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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1. The Voices of Future Tears

I wake up to the sound of my mother dyeing a beautiful kente cloth dress for me, like she does every time I grow out of my old clothes. I love it when I get a new dress, so I am excited when I see her.

“What are you making today, mama?” I inquire, but I know the answer.

She always makes the same thing; a yellow babadua. It is strange that she always dyes a yellow kente, and always asks the kente cloth maker to make a babadua. My father would have been the one to make the kente cloth, but he died about seven months after I was born. Mama won’t tell me how he died, but I think it’s because he died a cowardly death. People in my village have told me that my dad did not make the best of choices. They told me about some bad things he did. After that, I decided I didn’t want to know about him anymore. Sometimes I think that that could be the reason for her obsession with yellow babaduas. But maybe she just loves how the yellow symbolizes preciousness and fertility, and that the babadua shows strength and resilience. I have never asked.

Before she can answer, I say, “Let me guess, ‘The perfect dress for the strongest and most precious girl in the village. The yellow babadua. Oh, the times.’ Oh mother,” I  add as I realize that she had said it with me. It is what she says every time I ask. It’s sort of a thing we do, not so special to be a tradition, but not normal enough to not do it.

We stare at each other for a small while, then we both break into laughter. But for some reason, hers seems forced, and not as happy. The ever-present twinkle in her beautiful brown eyes is gone. I don’t know why. Maybe she’s just tired. Although, she does always get enough sleep. She makes sure I do too. Mama always says that you can’t live if you don’t sleep.

“Well, actually, I decided to try something different today, so no, I didn’t.”

Suddenly I stop laughing. This is weird. Why would she make something different?

“But mama, you never make anything else besides that!” I just don’t get it. Why would she change her mind all of a sudden? It must be important.

“I just did, that’s all.” I decide to just let it go.

“Okay, Mama. Well, I’m going to go outside. Is that ok?”

“Yes. Of course. Just come home before dark.” That’s  strange. I’m always allowed to stay out a bit later than that.

“But why? You always let me stay out until-”

“It doesn’t matter. Just come home soon.” I decide not to argue. I don’t want to upset her, when clearly something is going on. Whatever it is.

“Ok, Mama.”

I walk outside into one of the prettiest days I have ever seen. There are no clouds in the sky. Bulbuls chirp, and everyone in the village is doing their daily business. I decide to go looking for papayas, a nice snack for later in the day. As I walk further into the forest, I realize that I had gone way too far, and past our village limits. I start to turn back when I hear the voices.

They sound like the Ashanti language, with another one mixed in it. I don’t understand what the other language is at all. I go to check it out, and there are pale men and Ashanti warriors staring at me. One of the Ashanti says to the others that I am the right age. I have no idea what that means. I just stand there, confused. They start to talk to each other in that strange language, and then another Ashanti comes up to me.

“Hello.” He says. “I am Kofi. We are here to enslave your village. If you want to live, then you will not tell anyone about us. You will also give us directions to the village.”

I stand there in shock.

“What- what do you mean you’re here to enslave my village?”

“I mean that we are here to take all of the young and able bodied Ewe in your village. The whites have given us things in trade for our help. They need your strong men and women for their homes. They need people to work for them.”

“But- but why can’t they do it themselves?” I stutter.

“Because they are lazy good-for-nothing fiafis.” He scoffs. The other Ashanti warriors chuckle at his insult. “Anyways, you need to tell us where your village is, unless of course you want to die.”

“But if you do let me go, can’t I just tell my village what is coming? We could fight you off, or escape. We know this part of the forest well.”

He ignores my question. I wait for him to answer, but he seems to be waiting for me to decide on what to do. I look at all of the men, and make a decision.

As soon as I get back, I notice that my mom is still working on the dress. Even though she is almost done, I don’t understand what is taking so long. She is the fastest at dyeing kente cloths in the village. But I am shaking from fear. The Ashanti and the pale men (I think the Ashanti that threatened me called them whites) are coming, and I am terrified.

“Hey- Hey mama, uh- um, what is taking so long? You- you’re the fastest in the village at uh, dyeing kentes, you- you would have been done by now.”

I am shaking all over. It is all I can do not to throw up.

“This dress is very important, and so it should be made with time and patience. Therefore, I am not going to rush through it.”

“Um, okay. So…. what are you making for me?”

“I am making you a grey nsoromma.”

“But mama, that means hope and healing. What would we need that for? There’s no danger here. We are safe.” I lie.

“Honey, a couple nights ago, I had a dream. Our village was up in flames, and Ashanti warriors had joined together with strange, pale men. They were aiming magical sticks at us, and when a stick was aimed, it killed the victim with a horrible noise of death. The men and the Ashanti warriors were rounding up some of us, and putting horrible sticks around our necks. It was terrible. Delana, I believe this will come to pass, and pass it will, today.”

As soon as she says that I am terrified. Is that what is going to happen to us?

“Ok then, so why aren’t you scared, if you know that something bad will happen?” I ask.

“Honey, I am scared.” She says.

“Then- then why don’t you show it?”

“Once you have loved, lost, given, taken, and been broken, then you will know why,” I give her a confused look. Her answer doesn’t make any sense at all.

“But what does that have to do with anything?”

“You will know soon enough,” that’s it. I think. I have to tell her.

“Mom, I have something to tell you.”

“What?” she replies.

“Out in the forest, I-” my voice falters.

“What is it Delana?” I know I should tell her, but what will happen? I think nervously. Will they catch us if we try to escape? The man never answered my question, so I don’t know if it was true or not.

“Nothing. It’s nothing-” a loud BANG! issues from outside. I jump, terrified, but she stays still.

“It is time. Delana, I love you so much.”

She hugs me with all of her might, and with tears in her eyes, she pulls over my head the newly finished kente dress. She also hangs around my neck a necklace made out of braided grey cloth, in the nsoromma pattern that matches the dress exactly.

“Dad and I made this necklace a long time ago for you. It’s for when you are ready.”

“It’s beautiful.” And it’s a necklace I don’t deserve.

She looks at me one last time, then sprints outside. I run after her, and look up to see what the noise is. I freeze.

It’s happening.

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