Alice was hanged for trying to change the world.
Now, it’s up to Heather
& her friends to finish what she started.
A Novel by
Christina Leigh Pritchard
Alice Collins’ blond hair bounced against her back and her feet pounded the orange dirt beneath her. She ran past the port-o-potties, through the stables, and then stopped abruptly in front of the Ferris wheel.
She took several deep breaths. There he was, in his faded saggy jeans and white tank top. He was surrounded by his friends. She could’ve sworn they were in the makings of becoming a gang. They called themselves the Bones and even gave Harlem the nickname Talon. Harlem had promised her he’d never join. She smiled. His dark skin sent shivers down her spine. She watched him hand tickets to his friends. If her father, Earl Collins, knew that Harlem didn’t rip every third ticket so that he could give them away to his boys—well, Harlem would be fired. It didn’t matter to Alice. Earl made enough money and was stingy when it came to giving it to those who needed it. Harlem would never do that; he’d take care of the Carnies. That’s what he always told her. She sighed, caressing her belly softly. Would he still love me if I told him? She wiped the tears that leaked from her eyes with the inside of her shirt. I have to tell him. She waited in the distance until his friends dispersed.
Alice watched Harlem grin and shove something into his pocket. She took each wooden step towards him slowly.
“Hi Talon,” She forced a smile.
Harlem pulled her close, leaning his forehead against hers, “My little Alice.”
“If someone sees us they will tell my father.” Alice pushed against his chest. His muscles flexed beneath her touch. Her skin thumped fast just as her heart did. This was a bad idea.
“What’s wrong, Alice?”
“Well,” she pulled on her hair, twirling it around her finger. No matter how many times she looked into his dark eyes, she couldn’t get used to it. Butterflies invaded her stomach and she grew breathless. “I took a test today.”
“What kind of test? Don’t tell me you did one of those dumb IQ tests that Mr. Carl has? Are you some kind of genius?” Talon grasped her hips, forcing her close. Their bodies were inches apart.
Harlem White froze. “What?”
“You know, ‘wah, wah’—a baby.”
“I know what pregnant means, Alice.”
She shoved him hard. “I knew I shouldn’t tell you. Just forget I said anything.”
“Where are you going?” Talon jerked her back. She landed in his arms with her back against his chest. Crowds of people stood waiting to get onto the Ferris wheel. Some complained and one person left the line to find a manager.
“Let me go, Talon.” Alice ordered, resisting him. He wrapped his arms around her and tightened his embrace.
“Alice, why are you so afraid? We’ll just get married. It is no big deal. I wasn’t expecting you to say you were knocked up but that’s okay, we’ll just have a family sooner than planned.”
“You don’t have to marry me, just because I am pregnant.”
“But, I want to.” Talon dug in his pocket and pulled out a small jewelry box.
“I was going to ask you to marry me when we went out to dinner tonight anyways.”
Alice’s fingers trembled. “But we’re so young.”
“Young? Who cares? Love is love. Age shouldn’t matter you crazy cracker.” Talon pressed his lips against her neck. “I love you. I have loved you since the day you tossed that water balloon at me for smacking you on the bottom.”
She laughed, still shivering in his arms. Talon leaned over and kissed her gently. She could feel his teeth pressed against their lips. When his tongue touched hers, a fire burned through her and she knew there wasn’t anyone else in this world that she’d rather spend forever with.
“Alice!” Earl Collins yelled. He was a stout man who chewed tobacco and displayed his grandfather’s watch on his white business suit, wore alligator shoes, and creased white pants. Earl’s fat, stubby hands pressed against his invisible hips. Alice blinked, frozen at the sight of her father. What would he do to Talon?
Earl shook his head in disbelief then charged up the ramp. He pried her from Talon’s embrace and shoved her hard. Alice tumbled backwards and landed into the metal railing. “You get home right this instant. And you,” he turned his attention to Talon, “You’re fired. Take that old, porch monkey father of yours with you.”
“Calm down, Earl.” Talon stammered, hiding his trembling fingers.
“If I ever see you touch my daughter again,” Earl spat at Talon. “I will have you hanged.”
“This is a different world, Mr. Collins. Wake up and smell the progress.” Talon exclaimed, backing away from the southerner. “You just wait. One day, you will accept me.”
“The day pigs fly.” Earl laughed, motioning for some white enforcement.
“I’m leaving, no need for that. C’mon, Alice. Let’s go.”
“Get home right now, Alice!” Earl snapped, pushing her down the ramp away from Talon. She looked back as Talon disappeared from sight.
“Daddy, let go of me!” She screamed.
“You better go straight home!” Earl’s fist waved in the air.
Alice ran through the carnival grounds, past Patten Lane, around Sardis Lake and finally she slowed to a light jog when she reached the woods behind her plantation style house. She doubled over and burst into tears. How was she ever going to marry Harlem now? Her father would send his boys after him and next she’d awake to Harlem hanging from a tree outside her bedroom window.
“Alice!” Rosemary Collins called out the back door. “I know you are out there. Come in the house immediately!”
Rosemary was tall and slender with a million different hats. She wore business suits with skirts that sat at her knee cap and closed toed pumps that were too wide for her dainty feet. “What has happened?” Her voice was stern and she knew the truth. Alice knew what her mother meant by ‘happened’. Rosemary would say that she wasn’t snooping through her daughter’s room. She was putting away laundry. Really, she was. “Who is it?” Rosemary pressed.
“What are you talking about?” Alice avoided her mother’s angry eyes. She should’ve taken out the garbage before she left the house.
“Oh, you know.” Rosemary waved the pregnancy stick in front of her face.
“What’s his name, Alice? Don’t think I am going to take care of the baby. I won’t. You could get a disease from unprotected sex. Why are you having sex in the first place? Are you married? No. You foolish girl; just threw your life away. I sure hope he was worth it.” Rosemary took a deep breath. This was her only daughter; her only child. “How could you be so dumb? Exactly what do you learn at that private school? Apparently, nothing. “Alice, I want a name.”
“That’s none of your business.” Alice sneered, stomping up the steps. “It’s my body and my life.”
“As long as you live in this house, you will answer to me.” Rosemary stood her ground but inside—, her heart pounded fiercely.
Earl burst through the door and Rosemary hid the pregnancy test in her suit pocket. “Alice, you have a lot of explaining to do.” His voice ricocheted off the walls. Alice slammed her bedroom door and threw herself on the bed.
“Come out right now!” Earl pounded his fist on the old wood.
“Go away,” Alice smothered herself in a pillow. Tears stained the satin fabric and she held her breath. Dying was a good alternative to what was to happen next. She closed her eyes.
Earl kicked in the door. It flew forward and split down the middle. Alice jumped, racing towards the window. “I never should’ve allowed you to come with me to the carnival. It has only influenced you with wild, worldly ideas.”
Alice pushed up the window and narrowed her eyes at her father. “I love Talon and he’s going to marry me.”
“I’ll have him arrested. I know some guys who will be more than happy to get rid of him for me. Stay away from that—”
Alice crawled out her window, tiptoed across the slanted roof and slid down the drain pipe. Earl peered out and showed her his fist. “Don’t come back until you’ve broken it off with him. Until you do as I say, you can’t come home!”
She ran through the woods, ignoring the thorns on plants that gnashed into her legs and arms. Her little yellow sundress ripped and Alice threw herself into Sardis Lake. It was getting dark. She had to find Talon. They needed to run away together. His life was in danger. She just knew it. Earl wasn’t always a very nice man; especially when it came to his ‘rules’.
They were such dumb rules, too. He thought he was superior. All of his friends thought so too. They sometimes went out at night disguised in white cloaks. Why did they bother? Everyone knew who they were and what their agenda was.
Alice climbed the gravel hill up into Patten Lane. There, a few shacks up, sat Herbert and Avis White. In Herbert’s lap was two year old Carlton Bowens.They weren’t kin; just neighbors. For some reason, Carlton loved Herbert. Would her child like Herbert just as much as Carlton did? Would he accept her as his daughter-in-law? She gulped. Would he accept his grandson?
Black people stepped out onto their porches. Avis frowned, lowering her head. It wasn’t like her to be rude, but Avis did not say hello—just slammed the door behind her.
“Mr. Herbert,” Alice was breathless, “sorry about today.”
“I lost my job,” Herbert grumbled. “What do you want?”
“I need to find Talon.”
“Harlem ain’t here.” Herbert turned to face the honky. Tears brimmed in her eyes. She looked horrified and she was soaking wet from head to toe.
“He’s in there.” He pointed to the shack next to his. The windows were boarded up and shouting came from inside.
“Thanks Mr. White.”
“Be careful,” he warned, disappearing inside his home.
Alice tried to ignore the evil glares from the residents standing on their porches. Carlton tugged on her dress. “Hi.”
She smiled. Would her son be dark skinned like him? Like Talon? “Hi.”
“Carlton!” Marcel Bowens shouted. “Git away from that honky.”
Alice gently knocked on the shack’s door. It inched open and two eyes peeked out. “What do you want?”
“Is Talon here? I need to speak to him.” Alice trembled and her eyes blinked fast. “It’s an emergency.”
“Come on in.” The man was smooth, almost as if he wanted her to see something. Alice crept inside and gasped. Talon and a few of his Bones sat on bales of hay in the small living room. There were two pit bulls. Talon held one by a chain and another man held his. The dogs snarled and snapped. The men released the dogs and they collided into each other.
“Talon!” Alice screamed. “What are you doing?” She shoved past the door greeter and slipped down the gravel hill. Talon lied to her. He wasn’t going to stop hanging out with those guys. What sort of life would she and her child have? They’d be miserable and the Bones would be his main concern.
Who knows, maybe he’d end up in jail—or worse.
The back of her skirt was gray from the gravel and her calves bled. She trudged back to Sardis Lake and tried to rinse off. There was a tall tree that she leaned her body against. Her wounds stung and her eyes burned when she closed them. Tears escaped and trickled down her cheeks. Talon was never going to change.
“Alice,” Talon called from on top of the hill.
“Go away!” She screamed back, forcing herself to run away. “I never want to speak to you again.”
Talon ran through the woods after her and skidded to a stop at the Collins’ Iron Gate. He watched her pound on the servant’s door. Edward, the Butler, answered. He placed his hand on the top of her head. “It will be okay, my little Alice.” Edward promised.
Earl waited in the hall. “You’re back so soon?”
“I broke it off with him.” Alice was a mess. Her hair was matted and her clothes wet, dirty and ripped. “It’s over with for good now. I never want to see him again.”
“Good, now go to your room and pray to God for forgiveness.” Earl demanded, pointing to the stairs.
Alice’s lip trembled and she couldn’t swallow or stand with ease. She touched her belly and glanced at her mother. Rosemary looked away. Had she told him?
In her room, she collapsed on her bed and sobbed harder than ever before. It was as if she were dead inside. How could she love a man so evil? Why hadn’t she noticed this in him before?”
“Alice,” Talon tapped on her window. He sat on her roof, holding tightly to the sill. “Let me in, please.”
“No, go away.”
“Please, I’m going to fall.”
Alice unlocked the window and stomped away when he tumbled through. He hit the floor with a thud and grumbled.
“I’m sorry, Alice.” Talon crawled to her on his knees. “You have to forgive me. I need you. You’re going to be my wife, the mother of my future child and you’re the only person I want to spend my days with. I need you Alice.”
“You—you fought your dog. You said you weren’t doing that. You lied to me. You’re a bad man. I thought there was some good in you but I was so wrong.” Alice shook uncontrollably. “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.” Talon tugged on her skirt and she shoved him. He dropped back on his heels and stared into her wet eyes. “You love me and you are going to marry me and make me a better man.”
“You don’t want to be good.”
“I do, I want to be a good dad and husband. I won’t fight dogs anymore. I will quit the Bones and I will get a real job; a nine to five, just like real fathers. I will Alice, I want to.”
“Alice,” Rosemary knocked on the door.
“Hide,” Alice whispered, pointing at her closet. It was small and crammed with clothes and shoes. Talon crawled inside and shut the door.
Rosemary sat on the edge of her daughter’s bed and tried her very best to hold her composure. Alice hoped her mother was filled with inner turmoil. If it were up to me things would be different, she’d say… But Alice knew her mother had no power.
Rosemary took a deep breath, “Does this thing belong to the Ferris Wheel conductor?”
“Do you mean Talon?”
“Yes. Is it his?”
“It is a baby, mother; your grandchild.”
“That abomination is no kin to me.” Rosemary exclaimed jumping up. “I will take you into town and you can have it removed. No daughter of mine is going to give birth to a monkey child.”
“How can you say such a thing?” Alice cried now. “You’re my mother. Of all people, I thought that you would understand.”
“Alice,” Rosemary began. She looked at the ceiling, holding back her tears.
“Maybe we can convince Earl to allow you to carry the child and then just give it up for adoption once it is born.”
“No! I am not murdering my child and I am going to raise him, not some stranger.” Alice stood on her feet.
“Fine, be stubborn.” Rosemary slammed her door.
Talon opened the closet door and scrambled to his feet. He tripped over
Alice’s many purses and shoes, tumbling down onto his knees.
“Run away with me Alice. We can go to my parents. They will help us. I know they will.” Talon begged. He pressed his face against her stomach, kissing her belly.
“Alice,” Earl clumped up the stairs. Now what?
“Wait for me outside. My father will kill you if he catches you in his house.”
Alice pushed Talon out the window. Shingles fell off the roof as his body slipped down towards the drain pipe. They locked eyes for a moment before Earl burst inside.
“Your mother says you have something to tell me?”
Alice picked up a duffel bag and began to stuff clothes into it. “I’m moving out. Talon and I are going to get married after all.”
“You aren’t leaving this house.” Earl stood, barricading the exit. “Over my dead body will you marry a negro!”
“Come close, daddy.” Alice frowned. It was cruel, really, what she was going to do. But, he didn’t understand Talon. Talon wasn’t all bad. He was the most imperfect man she’d ever met with the most unused potential. No one was really all good or all bad. Even Earl had good points.
Alice leaned close to his ear, “I’m pregnant.”
Earl couldn’t swallow. His heart wasn’t beating and his skin burned. “Get out! I want you out of my house.”
He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her down the stairs. Edward, the Butler pushed Earl away. “Run Alice,” Edward said, holding back Earl.
“I’m going to have that colored hanged for this!” Earl yelled. The door shut in her face and she disappeared through the Iron Gate. Talon picked her up in his arms. She dropped her duffel bag and sobbed in his shirt.
“I love you Talon.”
“I love you more.”
“When our son is born, I want to name him James.”
Talon chuckled, “I was pushing towards Harlem, Junior.”
“I want him to be named James.” Alice stood her ground.
“We’ll see.” He smiled, twirling her round.
Talon and Alice; they were not your typical couple. It didn’t last long. Alice was hanged.