am I doing here?"
Mama reached out and brushed some of my curls away, "so many things about your past and your history were kept from you, Sarah," she whispered, "by me, by your aunt and uncle, by many people who loved you and sought to keep you safe. But the truth is, Sarah, there is nothing dangerous about your past. There is sorrow in it, there is pain and bitterness, but all that can be turned into something beautiful. The past that has been kept from you, Sarah, the time has come for you to discover it. You will find much that is wrong, ugly and unjust, but only in understanding what was can you decide on what will be. Let your past guide you through the present and into the future," She placed a soft kiss on my forehead, "always remember this, Sarah, the yesterday that is broken was the today we did not mend."
I opened my eyes and squinted from the blinding light. Why weren't the curtains drawn? The sun's rays were shining right in my eyes. There was a dull ache in my right side, my stomach growled from lack of food and my throat was dry. Casting a look around I noticed I was in the tiny room I shared with Elsie and Evy. Had I dreamed the past events? Bother that light, it was making my eyes hurt. I had just about made up my mind to get up and block it when I noticed a dark face beside me.
"Evy," I said, surprised at how quiet my voice was.
"Sarah!" Evy exclaimed, throwing her little arms around my neck, "you're finally up. The whole household has been haunting the door to your room. Even Prissy would ask how you are feeling."
"Evy, I'm really thirsty," I said, "is there any water?"
"There's a pitcher on the table, I'll pour you some," she chirped, "they've all been so worried, even though your fever broke and the doctor said you were out of danger. I guess they didn't quite believe him."
"What doctor?" I propped up on my elbow, wincing from a sharp pain that shot through my chest.
"The one the colonel brought. He removed the bullet and sewed up your wound, said something about it being a clean wound with no infection. You hung a bit between life and death, but the doctor was sure you would make it. He said you had a strong constitution and he should be very surprised if you should go and die on us. And he proved to be right all the way through. He might visit today or tomorrow and you can meet him and thank him yourself."
"Evy, water," I reminded. She ran over and poured water from the jug into a cup. I grabbed it and greedily drank the contents. "Tell Lulu I'm dying for food," I stated, placing the cup on the table.
"The doctor said if you was to wake up hungry, you'd be better in no time," Evy joyfully exclaimed, "I'll have Lulu bring you something, and I'll even feed you myself." She gave me a big kiss and skipped out of the room. With a deal of pain I propped myself to a sitting position, thinking of a way to gently explain to Evy that while I was thankful for her offer, I would rather feed myself. There was some sort of commotion downstairs. I turned my head to the door just as Sammy came bursting through it.
"Sammy," I gently said, a smile coming to my lips. He stared at me for a few seconds, relief mixing with pain in his dark eyes. Then in a single leap he was at my bedside. He collected my frame in his arms, and I winced from the pain his actions caused. Sammy didn't even seem to notice as he clutched me.
"Oh God, you're alive, you're alive," he whispered in a broken voice, his breathing quick and irregular, "you're awake and you're alive. I was afraid you wouldn't make it, but you did, you did."
"Shhh," I soothed, "it's over and we can just pretend it never happened."
"Pretend it never happened?" He pulled back and looked at me, tears glistening in his eyes, "God damn it, Sarah, I could have killed you?"
"But you didn't," I pointed out, wiping his tears away, "and you should know better than to take the Lord's name in vain. All's well that ends well."
""How could you do it, Sarah, how could you do it to me," He demanded, his hands running through my rumpled locks, "how could you let me shoot you and then have me ride off in cold blood? Have you any idea what it did to me? I, who swore to keep you from all danger, who would sooner die then see you in any kind of pain, I shot you with my own hand. Why, Sarah, why did you jump out like that? Why did you get in the way?"
"I had to, Sammy," I softly said, reaching out to stroke his face.
"But that man was the enemy, Sarah, he was a Confederate!"
A sad smile came to my face, "oh Sammy, my dearest Sammy, must I remind you that I am one as well?"
A choked noise escaped his throat.
"I'm so sorry, truly I am," I went on, "I didn't want to put you through this, but what could I do? Remember when you told me not to speak to you of the sob story that we were on opposite ends of the war, well, this is what I wished to tell you. We have battled the odds in the past, but they were very different from the odds we have now. War changes everything, Sammy, and as much as I love you, I cannot let my feelings get in the way of my duty."
"But you don't support slavery, you don't support anything the South stands for," Sammy passionately burst out, clutching my hand. "Who was that man to you?"
"He is Jeff to me," I looked away from Sammy, "every Confederate soldier, from lowly private to officer, they are Jeff in my eyes. I couldn't let you harm that man, because it would be like letting you harm Jeff. Don't you realize, Sammy, Jeff is the only family I have left."
"What of me?" Sammy turned my face back to him, "what of Elsie and the rest, are not we your family? What if it were me that officer was pointing a gun at, would you have rushed to my rescue?"
"Don't answer him, Sarah!" Elsie's angry voice sounded out. We looked up and saw her enter the room with a tray of food. "And you, Samuel Climb, don't ask such a thing of her. Don't you realize where you are? This is rebel territory, people here are fiercely loyal to the Confederacy and if word got out that Sarah was even remotely sympathetic to the Union, they would string her up on the nearest tree for being a traitor. If they found out she was in love with a Union soldier, a black Union soldier on top of it all, only heaven knows what they would do to her. Had it been Harper pointing a gun at you and she rushed to your rescue, as I know she would, then it would have been better for the bullet to kill Sarah, because at least her death would have been quick and painless. Why, even now, if Prissy where to find out that you are in the room, Sarah might as well go jump off the roof to save herself from a life of shame." Elsie put the tray down and glared at Sammy, "which is why you are going to get up and leave this instant."
"I ain't going nowhere," Sammy stubbornly retorted, "if you have a problem with my being in love with Sarah, then that's your business, but you are not going to have me leave her side."
"Why are you so stubborn?" Elsie exploded. "The pair of you are just impossible. Don't you remember what your little romance led to? Or must I remind you? First, you," she pointed to me, "nearly got him killed. Sam was darn lucky he got away with twenty five lashes and being sold, it could have been a hundred lashes and the hangman's rope. Then, you," she pointed to Sammy, "decided to return the favor and nearly get her killed. The bullet missed her right lung by half an inch, HALF AN INCH!"
Sammy looked away as he wrung my hand; he didn't like being reminded of the whole shooting incident.
"We was all lucky the colonel agreed to send us the surgeon," Elsie continued. "The two of you are playing with fire and you are going to get burned if you keep this up. Sammy, if the colonel finds out..."
"The colonel sent me here, so there," Sammy cut her off.
"Did he now?"
"Colonel White has us patrol the grounds," Sammy explained, "and today I've been sent to this part of the area."
"Oh, so this is your idea of scouting?" Elsie lifted her eyebrow, "nice try, Sam. If you are scouting, then get out there and scout! For the love of mercy, stay away from each other. Don't you realize there is no future? The world will never accept your romance, not now, not in fifty years!"
"I don't need the world to accept it," Sammy barked. "And as for the future, these days we don't know if tomorrow will dawn for any of us. All I've got is today and I am not going to waste it."
"And where is this today going to lead? Cause I sure hope it ain't going to lead to her carrying your half blood bastard!"
I blushed to the very roots of my hair. "Elsie, you shouldn't speak of such things, not out in the open," I mumbled.
If I was embarrassed by her words, Sammy was downright insulted by them. "I am a man of honor, Elsie Climb," he growled at her, "and I would never do anything to so lowly. Sarah's good name is everything to me and I would never tarnish it."
"You being in this room is tarnishing it!" Elsie retorted, "so here is what we are going to do. I've got an errand that needs taking care of, and when I get back, you Sam, are going to be gone. Is that clear?" Elsie didn't give us a moment to answer. She leaned over and placed a kiss on my head. "It's good to see you awake, Sarah. And if you want to stay alive, make sure Sam doesn't return to this plantation." She waved her finger at Sammy and left the room
"She sure has gotten bossy since I last saw her," Sammy grumbled. "It's a good thing she doesn't plan to marry, because any man would sooner hang himself then live with her." He reached for the bowl of soup, but I stopped him.
"Samuel Climb, I am perfectly capable of feeding myself," I firmly stated. He brushed my hand away.
"I don't care," he chuckled, "stop being so stubborn. Come on, let me do this, please? If I were sick I wouldn't let anyone but you feed me."
I rolled my eyes and laughed, "oh fine, if that's the argument you put up. But then you really should leave. It isn't safe for the two of us."
"It's never safe for the two of us," Sammy replied. He fed me the first few spoonfuls, then I pried the bowl out of his hands and ate the rest myself. Once the soup had been tucked away into my stomach, I felt very drowsy. All this talk had worn me out and I wanted to sleep. I yawned and allowed Sammy to tuck me into the covers.
"Now you sleep and the doctor should come and see you soon," he said with a smile.
"Why don't you quote me something to send me off faster," I joked, but Sammy took me seriously.
"Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 't is early morn..."
"Not that!" I opened my eyes and scowled, "that poem has too much truth in it for my liking."
Sammy laughed, "fine, how about this one, Bright Star, would I were as steadfast as thou art..."
By the middle of the poem I drifted off into a deep sleep. I didn't hear Elsie come into the room and drag Sammy out by the ear as though he were a school boy. That part was told to me later by Evy, who saw the whole thing and related it in great detail.
First poem Sammy started quoting is Locksley Hall by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (I quoted it quite a bit in A Blue Rose)
Second poem he quotes is Bright Star by John Keats. The video in the youtube section is a recording of the sonnet, it's a beautiful poem and if you have time you can listen to it :)
Picture in the media sections is Sarah's mother, Evelyn Beverly (well actually it's Nicole Kidman, but you get the point ;) )