The Sweetest Rum
Chapter 8The world was spinning. I was drinking rum, and it tasted like strawberries. My cheek was gone
and replaced by a second eye, or possibly a third. The world continued to spin until I fell over into a hole I was falling but then caught by a piece of cloth tied to my arm and leg. The jolting on my limbs woke me.
Czar was ripping the stakes from the ground and subsequently pulling on my arm and leg. I moaned and the sound cracked and cut short by my dry throat.
He looked at me. “I was hoping that would wake you. My next resort would have been dumping water on you.”
I almost wished he had dumped water on me I was so thirsty.
“My last resort, would of course have been setting you on fire, but Taylor I am sure would not appreciate his bride in a charred ashy mess, would he?” He tilted his head to the side with an eyebrow raised.
I sat up flexing my arm that had been de- tethered.
“Hungry?” he asked walking away and reappearing with a basket of berries.
I nodded, reaching for the basket. He set it in my hands. I began to devour the juicy goodness. Blue juice was running down my chin and I licked it up, glad for the slippery feeling that slid down my throat. I could now form sentences without pain from my throat. My cheek however still continued to throb and every facial movement made it hurt more. As I was satisfied with having enough berries I became more conscious of the pain and swelling. I stopped eating and set the basket to the side standing up. I really needed to pee now but I could not go with Czar watching. I made my way to
the door. “And, where might you be heading?” he
asked. I shrugged and with the most minimal mouth
adjustment possible I said, “I will come back just give me two minutes.”
He frowned but did not attempt to stop me. True to my word I came back quickly and sat in the chair that I had occupied last night.
Czar was pacing again. “You know you are the most boring captive ever. You do not even run. I was waiting to have to get my horse and charge after you, but you came right back. Tis a shame.” He shook his head.
“So, I understand that to mean that you have done this before.”
He laughed like I was a silly foolish child. “Of course, I get paid for this.”
“Taylor paid you?” I asked eyes wide this was worse then I expected, except I supposed I should have guess this was not a free service.
“Well, of course he did, I do not just go taking lovely maidens off their horses and steal them away in to the night for fun.” He laughed, at my stunned expression. “Not only are you boring your also quite ignorant of what happens in this world. Did that Eli of yours not tell you anything.”
I stammered. “He tells me about the bad things the british do, but not about the bad things colonists do, unless they are doing them for the british.” I said sheepishly realizing how ignorant I was, thinking only Brits could be bad people.
“Well, some of us colonists make a living in a way you probably would know nothing about.” He said his face twisted in a strange expression of
regret, or sadness. Czar pulled a chair from the far corner. I had
not noticed it the night before in the faint light. He pulled it beneath him and sat down with a sigh, his hair shifting slightly with the movement. He reached up and removed his hat revealing more perfect dark curls. He shook his curls.
Czar began to speak his voice lowered and meant to charm and feel sympathetic. It worked. I had a slightly woozed effect coming over me, I relaxed each muscle un-tightening, even my cheek began to burn less and my eyes un-widened to a more normal level. It did not matter what he said I was mesmerized no matter what word slipped from his lips.
“So, you have absolutely no idea what goes on in this bloody world of yours. Hm?” he asked eyebrows up his face questioning. His upper lip wrinkled as if the weight of the mustache was too much.
I nodded dumbly only listening to the chiming bell tone voice.
“Well, lots of bad things are happening all around you. Like me for example. Do you think I wanted to come to this bloody chunk of land? No, I did not. I was sent here because I am or rather was a drunk. England cast me out of the country I had called home and sent me here. Well dressed I must admit, but still cast out. That is why we are here. We either want to make money or we were shamed, some of us both.”
“And for freedom.” I protested, discovering I had actually been listening to the words the sound formed.
“Freedom is nothing without identity.” Czar
scowled. “We have no identity nor independence nor structure, therefore we are not free.”
I stared open mouth. “Those were beautiful words.” I said nodding. “We can do something to make us free though. We have to be defiant. We have to prove that we could have identity.” I was fierce now. The Eli inside of me was racing.
“With what?” Czar asked looking grim. “All we have are self-righteous people after land money and criminals like myself.”
“But you do want freedom do you not?” I asked smiling. “And you were designed to try for what you want until you had it were you not?” I said feeling a new sense patriotism surrounding us.” I winked at him.
Czar sat up straighter. “I suppose I was.”
“Then why not use that ability to upset the British that they had cast you from their country. Make them jealous that we have someone they did not want.” I was making a speech now, my heart swelling. “Use your talent for good not for uncreative simpleton exercises such us capturing young ladies so their false knight can take them away and force them into something they would never want.” I was on my feet my smile triumphant.
Czar pushed me down. Slamming me into the chair. He was angry and I did not understand why. “That is it. That is you plan. You make me feel
like I have a purpose only to insult my actions and try to convince me to go back on my word to the honorable man that I gave it too.” His voice rose as he stood. He picked up the chair and hurled it across the small structure. “You are a tricky one.” he snarled lip curled up in anger. He stormed from the place.
“Wait!” I called, but he had gone. I had not meant for that. I was being serious and truthful. I had not even thought of getting out of the place when I had spoken.
“Taylor is not an honorable man!” I called exasperated knowing he had not heard. He was off storming some where. I threw up my arms. There was nothing I could do now. I would have to wait for him to return and see that I had not run off, and that I had stayed like a good person, even if I only staid to prove my point, that I was trying to help him be a better person.
I pouted, explored the berries still in the basket and attempted to open the door. Even though it fit ill into the framework. It held tight. I sat back down in my chair and twiddled my thumbs, then I picked at my skirts which had been slightly torn somewhere in all my recent bustle. I stood again and came to understand why Czar paced so much. Pacing across the floor lasted four even steps one way, then a turn and four the other way. I wondered how many steps is was for Czar maybe only two. I would have to pay closer attention next time.
One of my steps was off and threw off my entire thought process.
“Harder then it looks.” came a voice from behind me.
I jumped with a little gasp, embarrassed at being caught in such a silly act.
Czar was standing in the door way. I had not heard him come back.
I retired to my seat. “I was just waiting for you to return.” I muttered.
“I have decided that I should join your young
friend, Eli in his adventures. You have been cooperative enough, and if he taught you most of what you know then he can not be of poor character.
“No, sir” I replied.
“However, I must finish this one out for Mr. Rhode and then I shall evaluate the errors of my path.”
I groaned. He was going to finish out the Taylor deal. I would be married to some man that I had come to detest. Taylor used to just be a person with a cheery attitude, now he was a nightmare.
I leaned my head back and shut my eyes, shutting out the world.
“You can not let him come and get me.” I groaned.
“We will see. Maybe you can be even more impressive and completely change my outlook on money and not only my life” he chuckled.
“I can always try, if it makes you break that deal off.”
“It was hardly a deal” he spoke slowly. “It was much more an offer and a promise.” he coughed as if embarrassed.
“Your on his side?” I asked, skeptic.
“We had something of a prior connection.” he coughed again.
I moan. “I can not stay here any longer, I am sorry I enjoyed the company, not really. I am leaving.” I stood and took less than three quick steps to the door.
Czar beat me there, one hand extended warning me back.
“I am sorry too, but I can not let you do that.” I pouted and pleaded. “Please, you have no
idea how much this is killing me. Literally eating my from the inside out.” I stomped my foot and made other appropriate gestures, including very sad eyes.
Czar did not take. He led me back to my chair and sat me down. I snorted, and tried to get back up but Czar pushed my down with one hand. He touched a finger to my sore cheek a reminder that he was not afraid, nor upset about hitting a lady.
I sat perfectly in my chair. Hands folded in my lap and chin titled just as I had been taught. My jaw was shaking violently and I could not calm it. I wanted to shout at him and force him to let me leave but I could not do it. I could not bring myself to create a racket, and be punished again.
“Good. Not that we have handled that maybe you can reset your priorities.”
“They remain the same.” I clipped. “They still consist of refusing any proposal from Mr. Taylor Rhode.” I knocked his hand from my shoulder. “No matter what your position is in the matter I am of one that he will not constitute a decent companion for myself.”
I stared him in the eyes. He stepped back.
“You miss, that is why you have no choice, you do not understand, society will force this upon you, not me, society, I am merely a tool.”
I blinked remembering very similar words coming from Eli’s mouth when I was trying to convince him to give up the fight against the British. He said we had fought a war as their tool. Was Czar just another tool? Or could he be the nail and I was the tool, a hammer, used to put an end to things like him, or at least pound them so they could not escape.
I evaded Czar eyes. I turned my head to the side so he only had view of my swollen cheek.
“Is it not time for tea?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Tea? Why do you think you would get served
“You said the plan was too keep me healthy, and everyone knows tea will do that.” I smiled a charming meaningless smile a plan forming in my head.
“I suppose we may have tea, but the ability to warm it we do not have.”
“We could build a fire right here, in the center, just a small one that would not burn anything, and the smoke would not be so great, as that it would not escape through the gaps around the door.”
“You really want tea?”
I nodded excitedly and he crossed to the cupboard and brought out a box and a pot.
“There is some wood stacked in that corner.” he gestured to the wood that I had seen the night before and had considered using to smack his brains out with.
I piled the wood in the center and Czar lit the fire from the lamp that had been burning all day even though the day light came through unseen cracks in the walls. Czar produced a metal rack and placed it above the blazing flame and set the pot that he had filled with water on top of it.
“I can not believe I let you talk me into making you tea.” he grumbled.
“Orders are orders” I chirped. “Your orders were too keep me healthy and so you are.”
I stood and pranced to the cupboard the only possible place I could imagine finding cups. There
were four stacked up, they each had their own original chip and scratch marks but seemed capable of holding tea. I brought two back to the fire. I squatted back down on my legs waiting for the watched pot that never boils, to boil. Czar was doing the same while holding back his curls to keep them from catching aflame. My own hair was still holding its knotted up position well enough not to get in the way. It was good that I had been riding when I had been stolen away or else my hair would have been in an entirely different style. Not to say it was a good thing to be stolen away, just that my hair was prepared for it.
The water began to sizzle and both of our hands extended at the same time, then drew back, and then we giggled lightly. I let Czar get his first and then he poured mine.
Unfortunately for him he had underestimated me. I threw my boiling water towards his face and let my cup, which happened to be wooden fall into the flames and I kicked away the metal screen. I was on my feet and receding out the gently propped open door, that had been letting smoke out, into the fields. I had no further plan and I no idea where I was, so I began to run towards the most tree populated area, guessing, and hoping that it was further from the civilization that I was expected to head towards. My shoes were not made to run but they kicked away at the fighting dirt, propelling me onward. I envisioned that the water had blinded Czar and he was now fumbling for me in his darkness. The vision may have been extreme but I wanted it too be true. Once I broke free of open land I paused and evaluated the woodland. The trees look easy enough to climb,
but I had not climbed a tree since I was five. I especially did not think I was capable of managing a climb in skirts. I was wearing conveniently a riding dress so if I did have to make a quick escape It would be more comfortable than if I was wearing a more decorative dress.
I heard a shout behind me and quickly scrambled further into the wood. I did not want to get lost so I tried to stay to the edge but still hidden. Czar had regained his composure and was mounting up on his horse. He twisted the reins in the opposite direction of the woods, and I smiled hoping I had escaped. I turned around about to make my back up the tree line toward the house when sharp barking cracked the air. I froze. Czar had dogs, they would smell me and then find me and tear me limb from limb like they were used to doing in a hunt. I had never noticed dogs before, and there was few places Czar could actually keep animals. His horse grazed freely in the side grass by the log cabin but I had never seen dogs or any signs of dogs. My feet were pattering urging me to start running, but my mind was sending a different signal. I backed out of the cover of the trees ignoring all my protesting limbs. I raised my hands up and turned around to meet face to face with a pack of slobbering dogs. They held off, they were pacing around me, drool draining from their jaws, the were waiting for the cue from the master to catch the prey. Czar whistled and the dogs whined withdrawing from their circle.
“Just a test.” I muttered walking back to the shelter.
Czar was following closely his horse’s nostrils flared just behind my neck. I walked like a prisoner
being led to my execution. I should gone when I had the chance. I could have out smarted the dogs. I could have made it, why did I stop? I was pushed in the door, silently. Czar shoved me down in the chair and tied the cloth around my waist, tight. I gasped the fabric cutting through my stomach, it was tighter than my corset was. Czar lifted my chin with a single finger, I glared into his eyes, defiance my main object. He slapped my previously tortured cheek. I wince and bit back a cry.
“Do not test my patience.” growled his voice inflicting pain on my mind. I scowled and focused my green eyes into his deep black pools.
“Then I will have to turn the other cheek.” I said stoutly. I turned my head my unharmed cheek staring Czar in the eyes.
“One will do for now, but I will remember your offer.” he growled stalking away to the other side of the room. He pounded the logs of the wall with his hand. His nice dressed suit slightly in disarray from his previous scuffle to reprimand me. His face was splotched red from the hot tea I had thrown in his face, and it was red from his anger.
“I will run away again if it releases me from any obligation to Taylor.” I said forcefully at Czar back.
“You will not get far on my watch.” he grunted stalking back across the room to me.
“Taylor is a good man for you” he said his blotchy face glaring at me.
“So, I have been told but yet I still disagree.” I retorted.
“You will make a grave mistake if you run off
with your criminal friend, eloping is highly frowned up on by society.”
“I am quite the taboo, already, I have no reason to give up that aspect of my life.” I hissed.
“Taylor will rescue you and then ask for your hand.”
“Over my dead body.” “Over mine, will you refuse him.” “Why are you so protective of him? He is
nothing, he has already proved to be a back- stabber. I am surprised he chose this route to get me instead of an easier simpler one.”
Czar face cracked into a smile. “Oh you mean the unattended boy incident.”
“How do you know about that?” I asked stunned, if he knew who else knew?
“Lucky guess.” he laughed.
I turned away, sealing my lips. I Would keep my mouth shut. Czar knew too much about me. He was closer to Taylor than I had originally thought. They must be very close if Taylor let him in on all the secret black mail plans. I let him gloat. They could not hang me for refusing a marriage proposal, the only one that was going to keep that notion plausible was my father. He was probably still ignorant of my disappearance, considering if my mother had sent him a letter in the post this morning he would not have gotten it until sometime this afternoon if not later.
I spent the good part of the rest of the week tied to the chair. I slept like that, ate from the chair and argued about Taylor’s and Eli’s qualities. If could manage to find out the truth behind Czar and Taylor’s relationship, any question asked was cautiously avoided with a planned answer. Czar
knew so much about my life though, he knew everything I would expect Taylor to know plus more that few people knew. He was a smart man, and he could put pieces together in a single second of thought. Anytime I asked him how he figured things out or who told him a fact that he knew about me he always responded with his signature “Lucky guess.”
I could not count the day any longer after more than a week of captivity. I never went outside except when absolutely necessary. I was beginning to doubt that Taylor would ever come knocking. How long could he possibly want to keep me here. My skirts were covered in mud and dirt and crumbs, and had ragged holes torn in them. My hair was a flop and falling from it’s up-do. My face was a disaster, covered in dirt and grime. My cheek was bruised and swollen and every facial expression and attempt to eat cause excruciating pain. Czar was not fairing much better. His clothes were also torn and his originally neatly combed curls were a tangled mess that he had finally resorted to tying at the nape of his neck. He was not beaten but he was filthy and the remains of several meals were visible in his curled mustache. He had relinquished his typical appeal of a abrupt sarcasm, and his melodic voice was heard less often. He also seemed to be losing hope that Taylor’s arrival would be quick and seamless. After a greater while than either of us had anticipated I asked him a question that I had not dared to voice since the night he had first been upset by it.
“Are you still willing to become a patriot after this is over?” I asked tired and sore from the short
sentence as pain erupted on my cheek. Czar turned from his daily pacing and was
about to reply when a baying of dogs and horses clopping was heard along with shout of male voices.
“About bloody time.” grunted Czar grabbing his rubbish tricorn hat and escaping through a door that was apparently hidden in the cupboard. He had checked to make sure I was securely tied before disappearing to his horse and making a great escape. I watched him go and knew my savior was finally coming. I had given up caring who came to rescue me I just wanted to be rescued.
The door was forced open and a familiar face stepped in. Immediately Taylor rushed to me and began to cut the ties with his pocket knife. He gripped me by the shoulder and begged to know if I was okay. I momentarily forgave him giving a shaky nod and a whimper. He released my shoulders and began to put his arms around me. I frowned the emotion stinging and kicked him away, issuing a hard forced slap across his face.
“What the bloody.” he swore putting his hand to his face where I had struck him.
“What was that bloody for?” he shouted at me. “I just rescued you. The only thank I get is a slap?” he asked trying to blame me for me of what he deserved.
I gave him my meanest, and most painful, glare. “ You know what you did.” I hissed, with venom in my words.
“Trinity?” came a different voice from behind Taylor. I looked up over his shoulder and saw a familiar, much loved pair of eyes and a charming
smile. “Eli” I breathed pushing past Taylor and
running to his arms. He wrapped me in a hug squeezing tight but
wary of my swollen face. He picked me off my feet and swung me around.
“I missed you girl.” he whispered, setting me on my feet and pushing me toward Taylor who had come to stand by us, as another set of boots hit the door frame. Father stepped through the door and Taylor’s arm snaked around my shoulder.
“That man has a bloody fast horse.” mumbled father turning his eyes on me.
I actually caught some sort of emotion that might have been love hidden in them and I pulled myself from Taylor’s hold to embrace my father. He pressed his chin into my hair.
“Glad you are safe.” he grunted holding his gun away from my body, apparently it was still cocked.
“We should get her home and tend to her face, I have never seen her look more hideous.” said Eli from behind me. I turned around and saw Taylor give Eli a mean stare, there was still some obvious tension between to the two of them but Eli seemed to be ignoring it.
“You can ride with me.” offered Taylor making sure he won the prize before Eli tried to claim it. “Sorry we did not bring your own horse but we were unsure of what condition you would be in.” he mumbled shifting his eyes to the floor.
Had he thought I would be dead? He was the one that gave the order to keep me healthy, this must all still be part of the facade he was trying to keep up.
I nodded and followed to the horses. Taylor had the best horse for two people any way so it only made sense I should ride with him. Taylor helped me mount completely ignoring Eli that was standing nearby to give another hand up. Then he swung up behind me gripping the reins. Father and Eli were already mounted and father was securing his gun to the side of his horse, the same position as Eli and Taylor had already stored theirs. The ride was uncomfortable the sharp wind pushing against my swollen cheek. The ride was fast, but the men obviously wanted to go faster, but were afraid of hurting me. I hide my face behind the horses’ mane. Taylor thinking I was showing signs of loneliness or discomfort wrapped his arms closer around me giving me a too friendly squeeze. I shuddered and tried to shrug him away but he paid no attention. Eli rode up to my left side, the side my eyes were on in my attempt to block the wind. He smiled his wonderful Eli smile and I replied with one of my own. I heard Father call from farther ahead that he could see the house. Eli gave out a whoop of delight and raced on ahead. Taylor even urged his horse forward a little faster. I lifted my head and braced my face against the wind and I saw a little red head running from a house towards us. Lily. A smile exploded on my face, I had not seen her in such a terribly long time. It did not take us long to reach her, and Taylor halted the horse. He leaped down and then reached up and brought me down from the horse cradling me in his arms.
I pounded on his chest. “Put me down, I can walk.” I pleaded wanting to get out of Taylor’s grasp as fast as possible. Lily wrapped me in a
hug as soon as I was on my feet. I hugged her back noticing that her head hit a few inches higher on me than it used too. How long had I been gone if Lily had grown a few inches and Eli was home. It could not have been six months. I could maybe imagine it being three months but not six months. Lily held my hand all the way to the house. Mother was crying in Father’s arms until she saw me. She ran to me and hugged me choking on her tears.
“Oh, my Trinity, I thought I had lost you. I am so glad Taylor was able to go find you.” she wailed.
So, Taylor had found me, that was news, the first person I recalled hugging was Eli but maybe I was hallucinating. How was it possible that they were already thinking Taylor was my hero.
“Ma’am, I do not want to break up the reunion but maybe we should tend to her face it is pretty swollen.” came Eli’s calm voice from behind.
Mother let go and held me out at arms length taking in my face.
“Oh,” she gasped. “Dearie me.”
She began to instruct everyone on what to do to try and fix me up.
She had gotten a cloth and filled a cup of water, and was gently daubing water to my cheek. I winced with each touch and she only continued to press harder before adding vinegar to the remedy, a home made recipe of hers. It stung but cooled down the flames that had erupted over it. I poked the inside of my cheek with my tongue and was relieved when I did not feel the same sharp shock of pain had I had previously felt. I was not even sure if mother’s substance was helping, but knowing she actually cared about me getting better
My heart that had turned so cold in the time I was gone was beginning to warm with love, as so many people that loved me were surrounding my life. It was getting late though as mother finished daubing my cheek and checking for any other various injuries. I was so exhausted, and the prospect of falling asleep tonight in my own bed was so heartwarming. After so many night sleeping stiff tied in a chair, a bed was like sleeping on a cloud. Everyone caught the hint that I was drained when my head nearly slammed into the table and the bowl of vinegar before I caught it. Taylor was at my side hovering near my elbow in a second.
“Are you okay?” he asked hiding behind his veneer of worry.
“Yes,” I mumbled pulling my shoulders up. “I am just tired”
“Of course you are, I could not even imagine the stress and anxiety that three month ordeal must have done to your nerves. We should get you to bed.” He spoke quickly with false pretension.
“Three months?” I mumbled, not loud enough for anyone to hear. I had staid in that filthy hole with that aggravating man for three months? I nearly collapsed again in my weariness, but Taylor caught me this time. I struggled out of his hold, but I could not over power him and he picked me up and began to head for the stairs.
“I will take her up to bed.” He said kindly as if everyone was oblivious to what he was doing. I tried to kick him away but my limbs had hardened and would not budge. Lucky for me, Eli was right behind with a lamp to guide the way. He said nothing but I saw a look on his face of deep
thought obviously curious as too why I was avoiding Taylor so much.
Taylor brought me too my room and I looked at it from his arms, my bed had been made and unused for three months. The curtains had a filament of dust. No one had seemed to want to touch my things during my disappearance. I must have seemed like a ghost to them.
Taylor waited as Eli pulled back the covers and he set me in the bed. I wished I had the energy to change from my ratty clothes, but I did not voice it allowed, I only wanted me to undress myself. Taylor and Eli rolled the covers back on me and my eyes were shut and I was slumbering dreamlessly before they had shut the door and gone.