On a warm Sunday evening in July, Henry drank in the sight of his new home.
It was a light blue bungalow with freshly painted maroon shutters on either side of the two large rectangular windows. The neighborhood boasted a variety of modest homes along a paved street with broom-swept sidewalks, white picket fences, and thriving gardens. All owned by colored folks.
Henry's lawn was a different story. It looked like it hadn't been cut in a month. Clustered stalks of ragweed and dandelions towered over the shaggy overgrowth of wild grass.
Henry didn't mind this though. He would give that lawn a proper trimming with the push mower he'd been eyeing up at Conner's Hardware. He'd buy heaps of grass seeds and cow dung for fertilizer. On the weekends, he'd take a hoe to the earth, turning over the dirt before planting those seeds and watering the soil.
Henry would welcome the work too. He would take a sense of pride in it. Besides, the price of the house made the patchy lawn more than worth it.
When he and Sarah had decided to get married, he'd already saved enough of his salary for a small home and the shiny black Model T parked at the curb.
Albert had wanted to give him the car as a wedding gift, but Henry didn't want to accept that sort of charity. Not while he was earning a living. In the end, he paid a fair price of only $700 for the car.
Now here they were, carrying boxes into a home of their own.
The late-afternoon sun flickered in the westward sky. The evening loomed, and Henry was looking forward to the first night in his very own home with Sarah curled up beside him. He couldn't imagine anything more perfect.
Sarah hurried over from the car with a small brown box in her arms. She was wearing a casual green dress with pockets at waist level. "This is the last one! Oh, I'm so excited! We're about to get settled into our new house. Our very own home! Can you believe it Henry?"
Henry smiled at her. "Here. You give that box to me, and just wait here."
Sarah quirked an eyebrow at him. "May I ask, why?"
"You'll see," Henry said, a mischievous gleam in his expression.
"Okay," Sarah said, giggling.
She handed the box to Henry, and he darted into the house. From the metallic rattling inside, Henry thought he might be carrying eating utensils. He set the box down in the living room along with the other boxes.
Then Henry ran back outside. Charging up to Sarah, he scooped her up into his arms
Sarah squealed in delight. "Henry! What are you doing?"
"I'm about to carry my beautiful wife over the threshold."
Henry swept her across the grass, gazing down into her eyes. Once inside, Henry kicked the door shut and set Sarah down in the middle of the living room, surrounded by stacks of brown boxes. Minus the boxes, the room was just a large bare space with white walls, hardwood floors, and uncovered windows. Still, it felt like home.
Henry planted a series of soft kisses on Sarah's mouth. She eagerly returned the efforts. But when he pulled back, he noticed the tears spilling down over her cheeks.
"What is it?" Henry asked.
Sarah swallowed. "I wish my mother and father could have been here to see us get married. To see us move into our new home and start our lives together."
Henry's heart plummeted. Sarah had talked about her parents many times. He remembered how brave she was to share the story of their tragic deaths ... taking a train to Philadelphia ... killed by anarchists.
Henry put his arms around Sarah, holding her close. Her left cheek rested warmly against Henry's left shoulder.
Sarah pulled a slip of paper from her dress pocket, held it up, and a fresh wave of tears spilled onto her cheeks. "Before the explosion took my parents, my father was reciting this poem to me." She paused for a second. "My favorite poem: Fly, Robin, Fly."
"The one you read on your first Amateur Night," Henry whispered, more to himself.
Sarah flashed a small, sad smile.
"Can I see that?" Henry asked, a gentleness in his voice.
Sarah nodded and handed the small square of paper to Henry.
"I've had it in my pocket the past few days," Sarah said. "I even had it on me during our wedding ceremony. It's been helping me feel closer to my parents. It's like they're here in a way ..."
Henry lowered his gaze to the paper and began to read the poem aloud. It was a beautiful poem about freedom ... about letting go of pain. He could see why Sarah loved it so much. Each word carried such power that Henry was feeling uplifted too.
No pain in his wing, no pain without me,
What lay ahead was a bright future to see,
So with a chirp and a leap, he soared up to the sky,
To my dear friend now free, I said: Fly Robin Fly!"
When Henry finished reading, Sarah looked up at him, her eyes wet and bright. She planted a gentle kiss on his cheek.
"That was beautiful, Henry," she whispered. "Thank you for reading that."
Henry pulled her close, burying his hand in her soft, brown hair.
"It should be me thanking you," he said. "Thank you for being my wife. Thank you for making me the luckiest and happiest man in the world."
"Henry," Sarah whispered into his ear. "I have something important I've been meaning to tell you. I've been trying to find the right time."
"What is it?" Henry's stomach churned. It didn't sound like good news.
Sarah pulled away and took a deep breath.
Henry's eyes widened. "Pregnant? But how? We only ... just once ..."
Sarah placed two fingers over Henry's lips, and he fell silent.
"I'm so happy," she said. "We're starting our own family together."
"I can't believe it," Henry said.
Sarah placed the palm of her hand against her belly. It was still flat, as she was so early in the pregnancy.
Henry knew she was imagining the brand new life inside of her. He was thinking about it too. It was amazing how their child was alive in her belly, growing and waiting to enter the world.
Sarah said, "It's just that ... I'm worried too."
"What're you worried about?"
"It just seems like this is such a hard world to live in. I've dreamed about starting a family with you, but now I'm wondering if this is the sort of world that we should even be bringing a child into. The whole world is so full of hate."
"Don't think about that," Henry murmured. "All you have to worry about is growing that baby inside of you. You don't have to worry about all that hate in the world, because you got me to take care of you. I'm going to be a good husband and father. I'm going to take care of both of you. You and the baby will be safe. I'll protect you. Always."
I'm keeping these Author's Notes super short. My goal is simple! To keep delivering new chapters to you as fast as I can finish them.
P.S. The chapter image is from an actual advertisement for a new home circa the late 1910's.
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Color (Completed)Historical Fiction
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