Natchez, Mississippi-Spring 1881
It wasn’t gon be long now. I watched Isabelle on that back porch just a’rockin. Not a care in God’s creation. She was doing a needlepoint, something her Gram had taught her how to do. All that restlessness she was havin, I knew she was gon have a boy. I told her to make sure she counted the kicks ever’time she felt ’em.
I had a little patch of dirt off to the side of Orpah’s clothesline. It was just enough light to grow my foxglove and oleander. A stray dog had eaten my Dolls eyes seeds and died not long after I got to Ms. Victoria Folson’s house. Ira was still a groundsman at the house, even though there wasn’t much ground for him to man. We buried that ole dog in the winter garden. It wasn’t until after Christmas that we found out that ole dog wasn’t a stray. It belonged to Mr. Andrew across the road. When he came to call on Ms. Victoria about the dog, Ira hid behind the door when Orpah answered it.”Girl, have you seen my dog? I ain’t seen him in a coon’s year!” I remember being in the parlor when he said that. I pictured that lil beady eyed man in them dirty duds talkin to Orpah. Before Christmas he tried to take me at Ms. Victoria’s. He saw me coming from the upstairs tending to Isabelle. He looked at me like a was a sweet in a window sill! I walked passed him, and he grabbed my apron–in his dress clothes no less!
He moved to grab my face when Ms. Victoria caught him. He was looking like a field mouse that caught sight of’a big ol’ owl. Them beady blue eyes lookin back at me on the step and Ms. Victoria by the door. He let my apron go, and went towards the great room. I felt all my breath leave my chest. I heard Ms. Victoria head down the hall while “That cad! Caint even keep his hands off the nigra girls!” I heard her stomp away so loud I thought she was bout to come through the floor.
But, that didn’t change my plan. I knew what I had come here for. I knew the foxglove would be ready soon. Sister Anne told me that at first it’ll look like a weed, and when got a real pretty blue, like the sky? Then, it would be ready.
Isabelle was sleeping more, eatin more, and I knew that that big boy was gon be in the world by end of the Spring! Right before May. Isabelle had already had me walk with her up and down the hallway by her room because she thought the baby was coming four nights ago. Sister Anne told me when women do that the labor was gon’ be hard.
I thought about all of this, while I watched her with that needle in that chair on that porch. Ira had come in and tapped me on the shoulder, covered from chin to knees in dirt. Ms. Victoria had asked him weed and plant some roses along the East side of the house. he looked at me for a hard minute fo’ went through the back door, leaving me in the kitchen ‘tween the stove and sink. I stared, kept staring at how Ira looked at her when he passed Ms. Isabelle in that chair. He brushed her hand, and she didn’t move. Ms. Victoria was calling on Ms. Violet up the road a’ways, and would be back fo’ Orpah could make supper. I just watched. She didn’t look up, didn’t flinch. Her dark brown hair was down because she wouldn’t let me or Orpah fix it. But I knew her mama would fit to be tied if she come home and saw her all indecent.
But it was somethin about how Ira touched her hand. Something about how they were never in the same place. If they were, one would hurry up and leave. I know that Ms. Victoria talked to spirits and the like. Sister Anne said alot of them old White missuses did. But I knew that Ms. Isabelle’s husband died for I come here. But I knew no woman could be pregnant mo’ than a year. I felt my eyes get big as the moon, and I put my hand over my mouth.
“That baby ain’t…it’s Ira’s.”