There once was a boy named Jack Burton, born into a wealthy household that had amassed their fortune through auctions during the slave trade. Jack's parents were cautious, in a time of prejudice in America, and kept a tight rein on his curiosity.
One day, Jack went to the park with his mother. Clutching her hand tightly, he observed the other children playing with a sense of longing. Their laughter and gleeful shouts echoed through the air, a symphony of joy that Jack yearned to join. As he gazed wistfully at the other children, a flock of birds suddenly descended upon the park, their wings fluttering in a mesmerizing dance. The air was filled with the sweet scent of spring, and the sound of rustling leaves and chirping birds enveloped Jack's senses. In that moment, he felt a surge of curiosity and wonder, a desire to explore the world beyond the confines of his sheltered life. A few meters away, there was a sign... Jack couldn’t make out much of what it said but he realized that in that area, there were only black people. “Mommy?” Jack asked, “Can we go there?” He pointed at the sign further away. “No, now don’t be silly dear,” his mother sighed. Suddenly, his mother looked up at someone. It was another woman; she has blonde hair and a ton of makeup. “Margaret! Is that you?” Jack’s mother gasped, running to her.
Jack stood there awkwardly for a couple of minutes, not sure what to do. He looked back at the sign from earlier, and at his mother who was engrossed in conversation and had her back to him. Cautiously, he crept away from her and paced across the grass towards the sign and into the restricted area. As he walked further into the area, Jack became acutely aware of the eyes upon him, staring at him with a mixture of fear and suspicion. The sound of laughter and play had ceased, replaced with an eerie silence that made Jack's heart pound in his chest.
Just then, he noticed a boy around his age, sitting on a bench and staring at him. Jack hesitated for a moment, then walked over to him. “Hi,” Jack said, stretching out his hand.
The boy hesitated and shook Jack’s hand, “Hello,” he said in a quiet voice.
Jack grinned, “I’m Jack, what’s your name?”
“Michael, Michael Freeman.”
Jack frowned, “You don’t look very free.”
The young boy smiled, “But I will be, one day.”
Confused, Jack asked “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know, my Momma just used to tell me that,” the boy said.
The two boys carried on talking for hours, not realizing the time. At one point, Jack asked:
“Where are your parents?”
“They died, I think... I can’t remember. I haven’t seen them for years,” the boy shrugged, casually, “Where’s yours?”
“They...” Jack paused, where was his mother? He checked his watch, not noticing Michael peering over and gazing in wonder at its mechanism. It was already 2pm.
Jack took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. He knew that he had made a mistake by wandering off without his mother, but he couldn't help feeling drawn to this place and the people he had met. He looked back at Michael, who was watching him with concern.
“I need to find my mom,” Jack said, his voice shaking slightly.
“I’ll help you,” Michael said, jumping up from the bench.
The two boys began to search the park, calling out for Jack's mother. But as the minutes turned into hours, their search became increasingly desperate. They searched every corner of the park, asking everyone they met if they had seen Jack's mother. But no one had seen her.
As night began to fall, Jack began to feel a deep sense of despair. He was lost in a place that he didn't understand, surrounded by people who looked at him with suspicion and fear. He didn't know how he was going to survive the night, let alone find his way back home.
But then he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned to see his mother standing there, her face a mix of relief and anger.
“Jack, where have you been?” she demanded.
“I’m sorry mom, I got lost!” Jack cried.
“Why are you talking to him? He's not like us,” Jack's mother said, eyeing Michael suspiciously.
"He’s, my friend. H-he helped me find you," Jack replied, gesturing towards Michael.
Jack's mother paused, taking a closer look at Michael. She could see that he was a good kid, and her prejudice began to fade.
“Thank you for helping my son,” she said, extending her hand awkwardly towards Michael.
Michael took it, and they shook hands. "You're welcome," he replied.
As the two walked off into the distance, Jack smiled. He knew that he had met someone special in Michael. As the years passed, Jack always visited his friend at the park ignoring the signs acting like a barrier between them. And every day he saw him, sitting on the same bench as always.
To be honest, this was a difficult theme to write about. Especially in a short story because there's so much to say when it comes to racism in history. And yeah, I'm writing Historical Fiction now. Also, making a novel: The Spectator's Gambit. Chapter 1 is out now! Also, I'm in love with the cover, made it using a template on Canva, I think it looks a-maz-ing.