I had a busy day today attending the Write on the River Writers Conference. I enjoyed meeting and networking with other writers as well as all the workshops I attended. I noticed workshop presenters sitting in on classes too. Writing is a craft authors should continue to prefect and learn even if they’ve been in the business for years.
I took Ray Rhamey‘s Killer First Page Workshop and he analyzed the first page of one of my historical romance WIPs Freedom to Love. The writing was strong and he liked the story but he thought I included too much backstory. (If you are a writer I highly recommend his writing book Flogging the Quill.)
So as painful as it is I need to cut out my slave wedding. Because I love the little ceremony I have decided to share it with all of you. It doesn’t hurt so much knowing that my scene isn’t permanently deleted.
Master Pearson stood in the middle of the yard—a line of wenches on one side and a line of bucks on the other. The old folks and children on the plantation banged drums, sang, danced, and clapped their hands. Weddings were supposed to be joyous occasions.
Nora found no joy in them at all.
Master Pearson stuck out his chest and once in a while he let out a ground-shaking laugh. His left foot tapped in time with the drums. At his yearly turn playing matchmaker and preacher, Master Pearson barely spoke. But during the long ceremony, the shimmer in his green eyes and the permanent smile said how much he enjoyed the celebration. He wore a fine black suit as if he believed he was a man of God.
The summer sun put out more heat than the cast-iron stove, and she wished she could run to the well for a ladleful of water. The back of her neck burned, and she rubbed her hot skin. Nora licked her bottom lip, and rubbed her tongue on the roof of her mouth, trying to generate saliva. Accustomed to spending all day in the cool Big House, she felt as if her corset was tightening and constricting her breath. A wave of lightheadedness passed over her and she swayed.
She swallowed and willed her knees not to shake. She wanted to bury herself in the manicured lawn like Miss Sally’s dead puppy, but pushed that feeling down to her toes and stood straight. She could handle the marriage ceremony. And she could handle a husband. As long as he understood his place in her life.
Many of the slaves shifted their weight, smiling shyly at the opposite sex. Unlike the rest of the wenches Nora did not have her eyes set on a particular mate. She wasn’t batting her eyelashes and praying to marry the buck she loved. She wasn’t foolish. She didn’t want a husband. A husband would complicate her life. A husband would bring pain and sorrow. She had seen it many times before, husbands beating and raping their wives, being sold away, dying too young.
Still, curiosity niggled at her until she could no longer stand the continual subconscious nudge. She glanced down the line of bucks. Being Mrs. Pearson’s personal maid, she doubted she’d get paired with one of the field hands. There was a hierarchy among slaves and house servants were at the top. So that left only three possibilities: Quincy, a slender, coffee-colored buck – her playmate since childhood; Zeke, their doorman who was several years older than her; and Adam, one of their housemen. Out of all three Adam looked the best, but she didn’t have an ounce of feeling for him.
She watched with growing dread as Master Pearson pointed to a wench and then to a buck.
And that was it. They were married. No further ceremony.
Many of the women smiled, but others sulked, when they did not marry who they wanted.
What gave Master Pearson such power? Who gave him such right? Why did they have to do his bidding, bend to his will? The lives they lived were not their own. They were what the Master wanted them to be, allowed them to be.
Nora’s belly turned with the sourness of servitude. Acid pitched, smoldering against her stomach walls. If her mama had been as white as her pa she could choose her own husband. Instead of being at the Master’s mercy.