This is the second half of a two-part story – for part one please click the link below.
The sundrenched North Carolina morning was hot and humid and I was finding it challenging to contain my jubilation! I had been invited to spend the night with a close relative that I deeply loved.
The truly extraordinary news my mom had shared was that I was going to make some money working in tobacco the following day. I would go to work accompanied by my relatives and learn something new. The surprising information was that I was going to be paid and I would have extra spending money.
This was a daydream come true for me. I was a skinny little six-year-old with little expectations. My nicknames were plausible I thought even though they were hurtful. My skinny little anemic frame consisted of large ears and boney knees, and in addition, I moved with a cautious tendency. What could a kid like me possibly do to make serious money, I pondered?
Getting pennies for killing the numerous and frequent summer house visitors that never needed an invitation didn’t require any skill. My knack with my red fly swatter was simple and quick. I effortlessly compressed the fly’s bodies flat against whatever surface they chose to land upon. Smack, and the job was done! Then when all those bothersome insects were dead in our house I would go outside and wait for more to land on the screen door and kill those too. Boy, did I cash in with that plan!
Excited for the day to pass, I busied myself picking weeds from my modest multi-colored petunia garden. While walking around the hard round stones that made a natural border for my garden, I stepped on several sandspurs with my bare feet. Their thin, spiny burrs struck their mark and when I sat down to pull them out, several others wedged into my bottom. I gently pulled them out causing my small feet to bleed. I was well acquainted with these invaders of our summer fun. They loved the clear white sand so they thrived here in Stedman, North Carolina. Concealing themselves amongst the common weeds, they were my summer enemy, waiting to strike when I least expected their dire assault!
The perspiration dripped down my body as the sweltering sun grew hotter whilst the southern day progressed. So I stripped down to my panties and soaked myself with the hose in the backyard after I watered my flowers and their vibrant blossoms. The soothing water felt delightful as it cooled my dark brown body. If I held my finger just right over the top of the hose it gave way to volumes of ways to play with the water. The hot white sand sucked the cool water up as quickly as it hit the ground.
Finally, the night came and I traveled by car to our relatives’ house. Dropped off by Mom, I entered the front door and immediately met the quiet new husband, the newest member of our southern kinfolk. He was much taller than my father and I noticed him watching me. I wondered if he was shy like I could be around new people. My instincts told me there was something a little different about him as he never uttered more than a couple of words the entire evening.
Elated, I was told that my job would be to “hand tobacco,” a critical activity I would be shown how to do when I reached our work location. I had to move quickly so the person that tied the long rich smelling tobacco leaves to the tobacco stick would not have to wait on me. The brown stick was burdened with the heavy weight of the large tobacco leaves. It was then placed in a small tobacco barn on the rafters to cure.
That evening there was a yummy southern meal and lots of fun visiting with family and then to bed early because we had to be up by four-thirty. We would eat a quick breakfast and travel to the barn by five-thirty am. I knew it would be difficult for me to sleep. I was so excited that they had chosen me for this special adult opportunity. My goal was always to please everyone and so I certainly did not want to disappoint my family by not doing an amazing job!
After putting on my nighty, I was told I would be sleeping between my family member and her new husband. Something felt odd about the sleeping arrangement. However, I thought, what did I know? I was just a young awkward girl. I merely did as I was told. Finally, I started to drift off to sleep to the peaceful sound of the thousands of crickets singing their expected continuous and peaceful melodies.
Awakened suddenly, I felt my long nighty gathered around my waist. This large man was tugging at my panties and I found myself feeling shocked by what was happening! I could hear his loud labored breathing. He continued to pull and I responded the way I had been taught to react if anything like this were ever to happen. In a quiet but firm voice I told him that what he was doing was wrong and that he couldn’t touch my private area.
Over and over again I spoke the words I had been taught but nothing was going to stop his hands. I kept waiting for my trusted relative whom I loved to say something because I could tell she was moving and still awake. Instead, she stayed silent on the other side of me.
Against my will, and in spite of how hard I pushed his large hands away, he still stuck his fingers inside of my private place. I continued to fight as hard as I could, until he just suddenly stopped.
Slumber did not find me easily this strange night, as I was terribly frightened by this stranger, and didn’t know if he would try something else. I fought to stay awake that evening, for sleep lurked like a lone wolf waiting by the door.
Just as I had always been instructed, I told my mom when I got home that evening what had happened to me. I remember the feeling that something horrible was going to happen when I told her. I felt like I should have kept my mouth shut as my mother began to drink even more than usual.
The next morning, Mom got very drunk and she dragged me along beside her pulling my skinny arm till it hurt, walking the several miles towards our relative’s house, to confront my enemy.
Yet again, another promising opportunity and a safe haven ruined for the longest time. I felt ashamed and confused by the entire ordeal and mostly I just felt incredibly angry that this once safe place wasn’t safe anymore. The stranger had closed the door to a dwelling of innocence that I had treasured for several years now. A harmless, even joyful place, where I could be a child and have magnificent experiences, was now gone. My imagination and happiness had in many ways been protected and nourished there, making it a treasured sanctuary.
My heart bled as the damage was evident and it seemed I was the one being punished yet again. I missed my relatives and the joy I had found there. It was the longest, saddest summer. I held onto my memories of happiness as our visits had stopped. The summer dragged, and my flowers died from lack of attention.
Eventually, enough time went by, and the stranger left just as he had come, quietly in the night. My safe haven was awarded to me again and no one ever spoke of that naughty night before the “handing of tobacco.”
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.