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Sweat dripped down my brow as I waited outside the medical quarters of the plantation, waiting for a nurse to appear with news. It has been almost a half an hour of waiting, worrying. I wasn’t supposed to be here, hiding in the shadows of the large willow tree, waiting for Annie to beckon me inside. If I got caught, it would be the whip.
I saw between the thin branches of the willow a hand extended out the window. That was my call.
I squinted as I watched to see if Mr. Janson was near. I waited to see any sign of movement or noise. None. I crept out from my hiding place and quietly went into the room, where Georgia laid peacefully, bandages laying a top her head.
“Gonna have to keep off her feet, she is,” the Annie mumbled, “Ain’t gonna be working the fields tomorrow. Nasty fall she’d taken. She’d have to stay with me for a little while.”
I ignored Annie and sat down in the chair beside Georgia’s bed. I watched as her lids fluttered before she whispered my name, “Jack.”
“Shhhh…” I put a finger to her lips. “You gonna be fine now. Just gotta rest.”
Her eye then closed softly, a slight smile from relief. I felt her boney hand in mine, and my heart leaped from the truth of my words.
My moment of peace was quickly interrupted by a raspy voice coming from the opened window, “you ain’t gonna be fine tho.’”
Mr. Jenson emerged from the darkness and into the candlelight as he entered the doorway; gun drawn and pointed directly at me.
“Get on out here.”
I obeyed. Annie looked at me as if her heart was about to shatter into a thousand pieces. Shes seen many suffer the same fate I was about to face. But there was nothing her or anyone else could do to stop Mr. Jenson. He owned us. I heard Georgia whimper, but she was in no condition to protest. It wouldn’t have mattered anyways.
Once I was close enough to him, he pushed me down into the brown dirt. I heard footsteps as some more white folk approached.
“He snuck outta his quarters. Wake everyone up.”
I saw nothing but the green grass as I heard the men screaming and banging on the windows of the slave quarters. I know from the many other times this happened that it was no use to struggle, and that Mr. Jenson was still pointing a gun at me in case I did.
I then started hearing mumbled whispers as everyone approached me. I looked up from the ground to see the group encircling me, slaves, white folk, and all. I could’ve sworn I saw my children, Hattie and Toby, from the corner of my eye. I didn’t dare check to see if it was them. I never wanted them to see me like this.
I felt hot hands rip off my sweaty shirt, covered in dirt. The hands then extended my arms, so I was unable to defend myself. I couldn’t watch as Mr. Jenson was given the thin, black, venomous serpent, ready to break through my flesh. I just starred at the ground, unable to make eye contact with anyone.
Mr. Jenson only had to say one quick sentence, “Left his quarter. Twenty lashings.”
The lashes then began.
It was the longest minutes of my life. The only thing I remember about it was the bloodcurdling scream that came from my lips, and the trickle of blood down my back. The only other sound was a young girl crying…Hattie crying…
I then fell to the ground as the pale hands let me go. My back twitched from the sharp pain. It was as if someone stabbed me in the back twenty times. Mr. Jenson said something to me as the others left the scene, but I’ll never know what it was. The pain was too unbearable to listen.
I felt Annie restrain my shoulders as she helped me off the ground and into her quarter so she could bandage me.
I fell onto my stomach once we were inside. Georgia was laying on the ground next to me, tears streaming down her face. “You gonna be alright, Jack?”
Looking at her and knowing she was alright relaxed me. I stopped twitching as Annie put the bandages on me.
“I be alright, Georgia. We both be alright.”
As long as that was true, I could handle the pain.