Katherine Oscuro (Light) Gabrielle
Cody Caldwell Sangria(Blood) Le Diable Xena
Violence: ermmm??yes, of course.
Sex: Ermmmmmm?..yes again.
Anything else: yes, again?.just read the story already.
It was a turkey all right. Fat, dumb and Delicious. Katherine Claro huddled behind a large tree, wrapped only in her shawl. Her brother, Fredrick crept up closer to the bird. At least now they would have some food for supper. Their hunt so far had only gotten them a small squirrel and a handful of berries. Fredrick stood as still as one of the oaks around him. Barely breathing, Katherine watched as he drew the rifle down to load a bullet into the barrel. Katherine cursed him for not having had his weapon ready. At this distance they couldn't miss!
Fredrick took aim and squeezed the trigger. There was the usual banging sound and then Katherine saw the scrawny bird fall to the ground with a flurry of its feathers. She said a silent prayer for the soul of the bird and thanked him for allowing them food for a day or two.
The shadows began to get longer in the late afternoon as she and Fredrick walked back to their small cabin in the centre of the woods. Fredrick swung the bird along by his side and Katherine held her apron high to stop their berries falling out. They sang an old hymn as they walked, Katherine's sweet high soprano dancing over Fredrick's low Tenor.
They increased their pace as the crossed through the newly planted garden, lest their mother see them dawdling along. For weeks now, Annette Claro had sat at the window seat during the day and then lain in bed throughout the night. Fredrick had had to lift her from place to place and it was a trial when she needed to use the chamber pot. Her pneumonia had almost ruined her already weak lungs and heaven forbid that she should be worse.
Katherine knew that if she was, she would have to walk the two miles down to get Mrs Gibson. Mrs Gibson had brewed up some foul concoction designed to help a persons fever and cure their sickness. Over the past weeks, the medicine had partially succeeded but Annette Claro was getting worse all the same. A few other remedies had also been tried, but all in the county knew that what was left to do was up to the patients own will and that of the gods if need be.
Annette had always been a strong woman. She had arrived in America from England. Her husband had died on the ship passage across and now she had Fredrick and yet another baby on the way. Heaven knows why she didn't remarry the minute she set foot in her new country. Katharine had never questioned her mothers desire to stay single until recently when she began to notice that more male help may have been useful over the years.
"Mama?" She called as Fredrick shut the door behind them . "Mama? Are you ok?"
A faint answer came from the direction of the one bedroom. Fredrick slept in a small attic space and Katharine still shared the bed with her mother, despite her sickness. "Look mama!" She called excitedly. "We bagged a turkey, we'll have food Mama!" She cried.
Her mother inclined her head in Katharine's direction. "Don't say bagged lass, its common." Annette replied to her joyful daughter. The smile faded from Katharine's face as she began to prepare dinner for the family.
She tucked her golden hair, so like her mothers behind her ear and set to work, ignoring the shivers that passed down her spine despite the minimal heat the fire provided.
"Katharine?" her mother called weakly. Katharine crossed to the doorway and looked in on her mother. Even from there, she could see how pale her mother was. The light from the dusty windowpanes cast an unearthly glow across her mother. "Go get your brother to move me, then I want a word with ye lass."
Katherine nodded. "Sure Mama. I'll get him, then I'll wash up this mornings dishes and re-stoke the fire while you settle yourself."
A few minutes later, she pulled up a chair beside the sickbed. Fredrick passed out of the room to go whittle some more on the front porch. Katharine stroked her mothers heated forehead and passed a cold washcloth across her mamas chest quickly. "What did you want to talk about Mama?"
Annette's green eyes stared out from her face despite their sunken sockets. She gazed into Katharine's own emerald coloured eyes almost dreamily. "I've had a good life, me lass, and I wouldn'a changed a bit'o it. Ye knows I loves ya, don't ye?" She whispered softly.
"I've no fear of the death." Her Mama continued.
"Don't say that Mama." Katharine whispered fiercely. "You'll pass this pneumonia. This is just a passing spell, you'll be better in a few days again - and I'll get some more o' Mrs Gibson's medicine tonight."
"Darling. I'll taught ye all I know, and yer brother too. To read and write?.but ye always learnt better than he-"
"Don't say that Mama! Its horrid to say that to one and not the other!" Katharine interrupted.
"No, lass, its easy to see that you're not of the same stock as he. Nor are you like the other folks in this 'ere county." Katharine looked on as her mother continued, "Theys good folks, and theys all we could'a hoped for in neighbours. But its easy to see that you's cut from a different type o'?..cloth. You is from a different part of God's creation. I seen you o'er the years Lass, you don't like it here and I don't blame ye."
"Oh Mama! How can you say that? I love Madison County! And you know I do." Katharine said angrily.
"No, lass, ye're restless here, aren't ye? 'Tis time that you though about leaving-"
"Mother! This is your fever that's talking, not you!"
"Hear me out Girl!" Annette cried, the sudden volume change affecting her so much that she began to cough and splutter.
Katharine fetched a bucket and held her mother's head back as she coughed a stream of blood into it. Eventually, exhausted, she collapsed back onto the pillows. "I've gotta tell ye this lass, because, although its in Gods hands, I feel my time is short here. I've got to tell ye-"
Once again Katharine interrupted. "Rest mama, tell me later and I'll start supper for you."
"No. I've got to say this whiles I've got the courage to. Y'see, both of us are living a lie."
"A lie? But we're an honest family?"
"I thought that I'd never have to tell you?.but when Gilbert and I left England?.well you know how he died and left me on a ship with naught but a penny to my name?"
"I know Mama, and you had Fredrick and you were pregnant too, it must have been terrible."
Annettes eyes reddened in her yellow withery skin. "Nay lass, I wasn't pregnant yet."
Katharine pulled her hand out from under her mothers, confusion etched all over her face. "But Mama?how? How was I conceived? I know that they call you a saint in town,?but you're not the Virgin Mary!" Katharine had always honoured her English background and mothers Scottish heritage. She had always cherished her father's memory. What was mama trying to say? Katharine's chest tightened.
"What I mean, is that Gilbert Gordon was not your father."
"Gordon? Of course not Mama, your husband was Gilbert Claro?my father was Gilbert Claro. I'll go fetch your medicine now." Katharine tried to laugh but failed.
"Nay again lass, My husband was Gilbert Gordon?.Fredrick's father was Gilbert Gordon?.your father was Etienne Claro. What I'm saying is that?Gilbert was not, ever, your father." The words hung before them, suspended by the air.
"Who?who am I?" Katharine asked eventually.
"Ye're my daughter, and I love you." Her mother replied. "Ye're the daughter of a man I loved beyond everything?.beyond God, beyond everything I ever thought was right. Hate me if you can Katharine. But I know that that will be my cross to bear. And I will pay with my immortal soul but you were my greatest gift, and I'll never regret that."
Sweat began to dribble down Katharine's spine. She had gripped her mothers hand tightly again. "I only ever wanted to spare you the pain of knowing that you were born out of wedlock lass, but now I know that its better if you do know." Annette continued.
The full impact of the words hit Katharine worse than a blow could of.
"Let me explain to you how it happened daughter?" Annette pleaded.
All Katharine could do was nod.
"It began when I had first arrived in New Orleans. Etienne Claro was a French Creole, although his own father was Spanish?.I'm not quite sure how that worked out, because Creoles will only ever marry their own kind?.He came to me when I was sad and lonely. When I arrived in New Orleans, The Creoles still had their own societies?.separate to the rest of Louisiana, you understand. The ships captain had taken me to a small inn, I had enough change for two nights lodging and bread for Fredrick."
Katharine forced her ears to listen. You must know who you are. She urged herself. She felt as though she had been taken out of her own body and put into someone else's. But when she pinched her palm between two fingers, she realised that this wasn't a bad dream.
"I took a job at a coffeehouse. I was still young and strong. And Fredrick needed to be fed, even if I could skip meals. I was given scraps at work, but I took them home for Fredrick. After a week or so, I had enough money to buy fruit in the markets. So on a Sunday morning, while everyone else went to their churches, I would head down and get the cheap fruit. Sometimes I even had money for a coffee. The first day I had one, it warmed me to my toes, and I promised myself that I would someday have enough money so that I could have coffee every time I wanted it."
Katharine laughed, "So that's why we have so much coffee in the cupboards!"
"Ay lass, I loved it. Haven't had one lately, but I thought that it was heaven to have a coffee back then. Apart from being lonely, and worried over the continual mists over the city, I was fine. Fredrick was in the way sometimes, but he was a fine bonny lad. And he loved watching people in that city as much as I did. The landlady looked after him while I worked. She didn't mind because I paid her extra."
"Ay?.those people were the most elegant that you would ever see. All talking French or Spanish they were. It was hard enough to find out what type of coffee they wanted! They all had the heaviest accents. Even the women. There were always Spanish or French royalty there. Once, I saw two Spanish dukes ride by, it took my breath away, with their plumes and gilded jackets. And then?then I met Etienne."
"He was the most beautiful man that I had ever seen, and rich beyond reasonable understanding. I banged into him in the markets one morning when he was instructing a slave how to pick good weaving cotton for his mother. The poor man ended up with my freshly picked tomatoes down his front. After that, he would come into the coffeehouse and I would serve him. He was so different to Gilbert. I had loved Gilbert because we were the same. The same dreams and goals?..but I loved Etienne because he was different to me. He was so wise and brilliant."
"Etienne Claro?." Katharine murmured. The name sounded odd to her, and felt alien to her tongue. She murmured the words a few more times. She was Creole! Well, half Creole at least. But was she Spanish Creole or French Creole? It seemed too confusing and she turned her attention back to her mother.
"One day he asked me to walk with him?It was so romantic. I was in love with him almost from the very beginning. I didn't tell him about Fredrick?..I was too scared too. So I kept him from calling on me, even though Fredrick and I had moved into a small rented cottage by then. I knew that we could never fully be together, we were too different, but I still dreamed that he would marry me one day. So different?..and yet I think that our souls were joined?.somehow?.he was a roman catholic, so even our religion separated us. He used to take me to his apartment and I could watch the streetlights come on across the Vieux Carre. It was like being a princess in a castle, with my enchanted prince. I was so happy. That was when you were conceived, Katharine."
"Oh Mama!" Katharine whispered. "I was wrong to judge you so, you never fell from grace, you truly loved him, didn't you mama?"
"Yes, yes I did. I loved him more than life itself." Annette looked towards the window for a moment. "But then it all changed. Etienne sent a letter. He said that?.that he had wanted to marry me?but he never could. He said it was because of his family and religion. I cried all that night. Then?.then I heard that he had left on a business trip overnight and would visit with me when he returned. The next morning?.the newspaper said that he had been shot and mugged in a ditch outside of town. They never found out who did it."
Katharine gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. Annette's eyes remained dry however. "I left on the next train and traveled up to here where I knew that my uncle lived. I've never left since, although I left a lot of friends in New Orleans."
"Did?.did Etienne know about me?" Katharine whispered.
"No?.I never told him. I thought that he would propose, I didn't want him to think that he had to marry me. Mr Tinieblas?his business partner gave me some money. That was kind of him. He didn't know either, although I think that he may have guessed."
"Theres more Lass, I wrote to Mr Tinieblas a few months ago regarding you. I told him that you were Etienne's daughter and he has agreed to organise your passage up to New Orleans after?after I'm gone. He's very nice and helpful.."
"We don't need his help Mama!" Katherine cried out. "We're fine, and you'll get better."
"I know that Darling, but I don't want you to grow old here. There's more for you out there. You could marry Robert Gaerten, but I don't think that you want to do you?" Katharine shook her head. "Then promise me, that you will go to New Orleans if anything happens to me."
"I promise." Katharine whispered.
"Good, and don't say anything to your brother, I've written him a letter explaining it for after I'm gone. And Mr Tinieblas has also agreed to send you on to Scotland to find my sister and brothers. You can marry a landowner and keep our faith over there."
"Leave America?" Katarine cried incredulously. "But mother, The Despatch newspaper has been calling for volunteers to go to the war hospitals, they think that a war will begin anyday now!"
"You're Scottish and Creole, Katharine. You're not needed."
"I'm an American Mama! I'm not anything I don't want to be."
Annette sank back onto the pillows. "Fine Child, be an American. It'll probably be better. I don't want anybody to be embarrassed by your birth."
Katharine bit back another retort, careful not to anger her mother further. Lord knows she didn't need any extra pressure. "I'll fix supper now Mama, and then I'll scoot over to the Macgregors for the medicine."
"Before you go?..all of my important things are in the chest there. You'll need them for New Orleans when you go."
Katharine nodded again and turned out of the room, wiping at tears that threatened to blur her vision.
Katharine wiped a hand across her eyes as she stood on the train platform. Those flowers had been her mothers favourite. Lately, every time she saw something, they reminded her of her mother. Even the light swirling mists reminded her of the ones her mother said had surrounded New Orleans.
Fredrick was hastily talking to one of the Jameson twins. As was the tradition, Fredrick had been left the cottage and the woods. Katharine was to get a small sum of money every year and a dowry when she choose to marry. Inside, Katharine cursed her mother for not leaving a will behind. Her life seemed to be over. As much as she hated to break her promise to her mother, Katharine knew that she could never follow through with it and go to Scotland.
Fredrick walked back over to her and pecked her on the cheek. "It's a long drive home, so I'd better be going. Your luggage is loaded, so all you have to do is get on the train and kiss goodbye to Madison County." His tone was bitter, just like his attitude. As it had been since he discovered that Katharine was of different stock to him. Katharine longed to take him in her arms and apologise even though she knew that it wasn't her fault.
She nodded instead and began to walk away. She turned to say goodbye, only to find that he was already talking to the other Jameson twin. Katharine turned and walked toward the train again. It was time to begin a new life. The boat she would travel on sailed from St Louis, Missouri in three days, so she had just enough time to get there.
Her mother had sewn money into the hems of Katharine's dresses before she had gotten too sick to move. It was her way of saying sorry for not having a will, Katharine supposed. It made the dresses heavier to wear, but Katharine couldn't help but smile at her mother's ingenuity.
Annette Oscuro had passed away on April 17th, a few days after Lincoln declared war on the 'confederate rebels'. War hospitals had already sprung up all over the country and another call was out for money and nurses for the cause. No-body had hesitated to sign up to benefit the confederate cause. "It was a rich mans war," Bob Jameson said, "and a poor man's fight" It was true, of course. Katharine didn't know anyone who had ever owned a slave, and yet she knew plenty of young men who had signed up for the army the first day the call went out.
Katharine stepped up onto the train balcony. She turned to wave again, and realised that Fredrick had already left. She sighed deeply and went inside the train carriage.
Cody walked the length of her ship. Samuel followed her, blabbering incoherently about the taxes New Orleans was charging for docking ships in their harbour.
Her boots slammed down over and over on the tough wooden deck. All around her, 'sailors' rushed around to ready the ship for departure. A scowl settled permanently across her face as she thought about the things that she would like to do to torture Samual sometimes. He may be her second-in-command on this ship, but he was a bumbling idiot when it came to running the ship. Cody stopped to spit over the railing into the sea below. The Cleopatra was her best ship yet. The mast stood over sixteen metres high and the sails billowed out like white clouds from it.
Cody owned six ships, and the Cleopatra was not only her fastest, it was her favourite. "I've decided," She announced, after another two laps up and down the deck, "that I'm going to catch a train to New Orleans. You may all sail."
"But?.but Cody-" Samual said.
"But what, Samual?" Cody interupted. She pushed a lock of raven-black hair back over her shoulder. "I've decided to take a break from piracy for a while. This is a test to see if you can survive without me for a few days." She spun on her heel and headed to the main cabin to collect some things.
"Markus!" She called. A young pirate immediately bounded into the room after her. She placed a small badge on his shirt quickly. "You're second-in-command to Samuel while I'm gone." She leaned close. "If he doesn't plunder every ship that you see, other than out sister ships, you have my permission to clap him in irons." She finished the last sentence with a wave of her hand and pulled a bag over her shoulder. "I'll meet you in New Orleans. I might even sail up the Mississippi, if I can get a train to St Louis in time."
Markus stood and watched again as Le Diable left her cabin and walked calmly down the gangplank and into the throng of people on the dock.
Cody swung her bag along as she walked. She couldn't help humming a tune the sailors had been singing. Something about Le Diable having a cat and???she couldn't even remember the rest of it. Cody smiled as she thought of Samuel's face as she had left. He was too scared to question her, and yet he was too scared to be rid of her. She waved to Molly, whose head was poking out of one of the whorehouse windows.
"Care to stop awhile?" Molly called gaily, her dark ringlets bouncing around her face.
"Can't" Cody called back. "Gotta go." Molly scowled and retreated back inside. Le Diable, the infamous pirate continued down the street, her own dark hair tossing slightly as she moved her head. There was a train depot up ahead, and if she was lucky, she'd just catch the next train to St Louis.
Continued in Part 2.