Heart Of Dixie

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

So this is the first thing I'm publishing, any comments/critiqes are welcomed:)
Thanks for looking!

The sky had turned a pale pink as evening arrived over Tennessee. The long balmy day was over now and all that could be heard for miles was the sound of crickets gently chirping, flies buzzing lazily in the distance and the occasional neighing of the horses in the pasture. The day was finally over and Annabelle Lee was thankful for that. Her mother and father had retired to bed early and she was enjoying the cool breeze outdoors for a little while. Her pale pink dress was now grass stained and muddy but she didn’t care. None of it mattered anymore.

The Monument plantation was a huge source of pride for James C. Jones, a United States Senator from Tennessee, situated just outside Lebanon, The building was a beautiful white, imposing home nestled in the 2,500 acres owned by Jones and his wife Sarah. Three storeys high with four enormous pillars the plantation was the talk of the town. The couple had brought up four children here- Annabelle’s three older sisters had already married and moved away from the family home- all to wealthy politicians and lawyers. The plantation was also home to a family of slaves, the matriarch Harriet was Annabelle’s nanny as a girl and someone she was incredibly close to. Harriet lived with her husband Fredrick and their two teenage sons Joseph and George in a small white shack a short distance from the plantation.

The family were predominantly in charge of keeping the house in order, looking after the two horses and keeping watch over Annabelle. Mr Jones’ active political career often kept him away from the plantation while Sarah was an active social climber and enjoyed the benefits that came with being a politician’s wife. That meant the young southern belle was often left in Harriet’s care. She taught Annabelle about art and music. Annabelle Lee was as feisty and free willed as she was beautiful. Petite and delicate with long golden hair and deep blue eyes, she’d been a major concern to her parents since her debutante ball last year- several suitors lined up offering marriage to Annabelle but she had refused them all. Mostly they were soldiers or land owners sons but Annabelle’s father had become frustrated at her constant rejection of Cyrus Hamlin- the second son of United States Senator Hannibal Hamlin who’d been requesting to court her for almost a month. The union was one that both families approved of- with both Hamlin and Jones wealthy politicians it made sense that Cyrus should marry Annabelle.

 

But Annabelle Lee’s heart belonged to another, she’d caught the eye of the preacher’s son during a church visit some months before. Caleb certainly wasn’t anything like Cyrus- he lived with his daddy in a farmhouse near Mount Juliet and worked on the farm. 6ft tall with brown hair, dark tanned skin and captivating grey eyes it was love at first sight. “Why if it isn’t Annabelle Lee” he grinned “and how do you know my name, Sir?” she asked “you’re the Jones’ daughter right?” he asked with a smile “why yes Sir I am, and you are?” she replied “Caleb Jameson, my daddy’s the preacher” he said gesturing towards the church “he’s a good man, you must be very proud” she smiled sweetly. Her mother had always taught her to have good manners at all times, something that had been drilled into her as a young girl “that’s kind of you to say ma’am” he replied.

Their relationship blossomed from then on but because of her social status they could never be acknowledged as a couple. If the daughter of a US senator was seen to be with a farm worker the town would be alive with gossip, her mother was a huge part of the local community and a scandal like that would be the last thing she’d want. So they courted in secret, she often snuck out past midnight climbing out of her bedroom window and down the oak tree- her mother scolded her for having ruined so many handmade dresses but Annabelle didn’t care- If it was to see Caleb she’d risk a whole lot more than her petticoats and dresses. Annabelle had her reservations about marrying Cyrus, not just because of her relationship with Caleb, and she wasn’t afraid to voice them. Her mother was discouraged by her attitude towards such a polite young man “now why wouldn’t you want to marry Mr Hamlin?” she cooed one day fixing her youngest daughters hair “I don’t like him, why would I? Mother I find him intolerable” she snapped back and her mother sighed. She’d often wondered why Annabelle behaved this way, her two other daughters Lucy and Ellie had both married at 17 years old- one to a lawyer and the other to a wealthy land owner.

After Annabelle was dressed the two women headed downstairs where they were greeted by Senator Hannibal Hamlin and Cyrus himself. “Good evening Miss Jones” Cyrus smiled holding a bunch of flowers “ah Mr Hamlin how lovely to see you again, can I make you some sweet tea?” Annabelle asked “that’d be terrific ma’am thank you” he replied. While Annabelle busied herself in the kitchen Cyrus was discussing politics with her father. She really did find him intolerable, it wasn’t a secret that he was going into politics too and it’d boost his chances if he had a US Senators daughter on his arm. Keeping her thoughts to herself the family sat down to a delicious meal cooked by Harriet. Dinner talk was focused solely on Annabelle and Cyrus’ wedding- something she had dismissed already “well we’re thinking as soon as possible. I know my boy Cyrus is very keen to be married before he starts his political career, understandably” Mr Hamlin said chewing on his pork dinner “I bet he is” Annabelle muttered “what was that Annabelle?” her father asked “I said this is delicious daddy, remind me to thank Harriet afterwards” she smiled sweetly “you have a wonderful daughter Jones it’s no wonder my son is so taken with her” Hamlin smiled, James and Sarah beamed and Annabelle blushed delicately. “Her grandmother was married in Tennessee too I think it only right to carry on the tradition” James said a while later when wedding conversation resumed “it’s all very last minute but I think we should do it as soon as possible, no use in waiting” Sarah said “I agree, to the happy couple” James agreed raising a glass. Rage boiled up inside Annabelle and she smashed her wine glass in her hands, she could take this no more. “I will not marry Cyrus daddy” she said standing up from the dinner table, her mother gasped and James turned to face her “Annabelle hold your tongue!” he commanded, she stood before him shaking with rage. All her life she’d been taught to behave, to respect her elders, to marry young and become a mother but this wasn’t what she had wanted.

Her mother and all her female relatives had all accepted this role without so much as a protest and she never understood why “Annabelle you’re eighteen years old and you’re not yet married, why wouldn’t you want a husband?” her mother asked, eyes wide with shock “so I’m destined to marry a man I don’t love because of social convention?” Annabelle retorted “that’s enough out of you, off to bed” her daddy said with a wave of his arm. She turned on her heel and stormed upstairs. This was it, the absolute last straw. She waiting four long hours until her parents had turned in for the night then she snuck out to meet Caleb. Their favourite place to visit was the old oak tree on the edge of the creek; there they’d sit for hours talking about everything they wanted to do, start a life somewhere else. She looked into his eyes and knew she’d never love Cyrus the way she’d loved Caleb “Run away with me” he said suddenly, his steel grey eyes locked on hers “run away?” she repeated quietly.

All her life she’d dreamed of escaping Tennessee, away from her controlling father and the advances of Cyrus. “Sure, we could get out of here- get married...” he started “is that what you want?” she asked “it’s what we both want, I don’t want you to marry Cyrus. We could have a life someplace else, start a family...I don’t want you to marry him and be miserable for the rest of your life when I know I can make you happy” he said “where would we go?” she asked her voice trembling a little. Running away was something she’d dreamed of for a long time and with Caleb by her side it almost seemed like a reality “I have family in Texas, it’s not a million miles away but at least we’d be away from here” he said “I don’t care where you’re going, I’m coming along with you” she replied eventually.

By morning Annabelle and Caleb were gone. Overnight they’d began the 800 mile trip to Houston, Texas- and no one knew apart from them and Harriet. Annabelle had left her former nanny a short letter explain that she was running away, that she had found her own Fredrick and was building a life somewhere else. Harriet had never been so proud of her, with no daughter Annabelle was the closest thing she had. It was Harriet herself that raised the alarm, she’d been sent to get Annabelle ready for church and when she climbed up the stairs and into her room she discovered her bed unmade and her night clothes unworn. Harriet smiled to herself “good for you darling”. She then turned and hurried down the stairs into the dining room where Mr and Mrs Jones were enjoying breakfast “she’s gone! Annabelle’s gone” she cried and James got to his feet in a rage “she’s what?!” he demanded, face red with fury “gone, she must have slipped out yesterday, her beds not touched” Harriet said. Annabelle had disgraced her father with her behaviour yesterday, Senator Hamlin was furious “your daughter is no good Jimmy, absolutely no good” he spat raising to his feet, he’d stormed out of the home and demanded Cyrus take his proposal of marriage back. James often wondered why his daughter had turned out this way and was shocked at her running away.

She was 18, unmarried and now she’d run away. He had never been so ashamed of her. The trip to Houston had been long and tiring and they were both grateful to have finally arrived. Caleb’s grandparents owned a large farm and they were both greeted with smiles and homemade lemonade “any regrets?” he asked one day as they sat under a large tree “absolutely none” she smiled lazily. And they lived their lives; they eventually inherited the farm- got married six months later, Harriet and her family were the guests of honour. Two daughters followed and Annabelle could hardly believe her luck as she looked at her beautiful family. She was saddened to learn that her father had died some years later; Harriet told her he’d been sick for a long time. But she had to put that behind her now and make sure she never subjected her daughters to what her father tried to do with her. No one in Tennessee knows what became of Annabelle Lee, Her parents said that she’d married a well-known politician and was now living the city life in New York. But no one believed them. She’d stopped coming to church and the locals were going crazy with gossip. Some said that her father James had killed her in a rage after becoming frustrated at her refusal to get married; others said that she was now in the care of the slave Harriet and her family. One thing was for sure though; Annabelle Lee never stepped a foot in Lebanon again.


Submitted: January 30, 2014

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