Evelia watched him leave the room with focused intent. As soon as the door closed behind him she had wanted him to return which was the strangest desire she had ever experienced. She needed to dress and she couldn’t very well have him in the room with her. A feeling of panic began to bubble in her stomach with his absence. Was he going to come back or was he just going to leave her here in this brothel alone. She forced back the dreadful imaginings and refocused on the situation. Why was she worrying over him so much? It was illogical and she needed to focus on getting herself dressed and getting back to her family. She didn’t need him for that purpose. She would be able to find her way home without him if it came to that, but first she needed to start at the beginning. She needed to get dressed.
Evelia pushed the violet crotched blanket off of her and twisted dangling her legs off of the lumpy bed. She took a moment to appraise her surroundings. The walls were painted a deep burgundy. The moderately sized bed was covered in the crotched blanket and a discolored and worn sheet. There was a brass metal head board at the head of the bed and the finish had been worn off in certain areas of the curved metal. An oil lamp was attached to the wall by the door and was the only source of light in the room. There was no window and a single simple yet sturdy wooden chair sat at the opposite corner of the room.
She wrinkled her nose as she remembered that this was a house of ill repute. She looked down at the bed and quickly stood up. The pain shot throw her legs and her head spun. She almost fell but instead stumbled into a wall. Breathing against the hard dusty wall she reappraised her situation. She truly was lucky to be alive and she couldn’t react emotionally to the situation she found herself in. She needed to keep a level head and be smart. She slowly walked over to chair and picked up the dress that had been left for her.
It wasn’t the quality she was used to but she could understand that the women here probably wouldn’t be willing to give up their best dresses. She slowly began to take off her ruined tangerine dress. Her corset was intact but her stockings were nonexistent. The bottom of her pantaloons was scorched but the fabric around the mid thigh and crouch was still intact. They would have to do. She pulled the replacement dress on and buttoned up the front. It was a simple cream-colored thin cotton dress with long sleeves. It buttoned all the way up to a high collar. The skirt was large and full and it came with an apron that could be worn over the front of the skirt. It was incredibly scratchy, but she had little other choice. She didn’t know where her bonnet was and her hair hung in knotted waves down to her hips. She pulled her dark brown hair over her shoulder and proceeded to braid the locks as best she could. The single braid hung over her left shoulder and hung loosely to her waist. She then went to the wash basin and cleaned her face and hands. There was no mirror in the room so she could not appraise herself but she felt that under the circumstances she could do no better.
Evelia decided that she did not want to stay in this room any longer so she walked to the door and opened it and cautiously looked out into the hall. As soon as she stuck her head out of the door frame a woman ran past her to the end of the hall giggling uncontrollably followed closely by a man waddling awkwardly with his pants around his ankles and a fire company helmet on his head. Evelia’s body tightened as he crashed into the girl and pinned her back against the wall beside an open doorway. The man quickly picked the girl up and pushed against her as she wrapped both her arms and legs around the man groaning dramatically. She was shocked by the scene yet she could not look away.
“Oh good to see you’re up and moving around. I was just coming to get you.” Adan said loudly behind her. She jumped startled by the suddenness of his appearance and she turned quickly from the amorous couple at the end of the hall and nervously faced him. The speed of the turn sent a shot of pain through her head and she quickly yelped and leaned back against the door frame in pain.
Adan moved to her and cupped her face with one hand crouching and looking at her with concern. “Hey, slow down there. You have a nasty bump on your head. You gotta take it easy.” She looked up into his eyes and truly saw him for the first time. The contrast between his hazel eyes and dark caramel skin was incredibly striking and for a moment she felt hypnotized by the intensity of his gaze. He smiled easily at her as she looked at him and he ran his hand down her long braid. She cleared her throat trying to think of something to say to break the silence. He took it to mean something else though and he stepped back from her raising his arms.
“Right, sorry. Didn’t mean to get ‘inappropriate’ there.” He said as he raised his eyebrows at her good naturedly. He then looked behind her to the man that was getting his money’s worth right there in the hall and reaching for her hand said, “Perhaps we should give them some privacy. This room is needed anyways. Let’s go out to the lounge and we can talk.” She followed him and they soon came to a large room that was filled with expensive furniture and rich colors. There were quite a few men drinking and laughing boisterously. They all seemed to be fire company volunteers. There were just as many if not more women in alluring low-cut dresses hanging over the men in the most inappropriate ways. While she had known places like this existed she had never seen one, let alone been inside one.
The men were loud and some were obnoxiously drunk. They were lude and smelly and she found herself disgusted by them. The women on the other hand intrigued her. They were so confident and they mastered the men around them. They were clean and while they all had too much skin on display they were also well mannered and charming. It was as if they were good natured masters in the middle of training dogs. It was shocking. All of her life she was told to be meek and mild; submit to the men in your life. Here it was exactly the opposite. These women were definitely in control.
Adan led her to a couch near an unoccupied corner of the room. She sat and he motioned for her to wait for him and he walked to the bar among the boisterous crowd. Evelia smoothed out her skirt as she watched him push through the crowd and retrieved a platter. He weaved his way expertly dodging others with the platter like he was dancing. He smiled at her and she couldn’t help by smile back as he set the silver platter down in front of her. Before her was a modest yet classic Sunday Brunch with Café au Lait, small round beignets covered in white sugar and a few links of boudin sausage. He handed her the cup of café au lait and sat down on the couch next to her making sure to leave an appropriate gap between them.
“So I take it you have never met a whore before” he said nonchalantly.
Shocked, she responded “Of course not, why would you ask such a thing”
A full toothy smile appeared on his face and he laughed before saying, “Because you can’t take your eyes off of them.”
He was right, she had been staring and she quickly looked down at her café and took a sip. “I’m sorry, that was rude. I’ve just never seen women act like that before. They’re so…”
“…confident” He said looking straight at her. She looked up at him and nodded. There was something so strange about being in his presence. She had the uncanny feeling that he could tell what she was thinking, and the familiar way he acted around her was strange. She had literally known him all of five minutes. It unnerved her. Trying to cover her unease, she used one of the forks to pop one of the beignets in her mouth. It immediately dissolved on her tongue, the delicate sweetness filling the inside of her mouth. She closed her eyes as she swallowed the flavor down and by the time she opened them she saw Aidan smiling a large toothy grin at her as he plopped one in his mouth as well.
She finally cleared her throat and said, “I never told you my name. I’m Evelia Sheffield. I live on a plantation north of New Orleans. I really appreciate what you have done for me… but I think it’s time that you call carriage for me.”
He nodded at her with an amused smile on his face and used a fork to pick up a piece of the nearly black boudin. “Nice to meet you too Evelia. Listen, I’m sure your… husband?”
She shook her head at him.
“Your father then?” She nodded. “Right, I’m sure your father is ridiculously wealthy and all, but strictly speaking, you are penniless.” he pointed the sausage at her before biting into it. He chewed and swallowed before continuing. “And really I’m in no position financially to be calling a carriage. Perhaps there is some place in the city I can escort you to?” For a moment she noticed that he became confused at the last statement he made as if it came out of him unwillingly. The look disappeared as quickly as it appeared and he again wore an easy-going smile.
She had never thought about how precarious her situation really was. She also took a bite of sausage as she thought it over. The sausage was creamy and savory and as she chewed the Cajun spices began to set her mouth on fire. It was a slow build that soon became overwhelming before she had to take another beignet to combat the growing heat. She swallowed trying to think of where in the city she could go as her heart began to race in response to her situation and the boudin. She had to breathe deeply through her mouth in an attempt to dissipate the heat and failed. The answer came to her suddenly as she worked to quell the burn in her mouth and it seemed so obvious to her. “I used to attend the Ursuline Academy. They would know me there and they would also be able to get me home.”
He nodded his head and then swallowed the rest of the café in one long gulp. Exhaling loudly after swallowing he stood up saying, “Right, well if we get going now we should be there before nightfall. Finish your brunch I’ll be right back and we will be on our way.”
She watched him go surprised by the suddenness of the statement. It seemed like they had just sat down and now they would soon be leaving. Would it really take the rest of the day to reach the school? If so it was a longer walk then she had ever walked in her life. She shook her head and decided that it didn’t help to worry over it. It was the only way she would get home so she should change her attitude about it. Perhaps she could view it as an adventure. Adan surely looked like the adventurous type. She sipped on the café and looked back to see where Adan was.
He was standing very close to a woman in a crimson and black dress and she saw him smile easily at her. The closeness of their bodies made her believe that they were fairly intimate. He lifted a bank not from one of his pockets and handed it to her, their fingers intertwining for a moment while he placed a kiss on her cheek. She didn’t understand what had passed between them but a stab of jealously knotted her insides. She fought it back and plopped one last beignet in her mouth before standing and going to join him. He stood by the door and winked at her as he opened the door.
Outside, it was impossibly bright and her eyes watered as they adjusted the light. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand only to wince as her hand touched one of her eyes. Adan had come to her side in time to witness it and said, “I don’t know if you realized it, but you have black eye.”
She had not realized and she looked at him shocked. Without thinking about it she slipped her arm through his and said, “I hadn’t thought about it, but someone did hit me with an elbow after the church caught on fire. I must look a site.” He accepted her arm and began walking down the crowded street leading her in what she could only assume was the direction of the academy.
“Oh I don’t know, I think it gives you an interesting roguish look. You definitely don’t look like a battered women or anything.” he said with a charming smile. She had to lean into him as they wound through the high noon crowd. He smelled like a sea breeze, the saltiness of the open ocean clinging to his clothes. He smelled like mystery and adventure.
Licking her lips thoughtfully she finally asked, “Adan, why were you in the church, and… why did rescue me?”
His brow furrowed in thought before he responded, “To be honest I was in the church to… salvage valuable merchandise, and why did I rescue you? Well, I found you in there and I couldn’t leave you to die, and once I got you out of there I couldn’t just leave you in the street either.”
She smiled at the dodge, “Salvage valuable merchandise… that’s a pretty fancy way of saying you were stealing.”
“Hey, I take offense to that.” he said, his voice full of false indignation.
She laughed softly. “Well I’m glad you were salvaging valuable merchandise. It’s the reason I’m alive. That doesn’t explain why you are helping me now though.”
At that he shrugged and really did look confused, “I don’t know. I guess I feel a bit responsible for you now. My mother taught me that I should always help someone in need if it was within my power to do so; my duty as a Christian or something like that.”
“Your mother sounds like she is a terrific woman.”
“Was… she died years ago from yellow fever.” He said somewhat sadly.
“My mother died too. I didn’t even get to meet her. She died giving birth to me. I think my father always held it against me like I did it on purpose. Although, it may be the fact that she finally gave him a child and then she went and died on him. He wants me to be this perfect southern bell but without a mother to raise me, he had to rely on slaves and nuns to do the job for him. I think I turned out a bit too high spirited for him and he became very disappointed by the whole affair.” She then realized what she had just shared and looked over to Adan slightly embarrassed.
In that moment, their eyes met and he said something that caught her by surprise, “Well, seems like it is his loss then, ‘cause I don’t find you disappointing at all.”
They walked through the streets of New Orleans and continued to talk for the next few hours. As they walked, the buildings congregated closer and closer. Some were brick and others were stucco. All of the buildings had balconies and people could be seen standing lazily overlooking the crowded streets. Carriages rolled past and they passed an endless string of general stores, shops, apartments, restaurants and taverns. Yet she didn’t really notice anything about the city so engrossing was their conversation. She told him about her childhood, education and eventual betrothal. He did not seem entirely pleased about her betrothal but then again neither was she. He told her about his mother, being a pirate, the Battle of New Orleans, and his ship, The Rolling Silence. She was astounded by his life. Although he had his share of tragedies and hardships, his life seemed to be an endless string of adventures. A razor-sharp intellect and quick wit had kept him alive when he had found himself in dangerous situations, but he was not a very careful man. She admired his obvious intelligence but she noticed that he often made foolish brash decisions that put him in dangerous situations to begin with. Then again, that kind of thinking had lead to her rescue.
“Do you think someday your luck will run out?” She asked him.
“A man makes his own luck” He responded seriously. She knew he was wrong and felt that someday he really would push his luck too far. From her extensive education something had stuck out to her. While intelligence, skill and drive were important qualities needed in order to obtain one’s goals, for those that actually did succeed, luck usually played an important role. For example, it was thought that gun powder and fireworks were discovered ages ago by an oriental cook who mixed together sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter searching for the elixir of life. He had accidentally ignited the mixture while looking at it with a candle. It was unclear whether the cook survived the ordeal or if the discovery could be considered lucky. She was considering the best way to voice her opinion when she heard a deep rhythmic drumming.
She turned in the direction of the sound and asked, “What’s that noise?”
He smiled at her surprised that she asked, “It’s Sunday afternoon. It’s Congo Square”
When she didn’t respond he looked at her with open shock, “You’ve never heard of Congo Square?” With a raised eyebrow she shook her head no. “Good lord, Ok you need to see this” He grabbed her hand and pulled her in the direction of the pounding drums.ns 220.127.116.11da2