She had a secret. But everyone knows that love is both blind and dumb. If she’d have me, I’d take Evadine as my wife and we’d run as far from here as our feet could stand to carry us. If it costs me my life.
Her smile could revive my soul like a mouthful of cold blue water out of Cherokee Crick. A glance in her direction and her eyes could do the same. Her presence, like the first rays of Spring-dawn. I knew, if not ever to touch her slender fingers to mine, I would gladly behold the angel, Evadine, that God Himself put on this green earth for me – of that I’m plainly sure.
Although I ain’t quite certain of what I think of God or what he thinks of me. Not much, I’d presume. Not anymore than what Mister saw in me the day he came to buy an allotment of new men to tend his tobacco. I was much younger and stronger then and I had all my teeth. Mister Ashley with his keen slate blue eyes picked me last and ten other slaves; seven older boys and three winches to manage with the affairs of his house and I imagine, for what other purposes he saw fit.
Lord knows he’d need help with the new Missus coming to stay. Miz Sally was a young widow with no children to speak of and it was a good thing because she didn’t have a lick of patience; not one ounce of nurture in her bones. It didn’t take long before Miz Sally and Mr. Ashley had a bun in the oven, but when it came time for her to be delivered she and the baby were unwell and died not one week hence.
The Mr. Ashley was a proud, sad man. Even before this tragedy, always wearing a rain cloud over top his head. Every which way he went, the sullen cloud moseyed on along with him. Like a half-starved hound pup, whining for the meal he smells in your rucksack.
As for the past of Mr. Ashley, it was quite dark. Colored you might say, in more ways than one. I had heard the stories and speculations, but I wasn’t around too long before Miz Sally when he was full of youth and vigor. Truth was, he had many secrets.
When he brought me home he was very much accustomed to whipping his slaves just to say he did. I had never known the flash of fear at the zing of the taskmaster’s whip or the splitting singe of it against my back. But as a child, I’d seen many a man broken before me, downtrodden underfoot like a blackberry smashed in the mud. I’d seen it countless times. My boyish fears played out in my dreams, so much that sleep wasn’t as welcomed as it should be at nightfall.
When would be my turn to stand among them? At no more than ten, I was scared to death of what I was destined to become; a full-grown, blue-blooded Negro. I soon learned to choke down the grief of my fate, as those before me had done and those who would come after me would do also.
It wasn’t long before Mister wed another widow. Miz Catherine was very beautiful but she was in poor health. She had mothered three young children: Silas, Josie and Victoria. Evadine spent many a day being the governess for the three little porcelain urchins that Mr. Ashley had inherited as well as playing companion to her sickly, new Mistress. As for me, I spent many a day as a phantom guardian, watching over my sweet, sweet Evie .