The decade had taken its turn and then our Nia was ten years old. She had grown into an old spirit of infinite love and forgotten expectations; a beautiful face as light as caramel and lovely little hazel eyes that shine like gold in the sun, and her person was so adorably benevolent her “Aunt Bee” would snap at her for sometimes being “Too” kind.
Nia was raised by Ms. Bates and over time their love grew to be a relationship suchlike one that a mother and her daughter would have together. Just because they weren't blood didn't mean they couldn't be soul and Nia had grown to have an exceptional soul; a soul her mother was proud of as she looked down upon her daughter from her fluffy bed in heaven.
Not too long after little Nia turned five did gossip start to spread throughout the plantation:
'Why she so light?' says one.
'She got some a that white in ha.' says another.
'Ya know ha momma was his girl?' whispered she.
And so on until it became known that she was, in fact, the master's daughter. But that did not change who she grew to become, for her father did not have a hand in raising her. But he would watch her, she did not know it, but he would watch her body curve as she picked his cotton, stretch in the sun with limbs as flexible as a lazy cat, wipe the sweat off her brow and sigh so lightly he would strain to hear her sigh's gentle melodies. Around the time Nia turned seven Ms. Bates started warning her. Reminding her that if she ever found herself alone with a man to always take great care and stay cautious. She would tell her that often in secret, and often in different ways each time, whenever she could as a way of planting the words in the young girls memory.
“They ain't too kind ta us out here.” she said. “Best ta keep ya eyes open cus they turn on ya and take what the Lord deemed special from ya.”
“What the Lord think special 'bout me?” said Nia.
“The Lord think e'erythin' special 'bout you!” she said with a gasp. “Why you gone go an ask me a foolish question like that?”
Nia just shrugged and hung her head.
“I ain't got no momma, and ma pa-”
“Ya ain't got no pa. Ya have a Father right on up there with yo momma.” said Ms. Bates. “But that ain't the kinda thing I's talkin' 'bout.”
She hesitated for a moment, contemplating on whether or not she should tell her the raw truth.
She chose the truth.
“Ain't nothin' good gone come with out no truth.” she sighed.
“The truth that ya cant never trust no man, Nia.”
“What 'bout Bo? He good men whys I cant trust him?”
“He good men I know that...but men gots needs you ain't ready for.” she said quietly. “And when you ain't ready your body ain't ready...and I's don't wants you gettin' hurt like that.”
The room had filled with an ominous silence. And there were no such things as good omens when the sound dies suddenly.
“I's cant protects you fore'er, baby.” said Ms. Bates.
“But whate'er happens...”
Nia nodded her acquiescence and left the room without saying a word.
She never quite fully understood the meaning of her Aunt's truths. But ,as the age overcomes one, more understanding and difficult times along with intensive decision shall arise among it.
Virginia summers were not the most forgiving in weather; several scorching hot ; and others so wet the servants had to rush out and pick their fills before it washed away or died from the weight of the heavy rainfalls.
Nia- being one of the many slaves to rush out into the rainy weather- had been the last in the field plucking the rest of whatever was left. And although she was not completely alone, and was considered among others to be a little shy, she sang a few of the hymns from the servant's services on they were aloud to hold every Sunday for an hour while she worked her way through the capacious field, and she did not seem the least bit bothered by rain in anyway. Her voice held the smoothest, most richest, and purest melody it brought extensive joy to those who could hear but a light echo of her colorful tune in the far lands. But little did she know of the shadowed figure lurking in the darkness of the farm house just a little ways off away from the plots, watching her intently, as he waited for her to bend over again and again in the hopes of seeing further up her skirts with each curve. The man was young but a man he still was, ogling a youthful Nia as if she were a grown woman. As he watched her pick what seemed to be her final survivor he slowly started making his way out of the shadows; following her to the servant's quarters kitchen where they checked vegetables decent, bad, or close enough to perfect. The kitchen was dimly lit with only one candle, even though the kitchen was smaller than the average it still took at least four candles to have it properly well lit. Nia had memorized the kitchen after so many years of working in it that she hardly noticed the dimness as she started sorting the herbs and vegetables. She did not hear the light footsteps of the man approaching.
“E'enin' , miss Nia.” said the young man. Stepping out from under the shadows causing Nia to start when she heard him. “What is it you be doin' in ere all late?”
When squinted into the darkend doorway she could see that it was just Martin, Mr. Bo's younger brother. Although she admitted to herself that he was looking at her rather strangely she did not let it bother her.
She smiled a friendly smile at him.
“Why ya gone go an scare me like that, Marty.” she said with a giggle.
“Oh I's pologize, miss Nia, I didn't means ta start you.” he assured her with a warm smile. Taking slow steps towards her.
She eyed him more suspiciously as his features brightened as he walked further into the light. He was not as wet as she had been from the pounding rain, but he looked to be perspiring a bit over his brow. His eyes kept shifting to various parts of her body and he would lick his crusty lips as if he could taste her.
“What you come in ere for?” she asked a bit more sharply than she meant.
He jumped a little and promptly warmed his countenance, as if he had not just audaciously observed her unadulterated body.
“I's just come to get somethin' to eat.” he said with a short laugh. That was one thing she liked about Martin, he was spiritually a happy person and laughed more than anyone else on the whole plantation. He would often worked in the barn with his brother but he was mostly a handyman for mast Cooley. He was a fairly handsome young man of nineteen years, his frame was slimmer than Bo but he was taller and his arms more toned from all of his laborious chores.
“Ya can ha these.” she said. Handing him two slightly bruised carrots. “They's decent 'nuff to eat.”
He took them gently from her hand. Their fingers brushed lightly, lingering hesitantly before she let them go. He gazed into her eyes searching for something, something unknown to her. His gaze was filled with obvious guilt as if he meant to do something wrong but thought better of it.
They heard hurried footsteps approaching and fell silent. Bo rushed in, shoving past Martin, soaking wet and panting.
“Martin, I need you in the barn.” he said between pants.
“Now! Honeybays havin' her baby tonight.”
Bo grabbed his brother's arm and pulled him roughly out the door. The young brother dropping his carrots as he was yanked out of the room. Nia knew that Honeybay was the name of master Cooley's wife's horse. She was a beautiful honey colored mare with a wavy tail and mane that shone gold in the sun as it began its evening ritual. Nia never liked going into the barn, the horses frightened her and the pigs were smelly, and only did so when she was ordered to feed them.
She finished sorting the vegetables and stored them in the outdoor freezer hole below the master's manor. The pounding rain had turned to drizzles and felt like wet kisses on her skin. As she made her way back to her aunt's cabin she lingered around here and there jumping in puddles and dizzying herself as she spun on her toes with her eyes fixed on the stars as her hands strive to reach them.
“Girl get on in this house 'fore ya ruin ya self.” snapped Ms. Bates as she stood in the doorway of her cabin. “I ain'ts got time to take a ya if ya catch a cold.”
Nia smiled brightly at her aunt and laughed.
“It feel good aunty!” Nia laughed still twirling in the drizzling rain.
“Come on now. Don't make me say it again!”
She continued to laugh as she ran into the house.
Her dress was soaked down to her slip and her legs and feet were caked with mud
“Take that off and hang it in the washroom.” said Ms. Bates.
She slipped off her dress and started towards the washroom. When she rung out her dress and hung it on the line she gazed out the window facing the tremendous farmland out in the distance and the manor only a stones-throw away on her right. She watched the house intently as the house maids turned off one light, then two, then three leaving only two on. One on the first floor and another on the second. She saw a figure in the second story window, it was facing her cabin, she couldn't see its eyes but from the it angled itself it was, indubitably, looking directly at the window she was standing in front of. She nearly jumped when she noticed the figure in the window and she hoped the room was dark enough to hide her. The figure in the window was fairly thick, muscular in a way, too thick to be a woman. But before she could will her eyes to focus on the thick figure Ms.Bates called out to her.
“Come on now, girl. Ya's best to gets some sleep, now, ya know ya ain't no good in them fields when ya ain't gots enough.” she said as Nia reluctantly left the window and found her aunt staring at her questionably.
“What is it ya seein' out there?” she said. Started towards the window.
“Nothin', aunty.” she said quickly. Then checked her tone before continuing. “I's just was watching them stars. They's beautiful tonight.”
“They's always beautiful. Come on, now, child. Ya can watch them stars to morrow night. They be just as beautiful, I promise.” said Ms. Bates as she smiled warmly at the young girl. She took her hand and led her to her corner of the room, two other woman and Myra lived in the cabin with them; occupying the two small rooms (two in each) while Nia slept next to the kitchen area on a thick cot by the pantry.
Ms. Bates tucked Nia in, praying with her first before she laid her head on her pillow, and kissed her forehead before turning down the lantern. After Ms. Bates closed the door to her and Myra's room she could not help but wonder whose silhouette had been standing in the window staring back at her. She thought so incessantly about she could not sleep!
Then, as instantly as a snake devours its victims, it came to her. The thick frame. The top floor. No slave was aloud on the top floor of the manor after the lights were ordered to be put out. And no one but the married couple lived in the house.
A long shiver ran through her body, freezing her blood as it rushed cold through her veins.
Frightened by the thought, she quickly shut her eyes painfully tight and willed the revelation away. She would not let herself think of him. 'Not him.' she thought forcefully.
And she suddenly hoped with a fierceness that the darkness had hidden her from his sight.