Le Ruisseau, 1717
Maya lounged in the shade of one of the few overhanging palms on the windward side of Ile de Long, watching the children splashing in the shallow water of the reef, as they worked the traps there. She loved this part of the day as much as the children did. A life of ease, gathering the bounty that the sea provided along the edge of their reef. It was amazingly productive, for the small amount of effort required, like having baskets full of fresh fish, crabs and lobster delivered to her hands each day. Enough to feed the whole community and enough left over to trade with the Viscaynos. She lay back in the cooling shade, closed her eyes and listened to the happy sounds of children making play of their work. To Maya it was the most comforting sound she could remember ever hearing, a reward she received each day in return for the pain and suffering she had lived through, the fear of her experiences in Africa, the torture of her enslavement and her suffering in the cane fields of the white jackals.
In the orchard, on the sandy ridge at the center of the island, Odulette stood up and wiped the sweat from her brow. Even at this early hour, the sun bore down relentlessly, the dense growth of the jungle cut off the shore breeze so that the air stood thick and still. She struggled each day in the heat, fighting a constant battle with the undergrowth that choked her stunted lime trees, trying to improve their yield and, at the same time, her life and the life of her daughter, Hope.
She straightened her aching back for a moment, stretching and shading her eyes from the glaring sun. From where she stood she had a clear view of the bay to the south. She blinked her eyes, hardly believing what she was seeing at that moment. The sloop had appeared suddenly, from behind the screen of ubiquitous mangrove trees that grew on the western tip of La Roche, across the creek from where she stood. Odulette knew instantly, by its lines, that it was Grande Maronage. She was so excited that at first she couldn’t speak. She dropped the cutlass she had been using as a scythe and ran from the steaming orchard. When she reached the main path, at the center of the island, she turned south, in the direction of the creek, crying out, “Their here! Their here!”
Maya heard an unintelligible scream that fought its way against the wind, through her light sleep, startling her awake, leaving her unsure whether she had actually heard it, or just dreamed it. She looked first to the children, counting each one to be sure they were all there. Then she struggled to her feet and called to them. “Children! Come!”
She ran off toward the center of the island with the children following. They early learned the connection between quick compliance to adult commands and survival. Hearing alarm in Maya’s voice, they ran to her side and, together, caught up with Odulette at the rocky point on the southern tip of Ile de Long. Tears were streaming down Odulette’s hollowed cheeks as she wrung her hands with excited agitation.
“What’s wrong?” Maya asked.
“Their here!” Odulette cried, pointing down the creek to the west.
As Maya looked, Grande Maronage came into view, turning into the creek, sailing in their direction. Maya fell to her knees, sobbing. Their long lived anxiety would soon be at an end. Both women searched the deck of the ship for their respective mates, watching in silent prayer as the ship slowly made its way toward them. Then, seeing him at the bow, falling to her knees beside Maya, Odulette screamed his name, “Collin!”
A moment later, to her great relief, Maya caught sight of Henri, manning the ship’s tiller, resplendent in his golden breastplate.