Abbie somehow managed to fall asleep again even before the plane took off. She just leaned against my shoulder and drifted off. It really made me feel special that she trusted me so easily, even though she didn’t seem to know the meaning of the words happiness or kindness. I determined right then and there that I was going to show her what those words meant. And no one was going to hurt her without going through me first. I wound my arm protectively around her as she slept and began to stroke her hair. As she slept she snuggled up even closer to me…she needed to be shown some love.
We had been in the air for an hour when a flight attendant came through with a rack of food and drink. I gently nudged Abbie, “Hey you need to wake up Abbie; there is food.”
As she woke up she tensed for a second before realizing where she was, then she yawned. “Hmm?” she asked.
I pointed to the chicken fillets, salad, and coke that the attendant had placed in front of us. Abbie’s eyes widened and she made very quick work of the meal. I grinned; it had probably been a while since she had had a real meal…if she had ever had a real meal. I slid my food over to her chair table. She looked at me questioningly and I smiled, “Go ahead, it’s all yours.”
Abbie didn’t need any more encouragement than that; she dug in with gusto. When she had finished she looked up at me. “Why are you being so…” She struggled for a word, “…not hurtful?”
“Not everyone in this world is out there to hurt you, you know,” I replied softly. “Some of us don’t like to hurt people, as a matter of fact we like to do just the opposite.”
Abbie smiled and leaned against me once again, “Thanks,” she whispered.
I put my arm around her shoulders, “No problem at all.”
For a while Abbie stayed awake and just absorbed me. Then it was my turn to fall asleep, I rested my cheek against her hair and drifted off. I woke up just as we were landing; Abbie was asleep as well, and the man was glaring at me. I glared right back at him, I don’t care what he did to me, there was no way I would let him touch Abbie.
Once the plane had landed the pilot’s voice came over the intercom; first in Mandarin, then in English. He thanked us for flying China Express and wished us a happy stay in China. The man signaled for us to leave, so I carefully picked up Abbie’s sleeping form and carried her out into the airport. The man was close behind and directed me where to move. He bribed the man at customs and we got though very quickly and without passports of visas. Then he led us outside the airport to a waiting truck. Once again I was shut inside the semi-darkness of a moving van.
Abbie’s breath caught and she tensed as she woke up, but again, she quickly relaxed and pressed herself against me. “Where are we?” she asked hesitantly.
“We just got off the plane, and the bad guy put us in the back of a moving van,” I informed her.
When the van stopped and the doors opened, Abbie flinched hard and curled up against me; trying to make herself as small and unnoticeable as possible. “Get out,” the man ordered. We obeyed and were left blinking in the bright sun as the man shut the door. Abbie sneezed and then pressed herself against me, as if sneezing were a crime and she didn’t want to be punished.
I looked around and realized exactly what was happening. We were at a slave market. Everywhere I looked, I saw people in stalls, kept chained to walls. Some were on auction blocks with people bidding for them. The smell of human waste and misery filled the air and assaulted my nose. I crinkled it up and clutched Abbie tighter against me. The man clamped my hands and feet in chains, and then tore Abbie away from me to do the same. She screamed and fought, trying to get back to the relative safety of me. I did the same, but the man kept us apart until he had finally managed to get chains around Abbie’s hands and feet. Then Abbie hobbled over to me and pressed herself against me once again. I lifted my hands and brought them over her head so that she was once again in my embrace. This time though, it would be harder to take her away from me, because the chain would prevent her from being pulled out of my grasp.
The man pushed us up to wait in line at an auction block. Abbie flinched every time we passed someone too closely. It made me so angry that someone had beaten this reaction into her. I clutched her tighter as we arrived and were forced to wait in line with a bunch of other slaves. We were the only non-Chinese ones, so I guessed we were pretty valuable. That was probably why the guy hadn’t beaten us when we fought against him to try to get back together. When it was my turn to go up the men came and tried to pull me up. I started to go, and take Abbie with me, but one of them tried to press Abbie back. I growled and clutched her tighter. There was no way I would allow us to be sold separately.
For a brief second I wondered why I had become so attached to Abbie, but then I dismissed the thought. It must have been God. One of the men directing the auction took out a club and threatened to beat us. Abbie whimpered and tried to make herself as small as possible against me. I shielded her with my body as the blows began to rain down. Sending a series of sharp pain down my back. I clenched my teeth, but continued to hold onto and protect Abbie.
It wasn’t long before they gave up and just put us both on the stage. People came up to inspect us, causing Abbie to whimper fearfully again. I held her tighter, and angled her away from the oncoming people. Abbie tensed up, awaiting pain as the people touched both of us. They felt our muscles as they tried to gouge our strength and what we might be good for. At one point they tried to take off our clothes. I let them take off my hoodie, as it was really hot here. Then they took off my T-shirt as well; again I didn’t mind…it was hot. Then they moved on to Abbie, trying to take off the sorry excuse for a shirt she was wearing. I didn’t let them. That earned me another beating, but I didn’t care, they weren’t doing that to her. The bidding began with a flurry of bets. It seemed that everyone wanted us. However, the bidding eventually settled down until it was between two people. A big, heavily scarred man and a smaller, heavy-set one. They kept bidding for quite a while before the scarred man finally gave up. I sighed in relief…he had looked pretty mean, the small man looked like he was at least a little more humane.
The auctioneer clamped both of us in iron collars and attached a lead rope to us then pulled us off to the man who had just bought us. He grabbed the rope and led us off to another van. He stuffed us into the van and we were on the road yet again. When we were taken out I looked around and saw fields upon fields of tea. I gaped…so this is where they get all the tea!
The man pulled us past the plantation and into a huge mansion. Then he went up to a servant there and chattered away to him in what I assumed was Mandarin. The servant nodded then moved over to us. “My name is Xiang,” he said in a heavy Chinese accent, “You will now be working here like me. You two are very lucky people! You get to work in house!” With that he un-hobbled us and took the collars off of us, though he left our hands chained. “You follow me now,” he ordered. We followed him as he took us to the slave quarters in the house. He chattered the whole way there about how lucky we were that the master had chosen us for work inside the house as servants. How work inside was much easier.
Much later, we had discovered that we were to be the master’s personal servants. Apparently white slaves from America were a rare commodity here, and indicated great wealth, so by buying us, “The Master” was showing off just how much money he had. By the time we had learned all that, we were sent to the slave quarters once again to eat and then sleep for tomorrow. The slave quarter was just one big room with reed mats strewn across the floor for all the house servants to sleep on. Our tour-guide finally took off our manacles and I rubbed my wrists. They had been rubbed raw by the heavy iron, and they really stung. The food was very basic: a bowl of boiled rice with some eggs mixed in, and a cup of water to wash it down.
Then we lay down, and Abbie pressed herself against me to sleep. Normally that would have been really awkward, but for some reason I felt very attached to Abbie and wanted to protect her from any and every harm. This was the best way, so I put my arm around her and she smiled as she laid her head on my shoulder. “Goodnight,” I whispered to her.