Zeke folded up one last sketch, stuffing it into his knapsack. "Well, I goin' home." He smiled slowly. "Can't stay here no more."
Will just stared at him. "You nuts, goin' back. You'll get whipped for sure."
"I have to go. Don't worry, my massa ain't like yours."
Will shuddered. Three slaves dead in the fields...no, best not to think about that. "Still, why you going? You’ll be a slave again."
"Doesn’t matter. We’ll all be free eventually. And I can't see the colors here. Everything all washed out." Zeke started out of the cabin they'd shared for the last year, since the Union army had rescued them from the plantations near Nashville. Will followed him into the gray morning.
"Where you get colors, then?"
"From watching cotton blossom."
Will shook his head sadly and watched Zeke resolutely head south. It didn’t make sense. He was returning for cotton?
Lucy was good with plants, nurturing them with her own sweat. The cotton crops blossomed better here than on any of the surrounding plantations. To his friends, the massa always claimed it was something in the soil.
She was lonely though. Over a year ago, Zeke had disappeared. The massa called him Zeke, but she affectionately called him Paintbrush for his ability to put colors and shapes onto paper. The only picture she had left by him was of the cotton fields.
Thinking of him, she could always hear his voice in her mind. Suddenly, she could hear her name called for real. She looked up and saw a very familiar figure striding toward her. Dropping her hoe, she ran to meet him at the edge of the field.
Zeke smiled down at her, his blue eyes mirroring the sky. “Cotton Blossom...I’ve missed you!”
Inspired by Lynn Austin's Refiner's Fire trilogy.