Every single part of her body protested as she moved William's pillow and squirmed to sit at the edge of the bed, every single part of her body, save one. Her callused hand trailed across her swollen belly. Come heaven or hell they were in this together. Her mind wandered back to the winter rains, before the sickness, when the same pale light from the same rising sun would filter into this room, and William would put his arm around her and pull her beneath him. It wasn't long after she realized she was with child. She had whispered to William one morning at breakfast, Samuel had overheard, and let out his bray of a laugh. "Sorry Miz Dolly, but I make the coffee in here every morning, and I think it'd be a damn shame if all you two was makin' up there was noise." The two men congratulated and slapped each other, Will smiled at his work, and then the fevers came.
She hadn't cired when Will took sick. There was work to do. They propped him up by the fire and did as he weakly ordered. Elizabeth worked outside all day, and sat by William every night. Nothing Samuel or the others could say would persuade her otherwise. Even when William began to talk nonsense and cough blood, Elizabeth put the cloth to his head and told him tales about how come next winter he'd be bouncing a baby on his knees. In the dark of the night, when the knocks came to the door, Elizabeth did what William had always done. Lit the lamp, cracked the door, listened to the scared voices tell her that they'd seen the dancing trees, and then she went out into the dark with them.
Afterwards, she and Samuel would walk back to the house. "Sam, why don't you go with them?" she had asked him once.
"Miz Dolly, it's all about appearances. Maybe Massah Will's daddy done bought my daddy? Maybe not. The only thing I want's is for my family to be safe and happy. We're safer and happier here than we'd be anyplace else, and this ways we can help out them that don't have it as good. Massah Will's cousin Joe? He travels round a lot, sees things we don't see round here. When he meets them that wants a way to be free, sometimes he helps, sometimes he don't, either way word gets round bout them dancing trees and the kind folk that live by 'em. If I lef, who would help the next folk along?" She hadn't cried then either, just as there were no tears at Will's passing, and no tears at his burial beneath the trees. The tears had waited, pent up behind the wall of exhaustion until they would hold no longer.
The only thing that saved the Miller farm, year after year, was that every person worked. Elizabeth had been out in the field, packing sacks and stumbling along, swollen and stuffed into a pair of Will's old coveralls, when Matthew Stanford rode up. She had paused, shading her eyes and looking up at him. He had started to speak but she'd shut him fast. "You don't sit on your horse and talk to a lady, Matt Stanford. You got anything to say to me, you say it on equal ground."
He swung down and glared at her. Rattling off about how he knew she was folk just like Will Miller, hiding the 'property' of god-fearin' white people, and so help him, if he found out where and how, he was going to see her hang for it. Samuel moved to stand behind her, and Stanford grabbed for his rifle and said if he took another step he'd shoot him where he stood. He had given his last warning, got back on his horse, and rode off. That was when she finally gave in. The tears had come in a flood, she stumbled towards the house, and Samuel and his wife helped her upstairs and into bed.
As she stood now, pulling her shawl around her and easing her way down the stairs, she wondered if Samuel had been out to the cabin yet, if he'd told them all to be so very careful. They would have to watch every move now. As she reached the kitchen door, the baby inside her gave a riotous kick, she grunted almost appreciatively and smiled at Samuel standing over the woodstove.
He smiled back: "'Morning Miz Dolly."