Because Of Me

This is a historical fiction about slavery. Warning: there is dark and brutal things in this story. It teaches about the horror that was black slavery.

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4. Andre

I walk from a small boat to land. Finally, I am off that boat. It was been horrible there. Men and women stacked on shelves. The smell of vomit everywhere. And the screams of women during the night.

We are lead to some sort of rectangle made of wood. It’s able to float in the water, just like the horrible boat I’ve just escaped from. The sailors sit us down and start giving orders. I have no idea what they are saying, so I just try to look interested. Even though I don’t understand the men’s language, I do get parts of what they mean.

After a while, they stop talking and start to walk away. Walk away? I think. Why are you leaving? Are we seriously stuck here forever? You went through all that trouble just to leave us here to die?

Before I finish my thought, they stop and talk with some other men. Oh thank the Creator.

After several minutes of weird hand gestures and random babble, they finally finish. We are forced to stand up, and are moved to some sort of room thing. But this can’t be! We just got away from that hellhole at Cape Coast, how could we be back again? But then I realize that this one is a lot different than the other place.

We are locked in. I don’t get what the point of being here is. I’m just about to sit down when something hits me in the back of the head. I am just able to get a glimpse of the person that hit me. It’s a teenage boy, Fiavi. He was enslaved with my village. I barely knew him, but we had talked before. The world goes dizzy and I am just able to make out one last sentence from my attacker before I black out.

“I know what you did.”

Confusion. That’s what I feel when I wake up. Fiavi somehow knows about me trading my survival for the village. And I have to find out how.

As soon as I conclude this decision, I stand up. But Nayra is immediately pushing me back on the ground.

“No. You need to rest. You got hit pretty hard back there.”

“What- what happened?” I ask, my vision still blurry.

“That boy, Fiavi I think his name was, hit you in the back of the head with a rock. The men immediately found out what he had done and killed him on the spot. They were going to throw you in the water, but they realized you were still alive. I’ve been caring for you for the past ten days.” she says softly, as if in deep thought.

“Ten days?”

“Yeah.” she confirms. “Delana, why did he hit you in the back of the head?”

I think of an excuse. “You tell me. You were the one that was conscious  after I was hit. Wait, what did he do after I blacked out?”

“He was screaming ‘Why would you do this to me’ and ‘It’s all your fault.’ He was crying a lot too. Which leads me back to my earlier question. Why would he do that? Is there something you aren’t telling me?” She asks, her voice wavering, scared at the possibilities.

I take a deep breath to lie, then stop. I can’t hold it in anymore. So I just tell her the truth. I tell her about my mom’s dream, and meeting the slavers. I even talk about the nightmares I’ve been having ever since the attack. All the while I’m looking at my hands, trying not to read the expression on her face. But once I finish my story, I have no more reason to avoid her gaze. When I look up, I see that her expression isn’t angry, or even incredulous. It looks like pity. And that’s even worse.

“Well, don’t feel sorry for me.” I say bitterly. “I don’t deserve to be babied, and I don’t want to be.

She starts to say something when the sailors come back. It’s time for what’s been waiting for us to come.

Six months later, I sit in my dark cabin. Not a sound can be heard. Every african woman in our cabin except for me is sound asleep, and they are all motionless. Katrine (Nayra’s slave name) sleeps in the bunk next to mine, snoring with the volume of the horn thing that sounds when we have to wake up.

Few clothes are in the one room house. The ones that do live in the cabin are stowed away in a small wooden chest. The only private possessions in the cabin are comprised of a small, heart shaped rock found in a crop field, a stolen container of sugar the size of about a fourth of a shuck of corn, and my necklace, a grey nsoromma. I sit up in my hard, lumpy mattress, trying to stay awake. This is because when I do fall asleep, I am overcome by nightmares and scream in my sleep. My roommates (more like cellmates) don’t get mad at me when I wake them up, but I know it bothers them. Sleep is the only time they’re able to escape from the horrors that meet them in the morning. But for me, it’s the only time it gets worse.

The next evening, I work on cutting the vegetables for one of massa’s favorite meals. I may not be a good doctor, but I can cook. Jemina was the best cook in my village. I always looked up to her. She was pretty old, so she got killed like most of my village. Personally, I’m relieved. It’s better for her to be dead than for her to have to be where I am. She was too kind and too soft of a person to make it through. She would crack in two hours flat. But before those white jerks came, I was her apprentice. She taught me every recipe she knew. Of course, African cuisine is a lot different than American food. So I had to adjust when they first appointed me as head chef. It’s mainly because the head chef before me, Ben, died from a snake bite. I was a field worker, but I’ve cooked for him before, so he recommended me before hitting the bricks. And now I’m here.

I’m the only one here (besides Andre) that’s still working today. While I shuck corn, he sits at the large counter we use for cooking not even helping me.

“Hey, Gemma?” Andre says. “You ever think about runnin’ away?”

“Shush! You can’t go talkin’ like that ‘round here! They’ll jerk a knot in your tail!” I say, surprised at his recklessness.

“I know. It’s just, I hear talk.”

“Talk? You haven’t got the sense God gave a goose. Who cares about talk? No one’s ever serious about running away Andre. They just dream to be free. And if you’ve heard talk, then you would’ve heard talk about the ones that did run. They got caught, and were killed on the spot. Except for the ones that got whipped. Or the ones that got limbs cut off. Or the ones that were-”

“Ok! I get it! But why do you care if I run away?” he asks.

“I don’t care about you runnin’ away Andre, I care about you stayin’ here, right here with me.” I say, trying to glare at him but not able to suppress a smile.

“Oh. Ok.” He says, moving toward me.

I feel his lips press against mine, and we stand there, my arms ensnared in his. His lips are warm, like a sun that doesn’t burn but instead strengthens you. As we kiss, I realize that this is what I needed. From the moment I walked out my front door in my village, I have been a mess, and our kiss is the only thing that can untangle me.

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