Sunday, December 04, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 4

Chapter 4
1843
On a hot summer day Abigail sat in the fashionable parlor of her newest society friend, Fiona McGee. Fiona was an outspoken woman with flaming red hair, a full figure, and an ‘I-don’t-care-if-I-ever-get-married-attitude. Abigail had been intrigued by the unusual woman from the start, not just because of her strong personality, but also because Fiona came from the second wealthiest family in the county and knew all sorts of really important people. In fact, her contacts were reputed to be even more far-reaching than the Wainwrights now.

“How is your father getting along today, Fiona?” Abigail asked politely as she put the Victorian trimmed teacup she held in her hands down on the mahogany table in front of her.

This was Abigail’s first private tea at the McGee home and she hoped it wouldn’t be her last. Society women from everywhere scrambled for tea party invitations with Fiona who - as an only child - looked after her ailing widowed father and managed his sizable business holdings almost better than any son ever could.

“He is resting fine now. Please give your husband my utmost appreciation again for tending to him this week. By the way, how is your husband? I did not see Edric at any of the socials this past spring,” Fiona said, fanning herself with a large red sandalwood fan. As she did, she allowed the feathers to lightly touch her generous bosom as it swayed back and forth.

“He is well. Just very busy with his practice,” Abigail replied, keeping her answers short. She did not want to spend her time at the McGee home talking about her boring husband who preferred doing research over attending parties these days.

Today was all about Abigail. Well…maybe it was also about learning what new treasures to buy for her own home. After all, Abigail had not ceased to admire her exquisite surroundings since her arrival. She particularly liked the solar lamp the McGees owned. This unique lamp was placed in the center of the parlor like the sun was at the center of the solar system. It was very fashionable and was a great symbol of social status due to the high cost of the well oil that was used in it.

Yes, I must purchase one of these immediately. Two even, Abigail mused, knowing that she would find no objections from her husband on the matter. Edric usually allowed her to have whatever material thing she wanted due to her father’s continual generosity towards his family.

“I imagine you spend a lot of time alone in that big old house,” Fiona inquired, fanning a little slower now as the conversation suddenly became very interesting to her.

Abigail nodded and clasped her hands daintily in her lap as she sat on the strolling wood-back, brown settee near the north window. “Yes, which is why I enjoy getting out so much,” she replied, hoping that her half-truth would go over well with the woman whose good graces she wanted to enter into.

The whole truth was the fact that Abigail had always enjoyed a full social calendar. Before she was married, she was the belle-of-the-ball at many galas. The fact that she now had a husband whose profession kept him busy and away from her until nightfall most days only suited her social aspirations that much more.

“Do your sisters-in-law not invite you to their homes sometimes to relieve the loneliness associated with being a doctor’s wife?” Fiona’s fan moved slower still as she posed that question. The object in her hand now seemed to be used as a tool of tantalization as it caressed the crests of her large bosom in the leaf-green, low-cut satin and ruffle-trimmed gown she wore.

“At times, but they are too busy with their children and family lives to do much socializing on a regular basis.” Abigail put on her most forlorn face. “They seldom visit with me for that very same reason,” she added sorrowfully. She conveniently left out the fact that her mother-in-law visited her at least once a week.

“Oh, you poor thing,” Fiona said sympathetically as she put her fan down, leaned forward, and patted Abigail’s hand in comfort across the modest space that divided them. “I will just have to see how I can help you relieve some of that loneliness. In fact, let me see what events I have lined up for this summer season.”

Then as Fiona leaned back and turned to look into a red tapestry-covered appointment book that sat on the table beside her, Abigail picked up her tea cup and poured a covert smile of satisfaction down into it. She could see herself rising to the top of society’s ladder at an even faster pace now. However, she did not anticipate her ascension coming with so many questions about her marriage. Abigail couldn’t figure out why that was so important to her current hostess.

“Edric will not be peeved about you attending so many functions, will he?” Fiona asked as she wrote down a few things on a blank page of her appointment book. “Some of my other married friends have not had supportive spouses when it comes to maintaining an active social calendar.” She tore the sheet of paper out of her thick book and passed it to Abigail. “You will be attending each event as my guest, of course,” she added, gauging her companion’s response to that last statement.

“Oh, Edric is most supportive of me,” Abigail reassured her new friend. She tried not to appear too eager as she put her cup down again and took the slip of paper she was offered.

And you are most beautiful, Fiona mused, admiring Abigail’s beauty in the blue floral print silk dress she wore with its rounded neckline and drop shoulders. She’d never had a lovelier companion before. By far, Abigail was the most beautiful of the five Wainwright wives. So beautiful that Fiona quickly returned to vigorously fanning herself in order to keep a different kind of heat away this time.

“And as I mentioned before, my husband is away so much that he doubtless will not miss me at all,” Abigail continued, trying to keep glee out of her voice and face as she perused the paper in her hands. Listed on the beige sheet were times and dates to all of the best galas coming up this season in the two state area. One was even an event at a governors’ home.

“Will Edric not even miss you on the occasions that he is at home? Surely you do not want him to turn to some slave woman for his husbandly needs.” Fiona slowed her fan down again as her gaze locked with her guest’s.

Abigail’s cheeks flushed red at the blunt woman’s words. She’d never met a more straightforward person before. “Even if my Edric was not such a faithful man, he still would never touch a filthy slave woman,” she replied confidently.

Abigail had gotten to know a lot about her husband in the two years they’d been married. She found Edric to be too honorable of a man to cheat. Plus, Dr. Wainwright’s narrow-minded view of slaves as perpetually ignorant people assured her that he wouldn’t dare defile his educated body with one of them.

“Many have, you know. Even a few of your own brothers-in-law have dipped into the brown portion of the melting pot,” Fiona reminded Abigail. Although she’d never been married and didn’t want to be, she was convinced that no man could be faithful. She’d seen it happen time and time again to many women. It had even happened to Fiona when she was in her twenties and was engaged to be married to Zachary Wainwright. A month before the wedding, Zachary cheated on Fiona with the woman that he eventually married. Now he was cheating on his wife with every white woman and slave woman he could get his greedy hands on.

After that heartbreak, Fiona vowed to remain unattached for the rest of her days. She also vowed to never let her heart rule her head again. These days, she filled her sunlit hours with an abundance of activity and her moonlit hours with whomsoever she desired.


“Edric is very different from his brothers. Everyone says so,” Abigail insisted with more bravado than she felt right now.

Fiona nodded. “Yes, Edric has always been different from the rest of the Wainwright men,” she admitted. “Easygoing Edric is what I used to call him because he never got upset about much of anything. He always seemed so in control of his facilities.”

Abigail strained a smile out, more than ready to switch to a more neutral topic. “Yes, he is very easygoing and I love him very much for that.”

“As you should,” Fiona replied. At times she’d wondered if she should have gone after Edric herself when he was still single, and despite their eight year age difference. Yet Fiona always quickly dismissed all regrets about having a life with Edric or any other man, considering her fervent distaste of the current state of women affairs in their city, state, and country. Today’s society expected a married woman to submit and blindly follow her husband, even turn over control of her finances to him. And everyone that knew feisty Fiona McGee knew that she would never stand for something like that.

******

Meanwhile, back on the westward Wainwright plantation, it appeared as if Abigail’s words to Fiona were absolutely correct concerning her husband’s fidelity. Edric had just come from the quarters of a twenty-two-year-old slave woman named Jeanne who’d basically hinted throughout his examination of her sprained ankle that she was highly available for him to exam any other part of her anatomy.

Jeanne - who was an expert at cleaning house - had only been on Edric’s plantation for a year and already she’d subtly propositioned her new master several times. But this would be the last time since Dr. Wainwright was going to see about getting rid of her as soon as her ankle healed. Not only wasn’t he interested in bedding one of his slaves, he definitely wasn’t interested in bedding this particular slave.

Jeanne had been a willing concubine with her last wealthy master and had gotten used to all the favors that such a relationship had garnered her. Favors such as expensive gifts, the best lodgings, reduced labor, small livestock, and sometimes money.

Unfortunately for her, Jeanne allowed that relationship to inflate her ego to such a degree that she basically alienated all of the other slaves and even directly disobeyed the master’s wife. That’s when she’d been sold.

Unfortunately for Edric, although his older brothers got a bargain when purchasing the skilled upstairs maid, none of them wanted Jeanne and her troublesome behavior in their houses or even working in the fields of their plantations. Thus, she’d gone to the youngest Wainwright brother who was now going to promptly sell her off to some other plantation at the first available opportunity.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

1 comment:

Count said...

I like Fionna. She seems sweet on Abigal.