The sun is already setting when I make it to the willows, but he isn’t waiting for me. He promised he would come this time, swore up and down that he’d be able to slip away, but I didn’t really think he would. His master is so much more strict than mine. I can get away after supper is served, when the elders are putting the youngest to sleep and the mothers are nursing their children and gossiping in the doors of the huts, but it’s harder for him. The drivers don’t leave the slaves on his plantation alone until the moon is high, and he’s been whipped four times for sneaking off early.
I feel the scars beneath his thin shirt every time he holds me.
I’ve told him three times that we should stop meeting. He’ll be sold for this eventually, or beaten to death for it, if his overseer has any say in it. I don’t think it’s worth the risk, but he always laughs and kisses my forehead and says I’m always worth the risk.
I hate it when he talks like that. I can’t help but come back for it.
The stream flows past the willows, thick with the flecked gold of their fallen leaves. I lean against a trunk and close my eyes, half-hoping if I wait a few more minutes he’ll come, half-hoping he’ll think better of it this time.
I don’t have to wait long.
“Told you I’d make it,” he whispers, ducking under the leaves and flashing me his cheeky smile. “Thought I was lying this time, didn’t you?”
I did. But I hoped he wasn’t.