The Promise

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sondrah hated it when Zander left her, as he did each time he had to tend his father's business. The plantation home was large when he was there and immensely lonely and much larger when he was gone. She knew she worried too much, but he would return from the sea soon, and she had the charm he gave her. She did have that; and daily she watched.

Submitted: January 29, 2016

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Submitted: January 29, 2016

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Short Story: The Promise

 

Sondrah stood looking out across the front lawn of the sprawling plantation.  The massive oak trees were full of beautiful green leaves and the wispy moss resembled an old lady’s tattered shawl, hanging off of each branch.  The white hot sun was just passing midday and the heat was like a woolen blanket that some giant had lain upon the land.

 

She pulled the ruffled collar away from her neck and placed the glass of water beside her ear, closing her eyes and trying to imagine away the heat.  “Not much relief, wouldn’t you agree Madam.?”  The giant dog raised its head to look at her but didn’t budge. “I see, you do agree! Too hot to even spare a movement. I declare at times I fancy that we lived much further north.”

 

It had been three months since Zander had left.  She marked each day along the porch post with a small pin she kept stuck to her dress, “He should be home tomorrow.”  She smiled, her finger rolling along the charm on her necklace.  The day he gave it to her was the same day he sailed.  Sondrah leaned back against the porch column, a small almost imperceptible breeze managed to ruffle the lace along her dress as she drifted into memory.

 

“Sondrah, I must go, you know that. You knew that when we first spoke that eve along the river. It seems my father’s company requires the maintenance of a small army.” Zander’s pale blue eyes plunged into her soul as he spoke, dragging away her worries as the river carries away a rose petal.

 

“I’m quite aware of your affairs Mr. Beaumont. A man of your stature has a swell of gossip and illustrious tales of grand responsibility which proceeds him.” She smirked as she tugged on his neck cloth; It was always out of sort. She could never hide her feelings from him, though she may try and his leaving always left her feeling lonely, even before he’d gone.

 

“All will be well my lady, I have sailed this piece of the ocean many times, danced the waves, and counted its clouds. Besides, Captain Dristan is the absolute best in the business.  A few months, a few papers, a few deals and I am back in your arms.  And for added measure my father told the good Captain if he sinks a vessel while in his tenure, he will block his entry into heaven until he’s been dealt with.” Zander made a grand jester toward the sky in his whimsical and humorous way.

 

Sondrah pulled away from him and looked across the port.  The ships rocked gently in the sway,  and the gulls hurried from perch to flight to perch again.  “They are very busy about nothing.” She quipped gesturing to the noisy gulls.

 

“Oh, to the contrary” Zander’s voice a melody of serenity.  “They have great plans.  You see those two there,” he pointed to two gulls dipping together from the sky into the sea, “They are collecting fish for a feast. “

 

“A feast?” she poised?

 

“A fine one, beyond that of meer kings and queens” Zander continued his tale. “For you see, very soon, they will introduce their royal offspring to the world in elegant fashion.  All will be invited and no expense is spared, only the finest fish and the best berries the land has to offer.”

 

Sondrah laughed bringing her gloved hand to her mouth.  “You jest, and I do believe you could spin an adventurous story that would slight the devil himself were he unwary.”

 

She pulled him close and hugged him tight.  She inhaled his scent, the unmistakable hints of his cologne.  It smelled of the sea, with a hint of orange blossoms lingering at the top.  “I will miss you every day mon amour.” Sondrah whispered as she caressed his face.  Did his eyes have to always be this perfect?

 

He took her hand in hers, “I have something for you.”

 

“A gift?” She asked?

 

“A promise.” Zander said as he reached into his vest coat pocket.  He drew out a necklace and on the end a small charm.  “This is a palpable and tangible representation of my promise to you, my sweet, that in three months’ time I will return to you exactly as I am before you now.”

 

Sondrah looked at the necklace draping from his fingers and at the end of it a small charm.  She took her delicate hand and pulled it close to see exactly what it was.  Her voice was abrupt, “It….It’s a squirrel.”

 

“You lament as though the squirrel is not inclusive of say…..romance.”  Zander said with smile hidden in his voice.

 

“Okay” Sondrah said, “Why do you choose this?”

 

“Well, you see.. “ Zander said as he moved behind her.  “Every man and woman looks out upon the squirrel running about the yard, in the town square and along the shoreline.  They see nothing more than a rodent with a very bushy tail. A pauper perphaps, trying to be a little more than he is.” Zander brushed her long black locks to the side and slid the necklace into place.  “But what they forget is that the squirrel packs his most prized possessions with him and buries it, over and over. He does this without end. “ Zander locked the necklace clasp and placed Sondrah’s beautiful black hair back into place and moved around to face her.  “And then, when the times have gotten a little harder and everyone else has forgotten about his scurry, he returns to his treasure.”  Sondrah was staring down at the charm and Zander used his finger to lift her chin so their eyes could meet.  “For you see no matter how far the squirrel ventures, no matter how many paths he runs along, and no matter how busy he  may seem, he always returns to what is most important to him; always.”

 

Sondrah’s smile lit up the entire peer.  “Leave it to you to have a lady’s heart full of butterflies over a squirrel charm Zander” she blushed.

 

“Time will fly by.” He pulled her close and kissed her full rose colored lips.  I have left everything in order with Mr. Joilet.  Should you need anything, he will take are of it. I must board my dear, I love you as deep as the ocean is wide.” He kissed her again, squeezing her tight against him.

 

Their hands tarried until he finally had to pull himself away from her and clamber aboard the Urecht as the shipmates made ready for sail.  It always had to be this way and he could not look back at her, for he knew that she was crying but she did not know that he was as well.

 

Sondrah drifted out of her memories and back to the plantation.  She sipped the water which was now luke-warm and grimaced before setting the glass down.  She retreated through the French doors to the estate room, maybe it was cooler in there.

 

The next day she awoke early to the sound of the morning sparrows fussing with each other.  She dressed and had breakfast in the front room overlooking the pond.  She could see a few farm hands fishing on the far end.

 

“Today be the day Miss, oui?” asked Beatrice as she refilled Sondrah’s cup with spring cooled milk.  Her accent as thick as the syrup on the morning crumpet.

 

“Yes, Bee it is.” She smiled. “I can’t begin to tell you how elated I am.” Sondrah looked back through the hallway and out the front glass, no dust stirred about the tree lined approach to the house.  “Soon” she said, reassuring herself “soon.”

 

Sondrah spent the entire day pacing the front of the mansion watching over the dooryard like a hawk.  As evening approached clouds began to roll in abating the terrible sun and the horrid heat.

 

Beatrice had come to work for the Beaumonts two years ago when she pulled up her stakes in France and decided to make it on her own in the new world.  Her sister knew of a friend that had ties to the Beaumonts and had helped her to get work.  Sondrah absolutely adored her conversation, her politeness and her couth; though it was tart at times.  She would not be able to bare this massive empty house without her.

 

“Miss, shall I set the evening meal?” Beatrice found Sondrah sitting along the east side of the home just in sight of the long entry.

 

“Bee, I am not really hungry, maybe something light for this eve?” Sondrah sighed without looking up.

 

“Ships do delay from time to time Miss, keep a positive note and a sprite spirit ma’am” Beatrice said.

 

Sondrah looked up and smiled, “Would you dine with me again tonight?”

 

“But of course.” Beatrice curtsied “Twould be my pleasure.”  Sondrah knew she had thickened her accent on purpose and she loved it.

 

The small meal of dried fish, lentil dumplings, cheese and fruit was superb as always.  Mr. Joilet had brought in a spread of fresh flowers gathered from the lower fields which now adorned the table setting.  Beatrice had pinned a blue flower to her bodice and stared at it throughout the meal.

 

As Beatrice put away the last of the eateries, Sondrah once again made her way to the third floor and sat in the long white swing.  Here she felt like a bird perched amongst the giant oak branches.  In the distance she saw a flash of lightening, but heard no thunder.  “Zander, where are you?” She again asked the wind.

 

The night sky was restless tonight as the wind hurried about the property tossing up dust and loose leaves. “Miss do you want the rest of the lamps lit?”  Beatrice’s voice seemed to leap from the darkness.  Sondrah screamed as her hand grabbed her heart.

 

“You .. oh my.. you startled me.” She breathily stated.

 

“I am so sorry, “ Beatrice said  “I thought you heard me ascend the stairs.”  Then she giggled and placed her hand in front of her mouth covering her nose.  She knew she was prone to snorting which was very un-lady like.

 

Sondrah and Beatrice locked eyes and then both burst into laughter.

 

The laughter was cut short and they screamed in unison as loud clap of thunder rolled along the property, shaking every shutter and window glass.

 

The laughter returned and both of them had their hands above their rapidly beating hearts as they tried to catch their breath.

 

“I am going to close the shutters on this level,” bellowed a large man’s deep voice from the far end of the porch as a dark shadow could be seen separate from the inky falling night.


Both women screamed again loudly as Beatrice’s feet failed her and she sat promptly down in the door way. Their eyes glistened, the size of large brass buttons.

 

“Are you two all right?” Said Mr. Joilet as his massive frame came into the lamp light and he reached for Beatrice to help her to her feet.

 

“Mr. Joilet!” said Sondrah trying to breathe. Her hand across her forehead.  “We are fine, we are fine, we’ve let our imagination run free and get the best of us I fear.  Bee are you okay dear?”  Sondrah got up from the swing and began to wipe the dust from Beatrice’s light blue dress.

 

“Oh my, yes, I think I am okay.” Beatrice said as she checked her fingers and arms and adjusted her dress.  “Thank you Mr. Joilet for your assistance.”

 

Sondrah caught the light blush of Beatrice’s cheeks, even in the dim light.  “So there was something between these two” thought Sondrah.

 

“You are welcome; I apologize for frightening you both.  A storm approaches and I wanted to close the shutters before it arrived.” Mr. Joliet’s voice was a deep bass and seemed to echo and vibrate through everything when he spoke.

 

“Mr. Joilet, have you heard anything from the port?” asked Sondrah with inquisitive eyes?

 

“No ma’am I haven’t been that way today, but don’t worry, Captain Dristan is very good with his scheduling and time estimations” said Mr. Joilet.  “Shall I close these doors behind you two?” He then motioned toward the estate room.

 

“No, I would like to leave these open, If the wind gets too high, I shall close them” Sondrah said as she and Beatrice walked back into the room.  The lightening flashed in the distance lighting up the plantation for a brief moment.

 

“As you wish Miss Beaumont, the storms look as though they will be here within the hour. I am going to check the rest of the property and retire for the evening.  Good eve to you both.”  Mr. Joilet nodded his head, his eyes lingering with those of the hand maids’.

 

Beatrice helped Sondrah doff her day attire and don a light airy gown and robe for the night.  Sondrah’s long black hair was pinned on the top of her head and she rubbed a dab of Mrs. Deedra’s famous creams into her face.  Her eyes caught the reflection of the squirrel charm in the small mirror and she glanced out the open doors along the approach path; she couldn’t see anything in the darkness. 

 

The wind from the approaching storms poured through the open French doors into the room in a welcoming fashion.  Lightening lit up the sky, followed by thunder.  “They are much closer now” Sondrah said as she stood and approached the doors.

 

“Shall we close them?” asked Beatrice.

 

“Not yet, I quite enjoy the breeze.” Sondrah let the breeze blow past her arms and made a waving motion as the wind lifted the edges of her robe like giant wings.

 

“Okay miss, if that is all I will retire now” said Beatrice.  Her room was located in the staff quarters on the west side of the mansion.  Though the rooms and decor were far beyond that of eve most of the affluent of New Orleans.”

 

“Oh no no,” said Sondrah with a pleading tone to her voice. “Would you stay, at least just until the storm has ran its course.”

 

“Of course, I will” smiled Beatrice.

 

“Choose any attire from the wardrobe you wish, except the red one on the far right” Sondrah said, motioning to the massive wardrobe along the left hand side of the room.  Beatrice chose a light yellow airy gown and robe and wiggled her toes into a set of matching slippers.  The thunder growled from outside.

 

Sondrah blew out all of the lamps except the one along the back wall and climbed up the footstool on the bed, which was much too tall really.  Though the storm was cooling the mansion the air was too warm for the thick blankets so she moved them to the end of the bed, fluffed the pillow and she laid back.  Beatrice climbed onto the other side of the bed as lightening lit up the room.

 

“That is one flamboyant storm” exclaimed Beatrice as she leaned back against the headboard. She looked at Sondrah in the near dark and noticed her longing stare as she caressed the charm around her neck. “Captain’s are used to storms, do not immediately go thinking the worst.” Beatrice tried to redact the severity of her previous statement.

 

“I know” said Sondrah “It is just very hard being away from the love of your life for so long.  Imagine if it were Mr. Joliet” Sondrah smiled devilishly as she looked over at Beatrice.

 

Beatrice gasped and brought her hand to her face as a giggle and snort escaped. “MISS!”

 

“Oh posh Bee, I do believe a blind man could detect the sparks between you two.” Sondrah said as she smiled, reassuring Beatrice that she was fine with the situation.

 

Beatrice smiled from ear to ear, “he is a very gentle man, a bit clumsy at times, but sweet when it counts” she twirled her red hair around her finger.

 

The two ladies talked as the lamp flame flickered in the increasing breeze.  They spoke of loves won, and loves lost.  They debated on how the world appeared to be ran by the men, but they knew it was women who kept things in perspective behind the scenes.  As the storm rolled over the Beaumont Plantation, they drifted into sleep.

 

Sondrah set bolt upright in the bed grasping the squirrel charm and she blinked against the night.  A light breeze moved the curtains and she could hear a light rain along the roof outside.  She glanced to her left in the dim lamp light but Beatrice was gone.  She had gone back to her quarters at some point.  Sondrah pulled her knees to her breast and looked about the huge room, which seemed so very empty. “Where are you my Zander?”

 

She listened to the night birds and crickets and drifted back to sleep.

 

Her dreams were mixed and confused, flashes of ships and a grand ball with kings and queens, and then squirrels running along a tree branch.  She saw Zander walking along a beautiful highway, then along a beach and then along a cliff. He slipped.

 

She sat bolt upright in the bed once again, clutching the charm.  Beads of sweat danced on her exposed body.  She pulled her robe around her shoulders, the air through the doors had grown cool.  Sondrah used the step stool and climbed out of the bead.  Her slippers made a scooting sound across the hard wood floors that creaked and moaned, protesting even her dainty weight.  She closed the left door and then the right, locking them both into place.  She paused for a moment, squinting her eyes as she stared across the dooryard.

 

She let her forehead rest on the window glass and she thought she could just smell him if she tried, hints of the sea and orange blossoms. She breathed, she missed him so.  “Be safe my love” she said as she breathed again, orange blossoms and the salty sea.  Her eyes grew wide and she spun around swiftly facing the large arm chair where Zander always sat when he read.

 

“He always returns to what is most important to him.” Zander’s voice filled the room with warmth, light, and life itself.  He uncrossed his legs and smiled across the room at her.

 

Sondrah couldn’t move, her feet would not work, her lungs would not breathe.  Her body would not obey her commands. Tears filled her eyes and rolled down her porcelain cheek.  Zander crossed the room as though gliding, scooping her into his arms tightly and he kissed her lips for what seemed an eternity. “I could not break a promise to a beauty such as thee. That would be an unforgiveable sin” he said smiling down at her.

 

She could not speak, she only sobbed into his chest holding him as close as she possibly could.  Her eyes closed tight, she smiled through her tears. 

 

She inhaled deeply.  The salt, the sea and the orange blossoms.

 

Joseph Tucker

2016


© Copyright 2018 Joseph Tucker. All rights reserved.

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