"What is it?"
"I wanted to talk to you."
"Speak then, I have a meeting in a half hour, so make it quick woman."
Eunice looked away from her husband, her mind racing a mile a minute. She knew what she wanted, but she wasn’t raised to ask for it. She never had, so she didn’t know how to.
"I..." she hesitated and stared at her feet for a moment.
Her husband grunted. Visibly irked by her inability to express herself. "There will be a new shipment today. The council will be expecting me to oversee. If you’re here unable to put your words in order, then we will continue this conversation tonight. Or better still, write to my office."
He turned and left the house. Eunice watched as he got into his horse-driven carriage and his servant whipped the horse and they trotted off. This was her life, the housewife. Constantly neglected by her husband who had become so engulfed in his job that she had become an insignificant trickle in his life.
She had tried everything, taken advice from every other respectable woman who she could confide in from their weekly meetings at her house by the beach. Lord Henry simply was too busy for her. She needed him; she longed to be touched, to be loved. Henry was her husband yes, but he was not her lover.
The day went by and Eunice tried to bring herself passion regardless. Sometime around lunch, Gloria announced the return of Henry. A worker collapsed through the front door with a large wooden crate. Henry roared in anger at the slave. "You stupid idiot. What I have in there is worth more than your live you worthless shit. Pick it up!"
The slave looked up at her with a sneer and rage filling out his brown pupils. Eunice shook for a second, before remembering that she was indeed superior to the negro slaves and couldn’t be harmed by them. The opportunity was one to get close to her husband and she would not let it pass. She walked over to his side and entwined her arm in his. "Did you not hear your lord? Pick it up this instant."
The slave picked up the crate and heaved it to the corner of the house which he had been instructed. After a bit of lifting and hammering, he was able to nail down the contents of the crate to the wall.
" Oh dear, is that what I think it is my love?"
" Yes Eunice, feast your eyes on my latest possession. The head of a full-grown African elephant. You won’t see a lot of this in your life, this will be the center of attention for this room. I trust Gloria to clean it when due, yes?"
" Yes Masta" she called from the opposite end of the room.
Henry gave a positive nod without casting a glance at her. "Eunice, this is Joseph. I’ve decided that the house needs a little more muscle around for the heavy lifting and other manly duties. He would be handling that from now on."
Joseph stood facing her, with his back straight and hands by his side. His best stance on display. "I am here for service madam." he spoke in a thick African accent while trying to force his sentence to sound as perfect as he could.
Eunice looked away from Joseph. He was quite tall and was built as she identifies his race, as a gorilla. He looked menacing with dark brown eyes and black wavy hair. Everything about him breathed aggression but he stood there, in obedience, waiting for her first order. She revelled in her predominance, waving her hands towards her bedroom.
"My bedroom is a mess, I and my husband are heading out for lunch. Make yourself useful. There is an extra bed in the attic, you can sleep there. It’s quite dusty and filthy up there, but you should feel right at home."
Joseph clenched his teeth as Eunice walked away with her husband. He had been treated as less than human by all his previous masters; he had been beat, whipped and slept with pigs. But somehow the way Eunice looked at him brought him to the precipice of his anger. The days turned to months as he continually took the tirade of insults and accusations. His only solace was the nights with Gloria when they swapped tales of their memories of home.
Henry was busy as ever which only contributed to irritate Eunice. Her anger was spread out to her workers. Whenever she went into town, she would stare at other couples envious of their lives and the love she and the entire town could see resonate from there. Even the blacks in the city seemed to have found a partner who loved them.
Her slave materialized beside her. "I am here, madam."
Eunice flinched, he had come too close to her. The back of her hand made impact with his left cheek causing him to recoil ever so slightly. He didn’t even seem affected by the strike except for the redness forming in his eye.
"Not so close you worm! I can smell your breath."
She scoffed, gave him a once over and looked distressed. Joseph gave a silent chuckle which didn’t go unnoticed.
"You find this amusing?"
"I heard you laugh." Eunice spoke with a deep scowl set
"No laugh, madam. I am not laugh."
Eunice couldn’t believe it. Joseph had found light of the situation. She could see the glimpse of joy in his eyes. But she couldn’t be owned by this negro, she wouldn’t be.
"My clothes need mending. Take the boxes to the tailor in town, and be back before dusk, the horses need to be fed."
She watched him pull her three boxes out of her bedroom down to the stable and arrange them into the carriage. She couldn’t let him off easy, she had heard the tales of slaves killing their masters when they were beaten. So she would find a different way to punish him.
"Oh no, leave the carriage. Gloria will be using it to get to the market later."
Joseph looked at her puzzled "How am I carry the clothes?"
"You have hands don’t you?" Eunice spoke in a high-pitched voice that sounded almost song like. She spun on her heel and walked away from him, enjoying her victory.
Many torturous hours later, Joseph arrived at the tailors only to find her store closed as she didn’t open that very day. He cursed in his native tongue. He could take the brave path and run, run as far away from these white monsters as he could. He could sell the clothes and make a little money, enough to keep him for a few months, but in this land of the white man, it would only be a while before they came after him and he would be left without a roof over his head.
He had his options, and he had weighed them, reluctantly; he picked up the boxes and began his journey back to the house of his masters. He arrived after dark, tired, sweaty and filled with pure disdain for his own people’s inadequacy for saving him from the white marauders. He heard Eunice scream. His first reaction was a laugh, hoping she had slipped and fallen and got some serious injuries. But the sound of another disgruntled male voice coming from the same room snapped him away from his euphoric daydream.
He dashed to her bedroom to see another black man, a knife in his hand facing her. Her face completely crippled by fear. The man had a bag that protruded in different places, contents which he had apparently stolen from the house. Joseph frowned. He had always had thoughts of stealing and selling enough of their properties to gain another voyage back to his home continent. Now another man was here, about to harvest his farm He wasn’t having none of it.
The criminal turned, seeing Joseph for the first time. Joseph launched his entire body at him, knocking the crook over the bed and onto a night stand that shattered under the weight of both men. The impact knocked the weapon off his hand and Joseph let loose of his face with a left hook. The criminal caught his hand on the second swing and bit into his skin, causing Joseph to let go of him.
The intruder took his chance and jumped through the window, out of the building. He ran through the courtyard into the street and disappeared from view. Henry kicked the door open with his rifle. He fired a shot into the roof and screamed. Joseph knew the man was a coward and was hiding in a closet somewhere, only showing himself now that the threat had been eliminated. But either way, he got on the floor to make sure he wasn’t mistaken for the crook and shot.
The night passed without event, and the following day as well. Lord Henry continued his import duties, checking the arrival of goods which the American ships had 'acquired' from their sub-colonies in Africa. Eunice hadn’t lived down the shock of the event and needed her husband more than ever, but he didn’t take notice, he couldn’t. He had not the slightest clue. Joseph enjoyed the first few days after the ordeal, Eunice had lost her temperament and seemed to have gained some fear for people of color. He and Gloria weren’t verbally abused for a while, and the house was bliss.
But Joseph was human too, he saw Eunice in a new light and took pity on her. He had no way of saying this, so he kept to himself mostly doing his chores with an eye out. He wasn’t allowed to leave the house during the evenings and Henry finally agreed to the notion of guard dogs. Life at the household was this way for quite a while as Henry began to slip back into his workaholic nature and Eunice started to get her voice. One particularly quiet afternoon, Eunice proceeded to unwind herself since her husband was no help. Joseph walked into her bedroom, seeing her in the nude. His eyes did a full scan of her body before shutting. He dropped the clothes which he held on the floor and turned to leave.
"Get out pig! Can you not knock!"
Eunice fumed. Not only had she relaxed from a missed climax, she knew Joseph would lose a certain amount of respect for her... Unless she did something.
The summoned walked into the room slowly, his eyes shut. Eunice felt a surge within her, it was the first time a man stood before her for a long time while she was naked. Animal instinct took over, and she continued fondling her privates in his presence, enjoying the aura of the male in front of her.
Joseph took a peek and turned to leave again, but was stopped by a pillow which she threw at him.
"Madam..." Joseph spoke in a reluctant voice, but Eunice had her hands on him. She dragged him to the bed and dropped on top him, using her negro slave to unwind the pent-up feelings inside her.
She woke that evening with a start, realization hitting her badly. She had just made love to her slave, her husband would never forgive her, society would never take her as part of the upper elite and most importantly, she couldn’t believe she had done what she did. With shaky legs, she walked to her door and peek out of her room, Gloria was cleaning, she called to her.
"Have you... You, have you seen Joseph?"
She expected Gloria to continue her sentence, but she just stood there.
"Well? Where is he?"
"I don’t not know."
"You don’t know? But you said you’ve seen him."
Gloria nodded, holding her duster in one hand staring at her Madam. Eunice shrieked in annoyance at her grammar. She got dressed and went outside to see him in the stable with the horses, shoving out their faeces. This was a normal sight for her, but the image of him penetrating her entered her mind and she gasped, and threw up in disgust. She hated herself for lowering herself to his level and hated Henry even more for putting her in that position.
Her relationship with her husband deteriorated after that. She no longer bothered with gaining his attention as it had continuously proved to be futile. Her voice was snappy and her attitude towards him became increasingly hostile. He seemed to notice, but he couldn’t care. There was too much work for Lord Henry to do, he had to get all the gold sorted, ivory graded and slaves traded. The Henry household grew in wealth, but Eunice hated every second of it.
Joseph was living the dream. He had gone to his new friends in town spreading his story of him and his madam turned mistress with a bit of spice added to it. Eunice seemed to have lost her voice around him. He had begun selling small items from the house but no longer for his voyage home, but to keep his image up. He began dressing better as the news spread and every slave in town believed he had Eunice in his palm. Gloria heard and seemed indifferent about it, although she believed the story, she seemed anxious.
Joseph’s new happy attitude and better self care caught the attention of his madam, and although Eunice was not one to bother about trivial things with him, she noticed some pieces of her clothes were missing. She put two and two together and went livid. She walked into the stable where Joseph was working, arranging bundles of hay for the beasts. She rushed after him and pushed him from behind causing him to fall face first into the floor.
"You thief! You think you can steal from me, and I wouldn’t notice? When Henry gets back, you will be thrown out of here and in prison to rot!" She slapped him across the cheek, but he stood his ground, staring her in the eyes.
She looked into his eyes and felt her rage melt away, the anger over clothes which she no longer wore left her, all she could notice was his masculinity. His chiseled chin and powerful forearms that could break her with ease, but all she could remember was the feeling of his rough palms on her body, her breathing became heavy and she couldn’t step away from him. She cursed herself for getting so close to him in that moment and for not having enough strength to fight her body. Joseph let out a breath, and she felt it along her neck. The hairs got the message and her body began its slow but pleasurable response to stimulus.
She leaned into him and let things happen.
Days turned to weeks as Eunice found herself falling back to her negro slave, each time she met him left her hungering for more and Joseph was always more than happy to deliver. Although she didn’t change her temperament towards him. During the day, she would descend on him with every racial slur she could and once Henry left, she would descend on him once again but in other pleasurable ways.
Joseph was word on the street, gaining recognition among the highest of slaves and running with the higher echelon of the colored in the state. Home still beckoned to him, but here, where he felt accepted by his brothers by skin, he felt at home. He made sure every time he was with Eunice, he would leave her sprawled out and at his mercy. He knew he was the slave, but in the grand scheme of things he was her master and she would always beg to be whipped.
One afternoon, as she returned home, she was met by disturbed looks by people all over the town. They would stare at her and whisper amongst themselves. Her tailor even refused to speak with her. Eunice wasn’t sure what had happened, but she had a feeling something had happened at the house. On arrival, she saw the front door thrown out and the house a complete as though there had been a fight. She called out to Gloria and got no reply, the same with Joseph.
Henry’s hat sat on the floor, a boot print on it, indicating it was trampled upon. Her heart sunk, had something happened to her husband? She picked up the hat and ran into the barn, all three horses were missing but the carriage remained. She looked down at the grooves of the hoofs on the soft soil following them outside the stable to the farm behind the house. There was a growing crowd at the far end and what looked like a stake was being formed. Gathering her skirt, she ran as she could towards the scene, expecting to see her husband in some horrible condition, but her heart stopped when she saw.
Joseph was tied to the stake and looked as though he was beaten. Henry stood next to him with a torch and a whip addressing the crowd.
".... With their black magic! Their juju! Eunice my beautiful wife was caught in his spell! But I will liberate her!"
He whipped Joseph, drawing blood.
"No! Stop Henry, stop!"
Henry looked at her, eyes wide with disgust. "Restrain her! She is weak and is still under his charm!"
Two men grabbed hold of her hands, stopping her from getting to the stake. She questioned herself, had her husband found out about them? Or was he caught stealing? She heard the whip crack against his skin, and she screamed. Eunice had witnessed slaves burned at the stake before, but somehow her heart couldn’t bear to watch this and somehow she couldn’t understand why.
"Today..." Henry began "I will be purging this land of this black demon filth. From the depths of hell you came and back to that fire you shall return."
Henry walked up the stake and looked Joseph dead in the eyes for a moment, and then he turned away, dropping his torch in the pile of wood. It instantly caught a blaze, and the clothes on Joseph's body began to singe. He screamed as the fire licked at his skin in what seemed like a playful dance but was indescribable. The odor of burning flesh filled the air and Eunice threw up. Henry ordered that she was held down watching until there was nothing left of Joseph. His screaming pinched the darkest parts of her soul.
Henry stayed home with her after Joseph’s death and Gloria never returned after that day. Eunice seemed indifferent after the first two days, feeling the need to put up a face, nothing had changed and she was the same. But the facade grew weak on the third day and she lost it. Her husband was there for her, but she didn’t feel the urge to confide in him, she didn’t seek comfort in his arms; she had felt it elsewhere, and she wanted only that. As Eunice sat by her window one day, watching her horses being tended to by a part-time slave, she realized something she had always known but didn’t believe it was possible for her to do so.
Eunice realized that she was in love with Joseph.