Some of you may know I spent this long weekend at the stupendous Strawberry Creek Lodge with a bevy of inspiring, funny and wonderful writers. I took a prompt exercise for us to consider during our stay. The prompt asked for everyone to chose 3 letters of the alphabet. These corresponded to partial book titles and created ‘new’ titles to work from. I would like to share my two titles and the short stories they inspired me to write. I hope you like them.
Tender is the Fury and Prejudice
Sasha swirled around in her gingham dress, enjoying its flaring circle around her waist. The dress was the first new piece of clothing she ever wore.
“Now Missy, be careful with that there dress. There ain’t another one coming for a long time.”
“Yes, Mamma, I’ll be as careful as careful can be.”
Sasha smiled at her mother, who sat in the rocker breastfeeding the new baby. With a new brother, Sasha was not the baby anymore and would sleep in the big bed with her older brothers and sisters. The new baby made eight in the family and the cabin even more crowded. Sasha sat on a stool letting her dress hang down but mindful it did not touch the floor.
Stomping footsteps announced the return of her brothers and sisters from the cotton field. She ran to the bedroom and took off the dress. Once it was folded and put in the dresser, she returned to the main room.
Her mother stood at the stove lading out bowls of stew and handing each tired child a biscuit. Sasha waited until everyone else was seated before taking a bowl for herself. Her father entered the crowded room and exchanged a weary smile with her mother. Sasha saw him glance at the baby and frown.
“Is it feeding, Annie?”
“Yes, Samuel he is…”
Sasha could not tell what the look on her fathers face meant but she saw a tear run down her mother’s cheek as she turned away from him. With her bowl taken to the washing bowl, Sasha sat beside the bay’s crib and rocked it gently. Her siblings cleared the tables, washed the dishes and exited the cabin leaving their parents to spend time together.
As Sasha soothed her new brother her father whispered words confused her.
“Is it healthy, will it live?”
“There’s no way of knowing, Samuel, maybe he will.”
“Another mouth to feed, its too many, Annie. We need to decide on her future.”
“Oh, Samuel, please don’t – we will manage, we have in the past.”
“I know its a hard decision, Annie but the offer is there and the money would make all the difference.”
“But she’s so young and…”
Her mother’s sob cut her sentence short. Sasha watched her father embrace her mother, rocking her back and forth like her mother did to Sasha when she suffered a nightmare.
Unnoticed in the corner, Sasha tried to make sense of her parents conversation. What was happening to who? Why was her mother so upset?
A week later a fancy carriage pulled up outside the cabin driven by a black man but dressed in white man’s clothing. Sasha had never seen such a thing and fussed to be released from her mothers arms.
“Stand still for one more minute, Sasha.”
“Mamma, why’s that man dressed so fancy?”
“Its cause of his job as a driver for the boss. Now hold still, I’ve one more ribbon to put in.”
Sasha fidgeted until the ribbon was tied then ran to the carriage wide-eyed. She did not see her mother clasp her mouth and hold back pleading words. She turned to Samuel who nodded and opened the cabin door for her to enter.
“Stay inside, it will be easier for the girl to go. Look after the little one.”
Samuel closed the door after his wife and descended the steps to stand beside the carriage and grasp Sasha’s hand.
“Is this the girl you spoke of Samuel?”
“Bring her here so I can see her properly. Does she know how to behave? My wife will not tolerate ill manners.”
“She is a good girl, boss and will learn quickly.”
Samuel picked Sasha up and put her into the carriage. She looked at the beautiful cushions and the bright white suite the white man wore. She was surprised when he turned her around, she thought he liked her gingham sress as much as she did. When the man opened her mouth and inspected her teeth, Sasha looked at her father but stayed silent when his brows lowered and he put on finger to his lips.
“She’s a pretty little thing, I’m hopeful my wife will like her, Samuel.”
The man gave her father a small leather pouch and sat Sasha on the seat beside him.
“Thank you, boss. You be good for the boss, Sasha. Do as you are told and only speak when spoken to.”
Sasha grinned at her father and nodded enthusiastically. I’m going for a ride in this fancy carriage, I’m so lucky. Samuel watched the carriage drive away until it was out of sight. He swallowed deeply several times before entering the cabin.
“She’s gone then, my little Sasha?”
“Yes, Annie, she’s gone.”
“Did she cry?”
“No, she was so excited about the carriage she didn’t turn around. She will cry tonight no doubt when she realizes she is to spend her life at the house but she’ll come around, so don’t fret. It’s a better life for her than the cotton field.”
“I hope so, Samuel, I really do.”
Annie placed her baby boy in his crib and began the supper preparations. Her tears mixed with the vegetable water as she peeled potatoes. She would delay telling Samuel she might be pregnant again. Later as her family ate, she reached out for Sasha’s hand but felt emptiness. She knew the money would help the rest of the family until the oldest ones left home but thoughts of what her little girl might have to endure in the big house haunted her dreams for many months.
To Kill The Windup Bird – this story has been removed as an extended version has been contracted to Steampunk Ink.