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

1 comment:

Kassie said...

okay let me say this is just great, i luv d story so far and i really feel for Eve i guess love has sacrifices i hope things work out well in the end and the characters are just great.
love to read more
keep it up