Shadow Hall Ch. 01byhugs_and_kisses©
Remington Alexander LaBaux (Remi) was an only child. He was born and raised on an old family plantation in northern Louisiana, which grew sugar cane, as did most of the plantations in that region. The plantation had been in his family since before the Civil War and was handed down to the oldest male of each generation since it was founded.
His mother had passed away during child birth and his father, being a man of the land with not much of an education, had sent him off to boarding school for a few years so he could learn the finer points of life. When he returned, he and his father struggled to keep the land, but as the nation's economy worsened, so did their hold on it. Finally, after several years they lost it all and his father soon after committed suicide. Now being homeless and having no family, he wondered the south working wherever he could.
Currently with no job and what little money he had quickly running out, he wondered the streets of New Orleans trying to find anyone that would give him work, anyone, anything, just to make some money to put some food in his stomach. He was even willing to work for a meal.
Not since the Civil War had the south been in such tough economic times and what would become known many years later as "The Great Depression" was hitting this part of the south especially hard.
He walked into a store that fateful day and asked the owner if he had any work he could possibly do; sweeping the floor, organizing the storeroom, anything at all. When the owner said he did not, Remi thanked him and turned towards the door, bumping into a customer.
The woman was quite striking. Her long ebony hair flowed from beneath her wide brimmed hat. Her striking sky blue eyes were only accentuated by the deep tan of her skin. The dress she wore did little to hide the curves of her body.
"P-P-Pardon me ma'am" he stuttered with a slight bow, shocked at what the sight of her did to his manners.
"It's quite alright sir" she replied with a slight nod and a grin. "Did I hear you correctly that you are in need of work? What type of work do you do?" Cornelia Marie Shadow could tell this man was not the vagrant that he appeared to be at first sight. His manners conveyed the fine southern upbringing he had received.
"Well ma'am much to my late father's disappointment I am very good with my hands. I can fix almost anything and have worked several fields in my lifetime," he said, trying not to stare at the piercing blue eyes looking back at him.
"Very good; my name is Cornelia Marie Shadow. My husband and I own a sugar cane plantation called Shadow Hall and our caretaker recently left us so we need someone to over see things until we can find a replacement. We can't offer much for pay at the moment, but we can give you room and board if you're interested," she said a bit hopeful.
"Yes ma'am, I would be very interested. How many other people do you currently have working on your plantation? If I may ask," he said twirling his hat in his hands, hoping he did not appear too anxious about the prospect. "My name by the way is Remington Alexander LaBaux. Most people call me Remi," he added extending his hand to shake hers. He felt the color rise in his cheeks slightly as their hands met. Even through the soft glove covering her hand he felt something. Something he had never felt before, something that made his heart skip a beat.
"Well Mr. LaBaux as much as it pains me to say it, with the current economy we have been forced to let most of our people go. That is why we are in need of a caretaker. Especially one who is willing to work for room and board as that's all we can offer at the moment" she said as she shook his hand, blushing slightly at the revelation, among other things.
He rode in the box of her pick-up out to the plantation with some supplies. She had offered to let him ride up front, but he told her it wouldn't look proper for her to be seen with a stranger in that close of company, which she quickly agreed to.
When they arrived, he could not help but notice the condition of the place. It was in stark contrast to her appearance. She was a well-dressed, well-defined southern woman. A southern belle if such a woman still existed in these trying times.
When they stopped behind the house, Remi climbed from the truck and grabbed the bag that held everything he owned. It was then he saw a man walking towards them. As Cornelia emerged from the truck, the man hugged her before looking in Remi's direction. With a look that could have frozen the fires of hell and was only slightly warmed when Cornelia introduced them and explained the situation.
The man was Robert Lee Shadow, Cornelia's husband. He was a short man, shorter even than Cornelia was, but obviously a strong man, both physically and mentally. In addition he was obviously a man of few words as he simply shot his hand out towards Remi inviting a hand shake.
"Boy, come help your mother," he bellowed, his voice drawing a young man, who Remi guessed to be around 15, from one of the buildings. The boy sheepishly stepped past Remi and began unloading the boxes from the pick-up.
"You, come with me and take that bag with you" was his simple command to Remi as he walked back toward the old barn. Remi followed him around the barn and was pointed toward some old shacks that he believed were probably slave quarters at one time.
"Pick one and come to the barn when you're settled" Mr. Shadow said before turning and disappearing inside.
Remi did as he was told and picked the cabin nearest a shade tree. The cabin was about what he expected, just a bed, a small wood stove for heat and cooking and a small cabinet for his things. "What the hell, it's better than nothing," he said to himself as he unloaded his bag.
Over the next couple of years, Remi helped the Shadow family fight through the hardest part of the depression. The sugar cane crops improved as did the financial situation for them all. Robert left the plantation to fight to go to Cuba to see how they were growing their sugar cane and was killed in an accident there, leaving Remi and the Shadows only son Robby to run the plantation. Cornelia was never the same after that.
When Robby graduated from high school, he left home for college in Atlanta and never lived on the plantation again, leaving just Remi and Cornelia there full time. He did continue to visit often and it was on one of these trips that he and Remi were filling the hayloft when it happened. No one had noticed the rotting boards of the floor until Remi crashed through them.
Life at The Shadows would never be the same again after Remi's death.
When he returned he stayed away from the others whenever he could, not wanting to scare Cornelia's grand children and eventually great grand children by letting them see how the accident had left him. He did venture to the house quite often to make sure Cornelia was all right when it was just the two of them on the plantation, but he even avoided direct contact with her.
Remi roamed the plantation one night wondering how things had gotten to the condition, they were. Buildings needing painting, broken windows in some of the buildings, door hinges rusting or broken, fences falling down. Why had he not fixed them? Why had Miss Cornelia not said anything? Then he remembered; he had not spoken with her since his accident. He saw her and checked on her, but only while she slept or was busy enough to not see him.
He drifted into the house and checked things to make sure she had not left any candles burning, which she did on occasion. He ventured up the steps and checked things to make sure they were secured for the night. He glanced through Cornelia's open door and saw her sleeping peacefully. He let out a longing sigh as he gazed at the only woman he had ever loved before he closed her door and left the house to go to his cabin.
The following morning he sat on his porch waiting to see some movement from the main house. Even in her failing health, Miss Cornelia always opened her windows every morning and sat on her back porch to have her coffee. This day however she did not seem to be moving very quickly.
As the sun rose in the sky so did his concern for her. He stood and went to the house, peering through the windows as he moved making sure, she would not see him. Not seeing any movement, he let himself in and quietly moved through the house searching. He found her in her room in the same position she had been in the night before, only she was no longer sleeping. There was no rise and fall of her chest with her breathing. His beloved Cornelia was gone.
It was early, the sunlight was barely pouring through the windows. The sheer white curtains did nothing to hide the soft rays. Her scantily clad body lay tangled in soft pink satin sheets. The rise and fall of her chest was slow and steady. Her long black hair lay perfectly on her pillow. Then the light would hit it, it shimmered. The quiet silence floated in the room until her phone interrupted it. On the third ring, she finally reached her long, lean arm over to pick it up.
"Hello," she spat into the receiver, her voice laced with annoyance.
"Miss Shadow?" the voice on the other end asked.
"Yes it is. Could you tell me why you called and woke me up so early? What so important," she asked the man on the line.
"I'm sorry for waking you. I am also sorry to be the one to tell you about your great grandmothers passing a few days ago. Cornila Marie died from old age last Friday. Her will was read last evening and you could not be reached. This is why I called so early this morning. There are papers I need you to sign as you were left Shadow Hall," he told her.
"Shadow Hall? You mean the home in Louisiana?" she asked him.
"Yes that is the place. It is not really a home as a large plantation. The Hall is semi vacant but in need of a few repairs. The caretaker she hired found your great grandmother. I will need you to come down and sign some paperwork. When will you be available?" he asked matter of factly, as though he were reading the paper not telling her of her Gee-Gee's death.
Makayla was shaken up, unsure of what she had just heard. It was feeling like a nightmare. She looked down at her hand, saw it shaking and clutched at the sheet to stop it. Her great grandmother was the only one in her family she had connected with. She lived with her when she was about seven. Her parents were going through a very ugly divorce and she was in the middle of it. Until it could be decided, she stayed with Cornila.
It was a little over a year later that Mak moved back with her mother in New Orleans. Every chance the child got she tried to run back to the plantation. She needed the rock she had found in her great grandmother. She turned rebellious with her mother, no care for her at all. There was much more to their situation as mother and daughter. Their fights took every bad thing that ever happened.
Finally, her mother had enough of her daughter sneaking off. She decided to pack up and move to New York. She had been offered a job there and took it. She saw it as a way of helping her daughter. That was all she had ever wanted to do. Makayla took it hard. She turned to writing. She expressed herself with words and it turned in to more then just a way to let her frustration and pain out. It soon became her job.
"Miss Shadow," he stated in the cold monotone voice.
"Sorry, I will be down within the week. Can you email me your information?" she said.
After a few moments, the call was over. The sun was brighter now, beaming into the room. Mak moved slowly from the bed, her world now rocked with news she had been given. Her long legs carried her to the bathroom where she washed her face. Her Gee-Gee was gone. She had not spoken to her in years. Her mother had seen to that, stopping all communication once they moved. Then even after she had moved out, Mak had just been too busy, so full of deadlines. She had always thought she would have the time, now it was gone.
Taking the phone, she called her boss. She would need a week off. Her boss was not happy but the magazine would find its way without her for a little while. Next, she dialed her travel agent and arranged to fly down to Louisiana. She did not try to slow down or stop because then it only brought back reminders of what she had lost. It was not until she took down her suitcase and found several photographs that she had fallen apart.
It was her Gee-Gee; she was so young and full of life. Her fingers ran over the glass, taking in the woman in the photo. It was an old photo, her grandmother in her early twenties. She could also see a young man in the background. He was a handsome fellow. Someone she assumed worked on the plantation back then. Makayla tried to smile, to wipe away the tears but the fact that she had missed that woman so much and had lost so much time ate at her.
"I'll never forget you," Mak whispered as she packed the photo with her.
She grabbed clothes haphazardly, not caring really, what she brought. She only knew she needed to be down there. Her plane was to be leaving at ten, in about three hours. With traffic and hailing a cab, it would take forever. Therefore, she hurried. Her hands shook and her mind on various levels of thought as she moved through her loft. She changed her machine to reflect her absence.
She closed the door, locking it and made her way to the street. It was quicker the usual for a cab to pick her up. She told the driver and off they went, speeding through the busy streets of the city. Mak did not mind the speed; she needed to make the plane. She knew she needed to get there. Then her cell rang. She looked down and saw it was her mother. Debating for a moment she decided to hit the ignore button.
"Later," she muttered under her breath.
She did not want to speak to her, especially now that her Gee-Gee was gone. There had always been a strain between the two of them. Ever since Makayla had been a little girl, she had seen them argue and had felt the tension. Until she was older, she never really understood what it had been all about. Once in college she really became absorbed in learning her history. She wanted to know why her family had such a rift. Mak finally was able to see why there was such animosity; still she did not understand why they had to act this way.
Sookie, her mother, had been born in New York City. She was a Yankee, born and bread in the city. Her family had strong connections to the state. Her father worked in politics, her mother was a socialite. Sookie had grown up with their beliefs, which had always been strongly against the south. Her parents were what you would say old school in their hatred of what happened in the civil war. Her family had fought for the North, many loosing their lives in the great battle.
This alone was enough to make Cornelia have a heart attack. When she found out her grandson, Bob, had married her, a Yankee of all people, she could not believe it. Then again his parents were did not raise him with the strong convictions she had. Having lived through such an era, she still believed her beloved south had been right in many things. She had been born in a time when the south was a place of pride and convictions.
Cornelia had been a southern belle, having never left the south and been through such hell. She was a woman strong in her beliefs; it was the way she had been raised. She and her family had owned slaves but not in the way most would think. They were free men and woman, not traditionally owned. They worked for them, earning pay that they could save or spend however they saw fit. Her parents even helped a few to escape. It was mostly the belief that the south should become its own country that she was raised with. There was such pride within her to never let go of such beliefs. It was why she still lived in the plantation, as run down as it was.
Makayla could not help but think about what the place would look like. She remembered the massive rooms, the beautiful staircases, and the gardens that held such sweet beauty. She held those places in her memory, always things of the joys she had there as a child. Gee-Gee seemed content to let her run wild within the place, exploring each room, each nook of the great place. The garden held such lovely secrets for her.
The pilot announcing the local time and weather interrupted her thoughts. It was humid, something Mak always remembered about New Orleans. She gathered her bags and made her way to rent a vehicle. As soon as she finished that, she contemplated going to the estate manager but she felt a pull to see the house. She began driving, easily remembering how to get there even though it had been so many years. Her eyes focused on the long winding path as turned. Giant oak trees lined the drive, while the summer crepe myrtle hung down creating an air of mystery. Mak turned off the car and just looked; Shadow Hall seemed to a skeleton of its former self. Window shutters looked to be weak, paint was pealing off the walls, steps were broken, but most of all the gardens looked dry.
Makayla could not help but let the tears fall. Her great grandmother had lived here. She had lived in this shamble of house. The woman had been too stubborn to leave, or to repair it seemed. Now Mak knew it would fall to her. She could not let Shadow Hall die, not this way.
"Gee-Gee I promise you I will make it shine once again," she whispered into the air.
Remi watched as the young woman stood in front of his home. There was a familiar feeling he had towards her. He only watched her as she took in Shadow Hall. It was falling apart, that he knew. It in no way looked the place it had been when he began working there. He should have done more, fixed the things that were broken.
He had been nervous though. He had not wanted to let his unrequited love know he was there. He kept himself hidden and only watched from afar. It was safer that way he had always told himself. What woman could love him as he was now? It was impossible.
It was a sound, so soft he would have almost missed had his hearing not been what it was. The woman's voice spoke softly, quietly, almost a whisper against his ear. She was making a promise, a promise to Gee-Gee. There was only one person he ever remembered calling his Cornelia that, her great-grand daughter.
There was no one this young woman could be the child that used to run these halls so many years ago. Yet it was true. That was why there was a familiarity with her. Remi moved himself from within the house to a nearby tree. He wanted a better look at her.
She was stunning, like her great-grand mother, she took the breath from him. Well she would have if it were possible. Her hair was that beautiful deep ebony, and her eyes were a deep ocean of blue. She reminded him of Cornelia. It was only then that he saw the tears softly down her cheeks. Such a beauty did not deserve to cry. Yet he understood her sadness for it mirrored his own.
He watched her finally begin walking to the house. He did not move, only watched her. She moved in a way that he could not help but watch her. His eyes followed every move, every sway of her hips. He felt a heat fill him. His hand tightened at his side, he wanted to follow her. Yet he stilled himself. He would meet her in time. Right now, he needed to calm himself and try to understand why she was affecting him so. He faded away quietly just before Mak turned at looked at the tree he had been standing by.