Ella had come from the dusty back roads of Lynchwood; they weren’t suited for the likes of her, nor the likes of anyone who resembled the soil of the earth. Darkness lurked in every crevice of that town. Snapped necks and languid limbs swayed from the limbs of the tall Oak trees that betrayed. The empty wombs of young women like herself quickly became occupied by children who would never be claimed, and would tragically end mixed up in society’s disarray – never knowing which way to run. She had seen it too many times; the fear of it happening to her was so deep in the pits of her stomach that it bled right through, right into her soul. Still, the fear was not enough to paralyze her. And with no more than a red cent, an old Bible, and the earth beneath her feet, Ella ran….ran into Blue.
She sat down by the vanity. Her hair arranged in tight curls. Her skin the color of molasses. Not one flaw apparent, rich – smooth. Her almond eyes glistened artificial light. Their real light dimmed long ago. Still, she carried on her ritual. She lightly kohl rimmed her eyes. Not to overwhelm them, but accentuate. Ella had learned fast and well. She saved the lips for last. As a whole, she was inviting. But her lips more than invited. Her lips sang a glorious sadness. The air was thick and warm. Summers were like that in Blue. Young children ran wild and recklessly. Older folks liked that lifestyle too. They ran wilder than the children. Mixing themselves up in everything. The city fanfare had mixed her up. The lights had flashed too brightly. The people’s tongues were too quick. She had been unequipped. Her Gran had said to pray. Ella gazed at herself a while. Then her eyes slowly shifted right. She gazed at the weathered Bible her Gran gave her before she left. The scene had become too familiar. Yet it hadn’t become less difficult. Head bowed to utter a prayer. The same one Gran taught her. But his growing impatience interrupted her.
“I ain’t got all damn night.” He said.
Ella shifted her gaze toward him. His pale, whale like figure disgusted her.
“You deaf, girl? Time’s wastin’,” he said.
Ella looked back at the Bible. She reached and pushed it aside. “How much you got, Mr. Ahab?” Ella asked.
“Don’t matter how much I got, girl. You gon’ give me whatever I want,” Mr. Ahab barked.
“I got to know how much you got if I’m gon’ figure out how much I got to give.”
“I said you gon’ get over her and give me whatever I want! I’m tired of you niggers thinkin’ you got some sorta say in somethin’. Got your freedom, what more you want?”
Freedom? This is what they call freedom? Ella thought. Shit, this was never the type of freedom I had in mind.
As Ella walked over to the bed, to where Mr. Ahab was, the sounds around her suddenly became amplified. In the street, the wild laughter of a man and woman who had just left the confines of a dark, smoky speakeasy, after being pressed up against each other in sin. Next door, the screams of a woman being roughed up by a man to whom she owed money – her boss. The only thing drowning the sounds out was the sound of Mr. Ahab’s voice. His tone had become calmer…anticipatory.
“That’s right. Get over here, girl. You mine for tonight.”
She belonged to anyone if they had money to buy. Once upon a time she felt as if she had some control over her situation, but her fight had become exhausted. And many times, she tried to pray, but it appeared that she either no longer knew how, or simply decided that her voice was not worthy of being heard.
“What can I do for you?” Ella whispered.
“Lay down here on this bed, and don’t do anything unless I tell you to.”
Ella lay down on the bed as Mr. Ahab got up. He looked at Ella with hungry eyes, and ran his cold, calloused hand up and down her warm, still body. She held her breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them, he had already mounted her and was grinning as if he’d already accomplished what he’d set out to do. As his sin entered her, she could feel the hot summer air coming through the window – it stifled her. With her eyes fixed on the vanity across the room, she settled her focus on the weathering Bible. Ella listened to the rustling of the turning pages, as Mr. Ahab thrusted and prodded. With every grunt he released, the rustling only grew louder. Ella, fighting to keep her tears from mingling with his sweat, as her Gran haunted her.
Kamille Best is an English/Creative Writing Student at the City College of New York. She will graduate in the spring.
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