They were married one week later in the Cathedral of St. Louis. It had been easy explaining to the Reverend Mother, that Maurice’s proposal had caused Celestine to go into a downward spiral, and that God… Pierre and Colette convinced Celestine she would learn to love him and be patient as his wife. The Reverend Mother was very relieved, she thought she knew people and to make such a mistake about the man had disturbed her greatly.
Maurice carried Celestine through the muddy streets to the Cathedral to protect her shoes and dress. The wedding was sweet. Celestine wore her blue silk and Maurice wore his new linen shirt once Ste. Mary Clarisse got the blood out of the sleeve, and his big blue coat with the gold piping. The only thing missing for Maurice was his Josef as best man and Marguerite as a maid of honor. But it was too dangerous for them to appear in public; one day things would change, and he could have his cake and eat it too with his adopted children. Maurice wanted to introduce them to Celestine, but they were busy getting him ready to sail, and Celestine was crazy with the wedding. Time passed so quickly and before he knew it, he was getting married and his fantasy world was becoming his reality world. There would be plenty of time to bring his little family together before he sailed. He had never been so happy.
Celestine visited the new perfume shop on rue Royale and M. Chenier created a scent for her. He sniffed around her hair and her shoulders and decided on a light scent of soft Jasmine. She and Maurice were both pleased with the fragrance.
Ste. Mary Clarisse was making a shirt for Maurice, and Celestine had almost finished another one by the time he was due to leave. But…he would not know until he was out to sea that Celestine embroidered her name running through a tiny heart on the front of both shirts along the tail. Her name would be worn next to his manhood, and none would be the wiser. It would please him to know she was so close.
She filled his sea chest with clove soaps, mint leaves, and wild doe tongue leaves, to keep his clothes fresh on the long voyage. She filled his personal chest with peach preserves, strawberry jams, pickles, candied orange slices, Colette’s alligator jerky, pickled quail eggs and wonderful things he would want from home. Under his pillow she placed one of her handkerchiefs filled with her Jasmine scent.
The weather was too bad to leave that week, so he stayed on another week. In the two weeks before he left he had accomplished a great deal. He had married his sweetheart, bought her the house on rue du Maine from Pierre’s family, put everything he owned in her name including le Celestine and helped Pierre and Colette move up river, and... he was pretty sure he had impregnated his wife. If not, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Josef and Marguerite were busy packing his things from his little house to move to the big one and had not had time to visit with him as much as they would like. He would be gone for almost a year but he had not had time to build the widow’s walk before he left. That would be his first project once he returned. He left with a list of furniture from Pierre and Colette for their new house and a smaller list from Celestine for their newly acquired dream house. There was something important he forgot to tell her; the thought was nagging at him, but he was too busy being happy to remember anything but his maps, charts and the clothes she packed for him. Maurice dined with Josef and Marguerite aboard ship two nights before he sailed and told them how he wanted the new house arranged.
Marguerite could not wait to meet her new Tanti’ Tine as Maurice asked that his wife be addressed, and was already excited about having another woman in her life. It was such a long time since she had seen her own mama, and this was a new and exciting adventure. Maurice gave Josef a letter of introduction to Celestine in case they were stopped on the way to rue du Maine once they had closed the little house. Life was good. Maurice and his children finished dinner and walked back up to the new house to meet their new ‘mama’. But Celestine was having dinner with friends at the convent and would not be home until later. Maurice walked the children home and went back to wait for his new bride.
Celestine was beside herself, she had the house of her dreams, but she was losing her man to the sea. She wouldn’t be able to bear it… she knew it. She would not be able to sleep without his arms around her, and that big hairy chest under her head; maybe she should keep the cat as a pillow. The house was too big for just one person.
He had not been gone three days when the bell on the big gate of the carriageway was ringing incessantly. She walked out to see a young African girl, she guessed to be around fifteen and a young man a couple of years older, standing at the gate; both well dressed holding satchels and baskets of their belongings.
“We’re here, Tanti ‘Tine.” The young man was holding his hat clutched to his chest.
“Who are you and what do you want?” She figured they had the wrong house.
“Captain sent us, Tanti. We’re his....” He looked confused, why did this woman not know or expect them.
“My name’s Josef… and this is… Marguerite.” He asked trying to trigger her memory. Celestine had no intention of having slaves in her home.
“To whom do you belong?” She asked with her heart in her throat; she had never had the discussion with Maurice, but she knew many of the ships were slave ships, and she would not condone that.
“We’re here for you, misses.”
“Aah,” her gasp was audible. “Come in, please, get off the street.”
What to do with this dilemma?
“When did my husband make this... purchase?” She was finding it hard to breathe.
“We’ve been with Captain since we were very young.” Josef was more confused, how much should he tell her? Would she turn them out before the Captain came back to rescue them? He put an arm around his sister. She was trying not to cry.
“Please go around to the kitchen and have some milk and cake. I have to think.” She was incredulous. She would love some help to keep her company, clean the house, and take care of the horse and carriage, but she would not own another human being. She had seen too many slave auctions in the parade ground outside the Cathedral. Miserable children dragged from their mother’s arms, young women holding onto husbands they would never see again in this lifetime. She would never be a part of that.
She walked into Maurice’s new study and opened the drawer to the big desk. She grabbed the papers he had put in her name. She was shuffling through the deed to the house and the ship and then in the very last of the papers was an old bill of sale for two slaves, one Marguerite Dubois and Josef Dubois. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and sold to one Maurice Dubois in 1789.
These two people must have been very small children when he bought them. What did that say about her husband that he would buy children? He had not signed these papers over to Celestine. She found a legal document giving her power of attorney. Praise God from whom all blessing’s flow. She made the sign of the cross and went back out to the kitchen.
“Josef, Marguerite? It seems my husband has made it possible for me to give you your freedom.”
“Please, misses you don’t understand. We don’t want freedom.”
“I don’t believe God intended us to own each other and I’m spiritually, morally and emotionally against owning another being. Therefore, I have to speak to my husband’s lawyer and find out how I go about releasing you. Until that time you may stay in the rooms off the kitchen as my guests.” She knew the guest part was totally taboo, but she had to think this through and decide what could be done.
Celestine was ushered into Mother Superior’s office and took a seat. She had the bill of sale in her hand and told the Reverend Mother everything.
“I agree with you, my dear. I think it’s a good idea to go to his lawyers. It’s important that this is a legal agreement so they can’t be put back on that horrible slave block.” She didn’t want Celestine to see her face. The Convent had owned slaves, but not children. Why would this man buy children? Celestine walked around to rue Royale and spoke to M. Dubonnet. He was not in total agreement with her wish to give these people their freedom, but under the law, she was entitled to this action. He would draw up the necessary papers and bring them around to her in a couple of days. He would also send a letter with his next packet to let Capt. Dubois know of his wife’s actions. This business of signing your things over to your wife was a bad citizen and he was against it from the beginning. What if she decided to sell Le Celestine out from under the Captain? He would then see his folly. If he were here, it didn’t matter if her name was on a paper or not, a husband owned his wife’s property, but with him gone for so long, she could sell anything and be gone before he returned.
Celestine went home and explained to the couple what she had done. There was not the rejoicing she expected. There was terror from Marguerite and confusion and fear from Josef. She explained that they could stay in the house while she was gone up river to visit friends and when she returned, the papers should be completed. She needed to speak to Pierre. She knew he did not believe in owning slaves either and was a big reason he had run away from his parents’ plantation in Natchez when he was a young boy. She needed to know what he thought about this whole business. She wondered if he even knew about these two.
Maurice was gone three days before he realized he had forgotten to tell Celestine about Marguerite and Josef. He was glad he had given Josef a letter of introduction to Celestine and instructions for their safety, but he could not believe his horrible blunder. He would be receiving a packet from Dubonnet while in Haiti, and would send long letters of apologies to his new family. What kind of horrible papa forgets to present his children to his new wife? He decided to fill the package with delightful delicacies for all; maybe he could buy their forgiveness, like other wayward papas. Anna would have a package ready to go to Josef and Marguerite, and he would add a few things to that also. Meanwhile, he would have to pray the letter would suffice and his children would be safe. Thank God he gave Josef the letter, he was not a total idiot, just felt like one at the moment.
He could not wear the new shirts too often walking the big decks of the beautiful ship as they caused a huge erection knowing Celestine’s name was resting on his groin. Maybe she could embroider his pillow cases instead. He laughed as he thought of the handkerchief filled with the scent of jasmine resting on the pillow next to him each night, causing him to dream of her constantly. He never knew love could rob your time and energy while clouding your mind. He had known sailors getting tangled in the rigging while mooning over their wives left behind, but he never understood until now.
So far the weather was good and except for the choppy, square waves of the Gulf making the big ship feel like broken wheels on a rocky road, he made better time than expected. His men carried such respect for him, none had mentioned the incident with Celestine and her announcement on the levee and he appreciated it more than they knew.
He felt good knowing Josef and Marguerite were watching over Celestine, and she over them in the big house, but his guilt at not introducing them was heavy. He had worried about her being alone with Pierre and Colette so far away, now he need not. He wondered what his children thought of his new wife, but maybe they had not gone to rue du Maine as yet. It would take time for them to clear out the little house he kept in New Orleans, before the new owners moved in. His children were such a part of his life he could not imagine any acquaintances of his not knowing about them. They were not allowed to attend the wedding; it was too dangerous, but his Marguerite would’ve loved it. She loved the ceremony and the pageantry of the church. He would make sure the packet contained a new dress for her. His life was working out better than expected, but he had no idea his life was empty until he met Celestine. He should have told her about the two loves of his life. The letter explained as much as he could write, the rest should be spoken and not written. Pierre could clear up any questions she may have, or she could ask the children directly.
Maurice was a day out of Port-au-Prince when the weather began to turn ugly. He left his well trained crew to weather the storm, and went to his cabin to finish his letter to Celestine. The choppy, bouncing cabin was comforting and familiar. There had been times when these storms frightened him, and made him worry for his crew and cargo, but over the years he learned to read the sea and the wind. He knew when to worry and when to let it happen. This was one of those storms that could rock you to sleep or out of bed, but keeps you close to God. Always a religious man he had weathered many storms with the old man’s help and mercy, and sought him in times of trouble. He trusted him now to see his ship and crew into calm waters and the safety of Port-au-Prince.
Anna always knew he was coming before he sailed into port. She would have the little house clean and spruced up just for him, and he was looking forward to telling her about Celestine and his new life. He wanted to tell her how Marguerite was growing into a beauty and Josef was getting taller and stronger by the day. She was so proud of them and missed them so. One day Maurice would talk her into coming to live in New Orleans and giving up her Voudou, but if she insisted, she could practice her religion in New Orleans. He was not her judge, and if God needed her to change he would deal with it. Maurice would love for her to know Celestine, but he did not know how to handle his long time mistress and wife under the same roof. It could get a bit messy with one wielding a knife and the other wielding strong Voudou, a man could end up dead... or worse.
He would never give up Celestine, and he didn’t want to give up Anna. She had been his safe harbor ever since he was young and afraid of life. She turned him into a lover and taught him not to be afraid of his own sexuality. It was not an easy task as he had been combative, mean and had fought like the devil not to feel anything but disgust for the whole business. But, his sweet Anna won, and her gentle ways and love for him had given him a normal life. He never wanted men, but for a while after the rapes, he did not know what he wanted, and he was afraid the men who raped him saw something in him he did not know was there. When he first met Anna, he wanted neither a man nor a woman. His friends bragged about the women they had conquered, and how mighty and manly they were in bed, but the whole business just made him want to hurt someone.
Killing the man trying to rape him on the British prison ship had not helped him feel good about himself. He was only eleven when he ran away from home to fight in the revolution of 1775. Before he was twelve he was captured and sent to the prison ships out of Charleston Harbor with other boys who foolishly had done the same. He watched in horror as the other boys were exploited and hurt, but he waited for his turn, he knew it was coming and by damn, he would be prepared. He made a weapon from his spoon and used it right as the man was trying to enter him. To this very day, remembering the man bleed to death with his pants down and pecker going limp, still haunted him. But the man’s death allowed him the opportunity to escape and take a few of his friends with him. Once they were free, no one, not even the British, suspected a little boy had done such a brutal murder, but knowing he was capable of it terrified him. He said good-bye to his friends Andy and John, went to sea as a cabin boy and never went home again.
Anna dealt with the memories of his past and killed the demons the memories created.
Loving memories of Anna were filling his head and he didn’t want to stop them. He first saw her in the market of Port-au-Prince reading palms and telling fortunes. She was a black haired beauty, full breasted… her peasant blouse showing more than half of her dark-brown, silky breasts. An old leather belt held up her skirts and encircled her tiny waist twice. The end of the too-long belt hung over her groin like a long, limp penis and was strangely arousing. Her thin ankles and parts of her long legs could be seen when she propped one sandaled foot on the carriage block. Her raw sexual beauty stirred something in his groin for the first time, and he was intrigued to find this creature could give him an erection. He had just turned nineteen and had been celibate for so long, he had given up the whole idea of intimacy. Most times when he thought about the act, bad memories flooded in and erased any pleasure he was feeling, and made him sick to his stomach. She was obviously a fake, reading his palm and telling him he would become a great lover; that was ludicrous… although he liked her holding his hand. He liked feeling her skin and looking into her deep black eyes. Her long curly lashes seemed to blink slower than most and he felt she was becoming aroused just speaking to him. She was intoxicating, and he fell under some spell to follow her; listen to her laughter, and watch her eyes looking deep into his soul. He followed her around the old tropical square, spying on her from behind clusters of banana trees, as she took on more customers. Hearing her wonderful laughter, and watching as she drew many men into her web was intoxicating to his young man’s soul. When she walked it was like dancing and when the music started in the square, she did dance, and she danced for the sailors who would throw money to her. Hardcore, seasoned sailors offered her their full pay to go with them, but she laughed, stuffing their money down their breeches and feeling around before withdrawing her hand, sending them on their way and teasing: “Oh Monsieur, you are too large.” Or “Oh Monsieur, I’d lose my heart to you and that monster in your breeches.”
She was enchanting to an awkward, backward nineteen-year-old virgin, and he thought he had found the fountain of erotic lust right there in the old square. He followed her home later that night, hiding in the shadows. She stopped and turned to him at her door, speaking into the shadows.
“You are a pitiful puppy.” She moved to him, reached up and kissed him on the mouth. She smelled of spices and rich heady flowers, and his head began to spin.
“Do you want to come in? I’ve seen you following me all night. Have you no girlfriend?” He shook his head ‘no’.
“Why is that? You’re a handsome young man and you have the smell of the sea in your hair. Did you not leave a girlfriend behind in America?” She knew exactly what his problem was; she had seen it in his palm, and she had read it in his eyes, and in his heart. He was an abused little boy who knew nothing of love nor pleasure or forgiveness. Here was a very angry young man who needed and wanted to hurt someone, she could feel it when he walked into the square. That he was a dangerous young man challenged her to heal him, arousing her and pulling her into the danger.
She walked inside and held the door for him to come in. She poured him a drink of fine rum and showed him to a chair. Maurice was surprised to see children’s toys and little clothes hanging on furniture to dry.
“You have children?” Maurice asked dumbfounded that this woman would have a normal life outside the market.
“I have a little girl, but she’s with my mother the nights I work.”
“Do I pay you?” He knew he was naive, but it would be nice, there was no need to think or feel.
“No, my bebe, I’m not a prostitute. I’m a fortune-teller. I don’t want your money. I want to help you.”
“Help me? I don’t need help!? To whom do you think you’re speaking? I just came in here to buy sex. If that’s not what you do, then I’ll leave.” He was trying to swim in mud. He had no real idea why he had followed her in. But she embarrassed him in his ignorance.
She took his coat, put it across a chair and offered him the big chair. She gave him some more rum and sat gently in his lap.
“I allowed you to follow me home, mon ami. I’m lonely and I need a man. I need a kind lover, and I believe that’s you. The stars sent you to me.”
Her voice was barely a whisper, and so kind he wanted to cry on her shoulder and tell her about his life. He looked into her black eyes and wanted to please her, make her feel safe and take away her loneliness. He knew about loneliness. He could write books on loneliness. He kissed her hard on the mouth, and he thought he might break her lips as he inhaled the delightful, heady scent of tropical flowers and humid nights. His erection was uncomfortable.
She pulled away from his mouth and put two fingers on his lips.
“Shhh not so hard, mon ami; go gently into your kiss.”
She took his mouth and kissed him gently as she opened his lips with her tongue. He responded for a second, and enjoyed her soft wet tongue on his, but his mood changed and everything about her made him angry. How dare this whore tell him how to kiss a woman? He felt the need to punish her for the very erection he was glad to have. He carried her to the bed and began taking off her clothes. She was undressing him but he caught her hands and threw them off. He threw her on the bed and spread her legs. He was too rough, and he didn’t care if she was lonely or needed a gentle man. He was driving toward a release he had never had, and he wanted her to suffer for choosing him, and wanting him when he wasn’t worthy. She needed to be punished for her choice of lovers. He spent quickly and fell on top of her. The rum and her scent after his release sent him rushing outside to throw up, but he came back to bed, and fell into a fitful sleep.
He did not wake until morning when he felt her mouth on him. He was about to explode. She was going down on him, swallowing his erection with her warm, wet mouth. He saw colors and wanted to spend and she tried to move her head but he wouldn’t allow her to waver from her ‘job’. He grabbed her head and held it down hard and before he could think, he was spending in her mouth. She gagged and couldn’t breathe but he was spending more, and thought it would never stop. He knew what he had done was wrong, but caring was not part of his nature at the moment. He would pay her if she wanted. He did not know how to please her so he would offer her money. He could have no respect for a woman who allowed him to follow her home, and spend in her mouth. What did she want from him anyway? She had a child for God’s sake, what kind of mother was she? He made some stupid excuse, grabbed his clothes and left. He left money in a little box on the mantle as he crossed the little sitting room.
By the time he got back to his ship, he was angry. He was mad at himself for wanting her, but terrified at the part of himself that tried to hurt her. He was confused. She aroused something in him that made him want more, but he could tell her ,or any woman, the sea was his mistress, not women or men. He wanted to go back to his first love, the sea and she would soothe him, and allow him to bury the feelings Anna had awakened.
There was a knock on Maurice’s cabin door. The knock woke him from his memory and thrust him into present day. He wiped the tears he had been shedding over this particular memory and called, “Come in”.
“Will you be wanting dinner, Capt.?” Robert didn’t like disturbing the Captain, but knew if he didn’t order dinner, he would be hungry later and wonder why it had not been offered.
“No, Robert, thank you. I have some bread and mutton left from lunch.”
He went back to his letter writing and tried to get the memories of his first days with Anna out of his head.