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Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Sarah, Rebecca’s long-limbed daughter, bounded up to Lisbeth on the bench. “Miss Lisbeth, Auntie Mattie says to teach you somethin’.”

“Oh, that is all right,” Lisbeth stammered, blinking away tears. “Thank you, though.”

“She says I got to!”

Mattie yelled across the way, “Learn somethin’ new, Lisbeth—Sarah gonna teach you.”

“All right,” Lisbeth acquiesced, though she was uncertain.

“It go like this—put your hand up, fingers open by your shoulders, like this.”

Lisbeth followed Sarah’s directions and mirrored the posture of the girl across from her. Sarah pounded out a rhythm in a complicated pattern alternately clapping her hands together and slapping them against her own knees or Lisbeth’s hands.

Sarah chanted while her hands flew,

Little Sally Walker, sitting in a saucer,

Rise, Sally rise, wipe your weeping eyes,

Put your hands on your hips and let your back bone slip

Shake it to the east, shake it to the west,

Shake it to the one that you love the best.”

“You are so fast!” Lisbeth exclaimed when Sarah finished.

“Everyone always sayin’ how fast I go,” Sarah boasted. “I the fastest tobacco picker for my age.”

“I could never clap like that.”

“’Course you can! I show you slow now.”

Sarah’s callused palms clapped against Lisbeth’s smooth skin. Over and over Sarah moved her hands slowly, chanting out the song until Lisbeth sang along. After a while Lisbeth dared to move her hands along with the rhyme, often making mistakes. The girls burst out laughing whenever Lisbeth missed a step and clapped up into Sarah’s face instead of her own knees or hands.

“You gettin’ it,” Sarah encouraged.

“Not as good as you.”

“Just practice, you gonna get better.”

“I have no one to practice with.”

“Auntie Mattie real good at this one. Practice with her.”

Lisbeth jerked her head in Mattie’s direction. “Mattie knows this game?” Lisbeth’s eyebrows furrowed as she stared at her nurse.

“Oh, yeah. Auntie Mattie know lots of hand clapping games. She taught me some good ones.”

Lisbeth studied her nurse playing with Samuel and Emmanuel in the distance. There was so much about Mattie that she had not seen before. Mattie’s head was thrown back, her mouth open wide in hard laughter as her son and husband ganged up to tickle her. Lisbeth felt her understanding of the world come apart and slowly reform. A sickening realization dawned: Mattie loved her life here, away from Lisbeth.

Sarah studied Lisbeth studying Mattie. Waiting patiently, Sarah stood in front of Lisbeth ready to resume the game whenever the young mistress of the plantation wished.

Yellow Crocus 

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Genre - Historical Fiction

Rating – PG-13

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