In the Eyes of Jacob

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Two

My chest rises and falls at a rapid rate as the sound of my feet boom against the scattered pebbled path. My dress thrashes around me violently, getting in the way of my quickened pace. I groan in annoyance, wanting to tear at the frilly fabric engulfing me. I gaze up from the large dress, staring at the road in front of me when a brick building appears at the clearing of the thick woods. My eyes land on the few students that stand outside of the one-roomed brick building. I let a sigh escaped my pounding chest in relief, fidgeting with my hands slightly.

"Caroline!" a high-pitch voice squeals out to me in joy. My head snaps around to meet the familiar voice, allowing a small smile to stretch across my features.

"Hello, Faith!" I greet her, waving a hand in her direction.

"My word..!" She gasps dramatically, placing a gloved hand against her expensive garment.

"Wh-What is it?" I stammer, catching her eyes with a wide glance. A wave of insecurity falls over me like a tsunami as my appearance crosses my mind in uncertainty.

"Love, you're dress has bits of leaves and briers covering it!" Faith speaks with dismay coating her words. She lightly brushes her small hands down the side of my dress, attempting to clear the debris from my clothing. "What on Earth happened to you?" she continues.

The young black man pushes his way into my thoughts, sending a chill down my spine in terror.What if he hurts someone? Would I be to blame for not reporting him? I definitely can't explain this to Faith. My eyes grow, trying to pull an excuse from my head.

Faith's eyes reach mine as she cocks a thinly arched eyebrow. "Well..?" She persists.

"Oh, I fell on my way down that road. You know those damn tree roots." I joke, brushing off her look.

"Oh Lord, Caroline. Your mother is going to kill you." Faith states shortly, her hand placed on her out-propped hip.

"This I know," I let out a breath, "I'm constantly getting lectures about something I'm doing wrong. If it's not my clothing, by hell, it's ladylike." My eyes trace the dirt and briers from the bush attached to my dress.

I sense Faith's posture change, causing my eyes to peer up to her. I study her stance and features. Her arms were crossed, and her flawless features were scrunched into a scowl. Confusion crosses my mind, pondering why she would gaze at me with an almost disgusted expression.

The teacher steps out from the one-roomed brick building, holding a gold bell in her hand. She rings it calmly, "It's time for class." My eyes return to Faith's strange gaze; confusion masking any emotion.

Faith closes her eyes while releasing a loud sigh. "You know I love you, Caroline. But have you ever thought that your mother is right? I mean, for one, you're cussing. That isn't ladylike and is seen really unattractive, even though you are beautiful. Try listening to your mother some.." she says, before walking past me into the school building without another word.

My mouth gapes open at the words of my best friend before a scoff escapes my mouth.Since you're so perfect.

"Excuse me, we don't have all day." the teacher states to the remaining students outside, including me.

"Yes, Miss." I bow my head lightly, attempting to show my remorse.

I quickly walk into the building, taking my seat in the classroom center. The wooden desk creaks under my weight, and the splinters stick out from under the desk. My gaze shifts over to Faith, studying her profile. She looks down at her paper, moving the wooden pencil against it. I take my favorite book, 'Life in the Woods,' from my leather bag. I smile to myself, imagining the story and placing myself in his shoes.I wonder if this is really how it is to live a simple life? Alone, in the woods. It shouldn't be bad, but to be alone is unimaginable.

"Well, class, today is the last day of school, and you will be out until mid-October." The teacher beams, clearly as relieved as the rest of the class, "But, as you know, since it is the last day of school, and April, your geography questioning is today."

She clasps her hands together before turning her back to the class. She takes a ruler in her hands, placing a large withered map across her desk.

"Y'all understand how the geography test works." She states, "I will call you up here, point to a place, you tell me the coordinate. Simple."

Oh my, I forgot to study! Darn, you 'Life in the Woods!' I gulp, closing the book on my desk.

"Any volunteers?" the class remains silent as annoyance plays in the words of our teachers.

"Margret, would you like to take your test?" the teacher slaps the ruler in the palm of her hand.

A short girl with red hair stands up slowly, making her way to the front of the room, keeping her arms firmly behind her back. Margret stands in front of our teacher before leaning over to look at the map. Mumbles are heard across the room as Margret and the teacher talk about the map. Student after student pass, as my mind begins to wander from the task at hand.

That boy. Man? I wonder how old he is. Or where he came from. I wonder if his wrists are doing any better; those blisters were horrid... Maybe he's been caught and hung? Why am I even thinking of this slave? I play with a strand of my hair, staring down at the cover of my book.I pray he hasn't hurt anyone. I really should report him, but to whom? Rumors would surely spread like wildfire. Maybe to Father? Or should I tell mother first? I'll forget about it; it's not my issue.

"Caroline!!" A yell pulls me from the questioning thoughts that swarm in my mind. I quickly peer up to meet the teacher's gaze across the room.

"I called your name three times, Caroline!" she states, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Oh, I'm so sorry..." I stutter my words out the best I can, embarrassment pumping through my veins.

The teacher sighs, shaking her head, "Well, c'mon then, take your test."

I glance in the direction of Faith, almost asking for reassurance in a way. She mouths a 'go,' a small smirk across her features. I stand up before walking down the center of the classroom; snickers and whispers echo in the old schoolhouse. I mentally roll my eyes at the ignorance surrounding me.Typical.

I give the teacher a small smile, only to be met with cold and agitated eyes. I peer over the map, waiting for the teacher to ask me the coordinates.

--

I inhale sharply, feeling myself a little on edge. I shake the thoughts of the runaway slave from my mind, hoping for the best. I hum a quiet tune to myself as the sound of my footsteps against the gravel pierce the wind.I wonder if Father is home from town yet. Maybe he brought me more paper for my journal. I've been out for a week now.There's just so much I must write about! I smile in excitement, causing my pace to quicken.

The path leads out to the road to my home, as the sight of the large white home comes into view. I gaze out across the fields of workers picking cotton in the scorching heat. The sun was high in the sky, seeming only about two in the afternoon. A mid-sized carriage sits in the front of my home as questions pester my mind.That's odd; I didn't believe we were expecting visitors.

Shackles hang from the back of the carriage covered in a copper color.Is this rust or blood? The chained cuffs rock back in forth in the slight airy breeze surrounding me; I walk by the carriage, an uneasy feeling settling over me.

"I'm home!" I call out through the house to anyone of interest.

"Welcome home, Miss Caroline," Ellen calls out to me with a large toothless grin. She takes my bag in her hands, hanging it on the hook pinned on the wall.

"Is father home?" I ask her persistently, excitement for the paper I needed so badly.

"Yes, dear, he is-"

"Really! Well, where might he be?" I interrupt Ellen's enthusiasm beaming from me.

"He's in the living area wi-"

"Oh, I must see him! He's been gone for three days, Ellen!"

"Miss Caroline, your father is very busy right now-!" She calls out to me in a muffle as I rush towards the living area entrance. I smile a wide grin, excitement booming through me.

I pull the door open with a harsh yank. The door creaks loudly as I peer into the door.

"Father-!" I screech in joy before I am stopped in my tracks.

My eyes grow wide as I gaze into the room filled with men. My father sat comfortably in his chair, gazing down at a dirty paper tightly grasped in his hands. In front of him stood two nicely dressed white men quietly talking amongst themselves. These men were clearly from north of here, as their clothing was nicely made of velvet and lace. One man looked to be around my father's age or only a couple of years younger than him. While the other looked to be in his mid-twenties. Someone stood behind them, but I decided to pay them no mind.

"Well, hello, Caroline." My father says in a monotoned voice, his eyes never leaving the paper in his hands.

The two men cease their mumbling, turning their attention to me. I gulp, avoiding the gazes. I straighten my posture to look presentable in front of these strangers.

"Yes, father, I came to ask if you had brought any paperback from your journey into town?" I question him, cupping my hands together and raising my chin.

Father places the flyer type paper down on the small table beside his chair, adjusting his sitting position to face me slightly.

"Miss Caroline, Master is very busy right now. C'mon now, and I will make you a bath." Ellen comes up behind me, bowing slightly.

"Oh-I-Um." I stumble across my words, my gaze switching between the men in the room.

"Slave, leave." My father says, clasping his hands together.

She bows quickly, hurrying her way back down the long hallway.

"I'm sor-"

"Nonsense, Pumpkin, you know I always have time for you. And to answer your question, I didn't get any this time." He gives me a warm smile before standing to his feet. He makes his way toward me, wrapping his arm around my shoulder.

"Oh, I see," I say in disappointment, walking forward with my father.

"So have ya fellas met my lovely daughter?" My father beams toward the men in front of me.

"Why I don't think I have." One of the men say, an odd tone coating his words.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Caroline." The other man smiles, moving his black hair under his hat, "My name is Chance." I cock an eyebrow as he bows respectfully in front of me.

"Pleasures all mine." I grin, curtsying in front of him kindly. My father passes the other man a large smile before returning to his chair.

"And I'm Chance's father. You can call me Mr. Henson." He states, crossing his arms over his bulky chest.

A piercing sound of metal against the hardwood floor echoes throughout the room, causing everyone's attention to turn to look behind Mr. Henson and Chance.

"Be still, you worthless shit." Mr. Henson hissed behind him.

My eyes follow his line of sight before landing on the black man behind them. My mouth gapes open in shock and terror. My heart pounds loudly in my ears, almost causing a ringing to emerge from the silence. The man stood in the same tattered shirt, covered in dirt and leaves. His wrists were still covered in bloody blisters, which were worse than before. A new cut was above his brow, causing a chill to run down my spine. I feel the blood run from my face as a nauseous feeling engulfs my gut. His eyes are latched onto the hardwood below us, avoiding eye contact at all costs. His knees were clearly trembling and sweat-drenched his clothing and his skin. He was the same man in the woods who consumed my thoughts.

"So what in the hell are we gonna do with this runaway?" Mr. Henson sighs, turning back to my father in an agitated manner. "Cause I can't take'em. We have too many at our plantation at this moment."

"Could always sell him." Chance chimes in nonchalantly.

"Well, I'll leave you to it." I stammer, forcing my words from my mouth.

I quickly exit the room, rushing past Ellen, and up the stairs. My heart racing with uncertainty and fear.

What if he recognizes me? I need to sleep.
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