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First Summer by Aracely DuVent [Part II]
“Very well.” she spoke quickly and sharply, “Vin is attempting to revive his grandmother back from the dead for the second time in six months and cannot make today’s piano lesson, so I took it in myself to move all your lessons up. Starting at two and ending at nine. We will have a short dinner in between around six-” her lips pressed together and she scowled, “that is, if that dog of a cook lady ever gets here and the market stays open later than usual. I’d like to have the bisque once again and the garden salad. Do tell me dear when my attempts at making your future bright come across as an act of kindness to you and you finally say something such as,” her brow arched, “a word of gratitude.”
It took a moment for me to gather myself. “Mother, I’ll… never take any of it for gran-”
“Now, never what, dear? I’ll tell you what you never do. You never seem to catch a break and sit down for a family breakfast. Here,” her heels clacked as she wove her way around me and dropped the bag of scones on the dining room table. The table was three times the length it needed to be and with her standing at the head, twice as intimidating. “Have a scone.”
“Thank you, Mother.” I murmured and followed her lead. I sat down and politely put my napkin on my lap, taking advantage of the moment my Father reached across the table to breathe.
“Ahp.” her pointer finger lunged at his hand and tapped once on the gold wedding band. The sound rang through the dining room, the crystals on the chandelier brushing against each other as if they now had something to say. My Mother’s gesture was enough to know without looking into her eyes that my father was not going to be having a breakfast today. When her gaze switched over to me, my fingers brushed against the tablecloth and pinched a golden-brown triangle. I brought it to my mouth and bit into a corner, not sure of what to do or say. Luckily the silence was filled.
“So, Aracely.” she swallowed the remainder of her scone and continued, “Although I am glad to hear you appreciate all I put into your education, I am not positive you know what is to come of you when you are of age.”
My father’s eyes flooded with concern. “At eighteen? Marcie-Marcella.” he coughed and raised a glass to his lips, “That’s over three years away.”
She raised her hand, brow pinched. “Aracely, what do you think you will be doing?”
My tongue pressed against my teeth and I considered myself, what I would be by then. A few inches taller, face a little thinner, voice a little deeper, eyes perhaps a little wiser. Other than that, I didn’t see very much.
“There’s always been the-” I tried to choose my words carefully, feeling so much pressure to say each one, “idea of me taking over the plantation. I can hire most of the work and tend to the garden myself and occasionally make a dinner.”
I didn’t look at my Father’s reaction, but knew his heart must have skipped a beat when I mentioned his plantation. He had given everything up in the life he had before to start a business in the farmlands and now he was finally making it. For him to hear his dream had a chance to live on… It made me want to do just that.
Mother’s manicured nails tapped on the edge of the china plate to Nocturne. While here pointer finger tapped the same basic rhythm, her other fingers danced along the engraved plate, winding and crossing each other quicker than my eyes could follow. Her eyes circled around the room at an extremely slow pace, letting her hands finish before the song slowed to a stop.
“Let me make this clear, Aracely. I want you to have options. I want you to accomplish whatever your heart desires in life which is why I give so much to you now. You plan on supporting yourself then, Aracely? For your whole life long… on your own?”
I swallowed. “You want me to have options. If I find someone, I could…” my hand found its way above the table, trying to express my voice for me, “I could change.” I let each word out directly towards her, but her focus wasn’t on me. It didn’t seem like she had heard a word of what I said.
“I suppose children are supposed to have their fantasies and dreams… before they have their own children of course.” her nose scrunched, “but darling. What have you done to prove yourself worthy of this plantation? You can’t even keep a tune on the piano for more than a few minutes let alone thousands of dollars circulating from our workers through the agricultural system and cotton and back to us.”
“Until that time I could take on more responsibilities.” I offered. “I could, perhaps, drop a subject or two and work with the farmers that come here-” I shook my head back and forth, eyes widening shortly after hers had narrowed, “No, no! I mean handling their pay and such. Seeing what work they have done throughout the season and then determining their pay based on how much we sell in the market. I could do that.”
She paused and a crumb that just touched her lips fell to the plate below her. “It would be a surreal experience… one that would prepare you for reality, yes.” her hand tightened on her glass, “But you are not going to drop any of your studies. Those will be the basic blocks for you to grow off of into a fine young woman.”
“I could work on the weekends or maybe just after Church.”
“You want to work on Sundays?”
“Yes.” I said softly.
Every muscle in her face seemed to tighten as she considered it.