Don't you cry no more
With its pale, sad glow, the newly awakened sun hid behind the large oaks that still danced in the wind. The sky was bright blue and free of clouds, which made it feel more like an early morning in May, instead of February.
It was a beautiful dawn, and Annabelle became a little melancholic when she thought about how much she would actually miss her family; Katherine, Simone and all the others, who she usually didn’t notice, but still found it hard to live without.
Annabelle felt that she was close to tears, and since she was already late, she decided that it would be a good idea to leave for the stables. As she walked on the wet grass she heard birds singing, and even though the day was gloomy and sad, Annabelle smiled, for she knew that the song of birds meant that spring was coming.
Outside the stables stood three proud horses saddled and waiting - ready to go, just as Charlotte had said. Annabelle had never really liked horses, and though she would not dare to admit it, she was frightened by the thought of riding. Such large, strong animals could not be tamed, she was sure of it. Therefore, without her really thinking about it, she started to go a little slower when the sight of the horses appeared in front of her.
But no matter how slowly you go, you will always get to the finish line, and when Annabelle at last stood in front of the horses, she did her best not to let her scared feelings show. “I used to ride once a day, when father still was home,” she lied to Alice, and held her head high compared to the girl beside her, who hunched and pulled at the wide sleeves of her dress.
“Father taught me everything I know about horses and riding.” Annabelle heard how self-righteous her own voice seemed, but Alice just smiled faintly at her, as if she had not heard the mean tone in Annabelle’s voice.
“In Atlanta, before the war broke out, I used to ride, too,” Alice said gently, like she was dreaming, and turned her gaze to the sky. “My parents loved horses, and so did I. I had a horse, Adelaide, and I got her when I turned four.” Alice smiled somewhat, and her face lit up at the memory of the past. “She was just a baby when she came into my possession, and we grew up together.”
Then suddenly the smile was erased, as if she thought of something terribly sad.
“But she... died,” she whispered vaguely. Annabelle, who had stood up while Alice was talking, and devotedly listened to the girl’s story, looked sad too. She did not know what to say, for the silence between them made her feel slightly uncomfortable.
“What a beautiful name,” she said, then, honestly, and then tried to say it out loud, “Adelaide.” Alice did not answer Annabelle, because their coachman, a man with bushy black hair and a ripped coat, appeared.
“Miss Annabelle. Miss Alice.” He nodded toward the two girls, and then helped them one by one up on their horses.
The eternal sound of galloping horses would usually have made Annabelle go crazy, but now she did not think too much about it; instead, she focused more on what was happening around her.
They had traveled all day; she, Alice and Jonathan, their guide (actually the family’s gardener, but Charlotte had not found anyone else that knew the way to where the girls were going). They had traveled along small paths in the woods, riding past rushing rivers and listening to birds singing beautiful songs. They had stopped on a hill, empty of trees, with grass shining green and soft, to eat their food.
Alice, who turned out to be quite useful, had lit a small fire out of branches from the dark forest behind them, and merely the sight of the orange flames made heat pulse through Annabelle’s body. Then, Alice had taken out the raw chicken, and put it on another branch, to roast it over the fire. Annabelle was very impressed by Alice’s hidden talents, even though she did not say anything. She should not be too proud, Annabelle thought, and forced herself to remember the strong hatred for Alice that once had burned warm in her body.
Annabelle and Alice had sat there, eating in complete silence, as their guide had watched the horses, who were busy eating grass. There had been such a beautiful view from where the girls’ had sat - they could see the endless forest spreading out below the hill, and they watched how the sun disappeared more and more behind the trees, leaving only darkness behind. They saw how the sky adopted into a pale pink hue, and how golden streaks spread like clouds around the setting sun. Lonely birds appeared as black streaks on the sky, and Annabelle was reminded once again of how spring was approaching.
Then, when the sky had become almost pinkish-purple and the sun was hidden behind the trees, Annabelle rose. Briskly, she brushed away the leftover crumbs from her dress and nodded to the guide to pick up after them. Alice followed Annabelle like a shadow, and the two girls were both too tired to say a word. They had a long night in front of them, and it was so long that Annabelle began to wonder if time had stopped, because the sky retained the same color hour after hour, and it never seemed to change to the black of night.
Finally, after so many hours that Annabelle no longer knew if she was asleep or awake, the little company stopped outside a small house, built entirely out of wood. Annabelle could barely see its colors, for during the last hour of their journey, darkness had crept up behind them. Now the forest swam in the dark, with a crisp, white moon as the only glimmer of light. The stars could not be seen due to the tall trees surrounding them, which Annabelle found fairly peaceful. Suddenly a cool, thin hand grabbed her and the sound of a horse galloping away echoed among the whispering trees.
“Annabelle,” a voice said, fumbling in the dark. “Alice.” Annabelle replied calmly, as if she somehow tried to fool herself that she was not scared by the darkness. “Annabelle and Alice, I presume?” The voice came from in front of them, from the house, and Annabelle’s heart calmed down when she realized that it must be the owner of the house, who had come to lead them to their new home. But then something broke within her, and she tore herself away from the cold hand.
“Jonathan?” She cried into the darkness, and was surprised by how well her voice echoed through the forest.
“Miss Annabelle?” Slowly their guide became visible. His voice was as friendly as always, though now slightly trembling, and Annabelle realized that he too was afraid of the dark. She rushed towards him, with the dark dress sweeping on the wet, dark soil.
“Jonathan, promise me, you have to promise me...” She paused for a moment and then turned around, as if to make sure that Alice was still standing a few meters behind her. “Do not go home. Flee. Away, to Richmond, Atlanta, New York, wherever you want - just do not go home again. You are free.” She took a deep breath. Mother would be furious at her, but she did not care. She was free, and so was the man in front of her. “Do you hear me? Flee, I say.”
Jonathan was just about to answer the girl, when Annabelle interrupted him. “It is an order.” Then she smiled a little. “Come on, go now, Jonathan. May God bless you on your journey.” She said the last sentence a little quieter, because she did not want Alice to hear.
Although she had grown up as a spoiled child, she was against everything that had to do with slavery. They were servants, not slaves. If she could decide, all southern slaves would live as free people, and the war would end with peace. I can not help it, she thought to herself as she walked back, towards Alice. I guess I grew up on the wrong side.