- Genre: Romance
- Age: 18+
- Status: Completed
- Language: English
- Author: Kris Glas
“Victoria, are you sure you know what you’re getting into?” she asked as she watched the honey brown-eyed girl with the ebony black tightly coiled hair fold and packed her clothes.
The girl stopped packing, looked up at the older woman, and sighed. “Momma, I know you wouldn’t expect less of me. These people need me. They need us.”
“But why you and not Robin? She’s older, and she’s from there. She knows the people, good and bad,” the woman said, wringing her handkerchief in her hands. She had already lost her husband in the fight for a so-called justice that had nothing to do with them. The Colored Teachers Association did nothing, in her opinion, but caused problems.
“You know that there’s a warrant out for her arrest, and down there, they don’t play fair. If she went back, we might as well send her momma and daddy a pine box with her name on it.” Victoria went back to folding her things. Her mother had always led a pampered life, and although she wanted the same for her daughter, her daddy wouldn’t allow it. He was born in the south and swore on his own daddy’s grave that once he got into a position where he could make a change, he was going to make a change.
“The people down there like things the way they are. If they didn’t, they would have left a long time ago. It’s 1902; it’s time for us to stop fighting for people who won’t fight for themselves.”
“Momma, I’m not going to stand here and believe that your heart is speaking. You don’t think like that. It’s just your anger speaking because I am leaving,” Victoria said, looking at her mother. “The only reason daddy left is because he had to. Why should people have to live in such fear that they’ll leave their roots? That’s why it is so important that I go. Winston wouldn’t send me if he didn’t think I was ready.”
“Winston is an idiot! Why would he send a 25-year-old unattached colored woman into a lion’s den?”
Victoria took a deep breath before responding. For weeks, her mother had been sulking and trying to arrange get-togethers with some of the single men around town. She knew it was only a matter of time before she spoke what was truly in her heart. “In the Good Book, Daniel was delivered from the lion’s den.”
“Well, young lady, Daniel wasn’t a pretty colored girl,” her mother snapped.
“Maybe the lions are color blind,” Victoria jokingly said.
“Victoria Nicolette Jameson, I assure you this is no laughing matter. Not only will you have to worry about the white people, but your own kind as well. People in the south don’t like change. You got a place you can run to; they don’t,” the older woman said with tears in her eyes.
“But momma, that’s the reason why I need to go. They need to know they do have a place to run, too. They need to know they have rights. Besides, I will not be traveling alone. Winston will be there, the Samson brothers and their wives, and Mr. Julius Puckett himself,” she said, taking her mother’s hands into her own.
“Mr. Julius Puckett, I’ve never trusted that man. He’s so slick and a fast talker, and your father didn’t trust him either.”
“I know he didn’t, and Winston doesn’t either.”
“So now why all of a sudden you’re getting starry-eyed whenever you say the man’s name?”
“Mr. Puckett?” Victoria asked, knowing full well whom her mother was speaking of.
“Stop acting daft, gal, you know who I mean,” her mother said, yanking her hands away and wiping her face with the piece of lace that was as wrinkled as a piece of paper. Before she could answer, they were interrupted by the hired help.
“Miss Jameson, they have arrived,” she said, grabbing a couple of her bags and exiting the room as silently as she had entered.
“I guess it’s time,” she said, looking at her mother. “The train will be arriving in an hour.”
The older woman quit trying to fight tears and pulled her only child to her bosom and hugged her as tightly as she could. Everything she said was true; she expected nothing less of her. Even though she herself was too afraid when she was young to fight for equality and now much too old, she had always envied her daughter’s spirit. Even as a child, she was the one who always stood up for smaller children. Girls, boys, it didn’t matter. She still took on the job as a protector. She was so much like her father in drive and looks as well.
“Now, let’s pull your hair up and get your traveling coat before I break down bawling again.”
Sad to be leaving her mother and home but happy the issue of Winston wasn’t pushed. Her mother grabbed one of the two remaining bags and hurried out of the room. Victoria looked around the room and took a deep breath. She knew about all her mother’s concerns because she had the same. It didn’t matter too her what the people of Russellville, New York, thought. So what if she was 25, unmarried, and not even courting? Mrs. Wilkerson, the head schoolteacher, reminded her every day that by the time she was 22, she was on her fourth child. That probably would explain her having ten by age 45. She knew what the people said about her, calling her an old maid and her poor mother, who was concerned about appearance, bearing the brunt of all the hushed whispers. This would be a good thing indeed.
Nonsense aside, she grabbed the other bag and dragged it to the doorway. The hem of her dress skirt got snagged on a nail from the frame, and down she went, flat on her rear with a loud thud. “Miss Victoria, are you okay?” Louis Bell, the yard keeper, asked, coming to her rescue. Her cheeks were burning with embarrassment. She accepted his hand and prayed to the Heavens that no one downstairs heard her.
“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Victoria?”
“Don’t you get snippy with me because you’re clumsy, missy!” he said with a chuckle.
She dusted her bottom off and gave a tight smile. He was twenty years her senior and had been with the family since she was a baby. He was strict when it came to formality. Mostly for her mother’s sake.
“Sure is gonna be quiet without you tumbling over your own two feet,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Don’t you go down there and let one of those southern gentlemen steal your heart!”
“I’m going to miss you too, Louis, you and Tessy and all the boys,” she said, giving him a hug. “Rest assured that there is only room for one southern gentleman in my heart, and that’s you. Now come and help me with this cursed bag before I start to cry.”
“Victoria!” her mother called from the bottom of the banister.
She quickly hurried down the stairs to greet the others and give her final goodbyes. She stopped on the bottom step and could sense something off, even without the disapproving glace in her mother’s eyes.
“This is Victoria Jameson; she will be one of the teachers in Baxter. She is one of the best I’ve seen. She is patient and a very good advocate for equal education,” Winston said to a fair-skinned young lady with green eyes and long, wavy dark hair that hung loosely past her shoulders.
Victoria cleared her throat and went into the parlor with her mother on her heels. “You give me too much credit. I only want our students to have the same opportunities as their students, and secondhand isn’t equal. Being taught what they feel is appropriate isn’t fair, especially since slavery has been over for decades,” she said, even though her heart had dropped to her stomach.
“Oh rubbish, you’re excellent, and there’s nothing else to say about it. Victoria, meet Penelope Pierre. My fiancée. She’s going to be traveling with us,” he said, his eyes floating back to the woman with the emerald eyes that matched her dress.
Victoria was lost for words. She wanted to think of something mean about the girl, but she couldn’t because the woman was beautiful. She practically had all the men in the room in a trance. His fiancée! He never even mentioned he was courting someone. All the days she had wasted, years she spent waiting for him to notice her as a woman, and in walks this fraudulent white woman. Fraudulent because although her skin was fair, she was colored just like everyone else in the room. Her mother nudged her in the back.
“I do…don’t understand?” she stammered out. She could feel the other women in the room staring at her, waiting for her reaction. It was no secret that she had her eyes set on Winston. Maybe to Winston.
“Well, Penelope is part French and colored, and because of her fair skin, she can get places that we can’t. I finally convinced her to join us after months of pleading,” he said with a huge smile.
Victoria wondered if the marriage proposal had anything to do with it. She remembered him telling her once that he would do whatever it takes to get his people their rights. She wanted to scream, she wanted to throw things, but instead stuck out her gloved hand, “Well, welcome to the team, Miss Pierre.”
“Thank you for welcoming me,” the woman said with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “You are very beautiful; it’s hard for me to believe that no suitors are trying to barricade the door to keep you from leaving.”
Apparently not beautiful enough, Victoria though to herself. She ignored the last comment and turned to her mother. “Momma, I promise you these three months will fly by, and I’ll be back home with bells on.”
Her mother grabbed her in another one of those bear hugs and whispered in her ear. “He wasn’t good enough for you at any time; your father thought so too. I love you with all my heart, and I will hold you to your promise.” She let her go.
She turned back to the group and grabbed her skirt. “Shall we go to the buggy now? That train will definitely not wait for us,” Victoria said with her head held high. So proud of herself for holding back the tears. Her dear Winston, Winston Lewis, who now was green-eyed, fair-skinned imposter’s Winston. The first thing she would do when they boarded the train was write her dearest friend a letter. She knew she would get mad for her even though she was six months with a child and scream what needed to be said.