April 18, 1861 — an excerpt from The First Assassin:
Portia leaned against the tree and watched a few dozen slaves stoop in the fields. She saw her two older brothers trying to fix a broken plow. She recalled how they had run off before. Anthony and Theo were always talking about getting away. Anthony was a dreamer. He boasted of making it to the North and earning enough money to buy his whole family from Mr. Bennett. Portia could remember him getting away three times, but the longest he was gone was about two days. He had only traveled a few miles when the slave catchers found him.
Theo’s plans were not nearly as grand. He just talked about freedom, and cared less about where he found it. He also had escaped three times, but he had not headed anywhere particular. He just went lying out in the woods nearby, fishing for food and sleeping under the stars. Once he was gone for almost a month. But each time he came back, usually because he had gotten hungry–it was a lot easier to eat food from a plate than it was to catch rabbits. Her brothers were punished for what they did, but not so severely that they never thought of taking the risk again.
What if she ran off and was caught? She would suffer the lash, whose bite she had never known. It would be unpleasant, but she would get over it. A worse feeling would come from the knowledge that her grandfather had made an earnest request and she had turned him down. That kind of pain might never heal.