Friday, December 30, 2005

Author note

Okay, I'm off my soapbox now. I've said all I had to say for now. Let me know your thoughts and opinions.

Suprina

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Letter to Readers

Beautiful…Tangled Roots was such a difficult book to write for several reasons. The first being the fact that I do not condone the act of adultery under any circumstances. The second being the fact that the whole slavery thing can oftentimes leave a sour taste in people’s mouths, mine included. Yet this was a book I felt compelled to write, a story I felt compelled to tell.

Perhaps that compellation had something to do with the fact that many of us come from beginnings that were not always squeaky clean, beginnings that were far from honorable. The simple reality is the fact that many of our American ancestors did own slaves or either were slaves. And many of them were intimate with one another, willingly or unwillingly.

In this particular book, I opted to show a willing slave/slave-owner union at such a peculiar time in American history. I also sought to show that God can straighten out every tangled part of our lives, including the act of adultery and other sins of the flesh. And that He can bring something beautiful out of the messes we create, order out of our self-imposed chaos if we only let Him. I truly hope you got those important messages.

To further drive the above points home, see Judah and Tamar’s story in Genesis 38. Also see Luke 3:33 where it confirms that Jesus was indeed descended from that sordid father-in-law/daughter-in-law union.

Another reality highlighted in this book is the fact that people were succumbing to socially accepted behavior even back in antebellum times, despite the fact that that sort of behavior was contrary to the Word of God. Doesn’t that remind you of so many other ‘sinful, yet accepted’ issues in today’s society? And like many people today, Edric and Eve justified their sin by pointing to the purity of their feelings. Fortunately, they eventually allowed God to sanction their union the right way and in doing so, revealed how true love really can conquer all.

Finally, I hope you also got the message that no matter whom you are descended from, those people (your own beautiful tangled roots) were not only fearfully and wonderfully made by God, but were also completely necessary for your very existence. Be blessed.

Suprina Frazier

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Author note

I hope everyone had as much fun as I did reading through this sample of Edric and Eve's story. More even. Maybe it's just me, but I can actually visualize the characters and the scenes in this book as if they were literally on the small screen.

Perhaps some movie people will stumble across my path one day and we can make this into a movie-of-the-week. Possibly even show it during February, which is Black History Month in America. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she? (Smile)

If you want to purchase Beautiful...Tangled Roots in its entirely, please visit the ordering pages of my website. A link is provided on the left side of this blog.
Suprina

Monday, December 19, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 19 Part 2

It was on a much sadder note that Edric returned to his home two days later. Even before he got up to the main house, he knew something was terribly wrong. He could smell smoke from a mile away, despite the drizzling rain. Plus, none of the slaves would look at him as he passed by. Only Jasper was brave enough to approach the doctor’s carriage and dispel the bad news.

“Dr. Wainwright, somethin’ mighty awful done happen. Somebody set fire ta Eve’s place a few nights past and took lil Indigo,” Jasper said sadly as he wrung his hands. “Dey found da baby’s bloody quilt back by da house. Da bloody nightgown be found in da woods yesterdee. Overseer York say it look like it wuz tore up by one of da black bears dat sometimes come up from da swamp. Eve’s in a bad way. Won’t talk ta nobody.”

Edric blinked rapidly to make sure he’d heard right. “What?!” Then without another word to anyone, he put his horse in a fast gallop and raced towards the house. Why didn’t somebody send a telegraph? Edric mused with anxiety clawing at his belly. If only his horse could go faster. The big house seemed miles away instead of several yards.

Stopping the horse only a few feet from the house, Edric jumped down from the carriage and raced for the front door. The first person he saw was Abigail. She was in the great room looking pale and hung over. Her eyes were bloodshot red and she was dressed in all black.

“What happened to my daughter? Why did you not contact me days ago?” Edric asked, grabbing both of his wife’s arms as he shot rapid fire questions at her.

Abigail’s face paled even more at the anguish in his voice and eyes. Guilt began to prick her soul. Yet her conscience was too numbed out with alcohol to make a difference in this moment. As a result, Abigail’s train of deception was going to continue on its destructive path.

“I sent a telegraph,” she replied, leaving out the fact that she only sent it yesterday after the child was already missing for days. Abigail also would not reveal that she deliberately lied to Edric’s mother about sending the telegraph immediately after the child was abducted when the distressed matriarch personally came to the house to make inquiry. Nor would she tell him that ever since Indigo was presumed dead (even though no body had been found yet), the state of his mother’s health had steadily declined and Corinna was even complaining of heart irregularities now. Abigail would leave that for Edric’s brothers to disclose since she felt guilty about that, too.

“When? I never got it,” the anguished man said, trying to make sense of things in his tormented mind. Edric’s hands were involuntarily tightening on Abigail’s arms.

“The timing does not matter now, Edric, since Indigo is dead. The Creeks took her, killed her, and probably fed her body to the wild animals in order to get back at your family.” Then to further take her husband’s mind off of the time factor, Abigail pointed to the bloody quilt draped across the piano. Mrs. Wainwright had had to commission two strong male slaves to pry this quilt from Eve’s hands when the woman finally regained consciousness that fateful night.

Edric finally released his wife and rushed over to the quilt, immediately reading the bloody message. “Oh God, my poor baby!” he lamented as he dropped to the piano bench with his head nearly drooped to his chin in sorrow.

“Are my brothers missing any children?” Edric asked as he looked back at his wife. Tears were brimming in his eyes, threatening to stream down his face in droves at any moment.

Rubbing her smarting arms where Edric’s tight grip had left two red marks, Abigail shook her head and looked away. A fresh wave of guilt washed over her. She would need another drink, maybe two in order to drive this stronger batch of guilt away. “No, they only took your child,” Abigail practically whispered.

Even in his thick haze of sorrow, that didn’t make sense to Edric. Especially since his brothers had so many more children to abduct than him. Why would the Creeks take the child of a man who only had one? Unless…unless it was to exact the cruelest revenge against the Wainwright brothers by allowing them to watch their youngest sibling suffer the worst kind of heartache. The same youngest sibling that had revitalized the family finances with his arranged marriage when poverty would have surely been the Wainwrights’ just due in the Creeks’ eyes.

Suddenly Edric thought of something else or rather someone else as he pushed his own grief aside for the moment. “Did Eve see this?”

“Yes, I believe that is why she fainted. She has not spoken to anyone since she came to. Charlotte’s been looking after her, trying to get her to eat. But she will not eat a thing and has not been to work since it happened,” Abigail informed her husband. She successfully kept her anger and jealousy pressed down in order to play this scene exactly the way she rehearsed it in her mind from her plan’s inception.

Edric said no more to his wife as he quickly made his way out of the main house, past the detached kitchen, beyond the charred remains of Eve’s cabin, and into Charlotte’s place. As soon as he crossed the threshold, he immediately saw Eve lying in a fetal position on a neatly made-up bed in the corner where one of Charlotte’s younger kids usually slept. Her face was to the wall. She had on the simplest gray slave dress she owned, forgoing the fancy attire she used to wear around the plantation.

“Leave us,” Edric told his cook and her children. Charlotte’s husband was still out in the fields working. When they were alone, he moved closer to Eve. “Eve, my love. Talk to me please,” he implored as he sat in the sturdy wooden chair beside the bed.

At the sound of Edric’s voice so near to her, Eve stirred from her numb state and turned to face him. “Indigo’s dead,” she announced through cracked dry lips. “God let the Indians get her because of our sins. Your family wronged the Creeks. And you and I wronged God and Miss Abigail.”

I should have listened to Georgina. I should have trusted God to preserve me for my own husband, Eve thought with a heart full of regrets and a conscience heavily laden with the sin of their adultery.

“Do not say that, Eve. Our love is pure. We talked about this before, remember?”

“Our love may be pure, but it is also enjoyed at the expense of others. Now look what it has cost us. Our…child.” Eve’s voice broke at that point. Yet with great force of will she quickly collected herself and went on. “Go away from me, Dr. Wainwright. Reverse this curse by going back to your wife and trying to work things out with her. Let me alone to just be like all the other slaves. Let me alone so that our love can die just like our daughter did.”

Then Eve turned her back to him and stared at the wall again. Inwardly, she wished that she could just die as well. Without Indigo and Edric, she really didn’t see a future for herself.

Edric just sat there for a long silent while as grief flooded his soul from top to bottom, saturating every cell in his body. Although Indigo was lost to him days ago, it felt as if he’d just lost his only child and the only woman he’d ever loved all at once. Suddenly, deep despair caused Edric to fall to his knees beside Eve with silent tears streaming down his face. Dr. Wainwright could care less that he was a white man that had just humbled himself before a slave. He’d long since discovered that all people were created equal and subject to happiness as well as pain.

“Do not do this, my love. We need each other at a time like this. Please reconsider,” Edric pleaded as he pulled Eve into his arms. He held her tightly against his chest, afraid to let her go, lest he truly lose her forever.

Eve wanted to melt into his comfort so desperately. Yet she could not risk it. She could not risk going back down the same road that had led to such heartache and loss. As a result, she yanked away from Edric and returned to her former wall-staring position. “Let me be, Dr. Wainwright,” Eve reiterated with finality. “Please let me be.”

Now with rejection constricting his throat as well as grief, Edric rose to his feet again. The tears continued to surge forward as if the ocean had overflowed its banks. Then without another word, a downhearted Edric turned around and left the cabin with heavy, sorrowful footsteps. In his heart of hearts, he wondered if perhaps he should have enlisted God’s help in resisting his attraction to Eve all those years ago, instead of relying on his own strength. Maybe then he could have spared them all this great pain.

When she was sure that Edric was gone, Eve allowed the first of many tears to fall. Afterwards she washed her face, packed up what little belongings she had left, and went to stay with Jasper and Hester in an effort to get as far away as possible from the big house.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 19 Part 1

Chapter 19
After briefly stopping in Abigail’s bedroom to tell her of his departure that bright and early Sunday morning, Edric went to Eve’s quarters and kissed both her and his daughter goodbye before his long journey.

“I should return in a week, my love,” he said, after obtaining yet another kiss from Eve in the living room area of the refurbished cabin.

“I’ll miss you.” Eve smiled at him with love shining in her eyes. The same love that she’d had for over five years. She was amazed that such depth of affection hadn’t dimmed one iota in all that time. It had actually gotten stronger.

“I will miss you, too,” Edric replied. He also loved Eve more today than he ever did before. This was a woman that he planned to go old with. A woman whose face he planned to gaze into before he took his final earthly breath.

Then Edric looked down at Indigo again and touched her long ponytails, one at a time. “Will you miss me, little one?”

Indigo smiled up into his kind face. “Every second you’re gone, Dr. Daddy.”

Edric chuckled with elation at his daughter’s heartwarming words. And it was on that happy note that he left his home for a big medical conference up in Tennessee.

******

Around 9pm, Eve was called away to check on one of the older slaves. It seems that York had had a bit too much to drink earlier in the evening and decided that he was in the mood for swinging his whip around the slave quarters now that Dr. Wainwright was gone. Jasper tired to move some children out of the way and got several lashes across his back in the process. Now he was hurting something awful.

No one knew where York was now and since Dr. Wainwright was gone, they called on the woman that usually tended to the needs of the elderly slaves out of the kindness of her heart - Eve. A few slave children had gone to Miss Abigail for help when things first started getting out of hand, but she promptly refused to intervene in undesirable matters such as that.

Deciding to leave Indigo in bed asleep with just a quick word to Charlotte to look out for the cabin, Eve trudged all the way on the other side of the compound to Jasper’s quarters. She was disturbed to find the old man still bleeding in some spots where a squeamish Hester hadn’t had the stomach to do what was necessary to halt the flow.

Drawing on all the things she’d gleaned from her mother, grandmother, and from Dr. Wainwright, Eve retrieved fresh water and a clean rag to cleanse Jasper’s wounds. Then she began to apply pressure to certain ones to stop the bleeding for good. Afterwards she cleansed the wounds again. This time she applied a salve made from aloe plants that she had growing in her cabin. By the time she put fresh bandages on Jasper’s back, there was mighty shouting to be heard outside. There was also the smell of smoke in the air.

Rushing outside, Eve received another shock to her system. It was Charlotte’s son Jem and he was screaming for her at the top of his lungs. “Miss Eve, ya have ta come quick! Yo cabin is on fire!”

Eve immediately took off in a fast run, forgetting all about Jasper and the supplies she left behind. Nothing mattered now that Indigo was in danger. All the way there, she kept thinking that Miss Abigail had somehow set fire to her place out of jealousy. Yet when Eve approached the main house, a black dress clad Abigail was out on the porch looking just as shocked as everyone else as many of the slaves struggled to put the blaze out.

Eve shot through the crowd and ran into the house with no regard to her own safety. She had to find Indigo! Yet when she approached her daughter’s bedroom, she saw that it was engulfed in flames. This was obviously where the fire had started. Although her lungs burned from the smoke, Eve ventured further into Indigo’s room. When she saw an open window, hope arose in her chest and she quickly ran out of the burning cabin.

After bending to catch several lung restoring breaths, Eve practically crawled to the other side of the house. But what she saw next caused all hope to die in every part of her being. There was her daughter’s quilt lying on the ground under the window and it was a bloody mess.

When Charlotte brought a lantern closer to her, Eve was able to see that the blood was actually written in letters. Upon studying the words inscribed thereon, Dr. Wainwright’s mistress swooned as her grief-stricken mind wisely shut her body down for awhile. What Eve had feared the most, had finally come upon her.

Although the rest of the slaves thought that Eve fainted when she saw all the blood on the quilt, Abigail Wainwright knew that her husband’s lover had actually fainted because she’d read the bloody message on the coverlet. That life-changing message said: ‘You took our land and killed it with your bad seed. We took your seed and killed her on our land’.

******

Up in Tennessee, Edric was busy making all kinds of important business contacts. He’d even made a new friend and it was only day two of the conference. Edric didn’t have many close friends these days and he was glad to have found one connected to his profession, even if he was a northerner. This new friend was a Quaker fellow by the name of Moses Shaffield. Moses was a medical supplier and he frequently traveled all over the nation on business.

“So tell me, Dr. Wainwright, are you a slaveholder?” Moses asked as they sat at a late supper together in the hotel restaurant. They’d talked about everything else since meeting, including their families, their children, and their medical careers. Moses saw no reason not to talk about something that was usually at the center of every northerner and southerner gathering.

At the induction of that sensitive topic, Edric turned uncomfortably red in the neck and cheek areas. His complexion now almost matched the vivid colors in his dashing shawl collared vest. “Yes, I am a slaveholder. But I treat all of my slaves well. Enough food and clothing, adequate medical care, frequent breaks during the day, and Sundays and holidays off,” he said in his own defense. “Also no beating,” Edric added.

“I see, so you’re a good slaveholder?” Inwardly, Moses doubted if such a thing even existed. In his opinion, anyone who owned another person against his/her will couldn’t be too good.

“I try to be.” Edric picked up his glass from the white clothed table and took a long swig of water to remove the uncomfortable lump in his throat. It was a good thing that his meal was already consumed because his appetite would have surely flown away at this change in conversation.

“That is commendable compared to some of the other slaveholders I have met. Most would whip their slaves almost to the point of death and still require that they come to work the next day,” Moses replied. Although he was not as uncomfortable as his companion, he still fumbled nervously with his black cravat and high shirt collar. After all, slavery was a hot issue in any circle these days since it always produced such intense feelings in people, whether they be for or against the institution.

“I am not like that. I treat my slaves with a certain amount of respect unknown to most of my peers. In fact, the daughter that I told you about earlier is from a slave woman.” Edric paused and then shared something that he’d never told another white soul. “Eve is the woman’s name and I love her very much. And if I could, I would gladly make her my wife instead of the woman my family picked out for me.”

Moses’ eyes arched in wonder. He never expected the man to say those things in a hundred years. “That’s quite a declaration. Do you share it much?” Moses couldn’t imagine Dr. Wainwright having many white friends if he frequently went around making such proclamations.

Edric shook his head. “I have never shared it with anyone but Eve for obvious reasons. I do not really know why I am sharing it with you now. It is just that I feel very peaceful around you even in the midst of my current discomfit. As if I can trust you somehow.”

Moses nodded in appreciation of the compliment he’d been given. Many deemed him to be trustworthy, but never upon first meeting. Truly something unique was happening between him and Dr. Wainwright. It was as if God was personally weaving the strands of their friendship together. If He was, then this was subject to be the best friendship either of them had ever had, the strongest, too.

Moses also nodded in complete understanding. He’d felt the same peace about Edric when he first met him and thus decided to tell him so. “I feel the same way about you, despite the fact that you own slaves,” Moses said with a smile. Then he thought of something else. “Does your wife know of your deep affection for this other woman?”

“I have not admitted anything, but I am sure she suspects. After all, I can not stop smiling around Eve or my daughter. They make me so happy and even now I can not wait to get back home to them.”

Moses suddenly frowned. “Pardon my candor, but a smart man would have never left his mistress and illegitimate child under the authority of his undoubtedly jealous wife in the first place,” he said, spewing wisdom in the no-nonsense way that he was so known for.

Edric paused for a moment as he thought about what had just been said to him. Steadfastly overlooking the manner in which wisdom had come since the truth was the truth in any form, Dr. Wainwright instead focused on the fact that he was married to a very jealous and often very deceptive woman. There was no telling what things Abigail had put in motion from the moment he left.

Suddenly Edric bolted up from the table, pulling paper currency from his gold money clip as he did. “I have to get home. I must have been insane to leave my family unattended.”

“I concur,” Moses replied, bidding his new friend goodbye and a safe return home.
© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Author note about Ch. 19

Chapter 19 is so long that I decided to break it up into 2 parts, both of which will be posted before the end of today. I suspect many of you are going to email me with comments about this chapter. Smile...I look forward to reading them.
Suprina

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 18

Chapter 18
1853
“Get out of my house, you n*****r child!” Abigail hissed to the five-year-old illegitimate seed of her husband who was currently being served ginger cake from the cook in the kitchen. She laughed wickedly when the beautiful little girl shrieked and ran out the back door, causing a gust of cold wind to enter the warm room. Instead of coming to do her usual job of overseeing the menus and inventory of supplies, Abigail was harassing innocent little children on that brisk February afternoon.

Charlotte pasted a neutral expression on her face even though everything in her wanted to slap the lady of the house for being so mean to an innocent child. It wasn’t Indigo’s fault that her white father couldn’t love his white wife. A wife whose looks were rapidly fading each year due to Abigail’s frequent alcohol binges and her bitter heart.

In the Charlotte’s opinion, Abigail had brought this all on herself by being overly haughty and overly negligent of her husband. And the fact that she was secretly sleeping with the overseer after trying unsuccessfully for five years to win her husband’s favor back only made her look worse in the eyes of the slaves. Otherwise, they might have felt sorry for Mrs. Wainwright or at least had compassion for her woes.

Incidentally, even Eve didn’t feel as sorry for Abigail these days. She’d long since reconciled herself to the fact that some women didn’t deserve good men. And that if God was love, then surely He wouldn’t frown upon a love as true as the one Eve and Edric had. Especially since neither of them went looking for this deep affection and actually only surrendered to it when it threatened to overtake them. Furthermore, out of that great love emerged such happiness and goodwill for everyone around them…sadly, everyone except for Abigail.

“Charlotte, I am having five couples over for dinner on Sunday, so be prepared to enlist the help of a few other slaves for serving purposes,” Abigail said as she turned to the Negro woman at the stove. “And make sure Eve is one of them, too. My South Carolina friends are going to just love her,” she added spitefully before leaving the room, completely forgetting all about the inventory she’d come to do.

Although Abigail knew that she couldn’t control how her husband felt about his slave woman, she could control the duties of that slave woman. She’d already heaped piles of sewing upon Eve’s shoulders by taking larger orders that were impossible for two women to fill by themselves, much less one. Abigail also kept Eve in the back room even after she’d had the baby in an effort to cut her off from the praises of their patrons. She didn’t want anyone praising her husband’s lover. No doubt, Edric was doing enough of that with the amount of time he spent with her. As a matter of fact, Sunday’s dinner was an effort to do the exact opposite.

Abigail had invited some of her most pro-slavery friends to dinner. While they were here, she would encourage every conversation to be about how ignorant, shiftless, and deceptive slaves were. And she would keep on inviting people like that to dinner until her husband was converted to his former way of thinking, which had never been strictly pro-slavery, but was separatist enough to make him reconsider any life he thought he could have with a slave woman.

******

Back in the kitchen, Charlotte allowed Miss Abigail to leave the room without saying a word in return. She knew that there was no reason to remind the woman that Sundays were off days for all of the slaves. That even the cook worked half a day, only coming in to fix lunch and dinner. Miss Abigail didn’t care about such things. Plus, she would only make trouble for them if they dared to refuse her anything.

Although everyone knew that Eve was definitely the love of Dr. Wainwright’s life, they all also knew that his wife was the woman with the most authority. Eve could get him to do but so much being that she was still a slave. In fact, none of the slaves had a legal leg to stand on if Miss Abigail really set herself against them.

Just then, Edric came in the kitchen door with Indigo fast on his heels. He’d just come from his clinic and had chosen to go through the back of the house instead of the front since the rear entrance was closest to Eve’s dwelling. After work, Edric always stopped by his lover’s house first in order to see her and his child. Then he came into the big house to present himself to his wife. It was the other way around in the mornings.

“Oh, Dr. Daddy, I hate her so. She’s always so mean to me,” Indigo sniffed out, still holding on to her father’s brown pant leg.

Edric paused and looked down into eyes that matched his own. Although his voice was scolding, his face was tender as he spoke to her. “Ahh…little one. What must you call me around others?”

Indigo dropped her gaze momentarily. “Dr. Wainwright. I just like the other name better,” the intelligent child replied. At only five, she already knew how to read and even write short sentences. That was another secret Indigo was admonished not to tell anyone.

Edric lifted the child into his arms. “I do, too, little one.” He smiled patiently, yet inwardly he wished that Indigo could acknowledge him everywhere they were. But the Wainwright name and the laws of the land just wouldn’t allow him to be as free as he wanted to be with his lover or their child. As a result, certain precautions had been set in place. If only Indigo would remember them when she was upset.

“Now as for Miss Abigail being mean to you again, I will go upstairs and take care of it. In the meantime, I want you to stay away from her,” Edric said, still trying to keep his two worlds separate as best as he could when they were so close to colliding everyday. It was bad enough that Abigail was putting undue demands on Eve’s talent, causing her to arrive home extra tired in the evenings, ultimately putting a damper on her sex life. Now Abigail was speaking outlandishly to his child. Something had to be done about this…now!

“But she came in the room where I was,” Indigo replied as her father hugged her tenderly before putting her back down on the floor.

“I told you I would handle it, little one, and I will,” Edric said in a reassuring tone. Then he turned to the cook. “Charlotte, give her another ginger cake and see that she gets home safely please.”

“Yes, sir,” Charlotte replied eagerly with a nod. She loved when he said please. It always warmed her heart to hear good white folks use their manners. And because he’d been so nice, Charlotte decided to tell Dr. Wainwright about the people his wife had invited from South Carolina before he left the kitchen.

******

Upstairs Abigail sat on the maroon settee in her private parlor with a glass of spirits in her hands. She’d been in her mahogany cellarette again in another attempt to numb out the pain of her life. If only it didn’t hurt so much to be Edric’s wife these days. If only she was still living in the days when he was beholden to her father and would do anything to please her just to keep that financial backing. If only his fields weren’t so lucrative now, his slaves so content, and his medical practice so fulfilling and prosperous. Then Edric would need her again. Then he would appreciate her again. Then Abigail wouldn’t need to go elsewhere for intimacy, especially since York couldn’t hold a candle to her husband in any way no matter how eager he always was to please her.

But that was not the end of Abigail’s if-onlys. Her biggest if-only stemmed from the fact that Edric was in love with another woman, a slave woman. If only he hadn’t had a child by that slave woman. If only that slave woman and that child would just go away.

Away, Abigail mused, thinking that that’s exactly what needed to happen now. Eve and Indigo needed to leave the plantation. But if Eve went away with her daughter, she wouldn’t be here to make all those wonderful dresses and gowns for Abigail’s business. Therefore, it was Indigo that must be sent away.

Just then, Edric came walking in the room with a purposeful look upon his face. He stopped just short of the entranceway with aqua fire blazing in his eyes and his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. Edric would not even attempt to get too close to his devious wife, lest he lose his gentlemanly upbringing and thrash her soundly for being so mean to his child.

“This is the last time you speak an ill word to my daughter. I will not stand for any more of this,” Edric said in a crisp tone. “When Indigo was born, I propositioned divorce in order to free us both, but you would not hear of it. I consented to remain in the marriage out of my sense of duty to your good name. However, you were specifically told you what was expected of you if I did. Now I am getting reports that you are not being civil towards Indigo or Eve.”

“Who told you that?! That n*****r child of yours?!” Abigail demanded, wondering which slave was spying on her. Perhaps they all were. She suddenly felt very alone in her own house, on her own property.

Edric took a determined step forward at his wife’s degrading words. Yet he found the strength to halt himself and remain near the door for both of their sakes. “Who, does not matter at this point. And your reaction just now proves that the reports are true,” he said through clenched teeth. “Now since you have not respected my wishes, I will no longer respect you. As of tonight, I am moving Eve and Indigo right into the house with me. Eve will sleep in my bed every night and you can either continue to sleep alone or go crawl into bed with York like you always do when I am gone,” Edric continued, adding in a little plantation rumor that a slave child told him over a year ago.

The child claimed to have seen Miss Abigail and York kissing by the overseer’s house at the far end of the property one Sunday night, while he’d been on the way from his favorite fishing hole. And by the guilty look on his wife’s face now, that rumor was entirely true as well. Edric had known it was true all along from York’s inability to meet his eyes these last two years or so and from Abigail’s insolent looks at the dinner table, as if she knew a secret he didn’t know.

Abigail’s eyes widened even more and color rushed to her cheeks. The glass in her hands shook. She had no idea that her own affair was known and it pained her to see that her husband really didn’t seem to care about it. “No, Edric! Do not do this. Think of the shame to both our names.”

“I have thought of it, Abigail. In fact, that is the only reason I have not openly acknowledged Eve and Indigo to more of the world around us. But your constant mistreatment of my child is propelling me to have to make some important decisions. Decisions that will not be in your favor.”

“I will stop. I can be civil to the child. Just do not ruin our reputations, Edric. A good name is all we have left between us,” Abigail pleaded with fat tears rolling down her face, splashing onto her sky-blue silk dress. Although she put the glass down on the maroon upholstered stool beside her, she did not bother to use her ready handkerchief to even wash her face or blot at the wet spots that were ruining her very expensive dress. Instead Abigail’s hands continued to shake at her sides and her breaths started to come quicker as heaving sobs began to wreak her body.

Seeing Abigail so close to having a case of the nerves, Edric took a deep breath and exhaled out his frustration. Oh, how he hated that things had come to this point in his personal life. “Very well, but you must keep your word this time,” Edric conceded, willing to preserve the only good thing he and his wife had left.

“I will and thanks so much, dear husband.” Abigail finally pulled out her lacy handkerchief and began to wipe her eyes. Her breathing was much calmer now.

Edric waved off her gratitude since whether Abigail was truly grateful or not was left to be seen. “And as for inviting those people from South Carolina to our home, contact them immediately and cancel. I not only have to be out of town on Sunday, I will never willingly sit down to dinner with Negro-haters again.” Then he left the room without another word.

Gone on Sunday, Abigail mused, no longer feeling so vulnerable now. In fact, she was feeling downright mischievous now. So mischievous that she was thinking that instead of dinner on Sunday, she could probably cook up something else more befitting for Eve and Indigo while Edric was away.

Then Abigail’s mind went even farther than that as it became resolute about a few other things. First of all, she was not about to give up on her marriage. She would no longer sit quietly by and allow another woman to partake of her husband’s love when all of it rightfully belonged to her. In fact, Abigail resolved to fight until her dying breath for Edric’s heart. Secondly, she would break things off with York as soon as possible, but only after she got him to do something very important for her.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 17

Chapter 17
1852
When the first cold snap hit Wainwrighton in November, it signaled the beginning of hog-killing season on Dr. Wainwright’s plantation. Although a hog could be slaughtered at any time, dealing with masses of them had more to do with temperature than biology since refrigeration was still an issue for some and a few cold days were needed in order to process the hogs without the meat spoiling.

Already the male slaves had huge containers of water heated in a wide open space on the western side of the big house. Many pigs would be killed and boiled in the scalding water until their hair was ready to be scrubbed off, leaving them a pretty light color. Then they would be hung from a rack to be dressed later.

Although this was definitely a time for work, it was also a time for play for by the time all of the work was finished, there would be chitterlings, barbecue pork, ginger cake and persimmon beer for all of the guests who come to the gathering in their colorful Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. Then there would be promenades and cotillions among the slaves to the time of a quill instrument. A few white folks would show up to monitor things and observe the festivities, usually the master, his wife, and the overseer.

Today an additional white person showed up. It was Corinna Wainwright. She came because her mulatto granddaughter invited her to, despite disapproval from her other sons. All that mattered to Corinna was that she got to spend more precious time with her joyful granddaughter from her favorite son. Edric was also the only son that actually visited her at least five times a week. The others only visited when she summoned them or when they needed something.

“Oh, you look so lovely today,” Corinna told Indigo. She’d summoned the child to the side porch where the white folks sat a ways off from the jovial slave population on the western side of the big house. A snobbish-looking Abigail sat a short distance away from her mother-in-law while York stood near the stairs, stroking his moustache and looking for any opportunity to use his coiled whip at his side, even on such a happy day like today.

“Thank you, Mother Corinna. My mama made it for me,” Indigo replied, doing a short curtsey like her white grandmother taught her to do during one of their previous visits with each other. A visit that had included them reading a children’s book together in her father’s childhood rocking chair.

Abigail cringed in her seat at that reference to Eve who was currently missing in action. Come to think of it, she hadn’t seen Edric in a while either. As a result, Abigail became very suspicious.

Where is that husband of mine? Abigail mused, scanning the immediate area with her eyes. Yet all she saw were fancy dressed slaves in colors and patterns that clashed violently with one another in her opinion. The way they combined different pieces of material in one garment made a lot of their ensembles look like quilts. Abigail found it highly distasteful to stray from simple colors and blends, which is why she made sure that Eve only created dress designs while she chose the fabric and the colors.

Abigail wasn’t the only white person that found the slaves’ attire distasteful. York did, too, but for completely different reasons. He resented the fact that some of the slaves had finer garments than him. In fact, Old Jasper had on a black silk waistcoat and a pair of fine patent-leather shoes right now. No doubt those items had likely been given to him by Dr. Wainwright since he was such a favorite with the boss man.

In York’s opinion, no slave should ever dress above his or her station in life. He deemed it highly inappropriate, yet on this plantation the overseer didn’t set the rules, he followed the ones set by the owner. And as the owner, Dr. Wainwright refused to begrudge the slaves what he deemed to be small pleasures in their life of bondage.

On top of that, Edric stopped issuing his slaves clothing twice a year, in the spring and autumn, like most slaveholders. No, under the advice of Eve, Dr. Wainwright built another outbuilding specifically for slave garments and now slaves were issued clothing whenever they needed them. That really infuriated York who didn’t have such a clothing allowance and had to buy his garments with his own money, despite the fact that he was paid very well.

The shoes were issued on an as needed basis as well. There were no barefooted slaves on this plantation unless they wanted to be. And the shoes were quality and kind to the feet, not like the old kind which had been fashioned from cowhide and clumsily fitted with a wooden sole. The slaves complained about them being so hard that they had to warm them by the fire and grease them with tallow in order to wear them.

Overlooking the scowls on the faces of the overseer and her daughter-in-law, Corinna continued to address her granddaughter with deep affection. “Well, your mother definitely knows how to make little girls look extra lovely. And you did your curtsey so well in it,” she commented, admiring the stitching on the child’s red sheath dress which had been colored from the dye of powdered red rocks.

Indigo was always the best dressed child on the whole plantation. She even dressed better than some of her white cousins, all thanks to her mother’s talent. In fact, Corinna highly suspected that Eve was actually behind Abigail’s dressmaking success. Why else would Abigail refuse to hire any additional help despite her booming business? Why else would she want to keep her operations such a secret, not even allowing her sisters-in-law to visit her sewing room?

If Eve was the talent behind the business, then that made Corinna even fonder of her. She already admired the slave woman due to the fact that she’d made Edric happier than anyone had ever seen him. Yet Corinna would never reveal that fondness for Eve out of respect for her legal daughter-in-law.

Indigo beamed elatedly from the latest compliment she’d been given. “Thank you again, Mother Corinna.” Then she leaned her head to the side reflectively, causing her long straight ponytail to dangle against her right shoulder. “Can I give your cheek a thank you kiss, Mother Corinna?”

Although Abigail’s sharp glance their way revealed that she wanted to shoo the child immediately off the porch at this point, Corinna gave her daughter-in-law a stern look that warned her not to act rashly. She would not have Indigo mistreated in her presence by anyone, especially not by a jealous wife who constantly sowed into her own misery by neglecting her marriage due to her insatiable desire for social acceptance and the pursuit of material things.

Then Corinna turned to smile at the beautiful child in front of her. “Of course, dear. Which cheek would you like to kiss?” She felt Indigo’s ponytail as she did on many occasions, marveling in the fact that it was just as silky as her fully white granddaughters.

Indigo’s aqua eyes brightened with happiness as she looked from one creamy white cheek to the other. “I can’t decide. I like them both,” she said, smiling into her grandmother’s kind eyes. Indigo liked everything about Mother Corinna.

Corinna’s eyes misted at the things the intelligent child constantly said to lift her spirits. She’d never meet a more loving, outgoing child in her life. It was obvious that Eve had something to do with that as well, which gave her a definite place on Corinna’s short list of great people to know in this world.

“Then kiss them both,” Corinna forced out through an emotionally tight throat.

As Indigo complied, Abigail got up and went inside the house, allowing the screen door to slam noisily behind her in protest of the tender scene that just occurred between her mother-in-law and her husband’s illegitimate child.

******

Inside the house, Edric was in his study with Eve. He’d gone into the kitchen out back, where she was helping Charlotte, and retrieved her for a quick private kiss. Yet the moment their lips had touched, he’d known that that would not be enough. Passion had instantly flamed hot between them and in no time they were devouring each other’s mouths hungrily. Exploring hands were everywhere.

Eve’s hands were particularly on Edric’s fancy low-cut brocade vest as she sought to feel his muscular chest through the black and white attire he wore. Edric’s hands were on her red and black plaid dress, particularly on the torso area where his probing fingertips couldn’t help but marvel over the delicious slope of Eve’s narrow waist as it descended from her ample bosom.

“I want to take you right here, my love,” Edric muttered against her lips. “Right now we must feed this great need, lest it overtake us.”

“We can’t. There are too many people around. Besides, we agreed never to do that in this house again,” Eve protested, even though she did not move away from him. It felt too good being this close to Edric, being touched by him, being kissed by him.

Just then, they heard Abigail’s severe voice outside of the study door in the hallway. As usual, she was upset about something or the other. “Charlotte, have you seen my husband?”

Edric and Eve grew very still and quietly waited to see what would happen next. There was only one door to the study and the windows were too noisy to let up without drawing attention to them. And even though Abigail was starkly aware of the fact that her husband was sleeping with his slave woman, seeing them together in her house might cause an unnecessary scene on this joyous occasion.

“Yep, he went outside on da porch to smoke dat new tobacco his brother sent over wit his ma,” Charlotte lied, trying to protect her good friend and her good master. The same good master who not only lightened her workload during and right after pregnancy, but who also gave Charlotte and the rest of the childbearing women new dresses and a new pig for each child they bore. As a result, Edric’s slave women were becoming the best dressed around and he hadn’t had to buy another slave in the last five years because the plantation population had doubled through childbirth.

“Oh. Well, get on back to work now. That is enough lolly-gagging for today,” Abigail huffed as she walked off towards the front porch without so much as a ‘thank you’. If Charlotte had been a white person, she would have at least said that.

“Yes, ma’am,” Charlotte replied in mock submission. The passive aggressive cook didn’t feel the least bit guilty about lying to her master’s wife. In her opinion, Miss Abigail wasn’t fit to be any man’s wife.

******

Inside the study, Edric gave Eve another lingering kiss before totally releasing her now that the coast was clear. “Save me a dance, my love.”

“You know you and I can’t dance in plain sight,” Eve reminded him.

“We also could not get photographs taken of the three of us, but I still got that done, did I not?” Edric said, doing a bit of reminding himself.

Last month, he took Eve and Indigo on a discreet trip to the new photo studio in Wainwrighton where he paid handsomely for the photographers to take several photos of his small family. There were several with just the females together, and three with just Indigo, and two daguerreotypes of him and Eve.

Although Edric posted the photographs of his child proudly in his study for all to see, he kept all the other pictures in a hidden locked box in his office. Eve had one of the pictures with all three of them together and she also kept it hidden out of sight. Incidentally, Abigail was not a fan of photographs since many of her society friends were still getting their likenesses painted on aristocratic portraits to be hung in the great rooms of their homes.

Eve nodded at that memory. “But how will you manage this?”

Edric smiled that adorable smile that she loved so much. “I will get that dance tonight after the festivities. I am sure Old Jasper will not mind playing one more song in your cabin later. Especially since doing so comes with various rewards. You know how Old Jasper loves to dress finely and I imagine he would love a new Sunday meeting suit,” Edric said as he walked to the door.

Eve’s eyes watered at his thoughtfulness. And that romantic side of him made her heart swell even more with love. “I love you, Edric,” she whispered.

“I love you, too, my love. Now stay in here and do not come out until you count to ten,” he whispered back. Then Edric opened the door and looked both ways before entering the foyer area.

After Eve finished counting to ten – which was a blessing for any slave to do in that day and age – she opened the door, looked both ways as well, and soon made her way back to the kitchen unnoticed by anyone but a secretly smiling Charlotte who was not about to tell a soul.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Friday, December 16, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 16

Chapter 16
Early the next morning, Eve kissed Edric goodbye and then prepared to go about her daily business. First there was her daughter to tend to, then the house chores, and later on to the big house to do whatever Miss Abigail needed her to do.

I hope she’s in a better mood than yesterday, Eve mused as she went to open her bedroom window as she always did to let in the fresh air of a beautiful sunny day like today. Abigail Wainwright had always been hard to work for, but lately she’d been extremely bitter towards everyone. She was secretly and especially nasty towards Eve, even though the slave woman always tried to be extra nice to her.

Eve always made it a point to be nice to Miss Abigail for several reasons. The first being the fact that she actually felt sorry for the woman who’d forfeited Edric’s love with her negative behavior and now had to watch him be happy with the new family he’d started. The second reason stemmed from the fact that now that Eve could read, she’d latched onto her Bible and discovered how God felt about adultery. Even though Eve knew that she and Edric would have definitely married if circumstances had been different in the world, if there had been no slavery and no color boundaries, the fact that things weren’t different and that they weren’t married produced twinges of guilt within her heart on occasion.

Suddenly Eve’s thoughts were interrupted as her nostrils were assaulted with the strong stench of vomit and rancid alcohol. Someone was at my window last night, she mused with alarm, noticing that the vomit wasn’t fresh. Then as an angry Eve went to fetch boiling water to cleanse the window sill with, she purposed in her heart to find out who was peeping at them by night. She also purposed to put thicker and darker curtains up to the window.

******

In the big house, Edric saw Abigail’s note and immediately sent word to Eve by the errand boy, telling her that she did have to come into work today. If Dr. Wainwright didn’t have so much work to do in his clinic, he would spend this unexpected day of leisure with Eve and Indigo. But alas, his latest research experiment called to him and since Edric knew that working diligently on this project would help so many elderly people, slave and free, he could not afford to miss any time on it.

******

Abigail came back home around noon, feeling worse than she did when she left. Not only was she hung over, she now had the memory of what it was like to be touched and fondled by a woman. In the heat of her distress last night, Abigail had sought out the comfort of her friend Fiona McGee. Fiona was also going through an emotional time ever since the only man she’d even truly loved – her father – had died last month.

Unfortunately for Abigail, it turns out that Fiona was unable to maintain the usual restraint she held on her emotions and had made a startling confession last night. Not only did the red-haired woman confess to enjoying the pleasures of both men and women at times, she also confessed to being in love with Abigail for years, starting the day Fiona welcomed her into her parlor for a private tea.

Abigail went from being appalled, to being highly stimulated, then back to being appalled again. Now she just felt dirty, which is why she took the hottest bath she could sit in and used one of her husband’s razors to shave all of her private hair, including that which was on her legs.

After dressing in a black dress to suit her dark mood, Abigail went to the liqueur cabinet to do a bit of self-medicating. Instead of her usual two glasses, she consumed three. As a result, by the time the overseer came to the front door to verify what this month’s quota would be since the weather was warmer and the days were longer, Mrs. Wainwright was much calmer. Even still she was not yet at peace with herself.

“Is Dr. Wainwright in, Miss Abigail?” York asked, wiping the sweat from his brow as he stood in the front door looking through the screen at his boss’ beautiful blond wife.

What I wouldn’t do to have a fine filly like this, York mused, doing his best to keep his thoughts off his face. He didn’t care that Abigail was dressed in what looked like mourning clothes in the plain black dress with it dropped shoulders and wide sleeves. In fact, York could imagine himself undoing the nine buttons at the center front closure in order to relieve her of that dress.

“No, he is not. But you can discuss any business you have with my husband, with me,” Abigail replied, perusing York’s sweaty, yet muscular frame with open interest. She deliberately looked past his dirty garments. She imagined he could make her feel like a normal woman again. Especially since Abigail was starkly aware that she could not go to her husband for such validation about her sexuality. All of Edric’s love and affection belonged to a slave woman now.

York felt something move within him at the ardent look Abigail gave him just then. Was she finally seeing him as a man and not just as an employee? “Be glad to, ma’am. May I come inside for a spell?” York said, relaxing his features with a sensual smile so that his real attraction for her could show. His right hand started playing with the waxed moustache on his face as he often did when he was contemplating evil thoughts in his head.

“Why, yes. I am sure it is much cooler in here than it is out there.” Abigail smiled and opened the screen door so that he could enter.

If I’m getting the right signal, then it’s about to get even hotter inside, York mused as he entered the cool foyer of the large home, completely forgetting what he came to do now that something more enjoyable had presented itself.

******

When York left an hour later, he was smiling wide and walking with a lighter step regardless of today’s oppressing weather. Abigail Wainwright had finally availed her beautiful body to him and he was beside himself with joy. Not only had she done things to him that he thought polite ladies of society like her never did to any man, Abigail had also allowed York to do all kinds of special things to her as well.

And to see her body void of all private hair had proven to be York’s complete undoing. So what if the only other women he’d seen that way were prostitutes. Although prostitutes shaved to prove to their patrons that they had no body lice, since that troublesome problem sometimes ran rampant in brothels, the overseer didn’t know why Mrs. Wainwright had done it.

Yet to York, Abigail’s hairless body had seemed young, innocent, and unthreatening that way. Touching her smooth shaven skin had been like touching a baby’s skin. The whole encounter had been very stimulating to him and before York left, he’d not only taken her two more times, he’d also asked if they could repeat today’s event some time in the near future.

Abigail’s reply was, “We shall see.” This meant that everything depended on whether or not she could get what she needed from her Negro-loving husband.

Personally, York hoped that Edric stayed in Eve’s bed forever. That way, he could occupy Abigail’s. In fact, the infatuated overseer had already committed to memory the newly redecorated bedroom with its floral, red and yellow theme.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 15

Chapter 15
Abigail tried her best to live by her husband’s new rules, but it was eating her up inside. Although her business was soaring and her name was on the lips of some of the most influential people in the nation, it was the condition of her marriage that squashed any joy stemming from those things. And although Edric kept his word about not flaunting his outside activities in her face, he couldn’t keep the smile off of his face every time Eve or Indigo entered a room. One time Abigail even caught him grinning from a window when he happened to see them walking across the yard.

Even Edric’s brothers tried to talk to him about his current behavior. Although they saw no nothing wrong with him impregnating a slave woman since all of them had done it before; they did suggest that he not act so darn happy about it. He’d already alienated all of his friends because of his relationship with Eve.

The older Wainwright brothers also advised Edric to stop bringing his illegitimate child by the main Wainwright house where their mother still lived with a handful of servants and her preacher brother who’d moved in with his wife and kids when times got too hard for them financially.

The Wainwright brothers’ major complaint about Indigo being at the main house stemmed from the fact that Corinna was growing way too attached to the mulatto toddler. This attachment was causing the other (all-white) grandchildren, nieces, and nephews to become angry and jealous.

Edric did not take all of his brothers’ advice. After all, how could he stop smiling when the woman he loved and the only offspring he had in the world were about? However, Edric did tamper back the number of Indigo’s visits to see his mother since he preferred not to make unnecessary waves in the family. They all needed each other in order to remain the ruling family in Wainwrighton. Plus, a part of Edric still cared a great deal about the Wainwright reputation.

Abigail was grateful for her in-law’s attempt at intervention, even if it had not resulted in the restoration of the sanctity of her marriage. What the Wainwright brothers had done was still more than her father could do for her right now. Naylor had long since lost his power over the Wainwrights when they no longer needed his financial backing.

It seemed that after everything Asa had done for the Wainwrights, all he’d accomplished for himself was his family’s name being connected with the right people in society. He’d also garnered frequent invitations to all the best social events. Unfortunately, these were events that Mr. Naylor rarely attended anymore due to his failing health and long distrust of doctors, including his son-in-law. Asa had only taken Abigail to one in order to finally determine her fertility. How disappointing that visit had been for the both of them.

Realizing that she was not going to get additional help from Edric’s family or hers, Abigail sought to do what she could for herself. But first she had to know exactly what kind of hold Eve had on her husband. Besides the fact that she’d borne his child, what other reason was Edric constantly returning to the bed of his slave wench when he had a wife that was now willing to sleep with him anytime he desired? In fact, Abigail no longer attended as many parties these days in an effort to keep a closer eye on her husband.

Abigail decided to do her investigation one breezy summer night. Waiting until Edric had been gone for an hour and until she had enough drink in her system to numb her anxious nerves, Abigail snuck out of the house dressed in dark garment with a dark shawl draped over her head. She was very quiet as she walked towards the new two-bedroom slave dwelling that Edric had specifically built closer to the house in order to be near his lover and their child.

Eve’s place was the only slave quarters with a relatively new innovation called indoor plumbing and a top-of-the-line wood burning stove. The other slave quarters got the refurbished outhouses Dr. Wainwright had it put in at the same time he had the main house renovated and the new slave dwelling added last year. There was also a new outbuilding for the laundry and for the nursery as well.

Going to the first bedroom, Abigail peeked through the window and saw Indigo sound asleep in a new pink bed with a homemade quilt of the finest stitching folded neatly at her feet. Pink lacy curtains were at the windows and even a plush pink rug was on the floor. A new doll sat in the child’s arms and rows and rows of silky black curls feathered her beautiful angelic face.

Abigail would have thought that this was an adorable sight if Indigo had been hers. But this wasn’t her child. It was Edric’s offspring, and by a slave woman no less. Even still, the sight of the precious little girl made Mrs. Wainwright long for another child of her own. But that was not to be.

Pushing her rising depression aside, Abigail quickly and quietly moved to the next bedroom window. It didn’t take her long to discover that this was definitely Eve’s bedroom. It was also neatly decorated, except everything was in the color of indigo.

No wonder she named her daughter that, Abigail mused, now realizing what Eve’s favorite color was. All this time of working with the woman and she’d never even picked that up until now. Yet as Abigail thought more on the subject, she was reminded that that was the color Eve often requested when it was time to order materials.

Wait one moment, Abigail thought, also recalling that Eve always seemed to know exactly which box to check on the order form, as if she could actually read the words on the paper. Yet one look through the gap in the window curtains was proof enough for Abigail to know that Eve could read. In fact, Edric was in there concluding a reading lesson right now.

Although tempted to go running to the nearest lawman to report that her husband had broken the law in teaching a slave to read, Abigail wasn’t going to do anything of the kind. After all, bringing shame on Edric would only bring shame on herself and she wasn’t about to that. Abigail cared too much about her reputation for that. As a result, she stood back in the shadows of the dark night and waited patiently to see what else she would learn about her husband and his slave mistress.

******

“Once again, you have exceeded my expectations, my love. I can not imagine what would ever make me think that Negroes were unintelligent,” Edric said, speaking freely about whatever was on his mind, the way he always did in Eve’s presence. He felt comfortable and at ease around her. Edric also knew that any disagreement they had would always be worked out quickly due to the depth of love that they had for one another.

Eve closed the book she’d been reading from and got up to sit in his lap. “Your learning is what made you think that. Sometimes the things other people teach us is bad. I learned a few things about white folks that wasn’t true, too. I’m glad you showed me different.”

“Differently, my love, differently,” Edric gently corrected her as she began to weave her fingers through his hair.

“I’m glad you showed me differently,” Eve repeated as she bent to his left ear and placed the lobe between her teeth for a quick nibble. As expected Edric moaned with pleasure. After almost three years together they knew most of each other’s special places. Yet there was still so much to discover.

“Take your hair down, my love,” Edric whispered. He knew that she would only do that for him. Eve either kept her head covered with a decorative scarf these days or she kept it braided. Sometimes it was adorned in tiny plaits all over that curled at the end when wet. Fortunately for Edric, tonight was not the case of the latter.

In no time, Eve’s two long braids were loose and her thick, silky locks were lying heavily upon her shoulders. Edric immediately placed his hands there and began to knead her scalp as he threaded his fingers through her dark tresses.

“Undress for me, Eve. And please be very slow about it,” was Dr. Wainwright’s next instruction. Although he still owned her, Edric knew that Eve would obey him solely out of desire at this point in their relationship, not obligation.

Eve stood up and began to slowly unbutton her royal-blue dressing gown. Although she couldn’t wait to show Edric what new creation she’d made for him tonight, she knew that he liked to stretch out their time together and thus continued in an unhurried fashion.

When the dressing gown was finally open, Eve immediately saw that what she had on underneath was heavily approved of. The man before her couldn’t seem to stop looking at the short, crocheted, brown nightgown that left little to the imagination. Eve didn’t want Edric to stop looking. This outfit was supposed to be a feast for his eyes.

Edric swallowed over the lump of passion in his throat before speaking. “Eve, you never cease to amaze me.” He ran his hands over the brown flesh closest to him, which was her amazingly flat stomach. He still didn’t know how Eve regained her figure after the baby.

Eve trembled with delight at the touch of his hands upon her hot body. “And you never cease to please me. Touch me higher, lower, everywhere, Edric,” she whispered breathlessly, literally trembling with desire.

“As you wish, my love.” The highly stimulated man rose to his feet with condensed desire in his eyes. Then he picked Eve up in his arms and carried her to the large mahogany bed directly across from the fireplace on the west side of the room.

Upon lowering himself to the smooth indigo-colored sheets beside her, Edric began to send his tongue on a search for mocha skin. His hot instrument of speech darted in and out of the crocheted spaces of the dress-like garment in an unhurried manner as he freely tasted of Eve in high places and low places until she was begging him to take her.

That’s when Edric moved away to quickly undress. Yet when he was completely bare, Eve did the most surprising thing he’d seen yet. Instead of waiting for him to return to the bed, she stood up and literally began to attack his milky white frame with her love.

Using her hands and her lips, Eve kissed and caressed a trail of hot love from Edric’s mouth to his feet. She did things no other woman had ever done to him before, touched him in places he never dreamed were sensitive, and shook him to his very core as she found the heart of his desire and honored it with her love.

“I love you so much, Eve,” Edric whispered in an almost reverential manner as he pulled her to full height and claimed her lips in an all consuming way. He would have surely lost his mind if she'd been allowed to kiss her way back up his frame.

Eve clung to him, drawing love, strength, and deep passion from his lips. With tribal drums beating in her chest, her flesh felt like jelly ready to be molded by Edric’s capable hands. And when he finally laid her down, Eve felt as if she was floating as he took her, give to her, received from her, and provided her with all the loving she’d ever need from a man.

Edric also felt as if he was floating as Eve responded back to him with deliberately slow, yet hungry hips that seemed to yearn for his love like no other. Her deliciously strong thighs threatened to squeeze every ounce of desire from his loins and he didn’t care. Edric didn’t mind dispersing every drop of his passion as Eve’s tender, tantalizing fingers clenched at him, kneaded him, and provided all the stimulation he’d ever need from a woman.

“I love you, Eve,” Edric declared again as he groaned and joined her in ecstasy with a simultaneous surrender of heart and body.

“I love you, too, Edric,” Eve replied as she sealed the moment with a kiss.

******

Outside at the window, Abigail felt hot tears stain her cheeks after witnessing her husband making such beautiful love to another woman. Not only had Edric treated that slave woman’s body as if it was a national treasure, he kept declaring that he loved the woman over and over again. Even with the window closed, Abigail could read those words on his lips.

The reality that her husband could actually be in love with a black woman caused Abigail to empty the contents of her stomach right there beneath the window sill. Quickly putting her hands over her mouth to cut off the flow, lest she get caught, the nauseated woman rushed back to the house, careful not to make a sound. When Abigail finally made it up to her bedroom, she dropped to her knees and began to sob her heart out.

Why could you not love me, Edric? Why must your heart cleave to a Jezebel! Abigail mourned silently, feeling a swoon coming on.

Not once had she ever heard Edric speak those three special words to her in all the years of their marriage. Yet he’d constantly told Eve those words tonight. Not once had Edric made love to Abigail as if he was putting his all into it, as if he didn’t care if he sapped all of his strength in order to love her to the fullest. He’d certainly done that with Eve tonight. Not once had Edric ever hinted that he liked some of the things Eve had done to and with him tonight. Otherwise, Abigail would have gladly accommated him. Well…maybe not in the past, but certainly now that competition was firmly in place.

Distraught about the condition of her marriage, consumed with jealousy, and not keen on being in the big house all alone tonight, Abigail fixed herself a strong drink while scribbling a note to her husband. Then she saddled a horse and went to spend the night at one of her friends’ house.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 14

Chapter 14
1850
“Mother is really taking to Indigo. She spent a lot of time playing with her today, even gave her a new doll,” Edric said as he watched Eve pour corn meal mix on a griddle that stood several inches from the floor on three small pegs.

Most slaves cooked in an open fireplace with the frying pan as the most important utensil. Eve was no different. In fact, she also made deep pots of slow-cooking stews like the rest of the slaves with lots of vegetables and bits of meat. In actuality, it made perfect sense to do so. After being in the fields all day or tending to white folks’ needs around the big house, what slave wanted to go home and do even more work? Therefore, it made the utmost sense for them to have a hot meal waiting for them when they got home.

I think it’s time to get this woman a real stove, Edric suddenly decided. Although Eve often protested him showing too much favoritism towards her in order to curb any jealousy among the other slaves, this was one thing that he would definitely override her on. Edric would do this not only because Eve now had their daughter to see after and could use all the modern conveniences she could get, but also just because he loved her and wanted to make life easier for her as much as possible.

While Edric continued to teach Eve how to read and write, she proceeded to teach him a few things as well. One of which was how to cook which is what she was doing now since Dr. Wainwright’s curious mind would not rest until he’d conquered the culinary arts, too. Charlotte had even come over a few times and given Edric cooking lessons at Eve’s place.

The whole time the Wainwright cook had instructed her earthly master, she’d had a strange expression of awe on her face. Charlotte was amazed that a white man would not only be interested in such things, but that he’d be so willing to learn them from a slave. That made her respect her master all the more. The fact that the man - who deemed any unjust law (like the one that prohibited the education of slaves) worth breaking - didn’t mind the secret lessons in reading and writing that Eve gave to Charlotte every other night also put Dr. Wainwright over the top in her book.

“I’m glad to know that. I was afraid Indigo would be rejected by all of your family,” Eve said as she turned one of the corn meal cakes over with a flat iron spatula. She motioned for Edric to do the same to the other one with the identical spatula he held.

Edric followed suit with the spatula and turned the flat cake correctly the first time. He smiled proudly at his accomplishment. His smile was as bright as the sunbeams peeking through the clouds on that rainy Saturday that was rapidly becoming a sunny April day.

“I was, too, but Mother appears to be genuinely fond of Indigo. Even though I wish the same from my other relatives, the fact that at least the most important Wainwright has taken to my child means the world to me. I do not require anyone else’s approval,” Edric replied.

Eve smiled at his words. This white man pleased her so with just the little things he said or did. “I saw that doll and it looks like she loves it.” Eve glanced back at her quietly playing daughter and saw that Indigo was occupied with the porcelain-faced doll now.

Eve turned back to Edric and the griddle. “While we are on the subject of our daughter, have you noticed how good she is with animals? Every dog and cat on the plantation runs to her for patting. And while we were out before sunset picking blackberries to help Jasper with his memory, a few birds actually landed on Indigo’s shoulders and stayed there the whole time.” As Eve talked, she patted the corn cakes to make sure they were cooked through and through. Then she retrieved a plate that would be used to stack them on when they were done.

“I have noticed that. Wonder where she got that special ability from. I am barely good with the horses I use everyday.” Edric followed Eve’s lead as she began to remove the finished flat cakes from the griddle. They smelled delicious and he couldn’t wait to eat them.

“My Pappy was good with animals. My Mammy always said that he never met a horse that he didn’t like or that didn’t like him. I remember even the cows used to give out extra milk for him,” Eve said with a smile of remembrance. She liked remembering the good things about her parents.

Taking the plate of four large cakes, Eve rested it on a stool near the griddle. Then she proceeded to pick up a thick cloth to remove the griddle from the fire for cleaning.

“That is probably where she got it from then. Now back to something else you said. What was that about blackberries helping Jasper’s memory?” Edric inquired. He was always amazed by how much Eve was capable of stimulating his mind and body. She even stimulated his spirit at times when she read so fervently from the Bible on Sunday nights, the one night that they would not make love on.

“My Mammy always said that blackberries, blueberries, and fish help the brain to work better. She used to give old folks either one of those to help them out when age started to affect their minds too much. I heard Jasper complaining about forgetting things yesterday, so I gathered some berries for him.”

Known for being somewhat of a scientist among his colleagues, Edric immediately purposed in his heart to test this theory out at the earliest convenience. In fact, he was already formulating a plan in his mind. First, Dr. Wainwright would check on Jasper to see how those berries were working for him. Then he would find a few other elderly slaves with the same problem and run several tests to see if the same berry treatment helped them.

“Uh-oh, you got that curious look in your eyes. Now you’re going to lock up in your clinic for hours on end testing out what I just said. Am I right?” Eve said.

“You are right,” Edric replied with a smile that showed that he was pleased that she knew him so well.

“Okay, just let me know if you need my help gathering berries or anything else for your experiment,” Eve volunteered.

“I will.” Edric smiled wider. His heart was warmed by her willingness to help him with this medical research and experiment. Abigail would have never been so supportive. In fact, she often tried to interrupt Dr. Wainwright from his experiments in order to go to some social event with her.

“By the way, your mother and father sounded like great people, Eve. Very intelligent people, too,” Edric said, further dispelling his long forsaken theory that Negroes were innately ignorant. Now he knew that they were basically uneducated people who simply needed to be taught.

Her eyes instantly watered. “They were,” Eve said softly, wondering if both of her parents were dead. When Edric finally found news of her mother, it wasn’t good. It seems that Sukey had run away years ago after Eve was sold from her. Her father Peet was beaten to death because he tried to intervene in the sale of his daughter. Eve had shed many tears behind that news. She was about to shed more now.

“Come here, my love,” Edric said soothingly. Hating to see Eve in any kind of pain, he quickly forgot all about his theories and the delicious flat cakes as he cupped her face tenderly in his hands. However, Dr. Wainwright did not forget about the little girl in the pink dress who was now curiously watching them from her corner play area in the one room dwelling.

Not only am I going to get them a real stove, I am going to build them a whole new place, Edric mused. With more rooms, he and Eve would have more privacy for things of this nature. With more rooms, they wouldn't have to erect a thick blanket upon an indoor clothesline when it was time to have precious moments of intimacy.

Briefly looking at his beautiful little girl, Edric said, “Cover your eyes, little one. Dr. Daddy is about to kiss your mother.” Although Indigo did as she was told, she snuck a peek through the gaps in her fingers and gave herself away with a giggle. To that Edric pulled away from Eve and whispered, “I am building you a bigger place as soon as possible.”

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 13

Chapter 13
1848
Eve gave birth to a healthy baby girl on an early mid-January morning when there was just a touch of light snow on the ground outside. Edric was there to deliver the child and everyone present could tell that he was overjoyed to finally be a father as he held the fair-skinned babe in his arms and just connected with her, blue-green eyes to blue-green eyes.

Charlotte and Georgina, who also served as a midwife, could tell that Dr. Wainwright was feeling a special way for the mother of the child as well. He didn’t look at Eve as if she was a slave or even one of his patients. There was love in that white man’s eyes. Love, pure love as he looked upon the mocha-skinned woman who’d not only changed his life for the better since he met her, but who’d also just borne his first child. As a result, Charlotte and Georgina quickly finished tending to Eve’s needs and left the room so that mother, father, and child could be alone.

As Georgina made her way back to her own cabin, she once again pondered about Dr. Wainwright and Eve’s relationship. In all of her born days, she’d never seen such affection between a white man and a slave woman.

Times must be a’ changing, Georgina mused, wondering if there would come a day when mixed couples could actually get married in these here United States. If so, she wouldn’t mind attending the wedding of Dr. Wainwright and Eve, because after what she witnessed tonight, Georgina was sure that theirs was a match that was destined to happen.

Back in Eve’s cabin, Edric bent to kiss her freshly wiped brow before putting their swaddled babe in her arms. “You did well, Eve.”

“Thank you, Dr. Wainwright…” Eve began.

“Edric,” he interrupted with a quieting finger to her lips as he sat on the edge of the French walnut bed. “We are alone now, my love.” Inwardly, Edric desired for this woman to be his wife more than anything right now. But the laws and circumstances of that day and age prevented it from being so, despite the love he and Eve shared. Yet those same laws would willingly sanction and uphold his union with a woman he didn’t love and hardly even liked most days.

Eve looked down at the bright-eyed babe in her arms. “She’s beautiful. She has your eyes, Edric.” She looked back up at the only man that she would have chosen to mate with for life and smiled. “I didn’t know that blacks could have blue or green-eyed children.”

“It is very unusual. In fact, all of the children my brothers have borne by Negro women all have brown eyes. I assumed it would be so with me as well since the medical consensus is that brown is stronger than blue or green,” Edric said. He smiled into Eve’s loving hazel eyes as she lounged on fresh forest green sheets that he’d specially ordered for her bed last month as a Christmas present.

“Perhaps my white grandfather is the reason for this…rarity,” Eve replied, using a word that she’d recently been taught the meaning of by her attentive lover. “He had green eyes.”

Edric’s brows rose in surprise. “You never told me that you had white blood in you.”

“Never wanted to since I don’t like how it got into me. Many years ago, my grandmother was fresh off the boat from Africa. Because she was comely, her first master raped her. That union produced a yellow-colored baby girl, much like the one we have now. That child was my mother.” Eve paused and stared down at her daughter.

“Anyhow, my mother hated how her color made her stand out and how she never seemed to fit in with anyone, the blacks or the whites. When she was of marrying age, she united with the darkest slave she could find in order to put some color back into her blood line. In fact, my father Peet was so black you couldn’t see him at night unless he smiled and stopped blinking.” Eve chuckled at that memory. “Even still my skin and my eyes came out light brown and my hair is not quite as nappy as the other slaves.”

“I wondered about your hair texture. It is extremely wavy and silky looking, and only seems to get bushy when it is drying. It also seems to grow as fast as a white woman’s.” Edric ran his hands over her silky tresses now.

“Yes, that’s why I keep it braided all of the time. I don’t like to stand out too much in a crowd, either. It tends to draw the wrong kind of attention.” Eve closed her eyes at Edric’s gentle touch, relishing in it. The baby in their midst closed her eyes as well after spending the last few minutes looking from one parent to the other.

“Whether you know it or not, my love, you stand out anyway. It is all in the way you carry yourself. I noticed that about you from the very beginning.” Then noticing her stifling a yawn, Edric added, “You rest a while. After all, you have had quite a day.”

Eve’s tired eyes flew opened. “But what about the baby?”

“Do not worry about the baby, I will sit with her while you rest.”

Eve shook her head. “No, I was going to ask about naming her. I want to do it.” She knew that early slaveholders assigned names to the people that they owned for several reasons. One was to identify them since few slave-owners wanted to be bothered with learning the slaves’ African names. Another reason was because many slaveholders saw the name changes as a way to define their authority in the new relationship of master and servant.

Eve also knew that if a slaveholder allowed the slave mother to pick the child’s name, it was a novelty and showed that earthly master’s true humanitarian side. Would Edric be this caring? The answer – an unequivocal - yes.

Edric kissed Eve’s forehead again and smiled down into her face. “Of course, you can name our daughter, my love.” His aqua eyes were shiny with emotion.

Eve smiled back at him, before looking down at their daughter. “Her name will be Indigo,” she said, thinking about her favorite blue dye. She’d discovered long ago that that was the most calming color for her. Eve welcomed all the peace she could get in her slave existence.

“Yes. Indigo…Wainwright,” Edric recited, adding his surname in the process, which was how he was going to register the child. Although slaves were rarely given surnames in these parts due to the fact that few slaveholders wanted to allow them the dignity of being identified by anything other than a single name, Edric was going to give his daughter her rightful last name – his last name.

Eve’s head snapped back up in wonder. If she wasn’t already in love with this man, she surely would have fallen head over heels at that very moment. Then as her eyes grew even heavier, Eve thought about something her wise grandmother had said about flowers. About how although they were many different colors, they all seemed to find some way to live in the same field.

Perhaps Edric and I will find some way to live and love in this world together, Eve mused, forgetting that her grandmother also mentioned the weeds of the field. Weeds were the kind of people that just didn’t want to see anybody happy and would do anything and everything to choke the life out of something.

“I wish my Mammy could see Indigo,” Eve said, saying her last for now as sleep fully claimed her. Her mother had also been a midwife and would have absolutely loved to have assisted in the birth of her first grandchild.

I will see what I can do about that, my love, Edric thought, desiring to make Eve’s wish come true when she was strong enough to travel again. He knew that some slaveholders were compassionate like him and allowed for weekend visits to friends and family at other neighboring plantations. All he had to do was find out where a slave midwife named Sukey was now.

******

Edric finally came back to the house later that night. He’d been out back with Eve all day, making sure that she and the baby had everything they needed, including his company. When it was time for him to return to his obligations at the big house, Edric assigned three slave women to rotate shifts in case Eve needed something while he was gone. Charlotte would take the first three-hour shift, followed by Georgina. Hester would take the last shift and stay with Eve and the baby until Dr. Wainwright returned at daybreak.

Abigail was in a drunken fit by the time Edric ascended the stairs in the big house. Not only had she heard about the birth of Eve’s child, she’d also heard who’d fathered it. Although no slave would name the mystery man, when news of the baby’s unique aqua eye color reached her ears, Abigail knew exactly who’d sired that child.

As soon as Edric entered his bedroom, the proud-father smile on his face froze. Abigail was sitting on the edge of his bed waiting for him, fully dressed in the same clothes she’d had on all day. Her arms were folded angrily across her chest, her face was as red as a beet, and her expression was as cold as the weather outside.

“How dare you sleep with that n****r!” Abigail exclaimed, degrading the woman that had just given her husband something she never could. She’d barely gotten the offensive word out due to her slightly slurred speech.

Edric’s face turned just as red with anger as he approached her with four angry strides. “How dare I?! How dare you act as if you care anything about what I do now after practically ignoring me for years!”

“So you raped one of our slaves because I was neglecting you? I thought that was beneath you, Edric? I thought you were different from all the rest,” she said, flinging her arms excitedly in the air as she spoke. Even now Abigail could recall countless times she’d bragged about how faithful her husband was and how he wouldn’t dare touch a filthy slave woman. Well, that certainly wasn’t the case now and she couldn’t imagine what her friends, particularly her married friends, were going to think once they heard the news of this aqua-eyed slave child.

Abigail’s single friends would only say ‘I-told-you-so’ since most of them, especially Fiona McGee, were convinced that no man could be faithful and thus didn’t mind becoming old maids. The whole sordid matter just made the dejected Mrs. Wainwright want to cling to a bottle of alcohol forever.

“I am different in the fact that I married a woman I did not love and stayed faithful to that woman for years with very little intimacy and no offspring. I am also different in the fact that I not only did not rape Eve, I also have not touched another woman - slave or free - since I united with her,” Edric replied, telling his wife everything except for the fact that he was in love with Eve. He was still a gentleman at heart and didn’t wish to harm Abigail unnecessarily.

Although Edric did not want to harm his wife, the tormented way she was looking now was definitely harming him. Guilt was already clawing at his conscience and his compassionate heart couldn’t help but feel sorry for Abigail. Suddenly Edric just wanted out of the whole thing. Suddenly he didn’t care so much about the Wainwright reputation. Wasn’t happiness more important than reputation anyway? Surely Abigail was strong enough to recover from the scorn of divorce. Surely she would also want her freedom from a loveless marriage.

“I know that our marriage was arranged, but I always hoped you would eventually fall in love with me as I have you.” Abigail moved closer to her husband with glossy eyes.

Edric turned away, trying to shrug the burden of guilt he felt at hurting his wife even though he did not love her. “Love never came for me with our union, Abigail. I wished it to come. I longed for it to come, but it never came. I am sorry.”

Tears rolled down Abigail’s cheeks. She grew angry again. “Please do not tell me that it came for you with Eve, lest I scream in rage. She’s just a piece of property, another animal in the stables, a workhorse. Nothing that a decent, southern white gentleman should ever fall in love with.”

Edric met Abigail’s gaze head-on again as he stood before her. His eyes flashed aqua fire. “Eve is more than property to me. She is a beautiful, intelligent woman who has just borne my first child. She has always respected you, even though you gave her no respect in return. And she has helped you to create quite a reputation in the dressmaking business through her talents.”

Abigail’s face paled at his words. Although Edric hadn’t actually admitted that he was in love with their slave, it was all over his face. It was also in his defensive stance, and in the stiff set of his jaw. “No n****r is beautiful!” Abigail retorted, feeling jealousy like no other as her color returned. Jealousy that caused her to spring upwards from the bed and attempt to slap her husband.

Edric grabbed his wife’s arm mid-air. “Do not ever call her that again.” He flung Abigail’s arm away from him. “And I strongly advise you never to raise your hand to strike me again or you will rue the day you were born. Although I am no woman-beating charlatan, I am my father and my grandfather’s offspring, which means that I will quickly squash violence with violence,” he added, reminding her of his family’s history of dealing with their enemies. The Wainwright/Creeks conflict was common knowledge in Wainwrighton and was even taught in the local schoolhouses.

“In fact, before this marriage goes down any more wrong paths, I say we end it now,” Edric suggested, finally bringing up the delicate subject of divorce. Although he did not welcome the shame of it by any means, he did welcome the freedom to finally love as he pleased. To finally love who he pleased without plaguing guilt constantly riding him like a thoroughbred horse.

Abigail quickly brought her hand back down to her side as a gasp of shock escaped her lips. “No divorce please, Edric,” she pleaded, looking distraught, and sounding almost hysterical. Not only did Abigail not want a social calendar-destroying divorce, she’d heard all about the Wainwrights violent encounters with the Creek Indians, some involving gunplay by his father and older brothers. Therefore, she definitely did not want to incur her husband’s wrath that way.

On another note, Abigail was starting to tremble with more than just fear right now. Especially since Edric looked more like a warrior than a southern gentleman with his unique eyes ablaze like that. She’d never been more afraid of him than at this moment nor more sexually stimulated by him at the same time. Truthfully, Abigail wanted Edric to ravish her this very instant.

“Just tell me what you want me to do and I will do it,” Abigail said breathlessly, willing to worship at this man’s feet if necessary, willing to do anything to get into his bed again. She licked her lips and gazed hungrily at his. Even still, a wild frantic look was in her eyes from the fear of losing her husband to another woman.

Edric deliberately overlooked his wife’s potent desire and instead focused on the fact that now was the time to state the new changes for this particular Wainwright plantation. Especially since Abigail was so obviously against divorcing him and seemed subject to lose a portion of her sanity if he pressed the issue right now.

“From now on, I want you to be kinder to Eve. I will also expect you to be civil to my child, as well. As your husband, I will not flaunt my outside activities in your face out of respect. But I will have you know that I will no longer be sharing your bed.”

Edric paused and his eyes took on a hard glint, causing them to look like polished jewels three hours out of a mine. “I am sure you will not mind my absence in your bed since you have only sought me for intimacy once in the last twelve months. And even then you wanted me to be quick about it, because you were going to a tea party early the next day,” Edric added. The brunt of his wife’s previous rejection could even be felt now.

Abigail’s face paled again at that reminder of her wifely negligence. Inwardly she had known that it was only a matter of time before her husband found someone else. She’d certainly been told that often enough by many of her married friends who admonished her to slow her social calendar down and work on her family life. But why did Edric’s mistress have to be a slave? A talented slave that even Abigail needed in order to keep her reputation of being a master seamstress and dressmaker intact.

“Of course, Edric,” Abigail finally answered. She felt defeated and deflated. She was also completely sober now as the reality that her marriage was truly just one of convenience now finally set in.


© 2005 Suprina Frazier

Monday, December 12, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 12

Chapter 12
Although Abigail was too busy with her social calendar to see that her husband was changing right under her very nose, everyone else could see Dr. Wainwright’s transformation clearly, including the slaves. This knowledge came about all without Georgina ever having to say a word. The upstairs maid was very relieved about that, seeing as she never wanted to be the one to disclose Dr. Wainwright’s secret anyhow. Yet one look at him stealing longing glances Eve’s way was enough for every slave on the plantation to know that something was going on between them.

Whereas Georgina was relieved to be exempt from bearing the master’s secret any longer, the other slaves were relieved to know that he’d fallen for an unselfish woman that could help bring about positive changes for them all. Because of Eve’s relationship with Dr. Wainwright, they had better working conditions, better sleeping quarters, and more weekly food rations which meant less stealing occurred and slave fathers didn’t have to hunt so much wild game after hours in order to sustain their families. And on rainy days when the slave women would normally shuck or shell corn or perform some other indoor labor, they were now given that time off for their own personal tasks.

Because all of the slaves knew that Eve was somehow responsible for most of these positive changes, many of them looked up to her and held her in great esteem. They didn’t even mind that her speech had changed so drastically over the last few months. The majority of Eve’s peers just wanted her to keep satisfying Dr. Wainwright in areas that his wife had long since neglected in order to prolong the good times for all of them. The only one who had anything contrary to say about the whole ordeal was Georgina and she was only trying to be helpful.

The upstairs maid admonished Eve not to rest too easily in the bosom of another woman’s husband. Especially a white woman’s husband at that. Georgina had been alive for almost fifty years and she’d seen all kinds of travesties in the lives of slaves who mixed readily with their white masters. She’d seen jealous white women order offending slave women to be beaten until they bled or died. And she’d seen white men hang black slave men for even looking at a white woman the wrong way.

Georgina didn’t want the same thing to happen to Eve and she told her so. To that, Eve simply asked the older woman to pray for her protection since she truly couldn’t see herself living without Edric.

******

Approaching the fifth month of his involvement with Eve, Edric began to notice a definite rounding of her belly. At first he thought she was gaining weight because of her increase in food supply and decrease in hard physical labor. Yet when he thought about how active she was with the kids on the plantation, how often she tended her garden, and how long and hard she sewed for his wife, Edric knew that the most likely cause of Eve’s recent weight gain was pregnancy. Especially since he’d spent as many nights with her as he could over the last five months and was never turned away because she was having her special female days.

Deciding to broach the subject gingerly on that cool September night, Edric waited for just the right moment. That moment came after Eve recited her speech lessons for the day and they were both lounging in her new queen-sized high-post bed, wearing new sleepwear from India called pyjamas. These pajamas, as they were called in America, were made of silk and came in various striped patterns. They were so comfortable that Edric debated about ever returning to his regular flannel nightshirts.

To further ease into the moment, Edric presented Eve with a box of imported chocolates. He was always showering her with imported treats - those she could eat and those she could enjoy in other ways like her new bed and pajamas.

“That was very good, Eve. Your speech is much improved. Even patrons to the dress shop are remarking about how well-spoken you are. In fact, some of them have said that it makes them comfortable to hear you speak so articulately in their presence. And the fact that you have remained humble during your transformation is an added asset.”

Eve paused from popping another chocolate in her mouth in order to answer him. “Servants should be humble. But I do not wish to be a servant for the rest of my life,” she replied, bringing up a sensitive topic between them.

Eve had been inserting the freedom issue into their discussions periodically ever since she discovered she was pregnant three months ago. Like all the other slaves, she knew that a child’s status was inherited from its mother, regardless of the status of the father. This meant that any child Eve had would be a slave, too, and as such, that child could be sold off to the highest bidder. She felt certain that she would not be able to bear such a thing happening to her child.

Edric stared at Eve intently for a moment. His forehead creased in deep thought. Everything in him indicated that he was finally going to have to face the slavery issue that stood between them. He’d deliberately avoided discussing this topic at length for months. Now there was no getting around it.

“Why do you wish to be free from me, Eve? Do I not treat you well?” His voice was unexpectedly hoarse with emotion at the thought of her ever leaving him. In fact, it pained Edric clear to his heart. For the moment, he forgot all about the pregnancy issue.

“I do not wish to be free from you, Edric. Just slavery. I want to own myself.” For our baby’s sake, she added silently. Eve hadn’t forgotten about the pregnancy issue at all. In fact, it was the driving force behind this current discussion.

“But if I set you free, you will have to go far away from me. No one will allow a Negro woman in the south to come and go as she pleases without trouble. Despite any papers I give you or any amount of money I pay for your manumission, someone would surely try to enslave you again at some point and I just could not bear that. Neither can I allow it,” Edric said, speaking common sense in light of the laws of his state of residency. He was also speaking out of his fear of losing her.

Eve’s shoulders sagged with disappointment. A sigh of frustration and exasperation escaped her lips. When she spoke, her voice was low, barely above a whisper. “But what about my baby? I don’t want my baby to be a slave. I don’t want my baby to be sold.” Tears spilled from her eyes and upon her cheeks. She had no appetite for chocolate now.

Edric got his answer to the pregnancy question all right. He also got answers to a few other things. Things like why Eve had withheld information about the baby and why she’d pushed so hard for her freedom over the last few months.

Our baby will never be sold. You have my word on that, Eve. And although it will appear that you and our baby are slaves to the world, you will actually be free in my sight. I will also draw up papers so that our child will be legally free when he or she reaches twenty-one.” At that point Edric drew Eve into his arms. “Does that ease your woes, dear Eve?”

“Somewhat.” Eve nodded. She knew that Edric was definitely a man of his word. Although Eve still had a desire to be free like most slaves did, she also knew that her lover had spoken truth about the difficulties she’d face as a free woman in the south. She’d heard many tales of freed southern blacks who were arrested and sold back into slavery just on hearsay alone.

Eve also knew that it was her love for Edric that would keep her in the south long after freedom occurred and possibly endanger both of their lives. In fact, the wonderful way he was behaving right now was one of the main reasons she would always find herself hesitant to leave him.

Edric lifted the top to Eve’s pajamas and began to kiss her belly slowly, meticulously from top to bottom, side to side. He spoke kind words to her and whispered even kinder words to the growing child in her womb. Then when he finally lifted glossy eyes for her to see, Eve thought her heart would burst with love.

“I love you very much, Eve,” Edric declared to the woman that would bear his seed. He cared nothing about the fact that she was a slave. He cared even less that she was black.

More tears spilled from Eve’s eyes at his sincere declaration. “I love you, too, Edric.” Suddenly the things between them didn’t seem so insurmountable now.

******

“Eve, I do believe you are getting fat,” Abigail observed as she eyed the talented slave’s widening girth one brisk Saturday afternoon in October. She’d been too busy with her appointment books, dress orders, and social engagements to notice before. Now she couldn’t help but notice Eve’s budding belly in the decorative gray shift dress she wore.

“I hope you are not with child, because that would be highly inconvenient for all these orders we have to fill,” Abigail continued, feeling an unexpected surge of jealousy flow through her. Although she’d been jealous of pregnant women before, none of them had ever been slaves.

Then realizing where that jealousy was about to take her, Mrs. Wainwright quickly sought to regain control of her emotions. If not, then she would be depressed for the rest of the day as her mind traveled to the year she was forced to get rid of her child. Abigail couldn’t afford to be down today with such a big social event occurring in the Wainwright family tonight.

You mean orders ‘I’ have to fill, Eve mused insubordinately. Ordinarily her negative feelings would not show up in her behavior or her thoughts since Eve was a firm believer in keeping one’s thoughts just as clean as one’s body. Yet today she was feeling particularly hormonal as she was now in her sixth month of pregnancy.

After taking a deep, calming breath, Eve said, “My child won’t get in the way of my work, Miss Abigail. I will only take time out to nurse and I can even take some of the stitching back home with me.” In fact, Eve had already arranged for Hester to personally see after her child in the plantation’s nursery.

As custom on the plantation, young, healthy new mothers had to go back to work as soon as they were able. The older, often feeble, and former field mothers with some age on them cared for the children in an outbuilding that they called the ‘nursery’. The children were looked after there until they were old enough to work in the fields or do other chores about the plantation like sweep the yard, drive cows to the pasture, mind the horses or other menial chores around the big house.

So she is with child. I am going to have to keep her in the back from now on, Abigail mused. Inwardly she cringed as she usually did whenever Eve spoke correct English. Although her clients preferred it, it made Abigail sick to think that a Negro woman was using the same vernacular, the same anything as her.

“No!” Abigail answered sharply. “None of my dresses will ever be sewn in a dirty slave cabin. All of the stitching will be done here in this house. However, since you have gone out and gave yourself to some negra boy without even allowing the preacher to marry you first, I am going to have to put you out of sight until after the baby is born.”

In an effort to feel superior again by asserting her authority, Abigail completely forgot that she was actually the pot calling the kettle black. After all, it wasn’t that many years ago that she was also pregnant out of wedlock.

Eve bit her bottom lip to keep from speaking out of turn. Not only was she growing weary of receiving none of the credit for her work, she was also growing tired of constantly being put down for no reason at all. Eve’s cabin wasn’t dirty and neither was she. She took regular baths, used her own special lye soap and armpit salve to stop odors, and even scrubbed her teeth with baking soda until they shined.

If Eve was behaving insubordinate, she would understand better why Miss Abigail saw the need to constantly berate her. Sometimes she was verbally abused even more than the rest of the slaves based on who happened to be around at the time. But Eve wasn’t behaving insubordinate, considering the fact that she certainly had enough incentive to be that way. After all, not only were all the dresses her designs, she was pregnant by the woman’s husband. Yet instead, Eve tried to doing everything in her power to cater to the needs of her lover’s wife.

Suddenly it dawned on Eve that perhaps Miss Abigail was behaving this way towards her because she finally figured out what everyone else on the plantation already knew. If that was the case, then Eve was now more determined than ever to keep her mouth shut and her words as few as possible.

If it was just herself to think about, Eve would have handled things quite differently with Miss Abigail. She did not fear the whip, nor even death since it represented complete freedom for the slave. But since Eve had another to consider now, she wasn’t about to do something that might cause trouble for her unborn child. After all, the current laws of the land would not only favor the rights of a wife over her husband’s mistress, the laws of the land would also protect the rights of a white person over any slave since slaves basically had no rights. And that’s what Eve ultimately was right now – a slave.

As a result, Eve’s only response to Miss Abigail’s current tirade, which had continued even after she tuned the white woman out, was, “Yes, Miss Abigail.”

Feeling much better and much more superior now that she’d scorned Eve for being so promiscuous, Abigail left the room and went about the business of getting ready for the Wainwright’s annual October social. Everyone who was anyone would be at her mother-in-law’s house tonight.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier