| The Beginning...
Eyes That See
The bright summer sun shattered off the rippling waves
lapping the docks along the shore of Lake Ponchartrain. The shimmering
pieces seemed to spread then reform with each wake rolling off the
boats crisscrossing the busy waterway. Captivated, the little Haitian
girl watched the living kaleidoscope flow and ebb before her until a
rough hand on her shoulder snapped her out of her reverie.
Concerned eyes met her dream-filled ones as she turned.
"Celeste! I been callin' you for 15 minutes girl! Scoot now fo'
de massah come lookin' fo' us. You don' want HIM to find you
daydreamin' here do you?"
"No mama," the child replied, stealing one last
longing gaze at the water. "I don'..." Quietly she accepted
the basket of fruit the older woman thrust into her small hands. It
wasn't that she was afraid of the master. She was too young to come
under his notice. Her mother now, that was a different story. If they
were late, he'd come looking for her all right. A glance up at the
full mouth, held stiffly, and the tight frown resting unconsciously on
the high, unblemished forehead told her exactly why she didn't want
him to come. Mama was worried. Though she was in her early 40's, there
was still an air of grace and lingering beauty in the proud woman. Her
lean body, firm from hard work beneath shapely curves, was taut with
stress as she pushed through the market crowd of slaves, sailors and
freemen going about their business.
Celeste trotted along beside her, one hand clutching the
wicker basket and the other wrapped in her mother's skirt, trying to
keep up. As the older woman wove deftly through the press, the child
let her eyes wander where her feet could not. Dark thirsty pools drank
in the bright blue sky and sharp contrasting shadows of an August sun
on all the colors of skin and clothing in the roiling sea that flowed
around them. Pungent odors of salt, sweat, food and animals assaulted
her nose and sent her eyes searching for all their myriad sources. If
not for the tenuous leash of a handfull of skirt, Celeste might have
stood still, a watchful eye in the middle of a hurricane of humanity.
As it was she crashed clumsily into her mother's long legs when the
crowd seemed to disappear suddenly and her mother's steps slowed. The
girl fell awkwardly on her behind, a small cry announcing the fall of
the basket from her fingers. She looked around fuzzily, confusion
replaced with understanding when she realized they'd turned a corner
that marked the unofficial entrance to the marketplace. No sound but
an exasperated sigh showed the dipleasure of the woman as she
hurriedly gathered the spilled fruit back into the basket.
"I'm sorry Mama," Celeste said softly as she moved
to help retrieve the contents of the basket.
Mama shook her head, a slight sag to her shoulders speaking
of frustration. "I know chil', you always sorry..." She did
not need to shout.
"I know, I shoulda been payin' better attention,"
the child finished. "I promise I'll be good so we can get home
an' Mistah don' come lookin' fo' us." There was a tremor in her
voice, and when strong arms wrapped around her, she tried to hide the
tears from her mother.
"Sh, s'allright now, chere. Mebbe we can still get dere
fo' he miss us. Don' you worry now..." The frown had spread from
Mama's forehead to between her fine black eyebrows. Celeste worried,
biting her still-trembling lower lip between her teeth.
As they hurried along the more open streets, Celeste kept her
eyes focused closely on her mother in a supreme effort of childish
concentration. Before long, though it seemed like ages to the eight
year old girl, they were walking up a dusty carriage road, the
driveway to a large house. Crouched catlike atop a small hill, it
seemed to watch them creep up the road like mice toward oblivion.
Sonja Torres 1999