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from Hiren's Journey by Rebecca Onkar

Chapter 12
Introducing Hiren

“Now let me get this straight, Reverend,” August Sweet stood from his seat on the pew and addressed Bram after he had finished explaining the circumstances of purchasing Hiren instead of the bell. “You went into King’s Port to buy the bell but got lost, so you bought a slave instead?”

“August, you know that’s not what Reverend said at all. Circumstances were such that he really didn’t have a choice in the matter.” Lionel Marks ran his fingers through his white hair and sat back in his seat after defending Bram.

“Well, I gave my hard earned money to buy that bell and so I’m wondering how we are going to spread this slave around so we all get our rightful share,” August countered, still standing.

“She is NOT a slave any longer.” Bram spoke in a voice rarely heard, even from the pulpit. “She is free. Free to come and go as she pleases. Thea and I are offering her shelter in our home until such a time as she chooses to leave it.”

“Reverend, where is the girl? May we meet her?” Carolyn Fiske, a plump woman with light brown hair and eyes, quietly interjected from her seat. Her husband, Mel, a man even plumper and quieter than Carolyn, was shaking his round balding head in agreement along with her.

There was a murmur of assent from the congregation.

“Yes, of course. She is just outside with Sarah and Charity. Yes, thank you Curtis, please beckon them inside now.”

Bram folded his hands in front of himself and looked out at the congregation. Every head was now turned toward the door and August Sweet had still not yet sat back down. Most of the faces showed curiosity, but there were certainly a few that expressed sincere displeasure at this unexpected turn of events; August Sweet and his two grown sons, Martin and Thomas, were among that number. Sitting between August and his sons was Amalia Sweet, August’s twenty-two year old second wife. August married Amalia five years ago, three months after his first wife and the two boys’ mother, Maggie, died. Bram was never certain where August found the poor girl, but he just showed up with her in church one Sunday and introduced her as his boys’ new mama.

Amalia was the only one not looking toward the door. She sat with her shoulders hunched over and her eyes steadily fixed on the handkerchief that she was wringing between her skinny hands in her lap. She was either unaware or unconcerned about another helpless young girl like herself. Her pale blond hair was pulled tightly back into a neat bun and completely hidden under her white cap. Her watery blue eyes were small and, Bram thought, usually looked on the verge of tears. Thea had often tried to get to know the young woman but to no avail. All attempts at friendship with Amalia had failed, much to Thea’s dismay.

Bram’s thoughts were drawn away from Amalia Sweet by the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the wooden steps and no one was more surprised than Bram when the back doors opened and Abel walked in.

He didn’t stop, but walked straight to the empty pew against the back wall and sat down.

Hiren didn’t understand what was going on around her but she knew it couldn’t be good. Although she could not understand the words that were being spoken she could tell that the atmosphere was tense. It was even rubbing off on her little friend Charity and especially on Golou who was more fretful than usual this morning. It seemed that nothing that Hiren tried would calm him down.

As she jiggled Gabe and swung him from side to side, Hiren watched as a very tall man came out of the building and walked over to where she and Sarah where standing with the children. He stopped in front of Sarah and it seemed he was telling her something that she didn’t like to hear. She just kept shaking her head and making “tsk tsk” sounds. Charity looked about to cry as she clung on to her mother’s arm. She had even stuck her thumb in her mouth and was sucking on it like a baby.

Maybe they were right when they spoke of my life in this land. These last few days were only to trick me before bringing me to this place of evil. But even as Hiren thought it, she could not really believe that the last few days had been full of lies. The kindness of Bram and the women could not have been faked. She had watched them often as they interacted with one another, even when they thought her asleep, and there was kindness in their way of speaking and in the way they served one another.

Even so, Hiren was becoming more and more afraid of what awaited her in the raised white building. She looked at her surroundings and saw the stream that ran by Bram’s house off to her right. Beyond the stream was a forest of trees and Hiren started to consider fleeing into them. Just as she turned to place baby Gabe in Sarah’s arms she saw the tall fair haired one called Abel coming from behind her. He walked past without a glance in her direction and moved right up the steps into the building.

Seeing him Hiren abandoned her plan of escape; she had not forgotten the last time she f...

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