Chocolate Kisses Ch. 06bycalibeachgirl©
There's no glory in death...
Copyright @ calibeachgirl
All rights reserved, 2011
Monday, December 28, 1931
At seven o'clock sharp, James sat down to the breakfast. Eliza, surprised to see him returning to his usual pattern, poured him a glass of cold fresh orange juice and went to fry a couple of pancakes and an egg, 'sunny-side up.'
She glanced at him several times while the food was cooking; wondering if there was any significance to his early rising.
As he finished his second pancake, he motioned her to sit down. She was going to sit in her usual place but he pulled out the chair opposite Bethany's.
"Please, sit here. Children, all right?"
"Yes, James." Eliza, even after three weeks, was nervous talking to him, afraid one wrong word could put them all on the street, afraid that her hidden emotions would surface and ruin her fantasy.
"Are you all right, Eliza?" She looked like death warmed over, so nervous was she.
"Yes, I am, thank you." She knew she wasn't but how could she explain her desire to the man sleeping with her sister, the man that she herself wanted? What was it about him that attracted both sisters? Was it because he was the first man to treat them courteously, warmly, lovingly?
"Eliza, does it bother you I'm sleeping with Bethany?" It had to come out into the open some time, might as well be now, he thought.
She was afraid to answer and just sat there. There's no answer that would work for any of them. How could she tell him that she desired him? How could she tell her sister that she desired him? It was hard enough admitting it to herself each lonely night as she touched herself in her empty bed.
"Eliza, please tell me the truth. Don't worry about her, she's still sound asleep." At least, she was when he left her.
"Well..." She still didn't know what to say.
"It bothers you, doesn't it? Do you think I'm taking advantage of her? Is that it?" It never occurred to him that sibling rivalry and just plain female jealousy would...
"No, sir, that's not it. You've brought us into your home and treated us very... well, like family, even before she..." Even before she became his mistress, she struggled to say but just couldn't seem to form the words. 'Mistress' was for white women, 'whore' was for coloreds, that was the way of the world, just the same.
"There's a 'but' coming, isn't there?"
"Yes, sir." She liked him, she desired him but at that moment, she feared him.
"Eliza, please... call me James in the house." How long would it take for these girls to start living a real life? Did he really think he could break years of conditioning in just a few weeks?
"It's just..." She still couldn't say it... it was hard enough just thinking those thoughts.
"It's just that I don't see how she's not going to get her heart broken and probably yours, too." She looked at him, almost staring at him, daring him.
"You're going to meet a white woman at some point and marry her. Where does that leave her? Where does that leave me and mine? What then?"
He sat there in silence. "Eliza, it's not like that and you know it."
"Please, Eliza... James."
"Fine, James, then. That's what you say, now. How is she ever going to be any more than your whore? And what if you put a baby in her? Answer me that?"
"She's not my whore," he said, truthfully, defensively.
"I don't know." He pushed the remnants of the egg yolk around the plate.
"At least you're honest. Few men seem to be." That damned Henry certainly wasn't, sleeping around, getting drunk and gambling what little money he did have, running away was the only good thing he ever did for her once they were married.
Whatever James was going to say was lost with the appearance of Bethany Rose, wearing another new robe covering most of a different negligee. This one, peaking out, was light yellow and just as filmy as the other three Eliza had seen.
She doubted they got much use, though, considering... She started to rise from the chair but James put his hand on her wrist and she sat back down.
"Bethany, would you please get your sister some... coffee or tea, Eliza?"
Bethany looked at her sister who only shrugged her shoulders.
"Yes, Jimmy, what would you like, Eliza?"
"Coffee's fine..." Eliza said, softly and somewhat dejected. 'What was he doing?' she wondered.
Bethany was soon serving breakfast to Eliza and then the children came sleepily in.
James grabbed up the little girl and put her on his lap. "Good morning, sweetheart. Are you hungry? Let's ask Aunt Bethany for some food."
"Anty Betny, can I have some cakes, please?"
Bethany looked in the refrigerator for the batter and lit the stove. The smell of pancakes frying on the griddle filled the room again and the little girl carefully watched her aunt get more orange juice.
James cut up the pancakes for Lizbeth. "Let me put some maple syrup on there for you.
"Do we have any sausage, Bethany?"
"No, but we do have bacon, would you like that?"
"Would you like that, my little sweetheart?"
"Yes, please, Uncle Jimmy."
"OK! Let's have some bacon for my little sweetheart, here. Oops, let me get that." He wiped the dripping syrup from her face. "Guess I'm not doing such a good job, after all."
"Am I what?"
"Are you going to be my new daddy?" The little girl seemed more honest than her mother when it came to expressing her needs with James.
Eliza looked at her daughter in shock, unaware that the little girl had already asked him the same question Christmas day, causing him to spend the rest of the day in his room, lying on his bed in the darkness.
She picked up her daughter and left the room, looking back at him.
Bethany put the bacon back. He looked at her, wondering what she was thinking. She knew the little girl's question caused him to spend Christmas day alone... at, least, she laughed, until she came in to give him her Christmas gift.
Whether he wanted to admit it or not, Eliza's questions weighed heavily on his mind. What was he going to do about Bethany? What was he going to do about her?
Unbelievably, this beautiful chocolate girl had given him her virginity on Christmas night and hadn't left his bed since.
The solace he found with her... somehow, he knew Catherine didn't mind.
"Can I have some of that bacon, Bethany?"
She nodded and took the bacon back out to fry for him. She was unsure what her sister was going to say to Lizbeth but knew it would stop her from asking that question again. Poor little girl, only asking for love...
That same question, or at least one like it, had also been bothering her. What was he going to be? Friend, lover, uncle, father? What was he going to be? All or eventually none?
Staring out the kitchen window, she was startled when he yelled. The bacon grease had caught fire and the flames were licking the ceiling.
He tore her robe from her and yelled at her to get out of the kitchen and take the children outside.
He put the robe over the burning griddle and quickly took it out the back door and onto the lawn away from the house. Dropping it on the grass, he ran back into the kitchen to see if there was anything else burning.
The kitchen was full of oily smoke and some smudging that was going to take all day to clean. Everything was going to have to washed down, hopefully just in the kitchen.
He opened all the windows to air out the house.
As the cool winter air began to glow through the house, the smoke and smell slowly dissipated and then finally disappeared.
He took a towel and snapped it around, trying to hurry things up but decided he just looked stupid and wasn't even sure if he was doing any good anyway. He decided to stop before he broke something and made an even bigger mess.
A half-hour later, he yelled out the window for them to come back in and then laughed. Bethany Rose had stood outside wearing just the filmy negligee and ran upstairs to her room, slamming the door.
"Guess Eliza won't have to worry about losing the housekeeper's job. What was Bethany thinking?" he muttered to himself. What WAS she thinking?
The three of them spent the rest of the morning washing everything in the kitchen. Eliza so wanted to say something to her sister but with James in the room, kept quiet. By the time they were finished, though, the two sisters were laughing again.
The baking cornbread was almost done when Eliza's cherry pie was ready for the oven. The opportunity to really cook had unleashed within her a passion for the kitchen.
"I'll be in the library reading for a while. What time do you plan on having dinner?" If he kept eating her Southern cooking, he knew he would soon become a fat caricature of himself and that was the last thing he desired. If he kept eating her sister... well, no weight gains there.
"The pie's going to take about two hours, if you want it with dinner."
"Could we eat earlier and have it later? With some ice cream?"
"Whatever you'd like, James... fried chicken, half an hour?"
"Great. If I forget, just come and get me." As if he'd miss a chance to eat her... cooking. He never thought like that before.
Bethany Rose fed Glory and watched the other two children as they finished their dinner of chicken and mashed potatoes. As soon as the children were away, the adults could...
As soon as they were finished, all three were going to bed. Bethany wondered if she had hurried them up a little too fast.
Three little children, even in as large a house as it was, were underfoot almost all of the time and she knew James wanted a quiet evening most days even when he was the cause of the children acting crazy. The man was a continual source of contradictions... but then, wasn't everyone?
"That book sure made him upset." Eliza didn't like James to be upset. His demeanor set the tone for the entire family. Why did she think family? Is that what they'd become?
There definitely wasn't a master-servant relationship existing between James and the two sisters. What there was, Eliza had no idea, at least as far as it concerned her.
While she continued to be the housekeeper in both duties and name, he treated her more like a sister but looked at her more like a woman. It both thrilled her and worried her because she knew she was looking back and he was Bethany's man... or, at least she thought. Men!
"I know. It must have brought back memories of Catherine. I just know it's been eating away at him all this time, but I don't know what to do."
Eliza looked at her sister. "You're sleeping with him. You're his friend. What more can you do? Does he still tell you he loves you? That's a hard line for any man to cross, even if it's true. He's in love with you, Bethany. You know that and I know that and he knows that. What are you going to do about it?"
James, reading a popular history of the War in the library, wasn't surprised how much of it was incorrect. He wondered if the author had ever been to Europe, let alone in uniform.
He started making notations along the margins in red and forcibly underlining passages that particularly irked him for their inaccuracies.
He closed the book and put away his favorite fountain pen, his last birthday gift from Catherine.
Eliza pulled the cornbread out of the oven, put in the pie and started cutting up the chicken. Dipping each piece into the seasoned flour, she put them into the hot oil and soon the comforting smell of frying chicken filled the house, replacing whatever leftover bacon smells still lingered in the house.
It was enough to bring James out of his self-imposed exile, a hungry look on his face.
Leaving him to watch the kitchen, the sisters took the children upstairs to bathe and put to bed. He liked to watch the two walk away, the sway of their hips continued to capture his interest in the most prurient manner possible. One time he wondered what it might be like...
After they were gone, his imagination on that particular notion cooled and he cleared and reset the table for the three of them. Ever since he had told Eliza to sit next to his other side, he had noticed a lift in her spirits. Something as innocent as that made her feel special and less a servant, something both sisters had needed from him and he hoped he was able to give whatever support he could.
"Why don't you write your own book, Jimmy?" Bethany asked after she returned. Maybe it would keep his mind off having sex with her every time they were alone... not that she minded. Whatever he was doing to her, she never wanted him to stop.
"Nobody would read it. There's no glory in death, only fools will tell you otherwise." Tell that to the boys still resting beneath the poppy-strewn soil of Flanders along the Western Front. All quiet on the Western Front, indeed. People would be still talking about the War a hundred years from now, he was sure.
She took the butter and coleslaw from the refrigerator. "Is there anything else you want, Jimmy?" She knew what he was going to say but liked to ask him, anyway.
"Just you... just you." Oh, yes, not the only cherry pie he'd eaten since they moved in... his mind kept coming back to her chocolate body silhouetted against the whiteness of the sheets, thrilling him as he remembered last night.
She could only giggle as she sat to his left. Eliza returned and she sat down to his right. It was time to enjoy the quiet of the evening surrounded by the new women in his life.
Still, he missed his Catherine and his two little angels and if he ever found who really destroyed his family, there wasn't anything on earth strong enough to protect them from him. Even now, responsible for these five new people, he knew what he would do without hesitation just as he fought in the skies over eastern France.
He willingly pushed those dark thoughts back into the box he had built around them and turning to the sisters let his mind wander off in a more personal direction. What it his imagination playing with his mind or did both sisters now start wearing tighter sweaters in the evening?
"James?" Eliza touched his arm, startling him from his reverie.
"Huh? Most have... what, dear Eliza? I... what?"
He had to stop daydreaming about them. Reality was so much better. Once Bethany had gotten over her initial hesitation, she became an amazingly sensuous woman, anticipating his desires before he was aware of them himself.
He relaxed on the sofa, his right leg stretched out against the back, his left down on the floor pushing his slippers away. Bethany had spooned herself there, leaning back against his chest, reading The Great Gatsby.
The book was absolutely scandalous, filled with affairs. She knew her love for James was even more illicit than any in Fitzgerald's story and that both thrilled and terrified her.
She closed both the book and her eyes, desperately trying to lose that last thought before it made her cry.
His left arm around her waist would occasionally move up so his hand could caress her breast while he nuzzled her neck. Once he discovered how easily aroused she became...
Eliza, sitting across the room, was knitting a sweater for him, a dark russet-brown to match his hair. Aside from keeping the house in order and cooking his favorite foods from his wife's cookbook, there was little more she could do for him to express her gratitude.
She prayed Henry would just disappear and never return. She was so much better off without him and his miserable, selfish ways.
In the corner, the phonograph was softly playing one of his Italian operas. She couldn't understand much but James had explained the story of the little Bohemian girl to her and she just let the music flow around her. Love and sadness were universal.
James had brought back the full-length recording of La bohème after the War. Recorded early in 1917 with the La Scala Orchestra in Milan, it had prompted him to learn enough Italian to translate the lyrics and he would tease Catherine with romantic phrases that she couldn't understand but knew what he meant.
He had played it for his young wife on their honeymoon but he would never tell the two sisters that. Some memories belong only to those who... the music brought a vision of Catherine to him, waiting for him their first night together, so eager to please, so eager to become his woman, so eager to be the mother of his children.
Bethany had her eyes closed; his right hand covered hers resting on his leg and she shifted once in a while to accommodate his growing erection.
While she might have thought it was her, he knew it was only his memories.
How much longer this idyllic scene could continue, she didn't know. If life were fair, it would have lasted forever.
He could feel her purring like a cat, the vibrations running from her body to his like the love she had for him.