Love Born into Slavery

February 4th, 1822 – Columbia, South Carolina

“You doin’ an awful lot of grinnin’ tonight, Jeremiah.”

“And I’ma keep on grinnin’.” Jeremiah grabbed his new wife by the waist and brought her close to him. “We been married now for forty-one days. Now what you thank about that?”

Sarah laughed and rested in the crevice of his labor sculpted chest. “You still countin the days, I see. Well it’s been the best forty-one days of my twenty-three years. Let’s get some supper and get to bed; it’s like the sun been risin’ earlier every mornin’.”

The two sat and enjoyed supper at the table Jeremiah had made himself. They had been so deep in each other’s thoughts that the sudden banging on the door startled them both to embarrassment. The bad thing about knocking in this hour is that rarely does anything good come from it. Jeremiah stood from the table and made his way to the door. He cautiously opened it and did not like the sight that stood before him.

“Evenin’, Masta Jamison.”

“Evenin’, Jeremiah.”

Jeremiah opened the door a bit wider and stepped out onto the porch of his small shack of a home. He looked to the left and right of his home to see if any others were with the master. His mind raced as he thought if he had done anything that would have called for a late-night beating — no; not since last year.

“What brang you down from the big house at this late hour, Boss?” Jeremiah asked, nervous of the response.

Mr. Jamison sucked in a gulp of air and started, “I need Sarah up at the house for a few chores.” There was a pause. “You know, since the lady of the house is gone to visit her mother.”

Jeremiah’s stomach turned in knots. He knew what that meant, and he could smell the liquor coming off of Jamison. “You mean to tell me that Sarah ain’t been doin’ her duties during the day, Masta Jamison?” he asked. “Since it’s late and she gettin’ ready for bed, I can come on ova’ and do whateva you need.” The attempt to deter the situation was obviously going nowhere, but Jeremiah had to try. There might be some change in heart that would spare them from such disgrace.

“Now these here are lady duties, Jeremiah. Just send Sarah on out and she’ll be back in about an hour.” The pause was longer and quieter than the first. “Boy, am I gonna have any trouble out of you tonight? If so, you about to get you and that lil’ nigga wife of yours a real bad lashin’!”

Jeremiah turned and went into the house. His wife was staring at him with hopeful eyes, welling with tears. “Sarah, Masta gonna need you up at the house for just a few minutes,” he said as assuredly as possible.

“I ain’t goin’ up there, Jeremiah,” she whimpered. “You remember what he did to that girl last year? He gonna do that to me, Jeremiah!”

“No he ain’t,” he responded. “One thang for sho; if you don’t go he likely gone beat you real bad, and I don’t wanna see you hurt, Sarah. If you go, he just might need the bathrooms cleaned or somethin’ small like that. It’ll be alright.” He kissed her on the forehead and walked her to the door.

**********

Hours later, Sarah gently walked back into the house. Jeremiah was sitting in his dinner chair in the middle of the floor. His hands held his head up as he sat slumped over, staring at the floor. Sarah came and sat on the floor in front of him. Her face was bruised and clothes were torn. He stared at his wife, and she stared back at him. Jeremiah stood up over her and went to bed without saying a single word. She cried until she fell asleep; right there on the floor.

As Jeremiah lay in the bed, he thought about his wife laying there on the floor. He had never learned to deal with any problems without use of force. It was all he had ever known. The only two people that had ever calmed him or had been able to get him to talk, was his mother and his best friend from years back — Sarah. Those were the only people he had ever trusted since his father and siblings were all sold away. He knew in his mind, that none of what had happened was Sarah’s fault, but he felt as though it was his. He thought that if there was anything ever worth dying for, it should have been that. He hated himself for not doing more. He hated himself for the fear that he let lead him and his wife into this situation. He wanted to tell her. He knew that if he did tell her, that they could heal together. But his disdain for the white man who had defiled his wife, caused him to be disgusted by the sight of her. His emotions for her were spread in every direction that his heart could reach. So he did nothing; he said nothing.

Sarah knew Jeremiah. She knew how he thought and why he though it. So she did nothing; she said nothing. He needed time and space. After it was noticeable that she was pregnant, he said to her at supper, “I’m running away to Charleston. It’s a free man, named Denmark Vesey, talking about starting a revolt.”

“Don’t go, Jeremiah,” she said as tears ran down her face. “I’m pregnant and I’m scared.” With those words, Jeremiah saw that he still had a duty to serve as a man and as her husband. He had not been degraded to uselessness, though he had felt as such the whole time. He got up and rushed to Sarah and hugged her like he had wanted to on the night she returned from the big house.

**********

On day three-hundred and two of their marriage, Sarah gave birth to a beautiful chocolate baby girl. Their relief was immeasurable to say the least. Jeremiah thanked his wife for asking him to stay. If he had fled, he would have surely been caught and killed, and he would have missed out on seeing this little girl. Sarah thanked him for being the man that he was, making things work for them, and not just him.

They both thanked God for what they had, and for keeping them from worse; and prayed that one day their baby would see better days.

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