Nadya loved her life. She was a daughter of a family who loved her. She traveled to different countries, terrains, and regions spreading joy and hope to others. She was part of a band of musicians and herbalists who moved around never staying in one place. She loved the different cultures and colors of the people she would meet. The strange cultures were a mystery to her that she would always want to unlock. Each night, she and her family would perform on a wooden platform stage, which unfolded from their carriage. Performing each night and sleeping in large tents. They traveled with other families as well, some sold goods, food, herbs among other things.
An eccentric foreign man visited their settlement one day and had ushered her parents into their tent. Nadya couldn’t resist, she had to hear what this peculiar man would say. He looked like he came from money, but in a roundabout way. You can tell by his rude manners and the gaudiness of his dress. It was like he was advertising his wealth instead of just being confident in it. Nadya put her ear up to the thick canvas of her family’s tent. “She’s a pretty one, she is.” An English accent. “Oye could pay a pretty penny for ‘er. She’d make you rich and me even richer.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Stefan?” Nadya’s mother addressed her father. What could they be talking about?
“We need the money. She’s nothing but dead weight. We can barely feed ourselves. You say she’ll have a good life. The States, right?”
“Yes. She will be a United States Citizen in a week’s time. She will have a good life. You 'ave my word.” He said it so flourishingly that Nadya figured he bowed at the end of it, as her family band does at the end of a performance.
There was silence for a while, and then Nadya heard her father speak. “Alright then, it is settled. How may we be in contact with her? Is there an address I may have of yours so I may contact my daughter?”
“Of course, 'ere’s me card,” the man says. His voice was definitely English but it was in a businessman’s sly sales voice. Almost slithering like a snake. She’d heard others from their traveling band speak like that when they were hustling patrons. Nadya didn’t like him from the start. She heard rustling in the tent and scurried away to avoid detection.
“Nadya! Nadya!” her father bellowed through the camp.
Nadya came from behind the tent to which her father came from. He was with the strange man, “Nadya. There you are. I have someone I’d like you to meet. Mr. Oliver, this is our daughter Nadya. Nadya this is Oliver, you will be leaving with him.”
“Father? What do you mean leaving?” Nadya could hear her heart pounding faster in her chest, could hear it now in her ear. She felt a little nauseous to be in the presence of this horrid man whom was sickening to her.
“Nadya, as you know, we can barely feed ourselves and times are tough. We can no longer afford to keep you. You must leave. Mr. Oliver has offered to pay a handsome price for you. He will bring you to the States; you will be with a good rich family. You’ll be away from the prejudice of our kind. You will grow up well fed and able to make your own choices. Live in freedom, the American dream.”
Nadya felt bile rise in her throat. This can’t be happening. She’s been sold. “Father, No! Please, don’t,” Nadya begged falling to her knees. Crying out, “please, I am already free, please don’t make me leave with him, please, I’ll be good, I’ll make more money, please, please, please”. The last few words fading into a whispering sob. Nadya heard her mother cry out now from the tent. She was as hysterical as herself. Why would they do this to her? She was nothing but a child, barely sixteen.
“Pack yer things now, girl, right away,” the Englishman said without making eye contact.
Nadya’s father gave her a kiss on her forehead and said, “please don’t cry my darling, we will be in touch. We shall visit each other one day. Go now, see your mother.”
Her mother was crying. Tears were streaming down her face like someone had opened a faucet. Her mother couldn’t even look at her. “I’m so sorry my dear, we have to, I’m sorry. Here,” was all she said. She handed Nadya a book. A thick leather bound book, with parchment pages and handwritten passages. Nadya took the book and her mother patted her hand gently, “Now go. You must leave right away. Take this with you,” she pointed to the book. “It will give you strength when you feel you have none.” She kissed her daughter on both sides of her cheeks. “Go, go, go,” she cried. As Nadya left her family’s tent for the last time, she heard her mother’s whines and wails growing worse and worse with each step Nadya took. She, herself was crying.
The man stepped up and said, “I’ve grabbed yer things, let’s go”. He grabbed her by her arm and dragged her. The force with which he used on her arm, made pain shoot up and sting. I thought he was supposed to take care of me. She got a terrible feeling at that point, this was no friendly trade. She was going to an awful place and there was nothing she could do. She had remembered hearing stories of girls being bought from their families and sold into slavery. She had heard that these girls were thrown into a life of sex or hard labor and never heard from again. She had an odd feeling that that’s where she was headed.
She started kicking and screaming, anything to escape this man with his plans and his hand that was digging harder into her upper arm, making it bleed. “No, let me go, let me go, mother, father, please, help please.” She could see her father in the distance standing in front of their tent. He had a grim look on his face, but all he did was nod and turn to enter the tent through the canvas flaps. He was gone. Her life, as she knew it, as she loved it, was gone.
The New Kid (on the Block)
It was a long drive, staring out the window of my daddy’s BMW on the second day of our trip. Not a vacation, a permanent trip. We are moving from New York City (Manhattan proper) to Bougainvillea, Florida. My mama grew up there and has been pining to return ever since she attended NYU where she met my daddy and fell in love.
But daddy is a city man. Always has been. So when my daddy secured a position with his company where he could work out of his home from anywhere in the country, mama started laying it on thick to finally make the move she’s been waiting twenty years to make.
So here we are on our second day. I’ve watch the scenery from my backseat window go from gray and concrete to green and wild. We are just outside of Savannah, Georgia now. “It should only be three hours from here, Macy”, my mama calls from the passenger seat. She’s so excited it’s sick.
I've visited Bougainvillea a couple times over the years for holidays and whatnot. There's not much I remember. There's nothing memorable about the small town. Highway four-forty-one runs straight through town. Wow, there's so much I've forgotten about the town now that we are hitting the city limits. The buildings are far and few between. There’s a post office, a gas station (where you can buy almost anything, from snacks to deer stands), a bar, and a small grocery store. There’s the city’s high school (Bougainvillea High), where I’ll be spending my junior and senior year. Fun, Fun, Fun.
I have to admit, the coolest thing about Bougainvillea is the historical homes, in Antebellum-style, throughout the town. They are truly magnificent and well-preserved since the era in which they were built. Most of the homes still have the original families who built the homes still living within them. Well the same family, but different generation.
There seems to be only two kinds of homes in Bougainvillea. The massive Antebellum beauties and the mobile homes. What I don't understand is how anyone in there right mind can live in hurricane-prone Florida and live in a mobile home. There's something not quite sane about that. There are two mobile home parks in downtown off the main highway and there are mobile homes dispersed throughout the city in the country. Many people have acres and acres of land around town. So I’ll probably be going to school with a bunch of farm kids. Yea. We should have so much in common.
I guess you could say I'm a daddy's girl. My daddy and I loved living in the city. The hustle and bustle. The constant activity. It was exhilarating, well until recently, but I'll get to that.
My mother’s family home had been demolished to build the grocery store in the ‘downtown’ area; I’m told it was beautiful, but never got chance to see it. Right after mama left for college in NY, her twin sister left to go to school at the University of Miami, and their parents died later that year in a horrific hiking accident in the Appalachians. So that left my mama and my aunt Sissy, two poor eighteen year old women with a huge historic home which owed back taxes for many years, so they did the only thing they could, they sold it to the first developer that came along. Now their old childhood home is home of the local grocery store, ‘Wade’s’.
Since my mama’s home is unavailable, we purchased another home. Daddy got a steal on the home we bought. Like all the historic homes around the area, this one has a name. “The Faire Mare Manor” was built by the Corbett family and was originally a gorgeous horse farm owning most of the land around the area, until the post-civil war years, they got into trade and ended up selling off most of their land for their new business practices, so now the home sits on about two acres near the downtown area. I’m excited to see it. Daddy said it’s gorgeous though it needs work. The last family that lived there was foreclosed on, so they left in a hurry and didn’t care about the condition they left it in.
Sticking out like a sore thumb is a total understatement. My daddy’s slick black BMW cruising down the highway through town with New York plates, with two gigantic moving trucks in tow. Yeah, total understatement. People outside the bar and grocer were standing and watching as we pulled into the realtor/travel agent/local bartender’s office off the main drag to sign the final papers for our home. It struck me as a little strange that our real estate closing took place in a bar, but hey, I guess when you live in a small town, you improvise.
When I first heard we were moving to Florida, I figured lounging on the beach with palm trees swaying, sipping a virgin daiquiri and watching the tide roll in. Never in a million years did I think of Florida like this. Instead of palm trees and cool ocean breezes, I got Rodney.
The realtor, Rodney Starks, a classic good ole’ boy with a slow drawl, laid a stack of papers in front of daddy. “This here home goes back to ‘bout the 1860s. True southern beaut. Purdier than a new set of mud tires. Y’all will love it.”
“I’m sure we will,” mama said. She was smiling from ear to ear. She’s wanted this for nearly a fifth of a century. It’s good to see my mama happy. She has been so depressed living in the city. She’s a country girl at heart and just being back in her home town has brought a little more hitch in her giddy up.
After signing all the respective papers, Rodney handed my daddy the keys to our new home. “Now,” Rodney said, dangling the keys in the air above my daddy’s hand, “y’all let me know if them former owners of this here house give you any trouble. When they done got kicked out, they’d been mad ‘nuff to eat barbed wire and spit nails, they was. Y'all shouldn’t have a problem, but if you do, y’all know where to find me.” He finally dropped the keys into daddy’s hand and gave us all a salute. That was Rodney.
We drove about a mile more up the highway, followed by our two moving trucks. To a gravel driveway cover with century old granddaddy oaks with hanging Spanish moss. We followed it for about a quarter mile until it opened up to a gorgeous clearing. The vegetation was a bit overgrown, but the house was substantial.
It was symmetric in every way possible. I like things orderly, neat, and clean. Clean lines and symmetry are a major thumbs-up in my book. It was white. I say was because the paint is starting to peel and it’s nearly beige. The house has clearly not been tended to in a while.
There’s a veranda with white banisters on the top and bottom floors along the front of the house with a red door perfectly situated in the center of each floor. There are four green shuttered windows on the bottom floor and the exact same windows situated on the top floor. It had a front sloping roof. Each side of the house had an identical first floor only extension, with two green-shuttered windows on each and small flat porches jutting out with Grecian-like columns for support. There were a few brick chimneys poking out of the roof line here and there. I counted three.
There was a row of boxwood bushes lining the front of the house and that was it. The rest of the landscaping consisted of overgrown grass and weeds throughout the entire two acres. It was majestic and depressing all at the same time. Man, we have got our work cut out for us.
“A far cry from our park view apartment in the big apple, eh?” Daddy called over his shoulder as we stood there surveying the property for all it was worth.
“Oh, Harry it’s perfect. I believe this is the old Corbett place, right?”
“I believe that’s what Rodney said.”
“I went to High School with William Corbett. He was a nice guy. Was definitely going places. I wonder if he still lives in the area.”
“Well, Boo what do you think?” I blinked back to reality when daddy used his pet name for me. ‘Boo’ was the first word I ever said and was all I said for the first two years of my life, so it stuck.
“Umm, I think it needs a lot of work, but it will be great when it’s done. One thing...no, two things,” I held two fingers in the air. “Does it have air conditioning?” I asked, ticking off one finger. “And which of the many windows is my room?” Ticking off the second finger.
They both laughed. My father spoke first, “Air conditioning is a yes. The old owners took it with them, but I made sure one was installed before we moved in.”
“Phew. You know I can’t live without my AC. 'Specially in this blistering heat.” It was seriously ninety degrees and it was autumn. Seriously?
“That’s for sure. As for your room? The two second story windows on the left happen to be your suite.”
He barely finished speaking before I grabbed the keys out of his hand and ran up to the front door. Mama was right behind me. She couldn’t wait to explore this southern gem just as much as I did. “Holy Crap! This key is like right outta Alice in Wonderland.”
“Macy, hurry I want to get in there. Here, give 'em to me.”
I handed her the ancient key and she stuck it in the ancient lock, turned, jiggled, turned again, and the door popped open with a creak.
The inside despite the cobwebs was spectacular as well. Just what you would expect out of an old southern mansion.
You walk right into a square foyer with the highest ceiling I’ve ever seen in a home. It had a brilliant crystal chandelier hanging in the center. Great. Though it was beautiful, I couldn't help but think it wasn't going to be real fun to clean. Directly in front of the foyer and directly across from the front door (yea, symmetry again), was a wide straight wooden staircase with a burgundy carpeted runner, that ran up to a landing with a giant picture in a guilded frame of some man on horseback. Then the landing split into two separate staircases that angled away to each side and upward to the second story. Wow.
Before mama could run off to scope out the place, I tapped her shoulder, “Mama, who’s the old dude?”
“That old dude,” she said pointing up at the oil painting of the older gentleman wearing clothing of a different period, “is William Samuel Corbett the first, the man who built this home.”
“Okay, have fun. I’m gone.” She was already off and running. I darted up the stairs, winked at the old dude, and turned the corner on the landing to the second staircase to the left up to the second floor. There was another white wooden banistered (matching outside—gosh I love this architect) landing there that opened up to the first floor foyer. The landing if taken straight ended into what I’m guessing would be my room. Or my suite as daddy called it.
I’ve always had my own room, being an only child, but never in an actual house. I’ve always lived in apartments or townhouses, but never an actual detached residence. I’m so excited I can barely breathe at this point. No help from the bazillion stairs and dust-laden air.
The door had the coolest antique brass knob. The coolest. I turned it and peaked inside. “Oh my gosh, holy crap, I have a freakin’ fireplace in my bedroom.” I said it out loud because if I didn’t it wouldn’t seem real. I started jumping up and down in delight.
Other than the coolest thing ever; my fireplace, (Wait, let me say it again, my fireplace.), the room had four plain walls in need of paint, a wood floor in need of refinishing, two long windows; the ones visible from the front of the house, and another high ceiling.
The wall all the way to my right caught my attention. At first I thought it was just another set of windows, but it’s actually a French door. The door looks to lead out to a private patio. Okay, so I think my fireplace has just been topped.
Once this room is cleaned up, it will be better than any hotel suite in the Waldorf hands down. Sweet. “Hey Boo,” daddy poked his head in. “What do you think?”
“This has got to be the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.” I ran and gave him a hug. I squeezed him tight. I needed somewhere to focus my energy. Ever since I lost my best friend, Lexi, a year ago in a fatal car wreck, I haven’t been able to share my ups and downs with anyone other than my mama and daddy.
“Good thing too, Boo, because this is where we’re staying. I doubt I could get mama to leave even if I tried my damndest,” he said as he sighed. “So, we’re going to let the movers do their thing. Mama wants to stay behind. You want to come grab a bite to eat with me?”
“Sure. Where to?”
“Bougainvillea’s very own Gourmet Starlite Diner.”
There was nothing gourmet about the Starlite Diner. It was essentially an aluminum single wide with a neon sign. The inside had a sort of nineteen-fifties theme. They had simple diner food and what they call around here down home comfort foods. The neatest thing about the place was that they had a real soda fountain. There was a retro soda fountain joint in the City that I used to frequent often with Lexi, so just the sight of the hand-dipped ice cream, metal cups and different flavored syrups and whatnot, was a bit nostalgic for me.
After we devoured our chocolate malts and tuna melts. I was waiting for daddy to pay the check up at the register over the counter. I was sitting in my red sparkled booth minding my own business, when I looked up and saw a whole table of kids around my age staring at me.
Huh. Okay I guess the new girl should get some stares. They noticed that I caught them in the act and swiveled in their seats and giggled to themselves. Afterward, they were purposefully ignoring me since now I was a participant in their little game. I gave them closer inspection.
There were two guys and one girl. The girl had severely long red wavy hair and flawless fair skin. She was supermodel skinny. Heroine-addict supermodel skinny. Her back was to me so I couldn’t get a good look at her face.
The first boy was sitting next to her. His back also to me, but when I first caught them spying, I noticed something peculiar about this boy. He was wearing a black hoodie, with the drawstrings tied so tight, the hood was covering nearly his whole face. He had dark aviator glasses on and gloves. Seriously, it’s like ninety something degrees outside. Why on earth would you wear gloves? His skin, what was showing of it anyways, was even paler than the girl’s.
I checked back again to find that they started another round of the staring contest, but noticed I was glaring right at them and they quickly turned around again and started giggling even louder.
There was one more person in this group of crazies that I had a clear view of. His side of the booth was facing me, but he seemed to be holding in his laughter and staring with intensity at the ceiling tiles. He had dark olive skin, a wide mouth, and dark brown eyes. He was huge. Muscles jutting out from his sleeves and protruding through his shirt on his chest. He must be some sort of athlete at the local high school. Great. These people must be my new classmates. I let out a frustrated breath. School might suck, but at least I get to come home to the coolest room ever.
Daddy was finished paying and walked back to the table. I had a full grin on my face after thinking of my new bedroom and how great it’s going to be when it’s fixed up. “Ready to go?”
“Yup.” I grabbed my Louis Vuitton purse (yep, next season’s…that’s right), swung it over my shoulder and tried to exude the most haughty confidence ever as I passed the table of crazies. Growing up in Manhattan can teach you a thing or two when you’re attending school with the future heirs and heiresses of the top fortune five hundred companies in the nation.
I didn’t even look to see the expressions on their faces, but I hope I left the impression of don’t mess with me. I’m important.
On Sunday, we scrubbed the house from top to bottom. Even big wig businessman, my dear ole’ dad, pitched in. He never really helped out with housework, but he loved making mama happy, and getting the house in living condition, would make mama happy.
I hit the sack at around nine o’clock, but I was exhausted. Living on the road, in a car for two days will do that to you. We managed to get most of the house cleaned. At least the rooms we desperately needed were cleaned at the moment. We cleaned my bedroom, my parent’s bedroom, the kitchen, and the bathrooms. My first day at my new school is tomorrow. If my little encounter with the high-schoolers at the diner was an indication, I’m not exactly going to love it, let alone fit in.
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