Love Lives On/Tranquil #writephoto

tranquil

Photo by Sue Vincent

I stood there in the secluded spot and tranquil place where we used to meet.  It was our secret place where we could love each other freely.  Back there it was against the law for a white man and a black woman to have relations.  Race mixing as they called it was banned.  The punishment for interracial marriage to be a year in jail and the white person was fined $100 fine.  The person who officiated an interracial wedding was fined $200.  How I hated those laws.  They were passed by ignorant and racist people who couldn’t accept that people of different races could fall in love with each other.

My parents were just as intolerant.  They believed that people should stick to their own kind–you know, to keep the races pure.  They even used the Bible to validate their racist views.  I read the Bible myself and nowhere did it prohibit interracial love.  In fact, there were examples of mixed marriages.  I hated going to a school where blacks weren’t allowed and even church which was to be the temple of the God who created all races, blacks weren’t allowed to worship with us.  I hated living in a state that was so intolerant.  I promised myself that I would leave it as soon as I was old enough.

My parents made sure that I went to the best schools and associated only with those whom they deemed to be socially acceptable–the filthy rich.  They even had it in their heads that one day I would marry Governor Brown’s daughter, Virginia (I can’t believe her parents named her after the state).  Granted, she was a nice girl, very pretty and I could tell that she liked me very much.  We went on dates and such and then, I went away to university.  It was an understanding that we were going steady and that in due time, I would propose.

When I returned from university one summer vacation, my mother told me that we had a new maid, Flora.  The previous one, Berta had been fired.  My parents never told me what happened but I was sore because I really liked Berta.  Well, when I met Flora, I quickly forgot about Berta.  She was much younger than Berta but about ten years older than me.  Flora wasn’t pretty like Virginia but she was very attractive.  She had big brown eyes that didn’t seem to miss a thing, smooth dark skin and a lovely voice.  Sometimes she would sing as she worked.

Once I asked her why didn’t she become a professional singer.  She scoffed and said, “The only thing white folks want colored people like me to do is cook, clean, do the laundry and keep my place.”

Flora had a room built at the back of the house where she would change into her uniform and use the bathroom.  She had special plates and forks to use for her meals.  She was paid $10 a week which in that time was considered good money.

Flora was a bit cynical and who could blame her?  Although she is well paid, she is treated with disrespect and condescension by my parents, relatives and family friends.  There are times when I sit at the dining table and seethe with rage.  The final straw came when Flora accidentally spilled a glass of wine and some of it got on Mrs. Miller, an insufferable and vain woman.  She rose to her feet and struck Flora hard across the face.  “You clumsy n—–,” she cried.  “You’ve ruined my dress.  It’s too bad you can’t be whipped for this.”

My mother didn’t bat an eye.  I couldn’t believe that she wasn’t livid that one of her guests had slapped Flora.  I guess I was foolish to expect her to say something in Flora’s defense.  Instead, she said to her crossly, “Clean that mess up.”

Flora quickly left the room and was back in a seconds to clean the spill.  I wanted to go after her but propriety made me stay put.  I promised myself that I would speak to her before she left this evening.”

“You should fire her, Rosemary,” Mrs. Miller said as she resumed her seat.

“It was an accident!” I said as calmly as I could although, what I really wanted to do was throw the rest of the wine in her sanctimonious face.

“You mind your manners, Boy,” my father scolded.

“You’re excused,” was my mother’s rejoinder.

“Excuse me,” I said as I rose to my feet.  I was happy to leave the table.

I headed straight for the kitchen where Flora was busy washing up the dishes.   I wanted to help but I knew that she wouldn’t let me.  Besides, it would get her into trouble.  I went and stood beside her.  I could see that she had been crying.  I wanted to hug her.  “I’m sorry about what happened just now, Flora,” I said quietly.  “Mrs. Miller had no right to hit you.  You’re a grown woman, not a child.”

“You heard what she called me.  That gives her the right to hit me.”

“Flora, sometimes, I wish I could take you away from all of this.”

“You shouldn’t be saying such things, Master Oliver.”

“But, it’s true, Flora.”

“And where would we go?”

“I don’t know yet but some place where you’re treated better.”

“Right now I can’t think of any place like that except Heaven.”

“Flora, after I graduate from university, I’m going to leave Richmond.  I want you to come with me.”

“Master Oliver, stop talking foolish.”

“Stop calling me Master Oliver,” I retorted.  “I’m just plain Oliver and I’m not talking foolish.  I’m very serious, Flora.”

“I’ll think about it now, go before your mother comes in here and finds us together.”

“All right. I’ll go.  Goodnight, Flora.”

“Goodnight, Mas–Oliver.”

The next morning, she was gone.  My mother had taken Mrs. Miller advice and fired Flora.  I was so upset that I didn’t speak to my mother for weeks.  I found out where Flora lived and the first opportunity, I had, I went to see her.  She was alone.  After I letting her know how upset and furious I was that she had lost her job, I made her promise to meet me that afternoon at the pond where no one ever goes.

I got there first and waited.  As I waited, I picked a bunch of wildflowers I saw there.  Flora would like them.  I bet she never got flowers from anyone before.  I would be the first.  I smiled at the thought.  She showed up five minutes later.  I gave her the flowers and she took them, smiling.  She smelled them.  “Thank you,” she said.  She reached up and kissed me on the cheek.

I felt my face get hot.  I also felt strange sensations in my body.  “You’re welcome, Flora,” I said.

We sat down on the grass and talked and talked.  I loved being with her and I could tell she felt the same way.  We promised to meet there again tomorrow.  She left first and then I left several minutes after.  When I went home, my mother told me that Virginia and her parents were having dinner with us that evening.  It would be the first time I would be seeing Virginia since I’ve been home for the summer.  I was more excited about seeing Flora tomorrow than seeing Virginia that evening.

The evening went well, I suppose.  Virginia didn’t seem to notice that I was preoccupied with my thoughts.  She talked mostly about herself and what she had been up to while I was away at university.  I didn’t make any plans to see her again.  After we parted company, I went up to my room where I remained until the following morning.  As soon as the afternoon came, I was racing down to the pond.  This time Flora was waiting for me.  And she brought two huge slices of an apple pie she had baked.  After we ate them, we went for a swim.

Afterwards, we lay in the sun.  We talked about different things and then, I rolled onto my side and looked down at her.  She had her eyes closed.  The strange sensations stir inside me again and this time, I lowered my head and kissed her.  She didn’t push me away or slap me in the face.  Instead, she reached up and put her arms around my neck.  We ended up making love for the first time.

Day after day we met there in our secluded spot until one day we were discovered by Virginia’s brother and his friends.  I was promptly sent back to Atlanta where I spent the rest of the summer until it was time to return to university.  I don’t know what happened to Flora.  No one would tell me anything.  I was devastated because I was madly in love with her.  I wanted to marry her.

When I returned to Virginia, I went to her house.  At that point I didn’t care what people said or did or thought.  All I wanted was to see Flora.  However, when I went to her house, the neighbors said that she was gone.  They had no idea where she had gone.

Dejected, I returned to Atlanta where I tried to forget about her.  I even got married to a nice girl named Amy and we had a boy.  Time passed but the memories of my summer with Flora never faded.  I still yearned to see her.  I still loved her and no amount of time would make me forget about her.

After Amy died, I tried to see if I could find out any information about Flora.  I wish I had a photo of her that I could have put on Facebook but I didn’t.  In spite of these setbacks and disappointments, I haven’t stopped hoping that one day I will see her again.

It’s 2018 and summer again here in Richmond.  I’m here by the pond, allowing myself to relive the happiest memories of my entire life.  I look at the wild flowers and smile.  I will never forget the spark in Flora’s beautiful eyes when I gave them to her.  If she were here now, I would give her another bunch.

“Mr. Jones?” a voice called out and startled, I turned.

It was a young African American girl.  “Yes,” I replied.  “I’m Mr. Jones.  Who are you?”

She came closer.  “I’m Regina.  I was told that I might find you here.  Someone asked me to give this to you.”  She held out a letter sized brown envelope.”

I took it.  It didn’t have any address.  It only had my name written neatly at the front.  “Who asked you to give this to me?”

“My grandmother, Flora.”

My heart caught in my throat.  Flora.  I sat down on the tuft of grass and eagerly opened the envelope.  I pulled out a letter and some photos.  I looked at the photos first.  They were of Flora and a lovely little girl.  She looked so much like Flora but much fairer in complexion.

With trembling fingers, I unfolded the letter and read it.  Halfway through, I started to cry.  Flora was pregnant when she left Richmond.  She wanted me to know about Olivia and wrote to me at the university several times but all of her letters were returned.  She never got married, she said because there was only one man whose wife she wanted to be.

I looked up at Regina who was standing beside me.  “Where’s Flora?” I asked.  I longed to see her.

“I’m sorry, grandfather, but she died this morning.”

I broke down at that point.  Regina dropped to her knees and put her arms around me.  The only thing that gave me any comfort was the knowledge that Flora and I have a daughter and a granddaughter.  Our love will live on through them and generations to come.

Those we love are never really lost to us–for everywhere their special love lives on – Amanda Bradley

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Tranquil at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources: The Washington Post; The Post and Courier

 

 

 

 

Mr. Thornber’s Distress/Fall #writephoto

fall-sue-vincent

Photo by Sue Vincent

After he washed and dried his face, Mr. Thornber walked to the window and looked out.  His room afforded him one of the most pleasant views of the grounds.  It was another rather agreeable afternoon.  The first signs of spring were visible.  He could see the buds on the trees and the emergence of the water in the pond which had been covered in ice not so long ago.  Earlier this morning on his ride back here, he’d stopped at the waterfall where he used to while away many happy childhood hours.   Presently, the quietness was broken by the twittering of birds.  He smiled.  He couldn’t wait to go back outside.  His eyes swept across the grounds when they were arrested by something.

The smile vanished from his face when he saw the two figures standing beneath the oak tree.  He recognized one as belonging to Miss Roth and the other belonging to a gentleman he had never seen before.  He leaned out as if to get a closer look which wasn’t possible from that point.  Who was this stranger?  Jealousy burned in him like a wild fire as he watched them stroll over to the bench and sit down, facing each other.  What was he doing here?  When did Miss Roth meet him?

His face pale now, he watched them, wondering what they were talking about.  And feeling like an utter fool.  He had cut his business short today just so he could rush home to be with her.  All morning she had occupied his thoughts, making it impossible for him to concentrate.   He enjoyed their walks and talks and had planned to take a turn in the garden with her as they had been doing for the past several weeks.  He was under the impression that she enjoyed his company too.  Perhaps he was mistaken.  She seemed to enjoy this fellow’s company a great deal.  They were having a rather animated conversation.  He appeared younger too.  Why shouldn’t she prefer a man closer to her age?

His hands curled into tight fists as he struggled to keep his feelings in check.  It was propriety and pride which kept him from going to there and demanding to know who this interloper was.  How would it look a man eight and thirty behaving like a jealous fool over a girl of nineteen?

What was he going to do now?  He couldn’t remain here watching them and torturing himself.  He had to leave Cedar Manor at once for he feared that running into Miss Roth would be his undoing.  He had no idea where he was going but he had to get out of there now.  He turned away from the window and strode over to where his jacket laid and swept it up, pulling it on as he left the room.

He ran down the steps two at a time and passed the housekeeper, Mrs. Westcott in the foyer.  She glanced at him in surprise, wondering what in the world could make him take off without so much a word to her.   Perhaps, he had urgent business to attend to, she reasoned.  Shrugging her shoulders, she continued down the foyer and went up to her room to have a nap.

Outside as Mr. Thornber was hurrying to the stables to get his horse, he saw his niece Emily returning from her walk with her nurse Ada in tow.  She broke into a run when she saw him. “Uncle Edward,” she cried.  She stopped short when she saw his face.  “What’s wrong?”

His distress clearly didn’t escape her notice.  “Who is the gentleman with Miss Roth?” he asked before he could stop himself.

“Oh, you mean Julian?” her face brightened.  “I like him.  He’s very nice.”

Mr. Thornber’s expression darkened.  “I didn’t ask if you liked him, Emily,” he snapped.  “I asked who he was.”

“He’s Miss Roth’s childhood friend.”

“How long has he been here?”

“He came this morning.  He was in the school room with Miss Roth and me and then he had lunch with us.  After we finished my lessons, he and Miss Roth came with Ada and me for a walk but they came back before we did.  Do you want to meet him, Uncle?”

“No, I do not want to meet him.  Tell Mrs. Westcott that I won’t be back until late.”  And with that, he turned and strode away, his steps quick and furious.  Both Emily and Ada gazed after him in bewilderment.  Moments later he was racing out of the stables and away from Cedar Manor.

Emily turned to Ada.  “Why was Uncle Edward so angry?” she asked.  “And why didn’t he want to meet Julian?”

Ada put her arm around Emily’s shoulders.  “Emily, perhaps you are too young for me to be telling you this but I think your uncle is jealous.”

“Jealous?” Emily exclaimed, looking even more bewildered.  “But why?”

“Never mind, little one,” Ada told her.  “And please, I beg you, don’t tell your uncle what I said.”

Emily shook her head, thinking adults could be so strange sometimes as she and Ada walked to the house.

 

This was written for to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Fall at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Clean and Living Water

Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation – Isaiah 12:3

World Water Day

It’s that time of the year again when we raise awareness about clean water, something that is not accessible in some parts of the world.   It is hard to imagine living in a community where there is no clean water for drinking, cooking or washing yet this is the reality for many living in South Asia.  People are getting sick from drinking dirty water.

Women and children are forced to walk hours a day to distant water sources, such as filthy ponds or lakes, and even then the water may be contaminated. Sometimes they know this will bring death and sickness to their families, but they have no other choice – Gospel for Asia

I read two very touching stories.  The first was about Salil who watched his family get sick from the contaminated water from the pond which was their only resource.  He was forced to sell sand at the risk of getting caught and punished because he needed the money to take care of his family.  His meagre income was spent on medicine for them.  However, no matter how hard he worked, it didn’t change the fact that the water was still contaminated and his family was still sick.  The other story is about a husband and wife who were banned from drinking water from the community well because she was accused of performing witchcraft which took the life of another villager.

When I read these stories, I am reminded of how much I have to be thankful for.  I have clean water at my fingertips.  I can drink boiled, filtered or bottled water.  I can tap water for cooking and a washing machine for my clothes.  I don’t have to travel for miles to filthy ponds and lakes to draw water that may be contaminated.  I don’t have to worry about getting sick from the water I drink.  For many of us, clean water is a convenience, an amenity while for so many, it is a treasure.

Both of these stories had a happy ending.  While Salil was struggling to care for his family, God was working to change things for the village through a nearby pastor named Dayakara who was making regular visits to his village.  As he befriend the villagers, Dayakara learned of their water crisis.  Not wasting any time, he and other Gospel for Asia supported workers decided that they were going to help the villagers.  They drilled a well in the centre of the village where everyone would have access.

a-jesus-well-transforms-salils-family-3

Imagine Salil’s surprise when he went home for one of his visits and found his wife and children well.  What happened?   He learned about the well and was overjoyed, but didn’t know who was responsible for it.  One day Salil met Pastor Dayakara and as they talked, Salil realized that this was the man and fellow laborers who were responsible for the bringing the well to his village.  Marvelling at their kindness and compassion , Salil was curious about this God who could pour such love in people’s hearts.

For Madhura and Jaival it was a nightmare not being able to access water from the village hand pumps.  They were banned from doing so by their neighbors and friends because they believed that Madhura’s witchcraft had killed one of the villagers.  For five years the couple had two terrible choices–drink the water and die or don’t drink the water and die.  Then, one day, Pastor Jaanai met them and they were able to pour their hearts out to him.  Burdened to get clean water for the suffering of the villagers , Pastor Jaanai and his congregation fasted and prayed.  Pastor Jaanai told Madhur and Jaival his hopes to get a Jesus Well in their village.  In the village there were 750 people and there were only three hand pumps which were old and damaged.  Only one pump supplied water but it was not enough for so many people.

Madhura and Jaival

Madhura and Jaival began praying in their hearts to this God of love whom the Pastor had shared with them would help them.  Perhaps He would give them what their neighbors had refused to give them.  After many months of earnest prayer, the day that they had all dreamed of, came.  A Jesus Well of their own was drilled and was overflowing with the cleanest water they had ever seen.  God had answered their prayers.  The couple and their community could use the well.  They could wash their clothes, cook their dinners and refresh themselves with the clean water.

Through the Jesus Wells, God had brought joy and healing to two communities.  He had brought a community together.  Although their neighbors had been unkind to Madhura and Jaival, God didn’t exclude them from receiving His blessings.  God’s grace is for everyone.  When Madhura and Jaival saw that the Lord had answered their prayers and had accepted them while others had rejected them, they wanted to receive Him into their hearts and lives.  They wanted the Living Water to dwell with and within them.

Jesus Wells Open the Door for God’s Love – Gospel for Asia

Through the new well in Salil’s village, Salil and his fellow villagers came to understand the love of Jesus Christ.  One of the villagers, Baldev has a remarkable testimony.  Like Salil, he had family to support but had gotten sick from the contaminated water from the pond.  He couldn’t work and as a result, his family suffered.  However, when he began to use the water from the Jesus Well, his sickness went away.  He experienced the same miraculous healing as Salil’s family.  So, it was no surprise that when Salil shared the good news about Jesus with Baldev that he and his family accepted the Lord in their lives.  Now, they have regular prayer meetings in their home, led by Salil.

It’s amazing how God could use something so basic as water to transform the lives of so many.  That’s the God we serve!  If it’s your desire to see many more people come to the saving knowledge of the true Living Water, help Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water Ministry.

When I read these two stories, I thought about my favorite story in the Bible–Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water as usual but on that particular day, she discovered the Living Water who promised her and us, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water that I shall give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life” (John 4:14).  Salil, Madhura, Jaival and their communities drank that water and now their lives are just overflowing with joy.  Praise God!

Thank You, Heavenly Father for bringing hope, joy, healing and salvation to many through Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water Ministry and forever quenching their thirst with the Living Water Who is Christ, Your beloved Son.

Source:  Gospel for Asia