Little Lady: A Short Story

I have a short story to share.

In my Genocide Studies course, I had to write one. I wrote about a little girl in the Haitian Revolution and tried to give a fair view on both sides of the story.

Hope you read it, and please let me know what you think ūüôā


{Genode: Definitions}

“:the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group” (Merriam-Webster)

“:the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation” (Google Definitions)

“:the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” (Dictionary-dot-com)

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

a) Killing members of the group;

b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

d) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

e) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” (United Nations Official Article)


{Author’s Note}

France was an empire in the 1700s, with colonies across the sea. One of these countries was Haiti. Haiti was one of the biggest monetary sources of France, due to her plantations. France was being torn apart by the French Revolution.

In August 1799 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was passed, inspiring an uprising across the sea.

Haiti had four distinct classes in its social structure: the grand blancs, the free coloured people, the petit blancs, and the slaves.

The grand blancs were rich owners of slaves and plantations.

The free people of colour were mostly mulattos, freed because of their white fathers. Most of them would come to hold property and become rich.

The petit blancs were the whites who were poor.

The slaves made up 90% of the population by the 1800s and worked the fields and plantations. They were subjected to beatings, death by exhaustion, unhygienic living quarters, etc. It was a terrible life they lived.

In August 1799, a rumour came from across the sea- the king had set the slaves free. In a secret voodoo service thousands of slaves attended, the summer storm broke out. Thunder and lightning came, an omen, and the slaves went home to kill their masters in revenge.

A month later, in September, the remaining whites banded together as a militia in retaliation, killing 15 000 slaves in a couple of weeks.

This qualifies as genocide. I’m tempted in calling slavery a genocide. According to Merriam-Webster’s definition of genocide, it definitely is. It’s exploitation.

The slaves who killed their masters would be labelled as a ‘genocide of the oppressed’¬†and tempts many to say genocide is okay in that instance.

However, it is still murder and is still wrong.

Slavery was wrong- the French subjected the slaves to many horrors. And retaliating and killing people based on their skin colour would also qualify as a genocide.

This is a short story of a little girl caught up in it all.


{Little Lady: Laure}

I ran into the sweltering kitchen, fear gripping my heart. My eyes sought Suzie out among the other women, whose skirts looked similar in their muted colours. I finally found her when she laughed, running through the crowded kitchen towards her.

“Ai! Lady Laure,” Suzie began, picking me up in a hug. I gripped her tightly. “What’s wrong, little lady?”

“The others told me you won’t be here tonight,” I replied with a pout. “And I want you to put me to bed.”

“I will be here,” she told me solemnly, lowering me to the ground. She kept her hands on my shoulders. “But you’re not supposed to be here, Lady Laure. You are supposed to be at the Big House.”

I frowned. “Why? I wanted to see you, Nurse.”

“Not ‘nurse’,” she admonished me with a tap on my nose. “And you’re supposed to be learning how to be a lady. Ladies don’t come down here.”

“Why?” I asked again, only to hear Milly’s voice shouting my name.

I clung to Suzie’s skirts, even though she urged me to go. Milly entered the kitchen, her gaze sweeping across the crowd.

“What are you doing here, Miss Laure?” She asked, marching over to me. She gripped my arm gently, even though her tone was harsh and her gaze stern. “Mistress won’t like it.”

I pouted, but let go of Suzie’s skirts. She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, gently pushing me towards Milly.

I waved goodbye and traipsed out of the room, just happy to know I’d see Suzie tonight. We left the sweltering heat of the kitchen, only to step into the cloying heat of a cloudy day in Saint Domingue.

“Miss,” Milly said, handing me my hat. I took it reluctantly, placing it on my sun-bleached hair. She didn’t wear one, a red cloth wrapped around her hair.

The slaves’ kitchen was the little house at the edge of their tiny cluster of houses, all built in a grid pattern and looking exactly the same as the rest of the buildings. White walls and red roofs, but they were faded and dirty.

I hurried up the hill towards my house, looking forward to a cold glass of lemonade. Mama was waiting at the back of the house. She wasn’t holding her umbrella, the oncoming storm clouds already darkening the sky.

“Where were you, Laure?” She asked crossly. “I sent for you five minutes ago!”

I grin at her, taking the glass of lemonade Sarah offered me. With a grateful smile, I sipped it. “I was asking Suzie-“

“Suzanne, darling,” Mama interrupted me. “And you shouldn’t go down there. It’s not proper for a young lady.”

I gulped the last of my lemonade and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. When Mama saw this, she flinched.

“Laure, why do you insist on acting like a little a¬†petit blanc?” She asked me with a sigh, gently taking my glass and handing it to Sarah. “Come inside. I need you to read a little while I write to your aunt.”

“Why?” I asked her as we walked towards the house. Laura and Milly would bring in the chairs and the tray.

Mama’s shoes clicked on the cool tiles. We headed towards the stairs, walking slowly, which Mama insisted was how ladies walked. She didn’t call it¬†slow, however. Only dignified.

“I have to ask her for a tutor,” Mama replied to my question. “We thought of going back to France, but it’s…” She glanced at me. “Not a nice place to be right now.”

I smiled. “What about England? I read¬†abou-“

“Never,” Mama interrupted. “We are¬†not¬†going to England, Laure.”

~~~

I waited long for Suzie. Sitting cross-legged on my bed, I could hear the storm raging against my windows. Even though the rain thundered against the glass, it was the loud claps of thunder that made me look up from my book.

I only had a candle casting light in my room as a fire would be too hot. I squinted at the words, mouthing them out loud. At a particularly hard word, banshee, which I did not know the meaning of, a hand clapped over my mouth.

I sucked in a breath, my heart beating loudly. I was picked up from behind and knew it had to be a slave. But the kicks of a seven-year-old was nothing against the bulk of a large worker.

“Now, now,” he told me. “You’ll join your family soon enough.”

It was Anton. I remember him clearly- he was the first slave I’d seen being whipped, and it had upset me for days. He was Suzie’s brother, and she’d cried when Mama left us. I’d asked about him every day until Suzie asked me to stop.

Father had gotten angry when he heard me and warned me to stay away from where the slaves worked and lived.

Now, with Anton carrying me through the hallways, I went limp, wondering what to do. The fear was suffocating me, my heart was beating faster than I liked, and a tear slipped down my cheek.

Anton stiffened when it reached his hand, still clamped across my mouth.

And then a scream echoed throughout my house. I started struggling again, crying harder. It was Mama’s voice. It carried through the halls, louder than the rain beating against the windows.

It went quiet again, and somehow the fear was stronger when it did.

We finally reached the doorway, the hum of voices meeting us. The door was open, rain blowing into the house, and the glow of torches cast dark shadows in the foyer.

I watched, bewildered as we entered a crowd of slaves standing in the rain. Lightning arced across the sky, brighter than the torches, and I looked for Suzie.

Anton gripped me tighter, his hand disappearing across my mouth and coming to grip my arm. Fear stopped me from screaming and I knew my voice would not have been heard amidst the clamour of the crowd.

They suddenly stopped talking, all turning in one direction. I looked as well and could see something glowing in the distance.

“Fire,” Anton breathed. “The Morrette’s plantation is burning.”

The crowd suddenly started speaking again as Anton put me down. They had formed a circle, and I stumbled into the middle of it.

Mama was lying there already, quiet and still, and Papa’s head was bleeding. He looked at me and closed his eyes, his mouth moving in silent prayers.

I stood up, shouting for Suzie, and was pushed back to the middle of the circle again. My nightdress clung to me, wet from the rain, and I tripped on a loose pebble, falling to my knees.

My brother, seven years older than I, was then shoved into the circle, completing our family. Victor had never liked me, but the first thing he did was to pull me closer.

“Don’t worry, Laure,” he whispered in my ear.

My eyes still searched for Suzie, wondering where she was. When I found Anton, he put a finger to his lips and dipped his head in a little, motioning gesture. When I looked, I could see Suzie there, holding a hand over her mouth.

A man stepped into the middle of the circle with us, his loud words booming across the noise of the crowd. I didn’t listen to him, but leaned against Victor’s chest and watching Suzie. I didn’t know what was happening, and I felt so lost.

My heart started beating faster again, almost painfully. My hair clung to my cheeks, and I wiped at them. I shivered.

And then the man took a sword. Papa’s, which had been above the fireplace in his study. It glinted in the light of the torches, the drops of rain soaking it in a matter of seconds. The man shouted something about being whipped, and Papa’s whip was brought forward.

I looked at Anton and Suzie, afraid of the man. Anton looked angry, but he was looking at Papa. Not the man holding the whip.

And Suzie was crying.

I pushed away from Victor, running to Suzie. Someone stepped in my path, and I ran into them. I slipped past them before they could grab me, and was in Suzie’s arms before someone else could stop me.

She gripped me tightly. My cheeks were wet- cold from the rain and hot from tears. Suzie’s cheek was pressed against mine as she held me, and my arms gripped her neck.

I turned to look at my brother, who stared at me in horror and then at the man who held both the sword and the whip now. He was turned towards Papa, who was gripped by two men.

When the man raised Papa’s whip, I screamed. Some of the slaves looked my way, but none of them stopped the man.

He whipped Papa like Anton had been flogged. The whip cut through Papa’s shirt in two strikes, red mingling with the rain. I looked at Anton, wondering what he thought, and only saw anger in his expression.

Suzie gripped his arm.

“Get her out of here.”

Anton looked at me, still looking a little angry. “No.”

“Please,” she begged her brother. She held me tighter.

Papa let out a cry, and I screamed again, closing my eyes.

“Anton!” Suzie raised her voice. “I would be stopped. But no one will stop a man with a girl.¬†Please.”

I opened my eyes, looking at the circle again. Victor was held by two slaves, a third whipping him. I could see his face, and he looked at me with such spite, and in so much pain. I turned my face towards Mama, still lying on the ground.

Her eyes were open, her hand covering her mouth and her shoulders shaking. She didn’t do anything as Papa was thrown to the ground.

The man with the sword was standing above him.

Anton sucked in a breath, suddenly grabbing me. He pulled me from Suzie, hurrying through the crowd as a cry echoed throughout the night. And then my brother screamed.

I didn’t know what was happening.

Anton gripped me similarly to how Suzie had, around my waist, and I held onto his neck. I tried to see what was happening, but the crowd was too thick.

We hurried away from my house and towards the stables. Anton put me down in a pile of hay, which poked into my cold, wet skin. He grabbed a horse, saddled it, and then placed me on top. He got up behind me and kicked the poor horse, who leapt from the warmth of the stables and into the cold night again.

The rain was lessening, the last thunder rumbling across the night sky.

Everything was dark as we entered the lane. Anton pushed the horse into a run, past the fields and trees. We passed another plantation, which was burning even in the rain. And we passed another crowd, where I saw Michael’s head. I couldn’t see his body.

I screamed again, turning to bury my face in Anton’s jacket. He urged the horse to go faster, mumbling prayers under his breath.¬†Just like Papa had done.

When we stopped, he pulled me off of the panting horse and towards the little church. Up the stairs, he carried me, this time the way one would a sleeping baby.

“Is she alive?” called the reverend, who looked like a slave. He was small compared to Anton. His face was friendly, even if his brow was furrowed in concern.

“Suzanne’s charge,” Anton muttered, following the reverend. He led us through the church’s chapel and into a small hallway. We then entered a room with a warm fire, where a family was gathered.

“Oh, Anton,” the reverend’s wife muttered, hurrying over to her husband. She looked at me, saw my pale features, and then gestured to the mat in front of the fire. “I thought you had gone to the voodoo service.”

“I had,” he said, looking a little ashamed. “But I couldn’t let her be killed.” At the woman’s sad smile, he frowned. “I would kill her father myself.”

I sat up and crossed my arms. “They were beating him just like he beat you!”

“Yes,” Anton replied, still frowning. He sat down on the mat next to me. “But your Papa beat my friend. And he died.”

I opened my mouth, but the woman slapped Anton. “Out! Out with you!”

“What, Martha? You know it is true!”

“Yes,” she replied. “But I’m going to bathe the little girl before she catches¬†cold. She will be staying with me. Tell Suzie to stay away for now, and you do the same. No trouble.”

Anton sighed and stood. He laid a hand on my head, ruffling my hair, and then went to the back door. He paused, his eyes finding the reverend’s wife.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered and then left.

~~~

I did not leave the house for many days, hiding whenever someone visited. The family was nice, but I missed Mama and Suzie. They gave me a little skirt and blouse to wear since I had no clothing. And then, one day they told me Mama and Papa and Victor was dead.

“Why?” I asked, not being able to cry another tear. I¬†couldn’t.

Martha sat down, pulling her own little girl on her lap. “Because your Papa had been a mean man, Laure.”

I nod. “I know.”

We didn’t talk about it again. I became friends with Ruby, who was almost as old as I was, but I mostly sat alone. I was always tired, not able to fall asleep, and stared through the windows.

It was almost a month later when Suzanne and Anton came to see me. Suzie immediately ran to me, enveloping me in a hug and quietly crying.

“Hello, little lady.”

I said nothing back but kissed her cheek.

She straightened up, holding my hand. I patted Anton’s leg in a ‘hello’ gesture and then gripped Suzie skirts.

“How is she?” Suzie asked Martha, sitting on one of the chairs. She pulled me onto her lap, her arms wrapping around me.

“Quiet,” Martha replied. “And she doesn’t sleep. Not for long. Not without…”

I looked away from everyone, staring through a window and watching the sun shine from the heaven. I could see the tops of coconut trees, green against the blue sky.

“It’s not getting better,” Suzanne finally said. “They’ve killed more than just the owners. And both¬†blancs¬†joined together into a militia. They’ve killed… ” She sighed.

“It’s a massacre,” Anton stated, and I started¬†at¬†the unfamiliar word. I didn’t ask them what it meant. I could only guess.

Whips, and swords, and lanterns, and…

“What do we do with this one?” asked Martha. “It’s not exactly inconspicuous. You can’t adopt her as your own.”

“I can,” Suzanne declared, her arms tightening around me. “Her skin has tanned with all her time outdoors. Her mother has called her a mulatto many times. And no one would doubt me if I said…”

“No,” Anton immediately replied. “You will ruin your chances at a happy marriage.”

“I am happy,” Martha suddenly cut into the conversation. “You know my son Rueben, the owner of the coffee plantation. That did nothing to hinder my chances.”

“I want to,” Suzie told Anton. “She can live with me, and if you have a problem, then you can go find your own house.”

I looked at Anton, meeting his eyes. He tried to frown and sighed.

“Alright. You can do that, Suzanne. I don’t know what you’ll do because it’s pretty clear she’s not mulatto.”

Suzie looked at me, her brown eyes shining. “You can come stay with me, little lady. Would you like that?”

“I would,” I told her and then peeked at Anton. “As long as Anton is alright with it.”

Anton raised his eyebrows, running a hand through his curly hair. “Yes, Laure. You can come stay with us.”

I nodded at Suzanne. “I’ll come.”

They took me back to the plantation. After we said goodbye to Martha and the family, we walked home.

It was terrible.

The fields charred and black, all plant life gone. Most of the houses where the slaves had slept were broken down and burned. The factories were all gone, rubble and dirt in their place. I could see the tools strewn about, and the walls broken down, and the chickens running free.

The big house was still intact, but some of the windows were broken. The rest looked beautiful like it had before that night.

“All the slaves have left,” Suzanne explains, stepping over a large piece of rubble. “They have gone searching for a new place to live, somewhere where they can work and earn money.”

Anton gave her a look. “Most of them banded together¬†unde-“

“You can stay in your old room, little lady,” she interrupted Anton. “If you want to, that is.”

“I want to stay with you,” I told her as we entered the courtyard in front of the house. I could see the dark stains of the stone. It trailed all the way to the stairs and towards the barn. “Is there somewhere where you wanted to move?”

They both look surprised.

Suzie nods. “We wanted to find our family and then start a farm somewhere. But it’s very unstable now. And we won’t leave you.”

“Take me with you,” I tell her, turning away from my house. I catch sight of a whip lying underneath a tree, left behind and forgotten.

Suzie doesn’t argue. “Are you sure, little lady? You will never have your home here again.”

I nod and cling to her skirt again, whispering; “I don’t want to be here.”

“Me neither,” Anton states with a nod. “We voted. Let’s go.”

Suzanne hesitates and then takes my hand with a smile. “We’ll look after you, little lady. I promise.”


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. COPYRIGHT 2018 KLARA SOFE.

 

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