In hindsight the windowsill probably had not been the best place for their amorous coupling, but it was too late now for any of those types of thoughts. When Evelia fainted it was fortuitous that Adan’s arms were locked around her thighs so that as she began to slip out of the window he had the grip on her to pull her back into the room where she had landed directly on top of him. It had scared him to death and he now lay on the floor underneath the layers of fabric of her dress trying to slow his heartbeat back down. Perhaps he had let things go a little too far, but the situation seemed to be under control as long as he wasn’t caught.
He rolled her slowly off of him and sat up. He stood up and he gathered her in his arms and moved towards her large four-post bed. As he laid her down onto the bed he heard a knock on the door and the handle began to turn. He dived beneath the bed and he heard a woman gasp then close the door before running over to the bed. He laid there quietly under the bed as the mattress gently rocked above him.
A whisper broke the silence, “Adan… where are ya? Are ya here?” It was Rosie’s voice and he let out a relaxed breath and rolled out from underneath the bed towards her.
“Yeah, I’m right here”, he said startling her. He stood to find Rosie bent over Evelia with a hand to her face. When Rosie found that Evelia besides being unconscious was physically fine she turned and began slapping Adan roughly with both of her hands. He brought his hands up to protect himself from the glancing blows and said, “Whoa, stop it! What is wrong with you woman?”
She answered him with fire in her eyes, “You! Ya’re what’s wrong with me. What were ya thinkin? I know what ya were doing under that skirt. Ya almost got her caught, you stupid brash man!”
“Hey look I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Stop it!” He grabbed one of her wrists and restrained her from hitting him farther and looked her in the eyes with a serious look. “I’m sorry. It was wrong, but it’s over now and we need to focus on waking her up and getting me out of here. Do you have any smelling salt?”
She stopped hitting him and leveled such an aggressive scowl at him that he thought that she might not help him. She finally pulled her hands from his grasp and stomped to the vanity on the other side of the room and pulled a small garnet vile from one of the drawers. Her eyes still pierced him with a look of death as she crossed to the other side of the bed and opening the vile held it under Evelia’s nose. For the second time in their relationship Adan watched Evelia sniffle and wake up shakily from unconsciousness. When her eyes finally focused she looked at Adan and remembered what had occurred before fainting and then she looked at Rosie and an embarrassed flush crept up her neck and into her cheeks. Rosie merely stood and crossing her long midnight black arms across her chest, shook her head at her disapprovingly.
Adan watched as Evelia’s apologetic gaze softened Rosie’s stern stair. Finally Rosie simply rolled her eyes and said, “What are we goin to do now?”
Evelia answered as she pulled herself into a sitting position. “Well, obviously Adan, you need to leave. This party tonight is a big deal and you could get caught if you stick around.”
Suddenly Adan began to panic. He had forgotten about the party. She had mentioned how her father had been planning the extravagant party for the entire spring, and then Mr. Blackmon had come to her room before the festivities to explain his feelings for her. Adan realized that this was no normal party. His face must have betrayed his inner turmoil for Evelia reached out a hand to touch his cheek and he looked up to see her eyes full of confusion.
He reached up and grasped her hand on his face and she moved her fingers tenderly between his. He pulled her hand in front of his mouth and kissed her palm as he attempted to pull the correct words together. “Evelia, I cannot leave the plantation. I will leave the house for the party, but I need to see you afterwards.”
“Oh Adan, it will be so dangerous, I don’t think we should.”
Shocked by the insistence in his voice she relented, “Ok Adan I promise, but you just can’t hide out in the woods… Rosie, do you think Toby could look after him for the evening?”
Rosie’s lips drew into a tight line and her eyes flashed dangerously but all she said was, “Yes I think Toby could do that for ya Miss. Sheffield.”
Evelia smiled thankfully at Rosie and reached out and taking Rosie’s hand in her own she said, “Rosie, you are truly the dearest friend I have ever had. No one else would risk such dangers for me. I hope someday I can be as honorable a friend as you have been to me.”
Rosie returned the smile and said, “Thank you Miss Sheffield, I will go get Toby.” She then looked up at Adan and said stiffly, “He will meet you at the bottom of the window.” and left the room quickly to attend to her mission.
Evelia then returned her gaze to Adan but he was still unsatisfied. Evelia looked back at him still confused. “Adan, what is it? I’m going to meet with you like you wished.”
He pushed his lips together and responded, “Evelia, I’m calling in my favor, and I’ll remind you that you cannot refuse me.”
Her eyes went wide and she said, “Adan, I think this is neither the place nor time for such requests.”
He shook his head. “This is not that kind of request. Mr. Blackmon is going to ask you to marry him tonight.” Her mouth formed a small ‘o’ as she realized that he was correct about his assumption. He could see the cogs spin in her mind as everything that she had been too distracted to see arranged neatly in her mind. “I want you to refuse him and run away with me.”
She heaved a sad sigh as she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and placed both of her hands on his shoulders. “Adan, it isn’t that simple. He is sure to ask me in front of everyone at the staircase. There is no way that I can say no in front of all of those people. He simply wouldn’t accept it. Then there is the issue of Rosie and Toby. I care a great deal for them and if I took them with us then they would come after us. They would come after me anyways but it is a serious crime aiding the escape of a slave.”
He couldn’t keep his voice from trembling as he said, “You promised you would not refuse me”
“Do you think that I want to marry him? Absolutely not! I just can’t stand aside and let Rosie and Toby suffer so that I may have my happy ending.” She said defensively.
“Ok, Ok…” he said trying to keep control of himself. Suddenly an idea slipped up his spine and percolated through his mind. “How about this… Why don’t you pretend to faint when he asks you? That way they have to take you somewhere and you can turn him down in private. As for the rest of it, we will talk about it when I see you after the party, ok?”
She bit her lip and nodded, “I think that could work, at least for the short time. He won’t be happy with me when I say no, but perhaps I can explain it in a way that will make him not want me anymore.” She stood up and thoughtfully paced the room trying to think through alternatives. “I could insult him, or tell him that I’m not virtuous. I fear anything I do will bring the wrath of my father down on my head though.”
He smiled sadly and crossed the room and stood in her path so that she unconsciously paced directly into his arms. He encircled her with his arms and she sunk into his chest and he spent a moment holding her. He bent his head slightly to kiss the top of her head and lingered there breathing in the sweet, fresh, lemony scent of gardenia in her hair. Trying to comfort himself as much as anybody he said quietly, “Don’t worry. It will all work out. I promise.” He then moved to the window and saw a midnight black man standing nervously beside a birch tree peeling the papery bark off in fidgety movements. “I do believe my escort is here, I’ll see you tonight.” She nodded to him and he could tell that she was doing her best to cover the anxious fear that was bubbling inside of her. He returned the nod and then looked out of the window to see if anyone else might be around, but there was no one. So, he threw a leg over the window sill and grabbing the ledge swung out of the window to dangle above the roof line that jutted out from the wall directly beneath Evelia’s room. Hanging suspended for only a second he dropped the couple of feet landing with a soft thud on the shingles of the roof. He then crouched low and walked along the roof line till he came to the trellis that supported a wisteria vine along one wall. He carefully descended the trellis and quietly padded over to meet the large man who could have only been Toby.
Raising his eyebrows and giving a tight lipped smile he approached Toby and greeted him with an awkward wave. Like his sister, Toby was tall and had cool dark skin that made him almost disappear in the growing darkness. He had large broad shoulders and a toned physique. He had his sister’s eyes and nose but a large square jaw. The look that Toby pierced Adan with left him on edge and defensive. Adan turned back to the large white plantation house to look at Evelia’s window. It was empty and he felt a stab of longing. With a furrowed brow he turned back to Toby and said, “You must be Toby”
Toby nodded his large block head and said, “Yes I am, ya must be Adan. We need to move on from here before we’re spotted.” His voice was deep and smooth and he turned and began to walk slowly away from the large building. Adan skipped to catch up with the large man’s strides. He turned to see the torches being lit around the corner of the house. Carriages were beginning to arrive at the front of the house and he saw ladies and fine gentlemen meandering around the front of the house. Adan turned away from the house to look where he was going. He followed at Toby’s back through a lightly wooded area. His eyes began to adjust to the growing moonlight and he began to see small greenish yellow lights blink and dance through the trees. Fireflies were performing a blinking waltz around his evening stroll with his silent sullen guide. It was a beautiful site and he wished he could share it with Evelia instead of Toby.
The wooded area opened onto a small clearing with a small wooden structure. A muddy creek flowed beside the leaf covered clearing. The house was little more than sticks that had been nailed together and covered with a straw roof. A makeshift table made from some barrels and driftwood sat outside of the house and smaller barrels and fruit crates orbited the table as makeshift seats. Toby turned to him and said, “Can ya make a fire?”
Adan nodded and Toby pointed to the fire pit to the side of the outdoor table. While Adan bent over the fire pit Toby went to the creek and began pulling a line out of the water. Adan blew hard into some smoking moss and leaves and flames sprang up through the acrid smoke to lick up the logs he had placed in a teepee structure. He turned and in the growing fire light Toby walked forward with a handful of catfish. Adan suddenly realized that he was starving and was more than happy to help clean and cook the fish. They worked and ate in silence and it wasn’t until after the last small white bones had been cleaned that Toby spoke a word.
In his deep smooth voice he asked, “So ya’re the one that saved Miss. Sheffield from the fire?”
“I am” he responded, glad for the conversation. “I hear that you and Rosie have become very close to her.”
“Ever since that fire, she has changed. I hadn’t even spoken with her before then. Almost like I didn’t exist before it happened.” He sucked on the bones of a fish which had already been picked clean. “Because of her kindness, Rosie will be buyin’ my freedom soon.”
Adan sucked some gristle from his fingers and said, “You owe her a great deal then.”
“Yeah I do.” His voice dripped with animosity but Adan could not fathom the reason for it.
“Look, I don’t know what your problem with me is. I’ve just met you and in that time I can think of nothing that I’ve done to earn your mistrust.” Adan said frustrated by the unfair judgment he was receiving.
The large man’s eyes narrowed and with a dangerous tone in his voice he said, “Do ya not know that your reputation precedes ya? Your name is known in many brothels and in the slaver’s markets. What I want to know is whether ya’re after Miss. Sheffield’s virtue or her money.”
Adan stood up with clenched fists. In a low voice he responded, “Sir, I take offence. What I desire from Miss. Sheffield, I already possess; her love and affection. Perhaps I am known as a rogue but remember that it was this rogue that created the drastic changes in Evelia that has benefitted you so much. What is it you desire from her?”
Fear bubbled in his belly as Toby slowly stood up and towered with crossed arms menacingly over him. With a gulp he steeled his nerve and stood his ground and their eyes locked. The muscles in Toby’s neck and arms rippled with tension and his jaw twitched. Adan could do nothing but persevere and stare back his lips drawn tight. After a long drawn out silence Toby finally spoke in a low soft voice, “I only want her happiness. If ya make her happy then I can be ok with that, but I warn ya. Do not hurt her, or ya will be dealin’ with me.”
Adan relaxed and allowed himself to smile, “I’m glad we can be on the same page.” He sat back down and the silence between them began to fill with the sound of the crackling fire and singing crickets. It had turned comfortable and Adan looked deeply into the flames hoping that Evelia had somehow evaded matrimony. Finally Toby stood up breaking the silence, “I’m a goin out to the field edge to wait for Evelia, and I’ll bring her back here.”
As Toby began to walk away Adan said to his back, “Thanks Toby, I appreciate everything you’ve done for us.”
Echoing out of the darkness a voice without a body rumbled through him saying, “Everything I do, I do for her. I only hope that you do not do anything foolish to ruin her happiness.”ns 220.127.116.11da2