She sees them. The gruesome appendages lying haphazardly in the dirt. Two arms, two legs, a torso, a head. None attached to the others. They're each covered in dark skin, colored like wet mud, dark shining mud. The tips of the fingers and the soles of the feet are pale pink, lighter than the rest of the skin, worn and discolored from years of hard labor.

She remembers those fingers, moving, always gentle, against her skin. The rare occasions they found to be together, that gentleness of the fingers was shocking. He had been so monstrously huge to her perception. He had been like a grizzly bear, towering over her small form, but still surprisingly caring and gentle. Now, the fingers curled inward toward the palms, the broad nails, yellowed and rough-edged were frozen in time. They would never grow again, just to be gnawed off when they grew too long.

She sits on her knees in the same dirt as the appendages. She is frozen, just like the finger nails as she stares, blankly, unfeelingly at the horror just before her. She does her best not to glance toward the head, but it is inevitable. She must look at the stilled slits of open eyes. The lids are mostly closed, hanging stiffly over nearly black irises, blending into the dilated pupils. Without thinking, she twists to the side and retches onto the hard ground. Her stomach continues to contract painfully as she returns to staring at the pieces of body. The horrific memory won't leave her head…

She sneaks out of the mostly still plantation house, ignoring the beautiful night, the shimmering stars, and the cool breeze blowing through the oak leaves. He is her only thought. If anyone catches her out so late into the night, she will say she is using the outhouse. But that isn't even remotely the truth. She goes to him. He will be waiting for her in the trees behind the shack he shares with a dozen others like him. She goes to him, excitement and nerves curling up her insides. She sees the small shack, roof decaying, door hanging awkwardly in its frame, and she circles around widely so the man watching the shacks won't see or hear her midnight trek for passion.

He is waiting, as always, standing against the trunk of a large tree just inside the shadows, his eyes wide and scared. She knows her eyes are a reflection of his, only in blue rather than dark, nearing black. She steps into the shadows with him. They stand silently for just a moment. Then, they both protest, reason with each other that this is wrong, they are breaking moral standard, not to mention the law. His deep bass voice gives her goose pimples. Neither of them listens to the reasoning; he slides his fingers under the hem of her thick woolen night gown. She has removed the corset and petticoats and his fingers graze along the skin of her outer thighs, her hips.

He removes the gown. Its drops to the ground unnoticed. She does the same with his worn cotton shirt and trousers and she runs her thin, straight fingers up his chest, marveling at the contrast of translucent white against the charcoal color the dark night gives his skin. His hands move around to her lower back, pulling her flush against him and she reaches on her tip toes to place her lips lightly to his chin. She feels the rough skin of his back, the stripes of puckered flesh, mostly healed wounds from harsh whips of slave masters. As usual, her eyes well up. They lower their bodies to the ground. However, unlike every other time this has happened, the night is not comfortingly silent.

Suddenly, there is noise that shouldn't be there, and light shining from somewhere other than the moon. The fire of torches burns her eyes and he pushes her to the ground. At first she is confused. What is he doing? What is happening? But then she recognizes the protective stance his body has taken in front of hers. She peers around his body and her heart stops. Her brothers and her father, on horseback, with torches and rifles, riding toward them. Time slows. It seems to take forever for the men to reach them. But then they do.

Her eldest brother leaps from his horse, and rushes at them; he all but ignores the man in front of her. Her brother grabs her upper arm, dragging her on her stomach in the dirt, out into the open. She doesn't see his fist fly, but she does feel the heel of his hand against her cheek bone, the sound like a crack of a whip. Lights explode in her eyes and she is thrown onto her back, her breath knocked from her.

"Dirty whore!" She hears them scream. "Dirty, nigger-loving whore!" Her brother grabs her night gown and throws it on her as he continues to curse her and call her horrible names. Her breath returns to her lungs and she scrambles to pull on her night gown. He is fighting them, she sees. He struggles as two of them grab him and pull him along. He is still stripped of all clothing. He pulls against their iron grasp, but they have guns and knives and he will die. She knows this even as she watches.

She lurches to her feet, but doesn't take a single step before another blow makes contact. A fist into her stomach this time, so hard she feels all mixed-up and backward as she falls to the ground. This time, it takes several moments to be able to move. She coughs saliva and blood into the palm of her perfectly pale hand. She drags herself on her knees toward him, all along wishing to cry out that he is good! He is gentle! He is a perfect dark angel, unworthy of a shot to his skull.

But that's what he gets. With a clap of thunder, a single bullet lodges itself in his head. She hears a strangled, shrieking cry from somewhere. It doesn't register that it is her own scream. He falls-hard- to the dirt. The body jerks once before lying still. Her father and brothers are still cursing, at him, at her, at the color of skin. Her father says that she is shit. Nothing but horse shit; no daughter of his.

Is this true? She doesn't think so. He didn't think so. But he is gone now, so she supposes that doesn't matter anymore. She just continues to stare at the long, dark body, the puddle of red at his head, in the dirt. Her chest is numb. She can't feel her heart beating anymore. She collapses to the ground once again, her limbs unable to support her. She watches with wide, wet eyes as her father pulls out a long curving knife and pushes it against his throat. Her body won't move, but her eye lids will. She clamps them shut.

She doesn't see as his limbs are severed, but she can hear the knife against flesh. It grates repeatedly on the bones. Back and forth, back and forth. She hears the squishes and the cracks. Her mind shuts down. Then the noise is gone and she opens her eyes. Staring at the gruesome appendages lying haphazardly in the dirt. She vomits, she struggles to make sense of it in her mind, but she can't. Her brother kicks her in the side, and she falls like a rag doll.

"Enough!" She hears her father shout. He stands there, staring down at the broken, bleeding limbs of his daughter's forbidden lover. He spits on them. No one mentions the love child he had with one of the recently sold slaves. That has been forgotten. It doesn't even matter, it seems.

Her father and brothers turn their backs from her. But, wait. This couldn't be the end of it. She couldn't just be left alone, could she? She nearly vomits again as she thinks of how her life will now be lived. He is dead…and dismembered. And she is alone and cold and beaten. She is bleeding on the inside and outside and her heart isn't really working anymore. This time she does vomit. She wretched again and again before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

She struggled to gain her footing as she pulls herself to stand. One stumbling footfall after the next, until she is running, chasing after their retreating figures. Her father has replaced his knife in the side of his tall black boot. She lurches for it, her small hand grasping the cold metal. Without pausing, without even a single hesitation, she pulls it from the boot and swiftly across her throat.

There was certainly pain, hellish pain as she tried to breath but only gurgled in her own gelatinous blood. It clogs her throat; it is all she can taste. Her body goes limp and she falls hard onto her already bruised side. There is pain, but there is also satisfaction. Their faces are shocked, scared even. But that isn't the last thing she wants to see. She pulls herself over to him. She looks into his drowsy, dark eyes and closes her own with a slight smile across her lips. She takes one last agonizing, choked breath.

Her tombstone spoke of the sickly only-daughter of the well-liked plantation owner, John Callahan. But, it was all a lie. Rosie hadn't been ill. The world was ill. It was infectious and contagious and Rosie and Jonas had fallen to its affliction.

For months afterward, people spoke of her untimely death. How sad it was for that poor family, losing their only daughter. They were told that she had fallen to consumption. Of course, the girl had been sickly and frail most of her life so it wasn't surprising that poor little Rosie Callahan had succumbed to illness. No one knew anything about the slave man, Jonas, who had also died that night. No one cared.

Poor little Rosie Callahan.