The heavy, oppressive August heat drove Mattie and Lisbeth to take their afternoon rest in the shade of a large willow tree. The old tree, which grew between the Big House and the Quarters, was a favorite spot for both of them. Lisbeth loved the private world the enormous green canopy provided them. Mattie appreciated the opportunity to view her son. She always settled them on the side facing the Quarters so she might get a glimpse of the tall and lanky boy bringing drinks to the sweaty workers in the tobacco fields beyond the cabins. At five years old, Samuel had lost his toddler roundness and was full of energy, toting water up and down the lines of workers. Lying next to Mattie on an old quilt, Lisbeth traced the pattern of the fabric with her finger. She lifted her head off the blanket and asked, “Mattie, who do you suppose made this quilt?” “Don’ know. A bondswoman who lived here long ago. It older than you or me. I bet it even older than your grandmother.” “Is she dead?” “Who?” “The slave.” “Imagine so.” Mattie laughed, amused at the little girl’s question.
Lisbeth looked puzzled until she finally asked, “Do you think slaves and people go to the same heaven?”
“Slaves is people. Never heard ’bout more than one heaven, so I ’magine there only the one.”
“Who does the work?” wondered Lisbeth.
“There ain’t no work in heaven,” declared Mattie.
Lisbeth looked like she was full of more questions. She pondered Mattie’s answer for a while before asking, “Do you miss your momma, Mattie?”
“Everyday. But I know she watchin’ over me, from heaven.”
“Is she watching over me too?” Lisbeth asked, yearning in her voice.
Mattie thought for a minute, then nodded slowly. “Yes, Lisbeth, she watchin’ over you. She watchin’ on all the people I love.”
Lisbeth replied confidently, “You will see her again when you get to heaven. And I can meet her. Did she take care of you everyday?”
“Until she got sold away.”
“Did you cry when she left? How big were you?” Lisbeth inquired.
“Just past eight years. ’Course I cried. Every night I cried in bed. Poppy or Rebecca sat with me, but it ain’t the same.”
“You will not ever let them sell you, will you?” implored Lisbeth as she clutched tight to Mattie’s skirt. “I will cry real hard if they sell you.”
“I got no choice. Your father decide such things. I ain’t gonna make you no promise I don’ get to keep.”
Tears formed in Lisbeth eyes. “I shall ask Mother to give you to me when I am grown and then you will be with me forever,” Lisbeth declared emphatically. “Then no one can sell you away.”
Flattered and insulted, Mattie did not respond to Lisbeth but lay in silence waiting for the child to fall asleep.
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Genre - Historical Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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