Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hello, my name is Naomi Parker.

Alabama ~1866

“You’ll be all right with the Lancaster family until I can send for you.” My sister called the words to me as I watched from my hidey-hole. Comfort shifted from one leg to another,ready to leave, resenting repeated explanations and partings.

“Go on,” I told her. It was easy to see that her mind was made up.

“Oh, Naomi, come out here and say goodbye, properly. Mr. Bailey bought me these new clothes and I want to show you. Things will be fine."

She didn't believe that, I could hear the doubt in her voice. "Naomi," she stamped her new boot and crouched down, peering under the rotted wood. " You can’t keep hiding under the porch. It’s not going to make this stop being.”

Maybe not, but my crawlspace under the rotten flooring offered dark protection from things I had no control over. “I don’t need to come out to see your back turn while you walk away. Go on.”

“All right then, I will.” Comfort’s voice was filled with anxiety that I could have assuaged if I had seen fit. She was marrying and leaving me behind with the neighbors. I didn’t feel like making her feel better.

I guess I didn’t really expect her to leave me there. She never had before and we’d been though some pretty rough moments.

But she called a parting remark and then I heard her erstwhile swain grumbling and knew she wasn’t alone. “I’m telling you, I don’t have time or money to take some half grown girl along with us. She’s better off here. We’ll send for her when we get settled.”

I didn’t like Owen Bailey. He wasn’t worthy of my sister, Comfort Parker. Comfort had a major disadvantage in our world—she was beautiful and poor. Even rich, handsome, women fell prey to unsavory men now that the natural order of the south had been disrupted.

But a poor, good-looking female was facing a lot of possibilities, none of them pleasant.So having Owen Bailey, a sergeant in the Union Army,tender a legitimate proposal to a rag-tag share-cropper’s daughter was too good a chance for Comfort to pass by.

I knew that—but I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to run begging after them. I would have but before I wiggled from my hiding spot, I heard the sounds of the horse they both rode, fading into the sounds of morning.

My only family was gone. I sat on the porch-step for a long time listening to the bullfrogs and crickets and with the accompanying cacophony of swamp music behind me, I practiced saying my introduction to the Lancaster family.

My name is Naomi Parker. I’m your next door neighbor—if you could call our place neighborly. I looked around at the rotting timber and creaky door that had to be propped closed from the inside. I pretend held out my hand.

My sister said in an emergency, I’m to run to the neighbors. I reckon…I stopped and corrected my words. Comfort was strict about my speech habits. She said that we are known by our first impression, whatever that means. I started over.

Hello, my sister has been called away on an emergency. She directed me to come here until she returns. I stopped and thought about that for a moment then held out my hand and started again. My name is Naomi Parker and I’m eleven years old.

young western girl

There wasn’t any sense in putting off the inevitable. I gathered up the two things Comfort had left me, her brush and comb set, and her copy of Godey’s Lady’s Book. I scuffed my bare feet against the dirt path trying to slow down the journey. Until I reached the Lancaster place, I could pretend that Comfort would be back in a minute, and I was not alone.


  1. Beautifully written, Gem! I could just pull Naomi in and give her a great big hug while I tried to hide my tears! :-)

  2. "My name is Naomi Parker and I’m eleven years old." This just breaks my heart. My daughter is 11. I do believe Miss Gem that you have me even more entranced this time around. I am loving your new characters.

  3. Oh, I shouldn't repeat what Serena and Trina said, but my heart is breaking for Naomi.

  4. Beautiful Gem. I didn't expect any less from you.


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