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Authors: Erika Robuck

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BOOK: Receive Me Falling
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She had climbed onto the large boulder and had begun
to recite to her companion a poem of her own composition. “Oh, Waterfall, what
beauty you possess!
But your sopping
sprays make the mud soil up my dress. If you would but spray the other way, you
would not make a mess.”

Catherine had jumped down from the boulder amidst
much laughter and applause as Leah climbed up and began:

waterfall; dangerous dashing font, how I wish you would drown that monstrous
man Sarponte. Unless of course, that means, he would be back to haunt!”

The girls’ laughter had evaporated in the rush and
splash of the water, and Leah jumped down from the boulder.
They had knelt by the water to see if any
manner of creature could be observed.
Leah had peered into the water, Catherine pushed her from behind.
She came up sputtering mad.

“You wicked girl!
Mami will be furious!”

Leah climbed out and began to chase
She caught Catherine and
forced her into the lagoon under the spray of the waterfall.
Upon doing so, Leah lost her balance and fell
into the shallow pool.
Both girls
splashed and plunged one another under the water until they were out of

They grew silent and began floating on their backs
as they stared into the canopy of tropical trees.
Only the sound of the waterfall could be
heard as they floated like water lilies.
They spun in the gentle current until their hands touched.

“Why can’t every day be Sunday?” Leah had

Catherine shook her head as Leah’s words came from
her memory and whispered ghost-like around her. They hung in the air, jumped
from behind bushes, and splashed off the water.
Catherine’s eyes swept the trees with foreboding.
She began trembling and a lump rose in her

The rumbling of distant thunder urged Catherine to
gather her journal and bundles of plants and hurry to the slaves’ village.
She walked quickly, watching the sky for
signs of the incoming storm, but soon relaxed her step when she saw the storm
was far off on the horizon.

The smell of oranges and boiled sweet potatoes
greeted Catherine as she stepped into the slave village.
The very young, the very old, and the infirm
were the only beings populating the village at this hour, and many waved at
Catherine as she made her way to Rebecca’s hut.

Piercing high over the wind, cooking sounds, and
humming was the shrill cry of the infant.
The flap was pulled back, exposing a tearful and agitated Rebecca
rocking her newborn son.

“I don’t know what’s wrong.
I’ve tried feeding him, but he won’t drink.
He cries like he suffers some illness.”

Catherine took the child from Rebecca and looked
into his furious face.
She whispered to
the baby as she laid him on the bed of leaves and began to undress him.
Upon careful inspection, Catherine found the
source of his irritation—a large, red welt on his left thigh.

“An insect bite.”

Catherine broke open an aloe leaf and squeezed its
milky salve into her palm.
She then
rubbed a yellow dad leaf into the milk, and applied it to the child’s insect
His crying ceased, and he watched

“Apply this whenever he seems uncomfortable.
It should be gone in a few days.”

“Thank you, Miss Catherine.”

Catherine smiled and turned to leave, until she
remembered her purpose.

“Have you seen Esther today?”

“I’ve not seen her since yesterday evening.”

Catherine’s brow furrowed.
She thanked Rebecca and moved down the lane
to Mary’s hut.

The ancient blind woman was sitting on a log in
front of the thatched dwelling, weaving kush-kush grass into a mat.
Her gnarled fingers—worn from decades of
ceaseless industry—moved nimbly through the stalks.
Catherine watched her deeply lined fingers on
rough, skillful hands.
Strong hands on a
powerful body used up almost completely.
Mary turned toward Catherine with her empty eyes and greeted her young

“How do you know when I approach?”
asked Catherine.

“Your step sounds like one on its way to something
It’s different from all the

Catherine smiled, dropped her bundle
of plants, and embraced the old woman who smelled of coconut, herbs, and smoke.

“Wild cilliment, joint wood, seagrape, hog
plum—you’ve brought me a good selection today,” said Mary.

Catherine gazed into the old woman’s
The milky blobs in her eye sockets
seemed to stare back. Over the years, little by little, a film had slid down
the gold-brown of her eyes like mountain mist, eventually rendering her
Her visual palette had
deteriorated from the light glory of day, to the sneak-shadow of dusk, to the
tar-stain of night.
Yet here in her
pitch-black afternoon, Catherine felt that it was not Mary who lacked for

The women spoke for some time about Rebecca’s birthing.
Mary mumbled her wisdom in her husky voice as
Catherine’s ink-pen blackened her journal and fingertips.
When Catherine noticed that the storm clouds
had inched a bit closer, she bade Mary farewell and moved down the lane to
Esther’s hut.
Finding it empty,
Catherine traveled to the path leading to the beach, hoping to secure a bit of
coconut palm to bring to Mary before the rainstorm began.
As she was running down the path, she
collided with James Silwell.

“I’m sorry.
I’m in a hurry to explore a cave down by the water before high
It’s inaccessible once the tide
comes in, and some useful plants are to be found around it.”

“It looks as though it’s going to storm,” said

“I’m sure it will just be a light soaking. Would
you like to join me?
You can take notes
on the excursions of a planter’s daughter.”

“You enjoy mocking me,” remarked James as he
followed her down the dirt path.

She smiled, turned away from him, and continued
her descent to the shore.
James saw the
turbulent, blue waters frame Catherine’s form as she moved ahead of him.
When they reached the sand, Catherine pointed
to a dark cave overgrown with vines.
two of them made their way toward it and fell into step beside one another.

“Forgive me if I’ve offended you,” said Catherine.

“I’m not easily offended.
I was teasing you.”

Catherine stopped and picked up a starfish that
had washed up onto the sand.
She pulled
off her boots, hitched up her skirts and waded out into the shallow pools
toward some rocks offshore where she placed the small creature.
Once she was back on shore she rung out the
bottom of her skirt and picked up her boots.
James tried to suppress a grin.

A bolt of lightening followed by a sudden downpour
of rain sent Catherine and James running toward the cave.

“I’m sure this will pass as quickly as it has
come,” said Catherine.
“Is your weather
at home as unpredictable and sudden as it is here?”

“We do see quite a bit of rain, but
rarely does it announce itself in such a way.
My family comes from Cornwall
in the Southwest of England.
It’s very
mild during all seasons, but our winds blow strong and steady, as do yours.”

“If I’m not mistaken, my father’s
family comes from those parts of England.
Do you have a large family at home?”

“I do,” smiled James.
“My younger brother is a clergyman at a
neighboring parish, and I have three younger sisters.
All of my siblings are married and have
children, except for me.
I am the victim
of much good-natured teasing in my family.”

Catherine looked at James. His brown
hair was worn shorter than most, but it suited him.
His eyes were light in color, but set deep in
his face and rimmed in dark circles.
features were sharp and serious, but very attractive.
Catherine wondered why he wasn’t married.

“And may I ask of your mother?”

“Mother died when I was sixteen. She
was a kind and loving woman, and I’m afraid we’ve all never quite recovered
from her passing.
She was full of life,
and very spirited.”

“You were blessed to have had her in
your life.”

“Tell me about your mother.
Did you ever know her?”

“No, she died during my childbirth,” said
“My Aunt Elizabeth helped to
raise and educate me, but she died when I was twelve. Esther is really the only
constant mother-figure I’ve had.”

The pair sat watching the storm in the damp cave
that smelled of soaked moss and salt.
was close and humid and sheltered from the sharp blasts of wind tossing the
outside landscape into a wet frenzy.
small hermit crab crept around the corner from the beach and inched its way
into the cave for shelter, leaving a little lined path in its tracks.
Coconut palms rippled along the opening of
the cave like underwater seaweed.

“Are these the plants you need?” asked James.
“I’ll get them for you.”

Catherine watched James pull a blade from his
jacket and slice down the great, wet leaves.
He shook them out and passed them into the cave.

“I told Mary in the slave village that I would
take them to her,” said Catherine.
that the rain is slowing down, I think it’s safe for us to venture out. A
search party will be organized if I don’t report to my father as soon as

They moved out of the cave and proceeded up to the
Great House.
As they emerged from the
path, Phinneas intercepted them.
Catherine recoiled as Phinneas looked over her soaked figure.

“Where have you been?” he demanded. “Mr. Dall has
been frantic.
We were about to assemble
a search party.”

“A storm overtook us as we walked on the beach,”
said Catherine.

“It is not dignified or ladylike for a woman like
yourself to be alone in the company of strange men,” said Phinneas.

“I assure you it was a totally innocent
If you will excuse us, we must
go and tell Father that we are unharmed.”

Catherine and James stopped by Mary’s hut and
delivered the palms before returning to the house.
Leah greeted them at the back door and led
Catherine upstairs to assist her in changing her wet clothing.
James found Albert and Cecil in the parlor
and recounted their adventures.

“I’m sorry you were forced to worry,” said James.
“The cave was really an excellent shelter.”

“I’m only glad Catherine had you to keep her
She probably would have danced in
the rain if you hadn’t pulled her to safety,” said Cecil.
Phinneas scowled and retreated into the
shadows of the room.
Catherine returned
and Leah followed with tea.

“Won’t you stay for dinner?” asked Cecil.

“We don’t want to cause you any trouble,” answered

“It’s no trouble at all.
Guests are a wonderful diversion.
One gets to feeling very isolated in the
islands without frequent visitors.”

“Then we would be glad to accept.”

Thomas led James away to change his clothing and
dry him off while the rest of the company sat down to enjoy afternoon tea.
Phinneas slipped out of the room and returned
to the fields.

BOOK: Receive Me Falling
4.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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