Kengi Isoke has moved from Africa to America after her parents were killed in a fire. Now, with all of her belongings in one small wagon, she'll have to start anew. Can she find a house where she'll be able to live her life fully without anyone trying to tell her what to do? Or will someone from her past, whom she and her parents were indebted to come back and claim her as his? And will Dr. Quinn be able to get her to open up to her about what really happened to her parents?
We knew that America was going to be better living for us. We weren't slaves, we never had been. They had never made it as far as our village, so we were as free as we could possibly be. We studied our culture and language well, showing others fleeing the coast how to live in the mountains and jungle. We knew what we were asked of by God and we knew that it was our job to help those fleeing learn how to survive in an environment they had never lived in before.
The slavery ships had stopped coming, but we still feared going back to the coast. The coast still had white people living on it and we knew that if the people went back, there was still the possibility of them being slaves to the whites living on the coast. I was the only daughter of my parents. I had four older brothers and two younger brothers but being the only daughter, meant that I had a higher responsibility of taking over where my father and mother left off. My older brothers already had families of there own and had ventured to there own homes with there families. My younger brothers still lived with us but were courting there soon-to-be wives.
In our religion, it is allowed that a man have more than one wife. I wasn't in the mood to be the fourth or fifth wife of a man and my father didn't want that for me. Being the late 1800's now, the ways of life were changing, but not by that much. We still prayed to our own God, even though a few missionaries had set up a church some miles down the road from our village. Some of our people had become Christians, but my father was adamant that we keep to our religion and not let anyone tell us who we could and couldn't believe in.
Being only fourteen at the time, I knew that many of my family wanted to head to America to start a better life. My brother's and there families wanted to go so that they would have a better life where fear of being killed for thinking differently wasn't the case. My parents were thinking of sending not only me with them, but also my younger brothers, to get us away from the missionaries who seemed only to want to wash out uncleanliness out of our blood. They wanted to basically make us white and we refused to do what they said.
The day of the fire, I had been at my brother Chewe's house. They were getting everything packed for the trip to America and had asked that I bring what I was wanting to bring with me. I had packed four trunks and two bags. The trunks were full of clothing, musical instruments, food that we would need for the journey and medicine. Chewe was a respected medicine man of our people and I knew that if I went to America with him, wherever we settled, we would be okay in living away from town because we not only had a doctor, but also the fact that we knew how to live off the land.
We were moving everything into trunks and out next to the outside of the house to get loaded into the truck to head to the port at the end of the week when we smelled smoke. I was the first to look up and when I saw smoke billowing out where my house stood, I left Chewe and ran to the house, screaming for my parents the whole time. They never answered, even when I ran through the burning house, screaming for them. I ran to my room before anything else could burn and grabbed the one bag I had left there just in case I wanted to come back and get some things before leaving and so that I had an excuse to see my parents one last time. I could hear people screaming my name, screaming at me to get out of the house before it collapsed and I was almost out when the beam over the front door collapsed, blocking my path.
Chewe saw me and then saw me stop and turn towards one of the burning windows. I ran at as fast a speed as I could before I jumped and barreled through the closest window, slicing my arm open as I jumped. I hit the ground nearly running until I collapsed on the ground with an injured arm and hurt ankle. I felt Chewe pull me into his arms and carry me away from the fire and back to his house while our other brothers put out the fire. I spent the next few days in my brother's bed, not only crying but also healing from my wounds. I had been burned on my arm and although my brother cleaned it and wrapped it in bandages, he told me that it would still scar. I had also cut my arm when I jumped out the window and sprained my ankle. Other than those few injuries, I had gotten out practically unscathed.
I wasn't able to make it to the funeral of my parents. Chewe told me that I still needed to rest so, while everyone else buried my parents, I stayed laying on the couch where I told him that I wanted to sit, so I could hear the Holy One give my parents funeral. We left three days later on the second Friday of that month. We were at the boat in three hours and in America two weeks later with everything that we had packed. Chewe told me that he had bought some property next to a Byron Sully in Colorado Springs, Colorado Territory soon after we stepped foot on the shores of America.
We were about to start our new life and there were still many miles between us and our new home. Would we make it alright? And how would the people of Colorado Springs feel about us when we came into town? Would we be accepted?
Names & There Meanings:
Kenji: Who's child
Isoke: Satisfying gift
Chewe: Loved One