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

2 comments:

Kassie said...

wat does Abigail ve up her sleeve i wish i cud stay away from dis bk for lik a wk so i can keep on readin continuously but i cant seem to stop my self.
i luv it keep it up

Suprina said...

LOL...Kassy, your comments make me smile. I'm glad you're enjoying yourself. By the way, I plan to run this book in its entirety during the whole month of December. It's sort of like my Christmas present to the world. However, in January only about the first half will still be available online. After that readers will have to buy the book in order to get the whole story. So I encourage everyone to enjoy the free look-see while they can.