Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 6

Chapter 6
Eve’s first official day of work in the Wainwright household was a busy one. Mrs. Wainwright was putting on a social event for some of her other rich society friends – some married, some single - and her temper was very short with the slaves as she scrambled to make sure that everything was perfect.

But everything was perfect. Charlotte the cook and the four other house slaves had made sure of it. Even the weather was mild and enjoyable today, with only a slight breeze in the air as it approached nightfall. Yet Abigail Wainwright still went around the house ranting and raving about something or the other. It seemed as if she wasn’t happy unless she had something to scold the slaves about.

Unfortunately, it was on one of those rants that Miss Abigail ripped the lower seam clear away from her royal blue satin and lace dress. The lacy bottom of the dress had caught on a nail that was not properly inserted in the new wing-back leather chair she’d recently ordered from overseas.

“Oh no!” the lady of the house shrieked, knowing that her guests were due to arrive there in the next ten minutes and she didn’t have time to change into another gown. Her eyes immediately began to fill with tears as her husband came rushing into the great room of their home to see what was the matter.

“What is it? Are you ill?” Edric asked, checking his wife’s face for any signs of pain. Although social etiquette of the day dictated that a gentleman never asked a woman about her health, as a physician he did so automatically. And for the same reason, it was not held against him in any of the social circles he frequented.

“Good heavens, no. But my dress is ruined and there is no time to change,” Abigail wailed, flailing her hands helplessly in the air.

Just then, a black dress and white apron wearing Eve stepped forward from her place by the window where she’d been arranging colorful garden flowers in a tall glass vase. “’Cuse me, Miss Abigail, but I kin fix yo dress fo’ ya. I’m mighty handy with a needle and thread, and my fingers is quick.”

Abigail and her husband abruptly looked at the outspoken slave who’d dared to enter their conversation. Although ordinarily Mrs. Wainwright would have spoken disparagingly to a slave for being so vocal in white folks’ presence, she was too desperate right now to refuse any help she could get.

“Well, come along then,” Abigail demanded as she scurried from the room with Eve fast on her trail.

Meanwhile Edric walked out on the porch to think and indulge in some of the cool breeze stirring in the air tonight. He’d been just as shocked as his wife about Eve’s outspokenness. He’d also been surprised to discover that he liked the sound of her voice. It was soft and melodious and made him wonder if she could sing. But that was yet another thing that Edric desired to know about Eve, for truly that slave woman intrigued him. She also stimulated him as a man. But the good doctor was determined to resist all unwelcome stirrings for any slave woman, including this one.

It seems that Edric wasn’t the only one intrigued by Eve. Abigail was, too, as the slave woman not only fixed her dress in record time, but also threaded in a bit of red ribbon along the seam line in order to give the expensive dress an added flair. That one feature garnered Mrs. Wainwright many compliments from her female associates that night and soon many of them were asking if she could give them the name of her designer. Instead of giving credit to whom it was due, Abigail insisted that she’d designed the dress and even promised to design a dress for one of the inquiring women before the week was out.

Edric sat nearby listening to his wife as she not only took credit for someone else’s work, but obligated that person to fulfill duties no one knew if she was trained for. Although Abigail was as beautiful now as the day he married her, Dr. Wainwright despised that deceptive side of her. And due to those same deceitful tendencies, her beauty seemed tainted to him these days.

Edric was a man of integrity. He was also a man who valued and appreciated integrity in others. And unfortunately, that was the one area his wife was lacking in. In fact, Edric couldn’t even sleep comfortably in Abigail’s presence, despite her constant declaration of her undying love for him.

Fortunately for Edric, he didn’t have to be concerned about sleeping in his wife’s presence ever since Abigail started to care more about being a society woman than about being a good wife. These days, they not only didn’t sleep in the same bedroom, they also didn’t even sleep on the same side of the house. When Edric wanted to take the adjoining bedroom after their honeymoon, Abigail decided that she needed that space for a private parlor like one of her friends had and thus he now slept in the first bedroom across the hall from her.

******

The next day, Eve started her first day of being Abigail Wainwright’s mystery seamstress. Ironically, she was still expected to continue to help with the downstairs chores before going to the sewing room each day, yet only on a part-time basis.

Determined to make a good impression, Eve cut various cloths, pinned them, and sew them to together to make two of the most gorgeous gowns Mrs. Wainwright had ever laid eyes on. One was rust-colored; the other was navy-blue. Eve even made allowances in the seams of the garments in order for the dresses to be altered to exact size later.

“Good heavens, Eve. They are simply lovely!” Abigail exclaimed, holding up one of the dresses against her body as she looked in the full-length mirror in the room. It was clear to see that she would look beautiful in this rust-colored dress. But then again, Abigail looked beautiful no matter what she wore. In fact, the sunlight pouring in through the tall window revealed just how much natural beauty she had as it illuminated her flawless creamy white skin and highlighted her golden blond hair, which was parted in the center and respectfully covered both ears.

“Thank ya, ma’am,” Eve said humbly with a relieved smile. She was so glad that her work had met with approval. She’d been extremely nervous about this first big assignment and had taken great pains to make sure everything was done correctly as her mother and grandmother before her had showed her in the ways of sewing.

Just then, Edric walked by and saw a wonderful sight through the open doorway. It wasn’t the beautiful dresses in the room that made him inhale sharply and stop short in his tracks. Nor was it his beautiful wife gushing over her latest material possession. It was a plainly dressed Eve smiling a smile that lit up her whole face. A smile that revealed two perfect rows of teeth, which were pearly white and with none missing.

Wanting to be in the presence of such a radiant smile, Edric quickly masked his face and stepped into the room. “Yes, they are lovely. Will they be sold? Or will they go into your private collection?”

Abigail currently had a large clothespress that could barely contain the dresses she already had. Interestingly, that same mahogany clothespress (wardrobe) could barely fit in the doors when it arrived on special order from Philadelphia. It had taken four strong male slaves to haul it upstairs and into her bedroom.

Abigail twirled around to face her handsome husband. “Greetings, dear husband. I did not know you were home yet.”

“I only stopped in to retrieve more medical supplies. I should be home for good by supper though.” Edric was careful to keep his eyes on his wife, even though they desperately wanted to stray to the other woman in the room.

“Yes, of course,” Abigail replied in a flat, uninterested voice. Then she turned back to the mirror and revisited the subject that was most important to her right now. “Although I am tempted to keep both dresses, I have promised one to Mrs. Dandridge and I dare not go back on my word to her.”

So she can keep her word to someone, Edric mused, recalling that that someone was oftentimes not him. Abigail didn’t seem to feel the need to keep her word to her husband since she knew that her father still controlled the Wainwrights’ purse strings. That negligence had ultimately transferred over to their marital bed, as well. There had been too many times to count when Abigail had promised to perform her wifely duties to Edric (in order to actively pursue this big family they intended to have together), yet neglected to do so.

“No, of course not,” Edric said evenly, unaware of how red his neck had become as anger crept upwards toward his cheeks. Then as his wife continued to admire herself in the mirror, he took a deep breath to suppress his bitterness at being married to such a fickle woman.

Just as he turned to leave the room, Edric felt curious eyes on him. He looked back to find Eve openly staring at him with hazel eyes full of understanding and compassion. It was obvious that she was aware of his marital situation, as all the slaves were by now, and sympathized with him. However, that look in her eyes only lasted for a fleeting moment, because Eve quickly returned her gaze to her sewing.

Did I imagine it? Edric mused as he continued on towards his office. Even if he did, he would never forget it.

That night, Dr. Wainwright’s imagination took him places that he’d never gone before. Places that he would never willingly allow himself to go in his waking hours. In Edric’s dream, Eve was wearing one of the new dresses that she’d designed and was modeling it for him. Not the rust-colored one that Abigail had held, but rather the navy-blue with the lacy ruffles at the collar.

In that dream, Eve slowly walked back and forth in front of Edric so that he could see how it flowed upon her frame. Then she approached him and took his hand, running it all over the smooth satin bodice of the dress, allowing him to feel the material and the way her curves felt in that material.

If one had come into Dr. Wainwright’s bedchamber that night, one would have seen him damp with sweat and heard him making intimate moaning sounds as he made delicious fantasy love to the brown woman in his dreams.

© 2005 Suprina Frazier

No comments: