Dedication: To women like my mother who make living look easy
Kali looked back at the couch, checking on Skyler to make sure she wasn’t close to the edge before looking back at Darryl. The thought of her baby rolling off the sofa twisted her insides. She couldn’t roll, but that didn’t stop the dread.
“I can get you some dinner,” she hated the fear that tinged her voice.
“Damn straight, you can,” he threw several heavy books on the couch, making the cushions move enough for the baby to shift closer to the edge.
Kali drew a deep breath and started for the couch.
“Touch that bitch, and I’ll and break its neck.”
Kali stopped moving, her muscles turning to stone as she waited, knowing that Darryl was drunk, and drunk meant mean and evil.
“Dinner,” his voice came out low and slithering, reminding her of a snake.
Bile tried to come up, but she held it down. She knew it was bile since she hadn’t been allowed to eat anything for the last two days. Nodding her head and giving a fake smile, she limped into the kitchen. Her leg was dragging behind her, she was grateful it wasn’t broken, or she’d be crawling. Skyler would take the brunt of her punishment if she had to crawl.
She pulled out a thick steak, stuck a potato in the microwave and started a vegetable while the steak cooked. She licked her lips, wishing she could have a bite if Darryl even smelled a hint of food on her breath Skyler would die.
How could she have brought her precious girl home to a house like this? She didn’t have a choice, that’s how. The government said they would help her, but those same people didn’t want to get involved with someone like her. Evil stalked her.
Carefully she picked up the plate she made and carried it out of the kitchen to the dining room that connected to the living room. Darryl was sitting on the edge of the couch, his knife roaming over Skyler’s tender skin. Her hands trembled so severely that she almost dropped the plate.
“I got your dinner,” it took everything in her to pretend that she didn’t see what was happening. The plate was set down on the table as she stood there with her head respectfully bowed.
He came and sat, eating while her stomach was making noises; they both could hear.
“Get naked,” he told her between bites.
She walked into the living room, taking off all her clothes, then she folded them neatly before lying down on the floor.
When he finished eating, he came in and began fondling himself before he kicked her in her ribs. Nothing seemed to get him in the mood, like making her hurt. When hardened, he jerked her legs apart and took care of business.
When he was close, he gave her that look.
“Oh yes, harder, babe, it feels so good.” She channeled her best when Harry met Sally until he finally spilled.
“Clean this up, bitch,” he got up stretching and scratching at his groin.
God, how she prayed he didn’t have anything she could get. Skyler started to cry.
“She’s hungry. I need to feed her.”
“Did you spend my money on that worthless brat’s food?”
“No! I mean I got help, remember I told you about that government program.”
“I got a friend,” he walked past her, kicking her as he stood over the couch. “He said babies give good head. He’ll pay us for letting him shove his dick down her throat. Not only that, but he’s willing to line up some of his friends that like to touch little girls, get that pussy nice and open before she knows what happened.”
He turned to look at her.
“Don’t you think that’s nice of him and think of the money we can make?”
“That’s real nice.”
“Feed it, and we’ll talk about it in the morning.”
She nodded and moved around him, picking up Skyler before she limped into the kitchen.
“It’s going to be okay, baby girl,” she sang in a soft voice feeding her daughter.
Tears flooded her eyes as she cleaned the kitchen, then the dining room and the living room. When she was sure that Darryl was asleep, she dressed Skyler and herself. She filled her diaper bag with as much as she could carry before prying up the floorboard where she kept her hoard of money. Then she crept out of the house.
Her mama sold her to Darryl, and she knew that she couldn’t leave because she wasn’t free. She was a slave the way they used to be a hundred or so years ago. He could do anything with her he liked. He liked to see her get beaten and raped for money. Sometimes he gave her away for free, especially if they hurt her in front of him. It was America.
She was walking, not sure where they could go to find safety. She knew she needed to leave this community and the city. This was America, land of the free, but everyone who lived in this community owned at least one slave. The only reason she still had Skyler was that they came to the notice of some government employees who wanted to make her life better. They came around to check on them for the first six months after birth.
She ducked behind a tree when she thought she saw a headlight behind her.
“I’m telling you I saw someone walking the road. Who would be here if it wasn’t one of our slaves trying to make a run for freedom?” A male voice cut through the place she was hiding.
She shivered and looked down at Skyler, who was trying to screw her face up at the noise. She started rocking her, praying frantically to any deity that may hear that her baby wouldn’t start crying.
“The punishment for running away is the death of a child. Do you think they would try that? After we killed the last baby, no one wants to challenge us anymore.”
They gave the baby to a wild animal that tore him apart.
“You’re right, who would be that stupid?”
She waited as the car began to drift down the street. Skyler took in a deep breath, her mouth opening wide. It was the excessive barking that started close by that drowned out the sound of her crying. The car’s engine turned over, and it was gone. Kali stopped her crying and hurried in the other direction. They didn’t have time to waste. When they were away, she would fall, but not while her precious child depended on her.
She knew where she was going now. The walk was long, several hours, but when they entered the bus station, she plastered a smile on her face. If her leg wasn’t dragging behind her, she would have been here much sooner. There were three windows operated by two women and a man. She waited until the man was free before walking up to him.
She didn’t think he would notice her. Most men looked for the women they found attractive and ignored the others unless they had a buddy with them. Then they felt free to talk about the woman loudly.
“Silver Springs.” It seemed far enough away.
He stopped, his eyes scanning her. It was a look that started at the crown of her head and traveled down to her feet. Then he raised his eyes and looked at the small bundle in her arms. She almost went to the bathroom on herself, wondering if he were part of the community, and she didn’t know it.
“You don’t want to go there.” He lowered his head before punching in something on the screen that she couldn’t see. “You’re in luck. This bus should have left an hour ago, but it got a flat. There’s one seat left; it belongs to you and your gorgeous baby. She’s going to be one talented young woman when she gets older.”
He looked at her, and his eyes sparkled. She shook her head and rubbed her eyes. She was so tired she was seeing things.
“Hurry, you don’t want to miss your bus. Also, there is a table of food by the loading platform, make sure you grab something to eat, it’s for anyone taking that particular bus.” He handed her the ticket then rushed her along before she realized it. She found herself doing a limp-run to make the bus in time.
When she got there, they were doing their last call for boarding. She gave the attendant her ticket.
“Wait, you can’t board.”
The bile that was tearing up inside came back in full force.
“Where’s your food?”
“Food,” the woman pointed to the table. “We’ll be making up time; the first rest stop won’t be happening. Hurry!”
Kali made her way to the table, picking up as much as possible only to find they had some insulated bags. She stopped when she realized there was food there for Skylar. She had to be dreaming; one quick look showed the attendant was pointing to her watch. So be it. If they died, they died together. She took all she could and climbed the steps to the bus. The empty seat appeared to be a two-seater. She sat, placing the food by her side before slumping down and curling up around her baby.
She watched as they pulled out of the loading area. Her face was plastered to the window, scared that Darryl or someone else from the community would stop the bus and pull her off. A soft sigh left her when the bus was away from the station. Still, she held herself stiffly until they hit the highway. When she saw the sign, you are now leaving Devonshire, Pa. Her body relaxed.
Had she done it? Was she free? More importantly, was her child free? One step at a time. Maybe she could give Skyler to someone that would love and keep her safe. She hugged her little body closer. The thought of giving her up ripped her in two. It was better than seeing her child raped.
Skyler gave a real cry, and she opened one of those ready-made bottles that were the correct proportions that you got in the hospital. Her daughter sucked it up like it was manna from heaven. When she was fed and changed, a woman stood over Kali.
“Hi,” the woman smiled at her with a twinkle in her eyes that Kali remembered seeing, but where. “I noticed you forget your carrier. I usually don’t have a spare, but this is your lucky day.”
“I couldn’t,” she tripped over her words. No one had ever given her anything.
“Sure, you can. We’re the same, well almost the same. There was a time I needed help. Do you know how to put this on?”
Kali nodded, no. She had no idea. What’s worse, she couldn’t think straight with the woman towering over her.
“Let me help you.” She showed her how to put in on, so Skyler would be snug, and she would have her hands for simple things like carrying packages or eating. “There you go. Now that beautiful baby can sleep in peace, and you can sleep without worrying about dropping her.” The woman gave her a smile and a small wave before disappearing down the aisle of the bus.
“Oh,” she called back. “Make sure you eat.”
Food? She was almost afraid to eat. It felt like if she did, Darryl would somehow pop up on the bus to beat her. With more trepidation than food called for, she took out a thermos with soup. The thought of eating eat something in a thermos packed by someone she didn’t know. Unfortunately, she didn’t think her stomach would accept anything else. She took the first sip of soup, waiting for a horrible death. Instead, a tasty broth with a sliver of vegetables and meat in it soothed her hunger. The heat settled in her stomach. Soon she was done, and her eyes closed. It was the first time she slept without fear since she been a child.