APRIL 14, 1837
Mattie lay curled around the warm shape of her son when the unwanted messenger knocked. She stayed on her pallet, reluctant to end this precious time, and listened to the sound of quiet snores coming from Poppy, her grandfather. She gazed at her young son, pressed her nose close against his soft neck to take in his sweet baby scent. She gently wiped the glistening sweat away from his damp forehead and gave him a tender kiss upon his temple. Another intrusive knock struck the door. Mattie got up. Cradling Samuel so close that she could feel warm puffs against her breast, Mattie shuffled across the packed dirt floor to the door. Though she expected this visitor, had anticipated a knock for weeks, she had dreaded this moment. Once she opened the door, her life would forever be divided into before and after. Mattie slowly pulled the rough plank door open and saw a lithe silhouette in the moonlight. There stood Emily, a girl with pale, hazel eyes and skin the color of tea with milk. Mattie had seen her before but did not know her well. She appeared to be no more than twelve. In contrast, twenty-year-old Mattie’s skin was dark as roasted coffee beans. Her jet-black hair, twisted into two tight braids that framed each side of her narrow face, was covered by a dingy white cloth wound tightly round her head. Her strong arms were scratched from tobacco. Dark eyes, big and round as caramel candy, took in all the comings and goings of the people around her.
Without introduction the skinny girl at the door mumbled, “You got to come now. The baby gonna be here soon.” With her news delivered, she turned back to the Big House.
Mattie called after her, “I gotta pass Samuel over to my poppy.”
“Be quick about it. They expectin’ you.”
As Mattie crossed to his pallet, Poppy sat up to receive his great-grandson. Tears pushed hard against the back of Mattie’s eyes. She kissed Samuel tenderly on his round cheek. “I love you,” she quietly poured into her son’s tiny ear and pressed her lips for a final time against his bald head. Her lips pulled tight inside her teeth, she carefully passed Samuel into Poppy’s outstretched arms.
“Remember, Rebecca gonna feed him when he get hungry,” she pressed out, though her grandfather was well aware of the plan.
She stared into Poppy’s eyes and hoped he understood all that she did not say. She wanted to be assured that her son would be well cared for, that he would be told she had not chosen to leave him, and that when she returned he would know that she was his mother. But Mattie said nothing. She did not scream in protest or plead for more time for her son to grow older. Instead she turned away in silence, blinking back tears as she left her home and abandoned her son. She had no choice. She had to be strong, get through this separation, and return to Samuel as soon as possible. Whether that would be in months or years, she had no way of knowing.
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Genre - Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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