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

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