Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene

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Chapter 28: Benji Ross

1850 – Dorchester County, Maryland, America

My mind wouldn’t leave Kesha and my newborn son. With each step, my heart broke a little more. My son, my son, my son was the words my feet seemed to make as we walked through thickets. I couldn’t stand to be away from them. Stumblin’ on Minty like that gave me worry she weren’t able to take us all the way. The baby began to fuss and Harriet told us to all hold up for a moment while Sarah nursed. We were all due for a break anyhow.

“How sure are you about this next stop?” I asked.

“As sure as I am about any, brother,” Harriet replied. “I put my trust in the Lord and I know-

“So you ain’t sho’?”

“God never taken me a wrong step yet,” she said.

“But you don’t know these people. Didn’t Leon say their name was Heishman? That’s a white name if I ever heard one.”

“Probably German, they’s good folk.” Her eyes narrowed at me. I could see her body language take the defense.

I took a deep breath. Kesha and my son needed me and I was feelin’ this whole trip was a mistake. “I’m goin’ back,” I said and turned away from her. My heart raced as I was walkin’ towards Robert and the young ‘uns. He gave me a questionin’ look, I didn’t know if he had heard the conversation.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere,” I heard my sister say behind me and then I heard the click of her pistol bein’ cocked and put on the ready. Robert stood and I could see his look fade into horror.

I turned around. “You won’t shoot me sister, I know you won’t.”

“You don’t know what I will and won’t do, brother. Now I’ve had a taste of freedom, it’s what I want for you and all us. It’s a whole lot more than your own feelins right now. We come this far, and I know it’s hard, but I won’t let you leave.”

The gun pointed at me, the idea of goin’ back alone, the padda-rollers, the crackers and their whips, an image of Kesha’s sleepin’ face holdin’ our child, my son, born a slave… emotion got the best of me and I crumbled, I fell to my knees and began to sob. Robert rushed to my side. Harriet holstered her gun back under her coat. “What’s gotten into you, Benji?” Her words were soft, like Mama’s, and it renewed my tears.

“My son was born last night,” I blubbered. “I’ve got to go back. Kesha needs me. My boy needs his daddy.”

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere.” Her words still soft, comfortin’ me like my own mother would. “You think if you go back Massa gonna let you set up house with her and the babe? Benji, my brother, I love you.” She knelt down and put her arms around my tremblin’ shoulders. “It’s because of my love, I’mma gonna make you see this trip through. You’ve got to sacrifice now so you can be a family later. If’n you go back, that dream is over.”

I knew she was right. Snot was cloggin’ my nose but I was gettin’ control of myself. I nodded and stood, then did a farmer blow so I could breathe. “It’s why I had to go back last night, I had to—” Thinkin’ of my wife laborin’ ’n the baby… fresh tears moistened my eyes.

“Once we get you settled and that baby’s big enough to make the trip, I promise I’ll go back for them, brother.” She was so sincere and her face so earnest I couldn’t help but believe her.

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