chapter 120 miles north of New Orleans, 1858
Twin Oaks Plantation.
Annette paced in the nursery, rubbing her 9 month pregnant belly. "Relax, baby, just relax it will be all right", she drawled.
But what if it wasn't? She was 100% Cajun, her family from ordinary, strong, but simple stock. Her momma had been a maid here at Twin Oaks when Annette caught the eye of Tristan Thibodaux, the only son, man of the house, and heir. His father, the old man, Pierre Thibodaux, had freed all the slaves in his will, so the Thibodaux's now hired white folks, and paid them, making them an oddity in the community. Though they were far too rich and too old of a family to become pariahs.
Henriette, Pierre's wife, was unhappy with her husband's choice, and while she pressured Tristan to go back to the way things were, he insisted on exacting his father will as it was written.
But that was nothing compared to her anger when Tristan asked Annette to dance at the Holiday Lights Ball last year. And nothing again to how she felt when Tristan asked for Annette's hand in marriage.
Annette had moved into a beautiful, if cold, house 10 months ago. And if she'd thought Henriette would be nicer to her when she found out Annette was carrying the future Thibodaux heir, well she'd been wrong about that. The old lady was as frigid and rude as ever. And intimidating. God was the woman intimidating. Her blood line went back to Louis XVI, the Sun King. Her family had fled here during the Terror. No, Henriette's family was not poor, nor did her people live in the swamp and eat what they could hunt and fish. No. Not Henriette.
But Tristan was heir, and short of finding a way to disinherit him (which Henriette had threatened, an empty threat they all knew), there was nothing his mother could do about his marriage. He was head of the family now.
The moment Annette looked at him, fair skin, blonde hair, brilliant blue eyes, she fell in love, and she didn't care that every stitch he had on cost more than her family's home.
He'd asked her to dance...my was he was a strong dancer. So elegant. She'd felt like a princess in his arms. It had all been a fairy tale, a dream she never woke up from. And the baby had come along so fast. A wedding night child showed that God approved of their union, even if her mother in law did not.
Then two months ago, HE had started to come around again. She'd stayed a virgin for her husband, yes she had, she had nothing to feel guilty about. But she had kissed William Burton, no question about it, her teen love, the man she had planned to marry before he'd lit out for parts unknown. To become a success as a peanut farmer further west in Arkansas. And he had returned penniless, moved back in with his family, and gone looking for Annette.
But Annette was already married to the love of her life, and carrying his child. She'd forgotten all about William Burton. But William hadn't liked that. And she knew he and her mother in law had conversed. In the dark of night, by the river. About how to get Tristan to leave her, how to convince him she was a harlot, maybe even that the child she carried wasn't his. And nearly every night Annette had nearly sweat to death over it.
But so far they must not have come up with the right way to broach the subject with Tristan, because he said not a word.
But that didn't stop Annette from worrying, which wasn't good for the baby. Any day now. Any day now the baby would be born. "Please be a boy, please be a boy", she repeated for the millioneth time. If she gave Tristan a son and heir, he would never hear a word against her. There would be no getting rid of her. She would be the future lady of the house in all certainty.
She gathered her long dark hair into a bun on top of her head and admired her reflection in their rare looking glass. Tristan thought she was beautiful.
"Ouch! Oh!" she screamed. "Tristan!!"
She could hear him barreling up with stairs, three at a time with his long legs.
"The baby is coming!" she screamed.
"Oh...oh Lord preserve us. Now get into bed, Annette, you just rest. Momma! Momma! Fetch the doctor!"
Henriette came into the room with a bored look on her face. "Really, Annette, women give birth every day. I gave birth to six. You didn't hear me scream like a guinea hen."
"Momma, send one of my sisters, or better yet, go yourself, to get Doc Hudson from town!" he screamed.
"Oh very well. What a fuss." She listened as the witch jars rattled in the wind, tied to the trees outside. Exactly what her Christian household needed, some voodoo courtesy of her superstitious swamp-born daughter in law. "They're for protection" Annette had argued every time Henriette had tried to have them taken down. She walked out.
"Keep that woman away from me..." Annette hissed. "She hates me, she hates this baby."
"Oh Annette, you're wrong! She just didn't get her way and she's acting like a jealous woman. But she'll come to love you as much as I do. And she'll worship her grandbaby for certain", he said, sounding so sure.
He didn't understand. He would never understand. Maybe it took a woman to understand. Blood feuds like this don't fade. They go on forever, unless they end...in death.
"Ohhhhhhhhh! Owwwwwww!" she screamed again.
"Is there anything I can do, my angel?" he crooned, kissing her hand over and over.
"I love you, Tristan, never forget that", she said, as sweat poured down her face.
"As I love you", he said, kissing her hand again.
The next day, after 18 hours of labor, Annette held her son in her arms. The first Thibodaux son of this generation. Let Henriette say what she wished, Tristan was over the moon about him.
But Annette had found a complete personality reversal in a day. Now she lived for tiny, chubby little arms and legs, 10 fingers and 10 toes, and a headful of Tristan's platinum blonde hair with her brown eyes.
She found she cared little for stupid intrigues anymore. Her child was far too interesting.
But she was shocked and dismayed when Tristan announced he had to go into New Orleans for business. He had kissed them both, praised them both for the hundredth time, and swore to be back in two days.
The following night, Tristan Jr. was screaming, as Annette bounced him in her arms. "Shhh, it's okay, baby."
A figure crossed the threshold. "Henriette?" she asked. "Agatha? Agnes?" Maybe one of Tristan's sisters.
She knew that voice anywhere.
&qu ot;I knew you'd remember me. You haven't lost the Bayou completely", he drawled slowly.
"William, what are you doing in here? This is private property." Her voice raised with fear.
"Oh now, I know you ain't got that high and mighty, Annette, my little Annie. I know you remember you and me in the cotton dock..."
"William! That was a long time ago. I'm a married woman now, a mother, please, this isn't appropriate..."
"Listen to you talk. He give you lessons or something?"
In fact,he had. "Go away, William."
"Now don'tbe like that", he said, stumbling toward her. She could smell the stink of bourbon on his breath.
"You're drunk!" she accused.
"We used to get drunk together. You remember that, Annie?"
"Please stop calling me that." It brought back too many memories of a time she wished she could forget.
"We was down in the cotton dock just....some months agos...we got drunk, and lay together, then you give me that baby." He was clearly repeating whatever nonsense Henriette had told him to repeat. He didn't even know how long a woman was pregnant.
"You know that is a bald faced lie, William Burton", she accused, squeezing the baby closer to her, making him cry out. "Your Creator can hear you."
He took two giant steps, apparently done playing games.
"I'm your Creator, bitch, the only man in your life..."
"There ain't nobody in this house, cher, cept you and me and a bunch of women with bedrooms on the other side of this place. Except your mother in law of course. But if you think she'd spit twice to save you, cher, do you got her wrong." He cackled, drunk and stupid. And amorous.
"I know you talk to her!" she screamed, too terrified to be discreet anymore, "You plot with her to separate me and Tristan. But it will never happen. He loves me."
"You ***ed me" he accused, "I'm a prior engagement."
Prior engagement. Somebody definitely coached him on that.
"I did not!! You know that is a lie!" she screamed.
"Then we'll take care of it now, cher." In one movement, he grabbed her by the neck and hauled her against him.
"Don't bother, cher, Miss Henriette knows I'm here, she was just waitin for her boy to go out of town."
The baby fell from her arms.
"Tristan!!" she screamed for him, for both her Tristans.
The baby bawled up his little face, bright red, and squalled like crazy. But he was physically fine she could see.
William dragged her into his arms and kissed her, forcing his bourbon and smoke flavored tongue down her throat, while she gagged.
"Leave me alone!" she shrieked as soon as he came up for air.
"Gotta make you mine, cher. Gotta make you dirty in his eyes. You ARE dirty, cher. You're bayou, just like me."
With that, he tore her fine lace nightgown down the front, and hauled it above her hips.
"No! No! Please! Have mercy!" she screamed, but finally devolved into mumbled prayers.
He forced himself inside her, though she was still sore from childbirth. Her blood colored her white nightgown and the front of his trousers.
When he was done, he got up with a grin.
The baby still screamed from the floor. "How do you shut that little shit up?" he screamed.
She hauled herself painfully to her feet, sobbing."No! Leave me and my baby alone! You got what you came for!"
"I came for you."
"You're disgusting!" she hissed, "Disgusting!"
"You're just like me, bitch, you're just like me." How dare she look down on him?
9 chapters, created 9 years
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