***Abandoned barn, Nowhere, TX***
Will smiled and shook his head as the old building came into sight. Now, he got it. His Mercy had been navigating this trip. More like dictating, but he was cool with that. It was later than he had wanted when they finally managed to slip away from the church. Well past dark. He had thought they would head to Dallas, stay in a hotel, then begin their trip fresh in the morning.
But Mercy had other plans. She insisted they take the southern route to Los Angeles, retracing much of that first trip on the run. Of course, that wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Everything in rural Texas looked similar, and they had been fleeing for their lives, so their memories weren’t the best.
This place, though, he could never forget. The dilapidated old barn where he had taken her virginity. That still bothered him. Mercy deserved so much better.
Her arms around his waist squeezed tighter. He slowed the Duchess and half turned. Her head motioned for him to pull over. It was almost dawn. Just as it had been that morning. He was not going to argue with his wife. Not about something so inconsequential. Besides, he didn’t mind a little walk down memory lane.
Mercy was off the bike and reaching for his hand the moment they stopped. She had already taken off the helmet that they had sized and customized for her. She held it in one hand as the other tugged him towards that old barn. He took off his own helmet as she threw open the doors. They moved more easily this time, and there was no squeak.
That was only the beginning of the transformation, though. The place had been cleaned. All that musty hay was gone. But what was most shocking was the antique four-poster bed that sat in the middle of the room. There was a matching bedside table next to it with a silver platter and champagne bucket. And from the way they glistened in the early dawn light, Will would bet those were silk sheets. Satin, at least.
“It ain’t your St. Regis, city boy. But I figure it’s a good compromise,” she wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder. That simple gesture, the trust it symbolized, did him in every single time. He kissed the top of her head that fit so perfectly beneath his chin.
Will looked for words to express his love at that moment. But words were inadequate. So he squeezed her tighter, held her as if he would never let her go, and he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. This woman was his heart. His very breath. He lost track of time in her.
But Mercy wasn’t the type for quiet or inaction. She pulled back and dragged him to the bed, pushing him back on it. Yes, that was real silk. She fell on top of him, straddling his hips and smiling like the sun that was peaking over the horizon.
She pulled an envelope from her leather jacket and pressed it into the center of his chest as she slipped her arms from the sleeves and tossed it behind her. “Our first property, city boy.” She bent and pressed her lips to his.
“I don’t understand….”
“I planned for us to spend this first night here. So, I got Laura to help me with a title search. Well, it turns out that this place was owned by the county. Back taxes or something. It was cheap as dirt. I mean really cheap. So, I took copies of my estimated earnings to the bank and arranged a short-term loan. And I bought it.”
“You bought a barn? In the middle of Nowhere, Texas?” Will wasn’t sure how to react to that one.
“Sure as shit did, city boy. Of course, this one is for nostalgia, but when I realized how cheap you could buy things for, well, what would you think about buying houses, doing them up, and flipping them?”
“I don’t know….”
Her fingers covered his lips, and he could see moisture glistening in those dark eyes. “Not just for the money, Will. But having a home, a place that is all yours, a place to put down roots, I can’t explain it.”
He felt her heart behind those words. Will knew that the writer, too, struggled to put certain feelings into words. He drew her closer and just held her.
Privilege. It was a word that was thrown around a lot. And yes, the color of her skin might have bought her some privilege, but in some ways, his life had been easier. While Walt and Etta Mae were never wealthy in capitalistic terms, they had enjoyed a level of comfort beyond many in the Fifth Ward. And more so than his woman, too.
He thought about that house which was still sitting vacant. He was sure that his life-giver and aunt would fight over that as well. Hell, they had not waited for his grandmother’s grave to be filled in before it began. He had not been there for the reading of the will. By then, they had been in Torreon.
But that place held memories of home that he could never forget, that were a part of him. So, yeah, he got it. He understood what she was talking about. Homeownership was another privilege that few achieved, especially these days.
He kissed her. He put all of that which words could never say into it. And in return, she flowed into him. Hope. Faith. And freedom. He realized that this was a crossroads. He had spent his whole life playing by other people’s rules. White society. If he studied hard. If he followed the rules and laws. If he worked harder than anyone else. If he kept quiet and went along. Then one day, he could….
Could what? Hadn’t that been what the past couple of months had been about? Realizing that no matter how hard he worked. Even if he achieved all his goals. If he excelled in his career, had become a Supervising Agent, even then, men like Saunders would mumble, cuss, and use ethnic slurs behind his back. Claim that he had only gotten there because of ‘affirmative action.’
You could not win a game when the cards were stacked against you. Didn’t that balcony in Memphis prove that? Or the bloody altar of his grandfather’s church? Every time they rose, someone pushed them down. Hell, it was a hundred years since they burned Greenwood, and still, black men, women, and children died on the streets or their beds. And no amount of ‘yes, sir,’ ‘please, sir,’ or ‘thank you, sir’ had changed that. Knowing that even ‘the talk’ could not protect her or their child, even laying down his life wouldn’t.
But abiding by the rules and living in fear wasn’t the answer either. And yes, he was angry. He had every fucking right to be. The one thing that kept that anger in check had died two months ago on that cold wood floor in the Fifth Ward. And he wasn’t ashamed of his wrath. Anger changed things. But to do that, it needed focus. Direction.
She was that. His focus now. His North Star that pointed to freedom. His Mercy. “Sally Mae Freedom Williams.”
She raised up off his chest and smacked him upside the head, “Sally Mae Freedom Reynolds-Williams, city boy.”
God, he loved this woman. “Yes, ma’am.” Like Grandfather Walt taught him, a real man knew when to walk behind his woman. Proudly.