The Loom

The Loom by Shella Gillus Page B

Book: The Loom by Shella Gillus Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shella Gillus
didn’t know, hadn’t felt the feeling of running free. The wind whisking around him, the power that pumped his legs through anything, everything against him. Even as scared as she had been, nothing got her heart racing like its call to rise, to fly.
    “You don’t understand.”
    “I don’t?” He grabbed the white string in her hand and tied it slowly around her ring finger. “I do.”
    He stretched out on his back beside her and looked up at the shabby tin roof. “I ran twice before.”
    “What?”
    “The first time I was about fourteen, working in Master Seward’s cornfield. I started hearing so many men talking about escaping. It became the thing they did every day, all winter. They talked, and I listened. Then finally in late spring, three decided it was time. They left one night, and I never saw them again. I heard one was hung not too far from Seward’s land. They said he wouldn’t come back without a fight so they killed him, but I like to think the other two made it.” He took a breath, his eyes far away.
    “Every day I waited to see if they would return. When summer came and went I knew I couldn’t wait no longer. One cool night, I said good-bye to my mama and went after the North Star. Got all the way up near the Pennsylvania border before I got caught.”
    John bit his bottom lip and closed his eyes. “The men in the field always said it was better to die than get caught, and I begged the Lord to kill me first before He left me in the hands of a White man.”
    “Who found you?” Lydia whispered. She wanted to know, didn’t want to know. She didn’t want to imagine, picture him captured. Too late. She saw him wrestling, straining to break free from the hands of…”Your master?”
    “No. Some slave catcher. Told me he’d blow my head off if I didn’t tell him who I belonged to. I wasn’t going to tell him a thing. Go on, kill me, I was going to say, but one of Master’s overseers was up North looking for some of their runaways and he knew me. Knew right off I was Seward’s. Umm…” He shook his head. “I got thirty-nine lashes, folk said. Master started off then got tired and turned the whip over to the one who found me. Thirty was the last I recall. Woke up raw and bloody, skin hanging off my back.” He sat up and breathed into his palms and for several minutes remained silent, his back curved under the weight of the words. “The pain… My mother cared for me, nursed me back, prayed for me, for my body and my mind. I never did understand why the Lord let me live. Not until now. Not until I met you.”
    Lydia moved behind him, cradled over him, and laid her hands on his back. Slowly, she slid her fingertips under the fabric of his shirt, grazed raised scars, and wept. “John.” She wrapped herself around him, her arms pressing his, her hands against his pounding heart, and whispered, “This is no life for a man. For nobody.”
    She twisted around in front of him and linked her fingers with his. “What about the second time? You said you ran twice.”
    “I think that’s enough telling for one night.”
    It was enough for a lifetime. They sat in silence for a moment.
    “I just wanted you to know I understand.”
    “So you know why I have to have it then. Why even this isn’t enough.”
    “Those are your words.”
    “John.”
    “Even so, I love you.”
    She looked up into his eyes. Without thought, she found her hand on his face, her fingers grazing his cheek, his jaw. Black satin. Was there anything, anyone, more beautiful?
    He tugged the worn blanket across her shoulders.
    “Where did you get this thing?”
    “What?” He shrugged, laughed. “What’s wrong with it?”
    “This ol’ beat-up rag? You need a new one.”
    “This suits me just fine.”
    “You’re planning on being a free man with this old blanket? I’m going to make you one. Make us one for when we’re married.”
    “Oh yeah?”
    She tilted her head. They’d better be getting married.
    “No, that

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