dress, painted to look like her own. The figurehead was headed into the unknown, brave, stoic and very beautiful.
She could not hide her tears from Pierre. It was the dearest thing anyone had ever done for her. A gift so fine, she didn’t know what to think, or how to repay her future husband. If her mama could put up with a stranger’s grunt, then maybe she could put up with Capt. Dubois’ love making no matter how terrible. Celestine stood on the levee until the ship turned and sailed past the crescent, and out of sight down the river. She ran back to the convent and prayed for his safety, the first of many lonesome, worried hours praying for her man’s safe return from the sea; mixed with the fear of his safe return and what that would mean to her future.
Pierre and Colette were spending more and more time at the new house with the baby. Colette was collecting ideas for decorating and had made a huge list for Maurice to bring back from his next long trip abroad. Celestine wondered when that would be, as he had not returned from Cuba and the West Indies. She finished the gift she made him a month before, and now she was lonesome without her friends and little Letty. It had been three months since she had heard anything from or about Capt. Dubois and Pierre said the trip would take less than two. Maybe he had changed his mind. Maybe there was a beautiful senorita in Cuba who captured his heart. After all, he was not the marrying kind or so Pierre told Colette in the beginning. Maybe he had a fling with the idea of Celestine, and then run away in the light of day to the open Gulf. She would give him his shirt anyway whenever he returned. It would be her thank you for the peaches and his helping Colette bring little Letty into the world. She was trying her best to give him up, and think about a life on her own. But in trying to give him up, she realized she liked him very much, and it hurt to think that he didn’t care for her anymore. Thoughts of him were always in her head, more than she wanted, and she had to keep very busy or they would rob her day, and interfere with her work. His image came to her in dreams, and woke her from sleep with a desire for his gentle mouth on hers. This last was something so foreign, she prayed for hours to get it out of her mind. She did not like thinking of that smile charming another woman though, it produced an unfamiliar anger. She even had moments thinking of the bedroom act and wondering what it would be like with this gentle man. He had, after all, aroused feelings she never knew she would have in this lifetime.
Celestine was shelling peas in the big convent kitchen and came out of her daydreaming long enough to remember she needed to go to Colette’s to feed the cat. There were no servants in the old house as the only two they kept were with them in the country. Pierre thought the cat would eat mice and get by, but Celestine and Colette both knew the cat loved milk and left-over bits of fish from the market. The poor little creature never left their courtyard, so Celestine went every other day and left nice treats for the dear little thing.
This particular day, she wrapped Capt. Dubois’ new shirt in brown paper and went to Colette’s. She intended to leave it on the main table in the music room. She would leave it, and when and if, he ever came back; Colette could give it to him. Once she got to the house, she changed her mind, maybe she would not give it to him at all. It was Celestine’s finest needlework and when she first began, she was anxious to see how handsome he would be wearing it. It was of the finest linen; so light you could see through it for those hot summer days in the tropical city and the full sleeves caught the slightest breeze. There was a delicate linen neckcloth with his initials, (MDE) embroidered in gold thread. It pleased Pierre that she had gone to so much trouble to make the shirt for his friend. Celestine hoped Pierre would not be too disappointed in Maurice for changing his mind about her. She wrote a note with the package:
For kindnesses rendered.
I meant to give this to you before you left, but alas,
I hadn’t thought to create it.’
Sincerely, Celestine Haussey
He didn’t deserve the beautiful shirt. She picked up the package and the note and went down to rue de Quai. She loved walking along the levee watching the big sailing ships load and unload, the tall masts going and coming on the big river to the open Gulf with their goods. There was always energy with people laughing and talking on their journeys to somewhere exciting. She didn’t want to go back to the convent and answer questions about her oncoming tears. The sun was going down and the smells of the food in the market were making her hungry. As she turned to go home, she saw a ship leaving and she stopped to enjoy the sails being hoisted and readied for the trip down the river, but just then, another ship shifted, and she saw, Le Celestine. The gangplank was lowered. How long had it been in port? She couldn’t move. She would just watch for a few minutes to see if maybe, maybe... this was silliness; she had to let him go. She saw her handsome Captain at the bow. The wind was in his hair and her heart was in her throat. She wondered if he was sorry he named his ship after her. She should leave; he would think her forward to be standing waiting for his ship. What if he saw her but ignored her? What if he felt uncomfortable and stayed on the ship? She turned to walk away; she did not want him to think she was a silly girl, waiting for his ship… and him. She was half way down the levee when she heard him call. He was walking fast toward her, closer than she expected and suddenly he had her in his arms. She raised her face to his and he kissed her. He took off her bonnet and the curly blonde hair blew around her face, tickling her skin and getting caught in her tears. She felt strange things awakening that she never knew existed. The pit of her stomach was on fire, and fear mixed with desire was about to strangle her.
“Oh, my little dove, you’re here to meet me. Oh God, Celestine I’ve dreamed of this.” He kissed her again, sweetly, with his big strong arms holding her close… but there it was, hard in his breeches and she could feel it through the silks of her dress. She tried to back away, but he held her close and kissed her again. Within one kiss, one moment being held in his big arms, she gave in… gave up… and melted into him and wanted to feel it again, his manhood. It was his desire, his love for her and she thought she had lost it. He picked her up in his arms and walked back to the ship and across the deck into his cabin and locked the door. He laid her on the bed and stood back to look at her.
“Will you marry me, Celestine?”
She looked up at him through half closed eyes and said; “Yes, I’ll marry you. I…I missed you.”
“Oh, my little dove, I love you. I’ve missed you so much, this is the way it should be, the two of us in this cabin.” He fell onto one knee and took her hands. “We could sail around the world if you like, or you can stay here and I’ll buy you a house and come to you from the sea.” He was totally crazed at this moment. He had imagined having to coax her out of the convent or renew his courtship, but she was on the levee waiting for him, as he had seen so many women, waiting in so many ports for their men to come home. He could die a happy man, but not before he had married this wonderful creature.
“I thought you weren’t coming back to me, and I became frightened and thought… I’d lost you.” She was looking at him with big sad eyes reproaching him for something he had not done. He had to get that look out of her eyes, it was breaking his heart.
“Why would you ever think that, my dove? Is that why you were walking away? Please, don’t ever think that again, Celestine. I promise I’ll always come back to you.” He took her face in his hands and whispered into his kiss. “Celestine, I’ll always come back to you.”
She received him and responded to his kiss as he began to remove her dress and unlace the few strings on the short stays that covered her breast. Before he knew it his hand was on her breast feeling the silky skin and the nipple and he stopped.
“Oh my God, Celestine, I’m so sorry. I can’t believe this, I’m a cad.” He was trying to pull her stays back together and get the strings laced again. He was beside himself with worry for what he had almost done to this delicate creature who needed time and patience.
From the moment he kissed her on the levee she knew what she had known as intimacy was disgusting men rutting with a whore. His kiss, what she felt, and what Colette told her, over and over again was true. It could be sensual and loving. Her body filled with longing and desire for this man and just that quickly, just that easily, her years of fear and disgust evaporated, became history, dead energy and she knew she would give herself to this man. She pulled his face down to hers, kissed him and let him run his tongue inside her mouth and whispered.
“I love you, Maurice. I know you’d never hurt me. I want you to make love to me. I’m not afraid anymore.” She kissed him again and got up. She stood in front of him; took off her dress, petticoats, and corset and walked in her chemise back to the bed. She picked up the package and gave it to him.
Maurice was dumb struck. Where had she come from? Who was she? This was not the girl he was warned about. Had she taken another man while he was gone? Had she taken a lover? His head was spinning with questions. Celestine looked at his face and in his eyes. There was confusion and anger all boiling around in those great blue eyes.
“What... what...um, what about your past and... your fears...? Was that a lie, Celestine?”
She stood shocked and confused. Why did she have to explain? Why was he angry?
“No, but when you kissed me, I wanted more.” She didn’t know how to tell him how she felt. She didn’t know why, or what she had done, but he was angry with her. Oh, so that’s it? I knew it was too good to be true, next will come the back of his hand against my face. What could I have been thinking?
“You’re just like all the rest, judge, blame, yell, grunt… hit.” She was yelling, crying and trying to talk. I’ll tell him what I think of his sorry ass before I leave and he can go back to his whores, and women who have no love for themselves, and don’t care if a man uses them to release his jizzem and his anger.
“Nothing has changed in my world, but this time, I felt it, not my mama. You’ve never had anything bad happen to you so you don’t understand what it’s like when something shifts and changes… and all of a sudden the fear’s gone… and desire is… strong… pulling you into a place you never knew. You just don’t understand. Now I’ve made a fool of myself. I’m standing in your room with my chemise on, with my clothes at my feet and I could die of hatred for you. You’ll not grunt over me you oaf, but you can be proud of yourself, you managed to make me want you before you struck…you snake… and that will never happen again.” She was sobbing and grabbing for her clothes. She would die from humiliation and hate before she could get off this ship.
“Yes… you’re very wrong, my dove.” He could not believe how stupid he had just been.
“What?” Yes to what, what was he saying yes to? She managed to get her petticoat on and was stepping in to her dress. She would have to hold her corset under her dress so no one could see it.
He walked over and took her in his arms, and she fought until he whispered close to her ear. “Yes, I do know what it’s like to have bad things happen to you. I do know. I’m so sorry. I’m clumsy and as frightened as you.” He laughed a little nervous laugh. “Don’t hate me, my little dove.” He kissed her and fell into her love and wrapped them both in his love and his strength. He held her until she was calmed.
“Celestine, I love you. I want to marry you. Let me make love to you.”
He felt her relax into his body and hoped she would trust him. He gently took off her dress, removed her petticoat, and sat her on his lap in his reading chair. She was still crying but holding on to his arms, she wanted so badly for him to be telling her the truth. Her heart told her to stay. He held her to his heart and hated himself for being so damned clumsy. She put her arms around his neck, and kissed his cheek.
I’m a big stud man of the world, for God’s sake; a big ladies man, and I’ve bumbled the most important moment of my life, with the love of my life. He knew exactly how she felt a moment ago. He felt the same thing with Anna in Haiti years earlier and Anna had made no accusations and asked no questions.
“Tell me you’re sure you want to do this, Celestine. Tell me you’re not afraid. Tell me to wait until we’re married and I’ll wait. I love you.” He was trying desperately to regain his footing and start again.
She had to think. She was confused, but he said he loved her; maybe she had been wrong… again. She wanted to stay in his arms and let him make everything bad go away. His safe arms were the first she had ever felt, and the most familiar things she had ever known.
“If we wait until our wedding night, I may change my mind. I invent dragons while waiting, as I did with your return. If this is as pleasant as Colette says, I’ll marry you. If it’s what I fear, I may not. But, if I wait, I’ll surely be too afraid to marry you.” She didn’t know where this bravery was coming from, maybe from his strong arms, but it was the truth. She reached her face up to his and opened her lips for his kiss.
Maurice had never had such pressure on his love making or ability to perform. It was his fault for misjudging her desire earlier. No, damn it, he knew in his heart she was to be his. He met her mouth and pulled her close to him. If she was ever to relax and make love to a man, it was now. She was right, if she waited, it would get worse, just as it had for him with Anna.
He could do this… he could love her as gently as the great lover he was known to be. He sat her on the chair and began to undress himself, slowly keeping his eyes on hers and thinking gentle thoughts. He kept his eyes free of lust and filled them with the love he felt for her at this very moment. Once he had taken off his shirt, he heard her gasp and he knelt down to reassure her she was still safe. Maurice had no idea that once Celestine makes up her mind, she doesn’t waiver, but steadies her course as she did walking in to the Ursulines Convent years ago. Seeing him without his shirt sent strange shivers from her groin up to her breast and into her head. He was beautiful. There was no hint of the horrible flabby dirty men she had seen with her mama. His chest was a wash board of muscles and brown chest hair making a beautiful design around his nipples and down into his breeches. She was taking shallow breaths, staring at his manhood under his breeches. Her lips were open and wanting. He began to unbutton himself and slowly let his pants down to show her the full him. There was a jagged scar on his side, and she wondered if it was from a pirate’s sword. She wanted to see more. She wanted to feel him. He smelled like the sea and fresh rope, and her head was getting dizzy from her own lust awakening in her. Celestine sat in the chair watching him, and fighting the last bit of fear in hopes he would not see it, and stop his advances. She didn’t want to be treated like the little virginal victim. She wanted him to take her as his love, as Colette said her Pierre had done. She wanted Maurice to do the same. He sat her on his naked lap and kissed her breasts, amazed at the silk of her skin. The little pink rosebud of a nipple was velvet and warm in his mouth, and caused her breathing to deepen. The little moans came from deep in her throat and made him crazy with desire. He opened her legs and felt gently for the blockage he hoped was there. She could not stop her hands going through his hair and holding his head to her breast. He felt for the little center that brought such pleasure to a woman when it was massaged, and began to give her pleasure.
Fearing his erection may hurt her; he would wait until she was in her ecstasy before he entered her. He kept the steady rhythm with his massage, listening to her moans getting deeper and closer together until he heard her catch her breath and hold it. She opened her mouth to scream and he covered it gently with a big hand. He felt every muscle in her body tense and stiffen and he knew she was about to release. He lifted his knee and put one strong arm under her to move her center over his erection and as she began to shudder and clutch his head to her heart, he sat her down hard on his member and felt the resistance give with a little ‘pop’. She began to move herself in her release, up and down his erection. He was delighted and surprised that she could fit him inside of her and sheathe him in her warm, wet center. He shifted so she could adjust herself to him and he pulled her hips up and down to her own rhythm until he could stand it no more. He spent his seed into his love… three months at sea desiring her and three months in port before that. She was still riding him to give him pleasure. He was enjoying a woman down into his soul for the first time in his life. He doubted if she could spend again as it was her first time, and he did not want to disappoint her by making her sore.
He let his erection dissipate and pull itself out of her. He looked into her face. She began covering his face with kisses, taking his mouth in hers again and breathing calmer, settling herself into his chest. Within seconds he heard her breathing turn to sleep and tears were filling his eyes. He would never let her leave his arms.
When Celestine woke, Maurice was asleep and she was sitting on his naked lap. She wondered how long they had been asleep, and if she had dreamed the wonderful afternoon, or was it real? She gently moved his arm from around her waist and started to get up, but it came back down strong and immovable, and held her in place.
“You’ll never get away from me that easily, my dove. Where do you think you’re going, my pretty wench?” He was kissing her neck, and she could feel his manhood waking up against her bottom.
He began kissing her breast again and she felt herself awakening, again feeling the now familiar rush of erotic juices flowing in her center. She was coming alive from her groin up into her stomach and chest. Her womanhood felt tender and a little sore, but she was willing to overlook that to feel the pleasure she felt a while ago. He picked her up and walked with her to the big bed. The moon was shining through the open porthole and the velvet air of the tropical evening reminded them they had slept for some time.
She wondered if Ste. Mary Clarisse was worried about her and would she cover for her until she could get home? Celestine looked over at the chair and saw blood on the cushion.
“Maurice, there’s blood on the chair. Should there be? Am I all right?” She never dreamed she would ask a man such an incredibly personal question as this, but it felt right to ask, it felt normal to ask this man who was to be her husband. He gathered her to him.
“Shh, it’s natural, my little dove. That was your old life leaving and your new one beginning. You’re a woman now, my dove and you’ve given me your gift. You’ll release when I enter you in the future, my love, until then, you’ll spend from other means. You are magnificent, my lady love.” Maurice decided not to make love to her again. She would be sore and he had no intentions of hurting her. It had worried him to press so hard in taking her the first time, she hadn’t felt pain, he made sure of that, only the joy of her release and a bit of pressure. But he was not going to chance it too soon, he had almost bungled the whole afternoon with his paranoia, now, he wanted her to leave wanting more. Besides, if he kept her here longer, he would want to spend the night with her and never let her leave his arms and that would never do. Maurice got up and went behind the screen and found a dressing gown.
“I’ll go on deck, my dove while you dress yourself. You’ll find the washing bowl behind the screen.” He kissed her more passionately than he intended. “If you need help with the bathing, call me, I’ll gladly lend a hand.” He smiled like the letch he felt himself to be, and laughed at his own joke as he walked out onto the deck.
Celestine got up from the bed and went behind the screen. The soap was a manly soap not fit for her delicate parts, so she washed with the cool water and got dressed. She was nervous about going out on deck, what if someone from the convent saw her? Once she was dressed, she opened the door for Maurice to walk back into the room and watched as he went behind the screen to wash himself. He came around the screen with his breeches and boots on and his suspenders hanging around his knees. He walked to his chest to get a shirt but when he turned she was holding the one she made. He was stunned. His life just kept getting better by the moment. He pulled the shirt over his head, and felt the soft linen on his skin. It fit perfectly; how had she ever gotten it to fit so nicely? She wrapped the neckcloth around his neck and tied it so the initials could be seen clearly, walked him to the shaving mirror and showed him the results. He was the happiest man alive. He pulled her up to him and held her off the floor, as he kissed her, and told her again how much he loved her. Celestine watched with admiration as he put on his big jacket with the gold piping up the sleeves and took a sailor’s whistle out of his breeches pocket, opened the door a crack and blew a series of short toots. She could hear boots running, men laughing and doors slamming, then quiet. He opened the door and ushered her out onto the deck.
“What was that, Maurice?” Something did not seem right.
“My men making themselves disappear, my dove. Your ladyship?” He was offering her his arm to walk down the gangplank.
She couldn’t move. This had been a tryst like how many others? His men knew the drill very well, that’s why they were laughing; they were laughing at her. It hadn’t taken them two minutes to ‘make themselves disappear’ for their stud Captain. The Captain who had a woman in every port… she must be his New Orleans’s whore. Funny, she had not seen any money for her services. She was fighting back the tears. To think she had been fooled into loving him. He was just a man after all, he may not grunt or hit, but he knew how to get what he wanted and kick her to the gutter. She was shaking with anger. She wanted her knife; she wanted to cut his cock off, or at least an ear or two. “Aaah,” her gasp was audible. She had just given this man her virginity and he had not even tried very hard for it. She presented it like passing the salt at table. She was brazenly waiting on the levee for him like a dock whore and he had seen her as such.
Maurice reacted to her gasp. He looked down into the angriest face he had ever seen on a woman, and he had seen many. Her beautiful blue eyes had turned the color of brackish lake water and before he could take a breath to speak, he felt the sting of his own knife blade under his chin. She could cut his throat or leave a nasty scar; and he was prepared for neither. He had never seen such power and cunning in so frail a woman.
“You’re not worth it.” She returned his knife to the sheath inside his jacket pocket.
“You may come back to your work, men. The Captain’s harlot is leaving.” She was down the gangplank and running away from this man who had used her and degraded her for his own pleasure… just like all men.
Maurice’s head was spinning. She could’ve killed me and damned near did. What have I done? Harlot? Captain’s harlot? He wiped the blood from under his chin and saw the red soaking into his new shirtsleeve. What the hell just happened?
He was afraid it was too good to be true when he saw her waiting on the levee. Mother Superior warned him; but she had warned him the girl would not want to be intimate, not that she would be wonderfully intimate then kill as swiftly as the deadly black widow spider. God give me strength to deal with this woman, it’s going to take me and you working together. I’m not giving up, I will have her. Just show me her demons, Lord, and I’ll destroy them, or die in the trying… most likely the latter.
Maurice needed to go home and see his children. His obsession with Celestine was dividing his well ordered world into one of fantasy versus reality. At home with Josef and Marguerite he could get his bearings and reclaim his real life; then and only then could he think about winning his love back and bridge the two worlds.