Colour of Change - RegretsbyChewtoi©
It is often said that one should regret nothing. That life is too short for it. But we are human creatures and it is in our nature. And so I live with one great regret, one moment in time that I would give anything to change. I let her walk away. I let her believe that I didn't love her because I believed it would save us both.
The first time I saw her was the day my uncle's carriage carried me to my new home. My parents had both passed away on the sea journey that was supposed to be the beginning of a new life for us, my mother succumbing to the arms of our Lord, in labor with the babe she bore. My father had passed away shortly after and to this day, I swear it was his broken heart at the loss of my mother that finally did him in. The infant, amazingly, had survived the journey and was in my arms when the tall lean black woman opened the carriage door for us. When I met her eyes, I knew that in all my life, there would never be another for me. Her hand lingered on mine longer than was necessary as she helped me down. I adjusted the thick shawl wrapped around my shoulders and held my baby brother closer to my chest to keep him warm. His mouth worked at the air, suckling hungrily and I decided we needed to get him inside so I could feed him the milk my uncle had promised. I met her eyes again and without words, we promised to meet soon. My mind screamed that it was sinful, it was wrong. She was a woman, and a black woman at that, a slave on my uncle's plantation. Yet without this exotic creature, I felt I would surely die. I didn't even know her name but she was to be my one and only love, the most exciting adventure of my eighteen years.
My little brother was a beautiful baby, perfection carved into each tiny feature. Like myself, he carried the best of both parents and I knew that when he was grown, he would be the most handsome creature the town had ever seen. I held a scrap of fabric soaked in milk and watched him drink it down hungrily and my heart broke. He would be taken from me soon, as my uncle had a nursemaid who had just had a child the month prior. She had lost it in childbirth and so my brother would be given to her, to nurse and care for. Looking back, it was a wise choice and my brother has bonded with her, rediscovering the mother he never had.
When she came to fetch him, I took a long time in handing him over. The past month he had been mine alone and I had wandered the decks with him. The passengers found us endearing, the orphans, and we had not gone hungry. When I had finally placed him in her arms, I did not go to my room as I told my uncle I would, but pulled on the warm fur-lined cape he had given me as a welcome home gift, and made my way down through the fields. I could hear singing as I got closer to the slave quarters and suddenly grew shy, hiding behind a tree. What was I doing? I had no right to challenge the rules, the good Lord, in matters of love. More to the point, I had no right to betray my uncle's hospitality, the poor widowed man who had taken us into his home and shared his wealth with us.
But she... she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I turned and watched her around the edge of the tree, sighing softly. If I could only have her for this night, my uncle need never know and I could repent and live the good Christian life that he wanted for me. I should have known that it would never work...
She spotted me when I stepped from behind the tree, my resolve failing me as she walked from the fireside to stand before me. She was more incredible than I had remembered, her skin so dark it gleamed, her teeth small and white against it as she looked down at me and smiled. She was tall, nearly as tall as most of the men I knew, and her body was strung through with chords of muscle that indicated long hours of hard labor. Her voice was soft, husky and heavily accented and I loved it like I loved her body, the smell of the earth that floated around her.
"I knew you would come little pale one," she whispered to me. I thought she was incredible. I thought that life would never be the same if it had to be without her. I thought I would die if she didn't touch me. Then her lips were on mine and I ceased thinking at all. It was everything I'd imagined from the moment I'd seen her, and a hundred times more. Her lips were so full, so soft, and yet so firm on mine. She dominated the contact, years of suppressed need pouring into that one kiss. I knew then that one time would not be enough. Our doom was sealed, our fates intertwined and brought with the coupling chaos. We both knew what the union could mean. Neither of us cared.
I returned that night to the house, long after all the others were in bed and only a great amount of stealth and the grace of the forgiving gods got me into the house and into my bedroom without waking anyone up. The kiss had gone on for what seemed like hours and I let it run through my mind over and over while I lay in bed, unable to sleep with the energy rushing through me. I wanted to see her again, I NEEDED to see her again, but finding a time when it was safe... that was the challenge.
The next morning, I rose late and my uncle smiled when I came into his office, perching myself on the chaise and yawning softly.
"I am glad to see you sleeping so well Lily," he told me, flicking through thick stacks of parchment. He took pride in going over all his inventory and accounts himself so I knew that the sheaves had something to do with the work on the plantation, "the Captain said you were having terrible nightmares on the ship," he looked up at me, concern creasing his brow.
"I'm fine Uncle," I promised, and it was not hard to smile. I turned my mind to her, to my love and it came with ease, flowed onto my lips like honey. My Safara....
"It is good to hear you say it... I wish I could believe it," he said, jerking me out of my thoughts. Safara. She had told me as we lay on a course blanket a little away from the slave quarters, that it meant fire and I didn't doubt it for she had fire in her soul, in her touch. I felt as if we would explode in a ball of flame when she had touched me for the first time, no shyness about it. I was clearly not her first woman and it had made me shy to touch her, to glide my fingers along the slippery dark flesh, to see the pink within and realize how different we were not. Kumani, she had whispered to me, I will call you Kumani. It meant destiny and it was the first sign of many that I was not the only one who had seen my whole future when our eyes met.
"Lily? Lily, are you paying attention?" My uncle looked even more concerned as I pulled myself away from Safara, dragged my mind from the memory of her earthy scent to gaze steadily upon my uncle.
"I'm sorry Uncle..." I apologized, biting at my lip, "I didn't mean to be rude, I was just thinking." He smiled gently.
"As I was saying," he returned to whatever he had been saying while I had been daydreaming, "everyone in town knows that your parents have passed away, news travels quickly. After a proper mourning period, perhaps a month or so, I think it would be best if you began accepting suitors. It doesn't look right, me having a young woman in my home, especially one who is of the proper age for marriage." I could feel my heart breaking as he said it. Leave the plantation, which I already had a fondness for; leave my beloved Safara?
"I can offer up a good dowry, some of my land, perhaps out the other side of the slave quarters," he smiled, "that way you and your brother can still be close and you and your husband could come for the feasts." The word Husband sounded strange. I tried to imagine myself with this Husband, this strange foreign creature and could not. When I pictured the little house that my uncle was suggesting we build on the land he would offer with my dowry, I saw myself in the kitchen and Safara, coming in from working the fields, covered in dirt. In my vision, she wrapped her arms around me as I was cutting vegetables for dinner and I laughed, swatting her away when she went for a freshly cut slice of carrot.
"What do you think?" my uncle finally finished, looking at me expectantly.
"I think you're probably right," I said softly. It would be much harder, I realized, to carry on with Safara if I had a husband, but at least my uncle and I would have peace from the townsfolk.
"Good. I'll prepare rooms for you in one of the other wings, make it a little more private, and assign one of the women to you. It would do you some good to have someone to care for you, I don't much fancy you having to continue in the squalor you had back home." I was somewhat offended by the last words. It was true, we had not lived well back home in London, but we had lived. We had no servants and certainly no slaves -- my father had thought it cruel -- but my mother and I had not needed them and I certainly needed no slave now. One look at my uncle's face told me I had no choice. He wanted to help me live a better life and that life came with a thin trembling young slave girl who went by her English name, Mary. By the end of the day, he had her trailing silently after me, fetching anything my heart should desire. The differences between her and Safara were immense and I quickly grew disgusted by her groveling. She had succumbed so easily to her enslavement. She also made it impossible to escape to see Safara as she tailed me all over the house and property.
That night as I went to sleep, I feared I would never see Safara again and I had vivid nightmares of dark skin soaked in blood and her eyes, wide and unseeing.