TRULY FREE

 

 

 

Copyright © 2003 by Leah Kelley

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.

 

 

     Callie's reflection stared back at her from the oval mirror of her dressing table as she released her thick chocolate-brown hair from the clips that held it on her head, grimacing as it fell to her waist in a riotous curly mass.  A knock sounded at the door as she began the laborious task of brushing the impetuous tresses into a sedate, silky mane.

 

    “Come in,” she called as she tied her dressing gown more securely about her otherwise naked body.  As she expected, it was the maidservants who had come to remove the bathing tub from her bedroom.  It was yet too early in the evening for her husband to appear abovestairs.  She had learned his routine rather well during their short, but blissful, two weeks of marriage.  After sharing a pleasant dinner hour with his wife, he always retired to his study for a couple hours of bookwork before he joined her in her bedchamber.

 

     Her gaze lovingly touched on the huge bed she and her husband shared.  Though he had his own bed in his own bedchamber just beyond the connecting door, he had not slept there since he had carried his new wife over the threshold, up the stairs, and into this room to lay her gently on the bed.

 

     Callie's heart warmed with the memory.  She had been so very afraid, for more reasons than one, but James had been patient and gentle until all her fears had been swept away and replaced with love and happiness and a passion she hadn't known she possessed.

 

     A light frown momentarily marred her smooth brow, and some of the happiness dimmed in her soft brown eyes as she recalled the earlier conversation with her husband that had threatened to result in their first real argument.

 

     Once again, he had brought up the subject of the trip to Kentucky he wanted to give to her as a belated wedding gift, where he wished to present her to his family.  As usual, she had put him off with her regular excuses:  she wanted to spend time in her new home; she was afraid she'd be seasick; she didn't want to travel so far from Miss Lena; and on and on.

 

     And as usual, he shot down her excuses one by one:  she had a lifetime to spend in her new home; she would be sailing on the Great Lakes, not the sea where the waves were a great deal larger, and besides, she had no reason to believe she'd be seasick at all.  Furthermore, Miss Lena had survived alone for years before Callie arrived and could do so again.

 

    In addition, he added some compelling reasons of his own for wanting to go to Kentucky now.  It was already mid-summer.  If they waited much longer, they wouldn't have time for a very lengthy visit before Canada's early winter set in.  They would be forced to wait until next year, and by then she could be carrying or even delivering a child, rendering travel out of the question.

 

     “If we don't go now, Callie, it could be years before we have another opportunity.”  He pulled her into the circle of his arms.  “You are my beautiful, sweet wife, and I want to show you off.  I want my family to meet you.  I want to share you with them and them with you.  I know you're going to love them.”

 

     James had no idea of the distress his words caused his wife.  Guilt and anxiety gnawed at her gut, and she had to work hard to keep the tears at bay as she stared into his chest.

 

     “B...but I don't want to go, James.  I want to stay here and enjoy each other in our own home.”

 

     James had sighed heavily and raised her chin with one finger to peer into her face.  “Callie, I have already told you all the reasons why it is important we make the trip to Kentucky now, and you have offered me no good cause why we should not.  Unless you have another concern that you're not revealing to me, I am compelled to say we will make the trip now.  Is there?”

 

     “Is there?” she repeated.  Her heart fluttered in her chest so that her voice sounded breathless, even to herself.

 

     “Is there another reason you do not wish to make the trip to visit my parents?”

 

     Woodenly, she shook her head.  “No, Sir.”

 

     “Then we will make the trip in one week's time.  I will expect you to obey me in this and make yourself ready.  Do you understand?”

 

     She stared sullenly into his chest and nodded.

 

     Again, he lifted her chin and forced her to meet his eyes.  “Do you understand?” he repeated in a firm but gentle tone.

 

     “Yes, Sir.”  Her voice broke on the last word, prompting him to pull her into his arms where she lay trembling against his body until she could compose herself.  She didn't let the tears flow.  If she did, they would never stop.

 

    Callie raised her brush to her hair once again while studying her reflection in the mirror.  The girl staring back at her looked every inch a fine lady.  Her hair, when it was thoroughly brushed and coaxed into a suitable style, was as shiny and silky as any lady's she'd ever seen, and her dark eyes glowed with health and contentment.  Her nails were well-groomed, and her hands were white and smooth now, thanks to the hand cream Miss Lena insisted she use.  Her posture and bearing were, as a matter of habit now, fitting for a lady, and she only faltered in her proper speech when she was inordinately upset.  Kentucky was a long way from South Carolina, and James did want to go so badly.  Surely no one would recognize her there.

 

     She had just finished brushing her hair and decided to leave it hanging loose the way she knew James preferred, when she heard a rather loud, insistent knock at the front door.  Curious as to whom could be calling unexpectedly at this hour, Callie tightened the belt to her dressing gown and crept into the hall to kneel on the landing.  She was already furtively poking her head around the corner to view the foyer by the time their butler reached the door.

 

     Why, it was Tim McGeorge back from the States!  A dear friend of James', he had been with her husband the first evening she had waited on their table at Miss Lena's restaurant and many subsequent times afterwards.

 

     Tim appeared agitated, and his voice was overloud when he asked to speak to James right away.

 

     “Just a moment, Mr. McGeorge, and I'll let Mr. Parker know you're here,” the butler said and disappeared down the hall.

 

     Tim stood rigidly in the foyer.  After a moment, he carefully unfolded a page of paper from his pocket and studied it with a grimness that unnerved Callie.  Tim was usually so easy-going and full of fun.  This sort of seriousness was uncharacteristic of him.

 

     “Mr. McGeorge, Mr. Parker will see you now.  Just this way, please,” came the butler's voice.

 

     Tim dropped the hand still grasping the sheet of paper to his side as he walked down the hallway toward James' study.  As he passed closer to Callie's perch just beside the stairs, she could see the paper was, in fact, a poster.  A split second before he disappeared from her line of vision, she was able to make out:

 

 

REWARD

 

RUNAWAY SLAVE

 

 

     Callie jumped to her feet.  “Oh, Jesus,” she whispered as she flew down the hallway to her room.  “Oh, Jesus, Oh, Jesus, Oh, Jesus, what am I going to do?”  When nothing immediately came to mind, a hysterical groan escaped her and she began to wring her hands.

 

    Miss Lena's words haunted her heart, words the older lady had stressed over and over again:  “You must never let your guard down, Callie.  Even though it may feel safe here in Canada, there's a great many white men who wouldn't hesitate to take you back to your master.”

 

     Surely, James would never do such a thing, would he?  But James' family did live in Kentucky, a slave state.  She knew they personally did not own slaves, but that was no guarantee they disagreed with the institution of slavery.  James may regard it as his duty to return someone's lost property.

 

     The realization propelled Callie into motion.  She would go to Miss Lena, she decided, as tears began to run unheeded down her ashen cheeks.  Of course, she couldn't stay at Miss Lena's now.  A fresh torrent of tears emerged as she realized she would have to start all over again--alone.

 

     Miss Lena had warned her about this.  She had balked repeatedly, even begged Callie to reconsider marriage to James.  But Callie had been adamant.  She love James; she wanted to be with him.  How could he ever find out?

 

     “James Parker is not a man to cross, Callie.  Most white men would sooner marry their horse than a woman of color, even one who looks white.  And don't tell me you've got more white blood than coloured.  One drop of negro blood is enough to cause him to kill you if he ever learns it's there.”

 

     Dazedly, Callie pulled her valise from her wardrobe and began arbitrarily stuffing clothing and personal items inside.  Then she realized that most of her things had been purchased for her by James, and she really had no right to them.  More carefully, she placed them back in her wardrobe and concentrated on packing only the things she had brought with her.

 

     James Parker studied the poster in front of him with no small amount of shock.  There was no mistaking that the beautiful octaroon shown in the photograph was none other than his own little wife.  The flowing dark curls, the soft vulnerability of her eyes, the wide pink mouth he so loved to kiss--it was all the same.  His sweet little Callie had deceived him, that much was clear.

 

     He raised tortured eyes to those of his best friend.  Tim's face held all the concern he did not voice.

 

     “Don't worry,” James said, “I won't harm her, at least other than her pretty little posterior.  That particular part of her anatomy I won't guarantee.”

 

     “Ahhh.”  Tim's smile spoke volumes, and he relaxed visibly.  James knew Tim cared a great deal about Callie as well, teasing and bullying her as if he were her older brother.  It made James happy that his best friend and his wife got along so well.

 

After a moment, Tim rose to his feet.  “Then, I'll leave you to it,” he said before taking his leave.

 

     James nodded his goodbye and gazed a moment more at the poster before he left the study to deal with his wife.

 

 

     “Oh, God!” Callie cried, “I can't go like this!”  She looked down at her dressing gown, now gaping open.  Throwing the valise back onto the bed, she rummaged around and pulled out a suitable dress to wear until she reached Miss Lena's.

 

     The door opening and closing behind her made her swing around in alarm.  There, standing between her and the door to safety, was six foot, two inches of rock-solid, angry man, and in his hand he held a wanted poster with her picture on it.

 

     His gaze took in her agitation as well as the open valise on the bed, and rested a moment on her state of undress before returning to her face.

 

     “Do you want to explain to me what you think you're doing?” he snapped, his voice rising with each word.  Callie took a step back and tightened her robe.  She had seen James angry with business associates, occasionally at a servant, and very much so at a drunk who once swore in front of her at the restaurant, but now his gray eyes seemed to slice right through her, and by the tic that jumped sporadically in his right temple, she knew she was seeing him angrier than she had ever seen him before.

 

     Since it was obviously her face on the poster, she didn't see any point in lying.  “I saw Tim come in with that poster, so I was packing.”

 

     “Where did you think you were going?  Obviously, you thought to leave in a hurry.”  His voice was soft, dangerously soft, and it scared her enough to generate a whole new welling of tears.

 

 

     “I was going to Miss Lena's.  I didn't think you'd want me anymore.”

 

     “So you were going to leave?  WITHOUT EVEN TALKING TO ME!”

 

     His roar caused her to squeal and flee to the other side of the bed.  “I was afraid!” she yelled back, then continued in a softer, broken tone, “I...I was afraid you'd kill me...or take me back to South Carolina...or...”

 

     At once, his face softened.  “Callie...”  He reached for her, but she cautiously backed away.  Slowly, he walked  to the other side of the bed and gently drew her out of the corner.  Clasping her hand, he led her around to sit on his lap on the chair to her dressing table.

 

    “Callie,” he said, “you are my wife and I love you.  I wouldn’t care if your mother was a bear and your father

a...deep sea creature.  I would still love you.  Nothing is going to change that.”

 

     His words were like a balm to her tender, beaten heart, and she sobbed her relief against his chest for several minutes.

 

     When she had settled somewhat, he handed her the poster with her name and picture on it.  Through a blur of tears, she read:

 

 

REWARD

RUNAWAY SLAVE

Beautiful Octaroon, dark brown hair,

brown eyes.  Goes by the name of Callie.

May be posing as a white woman...

 

 

    The poster went on to list her owner's name and how he could be reached.  It also offered quite a substantial reward.

 

     She looked up from the poster with guileless eyes.  “I didn't know I was worth that much.”

 

     “You are worth that and a whole lot more,” he said with a squeeze.  “Callie, tell me about this.  I want to know it all.”

 

     Her voice was very low when she began to explain that she was born in South Carolina to a lovely quadroon slave.  Everyone on the large plantation knew she was the Master's child--everyone, that is, but the Mistress who discovered her existence quite by accident when she was six years old.

 

    The Mistress was a fair and loving woman, and despite her hurt at her husband's infidelity, she brought Callie into the Big House to live as a companion to her own daughter who was only one year older.  Mary was as sweet as her mother, and though the girls were never told, they knew they were sisters.

 

     Mary saw to it that Callie learned to read and write, unbeknownst to her parents, and she shared all her advantages unselfishly with her less fortunate sister.  At the age of eighteen when Mary was betrothed to a neighboring plantation's heir, however, Callie learned to her horror that she was to be sold.  It seemed that despite the appearance of wealth, the plantation was deep in debt and much of the slave population would have to be sold off.  Callie was terrified.

 

     When Mary learned of it, of course, she protested so severely that her father actually switched her legs--something neither girl had experienced since they were ten year old children.  Afterwards, Mary had quietly and efficiently made plans to send Callie to Canada where she would be safe.

 

     “I still hope to see her again someday,” Callie finished.  “I do love her so very much.”

 

     “Callie, did it ever occur to you that if you told me about this, perhaps I could pay your master's price and you would be free?  Maybe even see Mary again very soon?”

 

     “I...I...You would do that for me?”

 

     “Of course.  You're my wife.  You should have trusted me.”

 

     Uncomfortably aware of the hardening of his voice, Callie twisted in his lap to peer into his face.  What she saw drew shivers down her spine.  “You're angry with me,” she stated in a subdued tone.

 

     “I am displeased with you, yes, and I fully intend to punish you this evening,” he said evenly.

 

     Her heart picked up in rhythm.  “Punish me?  Be...because of my coloured blood?”

 

     “No!  Of course not.  I love you, Callie, regardless of your parentage.  That you kept this very important information from me, I can almost understand.  However, you also intended to leave me without even discussing it with me.  Again, I know you were afraid, but the two together would have at least earned you a spot across my knee and a hard hand against your bottom.”  He ignored her gasp and didn't try to stop her when she jumped out of his lap and moved a good six feet out of his reach.

 

     She was unable to look away from his compelling eyes as he continued.  “But the one thing that upsets me the most is that you were willing to let me drag you to Kentucky, a slave state, in order to keep your secret.  In fact, you lied to me when I asked you directly if you knew any other reason we shouldn't make the trip.  You jeopardized your safety, Callie, and for that you've earned a much harsher punishment.”

 

    Callie backed even further into the room, inching her way around the bed as he advanced on her.  “But...but I couldn't tell you!  I...I didn't know how you'd react!  I was afraid you'd...”

 

     He ignored her words of protest as he took her by the hand and once again led her to the chair by the dressing table.

 

     “I had thought at first to use my belt,” he was saying, “but I think that is too severe for the first time.  But be warned, Wife.  If you ever lie to me again, you will feel leather against your backside more times that you want to experience.”

 

     She stood trembling, her hand still held captive in his much larger one.  “Wh...what are you going to use?” she fairly whispered.

 

     He picked up her hairbrush from the dressing table and weighed it thoughtfully.  “I think this will do just fine.”

 

     Callie looked at the hairbrush with horrified distaste.  It was oval, made of wood, sanded and varnished.  At least as wide as his hand, it was heavy enough, she had no doubt, to administer a very painful wallop.

 

     “No!” she cried, attempting to pull out of his grasp.  “Please don't do this!  Please...I'll never lie to you again, I swear...just...”

 

     “Callie, hush!  Now remove your dressing gown and place yourself here across my knee.”  When she shook her head, he added, “Don't make this any harder on yourself.  I will go easier for you if you cooperate.”

 

     With wildly shaking fingers, she unknotted the belt that held the dressing gown together and pushed it off her shoulders to puddle on the ground at her feet.  Naked and vulnerable before him, her breaths came in short gasps and she worked hard to still the violent tremors of her body.  Two fat tears rolled down her cheeks.

 

     “Ah, Sweetheart.  It will be over soon.”  Gently clasping her wrist, he led her between his legs and carefully laid her across one muscled thigh while he pinned her legs with the other.  She felt him gather her hair together to lay it gingerly over her right shoulder, and he pushed her further forward until her head hung down near the floor and her bottom was high in the air, the skin stretched taut.  Blood flowed to her face both from the position in which he had placed her and the humiliation of what was about to happen.  His gentleness in arranging her body only added to her misery as it was such a sharp contrast to what he meant to do next.

 

     She didn't have to wait long.  From the corner of her eye, she saw him remove the hairbrush from the dressing table, sensed rather than saw a sharp movement, and then her right buttock burst into flames.

 

    “Ouch!” she squealed.  Another sharp movement, and her left buttock was equally miserable.

 

     “Stop!” she screeched.  “I can't stand it!”

 

     Her only answer was another crack of the brush across the center of the plumpest part of her bottom.  She jerked and screamed again.

 

     From there, he worked his way up and down the curve of her buttocks, scalding one side, then the other, and then the center, until she was sure her entire rear was as red as an apple.

 

     The sharp cracks of the brush were punctuated with her frantic yelps and screeches until her rump sizzled with so much heat that all she could do was wail in nearly unbearable pain.

 

     She wiggled wildly in a frantic attempt to escape the throbbing agony and hoarse cries issued deep from her throat, finally dissolving into frenetic sobs.

 

     Her heart lifted in a brief hope when the spanks halted momentarily, but he only readjusted her posterior even higher into the air.  The next swat bit into the highly sensitive area where her buttocks met her thighs, the part of her anatomy, she had already become painfully aware, that was the most tender part of all.

 

     “Oh!” she sobbed.  “Oh!” when he spanked the other side, and “Oooh!,” a howl, when he spanked the middle.  Then he started all over again in the same tender spot.  “Nooo!  Please!  Not there!” she wailed.  “AAYEEE  That hurts!”

 

     “Good,” he said tersely, “it's supposed to.”

 

     Ruthlessly, he spanked the sensitive area nearly raw with hard punishing swats until violent sobs shook her body and her bottom writhed unconsciously upon his thigh.  By the time he was finished, Callie was too incoherent to plead and too spent to move.

 

     The first indication he had stopped was the clack of the brush as he sat it firmly on the table.  Though he lifted her gently from her position across his knee and seated her on his lap with her bottom carefully positioned between his legs, she was still unable to stop her frantic squirming for several seconds.  She shuddered all over with her violent weeping, and it was quite a few moments before the burn in her bottom receded to anywhere near bearable.  Exhausted, she then leaned against his shoulder in relief while he patiently rubbed her back.

 

     “Shhh.  It's over now, Sweetheart.  Shhh...”

 

     After several moments of soothing and comforting, he pushed back the hair that was glued to her face by her tears.  “Do you feel better now?” he murmured.

 

     “Yessuh,” came the watery reply.

 

     He leaned back to gaze into her face.  “Yessuh?” he grinned.  “Are you going to call me 'Massa' next?”

 

     She gave him a small grin, albeit very small, and humored him.  “Yes, Massa.  If you say so, Massa.”

 

     He laughed out loud and held her closer for a second.  “An evil institution is slavery.  Even though Kentucky is a slave state, neither I nor my family have ever thought it moral.  I will never own a slave.”

 

     “I don't know,” she said against his chest.  “I don't think I'd mind too bad if you were my master.”

 

     “You don't?”  She shook her head.  “Well, I think I'd rather have you as wife.”

 

     “Whatever you say, Massa,” she replied meekly, then gave way to a light hearted smile when she realized she was free from her guilt and free from her lies.

 

     She was truly free, indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

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