This is flash fiction story I have written during the time when racism and slavery were very much present in the west. Do give it a read and I hope you like it:)
It was five years ago today when Lauren brought me to be her housemaid, to look after her, her husband, and three riotous kids. Taking care of white children, that’s what I do all day, making sure Aliza has her matching top ready with her fancy pants, Martin has his favorite banana shake ready after his basketball practice along with cleaning and cooking for the house.
My dad died in the American civil war. My mom was left with me, An 11-year-old, Strolling here and there on the streets of Kansas City to find work and shelter. It was when Lauren Scarlett spotted us and made a deal to my mother at $150. How could she have resisted that kind of money?
At an age when white children were sent off to school and play. I was meant to clean their shoes and water their lavish garden without a penny getting in my pocket.
There were times when I would go buying vegetables, I would purposefully take the route from where the central library passed by and would gaze at such a humongous library imagining the number of books to be kept here. Probably 50,000? Maybe more than that, but the sign on the door would remind me to continue walking ahead. ‘Only for whites’.
My desire to read and the study didn’t stop. Once everybody was asleep, I would walk into Lauren’s study room and look through some books, leafing pages even though I could read much. But one day I was caught by her husband with the Holy Bible in my hand. He took me to my room and chained me by the wall and lashed me with his belt and refused to give me food for the next two days. He said it was the book of the god and only meant to be for them and not people like us. Since then I’d never dared to go inside that room back again.
A month later, I had a life-changing moment. It was late at night when my Gaze wandered towards the swath of the window along the back of Mrs. Rose Murray’s house. She was a high school teacher at a public school nearby who had just shifted to the neighborhood recently. Her room was just across the window from my shack.
She was sitting next to her window with her little daughter on the study table reading a fairy tale book. I could easily see through the plenty of racks and columns filled with books behind their desk covering their wall.
Well. I couldn’t stop staring at them.
I glanced back quickly. Mrs. Rose was standing in front of the glass door now. She instantly waved off the curtains and it was all dark again.
The next Day, Mrs. Rose came on a visit to the house. She spent hours chatting with Lauren and the kids, playing puzzles, cards, and something with dice which I never understood.
“Would you like some tea, Rose?” Lauren said
“What about you kids? What shall I get for you?
“Chocolates” Shouted Aliza
“All right, I will be back in some time”
Rose’s gaze crossed towards me “Come here child” she called out to me.
I obeyed her “yes?”
“So, you were the one last night staring me across the window”
“Yes, I am sorry for that, I was just looking at your books and magazines in your room. I find racks and shelves filled with books very fascinating. I am sorry once again”
“Have you ever read a book in your life?” I was shocked by her politeness and affability far more than Lauren.
“No! Not really, to be honest, My mom did use to read some stories from the newspaper before going to bed when I was young”
She tucked out a medium-sized paperback from her tote bag and handed it over to me “You could read this if you want, it’s basic English”
“But my madam won’t allow me”
“You could hide in your room”
“All right Mrs. Murray, I will keep it” I took the book from her and tucked it in my t-shirt, and went back to my shack. I held the book in my hands and ran my fingers over the Purple colored front cover, It smelled like heaven.
I tried reading the first page ‘I- Am-a-girl’ It felt like an achievement to read those words ‘Tiger-lives-in-the-jungle’ ‘Dogs-are-very-loyal. ’ The first chapter was mostly very small declarative sentences. I spent an hour reading the book after finishing my chores for the night.
It was 10 in the night and Mrs. Athena was once again sitting near the window with her daughter Stacey helping her read a book. Her book was green in color with funny animations on the front.
She spotted me again and passed a subtle smile towards me. I smiled back at her. She instantly picked up a marker and a notebook beside her. She scribbled on it for a sec then held the notebook up so I could read it:
Did you read the book?
“I found It difficult to understand as the words were quite small but I anticipated it must be about the book”
I raised my right thumb to indicate a yes I did read. She smiled back.
In the next two days, I was done with the book. I began to easily read and write words in English, pronouncing to the best I could. The next day when I saw Mrs. Murray by the window I grabbed a piece of cardboard and I wrote:
I finished the book
She shook her head and smiled back
That’s good! I will get you another one tomorrow.
Keep reading till then
I couldn’t have thanked her enough for what she was doing for me. It takes courage and bravery to show compassion for people like us in these times. Since then she kept a new book next to her door for which I picked up while running errands and read and read and read.