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

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