Chapter 1

I’d never held a spoon in my hand before, so when Monsieur Jacques leaned over the table to pass me the silver, glittering object, at first I didn’t even know what the odd object was. I had pulled a face and squirmed in my seat, awkwardly taking the strange elongated stick on which a round dented disc was stuck. Monsieur had very long fingers, very long limbs in fact. He was probably the only person in the household able to reach across the width of the table to pass something to a person sitting just opposite. The table was that vast.


Everything in this house was vast. Vast and rich and shimmering with pride and love. The chairs, upholstered with the finest of Chinese fabrics, the oaken table, crafted from the woodlands covering Monsieur’s very own lands, the beautiful creamy beige curtains that framed the sunny lunch room in such a pleasant manner.


I stared at the shiny spoon. It was, indeed, terribly, terribly shiny. The only other thing I had seen that had been as terribly, terribly shiny were the scales of a goldfish moments before the cat residing in Toni’s room stuck in its paws and plucked it out in a swift, artful kill. Toni had cried for days, but bickering with the cat was no use, and so life had gone on.


Antonia was the youngest daughter of Monsieur Jacques. His eldest, Marie, was betrothed to some Portuguese nobleman who had promised to show her lands far and wide and take her away to a hospitable home, lovely parents and an eager sister-in-law, that so yearned to meet the splendid Marie.


Antonia was more fierce, younger, shorter and broad. Not a beauty, but not a beast either. I felt she would go a long way, Antonia would. Her proud Spanish stance, her earnest and clever narrow-set eyes. Antonia and Marie’s mother had been of proud Spanish blood and had married the charming Monsieur Jacques on whim at the age of nineteen after which they had excitedly moved to America to start a life they desired. And they’d lived it, and they’d loved each other, whim or no whim. Until she past away in a sickness that had first taken her mind and then her body at the end of last year. So Monsieur Jacques had found no other consolation but to acquire a mistress, while I was taken up to entertain Monsieur’s younger twin sons, Ralph and Philippe, eight year-old boys with no conscience of their own yet, but a great desire for mischief and endless play. Well, I could provide that. Monsieur Jacques had picked the right little black boy from a sea of hungry faces at the docks. We’d just been transported over to the mainland from Africa. The mainland of the great America. The rising nation, the nation of dreams, so the sailors had whispered on the long cold nights as the ship’s sails howled in the threatening winds and the ropes beat on the rotting wooden deck.


I would give anything to never be on that ship again. Anything. Monsieur had picked his perfect black boy.


That’s what they called me here.


Black boy.


I had no name, no culture, no say, and, to be perfectly honest, no ambition to say anything to anyone. As far as I was concerned, I would never see my homeland again, and that was completely fine. I was fed, dressed, I could wash, I could breathe without fear; here, in this house, I was being treated like a human being like never before. Black, but a human being nonetheless.

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As usual, very good. I think you over use terribly. It seems particularly the case when we discover a black boy is speaking. It just doesn't sound like the way a black boy would speak. He had endured what we know is a gruelling trip, and although he likes what has happened he would probably not be mimicking his masters quite so much. But what a great story...