"Miss, I must inform you breakfast is ready." The shaking voice of an older woman calls from the door.
"Yes, Ellen." I nod, even though she could not see my expression.
I stand to my feet, gazing back into the mirror. A smile tugs gently at the edges of my lips.
'Oh, Ellen.' I thought.
Ellen was an older woman. A kind and fragile soul, as I always thought her to be. She had been with my family for some time now since I was a mere four years old. I've heard the stories of how I would take off my clothes and rush around the house, butt naked. I chuckled lightly at the thought. She would catch me and force me to put my dress back on, which I despised. Ellen would tell me;
"You keep on runnin' round this house like dis; I'm gonna have to beat that lil naked booty!" I reminisce, smiling thoughtfully at the story told.
Of course, she never said these things in front of my parents, as they would not laugh as we did. After all, she was a slave, a house slave, to be specific. Any talk of beating me of any sort would've earned her a lashing until bone. Thank the Lord above that never occurred though, Ellen was far too different than the normal slave.
I lace my shoes, drowning in my thoughts, a small grin across my face. Once finished, I continued my way down to the kitchen. I step down the stairs, the smell of the mouth-watering food engulfing my senses. Excitement boils in me as I hurriedly rush to finish the stairwell.
"My, My! Well, don't that smell like daisies on a clear spring day!" I beam with enjoyment before sneaking a small piece of bacon from the plate beside Ellen.
"Mm, honey! I knew it was your favorite! Anything for my baby Caroline!" Her toothless smile brings happiness through my bones.
"What time is it, Ellen?" I questioned her, unsure.
"Miss, you have time to get to school. Don't you worry bout that sweet pea." She patted my hand gently, giving it a light rub. I give her a small nod in response before she slides the greasy bacon onto my plate. I take the biscuit, breaking it in half, drizzling gravy over the fluffy bread.
"You gon be sixteen tomorrow, am I right?" Ellen cocks an eyebrow in my direction.
"Why, yes." I grin up at her.
"Oh, my word! Aren't you just a sproutin' up like a weed!"
A giggle escapes my lips before taking a small bite from the bacon.
I hummed joyfully, chewing on the greasy bacon lightly grasped between my fingertips. An obnoxious clicking of heels pierced the air surrounding Ellen and me. I spun around gently to face the loud noise; it's sound growing almost to an ear-splitting volume.
"Now where on earth did I put my pearls! My Lord, I just had them merely two minutes ago!" An all too familiar voice rings out in a distressed manner.
"Why good morning, Mother," I stated, hurriedly placing the delectable bacon back on its fine china. My tastebuds cried in agony as I missed the sweet taste the pork had brought me.
"Oh!" My mother snapped her head in my direction, placing a hand over her large chest, "Caroline, my dear, you scared me."
"Oh? I apologize, Mother." I expressed with a nonchalant manner, straightening my posture.
"All is well." She let out a sigh, turning her nose up slightly.
"Hm." Mother hesitated, making her way in my direction.
Mother's heels clinked with a thud with each step, causing Ellen to flinch with every movement.
"My love, and why do you eat this greasy garbage?" She questioned me, placing a delicate hand on her large hip.
"Wh-I.." I stuttered, taken aback by her sudden interrogation.
She dreadfully placed her fingertips against her temple as her expression grew frustrated.
"Caroline, you know you must stay thin and delicate for marriage, do you not?" Mother's eyes darted up at me with her last word, sending daggers straight through me.
"Mistress Victoria, that be my fault. I-I just wanted to make her favorite for her.." Ellen stuttered, grasping a towel lightly into her hands.
"Hold your tongue, Nig.." My mother snapped, interrupting Ellen.
"Mother, please!" I pleaded in an annoyed tone, "I understand; I will watch what I eat."
My mother glared profusely toward Ellen, who could only drop her head.
"Good." She stated before trudging back down the hall.
A warm breath released from me as my shoulders relaxed slightly.
Mother stops in her tracks, spinning to face a small side table with a lamp and dainty decorations.
"Ah! There are my pearls!" She gleamed with joy, holding them up to her eyes almost to inspect them closer.
"I was about to get angry; I started to think someone got to pilfering." My mother's beaming smile fades, staring back at Ellen with hateful eyes.
My eyes followed my mothers, leading to a trembling Ellen. My lips parted slightly before my eyes fell to the wooden floor.
"Ellen, dust this table." My mother demanded, continuing to tread down the hallway.
Ellen scurried to the polished oak table, rubbing a cloth along its smooth reflective surface.
I stare down at my intertwined hands placed comfortably in my lap. My brows furrowed in a confused yet frustrated manner.
Why? I pondered. Why must I be thin, to please? Why must I be perfect? Why must we speak to them this way? Why does everything feel so wrong, but I've been told that it is right? My mind raced and spun uncontrollably, confused, and unhappy.
"Miss, you outta hurry to make it to school," Ellen states, not looking up from her dusting.
"Oh! Yes!" I jumped from my seat at her words, grabbing my messenger bag from the floor.
I rushed out the screen door, quickly skipping down the steps and the pebbled path. I smile to myself, feeling the spring air flush across my skin.
I inhale, smelling the surrounding pines. The long greenery dances with the wind, as one would with their love. The cotton field's white glare was bright and blinding, but, my, it was stunning. The Mississippi hills were a sight to be seen, as they appeared almost as large green waves across the land.
I follow the dirt road into the forest, humming cheerfully with each step. The blistering spring sun was covered by the pines' straw, causing its broiling heat to cease, at least for now. The thick forest surrounds me; dead leaves and bushes lie at my feet.
An uneasy feeling stumbles into my gut, triggering my steps to slow almost to a snail's pace. A loud snap comes from the forest beside me. I jump backward as my body trembled unnervingly.
Okay, okay. Just breathe. It's probably just a squirrel, or you're just losing your mind, Caroline. I think, in an attempt to calm my frayed nerves. Damnit, I'm still shaking.
The loud crunching sound draws nearer, causing me to step away from the bushes.
Oh damn, Caroline! Get some courage! I give myself a small pep talk, furrowing my brows slightly.
I reluctantly move toward the bush as the rustling noise comes to a halt. My hand slowly reaches for the thorny bush, snapping it back with one movement. I instantly jump back, my eyes staring wide in astonishment.
In front of me stood a tall young black man. Our eyes peered strongly into the others, locked in a gaze. His eyes were wide and frantic, and his chest huffed in rapid motions. His limited clothing was almost completely shredded and covered in brown and red stains. Is that a potato sack? Wait?! Is that blood?! My thoughts race through my mind as fear lingers in my pounding chest. Chains hung from one of his wrists, as a cuff was tightly secured, agitating the fleshy wound. Clearly, the blood dropped from the blisters across his skin. He was lean yet muscular. I couldn't take my eyes from him as I inspected him thoroughly. It seemed he, too, looked over me. His skin glistened in the heat, allowing the sweat to roll down his forehead.
Oh, no.. he's a runaway..! I panicked, taking one step back. Oh, my Lord, he's gonna kill me! What do I do? Why couldn't it of just been a squirrel?!
My shoulders tense up, I clench my fist tightly, praying.
I inhale sharply, closing my eyes for a split second. No, I must stand my ground. Be firm. You can do this. Just-
"Hey, sl-!" I gazed up, speaking with false confidence. Only to realize he was nowhere to be found. "Ah-?"
I quickly peer around me, but I seemed to be alone.
I wonder if he has been reported yet? Should I, or maybe-? Wait! School! Damnit!!
I realized I had had a stare off for what seems like ages. I run down the dirt road, praying to reach school on time.