Chocolate Kisses Ch. 03bycalibeachgirl©
copyright @ calibeachgirl
All rights reserved, 2011
Christmas morning, 1931
James Ewart's home
El Segundo, California
Breakfast was a crowded but almost silent affair. The children had all eaten much earlier and were playing with more Christmas gifts that had magically appeared under the small but beautiful tree.
Eliza knew her sister and she knew something had happened last night. She heard the door close and the sound of her sister's crying.
Yet, this morning, she was smiling at Mr. Ewart and calling him 'Jimmy.' Whatever happened had changed their relationship and it must have been in a very personal matter, calling him 'Jimmy,' now in front of her.
Her sister had let him do something to her that she probably shouldn't. Santa went up the chimney, did he?
And, instead of morning coffee, she made him hot chocolate. Eliza watched the two sitting there, together, almost touching each other, sitting there like newlyweds. Newlyweds, white newlyweds... Henry never treated her that way, that...
She still wasn't comfortable sitting at the table with the white man and her sister sitting there, just as you please, with her hand on his like chocolate sauce on that vanilla ice cream he liked so much. Vanilla for a white man... what would you have expected?
"Eliza, when breakfast is over, would you be so kind as to take care of the kitchen, Bethany Rose and I have some work to do in the library. Thank you."
A short while later, the two left the table, holding hands. Eliza knew this was going to be a bad thing, a very bad thing, one that probably was going to get them all killed if those two weren't careful.
She looked at her three children, eating full meals for the first time in their lives and at least, behind these walls, protected from the cruel world. How long that would last, though, was another thing, altogether.
Eliza stared at the closed doors. She just knew what that white man and her sister were doing. Couldn't even wait until night time now, had to do it in the morning with the children awake and her standing here?
Was it so bad, though? How many colored women prostituted themselves to have enough to eat, even if most of it went to some pimp that beat them and treated them like trash?
At least this way, she was with one man who seemed to actually like her and she was protected from being beat down and getting some horrific disease or becoming an addicted whore.
Maybe, it wouldn't be so bad, after all. Until it all blew up, of course...
The house had come alive again with the high-pitched sound of children's laughter and the slap of running feet on the polished wooden floors. It was a sound that he had missed ever since...
The children were eating good food and it showed in the new brightness of their eyes and smiles on their faces. Their initial shyness had disappeared and they were now impatiently waiting for 'Uncle Jim' to come home with Aunt 'Bet'ny' each evening.
Although he still pretended to insist on the necessity of his evening solitude, it was soon clear to her he was just hiding behind a façade and would often spend that time playing with the children outside. He even dug an area for them to grow their own flowers and vegetables.
Without trying, he had become the center of their little universe, all of them. While Eliza was happy that her children were being cared for as if they were his own, she was worried that something would come and destroy what small paradise they had with him. And as each day passed, she liked him more and more.
Later that Christmas morning, he took the two older children outside to play a little before lunch.
Lizbeth asked him if he was their new daddy.
James was afraid something like that would eventually happen but he was still unprepared for the question. How could he ever be prepared for the question? He swung her little body up into the air and kissed her nose just as he did so many times before the...
His eyes clouded over and he gently set her down onto the grass and went into the house. Closing the door to his bedroom, he lay on the bed staring at the ceiling.
Over four years gone by and it hurt as if it were yesterday. He knew the killers were still out there, living free while he was locked in an emotional prison he could not seem to escape... nor was he sure that he even wanted to.
Even with his increasing and very unsettling attraction to Bethany Rose, he was still deeply in love with his lost wife and his two little angels and if he believed in prayer, it would have been to them.
He didn't come down for the rest of the day and refused to answer Eliza's knock whenever she came with his food.
"Mr. Ewart, you need to eat, sir. Please, sir, open the door." She had not called him sir since the first day. There was no response and she eventually went away each time, shaking her head. If he was to be saved, Bethany Rose was going to have to do it.
Bethany Rose knew why he had locked himself away and it worried her. She found herself caring for him more and more. His face was the first image in her heart when she awoke and her last waking inspiration at night. Her fantasies became more and more about him and she would awaken to find herself aroused from whatever dream she just had.
In her heart, she was afraid she would eventually give herself to him, damn the consequences... damn the white people filled with hatred for her just because she looked differently than they did.
What did she ever do to them besides exist?
She knew they weren't all that way. Look at James and what he had done for her. There were good people everywhere. It was her frustration speaking out to the walls of her mind.
Whether he would accept what little she had to offer was another question entirely.
She knew he liked her. She knew he cared for her. But, she wondered, did he care for her that way? Did he care for her enough, that way? Would he ever care for her that way?
Every time she looked in the mirror, she saw her answer. Her milk chocolate face stared back at her. While she thought herself at least pleasant to look at, she knew the color issue was always going to stand between them.
It was an impossible dream and the most she could hope for was to be his mistress... his colored mistress. At least that was still legal in California, if frowned upon.
For all their self-righteousness, white men and colored women had been having sex since before American slavery existed and if you were to believe the rumors, there were white women who preferred to sleep with colored men. She wondered why. Except for the obvious color difference, there was no difference. Her sister Eliza had told her that.
Even the great Thomas Jefferson was said to take his wife's colored half-sister as his mistress.
And... it was illegal. She wondered if it would ever change. Probably not, there was too much resentment never to be forgiven or forgotten.
It was the whisper of her voice more than the soft knock on the door that caught his attention.
"James, please open the door." She strained to hear if he was even moving. He might even be asleep although it was only eight in the evening.
"Jimmy, it's me, Bethany Rose. Please, open the door, Jimmy."
Finally, the sound of shuffling feet met her ears and the door clicked open.
"Bethany Rose... what is it?"
She wanted to push the door open and just go in. She wanted to do a lot of things that she would never be able to... with him. Why was she always thinking of him? He was beginning to rule her life as well as her heart.
Even if somehow she did sleep with him, how could they live as man and wife openly? It would be a most illicit affair behind closed doors even if it was legal to have a colored mistress living with you. Who would have to know?
And if she became with child, who was to say it was his? Everyone knew colored people had no morality when it came to sex.
Would she be satisfied with that? Would he later find someone else, a blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty like his lost wife?
She found herself willing to risk it all and tell him how she felt even if it meant she would have to... no; she couldn't do that to her sister and the children. It was better to just say nothing and continue the way it was, if only for the children's sake.
"Bethany?" he said, bringing her back to the present.
He left the door open and went back to the bed. He lay down, putting his hands under his head and went back to staring at the ceiling.
She had never been in his room. The short night she was the housekeeper there had been no need and since then her sister had moved in and taken that position.
It was a nice room, larger than the one he had given her, with a southern exposure looking toward the peninsula.
The photographs on the dresser enclosed behind glass more memories of his lost family. Lost lives captured forever in black and white... smiling faces staring out at her wondering who she was and who she would be.
What seemed forever was only a moment or two and she heard him call her again.
"Bethany... is there something you wanted?"
She shut the door and turned off the lights.
"Yes, there is."