The night of my party, my dad had came to talk to me. Basically, he told me
that he thought it would be better for Nadia and I if we weren't friends
anymore. I told him that I'd stop talking to her but I couldn't bring
myself to actually do that. Not only because it'd kill her but because it'd
kill me also. When Nadia's fifth birthday arrived the next year she was
smart enough not to invite me to any gathering she was having. Even though
I wasn't invited, I still gave her a gift: a drawing of me and her holding
hands and a blueberry muffin I had snuck from the breakfast table. She said
that she'd keep the picture hidden under her cot forever and eat the muffin
for her dinner.
We realized that the secret friendship thing was sort of fun. We couldn't
play around in the wheat field anymore because someone could see us but we
could still meet at our secret tree. When we'd see each other on the
plantation, two fast blinks could mean that one of us couldn't meet at the
tree. Coughing excessively would mean that we could meet in the tree during
the night instead of the day and scratching our hair meant that there was
something urgent we needed to talk to each other about.
One day in April of 1854, we sat atop the highest, thickest, branch of our
tree, eating some cookies I had snuck for the two of us. I had mentioned
something about my teacher, Ms.Jones when Nadia nearly choked on her
cookie. "You gots a teacha?" She asked, her eyes bugging out. "Yeah." I
answered, taking another bite out of my cookie. I didn't know why she was
making such a fuss over it. "I shoulda known, as rich as you is." She said
more to herself than to me. I knew that slaves didn't get any education,
but I didn't think that they would care. From what everyone told me, blacks
were just naturally dumb.
Nadia took another bite out of her cookie looking into the horizon. When
she finished it, she turned bashfully at me. " I....maybe you.....if you
"What? What is is?" I asked. She started again. "I've always wanted
to...read." She said looking down at her swinging feet. That was defiantly
a shock to me. "You...wanna read?" I asked her to make sure I had heard
right. Her skin turned a light pink as she blushed and began to say
"Well...I know it's kinda stupid, I mean I wouldn't never get da chance to
use it or nothing, but I really-"
But I interrupted her. "Okay. It's gonna be fun to teach you how to read."
I said trying not to sound surprised.
So I was Nadia's teacher. It wasn't hard at all. She was 7, which is the
age most children started learning. The first thing I did was teach Nadia
the alphabet. Once she got that all down packed (in about a week) I taught
her the sounds the letters usually make. I was sure to let her know that
some letters' sounds change depending on what letters they were place in
between or what word they were in. She had that fully learned in a little
more than a week.
I finally started bringing books for her to practice reading on the third
week. She was an eager child to learn and swallowed up 4 of my picture
books in 2 weeks. I began bringing harder and harder books for her to read
but she continued to devour them. She defiantly made some mistakes along
the way, but she never made the same mistake twice.
When it came around to being my 10th birthday, she was reading books that I
was beginning to read in my second year of education. Needless to say, she
was a fast learner.
When the day of my 10th birthday arrived, I woke up to a house slave
standing over my bed.
"Miz Jasmine has asked for me to bring dis to you sir." She said in a
whisper, her eyes shifting from side to side. She handed me a folded sheet
of paper. "Thank you." I said as I took if from her hand. Once she had
left, I unfolded it and read the squiggly handwriting:
Thank You Jakob Very Much For Teaching Me How To Read.!
Her mom must be Miss Jasmine, which meant her mom knew about our friendship
and didn't mind. I smiled at the intense effort Nadia had put into writing
me this card. My family was very mistaken and I had been. Blacks could be
as smart as whites.