Rio was an explosion of the complete opposite of everything Rhiannan understood to be normal or usual. Where she expected quiet there was loud noise, instead of people wincing in frustration they smiled in abundant joy. Heat filled every pore, the hot air crackling as it burnt her nostrils flaring to inhale. Dryness lifted the hair from her scalp only to have the humidity lay it flat and drab back against her neck and shoulders. Her eyes hurt from the dryness and the dust and the brightness of the sunshine.
She clung to Michael’s shirtsleeve as they walked from the relative cool calmness of the docks through the crowded chaotic streets.
‘Where are we going?’ she begged as the town seemed to thin with small strange gardens between the houses, the slope rising gently giving cause for the houses to step their blocks.
‘I want that leach kept here when we sail. And I want him kept in a state that will render him senseless for the remainder of whatever useful life expectancy he has.’
‘Did I have to come?’ she asked letting go with one hand to gather her skirts and lift the front of the hoops to not trip her as she widened her step to keep up with him. For the tenth time that morning she lamented for not wearing her trousers, or at least left her crinoline behind and half a dozen yards of petticoats.
‘Could I have safely left you?’ he countered and for the first time since they landed he looked down at her. He stopped them, his demeanour softening seeing her obvious distress. ‘Sweetheart I’m sorry. It’s not far now.’ he tucked a curl back off her face; it’s dankness concerning him as if it were an indication of her state. ‘Think you can go on just a little further?’
‘If we take it a little slower.’ She relented smiling up at him for giving him his neglect of her and glowing at his obvious restored treatment. Since the night Lord George boarded he had avoided her while his eyes watched her burning with desire, yet also treated her like the princess he wanted to keep her and she had grown accustomed to his gentlemanly attendance. ‘I think I’ve forgotten how to walk on solid ground.’
He smiled at her. ‘That’s my girl.’
Tucking her hand into the crook of his arm he walked them on; at a slower, more perambulating pace. The road was steeper now, climbing up turning this way and that about the ramshackle homes, following what could have been originally a goat track up the slope of a hill. Houses made of stone and mud, washed and bleached white, their rooves tiled in clay, clung to the side of the hill, their floor plans dictated by whatever flat land available or managed to be carved out of the hillside; their small windows offering what had to be breathtaking views of the vast blue ocean.
When Rhiannan thought she could go no further, the road turned a last final corner then dipping a little and turning back before climbing the neighbouring hill. In the crook of this turn Michael led her off the track up a path not much wider than a goat trail, yet seemingly paved in slate. The strange eerie jungle closed in either side of them, trees towering above them and vines hanging, strangling the trunks, creating a claustrophobic greenness filled with incessant noise of high pitched chirping insects injected with the call of one bird or another. It seemed to throb in rhythm to the distant roar of the crashing waves below them.
Finally the path widened, the greenery about them shrank back, and the path becoming flanked in spongy green grass; the like she’d never seen before. She thought of the old Scottish gardener and how he would weep with the bliss of caring for such greenness.
She looked up to see before them the most amazing of dwellings. What little walls they saw were the expected traditional white stone or mud and the roof the accustomed red clay. But beyond that the house could not be considered a full building. Rooms opened out to vast wooden decks projecting into the jungle or indeed out into the green lawn. There was furniture on the lawn even; lounges of wood dressed in cushions, between them low tables protected from the sun by portable shelters of palm fonds thatched to wooden skeletal structures. To one side there was even a stone pool that looked to be a natural rock pond were it not for the stone edging being straight down the side near the house and uniformed in it’s flagging, reminding Rhiannan of the painting of a Roman bath that she once saw in the foyer of a house in London Mrs Johnson had her deliver a basket load of delicacies to.
As they approached the flagged steps, leading up to the first of the decks, a man came out of the central dwelling area to greet them.
‘Mr Kent.’ The man greeted them in surprise, his pleasure warm in his smile, his white teeth a contrast to his dark skin as was the bright colour in his clothing.
‘Samuel hello. Would your mistress be home? I pray that she is in good health.’
‘Well enough Michael Kent.’ An aged female flat sounding voice replied for herself from somewhere to their left.
Rhiannan turned her head to see a woman approach. She was short and trim with the dark chocolate skin of the locals; her hair predominantly black yet fading around the edges and long in places short in others; sticking from her head in screws of wool-like consistency creating a main to rival any lion of giant proportions.
Her dress was white and straight like flowing milk on her body. Her feet arms and neck were bare yet wrapped about her head and hanging from her shoulders were rows and rows of small shells, beads and jewels glistening in the sun; the ends collected in tassels that bounced as she breathed. The beads down her front brushed the woman’s breasts with their movement and Rhiannan was unable to look away from the obvious imprint of the woman’s pert erect nipples in their full curvaceous swells pulling the softness of the white dress.
Belatedly Rhiannan realised the woman’s face, though glistening chocolate in complexion, was also tattooed with black ink; rows of dots beneath her eyes and swirling on her cheeks. Her teeth were pearl white, a stark contrast with her skin and made all the more so by black gums and lips. The whites of her eyes were also startling contrast to her chocolate skin and her black eyes; kohl, or was it yet more tattoos, outlining her eyelids giving yet more dramatic contrast.
As the woman seemed to glide past Rhiannan the poor completely bamboozled girl stared at the loops the woman’s earlobes had become with the weight of the large gold orbs hanging from them.
Gob smacked Rhiannan watched as the woman reached up to Michael and caught his head drawing his face down so the woman could kiss him quite passionately. Rhiannan watched in horror as Michael, her intended husband, closed his eyes and returned the kiss he was receiving, his hand sliding around the woman’s waist pulling the material tight so that there could be no doubt the white dress was all the woman wore.
‘Ah Michael Kent.’ The woman smiled pulling away from him to look up into his greedy eyes. ‘I see you have brought me a play friend.’
And then abruptly the woman’s hand was sliding along Rhiannan’s jaw and ear and up into her soft hair. Frozen in fear like a doe before a hunter Rhiannan felt mesmerized by the black eyes staring into hers. Then just as suddenly the woman let her go. She walked away and unexpectedly there seemed to be a limp to her gait. Rhiannan felt like she was taking a new breath and could freely move again. Even her skin felt suddenly warm as if it had been icy cold moments before. She looked to Michael who either recovered faster or had not really been affected as deeply for he smiled and taking Rhiannan’s hand led her after their hostess.
‘Ah, Michael Kent, you know I like children …’ The woman said in her sharp thin throaty voice, as she walked before them to a deck that protruded over the pool. She had an accent that pronounced every consonant in a clipped sharp guttural manner, yet drawled each vowel sound luxuriously, growling some in her throat deep behind her breast before she let it out, sounding somewhat like a cat meowing and purring for attention. Her sing song discorded style emphasising syllables out of sync to that which the English preferred.
There were gaps in the boards of the deck and Rhiannan could look down between them into the crystal clear water. It seemed so very deep, even bottomless; either the stones at the bottom were black or it was immensely deep. She felt drawn towards it and, were it not for her hand in Michael’s, she could have happily fallen in. Michael sat her on a lounge that was more a bench than the long undulating lounge chairs fashioned like the imprints of a body on a soft matrice. He could sit beside her but remained standing until the woman settled herself on one of the cushion clad lounges. In a bowl, on a low table between them, were small berry-like fruits of which the woman took a handful and began to eat.
‘… But you bring me a mother not a child.’ Their hostess finished saying, pushing a berry into her lips.
‘May I present my intended bride, Rhiannan. Rhiannan this is Roulade.’
‘Take care of her well, Michael Kent, for she carries your baby in her belly.’ She bit and chewed more fruit, her lips open in a smile; her eyes on Rhiannan alone, seemingly unblinking. ‘And beware of your crew for she is highly desired.’
‘That brings me to the reason why I must visit you.’ Michael began, taking a seat beside Rhiannan.
‘And I thought it was for my excellent company.’ She replied quickly her eyes still staring at Rhiannan, her smile still wide and juicy.
He chuckled slightly, shaking his head and smiling widely then looked to Rhiannan before finally looking back at their hostess like a moth drawn to the brilliance of the flame.
‘Roulade you know it would take a stronger man than I to ever resist your company. If ever I am near enough to Rio I will always come visit you.’
Rhiannan stared at Michael seeing the desire shining in his eyes as brazenly as it had for her.
‘That is true of the past, Michael Kent, but I fear it will not be true of the future. But you have brought me someone; if not this child mother, then who?’
‘I bring you a man. He is the scurvy of the sea and has the manners of a leach to any ship that shows him harbour.’
‘And you bring this leach to me?’
It was the closest Rhiannan had heard a woman screech without raising her voice. It did succeed in taking the black eyes from focussing only on Rhiannan and directed their mesmerising gaze to Michael. Again Rhiannan felt suddenly free to breathe.
‘I trust no one else to contain him rendered senseless for the good of all.’
Roulade smiled then, a deep smile that softened her eyes and showed the true width of her gums.
‘You have brought me a pet to keep for all eternity with me?’
‘For as long as you shall desire him to remain with you providing he is witless if you should discard him back into the world.’
‘And is this man pretty?’ she definitely did elongate and purr out the adjective. ‘What say you child mother?’ the eyes were looking at Rhiannan again but without the captivating intensity instead pure childlike excitement glowed in their depths.
‘He is handsome enough.’ Rhiannan tried to sound enthusiastic.
‘Though not as pretty as our Michael Kent here hey?’ the wiser, older woman surmised and gave a cackle that originated somewhere in her spine behind her heart, bubbling out of her throat somewhere near her ears.
‘Yes I will take this man. Bring him to me this evening. We shall party and then in the morning you shall leave and I shall bid you fair sailing, for I do not see we meet again, but I shall not be sad as I shall retain my new pet with many thanks to my relinquishing dear heart.’
Michael smiled and nodded his head in a lopsided cock, acknowledging her compliment.
‘Now go retrieve this new man for me. Leave your young bride, she needs her rest. I shall take precious care of her for you, my dear heart Michael Kent.’
She stood as did he. Rhiannan suddenly felt her limbs too heavy to move yet weightless at the same time, as if she were swollen to exorbitant size yet miniscule to others. Their voices were far away even though she could feel the heat of his breath in her ear. He was laying her down. He kissed her cheek. Was he promising to hurry back? She could feel the coolness of the breeze coming up through the cracks from the cool pool beneath. And then she closed her eyes and relaxed.
The sun was setting as Rhiannan opened her eyes again. She was no longer on the bench above the pool. She had been moved to a large flat bed inside what was hoping to pass as a room. Two walls met with, in the corner, ridiculously highlighted by its solitary position, a single simple rattan chair. The canopy above her was sheer white draped over the rails of the large heavy black wood four poster bed. The sheet she lay on felt icy cold and the one draped over her as light as a feather. She felt naked beneath and looked to find that’s exactly what she was. She lay for a moment feeling the delicious luxury of such soft nothingness caressing her skin all over. Laying on her back the sheet fell like liquid from the peaks of her nipples erect with the thrill. Even her toes holding the sheet from her feet seemed alive with the touch of the soft material. The hair on her arms felt the evening breeze and looked out through the gap that should be two walls. She could see the ocean, the sun low on the horizon.
Sitting up she could not see her clothes. Another chair, low and long, stood nearby and laid out on it was a single garment. It looked as white as the one Roulade had worn and seemed as simple. Yet how did she walk the ten steps from the bed to the dress and then pull the garment on, in full sight of anyone outside who cared to look in? There was no one out there that she could see and feeling even more brazen than the time she tried on the blue dress in her cabin, she slid from the bed sheets and padded barefoot to the chair. Her skin felt silken. Had whoever moved and undressed her also bathed her? How did they achieve it without her waking? She still felt mildly dreamlike. It was similar to the feeling she’d had before with the effects of Grouses drugged drink, but that held a measure of illness where as she now felt nothing but calm and effortlessly light.
She lifted the dress holding it above her head feeling the freedom of stretching so exposed in a world that didn’t seem to notice yet gloried in the neutrality of it. And then the material slid down over her. It felt like the sheet, like her hair freshly washed on her naked back. It draped from her shoulders over her breasts and away past her feet into nothingness. It slid over her buttocks and she thought no more of it.
Turning she saw Roulade standing at the foot of the steps from her room to the deck outside. The older woman now wore a dress of deepest blue, so deep it looked black like the ink dots on her face, and her wide wide happy smile.
‘Come child mother, we have time to eat before the men arrive. I have fruit and cheese and a cake so light you will not know it is in your mouth.’
‘I feel this dress is so light I would not know I was wearing it.’
‘You wear a dress?’ Roulade asked in astonishment and, suddenly scared for her mental well being, Rhiannan looked down to see the white sliding on her legs as she walked. She felt the older woman chuckle beside her and relaxed at the tease. ‘Did you rest well child mother?’
‘I have never rested better. Deep, dreamless, and then to wake in that bed.’ Rhiannan closed her eyes and smiling hummed to portray the bliss she felt.
‘Sometimes I sleep in that bed to dream of Michael Kent. That is his bed when he stays with me.’
‘Surely others have slept there?’
‘No only he.’ She shook her head, her hair following in its own time. ‘He, me and now you.’
The woman then suddenly stroked Rhiannan’s breast and belly. ‘It will bless your child with him also.’
‘Roulade why do you maintain I am with child?’
‘Because you are, my child. I read it in your eyes, I smell it on your scent, I feel it in your breasts. You lay with Michael Kent and took his seed willingly and now you carry the miracle of life in your belly.’
She cupped Rhiannan’s breast weighing it gently. Rhiannan seemed to now be accustomed to this and no longer flinched. The woman ran her thumb over Rhiannan’s nipple bringing the bud painfully to life.
‘Your breasts are filling, readying themselves with milk for your child. How many months since your last course?’
Rhiannan held her breath staring at the woman as realisation began to dawn. ‘Three perhaps.’
‘Your child shall be born in six months time. You should be ready. Make that Michael Kent build you a home by the fifth month. And be patient, for that will be the longest month for you both.’
‘Are you sure it’s his child?’ Rhiannan asked the older, wiser woman; for she seemed to have all the unasked answers.
‘I don’t know. We have only been on the ship three months and he did not speak to me, he didn’t even come out of his cabin in the first month.’
‘Have you lain with him?’
‘I don’t know. I may have but it was before the ship, before I met him. I don’t even know if it was him. I think it was. I cannot be sure, I was in a drugged state and barely remember anything.’
‘Do you feel him here?’ suddenly the woman’s hand landed gently on her lower belly. Rhiannan flinched only slightly and her insides pulsed as she thought of him.
Rhiannan closed her eyes and took a breath in and out with her nose. ‘Yes.’ She whispered.
‘And does any other man make you feel here?’
‘Then it is his.’ The woman walked on leading Rhiannan by association. ‘But we will learn the truth tonight if you wish for certainty.’
☼ To be continued ….
For my NaNoWriMo challenge
One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book
Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry
It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living.
Who knew what really happens in the mystical Tropical Islands of South America? Who knows what went on the the dens of iniquity encouraged by the tropical heat and scantily clad people.
Back in the mid 1800s there was still a strong pull for Piracy if for nothing else than the immoral indulgences and the black market trade the world over.
I do wish to apologise if this fictitious re-enactment offends anyone – my intention was to put my leading characters through extraordinary experiences, not offend.
So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼