The Hanging Neaklace

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 21, 2018

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Submitted: February 21, 2018

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The sun was beating down on the soft grass, the sky a cloudless blue, and the trees were longing to be climbed. It was perfect, 85 degrees in Alabama is heaven, a perfect time to run outside and play. Charlotte, a 7 year old girl, was sitting inside, though she longed to go outside. But young ladies do not climb trees for it will ruin your clothes, young ladies do not play in the sun for it will burn your skin, and young ladies do not play in the grass for you will get dirty. Her mother and her stressed the importance of manners but Charlotte didn’t want to act the way she was expected. Instead of using manners, she acted like herself. Charlotte’s mother and father’s sighs, whisper conversations, and looks of disappointment did not go unnoticed to her. Although she wanted please her parents, she had a hard time doing what she was told. She was an only child and was quite lonely. The only friend she had was a neighbor her age named Grace. Grace was nice and polite, but Charlotte didn’t feel she could act herself around her or anyone else. Two things she longed for the most was a friend and freedom. The closest she could get to freedom was looking out the window. In the far distance she could see the cotton fields, with plantation workers she had never met. It was the year 1864 and Charlotte’s family owned a plantation with many slaves. The only slaves that worked in the house were two slaves that did the housework and cleaning. Once, Charlotte had asked to meet them because one was her age, but Charlotte’s mother got angry. She told Charlotte that she was not to ever talk with them. As Charlotte was daydreaming, the two slaves started sweeping the porch. They both had frizzy black hair and dark skin, just like the people who worked in the fields. Charlotte felt her own hair which was soft and blonde and looked at her pale skin. Charlotte wondered why the way their appearance mattered. She looked around, and because she didn’t see her mother or Father anywhere she went outside to the porch. When the larger of the two slaves saw her, she became nervous.

“What do ya’ need miss?” she asked Charlotte uneasily.

Charlotte held out her hand and said, “My name is Charlotte. What’s yours?” The slave was completely taken back by this statement. Never had she seen a white person ask to shake her hand, but Charlotte was too young to understand much so she complied. She shook her hand, but instead gave the smaller slaves name.

“This is Ruth and I am her Ma,” Ma said. Charlotte then shook Ruth’s hand and Ruth smiled. They two started talking to each other. Ruth spoke in a way Charlotte had never heard before, it was less formal and a bit sassy. Ruth was incredibly sweet, kind, and spoke her mind. She was also a good listener and Charlotte instantly wanted to be her friend. Ma was uncomfortable and tried to pull Ruth away but Charlotte followed wherever they went.

“My miss, I love your dress!” Ruth said to Charlotte.

“Ruth!” Ma warned giving her a look.

“Thank you! I’ve got more in the house, would you like to see?” Charlotte asked pulling Ruth’s hand.

“No, Ruth don’t go. I’m sorry Charlotte we have to go now,” Ma said walking away. Ruth ignored her and ran with Charlotte towards the house. Ruth grabbed the brass door handle and pulled it open, but was horrified to see Charlotte’s mother inside. Ruth stopped, her smile faded, and ran to Ma. Ma started apologizing but Charlotte’s mother wouldn’t listen.

“What do you think your doing letting in your doing letting your filth child play with Charlotte?” she yelled. Her mother always used the best manners, and this was the first time Charlotte had ever heard her speak this way.

“I am so sorry miss, I don’t know what got into her.” Ma apologized. Charlotte became angry and confused at the same time. She couldn’t understand why her mother was so mad at Ruth and Ma, or what they had done to upset her. Ruth closed her eyes and held on the Ma’s hand, while Ma tried to protect Ruth from harm.

“You are lucky the Master is out of town. Do not let this happen again, do you understand?” Charlotte’s mother said, her voice quivering with anger.

“Yes ‘Mam.” Ma said. She held onto Ruth’s hand and pulled her outside. Charlotte saw one last glance at Ruth. Warm, kind, dark eyes filled with fear. On the edges of her face you could see beads of sweat glistening against her dark skin. Before Charlotte could apologize for the trouble she caused them, her mother grabbed her hand and slammed the door shut. Charlotte’s face turned red with a mix of emotions like fear, anger, regret, and sadness. She had many questions she longed to ask, but she knew her mother was furious.

“What were you doing? Are you okay, did they take you?” Charlotte’s mother asked with concern. Charlotte had thought she would have been mad at her for playing with them and she was surprised but relieved to hear her concern.

“No Mother, I went out and introduced myself,” Charlotte told her mother. The minute those words left her tongue she knew her mother’s concern turned in a different direction. Charlotte started fidgeting with her dress nervously as her mother’s lips tightened.

“Why Charlotte? Why don’t you understand?” Charlotte’s mother said in a sad voice as she walked away. Charlotte hadn’t meant to hurt her mother so much, and she hadn’t meant to get Ruth and Ma in trouble either. She couldn’t understand why this situation became so complicated. All she had done was introduce herself.

That  same night Ma was furious with Ruth. In the shed where they lived Ma was yelling at Ruth for what she had done.

“What have I told you? Do you want to be whipped?” Ma asked Ruth.

“No Ma I’m sorry. I got carried away. For the first time in weeks I had fun Ma! Oh how nice it was, chattin’ with Charlotte. She’s real nice Ma, not like her mother and father. I like her a lot.” Ruth told her Ma. Ma’s expression softened, but she was still stern.

“Now I know you wanna be friends with her and have fun, but you can’t. It’s just the way life is, I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s just how it is. It puts you in danger if you talk with her.” Ma told her, embracing her in a tight hug. Ruth knew she was different, she knew she wasn’t ever going to have a dress like Charlotte, much less a life like hers. But when she was holding on to Ma, it was okay.

“It’s too late missy, go to bed now.” Ma said placing a blanket on the dirt floor with hay. Ruth laid down and Ma wrapped her in a torn, rough blanket. Ma blew out the candle that radiated the soft warm light and the room became cold and dark. Shadows lurked in the corners and made shapes that scared Ruth. But the minute she turned around, she knew her Ma would protect her from anything.

Weeks have passed since Charlotte had spoken with Ruth and Ma. Her mother forbade her to talk to them or anyone who was black. She wanted to talk to Ruth, but she knew better than to go against her mother’s wishes, so she tried to meet in secret. However, Ruth was scared of what would happen if she spoke to Charlotte and she avoided her. Charlotte had never had a friend before, so she didn’t know what it was like, but all she knew was she felt she could tell Ruth anything. The few moments on that fateful summer day had been enough of a motivation for her. When around her mother and father, she knew she had to do her best to please them. Even when Charlotte was playing with Grace, she had to use her best manners. But when Charlotte was with Ruth and Ma she could act like herself. Had she known the social standards of that Civil War time before she met them, she wouldn’t have wanted to be their friends. She would have treated them how she would’ve seen them; as slaves. But because Charlotte established a human relationship beforehand, she wasn’t like her southern parents. Charlotte didn’t understand the political conflict going on in America, but she knew her friends were not being treated right.

When Charlotte’s father came back from his trip, he and her mother were going into town so they were going to drop Charlotte off with Grace and her family. After only a few minutes, because they lived nearby, the horse drawn carriage stopped in front of the huge manor Grace’s family lived in. Father, with his expensive suit, stepped out of the carriage to open the door for Charlotte. Earlier that day Charlotte’s mother had done her hair in a tight updo with a few curls which was starting to hurt her head. Her mother always made sure Charlotte looked the best when going to anyone’s house. Charlotte’s father gave Charlotte a hand out of the carriage, when her mother yelled from inside that they were incredibly late. He glanced at his pocket watch and gasped.

“My dear Charlotte, I’m afraid I have to go, will you go in by yourself?” he asked her. Charlotte’s father was very concerned about leaving her alone, but Charlotte saw it as a beacon of light. If she could run home quickly, she could apologize to Ruth and Ma without her mother and father nearby.

“Yes Father, goodbye.” Charlotte said walking towards the manner. She started to worry they would wait for her to enter, but the sound of horses trotting filled her ears before she knocked on the door. She paused, waiting until she was sure the carriage was gone, and turned around. At the end of the dirt road, she could see her house and she began running. She could feel the dirt on her shoes and socks, she could feel her updo her mother had spent time on fall out, and her tights starting to rip. But she didn’t care because of how free she felt and how wonderful it was. When she reached her house, she was exhausted. She ran from room to room, but finally found Ma and Ruth making the bed in her mother and father’s room. Ruth gave a big smile, but when she saw her Ma’s face, she looked away and continued making the bed.

“I am sorry. I am terribly sorry for the trouble I have caused you. I do not understand why my mother was so mean, and I didn’t mean to cause trouble for you. Please forgive me, I would like to be friends...” Charlotte said. She was incredibly excited to tell them she wanted to be friends, but was disappointed when she saw Ma’s sad face.

“Charlotte, I’m sorry. We’re your families slaves. It is not good for you or for us if we are friends, and if we are someone is goin’ to get hurt.” Ma said carefully. She loved Charlotte’s courage and the way she questioned the way things were done. Ruth also admired her Charlotte, and wanted to be her friend. Everything Ma and other black’s have told her about white people was how mean and horrible they are, but Charlotte was completely different.

“No Ma, plea-” Charlotte started to say. She stopped because she heard the sounds of a carriage pulling up. Charlotte peaked out the window and gasped. She hadn’t realized how long it took for her to run home.

“No, my mother and father are home! I’m supposed to be with Grace!” Charlotte said breathlessly. The flush of Ma’s cheeks drained.

“Leave Charlotte, quick! Run!” Ma whispered. But in vain, because it was too late. Charlotte’s mother and father had gone to Grace’s house only to find Charlotte was missing.

“Charlotte! Are you here?” yelled Charlotte’s father. Ma took a shaking breath and called out to her master. The wait for Charlotte’s mother and father to arrive upstairs was only seconds, but to Ruth, Ma, and Charlotte, it felt like time had completely stopped. When Charlotte’s father saw Charlotte with Ruth and Ma, his eyes filled with anger. Ruth eyes started to water and her breath sped up. Silence filled the room for a few seconds, then father began to yell.

To Ruth, the next few minutes seemed a blur. Deep yells filled with anger came from the master and quiet responses from her Ma. Ruth was incredibly scared for her Ma, she knew that she herself could handle it, but her Ma was become older and weak. If Ma was hurt too bad, she might not be able to work anymore. Charlotte was yelling in protest but her mother grabbed her and pulled her out of the room. Charlotte’s father kicked Ruth and told her to go to the shed where she lived. Ruth began to cry, but her master kicked her again so she bit her tongue. She looked back at her Ma, whose eyes were filled with fear as she was pulled outside. Ruth ran to the shed, closed the door, and started to cry.  She held her breath, with each crack of the whip she heard. But what she didn’t hear was a yelp in pain, or even a cry. All she heard was a low groan of pain. Inside the house, Charlotte and her mother were arguing. Charlotte cried in protest.

“Why mother? Why is Ma being whipped? She did nothing wrong! I was the one who came, she didn’t want me to, but I did.” she cried.

“You call her Ma? You are becoming too attached to a slave, Charlotte, they are a slave. They are not human, they are bodies to work. I am not going to whip my daughter, but a lesson must be learned. Never speak to them again, unless you want them to be hurt.” Charlotte’s mother raged. Her mother left Charlotte and went outside to speak with her father, while Charlotte cried with shame. She felt horrible to displeasing her parents, but enraged to see them perform such inhuman acts. Ruth and Ma were her friends, but because they had dark skin they were slaves to her family. That night Charlotte couldn't sleep because of what she saw. She was ashamed to make her parents so disappointed in her, but she was mostly appalled to see what her parents did to the slaves that they owned. This time, Ma took the whippings but she feared the next time Ruth would. Charlotte didn’t want Ruth or Ma live the way they were living and didn’t want them to be hurt again. Her heart started racing as an impulse decision was made. She was going to set them free.

Charlotte quietly left her room and went towards her mother and father’s. The door slightly creaked as it opened, and Charlotte panicked, afraid to be caught. But her parents breathing was still heavy and their eyes were closed. She continued into the bedroom and opened the drawer by her father. Inside was a key to the house doors. She grabbed it and quietly closed the drawer and left the room unnoticed. Then, she ran downstairs as quietly as she could, and inserted the key into the handle of the door to go outside. By locking her parents in the house, she would hopefully have enough time to set Ruth and Ma free. Charlotte started to run towards the shed. Inside she could hear soft voices.

“Does it hurt Ma? Are you okay?” Ruth asked in a worried whisper. Before Ma could answer Charlotte softly knocked on the door. Ma shuffled to the door and opened it. Her expression was stern, angry, and hurt.
“I told you to stay away or someone would get hurt.” Ma told Charlotte. Charlotte didn’t reply, but she ran to Ma and gave her a hug.

“I am sorry.” she cried, “I did not want you to get hurt. I just wanted to be friends. Ma laughed softly as she hugged Charlotte.

“Silly girl. Now go, it’s too late of night. Go to bed, how’d ya even get outta there? Your going to get in even more trouble.”Ma said as she became even more serious.

“I locked them, Ma, I locked them in the house. You can escape now.” Charlotte said  quickly.

“We must go, come Ruth.” Ma said walking toward the door. Her expression became, robotic as she grabbed a jacket.

“But Ma, where are we going? How are we going to escape?” Ruth asked. Fog started to fill the room, but neither Ma or Charlotte noticed.

“Ruth, we are free.” Ma answered smiling. She ran out the door into the field, Ruth had just left the shed but stopped to see what Charlotte was doing. Charlotte took off her necklace, with a silver chain and sparkling stone, and left it hanging on the door of the shed. She turned towards Ruth, with a huge grin, and started running away with Ma.

“Charlotte, why’d you leave your pretty necklace?” Ruth asked her.

Charlotte stopped and turned, “So my parents know where I went.” she said. Charlotte ran faster and faster into the dark night. She paid no mind to the dirt on her dress, she didn’t care she had just left a gorgeous necklace, and it didn’t matter to her that she abandoned her parents while freeing their slaves. She was one brave girl, who was different. Ruth was confused to where they were going and how they would survive without their masters, but she was free and that's what matter. To her, it was the best feeling in the world.

“Ruth, Ruth hurry up!” Charlotte called. Ruth, Ruth, Ruth the sound rung in her ears. The soft, sweet voice of Charlotte started to change, and slowly became a louder and angrier voice.

“Ruth! Ruth! Get up now!” Ruth opened her eyes and saw her Ma glaring at her. “It’s late enough! Wake up there’s work to do.” Ma snapped. Ruth’s head started to spin as she saw she was no longer running in the field with Charlotte. Instead, she saw the shed, but as clear as day. There was no fog and it was very bright.  

“I thought we were free Ma.” Ruth said quietly. Ma looked back at her with a irritated face, but when she saw the tears in Ruth’s eyes she sat down and hugged her.

“It must have been a dream, Ruth.” Ma told her. Ruth got up, opened the door and looked outside to the house. Inside sat a girl, with perfect pale skin and tight blonde curls. She saw Ruth, and a look of disgust spread across her face. Ruth didn’t believe it was a dream, it had seemed so real, but she finally knew when she saw a silver necklace with a sparkling stone hanging on the girl’s neck.

 


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