It was a warm spring afternoon, the sweet smell of honey wafted through the air, as it always did in the summer which I found quite strange. I had just finished my needlepoint and decided to get some fresh air. As I began to frolic in the small stream outback, seeing how far I could dip my toes in without falling over, I heard a scream. Though screaming wasn’t unusual on my father’s plantation. Slaves were always pricking their fingers on the cotton plants and crying out in pain. In fact I had become quite accustomed to it and usually paid it no mind. But this scream, this scream was different. I quickly fastened my shoes back on and pulled up my skirt then started towards the fields in a sprint. As I rounded the corner my eyes met a sight I was not quite prepared for. It was the slave driver, Maxwell, he was my father’s second cousin, I knew him well. He was beating a slave mercilessly. A girl! She looked about my age. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had seen slaves be beaten before but this was a monstrosity. Before I knew what I was doing I called out
“STOP!” Everything stilled the whole world seemed to freeze in that one moment when everyone’s eyes turned to me.
“What did you say?” Maxwell said in an icy tone.
“ I said stop!” I called.
“Get inside Anabell before you get into real trouble!”
he yelled. I began to turn but then I looked in the eyes of the poor girl on the ground covered in blood, struggling to suck in shaky breathes. For a moment I saw myself and imagined if it were me. That’s when I knew I couldn’t let this stand I had gotten myself this far and I wasn’t about to give up now. There would be no death. Not today.
“No” I said a monotone voice, attempting to mask my fear.
“Look Anabell I’m really not in the mood right now, go play hero somewhere else, you hear me?!” “Not until you give to me!” I cried. I held my breath awaiting the angry reply that was sure to come. He paused for a brief moment before bursting into laugher. I was speechless by his reaction and didn’t know what to do.
“This piece of trash?” He said as he kicked her carelessly in the jaw, knocking her on her back. I cringed as I heard a crack and she yelped, gasping for air.
“I was just beating her for mouthing off to one of the other drivers, I had a bad day, so guess I was a little harsh, oops”
He said in a mocking tone as he began laughing again. “ I thought you were looking to cause trouble, but you probably just want her to braid your hair or something, don’t ya’?”
“Yes I wanted someone to… braid my hair…” I said still confused with this whole situation.
“Are you sure want this one though?”
“I‘m sure I could get you a nice clean one“. He said.
“No please I‘d like her.” I said a little shaky.
“ Eh she’s been punished enough, here take her”. He said lifting her by the collar and ankle and tossing her in my direction.
“Just don’t get to much blood on your pretty dress” He muttered. But I paid no heed and rushed over and quickly pulled her behind the shrubbery.
“Are you alright?” I asked in a worried tone.
“ Yes ma’am, I dissevered what I got.” She said softly while clutching her stomach.
“My name is Anabell” I said. She dropped her head and was silent.
“And yours is…”
“I am Atiya.” She said.
“Atiya… I like it, it’s pretty.”
“No its not”. She whispered.
“You don’t like your name?”
“No I do” She said.
“Then why did you say it wasn’t pretty?” I asked.
“Because they told me I’m just trash and no part of me is or ever will be beautiful.” She solemnly replied. It went quiet as I processed her words. Then finally I thought and said
“What does your name mean?”
“Pardon?” She asked.
“What does it mean, your name?”
“ Do you know?” “Everyone’s name has a meaning”.
She kept silent.
“ Well Anabell means lovable.”
She lifted her eyes. “I don’t know if it’s true, maybe I’m not so lovable but it’s a part of me and I take pride in my name.” She was silent. I sighed and looked behind me to make sure no one had spotted us when she said,
“What was that?” I asked
“ Gift, my name means gift.” I smiled
“Then that’s what you are Atiya, not dirt or garbage, you’re a gift to the world and don’t ever let anybody tell you different.”
She lifted her head and began to show traces of a smile when suddenly her face went white and her hands went to her stomach, she cringed as she cried out in pain.
I ask worriedly.
She uttered her eyes were glazed over and she seemed in a trance
“So much blood…”
That’s when I looked down and saw the warm red puddle beneath her. All the time I had been talking to her, she had been bleeding to death. I clenched my teeth to keep focus and gently lifted her hands from her stomach. I thought I would be sick. I looked upon the mass of blood and exposed guts. He had cut her. Maxwell had used a knife to split her stomach open. How could he do this?! This was far worse than I thought. How could I not have noticed?! What should I do?! I thought. I just sat there, frozen my hands covered in blood wondering what I could possibly do to save her. Why wouldn’t she tell me? She said she was fine!
“Oh God, I said out loud. What do I do?!”
I heard. I looked down to see that she had turned to me and was clutching the end of my dress. “Atiya!”
“You need help, where should I take you?” “Perhaps if we got inside I could…”
“Anabell” She said again, cutting me off. “I’m not going to make it.”
She said weakly. “No don’t say that!” I cried as I felt the hot sting of tears roll down my cheeks. “It’s ok” she said in a comforting tone.
“But I need you to ask you a favor.”
“Anything!” I cried through my sobs.
“I’m sorry to burden you but theirs no one else I can go to.”
She paused. “I need you take care of my little sister April”.
“April?” I replied.
“Yes they are going to sell her to a farm in Virginia, but she’ll never make it on her own” She said quietly as she began to cry.
“Please don’t let them send her away!” She cried.
“I swear to protect her as if she were my own.” I replied, attempting to sound brave through my tears.
“Thank you” She whispered. Then she closed her eyes and my only friend in the world was gone. I sat there and wept over her. She died so my father could sell cotton. That’s when an anger inside me awakened, A fire that had been building up for so long finally ignited. I was done. That’s when I took an oath to get away from all this and avenge Atiya. I stood up dried my eyes and set off in search of April.