Thursday, June 6, 2013

Celestine,The House on rue du Maine" Chapter 16. www'

Chapter Sixteen
Laffite found her note while rearranging his pillows looking for the cause of the jasmine scent working havoc with his desire. He drank too much wine and stayed talking to his men too late. The dinner itself was strained as his men were trying to ignore the recent goose chase on which they had been led. 
They were weeks in the Atlantic before they realized there was no English merchant ship carrying gold bullion into the Carolinas.  Lafitte excused it as bad timing… they had missed the ship or possibly it had passed un-notice in the fog one night.  Lafitte knew though… he knew he had been duped and by whom.  The man who told him of the ship was a good man and not up for mischief, otherwise Lafitte would never have sailed into the unfortunate lie.  Sadly, Lafitte discovered after the fact, the man was told by a very worthy source in Port-au-Prince.  A merchant Captain with an outstanding reputation had not realized he was talking to one of Laffite’s men when he stupidly let the news drop about the gold. He was the Captain of Le Celestine.  The Captain was very distraught and swore the man to secrecy when he realized his ‘mistake’ in talking out of school. 
That son of a bitch, muttered Laffite to himself. Dubois may get the rooster out of his henhouse, but he couldn’t get the rooster out of her head that easily.  Then insult to injury, he found she was in his very bed and his men had not seen or heard her come or go. She left her scent on his pillow, and it spoke volumes, that would have to be enough for now.  He opened the note:
Jean dear,
My husband is home and I find I will be too busy pleasuring him every day, and every evening to visit with you.
Our time was nice and you were kind to keep me from boredom, but I have my man now.
Au revoir.
Mme. Captain Maurice Dubois.
She was bloody magnificent. He would have trouble sleeping for days.
Between the two of them, he should give up, but it is not over until someone’s dead and he had plenty of time.  He would not tweak the captain again, he had met his match and it could cost him his lively hood and the respect of his crew.  Captain Dubois’ wife, however…  well… he would wait… her coming into his world alone and pressing her face to his pillow was not something a woman did out of anger, no matter how much she tried to convince herself.  She could tell herself whatever she wanted, but he knew her better than she knew herself. He had loved, angered and placated his fair share of women, and she was one of the best.
He was home a week when he ran into Captain Dubois in a saloon on rue Royalle-Bourbon. They were standing at either end of the long bar and neither knew the other was there until the patrons standing between left.
“Captain Laffite.”  Maurice acknowledged the man.  Several customers witnessed the exchange and rushed from the bar.  The whole town knew the rumors of the handsome pirate and Dubois’s beautiful wife.
“Captain Dubois.” Laffite did not like awkward moments in his life, he lived an organized existence and planned his every move.  It was one of the reasons he could run his illegal businesses and not be caught and jailed… except for once, and he felt that was political.
“How do you find our weather, sir?”  Maurice would play with him a while, the news would get back to his wife before he returned home, so he wanted to give the messengers time.
“It’s a bit too warm for me, Captain.  May I buy you a cool drink?” He would be careful here.  He never confronted a powerful husband, most of his bedroom adversaries were milksops who could not or would not keep tabs on their wives, or powerful husbands it amused the pirate to make a cuckold. He had no intentions of getting into hand to hand combat with this man as he was powerful, but had no intentions of being a cuckold.
“No, thank you, I’m wanted home to… dinner… with my wife.  Maybe another time, sir?”
“Of course.” Laffite picked up his hat.
“Captain Dubois?”
“Yes.” He stopped to turn back to the pirate. It was all he could do not to ram his fist into the man’s face.
“Are we even, then?”
“I’ve no idea what you mean, sir.”  His smiling blue eyes said he did indeed know what he meant.  Maurice certainly was not going to admit to the Terror of the Gulf that he had put the man’s ship in harm’s way to keep him out of his wife’s bed. That was so revealing on so many levels, it was ridiculous.
Laffite had never envied a man as much as he envied this pompous ass, and he did not like the feeling.  It was not over until a death.  Laffite could wait. He was much younger than Dubois.
Maurice loved taking Celestine and little Philippe for walks around the city.  They would visit all the shops and buy things they needed, with Maurice introducing his son with the pride of all new papas.  He never told his wife, but these outings were his statement to Jean Laffite that the Dubois family would never buy the contraband products of a pirate.  His money would only go to the New Orleans’ businessmen’s purses. 

These were some of the dearest days for Celestine.  It became their custom when he was in port, to do their afternoon shopping and visit with people on the street.  Maurice carried Philippe until he got so big, he insisted on walking.  Exchanging news and gossip with neighbors and friends was a delight for her husband after spending long months at sea.  He was known as a loving husband and the perfect family man with a beautiful wife and an adorable little boy.

My dear readers, I hope you have enjoyed the first 16 chapters of Celestine.  Please continue reading this novel by going to and order either the paperback or a kindle, ebook version.

There are many are seventeen more chapters full of Celestine, Maurice, Jean Lafitte and her growing family of misfits in the big house on rue du Maine
Thank you for following my blog.  Once you've had time to finish Celestine, I will post many chapters of "The Hornet Slayer".  The second book in the series.

"Celestine, The House on rue du Maine" Chapter 15

Chapter Fifteen
Maurice was a month longer than expected.  Celestine spoke of it to Jean during one of his afternoon visits with her and the baby.  The next visit, he brought his big charts and pointed to where Le Celestine had been and, for how long… he was told the Le Celestine was in Port-au-Prince a full month longer than needed. Celestine was devastated to hear this news.  She envisioned him pacing the decks rushing home to meet his child and take his wife in his arms. 
Jean was becoming a good friend, and she depended on him to fill long afternoons and winter days when the baby was too young for her to venture out. He was kind and gentle with the baby, and he made her laugh and remember times before her husband left, taking the life out of the big house.  Jean had not gotten personal since the day on the levee, and his behavior endeared him to her even more. She looked forward to his calling card on the little silver tray in the music room off the courtyard.  It meant he was waiting for her or he had gone but would return.  She did not know how lonely she was until he started visiting. The friendship was a terrible mistake. 
When the baby turned two months, Jean stopped coming around.  She missed him and wondered if she had done or said something to offend.  She took Marguerite and Josef for a fortnight’s visit to Colette and Pierre.  She was glad to be out of the city and looked forward to lively dinners and seeing little Letty.  Colette had not seen the baby and wrote that she must come for a long visit.  The visit was lovely, but Colette and Pierre were distant.   She was nearing the end of the visit when Colette asked her about her ‘affair’ with Jean Laffite.  She was dumbfounded; where had this accusation come from?
“The city is small, ‘Tine and he’s infamous.  His every move is followed and watched.  Don’t you love Maurice anymore?”
“Colette, what are you talking about?  Of course I love Maurice.  There’s no affair with Capt. Laffite; he’s just been keeping me company, that’s all.  Why would you ever think such a thing?”  She was trying not to get angry, but these were serious allegations, and she could lose her beloved Maurice. She had not forgotten how jealous he was of the Pirate.
“Maurice has been told and he’s written to Pierre to have the rumors dispelled or verified.”  Celestine’s heart was in her throat.
“Maurice has been told what?  There’s nothing to tell, Colette.”
She was mortified.  Why were her actions up for scrutiny in the first place?
“Did Maurice ask Pierre to keep his spies on me; is that what this is, Colette?”  She was not going to sit and hear any more of the horrible accusation that could ruin her marriage. Pierre walked innocently into the room and felt the venom flying between the two old friends like stinging sand on a windy beach.
“Well, Ladies, a game of cards this evening?”  He looked from one to the other and everything in his being was shouting, ‘Women angry, run away, fast. Women angry, duck and cover.’
“Pierre, tell me what you said to my husband regarding Capt. Laffite, please.” She sat watching his face turn from happy man to pig at the slaughter.
“Colette, what’ve you been saying?”
“You may as well tell me everything.  I’ll not leave you alone until you do.”  She watched as he showed disgust at his wife’s bad manners.
“Maurice was told that you’ve been entertaining the pirate.  He’s very angry.  He asked if I’d check it out and I did.  I discovered that the rumor got to Maurice from one of Laffite’s own men, probably at Laffite’s request.”
“Tell me what my husband was told, Pierre.”  She was dying inside.  She knew Jean was capable, but she had not counted on his trying to destroy her marriage in such a vicious manner.
“He was told… where is this taking us, Celestine?”
“Tell me damn it, if I’m to be branded for adultery, I would like to know the charges.”
“He was told that Laffite moved in and is living in the house, but leaves before day. He was told that Josef works for Laffite’s brother and is the liaison between you two.”  She was going to be sick.
“Why did my husband stay in Port-au-Prince a month longer than necessary?  Does it have to do with this gossip?  Is he with Anna?”
“Celestine, this is getting us nowhere, leave it.”  He walked out of the room and up the stairs.
Celestine turned to Colette.
“Is this why you invited me here, to see if I’m a whore like our mothers, or can we assume that Jean Laffite is a lying ass?”
“I had to know, Celestine, I had to see for myself and look into your face.”  Celestine wondered if she would have questioned Colette in the same situation.  She would like to think she wouldn’t, but people get carried away with gossip and tales of romantic interludes; after all she was the wife of a seafaring man, and he could be gone from home over a year, and… she was befriended by a very dangerous, infamous, man.
“And?”  Celestine stood back and waited for an answer.
Colette ran and put her arms around Celestine.
“My darling, I’ve been too long up here with nothing to occupy my silly mind and thinking stupid thoughts about Maurice being gone, and you, left alone in that lust filled city.” 
Celestine could see how that would happen, this place was beautiful; but there wasn’t much to keep a person away from stray thoughts and horrible gossip.
“You need to take up charity work, Colette.  Or, maybe some hobby other than my non-existent love life.”  She wanted to know more of why her husband stayed so long in Port-au-Prince. Was Anna winning him back? She was, after all, the mother of the two most beloved people in his life and his longtime mistress? Bile rose to the back of her throat.
Pierre came back into the room.  He decided the woman was owed an explanation.  If her husband was going to kill a pirate and kick her out of her home, she should know about his peccadilloes also.
“Sit down, ‘Tine.”  He told her everything.  He told her about Maurice and Anna, but not about his childhood. He told of Maurice finally finding true love with Celestine and how devastated he was to think that Jean Laffite had been living with his wife in his own home. He stayed a month more than planned with his mistress until Anna finally calmed him down and almost convinced him that the rumors were lies.  But, Maurice was Maurice, and Pierre wasn’t sure if Anna had convinced him or not.
Celestine didn’t know how to respond.
“Thank you for being honest with me, Pierre. I know about Anna, but thank you for telling me anyway.  I’d like to return to the city tomorrow.  I have things I need to do.”
“Of course, we understand.”
“No, we don’t understand. Pierre, she needs to stay right here until this horrible scandal is old news.”
“No, Colette, I’ll be fine.”
Celestine knew what she had to do. First, she would straighten out one very bad mannered, ass of a Pirate and let him know his foolishness had not worked. Second, she would save her marriage and keep her son from being fatherless.  Third, Josef would have something to say about the lie told on him, and he would certainly explain to his father.
Celestine knew just enough of the bayous from her one trip down to Barataria to hire a small pirogue and an old man to row it.  She wore some of Josef’s old clothes and put her hair under a rag.  She would never be noticed as anything but one of two small men in a pirogue. She spent the first night wondering if she had left enough milk for the baby, but Marguerite had assured her he would be fine.  Marguerite was more worried about Papa Maurice finding out she helped Tanti ‘Tine go into the swamps.  But one thing she and her brother knew about Tanti ‘Tine; she did not respond well to… ‘no’.
The second day, Celestine and her old guide waited outside Laffite’s big compound in a palmetto thicket, and watched as the grand house was being built; again she wondered why he had chosen this desolate place to build a mansion. The boatman explained to her the location, and how it was available to unload his cargo and keep his ships safe from the Gulf.  He explained the real beauty of the Cypress swamp and how the water could light up on a sunny day, and glow like fire in a sunset. He pointed out the beautiful birds and cranes and she saw it for the first time through the old man’s eyes. He told her about the moss gatherers with their hooked poles, wrapping  around the Spanish moss and pulling it from the trees to be sold and end in a soft mattress, and the alligator hunters risking their lives to provide luggage for the rich.  She finally understood how Jean could love this place.
She was strangely calm.  Jean would never hurt her, but she did not know about his men.  They were certainly not the sort with whom one would have a romantic walk on a moonlit night along the big bayou. She remembered his kiss that first night. It had moved her, but now the thought made her mad as hell. That started this whole business.  She left the boatman and walked calmly into the open and around the new home being built, and around to the old house still being used by Laffite and his men. 
The men were at a very raucous but beautiful dinner. The silver candleholders were polished and gleaming, the white linen was clean and pressed, and accentuated the beautiful plates and crystal glasses; too bad his men were not half as clean as their dinner service.  She walked around to the back and looked in the tall windows and found his room; his big jacket was slung over a chair; he had been unpacking. Had he been on a voyage?  His shaving things were still damp, and a big wet bathing towel was drying over his privy screen.  So that’s why he hasn’t been around, he’s been gone; probably terrorizing the gulf, or another woman’s marriage. The bed was made and the covers already turned down for his night’s sleep.  She wondered if all pirates were this pampered, or just the one trying to destroy her?
She slipped in through the big open jib window easily and placed the note under his pillow.  She rubbed her neck with his pillow to be sure to leave her jasmine scent, and left as easily as she had come.  She was back in her own bed in New Orleans before the sun came up on the second day.
Celestine was feeding the baby and wondering what Maurice would like to name him when she heard familiar boots coming across the open courtyard.  She was nervous and knew being too frightened would show guilt where there was none.  She heard him running up the stairs and across the gallery.  Maurice looked into his bedroom and saw his wife leaning against a boatload of pillows in a beautiful nightgown feeding their son from an alabaster breast and remembered his wish.  He stopped to take it in.  He had planned to accuse her right away, but he walked quietly over to the bed and looked down on his little son nursing on the beautiful breast.  He caught himself falling into her trap.  She would have to explain herself before he folded so easily.
“That’s mine.”  He said harsher than he intended, his lips clamped in stifled anger.
“Your son or my breast?”  She asked reaching up for his mouth.
“Both.” He almost yelled and turned his mouth away from hers.
He undressed down to his shirt and breeches and got in beside them. He lay on one elbow watching his son.  He was still her husband; if he wanted he could move the baby and take her right now.
He was amazed at this little creature he had created with this woman.  He wanted to cuddle them both and meld into the little family he dreamed about for so long.  But he would not be made a fool of again. He would take this wonderful child himself and disappear if she wanted the pirate.
Celestine looked over at his jacket with the beautiful gold braid running up the big sleeves hanging over his chair, the sword and belt hanging from the rack in the corner and the big hat resting on its stand.   His boots were standing in front of his armoire, one falling over into the other and it almost made her cry;  these were the signs that her man was home from the sea and in residence.
“I wanted to be on the levee when you came home.”  She turned to him barely keeping the tears from flowing.
 “I love watching Le Celestine sail into safe harbor.” She was getting breathless with fright. She had hoped seeing  her with their son would calm him and help him get some perspective, but it seemed to agitate him even more.
“You’re here, Celestine and that’s enough for now.  What have you named my son?”
“I was waiting for you.”  She could see he was surprised and pleased with her decision to wait for him. He was not expecting that.  If she were going to leave him for the pirate, why would she care what he wanted to name his son?
“Philippe?”  She had never heard him speak of a man named Philippe.
“Yes, Philippe after my father.”  The baby was through nursing and Maurice took his son and put him over his shoulder to gently burp him.
“You never told me about your father.” She purposely left her breast uncovered and wiped a residue of milk off seductively with her fingers; she knew the power the damned things had over him.
“I never knew him.  He went down in a storm off the Irish Coast.” He was trying not to take her in his arms and cover the breast with his mouth, the same beautiful breast that had so recently given nourishment to his amazing son.
“Oh, then, Philippe it is.”  When was he ever going to tell her about his life before her?  He had told her all about Anna, but very little of his life     before going to sea. He had never mentioned his parents and she never asked.  In her world, one did not ask a person’s lineage. He turned onto his back and put the baby on his big chest.  He could not touch it enough, this miracle of his wife’s doing.
“So, Mme. Dubois, you’ve built a person.  It’s a job well done.”
He was purposefully not calling her wife or Celestine.  Not a good sign. Was he reminding her who she was?  Celestine got up and walked to her dressing table.  She picked up her brush and began to brush the soft hair from around her face.  She wanted him to notice Laffite’s calling cards scattered around her dresser.  She and Marguerite had gone all over the house looking for the discarded cards to place them in view on her dresser.  A wife wouldn’t hide cards from an innocent friendship.
“Wi… young Philippe has wet my shirt, come and take him please.”  He  almost called her wife; the home life was working, as she prayed it would. 
She took the baby and put him in his cradle by the side of her bed and changed his diaper.  She went back to the bed and took his shirt and put it in the basket with the laundry. She sat in the big chair by the fireplace or she would faint from desire.  She had truly forgotten that magnificent chest and what it did to her.  She wanted him more than she had ever wanted anything or anyone in her life.  She turned back to him and tried to study his face.  She could not go through with her plan.  She had to make this right.
“You promised me, Maurice. When I first gave myself to you on the ship, when I trusted you enough to open myself to you, you promised that you’d always come home to me, you promised.”  She was angry that the tears were coming when she wanted so badly to be calm. 
“Now you come three months late to meet your son. How could you believe lies about me?  How could you?  Do you hate me that much… no, do you hate yourself that much that you can’t believe I love you and only you and will never love anyone else?”  She was moving full steam forward.  She was getting angrier at the thought of his not trusting her and writing to Pierre instead of asking her in any of his letters to her.  She picked up his boot from the floor and slung it hard and it missed him by inches.
“If that’d been my knife, you’d be a gelding now, sir.”  She was sobbing and marching out of the door when he caught her, picked her up and brought her back to the bed.  He was almost there when he spotted the cards on the dresser.  He dropped her on the floor.  Her first plan had just interfered with her second plan and now there was no plan.
He picked up a few of the cards and looked down at her.
She would try to re-implement her first plan.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know I wasn’t to have friends while you were away, or stop a man saving me in the market from giving birth to your son on the levee.  Next time I’ll know better.”  She was picking herself up and pulling her wrapper around her breast.
“Madame, tell me what was going on in my house while I was at sea making a living for my family, and mind, tell me the truth.”   His voice was low and rumbling.  She knew what one of his sailors must feel when he had done something wrong, but damn it, she had done nothing wrong.  She was in labor for fifteen long hours giving him a son, she coated herself each night in oils to keep her skin soft and desirable for his return and now she had to answer to him about some bloody pirate. She was feeling the effects and consequence of gossip on innocent women down through the ages.  No gossip monger has to come up with facts, only the gossiped about.  As for as she was concerned, he had crossed a line.  She rang for Marguerite.
“Papa Maurice, you’re home.”  She threw herself into his arms.  He stared over at Celestine.
“This isn’t over.”
“No, it’s not, Captain Dubois.”  He reacted to her using his name and not husband. She noted the effect.
“Rite, darling would you get your brother?  Papa wishes to speak to us all together.”
“Of course, Tante ‘Tine.”  She ran downstairs calling for Josef.
“What are you doing?”  He was so confused, she was messing with his head and he could not trust what she was doing or why. What the hell was going on in his home while he was out making a living, by damn?
Celestine walked down to the courtyard with the baby asleep in her arms.  She sat at the big wrought iron dining table and put Philippe in the little bed Josef made, next to her.
Maurice followed putting on his jacket and pulling up his boots. Josef came around from the stable with Marguerite.  He waited for Maurice to finish dressing and hugged him.
“Please, sit down.”  Celestine addressed her strange little family.
They sat at their usual places; Maurice at the head with Josef to his right and Marguerite to his left, and his wife at the other end of the beautiful table.
“Your father has questions for all of us.  First, I’d like to ask each of you.  Josef, were you ever  aware of Capt. Laffite staying overnight at this house, or was he ever in my bedroom?”
Maurice was up and booming.
“You go too far, Madame.”  He was truly angry now, why would she subject his children to such personal adult problems?
“NO.”  Josef was emphatic.  “We’ve heard the rumors, Papa Maurice and they bare no truth.”  He hoped he would be believed. He knew he was telling the truth, he watched them both.  He would never have allowed it and was ashamed when he finally realized his spying on her in her confinement was for nothing.  He helped the bad Captain in the beginning when Tanti ‘Tine would go to the levee and work among the poor in her condition, but he had never been the liaison for which he had been accused.
“Marguerite?”  Celestine would have it out here and now and he could leave or stay.  If he stayed there may not be enough bandages in the house to stop the blood.
“Papa Maurice, when you accuse Tanti ‘Tine you accuse me and Josef also. Do you not love us and trust us to do right by you?  You’re being unfair to her and she deserves better. She has worried and paced on your behalf each time a storm came up the river.  I’m sorry, Papa, but I must speak.  Josef and I have seen her shed many tears waiting for you to come home to all of us.” 
She was beginning to cry.  This man had slept with her mother for years and had not married her. Why would he be so brutal to this little woman who loved him and was so brave waiting for him to come home?  Men were allowed their women, but women were not allowed one friend in breeches. She was beginning to see the convent as a better life for her if this was marriage. She also liked Capt. Laffite, he had done many favors for her, and brought her the herbs she needed for some of her creations, and he had never treated her like a servant or anything more than Tante ‘Tine’s ward and friend.
“Marguerite, of course I love you and Josef. Stop this, Celestine.”
“My turn, Capt. Dubois.  I have a couple of questions for you.  First and foremost, why would I leave my lover’s calling cards for my husband to see?  If you can answer that, then you may have a case.”
“Of course I can answer that.  You didn’t know I was coming home.”  He stood and looked at his family at the table.  He did not want to be right. His heart was about to break.
“Where is your reasoning, husband?  Josef, when did you know your father would be home?”
“Yesterday morning, the man who brings you news of the ships coming into the harbor announced he saw Le Celestine coming up the river, one day out.”
Maurice sat back down.  What a fool he was.  Anna told him everything; she had even seen this fight and her children’s loyalty to his wife.
“Children, may I speak to your papa alone, please.”  They both bent to kiss his cheek and left the two strangely embarrassed people alone.
“You forced me to do it, husband. You’ll take full credit for this.”
“What was your next question?”  He knew he was played a fool by the black hearted son-of-a-sea witch, Laffite.  He just hoped his trick on the pirate was as humiliating as his had been on him, even worse.  The pirate’s whole crew would witness Laffite’s shame.
“Did you bed Anna? Be careful how you answer.  I want the truth, Maurice.”
“Of course I didn’t bed Anna.  You should know by now, I could never touch another woman.”  If his lie was ever revealed, he would be a dead man, sans pecker; and it wasn’t worth it, Anna was falling in love with a new man.  He felt it in her touch and besides, he had only lain with her in some jealous retribution to his wife and the pirate… Anna could feel that too.
“I’ll see you in the morning.”  She walked upstairs with the baby and locked the doors to her bedroom. Maurice turned and walked back out onto the street.  His embarrassment was getting the better of him.  How could he be so damned blind?  He walked up to rue des Chartres and found a saloon.  He would never get used to the muddy sewage-bogged streets of this damned city. He walked off his ship, not an hour ago in clean boots and now he had mud up to his arse, and hated it.  He wanted his clean ship under his feet.  A man had to walk steady on dry land and hold fast or rumors and gossip could drag him down like the mud on his boots.  He drank a whiskey and left the bar.  It was time to face the gallows. His stupidity had robbed him of his son’s birth, and he would never forgive himself for that.  What he had done to his little dove was appalling. He was ashamed and embarrassed by his accusations. Most Sea Captains received similar news in their careers, and many were false… some were not. After all, the wife of a Captain was not, as a rule, a shrinking violet, they could be lusty women full of the devil, and his was no exception.  He was lucky to still have his manhood.  If she discovered his lie about Anna after his theatrics over Laffite, he would lose his for sure.  Another prayer went to heaven.
He walked back up rue du Maine and stopped at a little shop still accepting customers.  In the window was a beautiful ship in a small bottle.  He never understood how anyone could create these particular objects, but  suddenly he saw it as Celestine creating their son, the tiny being nestled in her womb, perfectly formed, and fragile.  There was jewelry for her in his trunks on the ship, but this would suffice for this particular homecoming.
She heard the gentle knock as she was putting the baby in his cradle.  The glass on the long doors rattled with another knock.
“I’m home from the sea, wife. Did you miss me? I brought a pretty trinket for you and the baby.”  He was standing and tantalizing her with that all powerful smile she could never resist. She hid her smile.
“You’ll have to wait your turn, you’ve frightened the baby.”  She reached for her son and walked back to the bed.
“I can wait.  I can wait as long as it takes.”  The smile had not left his face, and he stood at the door like a repentant school boy waiting for his punishment. She started laughing in spite of herself.  She put Philippe back in his bed and opened the door and stood blocking it.
“Do you promise to trust me?  Answer me, husband.”  His smile got bigger.
“Do you promise to stop being a bully and respect my choice of friends? Answer me, husband.” He picked her up and took her to the bed and threw her into the soft down of the bed. 
“I promise to make you forget how stupid I’ve been for the last several months. You can punish me later if you wish.  How’s that?”  He kissed her, trying to take off her clothes at the same time and as he pulled his legs out of his breeches he managed to get his shirt caught on his arms and could not get to her fast enough.
That was the homecoming she expected from a sex deprived Sea Captain after months at sea. She was feeling the pressure in the small of her back and knew it would not take much to rise to her groin and she would  be embarrassingly ready for his entry. If he had waited with his accusations, he would have seen how eager she was for his love making.  No woman could have been sleeping with a man, and been this needy for a male body.  She was insatiable and he planned to be sore for days.

Celestine thanked God for his safe return. She knew he lied about Anna, but he loved her enough to lie. She could not get enough of her husband. Being in the pirate’s bedroom had affected her… she was moved by the pirate’s scent and the intimacy of his things.  It frightened her and if Maurice had not come home when he did… well, thank God, he came home when he did. But, she would go with him from now on or make sure he didn’t plan such long trips, it was not good for their marriage.  She was firm on this.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Celestine, The House on rue du Maine" Chapter 14 www.fjwilson,net

Chapter Fourteen
Maurice was gone seven months when Celestine had their baby boy, but he didn’t come home until the baby was three months old. The birth was hard, but uneventful with Marguerite in attendance.  In the last year, Marguerite was being trained as a nurse at the convent but she really wanted to be a midwife and help the African women in the city.  They were not allowed the hospital and too many were trusting in Voudou and African folklore to help with difficult births.  Marguerite felt there was a nice combination between the scientific medicines of the day and the medical gifts from the forests. Each was equally important in her mind. 
She helped Celestine through a long labor, but Celestine’s body was so prepared to give birth after the months of plying her with medicines from the woods and feeding her the right foods, that Celestine considered Marguerite a genius.  She had not gained one unwanted pound and her skin was oiled and greased into stretching without leaving marks. If one didn’t know, they would never guess the young woman had gone through childbirth.  Marguerite taught her how to nurse the baby and keep her nipples from getting too sore and her breast from sagging with the heavy milk.  Marguerite enjoyed her work and used Celestine as a grand experiment to see if her lotions and potions worked.  So far they had been a complete success and her Tante ‘Tine was a grateful recipient.
Josef was working at Lafitte’s blacksmith’s Shop.  Celestine had gotten him an apprenticeship which he was enjoying as he learned a trade, but he still took care of Tante ‘Tine and was devoted to her and his new little brother. 
Josef and Marguerite fit nicely in les gens de couleur Libres and Josef was courting a young woman named Augustine.  She would make an excellent wife and Josef was anxious for Papa Maurice to give his blessing.  The people of New Orleans accepted them as servants for Captain Dubois but still talked behind closed doors about the murderous children killed in the swamps and buried by Jean Laffite.  Some said they were twins and were under ten when they were eaten by the big alligators.  Some said, no, they were closer to fourteen or fifteen, but none knew them as the two young people working for the Captain and his wife.  Josef discovered gossip had a way of destroying itself and turning ridiculous along with the truth it destroys in the process.
Celestine kept herself busy during her husband’s absence.  She had her charity work through the convent, part of which was to visit the cribs along the levee and make sure the children had food and warm clothing in winter.  She knew what that would have meant to her as a child; a nice hot meal once in a while.  Most days Marguerite went with her, but many days she went alone.
Jean Lafitte saw her going in and out of the little cribs and places a woman expecting a child should not frequent, and sent one of his men to watch her at all times for her own protection.  Josef kept Jean informed of her outings and unbeknownst to Celestine, her safety was in Laffite’s hands, not hers.  Josef enjoyed working as an apprentice to Jean’s brother, Pierre. He mostly fronted their shop and worked on his own ironworks and inventions, as Pierre was usually off with his brother.  He suspected they were running slaves and plunder from the back of the shop, but he would not ask and he certainly did not want to know. The brothers were glad to hire him when they discovered this was the infamous Josef, the slave buried and eaten by the alligators in the swamp.  The whole idea amused them.
The first time Jean met Celestine after his kiss in the swamp was on market day several months after her husband sailed out of New Orleans.  She was much thicker around the waist and he guessed she was with child.  He would never leave her unattended if it were his child she carried.  He had many children and his mistresses  were always protected during the long months of their confinements, not necessarily by him personally, but there was always a man of his choosing watching for their own protection.  He loved his mistresses as any man, but this little waif was different.  She was a fair maiden and she needed a dark, handsome knight… well, he was a dark handsome knight, and he needed a fair maiden.  Of course, this little maiden would cut your throat and feed your genitals to the crabs, but that only made her more desirable to his jaded heart.
He had been accused of being a pirate, but he considered himself a privateer, a corsair, and would shoot any man who said differently. Lately, he wanted to be a dangerous pirate and sail with Celestine around the world by his side, her knife ready to cut or kill, her soft breast and mouth desiring of his touch.  He was a hopeless romantic, but no man would ever voice it. 
Celestine was startled when he approached her in the big market.  He thought he captured a bit of embarrassment on her beautiful face, why not, she was a married woman and she had responded sensually to his kiss, and he felt her shudder when he ran his hand along her breast.  It changed his life and filled him with a desire he had not been able to quench with other women.  He had been jealous of her husband for months and now to see Dubois’ seed under her dress was almost more than he could take.
“Madame Dubois, how nice to see you.”  He was the parlor gentleman at his best.
“Captain Laffite. I knew we’d meet again.  I’d like to thank you again for the favor you did for my husband’s wards. Josef is very happy working with your dear brother.”  She offered her hand and he turned it over, gently took off her glove and kissed the palm.  He held it and breathed in the Jasmine scent a bit longer than she found comfortable, but she felt safe with her husband’s child in her womb and her head could not be turned by his charms.  If anything, he caused her to miss her husband, feeling this handsome virile man’s warm breath on the palm of her hand.
 “I believe that belongs to me.”  She gently pulled it back and began to put on her glove.
“For now, Madame, but who can read the future, nez pa?” The dark green and gold of his hazel eyes were bringing back the old feelings from the swamp. 
“You go too far, sir.  You forget I’m a married woman.”  He angered her with his insult and she needed to leave before she said something she would be sorry for later.  He bowed and allowed her to walk away.  He had his answer, she desired him as much as he her.  She just did not trust it yet. Had she not been angered and flirted back, he would have known it as innocent banter.  But she felt something that frightened her.  That was a good sign… a very good sign and her idiot Sea Captain left her alone for months, what a fool.
Celestine went on with her life, missing her husband and anticipating the birth of her child.  The next she saw Capt. Lafitte was a few months later.  She was coming out of one of the cribs when she saw a man start to strike a little girl.  She rushed to stop the violence, but Jean stepped from nowhere and grabbed the man by the collar and threw him away from the little child.  She rushed to the child and held her close.
“It’s all right, my little lamb.  You’re safe now?”  The little girl was crying.  Jean stepped up, took the child in his arms and walked with her to the market and sat her at one of the stalls.
“Oh monsieur, you’ve saved my little girl.  You’re a good man.  How can I ever repay you?” The woman was over playing her role.  He looked at the bad actress and raised an eyebrow and nodded his head for the woman to stop.  Celestine missed that bit of theatrics, but she knew the child did not belong to the woman in the stall selling peppers and onions.  She stood back and watched the performance as the big pirate pretended to sooth the child and take his compliments like a hero.
“Berti?” Celestine said. “Isn’t your mere waiting for you to help with the milking?”  The child looked past Celestine and up to the big pirate and gave a shrug.
“I tried to tell him you knew me, Mme.‘Tine.  Men don’t listen to little girls.”  She was off and running down the levee to her family’s barn.
She stood trying not to laugh, waiting for him to say something.
He was speechless.  He had never been speechless in his life; he could hold a conversation in any drawing room in any mansion, in any city in the world, he spoke four languages fluently, but he was totally speechless. He tipped his hat.
“Good day, Madame.”  He was walking off when her laughter stopped him.
“That’s it?  That’s all you have to say?” She was hurting she laughed so hard but once the laughter stopped, the pain didn’t.  She was big with this child and suddenly she was standing in a puddle of water and she thought she had wet herself.
“Ahh, Jean, help me.”  She turned to him first, he had many children; everyone knew he had many children by his beautiful quadroon mistresses. He looked over at his beautiful torment, her eyes were full of fear and she was looking to him for help.  
She lost the water holding Dubois’ child in her womb.  She was in trouble and she called on her knight. That fool of a husband of hers; he doesn’t deserve her. He picked her up and walked up rue du Maine.
“Why are you out alone so close to your time, Madame?”  Celestine was surprised at the anger in his voice.
“Where is your husband and why does he allow this?”  He opened the big gate calling for Marguerite. 
“Hush, Jean.  Please don’t criticize my husband.”  The contraction made her grab her stomach with one hand and the lapel of his big black jacket with the other as she buried her face in his jacket.  He was met by Marguerite in the courtyard and shown to Celeste’s bedroom.  Once he put her on the bed, she perked up and thought maybe it was a false alarm, and then another contraction hit and she cried out to Marguerite.
“I’ll return with the doctor, Madame, please don’t fret.”
He walked out of the gate and Celestine was left to deal with the pain and her embarrassment of losing her water in front of this man who reproached her husband for making a living.  She was angry but was in too much pain to care.   She, the doctor and Marguerite worked all afternoon and into the night.   When the doctor placed her little boy in her arms and finally left, Jean got up from the little table under the banana tree. He didn’t notice the mangled and bent decretive iron scroll work on the table he caused each time his damsel cried out in pain. He had not moved since he brought Dr. Pabon back to her, nor would he consider it when Josef offered him supper and late night coffee.
He walked upstairs and saw she was sleeping, bent to kiss her forehead and left his card on the empty pillow next to her.  He would be back.  What a damned fool her husband was. Jean lost his only wife in child birth; he would not wish that pain and guilt on any man.  Dubois shouldn’t have left her alone to walk the streets big with child so near her time.

"Celestine, the House on rue du Maine" Chapter 13 ebooks and paper backs,

Chapter Thirteen
Sitting in a dark corner of the barn at the David’s plantation, Marguerite held on to her big brother and wouldn’t let go.  She understood they had to act as slaves in Natchez until Papa Maurice came for them, but she never wanted to be parted from Josef again.  Who was this little lady who caused her to be jailed, and then saved her so heroically, and why had Papa Maurice married her?   Marguerite had known gut-wrenching fear years ago in Port-au-Prince, while she and Josef watched as the little gallows was being built outside their cell window.  At the time, she was very young and wanted her mother, but Josef assured her God was not going to let them die.  Josef had clairvoyant powers like their mother, and Marguerite counted on the powers to save them, but watching the weapon of your death being built by big men and their hate, made her doubt her brother’s promises and bravery.  She wanted her mother, but they didn’t know if she was alive or dead in the little hospital where she was taken after the man stabbed her.  She could still see and smell the blood and didn’t know a human body held that much.  Some of it had to be from the young English Captain, but the rest was from her mother.   The man had taken her mother’s knife, and turned it back on her over and over again. 
Josef acted first and hit the man with his mother’s big black skillet, but Marguerite grabbed the knife, slippery with blood, and stabbed the man in the leg.  She did not know if she killed him or not, but she wanted to.  Josef took the knife from her and plunged it into the man’s heart, just as the man was grabbing for Marguerite’s throat.  When the man’s friends came to take him back to his ship, they yelled bloody murder and called down the street for help.  Now she and her brother were in this stinking cell, covered in their mother’s dried blood, and swallowing their own nauseating fear.
Marguerite’s mother brought angry men home to ‘heal’ them. This was part of Marguerite’s life.  The only life she knew and it wasn’t strange to her, just different from what other mothers did.  Her friends on the street tried to tell her it was not right, but those friends’ mothers took men to their beds for money.  Marguerite knew that was not right.  What her mother did was an act of kindness… Josef told her that. She remembered being very small and seeing a small portrait of her sister, Anna Marie and wondering where she was.  Her mother couldn’t talk about the little girl without crying.
Papa Maurice sat her on his lap one day while her mother was out, and told her the story of her beautiful sister and the tragedy of her death.  He told her how unhappy her mother was until she and Josef came along.  He wanted them to know that the two of them had saved her life.  Marguerite’s father died before she knew him.  Papa Maurice said he was a fine man who loved her and Josef very much, but the only father Marguerite knew was her Papa Maurice.  He was a handsome Sea Captain who showed up unannounced three or four times a year, and sometimes stayed for weeks.  He brought them big hugs and kisses, with gifts from faraway places, and books with wonderful stories that he taught them to read.  There were other men in her mother’s past, who came to visit, but Papa Maurice was different; he belonged in the small house with the little family.  It felt like home when he was at home.
Once, he had a terrible row with her mother about the dangers of taking up with bad, angry men, and he left without saying good-bye.  She and Josef would not speak to their mother for days for causing Papa Maurice to leave.  But when he returned, he was angry with them for not showing their mother the respect she deserved,  and gave them stern lectures on how to treat their mother… they never did it again. Sometimes when she and Josef were in trouble they would go to the harbor and watch and pray for his ship, as their mother was never allowed to spank them when he was in port.  It would make their mother mad as hell, but Papa Maurice stayed true to his word, as they knew he would.
Her mind went back to the cell in Port-au-Prince, she remembered crying and praying for him to come, and how sad he would be to come home to find his little family dead. She wanted to sit on his big lap, bury her face in the smell of his shirt, and hold the match while he lighted his cigar. 
Josef loved to watch him shave and was allowed to fill the shaving brush with the sweet smelling soap their mother made.  Those days were gone, and Josef told her she would have to be brave and wait for the miracle he saw coming.  She wished with all her being she could feel as calm as Josef, but she heard his tears at night.  She knew most of his bravery was for her.
The hammers stopped and she and Josef ran to the window.  The horrible thing was finished.  The smell of new wood was making her sick.  The two children stood entranced by fear, looking out of the window at the two little ropes hanging from the new structure.
Marguerite, these ten years later, could still hear his boots running on the old tile floors of the jail, and smell the cigar in his coat before the door was opened, and Papa Maurice ran into the cell grabbing his children.  He picked her up in his arms and bent to let Josef climb onto his back;  suddenly they were out of the old jail rushing down the street; his men on either side, swords drawn and ready to kill anyone trying to stop them.  These men would follow their Captain to hell if it came to that.  Marguerite peaked  from his shirt in time to see he was running toward the harbor.  Josef jumped down and ran ahead of him.  The dingy was dipping and swaying in the water as if calling them to hurry. They reached the boat and jumped in, and the men rowed with all their strength back toward the ship.  Even though they were in the little boat, Marguerite wouldn’t let go of his neck, and he didn’t expect her to.  Josef was sitting so close to his papa they could have been joined at the hip.  Papa Maurice still looked stern and Marguerite buried her face back in his shirt, knowing they weren’t safe yet.  She didn’t care now, as long as she could hold onto him, nothing bad would ever happen to her again.  She wanted desperately to ask about her mother, but was terrified of the answer.  Crying gently into his shirt she listened as Maurice bent his head to their ears and said.
“Your mother is safe and getting well.  She’ll be in hospital for a few days, but she loves you and she’ll be fine.  The bad man’s dead and she’s not blamed.  She tried to take the blame, but they didn’t believe her.”  He was staring into their upturned faces to make sure they understood him. He got to the ship and carried her up the ladder.  His men were bringing up the children’s belongings and putting them in the bunks they had prepared for them.  She never knew how he had known to come and find them, nor how he had found her mother, but that magic was part of him and his store house of powerful gris-gris.  That was her Papa Maurice, and she loved him with everything in her young soul.
Marguerite sat close to Josef in the old barn and listened to his comforting words.  His sister needed to know, Tanti ‘Tine was doing her best to help them, and was sorry she had caused them grief.  Josef explained that it was his fault for not remembering Papa Maurice’s letter, but they were safe and Pierre would never allow them to stay as slaves.
  She was trying to relax and lose some of her lingering fear. In the Cabildo in New Orleans, she had no idea where Josef was and Papa Maurice was out to sea for months. She had seen more sorrow and fear in her fifteen years than most people see in forever.  She wanted to go with papa on this trip and see her mother, but he had asked that they stay and look after his young wife.  Of course they agreed.  She still hoped her mother would give up healing young men and move to New Orleans; they could all be a family again, but now that he had married Celestine that would never happen. 
Papa asked her to love Celestine and she would try.  She would certainly try.  She would do anything for him.  He was her father and if he wanted her to mend his socks and launder  his shirts and smalls, she would do it.  Daughters in her world did those things for their papas.  But in the Cabildo, she knew he was not coming and never would. Sitting alone in the dank, rat infested place, she had begun to think the God he taught them to love must have a reason for calling her home to heaven.  She had seen the Ursulines in their gardens and she wondered what it would be like to be one.  She always liked helping people, especially young mothers with their children.  She loved children and thought of having many, but first Papa Maurice would have to find her a husband and set them up in a safe place away from the bad laws that kept she and Josef captive.  She thought she would never know about having children now, she would have to wait and see if God would let her attend to baby angels in heaven.   Heaven was a wonderful place; she could see her sister, Anna Marie and her real father, and wait for her mother and Josef and Papa Maurice to follow. She discovered this heaven on the big ship during rolling storms that wouldn’t stop, and nights passing pirate ships on the horizon waiting to attack.
 Papa Maurice always out maneuvered the deadly pirates, and flew flags of all nations to disguise his ship from the enemies that waited to slit a little girl’s throat.  He knew each of the dangerous ships, and which would attack which flag.  He was not a Captain to take his cargo lightly, and was probably why he was sought by the wealthiest merchants to carry their goods.
She came out of her memories of Papa Maurice as she was leaning against Josef’s big shoulder.  She went back in her mind and remembered hearing the soft fluff…fluff…fluff  as the heavy, dusty, black hems of two nuns walked up to the cell door.  The guards said something to the two nuns and left them alone. One pulled a knife from her habit and slid it into the lock, and after a few twists and turns the big door came open and Celestine held her in her arms, putting a hidden habit from her skirts over her head and down around her slim body.  The Reverend Mother placed a wimple over her head and pinned it under her hair.  There was a strange veil  over her face, and she was being walked, calmly out of the jail and into the sun.  She was walked calmly up to the convent and around back. Celestine mounted her horse; reached down for Marguerite and helped her up onto the saddle in front of her. 
Celestine rode up rue du Quai                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               and traveled along the curving river until she got to River Road.  Marguerite didn’t even ask about leaving the Reverend Mother behind in the jail cell. They rode until Marguerite was feeling sick at her stomach from the fear of being in jail, and the strange escape; plus the rocking of the horse’s big muscles. It seemed like forever, and it was getting dark as she saw a drive up ahead.  There were horse’s hooves behind them and Celestine pushed her horse faster until they turned into the drive. Marguerite saw Josef climbing down from a big water tank, and running toward them.  She was handed down from the horse into Josef’s arms as Pierre rode up beside them. He rushed them into the house and up to the third floor and ran back down to Celestine.
The very same day she and Josef were shipped off to a place called Natchez.  It would be safe, but she had to act as Letty’s nurse, and Josef would work with the horses. She missed her mother and Papa Maurice, but was glad to be safe again… and she had Josef.
They would have to stay until it was safe.  Letty was just learning to walk and each day Marguerite took her along the levee, pointing to the different boats and what they were hauling, and how fast they could go.  Letty loved the big river, but was afraid of the water.  Marguerite was falling in love with Colette.  Colette taught her how to do her hair and make the curls that looked like God himself made them.  She sure as hell didn’t like being treated like a slave by Pierre’s parents, but she would rather this than the dank rat infested cell in New Orleans.
Colette was worried about Celestine and Pierre; she wanted to go home, but she had to wait for him to come to Natchez.  If that didn’t happen, Marguerite had asked Collette if she and Josef would actually become  slaves.  Colette did not know what would happen to them, they had already stayed longer than planned and she didn’t like the way M. and Mme. David expected things of Maurice’s children.  
Marguerite had to take care of Letty as well as do laundry and kitchen work.  She was sleeping on a cot in Letty’s room, up at dawn with the baby, and not in bed until late at night.  Still, it wasn’t jail, and there was no hangman’s noose waiting for her.  She sure wished there was a happy middle ground. In the beginning of the second week, Colette called from the front of the big house and ran down to the levee.  Pierre and Maurice stood like bastions of strength on the deck of the keelboat as it pulled into the pier on the big river and the men stepped onto the levee.
Marguerite screamed for Josef, and jumped up and down with Letty.  She hadn’t been this glad to see him since he rescued them in Port-au-Prince.  She knew he would come; she had wished on it, prayed on it and looked forward to it. 
Papa Maurice ran toward her with the biggest smile she had ever seen.  She and Letty ran up to him and he picked them both up and swung them around until Letty screamed with joy at seeing her Papa.  Josef ran from the stables calling his name.
“Papa Maurice, you’re here.”  He stood back looking contrite and a little ashamed.
“What’s wrong, son, what’ve you done?”  Maurice knew when Josef had been into mischief, he could never hide his shame.
“I forgot to give Madame your letter. I forgot you gave it to me. I almost got Marguerite hanged.”  He was about to tear up.
“Don’t blame yourself, son, I take the blame here.”  He reached over, grabbed him to his big chest and gave him a hug so strong Josef thought he was being burped.
Maurice’s strange little family was together and safe.  He could leave on the long voyage and only worry himself to death over the health of his wife, and thank God, not the imprisonment of his children.  He really should stop calling them children, they were grown… Josef was almost an adult and big as an ox. Marguerite was holding her papa around the waist and trying to walk at the same time, and he wouldn’t dislodge her for anything in the world. 
M. and Mme. David were giving him a strange, horrified look from the front gallery, but he could give a rat’s ass.  He loved being a papa.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Celestine, The House on rue du Maine" Chapters 11 & 12 (R rated)

Chapter Eleven
Celestine did not stop until she was riding into the long drive up the River Road.  Mother Superior sent Ste. Mary Clarisse to tell Pierre to go home right away, he was needed, and Ste. Mary Clarisse stayed and closed up the house on rue du Maine.  Pierre was only ten minutes behind Celestine, and wondered what the hell had transpired for him to go home so fast.  Was he going to have to hide Celestine also?  He saw her horse turning into his drive and Josef running to meet her.  She was not alone, but had a nun with her.  He caught up to them as she dismounted and reached up for Marguerite.  The young girl was crying as Josef grabbed his sister and crushed her to him.  Pierre marveled at this woman who had been his Captain’s shy, sweet wife only a few hours before. She was getting out of a nun’s habit and taking her horse around to the stables.  What the hell had turned the world around?  When had women started playing Robin Hood, and nuns wielded knives? Pierre caught up with her at the stables.
“Do I dare ask?”  He was looking for the horns that surely protruded from her soft curls.
“Easy as stealing eggs from a hen’s nest, rush in, grab Marguerite, and rush out. What?  Being a hero is fun, nez pa?  Men.”  She had begun to laugh, but stopped and fell into Pierre’s arms shaking all over, and let the tears release the fear she had been hiding.  She was holding on for dear life to this friend with the strong arms, and gentle nature.  Why couldn’t all men be like her Maurice and Pierre?
“You’re safe now, my darling.  Shhh.  You were very brave, and now you’re safe.  Pierre is never going to let you do that again.  Understand?  Do you understand, Celestine?” He was looking into her face with his stern eyes telling her how dangerous her mission was and how foolish she was to have done it alone.
“Do you have any idea what Maurice would do to me if anything happened to you?” She had to admit, she had not thought of that.
“I couldn’t help it, Pierre. I couldn’t take a chance on his going to jail or losing his little girl.”  She knew she would have to do it again if it kept her husband out of trouble. And she might if they could not safely hide Marguerite and Josef.
“Oh, Celestine, my darling, are you all right?”  It was Colette running into the stable and upsetting the horses. 
“Marguerite told me what you and Mother Superior did for her.”  She grabbed her friend from Pierre, and walked with her back to the house. 
Pierre watched the two women walk back to the house ignoring his very exsistance; he felt like a stud horse with no mare.  Women, love us up, take what we have to offer, then leave us out to pasture.
Celestine knew what she had to do.  She would dress and drive back into town as if nothing had taken place.  She had to make this right. With the whole Parish looking for them, they would surely be found.  The whole country was brilliant at catching runaway slaves, it had become an art form, and there were people who made their living doing it, charging large sums of money for the pleasure of the deed, and sadly, usually got the terrified people they sought.  She had no good place to hide these two.  This was one mistake Maurice was going to have to rectify before she took anymore of the blame.  Once more she forgot she had Pierre on her side. The same day, he sent his wife and child and two young “slaves”; gifts for his parents up the river to his parent’s home in Natchez on the Mississippi.  Letty was almost a year old and had not spent much time with her grandparents, and her visit would be a wonderful gift for Pierre’s parents.  Colette would be too worried about him and Celestine to do anything but sit on the long porch, and shred her expensive handkerchiefs.
Celestine went back to the city, opened the house and waited five days before going back to see M. Dubonnet.  The house had been searched twice, but of course, no one was found.  It was an ongoing investigation and as such M. Dubonnet almost fainted watching her glide into his office as if nothing had happened.
“What are you doing here, Mme. Dubois?”  He bent to whisper in her direction.
“I’m here to inform you of the death of two of my slaves.  They escaped and were found in the bayou down in Barataria.  I’ve had them buried down there and I’d like two death certificates drawn up if you wouldn’t mind, Monsieur.”
“This will never work, Madame.  There are too many people looking for them. They’ve been at the convent every day since the girl escaped.”
“Then they should’ve looked elsewhere, and found them before they drowned in the swamp like animals, Monsieur.” 
She was holding steady as only Celestine could and not about to change course.
“I don’t wish to charge anyone with their deaths. I’d like it to be quietly recorded in the court, and I wish to hear no more of it.  Once my husband returns he can go to the proper authorities.  This is a man’s business and I’m just an uneducated woman trying to do the right thing.”  She looked up at Dubonnet with cold steel blue eyes that threatened to cut his throat if her request was not granted.
“I’ll draw up the papers, Mme. Dubois.  I must warn you, there’ll be officers wanting to examine these graves.”  He looked to see a reaction but got only a lovely smile instead.
“Of course, M. Dubonnet.  I’ll be glad to escort them myself as I have a map where I was told their graves can be found.”
She left his office and walked back home.  What the hell would she do if asked to present graves and bodies?  She had not been home two hours when she heard the cries on the street that the young murdering slaves, had been found dead in the swamps of Barataria.  Another hour brought the constable to her gate.  He had an entourage and wanted to see for himself the graves and bodies.  Celestine went upstairs and dressed in her traveling clothes and met them back in the courtyard.  She was not a liar, and this her first big lie was so huge, she had said prayers, and rosaries, and then, given it over to God.  The children were in His hands at this point and should be safely in Natchez.  She had done all she knew how.  She knew the trip to the non-existent graves would take two days on a small boat, and she had to pack and pray.  She wondered if praying for a lie was a sin.
She was sitting in the front of the little boat using every brain cell she could muster to invent her next lie.  She was actually surprised they had believed her thus far.
Pierre was told of her excursion when he went to the house to check on her.  Neighbors on either side were anxious to tell him of the deaths, and her trip to show the men where to find the bones.
Oh, damn.  What have Colette and I done getting Maurice involved with this crazy woman?
He paid a visit to M. Dubonnet and found the gossip was true, and he should set off at once.  Pierre knew he could go faster than the boat full of men, if he hired a piroque and went alone, but they had a half day’s head start.
Celestine was becoming more worried by the hour.  What would they do to her?  Would she be jailed?  That would be a nice homecoming for her husband.  Would they hang her?  No, Pierre and M. Dubonnet would never let that happen. Would they?  Both men were exasperated over her mistake, and this latest lie would not make them happier.
They were in the morning of their second day when another boat approached from the south.  There were three men in the boat, two looking like the men she had grown to know and hate mounting her mama in the little crib back on the rue du Quai.  Maybe she had come full circle.  But, if they meant to do mischief, the men in her boat could do some damage also.

Chapter Twelve
Jean Laffite had been told about the little blonde haired woman, the wife of a Sea Captain who rescued a young slave from the gallows almost single handedly a week before.  He was new to this territory… were there more beautiful women like her, ready to cut a man’s throat for pleasure?  He looked in the boat coming down the Bayou and saw the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen.  She was an angel with a halo of blonde curls escaping her hood, with skin like warm milk to a Tomcat.  Surely this was not the very one who had ridden into town in men’s clothes and attacked the twenty jailors at the Cabildo?  What a treasure!  He was not usually envious of another man, but this was a woman he would love to know… without her husband.  What the hell is she doing on my bayou, and how can I keep her here?
The men pulled up alongside the boat holding Celestine.
Bonjour, Monsieur.” Lafitte said to the guards. “What brings you down my way?”  Celestine looked over at the dangerously handsome man dressed in black.  He was not at all like his men.  He was classically handsome, with a large black mustache, black curly hair and bright hazel eyes.  His broad shoulders and muscular legs had the stance of the open sea about him… this debonair man would be at home on a ship or in a fine drawing room and was definitely a man to be noticed.
“We’re looking for the graves of two young slaves.  Mme. Dubois says they are buried around here.  She says they were drowned and buried in these swamps, and she’s here to show us where.”
“No need, Monsieur.  I buried them myself, but alas, I’m sorry to say Mme. Dubois, the graves I chose were too shallow, and the gators ate both bodies.”  He looked at his men who both shook their heads sadly and removed their dirty hats to show faux respect of the dead.
“I asked you to be respectful and give them a decent burial, how could you let this happen, Monsieur... ?”  She realized too late, she did not know the handsome man’s name so she left it at that. She had heard of a pirate moving into the area, but had no idea this would be he.
“Monsieur  what, Mme. Dubois?”  It was the guard asking her the question, and looking intently to her waiting for an answer..
“Don’t be ridiculous, Jean Laffite and Captain Dubois go way back.  Don’t we, my pet?”  He was bowing and giving her a darkly handsome, and very sensual smile. She caught her breath at the beauty of his hazel eyes with the long black lashes.
“Of course... Jean.  I’m sorry I accused you.  You’re right, of course, I should’ve known, the swamp wasn’t suitable.”
She smiled at the man and relaxed into the smile he gave back, she was on a sinking swamp with this lie.  For a woman who never lied, it was coming quite naturally to her… and quite often.
“You must stay for the night, Madame. My men will take you back in the morning.  We have so much to talk about.  How is your dear husband?”
“He’s fine... Jean.  He’s in Haiti at present.”  Why had she not said he would be sailing into port any moment?  Now this pirate knew her husband was not going to be home anytime soon.  She was doing it again, speaking before thinking.
“Give me your hand, my pet; we don’t want the gators to see you as dinner.”  She had no choice, as he could give her over to her lie at any second if he so chose.  As she reached to take his hand, she felt to see if her knife was still hidden in the little sheath sewn to the bone in her corset under her arm.  It was snuggly safe and waiting.
“I’m taking your word for this, Laffite.  If you say the slaves are dead, then I believe you.  You have no reason to lie about this.”
“Of course not, Monsieur.  What do I care if the gators eat a couple of lost souls?”  He looked at Celestine’s eyes turning dark and angry.
“Sorry, my pet, just having a laugh with the officer.”
Pierre had seen the exchange from a distance and wondered what the hell had transpired.  He would catch up to them soon… he may not be able to save her, but he could die trying.  If he knew this waif, Celestine, she still had her knife, and the pirates had better beware for their own safety.
Maurice received Dubonnet’s packet and headed back to New Orleans the same day.  It was his fault, he knew his wife didn’t believe in keeping slaves, and without his introduction, what was she to think?  It had never crossed his mind she would try to free them before he returned. He had been headed back for five days and was making better time coming back than he expected.  Anna asked him to leave the day he arrived, no she commanded him; as she knew her children were in danger. If anything happened to the children he would never forgive himself for not telling Celestine to protect them.  He thought he had… had Josef not given her his letter?  Why had Pierre not stopped her? He had finally reached the mouth of the Mississippi, and stopped a fishing boat to inquire of news of New Orleans.  If the worst had happened he would be a sitting duck, sailing into the harbor to be arrested, and then he couldn’t help anyone.  The fishermen only knew that the two young slaves had been killed in the swamp, and eaten by the alligators.  Jean Laffite had buried them himself. 
There must be some horrible mistake, why would Josef and Marguerite be down this far in the first place. He could not let it rest.  He had to see for himself. He put Le Celestine at anchor and took the dingy into the bayous.  He knew there was a mistake, there had to be a mistake.  Anna would never forgive him, and he could not stand her losing another child; especially since it was his fault and his alone.  He didn’t want to think about losing them either.  They had been with him ten years, on sea voyages and land, and before that they were the only family he knew.  Marguerite was only a baby when her father died, and Josef was a toddler.  He taught them to read, write, do arithmetic, as much history as he knew himself, and the sailors taught them how to read the stars and use a sextant, and other instruments of the sea.  They worked as his ‘servants’ because they wanted to pull their weight, and there was no other reason for a white Sea Captain to travel with two young people of color around the Atlantic. They kept in touch with their mother and wrote to her daily. Whenever they reached a port, there would be packets of letters going to Anna, and was the only thing keeping her sane.  Maurice made it possible for her to spend time with them on the safety of his ship when they were in port. It had worked out as well as could be expected.  He left them in New Orleans this time so they could help Celestine, and she could watch out for them.  His stupidity may have caused their deaths, and he would not rest until he knew for sure.
Celestine was in… way over her head.  She may be a street rat, but she was in the company of a pirate for God’s sake; and not just any pirate, Pierre told her he was known as the Terror of the Gulf, and you do not get a nickname like that by being a friendly uncle… and she owed the dangerous man a huge favor.  He was smitten with her, and she could not help but to be flattered by it.  He was the perfect host to Pierre and herself, and kept them in his compound for two days.  Pierre was trying to stay brave, and she knew if push came to shove, he would die protecting her, and she sure didn’t want to leave Colette a widow to raise Letty alone.  Celestine looked over at Pierre’s bravery and thought he seemed more like a brave mouse in an owl’s nest than the seasoned sailor he was.  Whatever happened she would tell Colette of his bravery under pressure.  Celestine had gotten them both in this mess, and she needed to get them out.  The children would be safe until she could get back, and have their names officially changed, and new papers drawn up, but they would not be slave papers; they would be official adoption papers.
 Meanwhile, she needed this handsome pirate’s protection.  His dark good looks and beautiful eyes would turn her head if she were not so in love with her husband. This was a man to be reckoned with in any situation. Celestine was discovering that a dangerous man with beautiful eyes and gentle manners was a sweet challenge to a woman’s affections... and lust. Asking for protection for Marguerite and Josef until her husband came home would be another big favor, but she had no choice.
After dinner the men all disappeared except for Pierre and Jean.  Pierre would not leave her alone with this man; at least she hoped, but not for the reason Pierre suspected. She was on dangerous ground here with her newly awakened power over and appreciation of men, and was not as comfortable as she should be in this particular situation. She thought of playing the damsel in distress to the pirate, but he had regaled his men at dinner both nights with her exploits at saving the girl single handedly from the gallows.
“Come, my pet, walk with me in the moonlight.”  Your friend can watch from the gallery. He wouldn’t be much help if I intended you harm, nez  pa?”
“Don’t underestimate him, sir. He’s very brave, and owes my husband many favors.”  Surely that did not sound as simpleminded to him as it did to her.
“You’re the brave one, my pet.  Tell me, why’d you come into my world if you thought you’d be in danger? Does danger amuse you?”
“Of course, Capt. Laffite, why else would I be walking in the moonlight with such a handsome, dangerous man as yourself?”  Woe, I’m alluring now.  Yes sir; I’ll have him eating out of my hand in no time at all.
The big pirate turned to her, put an arm around her waist, and pulled her so close she could feel his response to her flirting. He kissed her deeply and found her tongue a willing partner before she could take a breath.
“Do not toy with me, Madame. I can be a generous lover or a very dangerous adversary… or, I can be your friend. Which would you prefer?” He released her and stood back. His look told her he was deadly serious.
I’m in such trouble here, oh damn; what have I done?  She turned to see if Pierre had seen the kiss, but he was looking at something coming up the bayou.
“Capt. Laffite?”  She had another idea.
“You were calling me Jean at dinner, why am I now Capt. Laffite?” He was enjoying this much more than she.
“Jean... I’m only a simple woman in a man’s world, and I need someone intelligent and powerful like yourself...” He was laughing before she could finish her sentence.
“Take the knife out of that… oh, so beautiful bosom, and we can discuss your frailty, my pet.” He whispered a bit too closely to her face.  His desire was growing and making her nervous as hell.  She was realizing too late she was just a few sweet words away from being seduced…  by a master of the art.  She had no idea he could see the knife, obviously he had been looking closer than she cared. Oh my God, he felt it when he kissed me.
He ran his hand over her breast and felt the silky soft skin, and felt her shudder as he reached into her dress around the short stays and pulled out the knife. His eyes were still laughing at her when they both heard the dark voice coming from the Bayou.
“Is there something in my wife’s dress that interests you, Captain Laffite?”  Maurice was standing; hand on sword waiting to draw, his blue eyes dark with anger.  The two men on either side of him were prepared to die defending their Captain and his wife.
Pierre came down from the gallery.
“Hold back, Maurice, Laffite is displaying bad manners, not a threat.  He’s the hero here. He helped us lie to the authorities and rescue Marguerite and Josef from certain death.”
“Are they safe?”
“Yes, they’re safe at my place in Natchez.” Putting your hand down a woman’s bosom in front of her husband was far more than bad manners, but Pierre knew how many men were in, and around, these palmettos waiting to spring at Laffite’s command.
Maurice read Pierre’s intentions and stepped back.
“Pierre get my wife’s cloak, we’re leaving.”  Pierre ran back to the gallery to get the cloak and satchel she left on the gallery.
Maurice walked over, picked up his wife and put her over his shoulder. Riding on his shoulder, she put out her hand, frowned, snapped her fingers twice, and Laffite threw her knife which she caught in mid-air.
It was amazing how brave she could be on top of her husband’s big shoulder.  She gave Laffite her best smiling ‘thank you’.  She would not forget the part about ‘dangerous adversary’, and she did not know if she would need his kindness again.  They could hear his laughter all the way back to the dingy. Maurice got to the dingy, sat her down and gave the order to go back to the ship.
“Maurice, I...”
“Don’t speak, wife.”  He was murderously angry, and the pirate’s laugh bellowing from the swamp made him want to kill.
“Maurice, may I just say...” Maurice turned to Pierre and the young man had not seen his Captain this angry since he had the man flogged for raping Pierre years ago.
“But, husband...”  Pierre was desperately motioning for Celestine to be quiet.
“One more word, wife and I’ll throw you overboard, and the alligators may have their way with you.”  That was rude.  She would not tolerate rudeness.
“How dare you, sir?”  She had enough. She stood up…
With one flick of his big hand and arm he tilted the dingy fast and hard and she flew over the side of the boat into the bayou.  Pierre went in after her.
“Maurice, help me! Get me out of here.”  She was holding on to Pierre and trying to reach the boat before an alligator could come and get her.
“Keep talking wife; it’s a long swim to New Orleans, but you already know that, don’t you?  You’ve recently made the trip before.”  He turned back to the bow, and kept his eyes straight ahead.
Pierre and the men fished her out of the water and covered her with her cloak.  She was not even going to say ‘thank you’ to the men.  She had her swamp bath for the evening. She saw the masts of the Le Celestine and knew he would be wishing he could change the name now, for sure.  They came along side and Maurice went to the back of the dingy, put her over his shoulder again, and climbed the ladder back onto the deck of the great ship.
Celestine could not stop her tears; she hated being treated like a bad child.  She did not like her handsome husband mad at her, and she certainly did not like being humiliated in front of the whole crew.
“Robert, prepare my wife a cool bath, please.” He took her into his cabin and dropped her on the rug.
“Don’t move. I don’t want my cabin smelling like the swamp. It’s bad enough that I have swamp on my clean coat.”
He poured himself a brandy and sat down in his big chair behind his desk.
“It’s not my fault. I didn’t know about the children and you should’ve told me.”
“You think that’s why I’m so angry?” His eyes were dangerous but finding dark humor in what she was saying. She was becoming frightened, again.  She felt for her knife.
“Isn’t it?”
“You allowed that man to put his hand down your dress.”
“I couldn’t stop him.  What was I to do, fight him off in the middle of a swamp, and have his men kill me and Pierre both? If that’s why you’re angry, then you’d better direct the anger toward him and not me.”
Maurice looked over at her and was deadly quiet for a moment.
“I saw your eyes, Celestine.”
He surprised himself at his anger and the depth of his fear. He had not felt such fear since his days with Anna when he was young and stupid with hate.
“You enjoyed it. You enjoyed the man’s hand on your breast.” His voice cracked just enough to make him want to leave the cabin. He finished his brandy, threw the glass against the wall, and walked out onto the deck.
She wanted to scream obscenities at him, scratch his face, and cut him with her knife, but she could not.  She had indeed enjoyed it, and to her unbearable sorrow; her husband, the love of her life, the reason for her happiness was witness to it, and was hurt by it. Thank God he hadn’t seen the kiss.
Her bath was set up in the cabin and she went into it sore from being pulled from the swamp; stinking like the swamp, and wondering what the hell happened to her in the swamp.  She let the clove soap melt her tension and ease her sore muscles.  She dried herself, put on one of her husband’s nightshirts and got into bed.  She rolled over and sobbed herself to sleep.
Maurice found Pierre and sat down with him.  He wanted to know what happened with the children and legally where they stood.  Pierre told him everything. He told how Celestine was angry about finding he owned ‘slaves’ and how she had come to him for advice, but only after she had mistakenly gone to Dubonnet.  Then he told of her getting Marguerite out of jail and riding with her all the way up river.  He told of her calmly going back to New Orleans, and waiting a decent time, before notifying Dubonnet of the ‘death’ of both ‘slaves’.  Finally, he told of her going alone into the bayous with the authorities, and how Jean Laffite lied to save her and the children.  He also told him about the rat and how dangerous his wife could be with a knife.  Finally that cut through to Maurice and he laughed in spite of his anger.
“My little wife scare you, did she?”  The look on Pierre’s face said it all.  Maurice could believe his little wife in men’s clothing wielding a knife dangerously. He still had the scar from the knife under his chin.  His desire for her was growing in spite of the fear of what he had just seen on the bayou.
“Tell me honestly, Maurice.  If a beautiful woman, not your wife, put her hand down your breeches, would you not enjoy the moment?  Honestly, mon ami. Would it make you think less of your wife or desire her less?”
Maurice stood smoking his cigar by the railing looking out at the river.  Pierre hit a nerve with his friend, after all had he not just been with his mistress in Port-au-Prince?  Maurice remembered his thoughts of Anna, and how his love for her could never compare with what he felt for his wife.  He could even make love to Anna, and still desire and think of Celestine during the act.
“Yes, I’d enjoy it and no, I’d not desire Celestine any less.”
Maurice walked over and clapped a hand on Pierre’s shoulder.
“Thanks, my friend.  I owe you for protecting my wife and family. I’ll do my best to keep her from getting you killed in the future.”  Both men laughed at how true the statement could be.
He walked back in to his cabin.  His wife was asleep with red eyelids and puffy cheeks from crying;  gently hiccoughing in her sleep. Could a man love a woman anymore?  She looks so tiny in that big nightshirt cuddled into the pillows. God, I’ll give up Anna, just don’t make me have to compete with that bloody pirate.
He got undressed and got in bed.  He put his arm under her neck and she snuggled close to him and buried her face in his chest.  She woke and looked at his face, gently hiccoughing still.
“Don’t let it happen again, wife, and certainly not with that damned pirate.”  He took her in his arms and kissed her.  She opened her mouth and hiccoughed into his kiss.
“I love you, husband.  Let me pleasure you.”
“Will it get Laffite out of your head?”
“Who?”  She pulled him down and took his mouth in hers. 
“Pleasure me, wife.”  He lay back and thanked God for this woman, once again.  She sat up, got on top of him and opened her legs.  She let him in slowly until she could feel him touch her core.  She cinched him in and nestled herself around him and remembered how much she liked having sex with this man.  He tried not to spend too soon, but she felt so wonderful, and the idea that she preferred him over the handsome pirate, made him crazy with lust and desire, and he couldn’t hold it any longer. They slept for what seemed like days.
They sailed into New Orleans and he went to the house to get her some clothes to wear.  They walked together along the market, and bought food to have in the kitchen and she bought some peaches.  They picked the best shrimp and oysters, fresh onions, garlic, peppers, and sausage to make a wonderful gumbo.  He picked his favorite hot breads and she picked her favorite sweet cakes and they went back to the house.  The two of them made a feast fit for lovers and talked half the night.  He told her about the children and how he had been the only father they had ever known.  He finally told her about his past and saving his friends, Andy and John from the prison ship.  Then he told how Anna saved his life and his sanity and he finally told her about his life in the little house in Port-au-Prince.  This gave her the courage to open up and tell him about her life with her mama, and about the awful guilt she carried for not going to her as she was dying, asking for her.  She told her new husband it had haunted her for the last four years, and she could think of no way to ease her guilt. They held each other and felt the bond only a husband and wife can feel once they’ve cleared the air of old secrets.  They slept until the sun came in through the big French doors. Maurice wakened first and whispered in her ear.
“Open to me, wife and let me pleasure you.”  A morning request that Celestine wanted to hear for the rest of her days. She rolled onto her back and welcomed him between her legs thanking God the memory of her past life was dead.  He was her husband and would be welcomed in her center forever.  Suddenly, she pushed him off, jumped out of bed and went behind the screen. 
“Ah, morning calls.”  He said to the air.
Maurice must make decisions before going back out to sea.  He could not leave her and the children after what they had just been through.  He made the decision to take them with him on the long voyage. He would not tell her yet, but he would talk her into it.  If not, he would have to kidnap her, like the sailor he was; sling her over his shoulder; up the gangplank; hoist the sails and down the river to see the world… kidnapping.  It would be fun. He was smiling to himself picturing the whole event as he heard her retching behind the screen.  His little dove was sick.  If she had contacted something from the swamp he would never forgive himself. There were fevers and illness in the brackish water and he had thrown her in himself.  He heard her washing her mouth in the bowl and waited to see how she looked when she came back around.
“I’m hungry.  Husband, please bring me some of that cake from last night?  Please dear, I’m hungry and I think this baby might have a sweet tooth.”
He sat up in bed and sighed.  Well, his prayer was answered; he wanted her to be with child, but not so soon.  He could not take a pregnant wife on such a long voyage, especially a first time pregnancy; and he could not take the children, they would have to stay and help her. He got up and took her in his arms and looked down into her eyes.
“You knew I wanted you on this trip didn’t you?”
“Yes,”   She would not show him her disappointment.  She planned to ask him to take her and Marguerite and Josef, as she could not bear his being gone so long.
“I’m still hungry… and I didn’t plant this seed by myself, husband.  I believe it was your first entry into a little virgin, on a beautiful ship with a gorgeous name.”  He laughed as he walked out of the bedroom and down the stairs to the kitchen.  She felt her stomach to see if there was a mound, but she was flat as ever.
He finished in the kitchen and started back up the stairs.
“You won’t be able to walk around the house naked once the baby is here and the children are back.  You know that, right, husband?”
“Yes, wife, I know that.”  He got into bed and held the cake for her to come and take it from him.
“Why are you holding my cake over your head?”
“If you want it, come and get it.”  He put the plate on his stomach and gave her his best lecherous smile.  She reached over for one of the peaches, picked up her knife and peeled it; cut it in half and took out the pit. She shaved the rough edges around the nest where the pit lived until it was smooth and wet. She was remembering what Pierre told Collette.  The head of the cock is like a strangely shaped little fat heart.  Caress under the little indention in the heart with the tip of your tongue, and then take the head in your mouth and go from there.  She got into bed next to him and held it for him to take a small bite; then cupped it around his big erection until it was covered in the sweet juices and bits of fruit.  She moved the cake to the side table and went down to suck and lick the peach juice and bits off him.  She started with the tip of the heart, and slowly took the head in her mouth to lick the juice.  She then allowed the flavor to fill her mouth with saliva and she went all the way down until the spongy velvet head was touching the back of her throat and farther down.  She gently sucked the sweet juice coming back up and circled the head again and went back down for more juice that collected in the hair around his seed.  She could do this all day.  He smelled of fresh cloves and peaches and the scent was filling the room and making her dizzy. 
Maurice had women gift him this pleasure in his life, but this was different, he never felt anything like this, but he was worried where she learned it.  She kept going for what seemed like forever; the stickiness of the juice and the warmth of her mouth were driving him toward an explosive release.  He could not move or think, and he wanted her to do this forever, but he knew he couldn’t wait much longer.  He moved her head but she had gotten the peach again and started all over.   He tried to move her head away again and she only continued her mission.  He spent and went farther down her throat than he thought humanly possible, and she continued until he pulled her up to his kiss.  Her mouth tasted of seawater and peaches and he was dying with love for her. 
 Reality set in, and there were questions that had to be answered by this woman carrying his child. Where could she possibly have learned this?  She had been a virgin, he was there, he knew; he experienced it first hand, but a woman could be a virgin and still have done this before. The thought of his wife’s mouth going down on another man’s cock was raging inside of his head, and bringing up anger he no longer thought he harbored.  Lying next to him, she stretched and looked over to see his eyes changing with his mood.
“I knew it, damn it, I knew it.  I told Colette this would happen.  Don’t look at me like that, husband.”   She should have told him first, but she wanted it to be a surprise. She turned away from him.  She did not want him to see her cry again.
“Turn to me, wife.”  She turned back to him. Usually she loved it when he gave this little order, but at the moment, she loved nothing about him.
“Just tell me what it is you knew, wife?”  He was waiting for an answer.  He wanted to kiss her again, and use the peach on her, but he had to know. She stared defiantly at him and aimed to wound.
“My friend, oh what was his name, something to do with ‘feet’. Remember him, the nice man from the bayou?” There, take that, my ass of a husband.
He was out of the bed, pacing and running his hand through his hair, and not getting the joke, until he looked back and saw her smirking at his jealousy.
“Why would you do that to me, Madame, why?  Are you out of your mind?”
“It amuses me.”  She knew it was a terrible thing to do, but if he was jealous of a lover or lovers who didn’t exist, then he deserved it.  What he saw in the swamp was hurtful, but had the last two days of making love not convinced him of her desire for him and only him? He grabbed his dressing gown, and walked angrily out of the room and onto the gallery.
“If you’re going to the kitchen, bring me another peach.”  She got up grabbed her wrapper and ran down after him. 
He was in the kitchen stirring the ashes in the big fire place to get coals to make coffee.  She could see he had never been teased this much and he was trying to be patient, but was more angry and confused, than amused. She went up behind him and put her arms around his waist.  She spoke as lovingly and softly as she felt at the moment.
“You cannot possibly believe that man does anything for me, husband. Not when I have you.  Don’t you know the power you have over me?  Is that it? You don’t know how much I desire you?  When you’re not here I have to keep from touching myself thinking of you.”
He didn’t answer her.  He was taking in everything she said and wanting to believe it so desperately.  Anna never joked like this, and his long relationship with her was the only thing he had to compare to his relationship with Celestine.  His women in the other ports would not dare try to make him jealous. He did not know how to handle it. 
“And, while we’re talking, do you want this baby or not?  You haven’t even said you’re glad?”
“Oh, wife, of course I want this baby.” He turned and took her in his arms. “I just didn’t think it’d be this soon. I wanted you to go with me and now you can’t. I have to leave you here in your confinement, and worry about you every damned day.”
“Why can’t I go? You know how to midwife and the sea air would be good for me.  We need to get Marguerite and Josef out of here until things calm down.”
“I only know how to midwife in emergencies, Celestine.  You need to be under the care of Dr. Pabon and the good sisters.  You need to eat right and not live in the stale cabin during bad storms.  It’s out of the question, so just keep still.” She took the cup of coffee he handed her.
“Keep still, wife.”  She knew that tone well enough.  She loved when he called her wife, but when he said it in the mood he was in, it reminded her of stinky swamp water and rotting vegetation, and was a loud reminder oh her pledge to ‘obey’ in her wedding vows.
“I’m sorry, my love, I’ll do as you say.  Maurice, you have to know, I’ll always do as you ask, my love.”
“Then answer the first question you didn’t let me ask in the bedroom?”
She looked up at him, and decided she had better tell him the truth. She sat down at the table, defeated; her one try at mature romance and mystique squelched by her husband’s petty jealousy.
“Pierre taught Colette and she showed me on a banana.”  I hate telling my secrets, why couldn’t he just find me mysterious?
He stopped to let this sink in. He started laughing.  He picked up a banana off the table and handed it to her.
“Wife?  Each time you see this, please think of me while I’m gone.”  He was laughing so hard now he started coughing.
“Or do you need a bigger banana?”  He was still laughing.
“No, that one will do just fine… once I bite it in half.”  She turned and stomped back upstairs.  Why did men make nice things women did for them so hard to appreciate?  She turned and headed back downstairs, and walked into the kitchen.
“The next time Colette teaches me something, I may seek out a pirate and try it on him?”  He walked slowly over and took her in his arms again.
“You think he’ll want you now, fat and round with my seed growing in your belly?”  He was laughing at her again.
“Ooh, Husband.”  She pulled away and marched back upstairs.
Maurice picked up a peach and walked back to the bedroom.  He liked to eat a peach now and again himself.  The smell of peaches wafted through the bedroom for more than a day.  She had been stuffed with fruit, and cleaned out like a peach tart until her legs stuck together.  He had been licked and sucked and left limp and sticky with fruit juices. They were happy and the only thing they had to fear… fruit flies and hungry ants.

Chapter Thirteen
Sitting in a dark corner of the barn at the David’s plantation, Marguerite held on to her big brother and would not let go.  She understood they had to act as slaves in Natchez until Papa Maurice came for them, but she never wanted to be parted from Josef again.  Who was this little lady who caused her to be jailed and then saved her so heroically and why had Papa Maurice married her?   Marguerite had known gut-wrenching fear years ago in Port-au-Prince while she and Josef watched as the little gallows was being built outside their cell.  At the time, she was very young and wanted her mother, but Josef assured her God was not going to let them die.  Josef had powers like her mother that Marguerite counted on to save them, but watching the weapon of your death being built by big men and their hate, made her doubt her brother’s promises and bravery.  She wanted her mother, but they did not know if she was alive or dead in the little hospital where she was taken after the man stabbed her.  She could still see and smell the blood and didn’t know a human body held that much.  Some of it had to be from the young English Captain but the rest was from her mother.   The man had taken her mother’s knife and turned it back on her over and over again. 
Josef acted first and hit the man with his mother’s big black skillet, but Marguerite grabbed the knife, slippery with blood and stabbed the man in the leg.  She did not know if she killed him or not, but she wanted to.  Josef took the knife from her and plunged it into the man’s heart as he was grabbing for Marguerite’s throat.  When the man’s friends came to take him back to his ship, they yelled bloody murder and called down the street for help.  Now she and her brother were in this stinking cell covered in their mother’s dried blood and swallowing their own nauseating fear.
Marguerite’s mother brought angry men home to ‘heal’ them. This was part of Marguerite’s life.  The only life she knew and it wasn’t strange to her, just different from what other mothers did.  Her friends on the street tried