our after hour Akanni worked into the cold night. And each time he paused, Tituba came awake, worrying about the consequences. After midnight, she brought him hot food to maintain his strength and fresh torches to light his work.
As she handed Akanni a bowl of cornbread soaked in honey and hot milk, he glared at her.
“Why the hard look, my son?”
“You, Mama. You are the cause.”
She knew what he meant but said nothing. A failure at protecting her son from their Master’s reaction, yes. But a cause of what happened, no. How could she be?
It was not a time to argue out there in the cold, in the middle of the night. And she was afraid the Master might overhear them, but Akanni had not finished.
“Why do you remain a groveling slave? You talk about obedience to Master. Where has it gotten me? Father knows our only way to freedom is to run.”
Tituba shrank down into her shawl, waiting for him to finish the food. Had Skitôp disclosed his own yearning?
When it was clear Akanni had more to say, she moved close to him, hoping he kept his voice low. “Do you think I have not heard Father whisper it in the night?
“I don’t want to hear this.”
“I want to run away with Father, but he will not leave without you. What are you so afraid of, Mama? Suffering? Haven’t you suffered enough here?”
Tituba shuffled back inside the lean-to. After closing the door, she fell to her knees and slumped back against it, stifling sobs with her apron. He was ready to go, and she was unprepared to let him. Her only son knew so little of a crushed spirit. Why could he not bear up to this temporary punishment? He did not know the full barbarity of bondage, the slavers and their disregard for life.
He could never understand what she had gone through before he was born. The crossing, the rape, a new world in which she had to do everything she was told.
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