Victorian Dreams- Excerpt
There was no doubt about his race, he was Caucasian . His chest had an incredible width; his white shirt was striking beneath his double breasted brocade vest. Pinstriped trousers showcased a nice rear end; black shoes and spats completed the picture.
As he walked toward me, his skin reflected a healthy, golden, light-brown. Edward’s hair was shoulder length, incredibly blonde and curly. As he came closer, I could see that his brows and lashes were a darker shade of blonde; his expressive eyes were a soft baby blue, his lips, thin and ruddy.
This must be the twilight zone. I couldn’t possibly be married to anyone as pretty as Edward. Surely, he was incapable of even taking care of himself. I decided to play along. After all, this entire situation was getting quite interesting.
If this was the 1800’s why were these Black people obviously free and wealthy? Then, I recalled that some African Americans were never slaves. I found that concept interesting.
Edward sat down on the bed. “Allie, are you feeling better?”
“Yes, thank you.” I rolled over on my side and gazed up at Edward. “Edward, I’m sorry I’m not feeling quite like myself today.”
Edward patted my hand. “That’s quite alright.”
I needed some facts that only Edward could provide. This information could be vital to my departure. “Would you tell me about the time we met?” I held my breath and stroked his arm. “I like the way you tell it.”
Edward smiled softly, his eyes closed in amusement. “Of course, I don’t mind, Allie.” As if searching for words Edward gazed up at the ceiling and twisted his mouth pensively. “Now, let’s see. Your parents moved to Delaware five years ago. Mrs. Talbert had hired you to work in her dress store. My mother was in town buying a bolt of fabric for the Cotillion and I accompanied her.
Edward took me by the hand and led me down memory lane, as he talked he gestured with his hands and I listened intensely. “When I arrived home from the university I was ready to start my law practice. Working with a seasoned lawyer had prepared me to hang out my own shingle. Of course, Mother was the fussy sort. She decided to throw one of the biggest parties of all times, a cotillion if you like. All of the eligible young women were invited as mother felt a prosperous lawyer needed a befitting wife.
Mother invited only the most educated and well bred young women; there was Katie, a stunning red head, Susan, a buxom blonde, Helen, a fiery brunette, and Jamie, a demure blonde with large doglike eyes. Perhaps, there were more, I really wasn’t interested, it’s a mother’s thing you know.
Although the celebration was for me, mother wanted a new gown, and for that, she needed the finest fabric, that’s where you came in. That morning, we boarded the carriage headed for Talbert’s dress shop. Before we entered the store, I begged mother to let me chat with the men at the livery stable.
“No, Edward,” she replied harshly. “I want you by my side, dear. When I get ready to go, I don’t want to look for you.” As we entered the store I removed my hat. Mother greeted the owner. “Good morning, Mrs. Talbert. It’s a fine day, don’t you think? Have you any more of that peach colored taffeta?”
Mrs. Talbert stood from her sewing machine. “Why yes, dear. As a matter of fact we received a shipment just this morning. Allie is putting it away right now.”
At that very moment you came from the rear of the store carrying a large bolt of light-blue satin and instantly- I was besotted. Somehow, you didn’t hear the bell and had no idea customers were lurking about the store. Of course, you were startled, placed the fabric aside, dusted your tiny hands and offered your assistance. “Yes, may I help you,” you asked, timidly wringing your hands.
For an instant time stopped, and for a moment this is what I saw; wavy, shoulder length, black hair that glisten, laden with exotic oils; amazing, bright, wide eyes, with pupils, the hue of expensive snuff, and lips so sensual they practically begged for my affections. I thought you a vision as best. During my travels, I had only seen such beauty across the ocean or in pictures. Although the world revolved around me, I was frozen in time, entranced by the bitter-sweet chocolate of your supple skin.
My God, I couldn’t stop staring. I shook my head to dismiss the image, but you were still there. The worst part was that mother saw me gawking and giving me a sharp smack upside the head, she pulled my attentions elsewhere. But, I couldn’t get over you. I listened to their petty conversations, but my mind was welded on your glorious presence.
Nonetheless, you were busily sorting threads. Pretending to take an interest in your work, I walked over, startling you once again. When my shadow hovered over you, you looked up, gasped, and smiled the softest, most precious smile I’d ever witnessed in my life. My presence must have made you nervous, because you dropped spools of thread and we both chased them. One spool in particular had rolled in to the corner; we reached for it at the same time. When you placed your hand on the thread, I placed my hand over yours and you looked into my eyes. Appearing a shy sort, you cast your eyes toward the floor, then slowly gathered the courage to look directly into my eyes. We both stood upright, holding the same spool of thread.
Then, I heard the most annoying sound in the world. “Edward,” mother boomed, “leave that negress alone!”
Because I was embarrassed by my mother’s lack of etiquette, I shot her a stern look. At that point, I wanted to shut her up more than my father ever did. As you turned from my gaze the hurt in your eyes was obvious, you walked away disappearing into the rear of the store. When you walked away, you took a piece of me with you. Night, after night the hurt in your eyes haunted me. But, there was something overshadowing me even more, something I’d never felt in my life, it was a hunger, a madly driven sensation to be with you.
Mrs. Talbert called you back to help with a bolt of fabric on the top shelf. She was a portly woman and hardly able to climb the ladder.”
At that point in his story, Edward became silent, his jaw became set, and his thoughts appeared to wander. Finally, he gave me a loving glance and continued to speak. “You were only trying to help. The fabric was on the top shelf and well, the ladder wasn’t very sturdy. As soon as you placed your hand on the fabric the ladder toppled over and I caught you in my arms. On the way down, you snagged your left arm on a protruding nail. You still have that scar, there.” He raised my left elbow and revealed a nasty scar. I had no idea where it came from; I’d never seen it before.
“When our eyes met once again you were in my arms, but bleeding profusely. Like a frightened child, you leaped out of my arms and ran.” He chuckled quietly to himself. “I’ll never forget the look in your eyes. Because I’m a White male, I reasoned, you felt totally embarrassed.
On the night of the cotillion mother discovered we were shorthanded. She asked Mrs. Talbert if she would mind if you assisted the servants. Mrs. Talbert explained to mother that you were not a slave and free to make your own choices, and I’m glad you came.
Katie was dressed like an angel, and Jamie was a vision in her ball gown, but you were dressed in a servant’s uniform and more beautiful than anyone I’d ever seen. Mother had warned me, “Edward,” she screeched, “stay out of that kitchen.”
“But how could I, when you were there, I found myself sneaking a peek through the door to get a glimpse of you. The men were talking politics, my favorite subject, but all I wanted to do was take you away from this madness. I found a reason, any reason to keep you in my sight.