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First pages

Chapter One

Arousing at six-thirty a.m.; her eyes cloudy and shut, Eden raised her head and stretched her right foot and arm toward the middle of the right side of her bed to feel him. After one of his longest absences, she expected him to be seated as she woke up.

“It’s our way of ushering a new day since my childhood,” a groggy Eden retorted. “He’s always waiting for me to rouse and exchange greeting.”

Eden was referring to her father David Cardinal. When home the U.S. Congressman has always been on his daughter’s bedside to usher in a new day.

“The routine started in my infancy, carried on in my childhood and has continued as I get into my teen. It is a habit, a custom he hardly failed to fulfil until today.”

Raising her right arm into the air, she moved it rightward and prodded as if to touch him, but failed to sense him.

“Did I miss him or is his seated on the opposite side?” she muted. “He might have changed sides. Let me try the left.”

With her wooden bed located in the middle of the room, it was not unusual for him to change sides. Eden kept her eyes shut as he stroked and nudged her left foot leftward barrenly. Still bleary she reached with her left arm gainlessly.

“Unseated, unlike him to be absent,” she said disappointedly. “He has hardly been without a good reason.”

Having gone to bed displeased as a result of the uncongenial attitude the four dearest people in her young life—parents, David and Tamar; and grandparents, Bethel and Massa—exhibited at dinner the previous night—Eden anticipated his presence as he promised as he tucked her in.

“If nothing else—I wanted him here to embrace me, to ameliorate my discontent over their unacceptable conduct last night—I needed his warm embrace, a soft landing to begin a new day.”

Crestfallen from absence, Eden rested her head on her soft while cotton pillow and snoozed off, hoping he would be seated by her bedside wakes up a second time.

“I look forward to being greeted, kissed cuddled and massaged. You’d be here without fail.”

Rousing a second time thirty later, her eyes closed as if she did not want to open and not see him waiting, Sofia raised her head, stretched both of her arms and legs in opposite directions to reach him. Emptiness called—he remained absent.

“You should be seated by my side,” a disheartened Eden murmured. “Why are you here? I expected you after such long absence. You promised me.”

Her hopes dashed a second time; she lingered bit longer than she did the first time she arose. As if she had lost her sense of touch, she opened her cloudy eyes, wiped them to focus better. She turned her neck as slowly as a snail moves from right to left to look. She spotted nothing. Then, as slowly as a snail moves, Eden turned her neck from right to left searchingly. Open space greeted her.

Failing to find him, Sofia snuggled one pillow on her chest and rested another on her head. Lying still, she straightened her body and arms like a corpse in a coffin. She stared at the ceiling as if the frescoes on the ceiling could give the reason for her father’s absence.

“Do you have an excuse for him,” she asked.

Without an answer from the inanimate objects, Eden mused to figure why his father would not be on his bedside after a long absence from Panera.

“He never fails. Having been away for months, I longed for him to tuck me last night and every night. I expected to be seated by my side this morning and every morning as I wake up. The squabbles of the previous time obstructed our routine. He could not tuck me last night, but promised me to be my side this morning before I wake up. He failed. He isn’t here even after what transpired during and after dinner yesterday night.”

Frustrated, Eden rolled from side to the other, moved her right arm from the headboard to the middle of her bed where her father would have been seated waiting to be greeted by his daughter’s appealing face, adorable smile and soothing voice.

“Good morning my angel,” he would have greeted as she raised her head.

“Good morning to you dad,” she would have answered.

“Did you’ve a good night sleep?”

Her response could have differed depending her night went.

“Yes I did,” she would have replied if she had a good night sleep.

He would have nodded. If her night went uneasy, she would have replied offered a muddled answered

No, I didn’t, or truthfully, I can’t tell.”

No matter how she answered, he would have followed with reassurance.

“Every morning is a blessing from God. We must make the best of the day, renew our zest, faith and sense wonder the simple experience of our lives.”

Her longing for him to be on her side after a long absence, his failure to be there and offer his assurance that morning left Eden heavy-eyed. The Congressman was visiting a six-to-nine-month separation. Discontented, tensions built within. To ease the pent up tension, tension Eden raised her arms and leg into the air punched and kicked as if she striking an opponent in a boxing ring. Put-out to be punching and kicking air without reaching an object, Eden turned her attention to pillows. At that fistful moment, they represented her absent father. She picked one and pummeled it. She struck the pillow so rapid she ran out of breath, got tired and dropped on her bed like a lug. Her mind got unfocused even it roamed to ascertain what kept the Congressman from her bedside and where he might be.

“Why isn’t he here? What’s he doing? He owes me an explanation—it must be worthwhile.”

After a wakeful hour, she shut her eyes to try to get back to sleep, but she could not. She struggled for thirty minutes before dozing off and expected going into a sleep slumber. By nine-thirty a.m. when she woke a third time, she has slept another hour or so. She arose as the rising autumn sun seeped into her through the shrouds of her soft woolen curtains. The rays brightened the room. Heat generated from early morning the sun rays heightened the room’s temperature. As with her first and second, Sofia assumed the Virginia Congressman would be on duty at her side, but he remained a no-show.

Awake but hazy, the chapfallen Eden kicked around. As she brooked over, her blurred mind started assuming it received an assuring telepathic from her father before she slept off the last time.

“I’d be by your side before you wake up a third time,” he promised.

Eden thought over.

“I didn’t. I must have imagined or dreamed up that promise when I was struggling to back to sleep? He remains out of reach, astray from his responsibility.”

Eden could be right and wrong. Her fuzzy mind could be imagining or recalling her father’s promise as she tucked her in the night before.

“I would be on your bedside,” he pledged firmly as Eden slumbered off. “I want you to go sleep peacefully; I would be on your bedside when the sun rises up in the morning. I would explain our conduct.”

His failure disillusioned Eden.

“He was removed from the first time I arose, remained a second now and stayed a hooky my third time.”

She weighed what caused him to break his promise and to break their morning norm. His absence weighed down Sofia like a camel oppressed cumbersome ware. Bummed out, she struggled to go back sleep. She reeled.

“My lighted headedness must have contributed to my illusion that he sent a message promising to be here by time I wake up a third time,” Eden said as she tried regaining bearing. “Or I must be referring his promise yesternight.”

Concentrated, she gained an insight.

“He hasn’t been here; I must have imagined he sent a message having been half-asleep, half-wake, struggling to sleep. I cannot discount his promise played into my thoughts. My disappointment over his absence turned my imagination into my illusion—an illusory promise.”

Eden was correct: her father did not send a message promising to be on bedside by the time she awakes a third time. Rather, his promise, or her assumption stemmed from her sleep reverie as she realized as she came to realize. That realization inflated her disillusionment.

Disheartened, but refusing to give up, Eden went to sleep a fourth time, still looking forward he would be at her bedside when she wakes up.

“He won’t spurn me again,” she imagined. “He’ll be sitting and waiting as I awake. He won’t fail me a fourth time; never has he without a cogent reason. He would explain his late arrival.”

Thirty to forty-five minutes later when Sofia woke up the fourth time; the congressman remained AWOL from his daughter’s bedside. The congressman’s failure to pay his daily morning debt—a lifelong custom forced Sofia to keep probing what necessitated his absence.

“Where is he? Why wasn’t he by my side to usher me into a new day? He has been away from me for too long—should have been on my side. Is something wrong?”

Rather than waiting to ask and hear from the horse’s mouth, Eden kept grilling and musing within like philosophers do when they consider an important question why her father failed her as she possessed the answer instead of him.

 

Lying on her bed as she attempted to figure out why her father stayed removed from her bedside; a despondent Eden found succor her surroundings. The sun rays beaming into room kept it warm. The glows from the sun rays not only elevated the room’s temperature, it heightened her form and spirits.

“The sunlight’s warm has embraced and kissed my face as he would have,” Eden said. “The rays are touching, kissing my check and prodding my forehead as his palms would, but the sun cannot talk to me.”

However, Eden found something that spoke and appeased her mind: Sounds of nature emanating outside and filling the morning air as they echoed into Sofia’s room. She hearkened. Listening, she heard the clouds hum, trees hoot, birds chirp, insects buzz and winds swoosh.

“The sounds nature,” she billowed. “Of winds and whippoorwills, they appease my soul, offering reassurance.”

Though disheartened over his absence, the warmth of the sun and soothing sound of nature nurtured her feelings, leaving her person ironically tender in spite of sour mood.

“Massa is right,” she said. “Nature offers refuge from physical and human disappointment. Nature restores as it is restoring me.”

Sofia relished the sun and sounds of nature. Her pacification ended abruptly when suddenly she heard the rush and clamors of drums, guitar and banjo, with the accompanying clapping human voices hailing from a section of the sprawling plantation.

“They have intruded and crowded out with nature’s offerings,” she complained.

The physical sound reached Sofia as the sun began to recede. The receding sun and intrusion of human noise darkened her mood. The soothing feelings nature offered an already displeased Eden disappeared as the sounds of nature dissipated. She got jolted, upset and arose from her bed like a mad how to investigate.

“Where are these rackets of man-made instruments and song hailing from?” Eden asked ‘What’s the source? They have broken the sounds of nature that have been assuaging the bitter pill over my father’s absence. Man and nature seem to be conspiring against me today”

Drums thundered, Trumpets blared. Echoes of a piano and piccolo boomed. People sang along and clapped as if they were celebrating a special event. They were. As in Psalm 150 the slaves were praising the Lord with the sound of the trumpet; with the lute and harp; the timbrel and dance; with stringed instruments and flutes; with loud cymbals; and with clashing cymbals—every musical vehicle they could lay their hands on. They had a good reason; their hearts were with warmth, joy, merriment and hope. The Cardinal slaves were celebrating the arrival of Eden’s half-sister—a birth, a sword that would pierce Eden’s heart as it did her mother when she learned of the child’s conception.

“Another Cardinal misadventure, an abscess,” griped Tamar, Eden mother as woke up in her room, “Another cross for the Cardinals to bear and hide.”

Tamar spent another night without her husband. The birth of Eden’s half-sister may be a sore her mother, but as with every birth among slaves, her delivery served as a source of blessedness for slaves. Births represented one of the few events slaves found happiness and excitement and could celebrate abundantly without fear of ruffling their owners’ feathers having added a property value to their estate.

 

“When they breed and produce, they add to my possessions,” a slave owner told a visiting friend. “While they welcome another child, I welcome an asset, another sheep to my stable”

An American slave owner made the comment to a visiting friend, a right activist and European parliamentarian touring his sprawling plantation.

“What could engender such joy considering their miserable condition?” the parliamentarian asked the slave owner.

The European posed the question because as witnessed a group of blacks on his plantation as they sang and danced by their shacks.

“Birth of another child, my newest belonging,” the American slave owner restated. “Another property I can use and deal with as I deem fit.”

 The slave owner’s response and attitude toward other humans stunned his European visitor. Shocked to hear his friend’s uncharitable perceptions of black souls, the European right activist shook his head, unsure of how to react at that moment in a strange place. His first visit to America, and to a Southern plantation, the owner’s reaction left an indelible impression on the parliamentarian. His visit firmed up his intense dislike for slavery, an institution he viewed as it as evil and has worked against as advocate for human rights. He considered the contradictory place enslavement occupied in American life and value.

“How could human bondage and its ill obtain in a land that holds herself as one of promise, prosperity and freedom? It is ironical that those who hold their freedom and enterprise dear, who left the old continent in search of economic and religion liberties, would hold other souls captive. Americans must realize this country won’t her attain lofty aspirations without addressing this scourge—a sacrilege where one human owns another. Slavery might be as old mankind, but history shows it has led to downfall of civilizations and empires—American could learn from ancient and modern empires. Racism and race differentiation where one race feels superior over the other for no reason other than the color of their skin remains immoral.”

Although, he failed to express and relay his disavowal to the slave owner, his visit to United States, witnessing the plight of slaves in the plantation and the promise he saw in America and world should slavery be abolished, the parliamentarian took a personal vow.

“I will devote my resources, political, social and legal energies to give his life to ending slavery.”

He did. He became one of the strongest advocates against slavery. He fought slavery worldwide through legislation, law suits and writings. Widely known for his fight for human right, he worked closely with the writer of Amazing Grace to abolish slavery.

Notwithstanding the heinousness of the slave owner’s statements, he was rights. Slaves were legally regarded as properties that could be bought and sold, abused and wasted. Blacks discounted how the child was conceived—through rape, loving relationship, inside or outside a marriage—every child is welcomed as a blessing to be catered for and nurtured. A child’s parentage or race did not matter.

As human properties, blacks did not control their reproductive means. Often sexually exploited, those exploitations led to pregnancies and births. As with their servitude, slaves coped with this aspect of their lives and exploitation a common refrain: “Every birth is God’s will, a gift from the Almighty with his or her will and destiny that must be welcomed.”

Blacks held strongly to this believe realizing that at any point that child may be pulled from the parents, “and dealt with as I deem necessary” as the slave owner told the visiting European. That child could be sold away—never to be contacted again—one of the harshest indignities of American slavery.

On the other hand, for whites—especially slave owners and their lieutenants—the birth of a black child was welcomed as a means to an end. The arrival of a black child—boy or girl—represented an addition to the stable, an object to be exploited for pleasure and economically. A common practice, white masters and male overseers forced themselves on black women. Those so inclined, took advantage of young black males. Though uncommon, white women are known to seduce black men. If a union white and black produce a child, the fortune of the child depends on the master’s whims. That child might be sold, or given to slaves to rear as their own. Hardly do white families raise such off springs, but do occur.

 

Only if Eden knew that as she contemplated her father’s absence and tried to figure the source of the coarse sounds from man, he was one of those the revelers the music that disrupted soothing sounds of nature she was enjoying and relieved her disappointment.

“What direction is this cacophony coming from—I have to find out?” a disquieted asked. “If I do, I will get out and stop the guilty parties. They are disturbing my peace and adding to my dismay this morning by interrupting and drowning the calming sounds of nature.”

Eden ruminated without knowing that the man that promised to be at her bedside that morning was the midst of the guilty parties. He was among those singing aloud, clapping with their palm and banging drums intensively. His presence at the source accounted for his absence Eden’s bedside. He had a good reason for failing to pay his daily debt to her and to be among revelers. He was paying a debt to another daughter; the celebration of another life—a birth.

Eden listened attentively until she discerned the direction the din came from. It took a while for Eden to determine, but she did. She figured they emanated from one of two slave quarters in the vast Cardinal plantation.

“They are origination from the southern section of the estate.”

Uncommon for the Cardinal estate’s morning tranquility to be broken human sound, Eden wondered why.

“What’s going on with them? The sound has remained steady and getting boisterous every minute, drowning out natural sounds.”

Eden expected the sounds to cease; they kept growing louder instead of ebbing. Eden became more inquisitiveness to determine why the slaves disturbing the serenity of daybreak.

“It is as if they are celebrating something important. I will probe to find out. If I can’t from anyone else, I will get what I need from him. He will know and be willing to explain.”

It was as if Eden knew her father was among those she referred to as “guilty parties” for adding to her dismay by interrupting the sound of nature with their singing and dancing. Still hoping for her father to come to her beside, she left the window, returned to her bed and sprawled, stayed put and waited expectantly for the father to keep his promise.

“He’ll be bursting through that door to explain his absence. He’s just being late. He’ll be here”

Unable to go back to sleep, she rolled from one side of her bed to other. It had been more than forty-five minutes since Eden woke up the fourth time. Rolling on her bed, she heard footsteps on the hallway.

“Here he comes to explain his absence. From him, I will also learn what I want about raucous from the slave quarters.”

Eden knew and could discern her father’s footsteps from a distance. She listened to determine if the footsteps she heard were his, but before she could, the footsteps faded without anyone knocking at her bedroom door to get her to open the door. No pried her doorknob to open it.

“That mustn’t be him. He isn’t coming this morning. He failed me.”

She remained her bed, still expecting a knock on her door from her father to no avail. As the morning wore on, she gave up, unhappy and disappointed with her father’s choices.

“I can’t keep waiting to hear him knock for me to come open my door or prying the doorknob to open the door, walk in and pour apologies at me for his failure to keep our grand bargain. I have a strong feeling he won’t be by me this morning to pull me up, chat and pray. I don’t know why he is not here but intend to find out. I have to start my day on my own today. When I do see him he has a great of explanation to give. Apologies won’t cut it.”

The sun was receding as Eden concluded her father would not be by her bedside that morning. If his first daughter got sour from his absence, David had a reason to be absent from her that morning. He was lifting, hugging and exchange greetings with his second. It was the same reason that prompted the human sounds that broke the serenity of the Cardinal estate, which disquieted his first. David and slaves were ushering a child as into the world that morning as he ushered Eden every morning.

 

Her father’s absence from her bedside and the cacophony of sounds arising from the southern quarters that morning were two unusual facts of life for Eden. Isolated from the city of Panera in southeastern Virginia, the Cardinals’ plantation is situated in a rural farm setting. The area is quaint and inviting. Silence greeted every morning. Early mornings at the plantation are as silent as Holy sanctuary in a temple.

As Eden heard when she woke the first and second time, if sounds are heard, they stem from nature wind blowing, trees whistling, cocks crowing, crickets shrilling, mice squealing, sparrow twittering, seagulls squawking, horses sputtering, deer belling, bears roaring and the cloud droning.

Occasionally wagons can be heard on the dirt roads clacking, and ploughs tilling the soil. When human sound is heard, Eden presumed they emanate from the residents of the mansion.

“They come from exchange of greetings among the domestic slaves, my grandparents talking to one another, or issuing instructions to the house slaves or his foremen. I can understand my parents arguing when father is around. Hardly had I ever heard the kind of raucous coming from the slave quarters this morning.”

As the morning wore on, the din from the slave quarters grew louder, instead of ebbing. People shouted, hooted and clapped. The voices seemed more excited with every passing minute. Having decided to start the day on her own, and having ascertained where sound came from, but not knowing why, Eden got curious.

“There must a good reason the drums, the clapping and singing have lasted so long. I’ve to find out why the Negroes seem to be reveling and having fanfare instead of plowing, planting or picking crops in the field. Why are they not in the barn taking care of the animals?

Intrigued by the unabated sounds emanating from the southern quarters that broke the tranquility of the plantation, Eden’s set out to find why.

“Something unique must be going on in this plantation today. I have to investigate what prompted the celebratory sounds.”

Jumping off her bed, she straightened her night gown, wore her night floppies and walked toward the windows facing the slave quarters. As she headed to the window, her flowing hair covered her face. She pulled her hair back. At her window facing southern quarter, she pulled the curtains with her right hand, while using her left to stroke her hair back in order to see. As she peered through, the atmosphere was bright and she could see far away. As he peered through, she saw a group of slaves standing near one the shacks. A figure she saw took her aback.

“I can’t believe my eyes. Isn’t that a white man among those gathered near the shack where it seems they’re conducting a fanfare? He’s dancing, laughing and cajoling with slaves!!”

She took a closer.

“That’s a white man in their midst,” she confirmed.

She opened her window, lunged and stretched her neck outside to look. Taking a more concentrated look, Eden felt like she could make out the figure of the white man.

“That’s him, that’s my father—what is he doing there?”

Watching her father jubilating in the midst of slaves stunned her. It gave her goose bumps. Her father and the slaves were gathered in front of Mary’s shack. Nearly seventy-five, Mary was the oldest female slave. She was viewed as the matriarch of not just her immediate family, but of all the slaves in the Cardinal plantation. She remained active for her age. She worked on the farm occasionally, but spent most of her time doing domestic chores, offering healthcare services, taking care of the plantation’s children. When not taking care of children, she could be found counselling adults, or relaying oral tales about the black experience in America to anyone who listened.

“Have I seen anything like this before?” Eden asked as she looked. “When was the last time father was home? I can’t recall in the nearly one dozen years of my life.”

She was right.

Chapter Two

Through her childhood, when her father was home, he had always been on her side to read and tuck her in every night. At dawn, he would be on her bed side to pray and exchange greetings as she arises. That was not the case this morning. Eden did not know why, but her father had a good reason for being absent. It was the key factor that precipitated the icy interaction and tension that permeated the Cardinals’ at the dinner table. It led to the altercation that took place between her parents after dinner. Instead of being with his only daughter that morning, David was welcoming a second child into the world.

When Eden saw her father in the midst of slaves, it could have marked her first time seeing a master mingling and cavorting with slaves. She batted her eyes fast in disbelief as she looked.

“Is he dancing?” she asked still in disbelief.

Not wanting to believe what she saw, she closed and opened her eyes thrice in rapid successions as if the sight and scene would disappear each time.

“This isn’t my imagination. It’s happening—a master among his slaves!”

Shocked, she froze as if she was in the middle of a winter storm in a deserted island. She clasped her arms around her chest, stood still and kept glaring at the strange scene.

“I don’t know what to think of what I saw, or what to do,” as she came to a conclusion. “That’s where he has been. That’s why he isn’t on my bedside to pray and talk to me this morning.”

Then, she uttered a statement to herself as if a soothsayer figure and revealed her father’s absence from her beside.

“I don’t know what, but whatever kept him away from me this morning must be important. It must be something incredible for him to be in the midst of subjects he owns.”

She was right. If her father could answer truthfully, he would agree.

“I was welcoming your half-sister earlier as I’ve ushered a new day with you every morning.”

Still wondering, and unable to fathom what to make of the revelry unfolding in the slave quarters that morning, Eden hung on by her windows with a wish.

“I wish, I had wings to fly, grab and shake my father back to senses,” she longed. “If only I could.”

Bewildered, Eden gathered herself, opened her windows slightly to listen and watch her father who seemed to be having a time of his life.

“He’s praying as they do, he’s singing as they do, and clapping as they do. He’s chatting away with the slaves as if he’s one of them.”

From her room, Eden watched attentively to make sense of the confounding occurrence. As he listened, she heard familiar prayers and songs.

“They’re saying and singing the same prayers and song my caretakers shared with me.”

Suddenly, the singing, the clapping and dancing stopped. Those gathered in front of Mary’s shack directed their attention toward its entrance.

“Why did they stop?”

Watching as she contemplated why they stopped, she saw Mary emerge from her shack. The scene grew quiet as Mary waved to beckon David. David walked up to talk to the matriarch. As David walked up, those on his way stepped aside for him to pass save Jesse who followed him behind. Eden witnessed what transpired. Jesse cupped his ear to listen as Mary and David conversed. Eden’s father seemed animated as Mary talked to him. Not long after, Mary turned around to walk into her shack. Eden’s father followed her. Jesse returned to the courtyard. The clapping, praying and dancing resumed again when Jesse returned.

The revelry among slaves gathered in Mary’s front yard was going on when David and a woman emerged from Mary’s shack. Mary followed momentarily holding an object that looked like a doll swaddled in a loin cloth. Mary handed the object to David who raised the object up. The people jumped with joy. Jesse pushed forward so fast he stumbled as he climbed the steps.

“Father seems quite animated,” Eden said. “Why is he kissing the piece of dirty cloth?”

Her father’s gesture of kissing the object turned off Eden.

“If he’d come here, he’d have to clean up before he kisses me. He kissed a dirty object.”

Eden did not know that the object her father kissed and she saw him handing to Jesse was her half-sister. As Jesse caressed the object, walked down the stairs along with David, while some on the yard rushed in opposite direction to meet them, everyone became boisterous. The singing, clapping, drumming and praying resumed with a force. Standing on her porch, a very happy Mary looked on.

“The birth of a child represented one of the few moments our people rejoice with abundance,” she said.

By this time, Eden had been standing by the window, watching, listening and thinking for nearly forty-five minutes. Assessing what to make of the raucous taking place in the slave quarters, a thought occurred to her.

“Why is the mansion dead silence—one could hear pin drop? No one seems to be in charge today.”

She was still wondering of the reticence in the mansion when she saw one of the slaves handed her father the object. Holding the object, he climbed the stairs with Jesse. He handed the object to Jesse. Jesse kissed and handed the object to a beaming Mary, who still standing on her balcony with the older black woman. Accepting the object, both women turned around to return to the shack. The slaves roared abundantly and freely as if they have just heard they were free from bondage. It was as if they had been set loose in the jungles of Africa where their forefathers roamed unreservedly as Mary often reminded them.

“What’s that object?” Eden asked. What’re they exchanging and celebrating?”

 

Before the question could vacate her mind, Eden heard her mother sobbing. If Eden paid attention, she would have heard much she woke up the second time. That was when Tamar heard the sounds from the slave quarter. She knew why. She knew David was welcoming his love child. Tamar cussed as she whined.

Hearing her mother marked the first time she heard a sound emanating from the mansion that morning. She pulled her curtains, shut her windows and turned her attention to her mother. Recalling the squabble between her parents the previous night, Eden plastered her ears on her wall to listen so as to discern what she said and why she sobbed.

“That fool is the father of the bastard,” her mother said. “His indiscretion has come to the open. Everyone would know he’s one of those disgraceful white men who preferred to sleep with their slaves over their wives.”

As with the sight in the slave quarters, Eden did not know what to make of her mother’s condemnation of her father. She kept listening as her mother complained bitterly.

“He hasn’t only shamed our marriage, but the Cardinal family name.”

“How did father shame you and the family?” Eden pondered.

Unable to make sense of her mother’s caustic statement, her mind went back to the strain she displayed toward her father; and how quiet and distant her grandparents were with him at the dinner.

“I’m usually the last person to arrive at the dinner table every evening. I was the first yesterday. When I came down for dinner the waiter was the only person in the dining room. I waited for my parents and grandparents to join me. Five minutes after I arrived, no one joined. The waiter waited without chatting with me.”

After being seated for more than twelve minutes without her parents and grandparents joining, and waiter holding back from chatting with her, Eden was forced to start a conversation with her. She posed a question to the waiter.

“Where’s everyone,” she asked.

“Miss Eden, they’re coming,” answered the waiter, one of many domestic slaves in the Cardinal mansion.

Another five minutes tricked without her parents and grandparents showing up. Frustrated with waiting as a sumptuous dinner of beef, sweet potato, vegetable and rice got cold; Eden was forced to act.

“I’m going to get them,” she told the waiter.

“Be patient,” her waiter answered.

“I’ve waited enough,” Eden said as she stormed out of the dining room to fetch her parents and grandparents.

Uncomfortable to remain alone in the dining room, while Eden went searching for her parents and grandparents, the waiter followed. She waited in the hallway as Eden first knocked and opened door at her parents’ bedroom.

“I’ve been waiting for you to come to dinner,’” she announced.

Without waiting for a response, she climbed the stairs to the study where her grandparents were reading.

“Why are you reading while dinner has been served?” she asked.

As with her parents, she did not wait for a response. She turned around to return to dining room. She found her parents were seated on the opposite sides of the table. They seemed irritated; not talking to each other, but rather stared sternly at one another. A couple of minutes later, her grandparents walked in, seated without the customary exchange. As soon as the grandparents settled, the waiter waved at one of the slaves to assist.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Emmanuel C. Alozie (Ph.D) published Capitalist Realism: Realities and Myths in Advertising (20150), Advertising in developing in emerging and developing countries (2011), Marketing in developing countries: Nigerian advertising in a global and technological economy (2009); Cultural reflections and the role of advertising in the socio-economic and national development. He has worked as a reporter and editor for leading dailies.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
Interest in history and romance
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
People can change and work together
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
The Portable Greek Reader