Ann and Anna, (serial short story, Part 21): River

        Part  20 (Into The Night), was last Sunday…

       Our ride in the carriage, that night, seated back to back as Anna and I were, was at least sure against the winter chill.  I’d laid an extra blanket over little Tilly, then snuggled back up against Anna.  At some point during our ride, she had turned to cradle me in her arms as we slept.  I awoke nuzzling the inside of her neck, and rose with a start, as I saw our Tilly observing me.  My cheeks began to burn as I wondered how long she might have been awake.


“It’s ok, Miss Willow.  Your servant Joe Wright is here to keep us safe, Missus.”


I was so relieved, I hardly knew what to say.  “Oh, Tilly, you don’t need to play our game here.  We are alone.”


She shook her head most insistently:  “Joe told me that we are never to end this game, Miss Willow, until we are free up North.  All the way north.”  She looked at the window, covered against the cold, and against prying eyes, and inched closer, whispering, “we never know what ears may be up against this door.”


“That is right.”  How long had Anna been awake?  I’d not felt her move a muscle, but she was surely listening.  How did she do that?  Just then, I recalled the question which had been burning within me as we went to sleep.


“Miss, sorry, Joe, you said something last night about seeing Old Mary soon.  What on this Good Lord’s earth were you talking about, pray tell?”


Anna flashed her most devilish grin.  It was the one that promised shocking things to come.


“What say both of you,” she had managed to lower her voice another octave, to sound like a young boy, if not a man, “to a spot of breakfast, before I answer that question?”


“I am starving!”


I was amazed at how quietly this child could shout.


“Tilly,” I teased in my finest soprano whisper, which is not an easy thing to do, “you are always starving, HoneyChild!”


We all fell to giggling as quietly as we had whispered, as we shared out the cornbread Mrs. H. had given us to breakfast upon.  Even cold, that aroma was enticing.  It had been all she’d had to hand, so we knew we must make do on that one meal for most of this day.


When we had each had three chews and a swallow of our meal, I looked up again at Anna, my head tilted insistently at her, as I waited for my reply.


She finally rewarded me:  “Do you remember the white men who met us where we stopped with the wagon?”


I nodded.


“They were expecting to see four of us, of course.”

Of course.  I still recalled the despair of that parting.


“Old Mary was meant to carry you and Little Sally, while Captain here,” she lifted her head up toward the front of the carriage, “is sturdy enough for both Miss Mary and myself.  Since it was just you, they almost took Old Mary back with them, but I told them that two horses were better than one.  That is why she is here again, tied up back as the spare.“


Old Mary was here!  It was a pity that I had no apples or carrots for her.  That thought brought to mind the memory of my Miss Mary, for some odd reason, singing one of our favorite songs.  I wished I could go now, down to some peaceful river, thinking about a good way, a better way than this world’s way, to pray.


There came a knock at the carriage door, and I realized that we had not been moving for some moments.  I wondered how I had managed not to notice.  All was silent.  Another knock came, this time in three sharp raps, followed by two light knocks.  Anna nodded, and Little Tilly cracked the door open just enough to see the pair of blue eyes looking back at us, and opened it wide enough for the doctor see in.


“Joe, it is here that I must leave you all.  I bid you god speed.”



I saw the barest lift of his hat just as the doctor stepped back out of view, allowing our Joe to exit the carriage.  The door had clicked shut, and we’d started up again with nary a sound.  Now, we were on our own, and our safety depended upon me.


I decided that this was a good time to pray.

       This is the continuation scene in my historical fiction series  Ann&Anna.  I  hope that this series will move you to learn more ways to help use our history to build new tools.

  Parts   20 (Into The Night)19 (Peculiar Gifts)18 (Mouth of Babes)17 (Testing)16 (Power)15 (Knowledge)14 (Words)13 (Interruptions)12 (Gifts)11 (Punishment),  10 (Warmth),   9 (Found)8 (Lost)7 (Rock)6 (Believe), 5 (Naming), 4 (Home), 3 (Trust), 2 (Hope), and 1 (Nightmares) have posted on previous Sundays.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Action Prompts:

1.) Share your thoughts on how this story may encourage empathy-building cooperation, and might help, or hinder, inclusive thinking.  It is my personal contribution to Project Do Better.

2.) Write a story, post or tweet that uses those thoughts.


Click here to read, if you like:

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Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

   Comment: You can see how her C-PTSD is healing, in the love of this chosen/found family…


20 thoughts on “Ann and Anna, (serial short story, Part 21): River

    1. “No atheists in foxholes”

      especially back then, and even more especially in situations like this.

      It was the historical millieu, just as no coachman could afford, or would even think of, not eating meat when it was offered. Those were the times, even if Thomas Jefferson wanted to hint at some different belief. Even Sally Hemings was trapped in this system of beliefs, and sometimes there was nothing one could do but pray to any and every god ever invented, every time the Master left home…

      (no doubt you know, but Petru and others may not: slaves often wept at the death of “Good Ole Master,” not for love of the master, necessarily, but for fear of family members being sold away for the master’s old debts…

      And when Jefferson was away from Monticello, the slaves even there were not treated as well, according to documents found by Annette Gordon Reed…)

      Liked by 5 people

  1. An excellent solution to the amount of horses available at the beginning. I’ve gotten rather attached to Mary (the horse) myself by now. I love this episode. Just long enough for getting into properlyand to leave one asking for more. There’s bound to be serious action an drama in the next episode. I think so. I like that Tilly wasn’t shocked at Anna and Willow’s sleeping position. How old is she again? Do we know her background or is it safer for them not to know?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, yes. This is just the lull before the next storm, of course, and Willow is entirely aware of this. Hence the prayer. No one at that time would have remained calm in that situation, and this is the tool that my community of origin has always used to ride out such storms. Until recently, anyway.

      Little Tilly, I think, is about 6 yrs old, maybe 8ish. She doesn’t know, of course, and, as with the doctor and his wife, it is safest to know as little as possible (I recall Willow thinking on this, but maybe not in relation to little Tilly).

      Naturally, however, since the world of slaves was so circumscribed, and both Willow and ‘Joe Wright’ have far more exposure “to their betters” of Quality Society, they can both make good educated guesses as to Tilly’s background, particularly Willow, having been in contact with the Body Servants of ‘important’ men.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Part of the problem with writing from Willow’s perspective is that she has grown up in a world of subtlety, implication, and lies. She is accustomed to having to catch half-truths and things left unsaid, as part of her survival mechanism. So writing that, while still getting necessary information across to readers, is a bit perplexing for me.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you. I’m going to have to stop, soon, unfortunately, but am very glad that you find it moving. Need to finish up Do Better, so the search for Beta Readers continues…

      In Service to Humanity,

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Can you believe that I’ve still got this song stuck in my head, for three weeks, now?
      I’ve got to watch the right episode of Casa de Papel so that I get get the Italian anthem stuck in my head again, instead!

      Liked by 3 people

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