‘Why had I come?’ Mama had reassured me, even at the dock, “You are going to have a lovely time Claire. Your Aunt Catherine has wanted you and Sophie to visit for so long. This will give you a chance to get to know your cousin and have a bit of fun. You know they do not get many visitors living were they do, unlike you.” It had taken much pleading and begging before I had ended up on the dock. I hated to leave.
Escaping from another dinner party had been hard but it seemed that finally I had succeeded. “Thank God!” maybe I won’t be missed I whispered to myself as I tip-toed across the barnyard being careful not to get my blue satin shoes dirty, Aunt Catherine was already going to be angry that I skipped out on the evening get-together. I had had enough of watching my cousin, Anna Belle, flirting and fawning over Captain Fallon. Personally the man had an evil sense about him. The thoughts I received when he kissed my hand made my stomach turn in knots and sent fear coursing through my veins. His thoughts had not been those of a gentleman. I did not trust nor did I like him. Apparently he had only this type of effect on me because as I watched the others they seemed to be unconcerned with our guest in fact they all appeared enamored with his silky words and complements. He was a handsome man; high angular cheek bones, skin like well oiled leather, strong proud shoulders, brown and green hazel eyes combined with a voice deep and soothing. I could see how Anna Belle (my cousin) and the others may have fallen immediately in love. The package may be beautiful but the gift inside was not.
The Captain had eyes that bore straight through you as if peeling the soul apart like the layers of an onion, layer by layer. My wall went up blocking out anything I was not willing to share. Apparently he sensed that I was different and continued showing interest which did not help my situation at all. Following me from the parlor to the dining table and insisting on sitting by me at dinner. So when dinner was finished I slipped out the back kitchen door as everyone else retired to the parlor for after dinner drinks and singing.
I was of marrying age but had no desire at the time to get hitched, plus I am positive Gran Louie had seen his interest. Sophie, my sister, was already engaged and Nicholas, my brother, had his eye on Eliza Marie Thompson; a nurse that worked with him at the hospital. My siblings were doing as expected, finding their true loves. Me, however, I was running from the suitors. Not that there had been a large amount. So, that is why I found myself in La Salle, Louisiana. Gran Louie thought that a change in scenery and a different group of men might peek my interest or them in me. I had over heard her praying that I would get lucky and find someone to take me as their adoring wife. Yeah, right! She thought wrong! I was not just a piece of meat to pass around for everyone to taste. “Claire,” her grating voice carried across the dirt yard in the humid bayou air. “Claire, darling Captain Fallon is looking for you.” I hid in the shadows of the gazebo hoping the moonlight did not give me away. “Claire darling, you are going to regret this in the morning. He is a lovely specimen of a man”. I felt like running so far away and would have if Gran Louie had let me bring my Neshoba. The white wolf given to me when I was born, she was an extension of my being. I saw through her eyes at times better than I saw through my own. A part of me was missing and I was lost and frightened. Gran said that she scared my suitors and that I needed to think about getting rid of her. So it wasn't until we arrived at the schooner on the Isle of Dauphin that I was told she would not be coming with us the rest of the trip. This was Gran Louie's idea not my mothers. We had left her back at the Port of Mobile standing on a pier waving to us. Being taught to obey and respect my elders I left Nashoba with my Uncle Max and his family. It was as if a part of me was lost at that moment. I sighed deeply; lost, lonely, and ready to go home.
Just a few more days of this then I will be running free on the island. Tomorrow we were to leave for New Orleans to spend several days shopping and visiting the opera, Sophie was ecstatic. Her fiancé attended Tulane and would be there to show us around. A deep sigh passed my lips as a breeze rustled my hair reminding me of the gulf breezes that blew across the Isle of Dauphine. Lost in my own thoughts and feelings I had not noticed the change in my surroundings.
“There you are Madame.” I felt the hackles on the back of my neck rise, of all the people to find me it had to be him. Great! “Yes, I guess you did Captain… was it Fallon.” Giving me a strangely evil grin he replied, “Yes it is. I am glad you remembered.” I began to slowly edge toward the entrance of the gazebo, something about the way he moved was almost as if he was hunting me. “I believe Anna Belle is missing your company. I noticed she was quite fond of you in many ways when I leaned over to pick up my napkin at dinner. If you are lonely I am positive she would gladly keep you company.” (I had caught her hand rubbing him in a friendly manner under the table, the little trollip.) My rear hit the railing of the gazebo. Shoot! I was still not close enough to the doorway to bolt. He took a step toward the entrance trying to block my exit. “Don’t try to escape my dear I have no plans of hurting you yet. Tell me how you managed to evade me and my advances tonight.” “Excuse me what exactly do you mean, sir?” “Don’t play games with me lassie. You and I both know that there is something different about you.” “Yes, I am a southern belle and choose to keep my thoughts to myself.” “Ah, so you noticed.” He smiled a toothy grin and walked to the other side of the gazebo to light a hand rolled cigar leaning back against the railing as he looked me up and down like a hunter surveying his prey before he pounced. “What are you exactly? I know you are not one of us and you seem too cultured to be a native. Who and what are you?” “Sir, if you will excuse me I think I am ready to retire for the evening.” Before I could take a step toward the doorway he was so close to my face that my eyes began to cross. “This is not the last time we will meet Lassie. I will find out what you are and you will be mine. I think your Grandmother Louise is very fond of me and actually thinks me to be quite a grand catch.” A chilling grin formed on his lips as he stepped away, bowing deliberately toward the gazebo entrance. “See you later sweet heart. Try not to dream about me.” “My feet wanted to run as far away from here as possible but I put my nose in the air and gracefully slid past him, then high tailed back to the front porch then raced up the stairs to my room.” There was no way on God’s green earth that I was going to marry such an awful man. The things I had seen when he brushed my check with his hand made my stomach role. He had murdered, raped, stole and tortured so many people, a fear like any other began to rise with in my soul. What did he mean by “one of us” and “you are not a native”? I was a native by blood and by birth. Who exactly was he referring to as “one of us” my family was well off. We had fine homes, owned servants and land. He on the other hand did not even own a horse. He scared me that I did know and prayed we would never meet again!