Late Spring-Early Summer 1881-Natchez, Mississippi
I had gotten it from the peddler that had come around Mr. Benjamin’s house more than I would like. He was sellin lye, needle and thread and buttons and tallow. I was determined to get outta Mr. Benjamin’s house as fast as God would let me.
In the sermons that old man with hair white as cotton my Mama had to pick said, “Sometimes the Good Lord gives us all the tools we need for our freedom. Sometimes those tools come from the most unlikely sources.”
They sure do, Reverend Hunter. They sure do.
I walked around with that powder in my apron pocket for more than a week. I held in my pocket with this doll-like child asked me for something. When I had to hide from her father. When I went outside to hang wash. I kept it, I kept it. I don’t know if I was unsure or scared. I knew what would happen if I gave the girl who thought I was a Christmas toy this. I knew what would happen if I gave all of it to her father that watched me sleep from the door.
But the day, I ran from that house? I ain’t ever felt as free!
I don’t know how I decided I was going to give to either one. But I knew something had to happen when I woke to feel his hand on my rear end. I sat up, looking at him stock straight. If I had a pistol, he was far enough away from me that I knew I could hit it. And kill him. I had to leave. When he left the room, I felt my breath caught deep in my chest. I closed my eyes, feeling the tears come out my eyes. I covered my eyes and tried to sleep.
Mr. Benjamin took tea when he went to bed. He always wanted me to brang it to him. I knew that if I gave him enough
“And dragged by the nose as asses are.”
I was sitting there in a sea of fifty chairs, listening to the lecture given by Dr. Clark. The first week of class I had committed his scent and physical details to memory. He was a shade under six-feet tall. His eyes were this shade of blue-green that flickered when he laughed. He was career US Navy from Annapolis. I bit my lip when we he talked. I heard sparks of his drawl when he explained the syllabus. “We will do two Blue Book exams, and two papers. Minimum five to ten pages.”
He was talking about Othello the second week of class meeting. Discussing why we were doing this play first. I started doing Kegels. I mean, I loved Othello. And I had never encountered any instructor like him. Passionate. Hot. Charismatic. He was well-read and just someone I knew if I got office hours with? I’d end up naked.
I thought about him for two months after the registration with Ms. Harrison in October. I thought about sitting on his desk in his office. If it faced the window, how far it was from the elevator. I thought about if his desk was crowded or could I sit on it with my legs on his shoulders. I thought about how his bottom lip tasted.
I wanted him.
I chewed on the end of my pen looking at the cognac colored Cole Haan shoes he wore. He still walked like he was still military, and talked with his hands. He was funny. And I moved close enough now the rows of desks to catch wafts of his cologne. He went from Armani Mania to Polo Black.
I closed my eyes this time and thought was it must have been like to have been with him while he was younger. All fresh and uniformed and available.
I was chewing my Pentel pen, grateful for the distraction. I had counted my Kegels, I was up to 40–counting a 3-beat before going to the next number. “I’m almost always available in my office in the morning. My best access to my students–you my friends, Romans and countrymen–is in the morning.”
Mornings are always best. My Cancer horoscope for the month of January, according to Cosmo, said that the ‘stars are aligning for optimum encounters with a special someone.’ I stretched my seat, saw his face turn my way, hoping that he caught my breasts and pretty lacy white bra that I knew peeked out of it.
I wanted him to see me. It thrilled me last class when he stayed on the left side of the room where I sat, always sat, and I could see and study just how in shape he was. As he leaned against the door jamb explaining his grading system. I thought about if I rode him, like I wanted to, if he would like me calling him “Daddy,” or did he prefer ‘John’ while he impaled me over and over again.
Pantysoaker Clark was going to be mine. And I was going to leave my white lacy panties with my number in his mailbox with the pink gift box in my red backpack. Let’s see if I could grab his attention by the throat. His cock would be next.
I think that I fell in love with him the moment he opened his mouth.
I sat in my Psychology class that I was probably not supposed to be in yet, but I needed something to offset the rigor of my Biology program. I found this class through the genius of my academic advisor. “You’ll like this class,” she said. She had short brunette hair and purple cat-eye glasses. Her crows feet broke through the veneer of her smile. Susan Harrison had been doing advising for lost, academically lusting people of the College of Arts and Sciences for better than twenty years. “It’s Shakespeare, and I think you’ll like it. Dr. Clark is one of our best instructors.”
My mouth had gotten dry, and my ears popped. It was how she said instructor that caused this whole body flush to go through me. I licked my MAC glossed lips and took the schedule she handed to me so I could leave her office. I smoothed my jean jacket and black Maxi dress. “Thank you, Ms. Harrison.” I smiled, adjusting my purse on my right shoulder before leaving.
I left UM-St. Louis’s College of Arts and Sciences and headed to the bookstore to price my book for my Shakespeare class. I walked at a brisk pace, happy for the warm breeze to disperse the heat which was overwhelming me. I just needed to price my book and leave campus.
I made it to the campus bookstore and all but sprinted to the English section. I gathered my box braids to one side and put them in a loose ponytail. I needed every possible avenue for this heat to be gone from me. I thought about Dr. Clark. I had hoped I would have gotten Dr. Gaston for this class. I had a crush on Dr. Clark since I saw him at the Shakespeare festival last Spring. He was standing by the other faculty, all tall and with his fresh haircut.
I remember I bit my lip as I memorized his hair color. Blond, no. Strawberry blond. Beard neatly trimmed and wearing a black Polo shirt. He was laughing with Dr. Schreyer and Dr. Vega–all of them retired US Navy. Dr. Schreyer and Dr. Vega looking like everything tall, dark and handsome. My friend Brienna told me they all took turns teaching the 4,700 Shakespeare classes.
All of them handsome as hell.
I had watched them talk, how they were so regular and easy together. His voice sent ripples through me. Brienna, the reason why I was there, and the reason why I wanted to stand behind Dr. Clark and see what cologne he wore, smiled at me.
“Oh, you found the love the my life, Dr. Clark,” her laugh resonate and knowing. I grinned at her, sure my walnut brown face was turning red. She smiled at me, her green eyes in her light brown face flickering. I licked my lips and looked back over at Dr. Clark laughing again, touching Dr. Schreyer’s shoulder. “Girl.” I looked over at him, and could only think of being pinned to his office door. With his hands everywhere.
I knew that he was a Southern gentleman. Brienna had told me as much, which let me know that he knew how to eat a peach: Knows how sweet they are, when they are ripe…and how best to eat them. I thought how his mouth would taste. “He wears Polo Black too.” I looked back at her, and we laughed. Loud. Maybe a little too hard.
I looked up from my inappropriate giggle to see Dr. Clark looking at us and smiling. I smiled back like the polite girl I am.
From that festival, to registration, to finding these books, I was about to find out why Brienna, Jasmine and Halle nicknamed the accomplished Dr. John Clark ‘Pantysoaker.’
Summer 1881- Jackson, Mississippi
The wind had got sucked outta me.
I had been in this strange place with this too soft bed, with the Master of this house looking a little too long, and a little to hard at me. I looked at out window of the old slave shack I was in and thought about how all had happened, happened to me.
I had been at Mr. Benjamin’s house for a week. I had overheard Miss Victoria tell him that my usefulness with her and Victoria was over. “I don’t like how she and my girl get on! She listens to her more than me!” I was in the hallways of this big, ole house, playing with this girl with the big eyes and brown hair. She kept calling my name, and telling me her name was Rebecca, just like in the Bible. She was pulling at me, and telling me all about some doll her Daddy give her. “Tally, and we are gonna have so much a time Tally!”
I stood there in that window, and was just thinking. I had been at this place a week. Seven days and thought about how else I could get back to Jackson. I had a room in the house right next to Rebecca’s. But the first time that Mr. Benjamin come in there on me? I had to make sure everyone was hard sleep before I could rest good. He just stood at the door, just looking at me. He looked at me, closing that big heavy white door after him. Standing there in his night clothes, gaze so hard that thought he’d set me on fire. I thought I saw him looking at me, and I squeezed my eyes shut. I hoped he was a dream, and would go as quick as he come.
Tonight, this night I had to sneak out and think. I had to get back to Ira. I had to tell Orpah what I knew she knew. I had to leave before Mr. Benjamin really tried to come in on me, and take what was never gon be his. I looked down at my hand, looking at the red rag in it. I thought about what had come to me, and what I was about to do. I knew that if I took what was in my hand, I wouldnt have but a day or so ride to Natchez where Ira was. Or else they’d try to bury me while I was still breathin. But it was too far to walk, and too dark to try. If I didn’t take this pinch of oleander and foxglove, I might as well be dead for real.
Once that baby in that ole house get to bein, lookin, just like Ira, I knew Miss Victoria had just enough evil in her to kill Ira just like she did my Daddy. The only thing keepin Ira, Tabitha and Orpah from the Good Lord was time. And I ain’t know how much more of it we had. I sucked in a big breath of wind, and walked back to the house. If I was gon do this right, I needed a snake to catch a bigger snake! Mr. Benjamin was the brother of the woman that killed my Daddy. He was gon be just what I needed to get back to Natchez.
Summer 1881-Jackson, Mississippi
My Missus wanted me to go with her out of town. The baby was big enough that me being gone for a while, at least two days. I hated to leave Isabelle and Tabitha. And Even Ira. I was scared out my head. I was jumpy for weeks. Weeks!
I sat in this hot coach ‘cross from the woman that had caused my Daddy to hang lower than a tree limb. I thought about Sister Anne. I thought about my grandmother. I thought about the last piece of advice Sister Anne told me before I left her house almost three years ago.
“You got to be careful ’round dem folk, Tally. Stay low. Be low. And if something not of the Most High happ’m? Run like a demon gotcha, baby!”
Miss Victoria was sleeping. Eyes closed and hands all perfect in her lap. Orpah was left in charge while she was gone. I still didn’t know why this woman asked me to go with her. “For company.” she said. “Tabitha needs some time with her own Mama, she always hanging on you!” It was how she said that. Like I was dirty or something that should be living outside. I watched her hand on my shoulder, lookin like a claw off some crab in a basket. I made my mouth break into a smile. “Yes, ma’am.” Those words tasted like vinegar.
We hit a bump that broke me free of the memory. I wanted to talk to Ira. I needed to talk to him. Orpah mighta known. The way she looked at me in early July while she was hangin the wash let me know she knew. How she made sure the was never in a whole lotta light. It was getting to be the thick of summer. And Orpah and I was just watching Tabitha to see if she would turn as brown as bread. If she did, I didn’t know what lie I could tell to save her, me or Ira. Especially, Ira.
I took in the whole sight of Miss Victoria. Gold earrings. Stringy hair that she made Orpah fuss over into this pile on her head. She wore blue because her Nan told her that ‘ladies always wear blue for luck.’ Her dress was hemmed, and she had a new corset. I looked at her chest struggling to keep her breath in it. I got this sick feeling way down deep in me, stirring and rolling like.
I aint never had to be sold. But I knew that fear made my Mama run. That rolling, sick feeling is what I had the last time I thought I was gon be taken from my Nan. I closed my eyes. I thought about Ira. I thought about how he looked at me as I had gotten dressed that morning. He was looking like I was about to blow away outta open window. “You really going?” I looked at him looking at me in the little vanity I had in my room. “Yes, Ira. I’m goin’.” He shivered, still in his dirty field clothes, in my hot room. “I jus thank you about to be fed to a spider is all.”
Fed to a spider.
Sister Anne told me about at time she had almost been sold. Sold to a man that all he did was, ‘keep and breed’. That was why she had to run. I thought about the house. I thought about Isabelle. I thought about Ira and Tabitha. I thought about never seeing them again. I thought about how I couldn’t leave yet, she had to pay for what she did to my Daddy. To my family. I wouldn’t be tricked or satisfied till I did what God hadn’t done yet.
I woke up to a hand on me, and pulling at my dress. There was this small child pulling at my dress, with these big ole grass green eyes and brown hair. “Tally! Tally!” I squinted, making my mind settle. she wore green calico and her face was dirty. “Come inside and see your room!” I looked at her, and her dirty little hands. “Room?”
The little girl looked at me, her eyes as big as the moon over the big house we were in front of. I thought she was looking for the lie floating on the inside of me. “You are going to stay with us now Tally! Daddy made sure of it! For my birthday, I got you!”
My mother, the Grand Amshun, cried at the birth.
The pain of the birth of a were whelp is never easy. I remember the crushing pain on my hips, and how that pain flooded my back. This ripping fire that had consumed me. The midwives, my cousins Henjah and Makara, told me they had never seen a birth so hard. I remembered crying. The tearing and the crying of tears that weren’t mine.
I had been ready for this moment for months. My mother had been guarding me in the Open Plane. Farron had completed his Beginning to become Alpha in his own right. The night before he was to return to me, I woke up to soaked in fluid and in the most excruciating pain I had ever known. I had gotten up to call to my mother in the room and the world remained black.
I was hurt, and in the Open Plane. Somewhere you are never supposed to be at times where you are injured. I was in water, I was cold and the pain had gotten worse. I was screaming. I called for my mother. For Makara. For Henjah. The only three that could fine me on the Open Plane. There no light, and all I could feel was my womb fighting the enteriety of my body. “Ahandra!” I didn’t recognize the voice. “She is mine!” There was growl, and eyes. Not gold from Farron. These were gray, this blue gray that I had seen along the beaches of Myrtle Beach.
The eyes advanced towards me. “Recounce!” The growling grew louder, more insistent. The light came as the eyes advanced towards me. It was Narmon, in were form. I saw myself in the white dress as I was always in with Farron. There was blood around my feet, and I was unsure of how I was standing. I went down again, pain was all I could register. The pains were closer together, insistent and furious. Kicks harder, the were I carried determined to leave my body. I felt myself falling to this newly revealed sandy ground. I wrapped my left arm around my belly, preparing to brace the ground with my right. As I fell, I saw Narmon lunge towards me. I couldn’t scream. I clutched my belly harder, ready to hit the ground. The pain I could understand. The birth I had prepared for. The were whelp I understand. I closed my eyes only to reopen them when I didn’t fall to the ground. I was flanked by red robes. “Ahandra!” I couldn’t make out the voice. I couldn’t understand what was happening. The red robes bearing me up. “We have her! Now, Ahandra!”
My eyes open to be on the same bed, my mother at the foot of it. “Push, Tzipporah!” her eyes were green. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was so tired. I needed Narmon. I needed him there. I closed my eyes to see him. I couldn’t remember Farron. “Narmon, Narmon.” My head thrashed back and forth, my sweat being wiped away by my cousin Makara. “He’s calling her back to him, Ahandra!”
There was more ripping of my body and something being pulled from me. I screamed, felt that my heart was being fulled from my chest. “Narmon!” I heard his growl in my ears. “Don’t let her go back to the Open Plane!” I closed my eyes, tried to breathe. Tried to pinpoint where the pain was in order to push pass it. “Narmon!”
There was breezes around the bed where I lay writhing. “Ahh!” I felt my legs kicking. My heart pounding. “Narmon!” My tone more insistent, more needy. There were weights on legs. Hands I hoped. There was more patting of my forehead, more movement and rushed voices. “Push, Tzipporah! Push! You need to push just once more!” I gripped the hand that held my right and pushed. “Narmon!”
I felt the breath leave my body and the coolness return. I was in the blanket darkness again. I tried to move through the water, wading towards the shore and the faint light there. I saw him and my heart lept in my chest! “My love!” I went towards the towering figure on the shore, willing my Open Plane body forward. “Tzipporah!” I felt the weight of the wet clothes I wore. I felt my body tense and lungs burned. I lifted my knees willing to my chest to get to the shore. A small wave pushed me to the shore, and I fell down, the sand clammy under, my hands. I swallowed, spit out the water. I closed my eyes to gather my strength. There were hands on my wrists to pulled me to my feet.
My eyes remained closed, relieved to see him. When they opened, I saw Narmon. I snatched my hands away. “How?!” He only grinned at me. “You called me, not your Alpha.” I turned from him, tears hot on my face. “Tzipporah!” My mother’s voice. I looked around for her. She would know what to do. There were hands around my shoulders, holding me to the Open Plane. “Tzipporah!” I turned shaking him from me. “Nothing! There is nothing you can say that can allow you to be here.”
“You called me.”
“You did not have to answer!” I wanted to hurt him, bloody his face, bring him to his knees. “I am the wife, the mate of the current Alpha. I am the mate of the Third.” Narmon snarled. “I am his.” I saw his eyes flash that steely blue gray. “You have Leah. Go to her!” I pointed off behind him. ‘Tzipporah!” I looked behind me, certain I would see my mother. But I saw a red cloak. I had been spotted on the Open Plane. I turned to walk towards the comfort of the tall figure in the cloak. “We both must renounce the bond.” He said, a snarl in his voice. I didn’t answer couldn’t look back.
I made it to the red cloak, and seeing the figure in it, I screamed. It wasn’t my mother. It was Farron. He took my hands and said nothing.
I woke to find myself in bed, warm and in dry clothes. My mother was at my side. I saw the concern in her face. “Where is my whelp? Where?” She cupped my face, and I brushed her hands away. “I need to nurse him.” I saw tears threaten her eyes.
“Twins, Tzipporah. You had twins.” I shook my head. “You almost left the world.” I tried to sit up. “My sons. I need my sons!” She stood, looking at me with pity. “The errant bond almost killed you.” I looked at her, the coldness returning. “It took the elders of the council to save you.” I swallowed, prepared for what she said next. “One died. The younger boy.” There was a wail that rose in my chest, and I couldn’t remember what else she told me. My son was dead. I was in an errant bond, and Alpha could not break it. Not alone. No one knew where another Alpha was whom could help. The nearby Alpha, too, had fallen ill to the same illness that had killed the Second of our tribe.