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An excerpt from Family Secrets
by Billie Jean Young
as told to her by Jaye Peay
​Chapter 1

​       I find Creole bread in the breadbox and begin to slice it to go with the cheese and marmalade, add new water to the kettle and open a tin of milk to prepare a warm beverage for the kids. It is a quarter of six. In just over an hour, we will head down the lane away from our house for the last time. We must go south to Rivertown toward the school, which is where Bea will come from. I have instructed Bea to come early, pass our house, turn around, and head back toward town, as she cannot look as if she has come for us. Amite may be in the yard when we leave, so we must simply flag down the vehicle and hop aboard as if we were lucky enough to catch a ride and not have to wait for the bus this morning. It had to be perfectly timed, so Bea and I had synchronized our watches last night. Otherwise, Amite might have reason to be suspicious.
​       The water in the pot begins to boil. Amite asks if there is fresh tea. I quickly pour tea and serve him and Taiji and return to the kitchen. Amos is yelling at Nefertiti, telling her she is spending too much time in the bathroom. He is particularly disgruntled this morning because he does not want to go into town with me. I have insisted that today is the only day for him to take the comprehensive exam to obtain placement in technical school. He finished high school two years ago and has spent most of the time helping his daddy on the farm, so he is no longer used to having to dress to go to town with me. He considers doing so today as an inconvenience of my making. But it had been the only excuse I could think of to include him in the escape. And I have to take him with me. I cannot leave him with his father. He will simply have to understand later when he knows the truth. Finished with breakfast, I leave the kitchen and the men, go to check on the children and ready myself for departure. Nefertiti can set the table later and make sure the littlest one finishes his breakfast. Amos can fend for himself.
​       ​I am scared. Today is scary. I have never been so scared in all my life. I am leaving my husband of twenty-two years, running away. What will today bring? The uncertainty terrifies me. Disobedience. My heart is beating fast. I can feel it thumping, loudly, it seems, in my chest. Will Amite see it? No. He is too busy talking to his friend Taiji, who came last night. Up early, they have taken scant notice of me, even though I have passed through the front room where they are seated three times since I arose. Good. I walk around in my bedroom. It is now 6:00, and the tropical sun is a half hour old. We will leave here just at 7:00. We will walk down the lane to the highway at five minutes of seven to catch the bus. Only we won’t take the bus. Bea will be there for us in a vehicle. Perhaps a taxi. I look out the window. What lies over the horizon for me?
​       I can hear the birds whistling outside, see the mist rising from the mountains in the distance. Every day, the mountains hold a different face for me. Some days they smile and on others they frown. Today, with a touch of the golden sun, they smile. Are they happy to see me go, my constant companions as I washed clothes in the sun? The mountains used to play games with me smiling on one side and crying on the other. They are symbolic of what Largo means to me: a bittersweet place that is beautiful but does not value life. Today, you are a queen; tomorrow, you are a slave.
       Facing the mountains, I repeat the prayer my sister gave me, my own personal prayer – three lines long. I am only able to remember the first lines today: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. My soul doth magnify the Lord, for He hath...” God, I cannot remember any more words, but you will say them for me today. You know what I mean. My mother, I wish I had obeyed you. You always said, in time of fear, say: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” What are the words of my mother? What has the Lord in store for me today? I am leaving a husband whom I promised to love, honor, and obey until death. Will death come today? I am taking away the man’s children, his children whom I could not even take to the doctor without his permission, or even send to school for that matter.
       Mother, you predicted that I would leave here. Today, it comes true, I hope. Thinking of my mother, I smile. She was good at foreseeing the future. When she gave all of her daughters a gold bracelet, and mine was stolen in Largo in the town of Mayonne, Mother said I would get it back, not to worry. Five years later, I found my bracelet on the arm of a student who sat down next to me on a crowded bus in Rivertown, sixty miles from Mayonne! I had squeezed my uncooperative seatmate to let the woman sit down, looked at her arm, and there was my bracelet, come back to me, just like my mother said.
       My eyes fell upon my mother’s rose bush, at the front of the house. It is as beautiful as ever, its sole blossom dangling on its languid stem, bright red, a survivor rose that Amite had been unable to kill. I had planted many of them and Amite had just as relentlessly dug them up because “they were in the wrong place,” or had been trampled by the bulldozer “by mistake,” or “they don’t form a straight line.”  Amite always had an answer though: “Jaye, I will plant another one for you one day; why are you upset? I can always plant another for you when the weather is right.”
       “But why do you destroy it before you plant another?”
       “Don’t you have confidence in me? Do I ever lie to you?”
       Does Amite ever lie to me? Does Amite ever lie to me!! Does he ever lie to me? Lie. Lie. Lie. The words echo in my head and threaten to drown out the litany that has formed there already. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. My soul doth magnify the Lord for he hath....”
       Amite and Taiji are talking again. “Dem women dere forget dem place inna de world ....”
​       It is the same conversation I heard last night when I dropped off to sleep. So many memories in this house wrapped up in here. The times that seemed to be happy and the times I made myself happy. Was I happy? I had convinced myself that I was. Our little house built from concrete blocks sat forlornly beside the road like a little box, its unfinished roof rising into the air to reveal a crude attempt at uniqueness that resembled turrets. Amite considered himself an architect, so the house had been erected pretty much according to his whim, changing styles as he went along, similar to the way he had ruled and shaped us.
How can I leave the little house? What would Amite feel when we are gone? Will he be sorry for what he has done? Angry at us? Will he come after us, try to stop us? Where am I going? What am I doing? What confronts us in a world without Amite to protect us? Is there safety after Amite? Was there safety with him? Did I love him? Will I miss him?
​       The last three days have been the longest and shortest of my life. Saturday morning I had begun to slip things out of the house to take with us. That was the day I made the final decision to leave Amite. Today is Tuesday, three days later, May 9, 1989. How do you move a family of five within a few hours, in secret, never to return again and without their knowing they are moving? Why must I bear this burden alone?
       Amite passes through the room, our bedroom. I look at him. It is hard to believe that I am leaving him. I stifle the impulse to give up, to tell him what I am doing – to seek reconciliation. It is too much, too hard to break a twenty-two year old habit. Amite gives me a disinterested and impersonal look, similar to how he looks at any of his belongings, as if he is just checking to make sure I am still here. Perhaps he wonders what I am doing as I have left the kitchen and am unavailable to pour more tea. I glance at his face, half scared that he can see through to my thoughts, but he has dismissed me already to return to the living room. I follow him back out to the kitchen and put on vegetables to cook, hoping that Amite will stay in the house until they have finished cooking – anything to slow him down a bit before he follows us to the hospital.
​       Amite and Taiji are still talking. Thank God for Taiji. I forget the inconvenience of his former visits, and thank God for the timeliness of this one. With Yala in the hospital, I slept in her bed last night. Taiji slept in my bed next to Amite. God must have sent him last night. I had been saved the fear of sleeping with Amite, the certainty that he could read my mind and know what I was planning to do. I am sure he still heard my heart beating from the next room. Taiji will go to the hospital with Amite when he goes to see Yala to bring her home. Taiji is slow to get dressed and Amite slows to his crawl whenever Taiji visits us. That should give me the head start I need. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” He sent Taiji for me.
​       Presently, my youngest daughter, Nefertiti, comes to the doorway. She is ten, gangly, sharp-witted. Mornings, she is quiet, busying herself with thoughts of school, which she loves. Today, she looks at me questioningly, and I realize that, caught in my reverie, I am holding Yala’s sheet music for her guitar, wondering at the same time, why I bother, since the guitar always seems to stand there between Yala and her father anyway, connecting them, to the exclusion of me. But Nefertiti does not notice what I am holding; she simply moves on down the hallway to ready herself for school, giving up only a quiet, “Morning, Mom,” as she does. I respond, though not audibly. Nefertiti does not react; she is a practical child.
       Hannibal, my youngest, appears in the doorway. He is still a baby at six, and having just started school a few days ago, he is unused to the morning routine. The older ones have awakened him, however, and he is trying his best to wake up. Will he remember this? Any of his life here? His father, on whom he dotes? Is this best for him? Of what will his memories consist?
       Amite, Jr. – Amos, we call him – rumbles through the house. Voice gruff from having just awakened, he is disagreeable and is, as usual, aiming it at the little ones. He takes out his frustrations with his bossy, domineering father on the rest of us, particularly the children. How I wish I could tell him what we are doing! But I cannot. At nineteen, he is anything but an adult. I have not been able to confide in him about our planned escape. He would foul the whole thing, so fearful is he of Amite and his power to control all of us. Amos would be afraid to cast his lot with me, since, practically speaking, he knows that I never win with his father. And he would, therefore, sooner or later, have to come face to face with his father’s wrath. No, it is best that I have not tried to confide in Amos. This must be borne alone. For us. For the whole family, but most of all, for my daughter, Yala, who is in the hospital in town, and whom we must still collect from there to go with us.
​       And what of Yala? She is the main reason for all of this. What will she say? Will she resent me? Refuse to go? What would/could I do if she does? Force her? Hog tie her onto the plane? Will she try to run away, back to her father? She loves him so. And she is stubborn, opinionated. Will I be able to stand up against her, this miniature of her father’s creation?
       I shake myself. Fear notwithstanding, I must keep moving. Time is running out. I choose a favorite dress, one with multicolored stripes, which Bea brought me from the States. I don’t want to leave it here. Amite had been resentful when she gave it to me. He never wanted me to have anything that he did not provide or that he did not see me scuffle for. Receiving a gift from someone was an act of defiance in and of itself; taking the dress with me somehow completes the act.
       Quickly now, I fold a few changes of clothing for Hannibal and put them into my book bag. He will need them the most, being the youngest, I reason. The rest of us can make do with whatever we have until we can get more. I had sent a small bag out with Mrs. Orlando on Saturday. She had taken it to Bea’s house and it is the only suitcase I will risk carrying. Whatever I carry out of here today will have to look like school things, the everyday load of books, lunches, and other school paraphernalia which I normally carry with me. So little space in which to pack so much time, so many years!
      Putting aside the “packing,” I collect myself and enter the kitchen again. The clock on the wall says six thirty. The kitchen extends to the dining/living area where Amite and Taiji are at the table relaxing over morning tea, still talking. Amite enjoys Taiji’s visits immensely, as they give him the opportunity to try out his various theories on a man. Their conversations are always peppered with women, how women are forgetting their role in the family, and the resulting disintegration of family life. This morning is no different. Without their noticing, I turn off the vegetables, as I do not want them to cook too much before I leave.
​       Back in my room, with my heart in my mouth, I realize how unnerved I have become in Amite’s presence. The fear that he will somehow read my thoughts and stop us is overwhelming. I sit down on the side of the bed to steady myself. I am trembling, coming unglued. Where will I ever find the nerve to leave my husband, my home and hearth? I have to. I rise and dress myself, remember the locket my mother had given me just before she died, and frantically begin to dig into my dresser drawer to find it. Just as my fingers close around the locket, Amite appears in the doorway. Guiltily, I look up to see him watching me.
       “Do you want Hannibal to wear his runners to school or his sandals?”
       Relief washes over me. I can hear Hannibal quarreling with Nefertiti about letting him wear his sandals, but she is insisting that he wear the sneakers. Without straightening up or removing my hand from the drawer, I respond almost in a whisper, “the runners.” If ever there was a day he might need to be sure-footed, today is it, I think, as Amite turns and goes back to settle the argument. I grab the locket and quickly slip it over my head, underneath my clothes, out of sight. Having done so, I feel better. It is my good luck piece and I will need all the luck I can muster today and for some time to come.
       It is now fifteen minutes to seven. Only ten minutes left. Nefertiti is used to the morning routine and timing, and has begun to gather up her books and pencils, and ready herself to go down the lane with me. In the living room, Hannibal is trying unsuccessfully to get into his father’s lap. He is still a baby, I think, as I encourage him to hurry up. His father is absentmindedly fending him off, telling him to be a big boy and go to school as he continues his conversation with Taiji, but Hannibal wants a hug. Hug him, please, I think, it may be your last time. He needs a hug from you.
​       I escape to my room again, look around at the various memorabilia that I have managed to collect in twenty two years of marriage and moving around: The prints from Africa, the little sculptures I never found a permanent place for, the drawers full of carefully hoarded linen so hard to come by in this remote outpost, my shoes, my school uniforms from eight years of teaching in Largo. I walk through the house. It would be so easy to cry, to give up, pretend I never made these plans, act as if everything is normal, “come to my senses,” as Amite would say. So much easier than what lies ahead. Why not? I could just go to school today and forget about leaving now, wait for a more appropriate time when I could make better plans. Why not? Everything is in disarray; and there must be a more orderly way to do this. Nobody knows that I am leaving today except Bea and a few necessary others. Bea would be upset, but she would respect my decision, and that would be that. The others? Can I trust the others? But could I stay? I don’t want to walk out on my life; I want to stay. But I must go. The only way out is to walk out – forward – without looking back. In the kitchen, I remember to turn the vegetables back on again, and having done so, I walk to the front of the house, past Amite and Taiji, remind Amite to tend to the vegetables, call out to Amos to hurry, and walk out of the door, out of my life, with a plastic bag in each hand, heading for God knows what.
       Hurrying down the lane to the highway, I pass by the various trees we have planted to make the ten-acre site more hospitable. The house is situated on what had been an open field. The trees are young and still somewhat small but sturdily growing. There are citrus, coconut and cashew; and the cashew trees had even begun to bear fruit a few years ago. I remember now how, with so much pride, I had shown Bea the fruit of the cashew tree and how thrilled and appreciative she had been to discover that a lone cashew sat atop the apricot-looking fruit that the tree yielded.
       “No wonder they cost so much!” She had exclaimed.
       How much these trees represented for us! I had envisioned my grandchildren visiting me on the farm in my autumn years. But it is over now.
​       Looking up, I see that we have made it down the lane to the highway, having covered the one hundred fifty or so yards in my reverie with the trees. Just a little more, I think. Will Amite come out of the house? No. He is busy talking. Can he see me? If I stand about here, the cashew trees block his view of the road. Thank God for Taiji, for his timely visit. He had kept Amite occupied last night, giving me precious moments to gather myself and prepare for the journey this morning. Otherwise, I would have, as usual, been expected to find time to sit with Amite, to rehash the day, listen to his musings or just be on call for him. I had kissed Amite as usual when I left the house, moving automatically, saying the usual things. Most mornings, he would have, at least wandered outside the door to see us off. But Taiji had come, was there to hold his attention. They had both remained seated when we departed. Amite is not likely to come outside now. That is my rational side. But the fear of what I am doing, actually taking this step to leave Amite, still makes the hair stand up on my neck. It is as if Amite will pounce on me out of the air any minute with an “Aha!” I hear a vehicle, and look up to see a blue, rather beat up van headed towards Rivertown. It appears to be going slow. Reason tells me that it is Bea with the vehicle. I hasten to flag it down. It is. By now, the children and I are at the roadside. The van halts for us. We board. It is Bea, smiling a good morning, quickly moving out of the passenger seat up front to let us board from there.
​       The driver is Mr. Santos, a local shop owner who also owns a taxi service. He has come in his personal vehicle. Good. No telltale signs of a taxi to arouse suspicions in case Amite is looking. I wonder if Mr. Santos knows what we are doing. Reason tells me he does not. Bea would not have confided in a man for the simple reason that she knows no man in Rivertown or all of Largo for that matter, would knowingly participate in helping a woman leave her husband, no matter what the reason. Breaking up a man’s family is the way he would view it. No, he couldn’t know. As if reading my thoughts, Bea motions for me to take over, leans in to whisper: “He knows nothing. Tell him what to do.”
​       ​We are now rolling towards town which is six miles away. I tell Mr. Santos to take us to Rivertown. The children, though surprised, are happy to see Auntie Bea, and beam smiles at the seeming coincidence of finding her in a van which we have flagged down to catch a ride. I sit back, breathe a sigh of relief for one brief moment but decide to tell the children right away. We are in the back away from the driver. I break the news simply by saying that we are going on holiday. Smiles. All around.
​       “When?”
​       “Now.”
​       “Today, Mom?”
​       “Now?” It is Nefertiti.
​       “Yes."
​       “No school?” Practical Nefertiti.
​       “No school.”
​       Nefertiti settles back. Amos is more analytical, aggressive. He frowns, face clouds over.
​       "Dad doesn’t know?”
​       “No.”
​       “Mom! He is going to be angry at me!”
​       “No. OK.”
​       Amos scowls, a worried, frantic look on his face and for the remainder of the ride to town, vacillates between happy thoughts of frivolity and escaping the drudgery of life on the farm outside Rivertown and the fear of his father’s ire. He is a fickle boy. Soon as we close in on Rivertown, he begins to worry out loud again. I tell him not to. He is quiet.
​       My mind is racing. It is in the hospital with Yala. Will she be surprised? Of course, she expects me to go to school today, and that her father will pick her up and take her home after she is dismissed from the hospital. Somehow, although I am aware of how hurried and unplanned this is, I feel that I must take her from the hospital, that I must not allow her to return home again, or we may never escape.
       I confided this to Bea last night, when she ventured that we should perhaps wait until Wednesday instead of today in order to allow us more time for organizing.
       “If we leave at all, it must be from the hospital,” I had answered.
       Something told me that if I waited for Yala to go home, we would never leave. So, Yala does not expect to see me this morning. Will she resist going with me? I honestly don’t know. So many times I had gone to her and arranged things that she would resist with all her might – her continued schooling, my opposition to her going to the farm/bush with Amite alone, her refusal to take a separate blanket for herself when she did, her refusal to be involved in women’s group matters – all these things she would resist until she had discussed them with her father. The results were inevitable:
       “You are pushing this child, Jaye, and if anything bad happens to her, it will be your fault!”
       Experience tells me that Yala will want to wait for her father and when I insist that she leave with me instead, will she? Amite has a strong hold on Yala, one which he refers to as a “special bond.” Maybe I can’t get her to leave! What, then? We will be exposed. What will Amite say, do, then, when he discovers that I have tried to run away? No, I mustn’t think about that now. Of course, she will go with me. I am her mother. She must, mustn’t she? How did she become more Daddy’s girl than Mama’s daughter? I look over at the little ones and my eyes linger on Nefertiti. No one will ever control her, I think. She has her own mind. She is her own girl. Amos is frowning. Bea is silent. Hannibal and Nefertiti are all smiles at the thought of going on a holiday and not understanding the consequences, they are perfectly content, although I sense the practical side of Nefertiti may be wondering at the impracticality of my actions in leaving so abruptly. But she says nothing, has ventured no questions beyond her initial queries.
​       We are now approaching Rivertown. I lean forward to tell Mr. Santos that I must go by the hospital. He looks puzzled but puts on his left signal that will take us around the riverside to Rivertown Hospital. Bea leans over to tell me that Mr. Santos started this journey thinking he was driving her to the air strip.  We are playing it by ear with him, one step at a time.
       A few minutes later, we are at the hospital, a single, white frame structure that sits bravely by the sea, reeking of disinfectant and old age. Quickly now, and without a word between us, Bea and I alight from the van to make our way to the entrance. I tell the children to sit tight, that I will be right back. It is now seven fifteen. We must be at the airstrip by seven thirty to take the small plane Bea has chartered to carry us to the international airport in Capitol City. Timing is crucial. On entering the hospital, we encounter a ward nurse, and request to see the nurse in charge. I remind the head nurse that Yala is scheduled to be dismissed by the doctor and I have come for her. She says the doctor is not due until ten o’clock. I ask to see my daughter. Fine. We enter the ward where Yala is one of two patients in an open area of six beds with curtains being the means of privacy. Yala’s curtains are open and she is sitting up on the side of the bed, talking to Sister Deer who is a nun and co-worker in whom I have confided about the planned escape. Nuns are highly respected in Largo so I have asked Sister Deer to be here to enhance my credibility should anything go amiss. In this largely Catholic country, anybody would think twice before daring to question the rightness of anything Sister Deer is involved in. She had understood why I wanted her there without my saying it.
       Sister Deer looks up, smiles a beautiful smile: “Well, Good Morning! I told Yala to go ahead and get showered and dressed, and pack her things because I may be able to give her a ride before I have to go to school.”
       She sounds so normal! Yala has complied with everything save getting dressed. Her clothes and toiletries are in a bag, but her jeans and shirt are still neatly folded atop each other on the bed, as she is stubbornly refusing to get dressed. Yala speaks up rather petulantly, to inform me that she must wait for her father to come for her after she is dismissed by the doctor, a trace of the thinly disguised annoyance she is feeling coming through in her voice. I begin to tell her that I have come for her, to take her for treatment; she must get dressed so we can go. She begins to argue back.
       Bea interrupts: “Yala, go put on your clothes like your Mama asked you to, so we can go.”
       Abruptly, without another word and with wind in her cheeks, Yala grabs her clothes and heads for the bathroom. As she departs, Sister Deer seizes the moment to tell us that Yala had been adamant about not getting dressed until her father came even though Sister Deer had told Yala that I was coming for her soon. Yala had been hospitalized on Friday with excruciating pain in her stomach caused by what the doctor thought might be a possible womb infection. Antibiotics have helped to ease the pain but the infection has not totally cleared up. When Yala was admitted on Friday, I spoke to the doctor:
       “Womb infection? Why do you think it is a womb infection? Isn’t that related to sexual activity?”
       The doctor had nodded, “In a way, yes. She has reported to me that she has been sexually active and that she has had sexual intercourse within the last week.”
       Sexually active? Intercourse! Who? Yala? During the last week? But she has no boyfriend. She spends all her waking hours with me or her father.
       Out of the bathroom, dressed now, Yala is visibly angry but does not again object to leaving. Ignoring her anger, we gather her things and head out, encountering the head nurse again as we do. Bea and I have neither rehearsed nor planned any of the details of this part, so by way of explanation, I again ask the nurse what time the doctor is due.
​       “Ten o’clock,” she replies, looking first at Yala, dressed, then at us. “I will return then to get a prescription for the pain,” I say and turn to leave without signing Yala out of the hospital or waiting for a reply. Bea is nearest to me, headed out. Sister Deer is in the lead, ushering Yala out of the door. At the doorway, I turn back to the nurse.
       “Oh yes, and give that message to my husband, too, when he comes.”
       We depart. Nobody speaks as we cross the hospital yard to the van. Having delivered Yala to the van, Sister Deer tells us she will meet us at the airstrip; she must run by the convent. In the van, Yala discovers her brothers and sister and in spite of her anger, her face lights up. She has not seen them since Friday, almost five days since she entered the hospital. She is happy and surprised. Of course, Amos immediately tells her that we are all going on holiday. Yala responds quickly:
​       “When?”
​       “Now.”
​       “When, now?”
​       “Now.”
​       “Right now?"
​       “Yes.”
​       This colloquy is between Amos and Yala. Bea, I and the little ones have been silent. Yala turns to me, having just as quickly grasped the situation:
​       “Mom, what about my dad?”
​       “What?”
​       “Does my dad know we’re going, leaving?”
​       “No.”
​       “Why?"
​       No answer. Yala is silent.
​       “Mom? Why?”
​       “We are getting you out of here for medical help. Don’t worry about your father; he will be all right.”
​       “Mom? Will the police pick up my dad?”
​       I do not answer. I tell her again not to worry; we are going for help for her.
​       ​My fear, never far away, returns again, now. Yala is quite angry. What if she tries to escape, to remain here with her father? While Yala and I are talking, Bea has directed Mr. Santos to take us to the airstrip. I have sat beside Yala, so I have to turn now to look in her face. Her jaw is set. She is so angry it seems her eyes are flashing. I keep my hand on her arm. I cannot risk her running away. What would I do? All would be for naught. The fear is washing over me in great waves. Yala does not want me to touch her and though I feel it, I hang on. We simply must get away. This is my child, my girl child I have so much hope for. I cannot let her go. I hold onto her. We arrive at the airstrip. It is now seven thirty. Only fifteen minutes since we arrived at the hospital. It seems like an age. The little plane is not in sight. I look at Bea.
       “It will be here any minute now,” she says.
       Yala listens, but says nothing else. We sit. Long moments pass and Sister Deer arrives, looking for all the world like an angel of mercy in her nun’s white shirtwaist dress and matching kerchief. I want to hug her. She starts toward us and I think of Mrs. Orlando, who promised to be here and is not.
       Out loud, I say to Bea, “Mrs. Orlando didn’t come. She promised.” Bea says something must have prevented her.
       “But she gave me her word!” Bea does not answer but instead moves to take the suitcase Sister Deer brought. They quickly redistribute the few items from the suitcase I had slipped out with Mrs. Orlando on Saturday and the plastic bags and school bags we brought this morning, giving us two half empty suitcases now and presenting a modicum of respectability for a family of five traveling to another country. Finished with the packing in the van, Sister Deer gathers us together for a word of prayer. I fear closing my eyes, still thinking Amite will show up any minute. I manage to close my eyes out of respect for Sister Deer but keep my ears peeled, alert for any sound. Yala had become even more sullen, angrier, wooden, refusing to smile or even speak again. She looks caged, caught, trapped, surrendered. I stay close to her as Sister Deer prays. The little ones are curious, inquisitive. Amos is irreverent, his daddy long ago having inculcated in him that God is a foolish idea best forgotten and that there is only Man and Mother Nature. During the prayer, Yala exhibits nothing.
​       As Sister Deer finishes a beautiful prayer with, “God, please take care of this family; go with them, provide safety for their journey. Put your loving arms around them and protect and keep them from harm, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen,” we hear the drone of the little Cessna coming to get us.


[End of excerpt from Family Secrets]