May 4, 1830
This isn't how it is supposed to be, she thought with unease. Feelings of doubt were starting to take hold of her stomach, and as it grew, it spread upwards threatening to strangle her.
The baby started to whimper in her arms again, and even with the chilled night burning her exposed skin, she felt the sweat trickle down the small of her back.
"Please, don't start crying again," she whispered in a half sob. She swaddled the baby tighter to her bosom. Her body bounced up and down in an attempt to alleviate what was bothering the child. Even though she knew what it was.
It was hungry and cold; covered in its mother's blood.
She had a habit of not thinking things through before she made a drastic move. This baby was not exception. In fact, it might be her greatest mistake to date. The child was born last evening, to parents who would have loved it until their last dying breaths. But she didn't care. She saw an opportunity, so she took it. White healthy babies brought good money - if you knew the right buyers.
And she did know the right buyers. At least she thought she did. She scanned the deserted streets from her shadowed perch, praying Mika would show. When she saw a lone rider coming her way, she stepped back farther into the shadows in an attempt to remain hidden. With her back pressed tightly against the building, her eyes scrutinized the person sitting tall upon his horse. The street lamp from above gave her enough light for her to determine that he was not who she waited for. This man had a dark beard, with gray specks trying to push its color through. He wore a hat that was pulled low, shielding his eyes, and a long beak-like nose. His long, stringy hair looked like it hadn't felt the cleanliness of soap for weeks.
she held her breath until he completely passed her, and then she leaned her head back onto the building and lifted her eyes. "This was a mistake," she whispered, trying to calm her unease. The sound of the horse hooves hitting the cobblestone made her lift her head and look back towards the street. The unknown rider had returned and stopped on the street. His eyes found her in the shadows.
Her grip tightened on the baby, and her heart felt as if to leap from her chest.
"Do you have the child?" the man drawled, with a deep voice that echoed through the quiet night.
Her eyes grew wide, and she licked her lips, nodding her head hesitantly.
A low chuckle flowed from his lips and then he turned his horse, pointing it in her direction. Once he was aligned with her, the man jumped from his perch and landed sure-footedly before her.
He was a big man, standing easily a head taller than herself. "May-maybe," she stammered. "Depends on if you have the coin or not."
Again, he laughed. "Oh, I have the coin." Then he lifted his hand to the baby in an attempt to pull the swaddling blanket down and get a better look at it.
She jerked her body away, shielding the baby from his touch. "Where is Mika?" she blurted. "I-I don't know you. I was supposed to be meeting Mika here."
The man lifted his hand to his pocket and pulled out a cheroot. He settled it on his bottom lip, and then lit a match. "Mika couldn't be here," he said as he drew on the rolled cigarette. "Is the child male or female? There seems to be a greater need for male babies." He blew the smoke from the corner of his mouth and reached for the baby again. The whole time his eyes remained fixed to her face. It seemed like he was daring her to deny him again as he slid the blanket down.
This time, she didn't flinch away. "Does it really matter what the sex is?" she whispered, bouncing the baby in her arms as she watched him inspect the child.
He shrugged his shoulders and let out a long sigh. "It makes no difference to me really," he said flatly. Turning and walking to his horse, he lifted a small sack from the saddle before walking back towards her. "I have one question. I am not going to be hunted down and shot because some family is missing their child, am I?"
She shook her head. "No," she answered. "The mother is deceased."
"Did you do the deed?"
"No!" she gasped, shaking her head.
"Perfect." He laughed. Reaching for her hand, he placed the sack into her palm.
She felt the weight of the sack, and it seemed light. "Is this the agreed amount?"
His eyes raked over her, and a wicked laugh flowed from his lips. "How about I alert the authorities to a negro woman attempting to sell a white baby," he threatened as he took a step closer to her. "Do you think they will take to kindly to that? It could be an interesting tale; don't you think?"
Sweat poured down her back, and she looked down at the tiny baby. "I's sorry," she whispered. "I's didn't mean no disrespect." Hesitantly she lifted the baby higher until it rested in the stranger's arms. She watched the man turn and return to his horse.
She was surprised when she felt a lone tear slide down her cheek, and her hand rose to stifle a sob. "Wait!" she blurted, taking a few steps towards him. "Where will you be taking it?" Will it go to a good family?"
He pulled himself up onto his horse and looked down at her. "Does it matter?"
Her bottom lip quivered. "Yes."
He angled his horse away from her. "Your job is done, and you have been paid. This child is no longer your concern."
She watched him ride away until he was out of sight. Then she ran into the darkness and fell to her knees. Her body convulsed and trembled in tortured agony. "Please forgive me. Please forgive me," she mumbled, rocking her body until it collapsed.