Did you know that when I’m not writing about rape and murder, I write historical romances?
Neither did I!
Yet, here I am…
Elizabeth stood in the doorway of Granger’s office. “Darling…”
His face flinched. She crossed darling off her list of attempted endearments, right below my love, sweetheart, and honey.
“How may I help you?” He did not look up from his ledger.
“May I take a horse out? It’s such a beautiful day.”
“My horses are too large for you.”
Elizabeth was glad he did not look up; She scowled. “I ride exceptionally well.” She managed to keep the anger out of her voice.
“Do whatever you wish, Miss Elizabeth.”
She clenched her jaw. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Granger leaned back and rubbed his eyes.
“Elizabeth,” he corrected himself. “Whatever you wish, Elizabeth.”
It wasn’t Mrs. Granger, but she would have to accept it. At least he corrected himself this time.
“Would you like to come with me?” She made her voice sugary, as she has heard her sister do. “You look like you could use some refreshment.”
“Don’t be absurd.”
Elizabeth stilled, staring, but he still did not look up. Blinking, she shook her head and left without another word.
Granger was a tall man, and his horses were purchased to accommodate that. Elizabeth stared at them. They were fine, well-kept beasts. And enormous, compared to her quarter horse at her father’s house. The four of them stared back at her. One, a palomino, knocked his leg against the gate, demanding to know if she were going to ride, or just continue staring?
“Don’ do it, Mrs. Granger,” Jacob warned as he came up behind her. “You’ll just hurt yourself.”
Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth raised her chin. “The palomino, please.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, then sighed and shook his head. “Ma’am, you ain’t provin’ nothin’ to him that he don’t already know. All’s I got to say is, Pride goeth before the fall.”
“In that case, hope I don’t survive,” she replied in a small, bitter voice. She kept her eyes on the floor, but she heard him sigh again, and knew he was shaking his head again.
As Jacob saddled the horse, it turned its head repeatedly to stare at her, as if wondering if this were a joke. Once she mounted, it took a few lurching steps, then slowed to a more delicate walk to accommodate to the lighter burden.
Riding made Elizabeth feel alive again. She adopted a lazy pace around the edge of the property. Granger Plantation was almost a mirror image of Wilkinson Plantation: Instead of apples, Granger grew peaches. Instead of wheat, he grew corn. Peanuts grew closer to the house, where on Wilkinson Plantation, Elizabeth’s mother kept roses. When Mrs. Wilkinson died, they had left the roses to grow wild. They still grew glorious and fragrant in the springtime.
Hope began to creep up on her again. Between the slave labor and Thomas Granger’s dedicated effort, Granger Plantation had always prospered better than Wilkinson. She smirked smugly upon this reflection. Once Granger had softened, she was certain she could persuade him to free and employ their slaves. Then, once they had children –
Elizabeth cut the thought off with a shake of her head. In order to have children, Granger would first have to look at her, to touch her. Anger welled up, overwhelming her hope. She lowered her chin. I certainly don’t want him touching me, if he is going to speak to me like that afterward…
With a shout, she heeled the horse faster. They flew through the peach trees and around the corn. As they stormed past the peanuts, she heard Daisy cry from the back porch:
“Mrs. Granger, please be careful!”
“I’m fine!” she shouted back.
If Elizabeth were honest, she would admit the gallop frightened the frustration out of her. She had to dedicate her entire focus to keeping her balance. She reined the horse in as she approached the stable. Jacob waited near the mouth of the courtyard, by a pile of wood discarded from the demolished tanning house. From atop the pile, he would have been able to survey the entire northern half of the property. As she pulled the horse to a stop, she wondered if he had been watching her the entire time.
“When I heard Miss Daisy holler, I nearly had myself a heart attack,” he chuckled as he took the reins.
Elizabeth laughed, freeing her feet from the stirrups. “Between the beast and myself, I survived well enough.”
She was still smiling when she slipped off the saddle and fell upon the wood pile.
All Granger understood from Daisy’s hysterics was “Elizabeth” and “hurt,” and he was on his feet running. When he reached the courtyard, Elizabeth was sitting on the ground with her back to him, and Jacob crouched in front of her. He was speaking to her as he would speak to a child. She didn’t appear to be hurt, but Granger had never seen her on the ground before. If this is some kind of trick…
He saw it as he came closer: Elizabeth appeared to be clutching a piece of lumber. The dark tip of a nail rose from the back of her hand.
“Send for Dr. Archer!” Granger called.
“I did, sir!” Jacob called back. “Jeremiah’s gon’ to get him!”
“Good, good.” Granger crouched and inspected the injury. The nail was large, and brown with rust. It had pierced cleanly through her hand, just below the knuckles of the ring finger and pinkie of her left hand. The wound was not bleeding much.
He turned to his wife and was shocked how pale she appeared, her dark hair coming undone to frame her face. The freckles across her nose stood out red, and a vein appeared soft blue at her temple. She wasn’t crying, just staring at the cobblestones at Jacob’s feet.
“Elizabeth,” he breathed, placing a hand on her shoulder. She reached up and clutched it tightly. “Elizabeth,” he spoke louder this time.
“Yes?” Her voice was just a gust of air.
“How do you feel?”
“Like I’m trying to fly,” she whispered.
Granger furrowed his brow and turned to Jacob. Jacob shrugged. They heard the clatter of Dr. Archer’s chaise arriving. He hurried over, bag in hand, and inspected the wound.
“This could easily become infected,” Dr. Archer said. “She’s lucky it is her hand and not her foot; It will be easier to keep clean.”
Elizabeth flinched as he lowered the wood back onto the cobblestones.
“Does she have any other injuries?” The doctor addressed Granger.
Granger looked his wife over. “I don’t know; You will have to ask her.”
“Miss E – Mrs. Granger, does anything else hurt? Your legs? Back?”
“No,” she murmured.
“Just your hand?”
“Good. Now…” Dr. Archer shifted closer. “I’m going to pull your hand off the nail.”
Elizabeth released a shuddering breath.
“Mr. Granger, hold your wife.”
Granger jerked his head up. “What?”
The doctor held up his arm as if there were a person under it. “Hold your wife,” he repeated.
Taking a deep breath, Granger knelt close by her side and wrapped one arm in front of her shoulders and the other across her back. He suddenly understood what she meant about trying to fly: Every muscle was tense and trembling. He lowered his face over her head. The smell of her hair filled his lungs.
“Shhh… It will be over in a moment,” he whispered.
Elizabeth hid her face against his shirt and leaned into his shoulder. He tightened his grip.
“OK, now,” Archer began. “On the count of – ”
He did not count. He yanked the piece of wood down. Elizabeth yelped, pressing harder against Granger’s chest and clutching his shirt. He continued to hold her as the doctor cleaned and dressed the wound. Her breathing came in huffs, gradually slowing to normal.
Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth raised her face to look at her husband. Although she was no longer crying, her cheeks were wet with tears.
“You did very well,” Granger said, stroking her hair.
A smile lit up her face. He wiped the tears from her face.
“I wish you had come with me.” Her voice was still shakey.
Is that what all this was about? Granger frowned. Her smile faded. The injury itself was certainly not fake, but she could have easily staged the fall to win his attention and concern. How far would she go…? he thought, untangling himself from her.
“Jacob, escort her up to the gue- to her quarters,” Granger said. “Dr. Archer, I will be in my office when you are finished.”
Face burning, he returned to the house without looking back.