Late Winter, Early 1882-New Orleans, Louisiana
She was dead. I sat in a room Herman had rented for me, owned by Herman and Ira’s white sister, Sarah. I thought about what God was ’bout to think of me with all I did. Ira said the best place to put me while they got a ticket to New York City was with Sarah. “We gon hide you in plain sight, Tally! Trust us.”
They didn’t know I saw ghosts the first week I was here. I saw Mister Benjamin on the floor in that cold room. I saw Rebecca ollerin in that empty house. I saw the blood I put on the bed…and I saw her begging me not to take her life. Begging…bleeding and begging.
****One week earlier****
Ira and Isabelle were in the cabin. Isabelle was talkin low, and I held my breath, blew it out. Held it, blew it out. She was in the house. I took the pistol, this Colt, and put both hands around it. “Bella!” Ira was trying to shake her, talk to her. But my mind was firm. I was going to make Daddy stop haunting me, stop Sister Anne from calling to me from the rain in the trees the nights before. “My mother, Ira!”
I had the pistol in my hand, looking at Isabella. I had to ‘member it was loaded. “If she find out that her precious grandbaby got nigra blood in ‘er? What you thank gon’ happen to us?” I heard her breath, heavy like mine. “Or me?!”
Victoria was in the house.
I started prayin. I don’t know why, but I just needed God to know what I was ’bout to do was holy. In the stories I heard in the church services Sister Anne took me to said whenever God was really ready to do something–sometimes the children of Israel had to fight. They had to kill some enemies. “Some wars are righteous!” that old preacher man said.
Victoria was an enemy.
I took a deep breath and walked past Ira and Isabella, inside the house. In red like that cord Rahab had for the spies. I knew that woman would be about to sleep. I knew she fussed with her hair and wanted it brushed before bed. That would be it. After combing her hair…thunder! I stood at foot of the stairs. Watchin as Isabella run towards me, Ira grabbed her, threw her to the ground. “Don’t you stop her!” I breathed. I waited, went up the stairs with my Colt, this stolen pistol with a soul attached, in the sash on my apron. I walked up the stairs. I heard her rustling. “Bella, come brush my hair!”
I got to the top of them stairs, feeling like I was walkin in to open churchyard. Felt eyes on me watchin, just lookin, just waiting! I walked through the door, catchin my own self in the mirror in the red, like some angel of death. She was sitting there, all tall and grand, and went white as that mirror she sat front of. “Tally!” she screamed. She aint move. I aint move. She got to scramperin and all hot looking with sweat. “You are supposed to be with Benjamin! Where is my brother?!” I aint say nothin. I just look at her, looking like my Daddy when them folk come for him–cause of her lie.
I felt the weight of my pistol, cold from the soul that followed it. I knew word would come ‘tween tomorrow and week end about Mister Benjamin. But Imma be gone fore then. I put my hand on it, rubbed it ‘gainst my back. “Isabella!” She was movin towards the door, but I had locked it when I come in. I knew Ira was waitin on me to do what I come to do, and leave like wind. “You and yo lie killed my Daddy!” She looked at me, like a ole dying cat in a corner. “I did no such thing!” I knew she would lie. Sister Anne said she would lie.
I pulled my pistol. I aimed it. I was gettin good at aimin. “Yo lie ’bout my Daddy touchin you sent them demons to my Nan. They killed him and my Nan! So now,” I cocked the hammer on it. I heard Mister Benjamin’s voice as I did. “You finna follow ya brother!” She kneeled. She crawled to me. She cried them big ole raindrop tears. My blood so hot in my ears I barely heard her in that ugly white shift and yellow braids. “Tally, I don’t know your Daddy. But I can get you anything you want!” The aim of the Colt followed her. “I dont want nothin save fuh you to leave this world!” I grinned, my finger itchin. “My Daddy wanted this land he worked. Yo lie stole it. I’m done talkin to a murderin, theiving woman!”
“I dont know your father!” she was screamin. “Hush!” I say. “Just hush!” And then the thunder.
I opened my eyes and saw the hole bubbling in her chest. I walked over to her, eyes at the ceiling, prayin. I knelt close to her, put my 2 fingers in that hole, dug in it. “And that grandbaby, she belong to Ira.” she looked at me, still crying. I pointed the Colt to her face, 4 shots left. “And my Daddy’s name–Paul. Like the Apostle.” I stood over her, her breathin, and bleedin and prayin and put myself above her head again, and pulled the trigger–smiled at the thunder and hole in her head. Just like her brother.
I turned and walked away. Going through the door, looking at the bottom of the stairs. Isabella lookin scared and relieved. Ira looking calm as tub water. “Let’s go.” He say low. “They’ll all be here in the morning. Herman outside.”
I slept alot after what happened in Natchez. Sarah’s bed so comfortable, I thought it was washing my sin from me. When I wasn’t sleep, I was peerin out Sarah’s window. I had no mo family. No mo people to run from, but I had to be here while Ira and Isabelle went to New York. I was gon have to do two trips to make sho’ no one followed me. Or them. So, I was at the mercy of the good sister Sarah. Her Daddy was white, and her Mama Creole so no one bothered her. Herman and Ira say she was their sister—and I wasn’t in no place to ask about this lie.
When I woke up this time, I saw Sarah walking to me, sitting next to me in a chair, like always, soft light on her face. She told me I would be leaving tomorrow. A friend of hers, Victoria, would be taking me to the next stop on my trip before New York–St. Louis. “I trust her.” she say. “I know her daughter, Isabelle. You’ll be fine.” I sat up rooster straight! “She dead.” I say low. Sara looked at me. “I know! I said me and Herman will take you to St. Louis.” I laid back in her soft bed, when I tried to set my eyes to close again, I saw Benjamin and Victoria behind her, bleedin and more white. And I blinked them away. Again.
*Look for this to be a novella late this year, through Divinity Publishing.