*SATURDAY READS* SHARI’S CROSSING BY R.D. ARCHER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER-1

 

 

 

I been up since 4:30 this morning getting breakfast started for Ms. Sarah and the kids. I went out back to the shed to get some eggs and milk from the ice-box. It’s still dark outside. I turned to leave to head back to the house only to find massa Willis blocking the door. He took a drag off his cigarette and blew the smoke into the early morning air. I feel sick to my stomach and desperate to leave. I look down at the hay on the shed floor. I can feel the sweat beading on my forehead and my breath quickening. I looked up and massa Willis is right in front of me. I tell myself, don’t make him mad. Maybe he will be done fast and maybe he won’t hurt me. He say “good morning” to me, but I don’t say nothing. I just keep my eyes focused on the floor. He say, “don’t you hear me talking to you girl?!” I say “yessuh. I hears fine, and I best be getting inside to start breakfast for Ms. Sarah.” He say ” Ms. Sarah still sleepin’,” and ” don’t you want to have some fun?” I don’t say nothing, and he don’t wait for a answer. He push me on the floor. The eggs and jug of milk shatter on the floor. Massa step on my chest with his boot and take another drag off his cigarette. His eyes was black and empty. And I could swear I was looking at the devil ‘hisself’. Massa plucked the cigarette on my arm and start pulling his overalls from his shoulders. He let his pants drop to the floor and kicked them off his feet to the side. Oh lord help me! I don’t want him to touch me! He say ” open your legs.” I don’t. I hold tightly to the hem of my dress to keep it down. I say “please massa Willis! Please don’t!” He bend over me and rip my dress with both hands, exposing my bare breast and stomach. He pull the rags from my shoulders and grab what’s left of my dress from under me. I cross my arms to hide myself. He is just staring at me. He bend down near my face and I can smell the whiskey. He whisper in my ear “Am I going to make this hard?” and “It would be best not to fight.” I want to curl up on my side but he push my shoulder back to the floor and slap me in the mouth. He push my legs apart and sticks two, and then three fingers in me. His fingernails scratch the sensitive walls of flesh and draw blood. I just lay there. I can feel me leaving myself. I always leave myself. Massa shoved ‘hisself’ in me, thrusting hard and fast. I can see me laying there. Tears form a path from the corners of my eyes to a puddle in my ear. My lip is swollen and bleeding, but I don’t feel nothing. I’m not there. I can see his breath move the hay on the floor as his breathing becomes more and more labored. He almost done. If I can just yell to Ms. Sarah and wake her up, she can stop him. She can stop this. I need to yell for help, but he’ll beat me. He done his business and just lay on me, crushing me with his weight. He slowly pushes ‘hisself’ up and stands. He kicks me between my open legs before picking up his pants and leaving the shed. I yell out in pain. I cry. I cry. CRY. Cryy.

 

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“Shari! Shari! Girl wake the hell up! Every damned time I need to get up early, you and those fuckin’ nightmares wake me up! It’s a wonder somebody hasn’t knocked on the door because of all that screaming you be doing! I’m going to sleep in Jessica’s room!”

“Oh my gosh Lynn! I’m sorry!” I said trying to catch my breath. Another bad dream. I wiped the tears from my face. This time I’m drenched in sweat. I can’t stop my heart from racing.

“Your ass need to go see a doctor about that problem! I’m out!” Lynne said grabbing her pillow and blanket, slamming the door behind her.

I called Neil. I always call Neil after a bad dream. Just talking to him helped ease me back to sleep. Even though it’s 2:00 in the morning, Neil will answer for me. He’s not only my boyfriend, but he’s my best friend. It seems like I’ve known him my entire life. We started dating during freshman year. We were friends first, but quickly realized that there was a lot more to the friendship. We shared everything with each other.

“What’s the matter babe? Another bad dream?” he said half-awoke.

“Yeah, how’d you guess?”

“Well, it’s 2 in the morning and I’m not that lucky to think it’s a booty call.”

“Oh shut up Neil! But yeah, another dream. They are getting pretty bad too. I almost couldn’t wake up from this one. I had to change my t-shirt because it was drenched in sweat.”

“It’s funny how you don’t have these dreams when I’m with you. Maybe you should stay with me for awhile. Or at least until the semester is over. I can ask my roomate to switch to another room.”

“Neil, you and I both know if I room with you, we will probably fail the semester.” I said laughing. “I’ll be okay. I just needed to hear your voice, that’s all.”

“Shari just come over. You know you want to. Come over and I’ll make you some tea. We can talk until you’re relaxed enough to go back to sleep.”

“Okay. it is kinda creepy over here since Lynne left. I’ll be right down.”

 

I showered quickly and changed into my Victoria Secret yoga shorts, tank-top, and hoodie. I put my braids up into a bun and slid into my flip-flops. I checked myself out in the mirror before grabbing my keys to leave. I loved the way my chocolate skin looked in pink. The yoga shorts hugged my curvy hips and round butt while the tank-top accentuated the plumpness of my breast and the shapeliness of my waist. I wasn’t a tiny girl, that’s for sure! I had a lot to work with as a beautiful, black woman.

I left my room and headed for the stairs. It was a cool fall night and I could feel the air coming in through the cracks around the windows that lined the hallway. Louisianna University was one of the oldest colleges in town and the campus buildings were a constant reminder of just how old it was. Winston Residence Hall was built in the 1800’s and the architecture was untouched. The building was made of gray stone and covered from top to bottom with vines. The windows reached the high ceilings. The bluish glow from the moon became my personal spotlight in the dark hallway. My flip-flops smacked the cold marble tiles as I made my way downstairs to Neil’s room.

I loved Neil’s room. It was so warm and cozy, but a reflection of him. Neil was 6’3″ and nicely built. His eyes were hazelnut brown with thick, dark eyelashes and eyebrows. If eyes were the window to the soul, his eyes were inviting and made me feel safe. Neil kept his head bald and his face was framed by a well-manicured mustache and beard with nice, sensuous lips. Both forearms were covered with tattooed sleeves. When people looked at Neil, they saw a street-wise guy. But I knew he was soft on the inside.

I found a spot on Neil’s Futon and curled up in a corner. I wrapped myself in his robe and he handed me a cup of tea. As Neil sat next to me on the futon, I uncurled my legs and rested them in his lap. Beginning to unwind, I started telling him about my dream. They all started off the same way. I can clearly see a girl in a field, but I cannot see her face. I can tell she’s hot and tired. I can see the sweat running down her neck onto her dress. I can see the man, but I can’t see his face. I can tell he’s a white man. He’s always mounted on a horse with his hat drawn low over his eyes. He has a rifle strapped to his back. In my dream, the girl is scared. I can feel her fear. I can feel her heart racing. I have always talked about these dreams with Neil until I get to the rape. It’s almost as if I’m ashamed to talk about it even though it’s a dream.

“Hmmm, so the same thing happens every time huh?” Neil asked while rubbing my feet.

“Yeah, that’s what’s bugging me. I didn’t start having these dreams until I moved into Winston. I swear, the first week here…..Bamm! I start having nightmares! My roomate is getting tired of my shit!” I said laughing. It was funny now, but it wasn’t funny an hour ago.

“I know babe. But you can always crash here with me.”

“Hey, where’s Cody? Out again?” Cody was Neil’s roommate.

“Yeah, he’s always out. That’s why I said you should stay here.” He said rubbing my feet.

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it.” I said yawning. “Thanks for being here for me.”

“No problem babe.” He said while drifting off to sleep.

 

I awoke in the morning still feeling uneasy….but rested. I decided to go for a run before class started. I slipped out, trying not to wake Neil. After showering and dressing, I headed out into the brisk morning air. I enjoyed spending time running in the morning. The campus was beautiful. I jogged at a steady pace along the pinewood trail at the end of the south campus. The trail was a good workout, filled with hills and bends. After awhile, all I could hear was the steady rhythm of my heart beat. After four miles, I turned to head back. I walked briskly along the trail. A small cabin nestled almost behind a couple of majestic trees caught my eye off to the left. I hadn’t noticed it before. It was an old log cabin that looked as if it had been abandoned for years. After about ten minutes, I reached Winston Hall. I was exhausted, but energized as I climbed the three flights of stairs to get to my room. Lynn hadn’t returned. I guess she’s still pissed, I thought to myself smiling. I showered, dressed, and left to get something to eat before class.

I loved campus life in the fall. I looked forward to homecoming weekend and the parties. But I especially looked forward to spending time with my family for Thanksgiving back in Philly. Neil asked me to spend the holidays with his family this year, and of course I said yes. Now I have been trying to find a way to tell my folks I won’t be coming to Thanksgiving dinner this year. They aren’t going to be too happy about this news either. Mom and dad hosted Thanksgiving dinner for our entire family every year. It’s our family’s tradition. But I really wanted to meet Neil’s parents. Besides, I’m curious to see what white people eat for Thanksgiving. Should be interesting. Just to be on the safe side, I’m bringing my own jar of Lawry’s seasoning salt. I thought it was sweet of Neil to ask me to spend the holiday with him and his family. We’ve been getting pretty serious lately. We haven’t exactly talked about an engagement or anything, but I think it’s a huge deal for him to ask me to meet his folks. Maybe he can spend Christmas with me at my parents home. My mom and dad are the coolest parents ever, and I know that Neil would just love them the same way I do. My mom is a sweet lady with the sharpest tongue in town. She is notorious for throwing people out of our house on the holidays when she got tired. Everybody knew when Anna said get out, she meant it! And my dad…..what can I say? I have the best father in the world. My dad is one of those cool, laid-back type of guys. He served our Country as a Marine and is a fierce protector and provider of our family. My dad is the smartest man I know. He is a very deep thinker, especially after a round of medicinal “Mary Jane”. My family is super open-minded. I know Neil will be welcomed with open arms for sure. After all, Leon and Anna did not play when it came to the happiness of me, my brothers, and my sisters. Well, I have three more weeks before the Thanksgiving break so I will try to slip it in the conversation with my mom the next time we talk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER-2

 

 

 

Neil was born and raised in Louisianna. His parents lived upstate. About two hours away from school. We planned to leave school at five in the morning and take the scenic route. I wanted to get in a little tour before heading to his parents’ house. Neil is from a modest sized family. You know, the mother and father, sister and brother, and of course… the family pooch. Text book shit. Neil showed me pictures of his house and family on Facebook, and it was exactly what I had expected. Single home, large sprawling lawn with built-in sprinkler system, a few Oak trees lining the sidewalk, and a winding drive-way leading to the garage on the side of the house. Text book shit. Neil showed me the bedroom window that he used to sneak out of on Saturday nights to go to parties. He showed me a picture of his pristine mother, with her blonde hair pulled back tightly in a bun, and freshly manicured fingernails. I remember my mom used to always say ” Ain’t nobody got time for all that primpin’, chile. He better like what he see!” Then I saw a picture of Neil’s father. His hair was red and so was his neck. He looked tired and mean at the same damn time. The picture of Neil’s dad made me feel uneasy. I asked Neil if he was sure it was okay for me to come. He reassured me that his folks would love me.

“Neil, just because you love me doesn’t mean they will. Answer this….how many black friends do your parents have?” I asked, since that’s the first thing white people use as proof they aren’t racist.

“What!? Yo, you trippin’!” He said laughing.

“Okay, cut the ‘black-lingo’ cause you are not that cool.” I said laughing. “Just answer the question. How many black friends do your parents have?”

“Shari, my parents have several black friends. But we don’t call our friends ‘friends’. We consider our friends extended family. Now how about you tell me how many white friends your parents have…..huh?”

“Come on Neil! Now you know! We have friends of all shapes, sizes, and colors! We live on a block full of different races. Shit, we have Poppi and them on one side and the Mclaughlins on the other, so please!” I said laughing. “Don’t be mad because your ass was a sheltered little spoiled kid.” I laughed while throwing my arms around his neck and kissing him on the cheek.

“Yeah, alright….I got your spoiled brat!” He said as he smacked me on the ass.

Our laughing slowly turned into passionate kisses. His lips were soft and his tongue was warm and probing. I wrapped my arms tighter around his neck and my legs around his waist as he lifted me up. His tongue was hungry for my mouth as we backed onto the bed. I could feel his hardness pulsating on my ass. Breathing became more heavy and labored as we lay on the bed. I couldn’t wait for him to be inside, and he couldn’t wait to get there. His mouth moved down to my neck where he swirled his tongue over every inch and traveled down to my breast. He squeezed them and let his tongue circle around the nipples. He slapped my ass firmly. I grabbed his throbbing hardness and guided it slowly inside. Our bodies became one, rhythmic, rocking motion, faster and harder with each stroke. My wetness soaked his thighs and I could feel him about to cum. “I love you bae.” I whispered in his ear as we both erupted with intense orgasms and passionate moans. After, we both lay exhaustedly wrapped in one another’s arms, legs still intertwined as we drifted off to sleep.

 

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Every thrust felt like a knife cutting deep into my flesh. I can see myself laying there on the muddy river bank. I looked dead, but I can feel every vile inch. I’ve learned to leave my body when this happens. He can have my body, but he can’t have my soul. I can always tell when he’s coming for me. I can see him watching me at the end of the field. I don’t make eye contact. I just keep tending to the crops. I can feel him getting closer. I can smell the whiskey on him. I can see his fat, sweaty back humping on my lifeless body, and I wish I had a gun! I wish I had a gun so I could shoot him right in the ass! I want to swing my arms, but I can’t move. I want to kick, but my legs are heavy as lead. I want to yell, but the sound is stuck in my throat. I want to scream! Scream damnit! Just fucking scream! SCREEAAAMMMMM!!

 

I was startled awake by Neil shaking me and shouting in my ear. I opened my eyes slowly and blinked a few times. What the fuck is going on?! The sheets were on the floor. Neil’s looking at me wide-eyed. I unloosed myself from his grasp and rubbed my eyes to remove the blur, only to find my face wet. Was I crying? Was I crying!?

“Neil I’m sorry! I told you! These damn dreams are tripping me out!

“You scared the shit out of me! You were screaming and crying and I couldn’t wake you up! I kept yelling your name, but you wouldn’t stop! I shook your shoulders and you started swinging and kicking. You hit me in my lip!”

“Babe I’m sorry! That shit was scary! Feel my heart! It’s still beating fast!” I said grabbing his hand and placing it on my chest.

“I’ll get you some water.”

I lay back down, trying to make sense of things. I remembered some things. That poor girl! She’s young, even though I can’t see her face. She must be about 13 or 14-years old. And I want to kill that fucking bastard! I’m angry, but afraid at the same time. I’m scared for the girl, but I’m scared for myself too. There was something menacing about that man. I couldn’t see his face, but there was something very evil…….and soulless about that man! Neil came back with the water and I took a sip.

“Why do I keep having these dreams?”

“Babe, either you’re stressed from classes and midterms, or maybe it’s from extreme exhaustion.”

“That could be true….but shit! If it’s exhaustion, it’s these fucking dreams that’s causing it!” I said laughing.

“You know what Shari, maybe it’s guilt manifested by the fact that you think you’re going to let your parents down when you tell them you’re not coming home for Thanksgiving. I’m sure it’s something like that. Hey, why don’t you call your mom in the morning and just tell her? Just get it out of the way. I bet those dreams will stop!”

Neil talked me into agreeing to tell my mom in the morning. He fixed the sheets and we lay back down. I snuggled against his chest and tried to forget about the dream.

 

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“Hey mom! How are you?”

“Hey baby girl! What a surprise! How you doin’ sweetie?!” Anna was always so happy to hear from her daughter.

“I’m fine. Just wanted to call and say hi. How’s daddy?”

“Oh that man is okay. Still crazy!” Anna laughed. “What’s wrong baby? Everything alright?”

“Yes ma’am. I’m good. I was calling to say…..well, I was calling to tell you that….umm…I ummm”

“Shari girl! You know I don’t like that beat around the bush shit! I ain’t got time for that! Just spit it out!”

“Okay, okay! Sheesh, you’re so rude!” I said laughing. “Mom, I’m going to spend Thanksgiving with Neil and his family this year….you okay with that?”

“Well, what do you expect for me to say? No, you can’t go? Shari, you are 21-years old. I raised you right and I trust you. We’ll miss you, but this is your life sweetheart. You go and have a good time.”

“Mom, one more thing, Neil is…..umm…..a little light skinned.” I said laughing.

“Well what’s so funny about that? That other thing you used to date was damn near albino.”

“No mom, I mean Neil is white.”

“And?!” My mom and that tongue of hers again.

“Nothing. I just though I’d let you know.”

“Oh okay. Just make sure you take your own jar of Lawry’s when you go.” Anna said laughing.

“Alright mommy!” I said laughing before we exchanged “I love you’s” and hung up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER-3

 

 

 

November 17, 1810

 

The points and splinters of the tree bark pressed firmly into my flesh, almost threatening to break the skin. I don’t care, because if it wasn’t for me hugging this tree, I would surely be on my knees, and then my face by now. I squeezed hold of the tree with all my might, gripping tighter with every lashing of his whip. I think I counted seven, but I keep slipping in and out of awareness. My body is numb with pain. I can feel the warmth of the blood trickling from my back down to my ass. Massa Willis begins to huff out of breath and I know he’s going to quit soon. I just hold on tight to this tree real hard and close my eyes real tight.

“One of you niggers get this wench and clean her up! Now!” Massa Willis yelled out of breath. I guess he mad cause Miss Sarah caught him on top of me. Miss Sarah was awful mad at Massa Willis. She say he fuck dirty niggers and mess up her clean sheets when he come to bed. She said she never sleep with him again unless he sell me. Massa beat me instead. Like it was my fault. I guess it satisfied Miss Sarah some, because she went back to her needle point as if nothing ever happened. I’m not the only person Massa Willis have sex with. One late night I was out back looking for some Aloe to make an ointment. I heard noise in the outhouse. I snuck closer. I saw Massa Willis and the new Irish slave boy, Jimmy. Jimmy was doing to Massa what Massa do to me! Jimmy was behind Massa and Massa Willis was jus’ a’ moanin’ and groanin’. I wonder how Miss Sarah would feel about Massa getting fucked by a dirty Paddy boy? I think Massa would fuck the barnyard animals if he could.

Ms. Hattie helped me up from the ground after I let loose the tree. Mr. Jasper, who tends the horses, helped carry me to the slave cabin. Ms. Hattie and Mr. Jasper belonged to Massa Willis daddy before he died. The two were like a momma and poppa to me now, since my own family was gone.

“Savannah chile, why you make Massa so mad I will never know!” Ms Hattie whispered as she cleaned my back. I winced in pain, a tear trickling down my face. Ms. Hattie put a clean wrapping on my back.

“Ms. Hattie, if I don’t get away from here, Massa is bound to kill me!” I whispered exhaustedly, shivering from the pain.

“Chile, you just gotta pray and stay out of his sight! Just stay out of his sight!”

“But Ms. Hattie, I works in Massa house! In his kitchen! Oh Ms. Hattie, what I’s gonna do!?”

Mr. Jasper stood from his chair and chimed in, “Savannah gal, you listen to me! You gonna hafta kill Massa before he kill you! You let God worry about your soul later!” Mr. Jasper turned away, limping towards the door.

 

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Neil and I spent the entire evening after classes packing and planning our visit to his parents’ house. I am a little nervous. I want to impress his folks, and I want them to know that I’m good for their son. Neil is such a great guy. He’s a good son and a good person. I could go as far as to say he’s one of my biggest supporters. He’s my best friend, and I know I can tell him anything. I can’t seem to figure out why I can’t tell him the intimate details of my dreams. I feel ashamed every time I recount the things I dream. I will tell him one day, but right now, I just want to be dream-free and enjoy time getting to know his folks.

“Babe, we’re only staying two nights! Why do you have two suitcases?” Neil said flopping down on the bed. He leaned back on his elbows and smiled.

“Well, you never know what a girl might need on any given day! See….this dress is for a casual evening. And this one is just in case we do something formal. Goodness Neil, get with the program!” I laughed and threw the dresses back in the bag. “Oh, and this little number here….this is just in case your parents leave us alone in the house!”

“Girl, you are too much! I love you Shar.” Neil said as he stood and pulled me close. He kissed me softly.

“I love you too babe. So, what time should we leave in the morning?”

“I don’t know? About six? Sound good to you?”

“Yup, I’m exhausted!” I said yawning. “I think I’m going to bed in a few. I’m going to read a little and then I’m shutting these eyes. Can I crash with you tonight?”

“Of course! How the hell else are you going to get up so early?!” Neil said laughing.

 

I showered and threw on one of Neil’s T-shirts and my boy shorts. I wrapped my braids in a bun and tied a scarf around my head. I grabbed my book from my backpack and climbed into bed next to Neil. I loved curling up next to his warm body at night. He always made me feel safe at night. As much as I would’ve loved to nestle and snuggle in his arms, I had to get a jump on my African-American history assignment due after the break. I opened the massive hard-cover text book and flipped through the pages. I liked books with pictures, and this book had loads of old photos. I’m no history buff, but I do think that it’s so cool the way historians piece together time periods with pictures and stories. I’m also not good with remembering dates, so this is going to be tough. As I flipped through the pages, I came across a picture that stopped me from turning. The cabin! I read the small caption under the picture: { Slave Quarters; circa 1810 } A row of small log cabins with narrow doorways and squared windows on each side of the door. Behind the cabins was a forest and a small stream. The photo was black and white, but the longer I gazed, the more vivid the colors became. The grass in the picture slowly turned green and the cabin brown. The plantation house that sat in the distance, red brick with white frames. The sky above turned blue. I couldn’t turn away. It felt so familiar. I can feel the cool breeze blowing as I watch the leaves fly in a circular motion, as if dancing to the song of the winds. I walk along the pathway between the cabins, my bare feet making the leaves crunch beneath my steps. I walk toward the cabin. It’s calling me, pulling me, pushing me. I stop at the steps of the cabin. I lift my leg to begin the climb up the stairs. My hand holding the narrow railing. I take a step on the stairs. Hot! I can feel a sharp pain behind me! A painful heat!

“Shari! Shari!” Neil said loudly, startling me. I jumped, and the book fell to the floor.

“What!? You scared me!”

“Turn out the light babe! You’re snoring! Get some sleep.”

Confused and a little shaken, I shut the light and laid down on my side, resting my head on my forearm. “Sleeping? But I was wide awake!” I thought as I began to drift off.

 

 

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