Read on for a snippet of my novelette, entitled “Lace,” a brief look into the twisted world of an oppressed people. In rural antebellum southern United States, a mother goes to great lengths to protect her mulatto child, but sometimes lines get crossed and intentions are questioned, when everything isn’t just black and white.
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Mae had Lacey thirteen years ago when she was still working on a plantation as a sharecropper. The boss’s son had his way with her whenever he wanted and one of those times he left her a seed. Mae was thrilled to be pregnant. When she noticed her monthly cycle had stopped she started humming a tune to herself every day on the way to the fields. The other workers soon figured out she was happier than usual and started to ask questions. So she figured she’d better keep it a secret. She tried to hide her belly for as long as she could but when it popped out over her waist she just laughed out loud. She couldn’t keep her hands off of her little angel growing inside. Finally, she thought, she would never be alone again.
Mae had been alone as long as she could remember. She didn’t know her ma or pa.. She was always a child of the village. She had always worked and that’s all she can remember of her childhood. She would work all day tending to the fields and someone would be kind enough to feed her at night. It may have been a neighbor or someone’s grandma. Or she would follow another kid home and invariably their mother would take her in and feed her until she decided to move on to another home. Eventually a white woman took her in as a house servant. That was the most stable home she’d ever had: Mrs. Thomas’ house. Mrs. Thomas was married but Mr. Thomas spent most of his time living up north. Mrs. Thomas preferred the south so she stayed in their home while he traveled and came home once a month. Anyway, that’s why she was so thrilled to have a baby growing inside. It would be hers and no one could take it away. Ever. It would be the only family she’d ever known.
When the other black workers discovered she was pregnant they tried to find out who the daddy was. It was a big deal for a black woman to have a white baby and sometimes the white owners would take the baby away if it was white enough to pass. They’d claim them as their own so they could have more free farmhands. Mae was terrified of someone taking her baby away so she saved up all her money and moved away. That’s when she found Old Oak Road. She wandered into the church one Sunday. And when Mrs. Porter noticed she was with child and wandering around alone, she took up a collection and had the men build her a little cabin in the valley. One bedroom, a cast iron stove and a table and two chairs. It was the most Mae ever had to herself in her life and she was happier than she’d ever been. She went to church regularly and helped Mrs. Porter with anything she needed. When she finally gave birth the baby was as white as the lace on Mrs. Thomas’s tablecloths. That’s why she named her Lacey. The baby had blue eyes and yellow hair and Mae thought she had never seen anything so pretty.
Thirteen years later and Lacey had grown into a stunning young girl. Mae was terrified that someone would see her and take her away so she kept Lacey in the house as much as she could. She told Lacey that her skin was so pale the sun would burn it… well it would. And so Lacey grew up mostly alone. But Mae worked tirelessly to make sure her little girl had everything she could ever need. She took her to church every Sunday, holding her hand the entire walk there, through the service and the whole walk back. People wondered why Lacey never talked but Mae always told everyone she was very shy. The truth was if Lacey ever tried to talk to anyone, Mae took a switch across her behind until it was red with stripes. She didn’t have to do it very often. But sometimes she did it just to make sure Lacey remembered.