Color Coded

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is my entry for MadisonRose’s challenge, (and my first piece in a really long time!) a short story about forbidden love :) (you’ll have to read to find out the details). It’s set in the backdrop of a politically turbulent America, a time after the civil war when racism was at its peak and the Ku Klux Klan ruled the south (I wanted to be original).
I hope it isn’t too much, you’re welcome to read and tell me what you think! –V.W

Submitted: June 16, 2011

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Submitted: June 16, 2011

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1946

My life now is as it used to be before her; monotonous, tedious, dull beyond imagination. My very person is a jaded sloth and most days, I can’t tell whether or not I’m still alive – everything around me appears so superfluous, so unnecessary… so irrelevant.

You know, sometimes I have to reach out and pinch my thigh, just to make sure I’m still tangible – that I haven’t lost contact with the human world completely… that I’m still the same man who’s lost everything that was so important to him, so dear..

I stand here now ready to testify that it was not always the same. I see these girls now, chaste but corrupted, beautiful but nothing extraordinary, their feathered hats and multi colored dresses all but an act to get men on board, their extravagant ships set sail towards nothingness because that’s all there is! Nothing! They’ll all come to see that, as I have. It wasn’t always like this though. I was a man of great relevance in the society. I was needed, wanted, worshipped. My father was …

1921

‘David O’Conner, sir, may I please have your coat?’

David shrugged out of his expensive fur and looked to his wife to do the same. She was a fine young thing, in the literal sense; a flapper, ready for anything and looking to please her new husband.

David was the mayor of a little town in the country, a beautiful place to live in the milieu of the South. His family, the O’Conners, bore the richest men for miles! David had the world at his feet, he had a gorgeous wife (one who loved money, of which he was the literal embodiment),money, social status, a son.

‘Now come, my boy!’ David laughed. His hair was already thinning at the top. He wore his top hat indoors wherever he went, just to disguise this obvious flaw in his person. ‘Take your coat of now, it’s impolite to make the kind gentleman wait!’

‘But I’m cold.’ Daniel said, looking away from his father. ‘If only said “kind gentleman” would comprehend that.’

‘Son.’ David said through gritted teeth. ‘There are people watching.’

‘Well, make sure everyone catches this next stunt!’ Daniel huffed. ‘I call it, the Great Escape.’ And with that the boy was off with a squall, leaving his father in complete bafflement.

The lights from the party dimmed as soon as Daniel was far enough away from the world he so hated. His father wasn’t the man everyone thought he was, and ever since Daniel found out that he was the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the district, Daniel couldn’t look at his childhood hero the same way.

The Klan was a group dedicated to lynching, harassing, killing the black population in the south. Times hadn’t changed much – racism was still alive and well, Daniel acknowledged that fact. However, it didn’t mean that his father could be a part of that…cruelty. He wasn’t partial to the black people either, but it didn’t mean he wanted his old man hunting them down and destroying these…human beings. That was what they were.

Daniel made his way through the town – a night like this was created for walks, for enjoyment and for happiness. Its beauty was almost human, the wind through the trees, people laughing and toasting, the speakeasies bursting with life – was this what his father shut away, hid from in the hallowed halls of his house? Was this what his father wanted to destroy?

Halfway through this thought an old woman with a hunch back bumped into Daniel and fell to the ground.

‘Watch your step there, slave!’ Daniel’s temper flared. He was unable to understand himself for a brief second – he hated his father for a prejudice he himself had. was that fair? ‘I’m sorry – it’s been a tough night for me, malady. Are you fine?’

‘Nay, und neitha ist muh dotter.’ The old lady said, her skin resembling the dark night. She was toothless and weak, Daniel could see that. As much as he disliked mixing with this sort of crowd, he was resolved: he would show his father that there was a second shot for him, another chance at a good, honest living if he so wished to take it.

‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’ Daniel said patiently, leaning in to hear the woman out. ‘Your…’

‘Dotter,’ she said, her accent slurred and words, hard to decipher ‘Dotter, I sayd!’

‘She means me,’ the girl at her side said, speaking up for the first time. Daniel hadn’t noticed the girl before – he was too lost in his own little world to notice much. ‘I’m sorry sir. We’ll get out of your way…’

The girl was a sight for sore eyes. Her skin was dark, but not dark enough, which indicated she was half cast. Her hair was as black as ebony and her eyes were a soft grey. Oh, she was a beauty! Her lips were soft and pink – how he so wished they could say something else that he could watch them move, in all their majesty!

‘No problem,’ Daniel breathed. He looked at this girl and all he could see was perfection. ‘My name is Daniel, not sir!’ he said with unprecedented gusto, careful not to reveal who he was for real. ‘I’m the one who’s sorry for knocking your grandmother off her feet!’

‘Well, thank you,’ she said, looking down. She hadn’t once looked at his face and he’d noticed this. ‘Daniel.’

He smiled as she said his name, and not only because it was the polite thing to do; he could see this girl, ten years from now, whispering, shouting, crying, breathing his name! he could see her in his room, and how pretty she would look! He could see her beside him, and the envy on every man’s face as they walked past, hand in hand.

‘You’re welcome, Miss-’ he started, waiting for her to finish the sentence and reaching out to kiss her hand.

‘Mrs Devlin.’ She said, looking up for the first time, all coyness drained from her face, replaced by a vicious candor. Was being married something she was proud of? Why, with her beauty, her grace, her looks, she should be on the arm of the richest bachelor in town, and said bachelor happened to be none other than him! ‘Vanessa Devlin.’

*

A year had passed since Daniel had seen Vanessa and her grandmother, and yet every second that the memory lived was endless, an eon; forever. He longed to see her again, to behold her one more time. The lady had a husband – what right did he have to come between them, to think about a married woman in this way?

Except – she wasn’t a woman, but a girl! She was a girl only a few years younger than Daniel – seventeen, eighteen years old?

This obsession consumed him most of the time for a while; he couldn’t put his finger on anything for too long without thinking of Vanessa, and not because he loved her, no. she was a challenge, a mystery. She gave him something to look forward to besides his inheritance. Finding out exactly who this girl was gave him thrills … until he began to forget her and to acknowledge his own life and the fact that with or without this girl, it would have to go on.

‘I need you to review the new slaves, Daniel.’ David told his son one day. ‘Lead them through the fields and make sure the overseers know what to do with them.’

‘They’re not slaves, father.’ Daniel said, impatient. ‘Not anymore. And don’t you have people to do that?’

‘What “people”?’ the older man laughed. ‘You know everyone else is occupied! You have nothing to do most of the time, so make yourself useful!’

The sun was in the middle of the sky by the time Daniel got to the farms, and it would have been all the way on the other side of the sky before he surfaced if he had his own way.

The workers were in the middle of the field with a couple of managers. Daniel had hoped they wouldn’t be so many but it seems his father had replaced all the staff altogether!

‘Welcome.’ Daniel began, calling for attention. It wasn’t until he was through with his little introductory speech, however, that he noticed exactly how relevant this bunch of workers were going to prove. In the midst of the gathering, peering at him were those soft, grey eyes. A year ago, they had completely stolen his breath away, and here they were again, hard at work doing the same.

‘Mrs. Devlin…’ Daniel whispered, openly staring at the girl who’d managed to captivate him for so long. The workers all turned to look at the girl, and each one froze as if God had found a way to replicate heaven in the little field in which they all stood.

The girl blushed and moved closer to a tall man, who then took her hand and pulled her even closer. Daniel noticed this and looked at the ground for only a moment, one is better off not letting one’s anger get the better of him.

‘Yes, it is she,’ the gentleman said. ‘I am her husband, James Devlin.’

‘I’m sure I didn’t ask for an introduction.’ Daniel said, looking away from the couple, disgusted.

‘You’ve met my wife; I think it only polite that you should know me as well.’

‘Cordial, but still… unnecessary.’ Daniel retorted, turning his attention to the rest of the worker but never once leaving Vanessa so far out of his sight. He handed out duties as well, and he smiled as he saw the next assignments on the little checklist he had.

‘Mr. Devil – excuse me! Devlin,’ Daniel smiled as a few men sniggered. ‘You are with the night watch and Mrs. Devlin is with my step mother’s new child, in the main house.’

Later that evening Daniel felt pleased with the way things were unraveling. Who knew it would have taken but a year to get Vanessa under his roof?


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