Sheba mixed some flour and sugar up in a bowl when Asher tugged on her skirt. "Can I help you, darling?" she asked, smiling.
The boys were one and a half now, and Sheba was pregnant again. The boys' hair had lightened to a dirty blond, like their mother's, but their eyes had become a bright blue, like their father's. Each of them had their own distinct marking. For instance, Micah had freckles, Israel had red streaks in his hair, and Asher was the smallest and the most attached to Sheba.
"Asher, darling, what is it?" she asked again. "Up!" he cried. "I can't right now," she said, ruffling his hair and sending him off.
"James!" she called, "Are you up yet?" "I am now!" Came the tired response. James had been up late finishing a table for Sheba. Sheba had begged him to come to bed, but he had wanted to get it done. And he did. He came out of the room, hair messed up and eyes squinting at the sunlight. "Well, its about time," said Sheba, going over and combing his hair with her fingers, "It's noon." "Sorry," he said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He went over and splashed his face with water. Sheba handed him a cup of strong black coffee to get him up.
"We need to go into town today," she said as she washed dishes, "The boys need new clothes and I need a new dress." "You're right," he said, yawning, "And I'll need a new horse soon. Minty is getting pretty old and won't be able to work." "Ok. How much money do we have?" "Twenty dollars." "Good. That should be enough." "I'll go hook up Minty." James managed to keep his eyes open and went outside to prepare the horse and wagon while Sheba dressed the boys.
"Hold still, Micah!" she muttered, trying to brush his hair. Israel was trying to put his overalls on by himself and little Asher had somehow managed to break an arm off of a wooden doll and was crying. "Lord," Sheba prayed under her breath, "Please help me. I'm only seventeen and am a mother of three boys and soon another child. I need your guidance."
As if they had heard her, Asher stopped crying and Micah stopped squirming. Israel was still a bit tangled, though. Sheba quickly finished what she was trying to do with Micah's hair and fixed up Israel.
She pulled on her navy blue crop sleeved dress. It had a scoop neck and white dots all over it, plus it was the nicest dress she had. She braided her long blond hair almost down to her waist and sipped some coffee while she waited for James to return. A few minutes later, he did. "Come on, Sheba girl," he said, "Lets get these boys to town."
James lifted each boy into the covered wagon and pulled Sheba up onto the driver's seat beside him, then they began the fifteen mile trip to town. The boys fussed and fought for the first few minutes. "Boys!" exclaimed Sheba sharply, "If I hear another sound, you're gonna regret it." Even though they were only a year old, they knew what she meant. Anything she said in a firm tone made them shut up.
"Sometimes I do wish we had closer neighbors," said Sheba, "Some fellow women to talk to." "Well what's wrong with me?" asked James, pretending to pout. "You are always fun to talk to, but sometimes I need a woman's opinion. Someone who actually cares about dresses and hair." James smiled at this. "Well, I'll give you that one."
When they arrived in town, they saw ships pulling into harbor and unloading sweet smelling spices, shining silk, and... tea. Sheba shuddered as she remembered the Boston Tea Party. Ezra had been involved, painting his face like an Indian and dumping tea over the ship. She had been proud of him, but now she saw how foolish it was. He had risked his life in the rebellion, and then the Redcoats burned down their house.
"Sons of Satan," breathed James. When Sheba looked up, she saw a cart holding about five sickly looking men, one of which was staring at her intently. He had terrible burns all over his body, but it looked as if they were mostly scars. He reached out to her, and as if in a trance, Sheba went to him and took his hand. "Sheba?" he asked in a slightly weak voice. She recognized it immediately. "Ezra?" He smiled. "I thought I recognized that face."
Tears ran down Sheba's face as she tried to take in the amazing truth: Ezra was alive. She touched his face gently. "Where have you been?" She could barely whisper. "After the house collapsed, I managed to hide under the big stone desk that father had. The Reds found me and sent me to a prison ship." Sheba's hand flung up to her throat. That was the worst sentence that could ever be handed out, and the Reds loved giving it to Rebels.
"I caught yellow fever, and Johnny Lake died right next to me." "Not Johnny!" He had been a sweet boy, always poking fun with Sheba and going ice skating with her. They hadn't loved each other, they just were friends.
A fat man walked out of a trading post where the cart was parked. "Sir!" cried Sheba, stopping him, "Might I ask where you are taking these boys?" "I'm sellin' 'em! Down in Georgia!" he replied. "Might I buy one?" "If ya have the cash!" "How about twenty dollars?"
Sheba turned and saw James standing beside Ezra and smiling. "Sold!" cried the man, "Which one do yer want?" As the men settled the matter, Sheba reunited with her brother. "Ezra William!" she exclaimed, "I was so worried, I never thought I would see you again!" "Well, here I am!" "You look like a stick! And your breathing sounds terrible. You're coming home with me, where I can keep an eye on you. You ain't fit to watch yourself for a while." Ezra grinned. "Now you sound like Mama." "I should now since I am one!"
James came over and helped Ezra to the wagon. "Are these little rascals yours?!" cried Ezra with glee as he laid down in the wagon and the boys peeked at him. "Yes indeed," replied James, "We've been married for two years now." "I don't believe we've met, stranger," said Ezra. "This is my husband, James," explained Sheba.
"Either your eating habits are out of control, or another one of these rascals is on the way!" cried Ezra playfully. "The latter." Sheba kissed his cheek. "I ain't letting you out of my sight ever again," she said. James and Sheba made sure he was comfortable in the back and then started their way back home. Sheba couldn't believe the happiness she was feeling. "Thank you God for this miracle. Both, actually. He's alive and we found him. Thank you God."
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Things are changing. There are shootings in the streets, whippings in the courtyards, tyranny forced into every home in the Colonies. Shots have been fired. Blood has been spilled. They will pay with their life for the years of torment and rage. No...