Former slave and seamstress, Violet Kingsley, returns to the modern world on the eve of the first African-American president of the United States. Violet’s spirit returns while walking down the long dirt road, dubbed the Avenue of Palms, which leads to Kingsley Plantation. She knows her soul is reborn when a car barrels down the road. A chance encounter with the driver, will forever tie the two women together as Violet realizes only certain people, things and other spirits can see her physical body.
With its wings in a wide arc, a wild peacock greets Violet as she enters the gates of the plantation. Now, a National State Park, Kingsley Plantation is frozen in time. Except for the White tourists with their fanny packs, cameras and flip flops the plantation looks the same as it did in its original glory. The slave cabins are still there, the barn, Kitchen House, and Big House, all restored stand as monuments of a time when Violet was enslaved. Violet’s emotions are torn between a life lived over 200 years before and a new world with cars, cell phones, and successful Black people.
Bewildered with modern times, Violet struggles to adapt to what she calls the “new world.” In this world she faces the daily challenges of race not too far removed from her early days on the plantation. Violet tells her story of those early days like an old grandmother sitting in a rocking chair beside you. She recounts those early days struggling to survive the horrors of the Middle Passage. Early years of helping Nat Turner revolt against slavery. Days she wept when her mistress sold her baby girl, Jane, away. Frightful but loving years spent with her husband, freed slave and revolt fighter, Ishmael Carter. Years she spent searching for her family only to find some were closest to her than she ever imagined.
Excerpt from Chapter One – Rebirth
The Kingsley Plantation, 1832
Ft. George Island, Florida
The flames rose up the barn door engulfing the frame and the only way out. Violet Kingsley grabbed her two little ones, Rachel and Benjamin, by their clothes and carried them to the far end of the barn. Quickly the fire spread to the opposite side. The children held on to her tighter, crying as the red monster got bigger. She tried to gather her thoughts and figure out a way to save them, but it all seemed to be moving in slow motion to her.
She remembered the sting of the slap from her mistress just moments before, when she told her she would first have her whipped and then sell “those little nigger bastards of yours.”
A beautiful woman, Violet’s smooth brown skin, almond shaped eyes, thick nose, and pouty lips were more a curse to her than a blessing. Standing just over five feet, there was still something about her that made her seem stronger than her slender body.
She ran to the cabin where Auntie Rae watched all the slave children. She didn’t say a word as she snatched up her kids. Instead of heading to her own cabin, she ran to the barn to hide. She hoped her master would have enough time to calm down the mistress before she came after her with the overseer and the whip.
When she heard the rustling of leaves outside the barn, she looked through a knot hole in the wood and saw Big John, the slave overseer. He had a lit torch in his hand. Looking around to see if anyone could see him, he threw the torch at the door.
Violet watched the dry timber light in a flash. The smoke instantly burned her eyes and began to fill up the barn. A sliver of sunlight on the wall led her to the direction of her salvation; a small window above the hay loft.
Her hands gripped the tall ladder to the top as she struggled with the children hanging on to her. Only minutes had gone by, yet all walls of the barn were engulfed in flames. The fire spread to the ladder, lighting her long skirts just as she made it to the hay loft. She beat at the flames until they went out.
The pain seared through her legs, but she knew she had to move quickly or they would be dead once the flames made it to the bays of hay. She stood on her tippy toes lifting five year-old Benjamin through the window onto the burning roof. With a burst of energy the fire attacked the hay stacks with ferocious speed.
So quick was the fire that Violet was holding one-year old Rachel up in the air when her whole body caught on fire. She screamed as the fire trailed up her body and consumed her baby girl.
She was a ball of fire cradling her dying baby when she looked up and saw Benjamin’s crying face and tiny hand reaching down for her. Then she left the world in ashes.
( Continued… )
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About the Author
Athena Lark is the author of the greatly anticipated debut novel, Avenue of Palms. She graduated from the University of California at Riverside, where she received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. She has been published in; the Literary Journals, Gently Read Literature, Hippo Reads and Whistling Fire, the Florida Times Union newspaper, Jacksonville Business Journal, Jacksonville Advocate, the Albany Herald, UNF Spinnaker, and UNF Alumni Magazine. She is currently writing her memoir, Sailor Girl about her life in the U. S. Navy.