“I suppose not.” I smiled. “And you?”
“And me what?” he asked.
“And you, monsieur?” I laughed.
“No, I meant, do you mean do I mind if I am romantic with you?”
“Amongst other things.” I laughed again.
“And what does that mean?”
“Do you mean do I mind if I am romantic with you as well as other activities, or do you mean do I mind if I am romantic with you as well as other being romantic with you?”
“Both.” I laughed. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” he smiled widely as if he had for the first time in a long time found someone he could match wits with “for I don’t mind being romantic with you amongst other things, and I am already romantic with you while others are romantic with you, so I suppose that’s fine too. And for you being romantic with me, I do not mind that either, nor do I mind if you are romantic with me, amongst other things, nor do I mind if you are romantic with me while equally being romantic with others.”
“Really?” I laughed, half amazed by him.
“Yes, well, like black people.” he replied.
“What?” I replied in turn, utterly bemused.
“Well, you told me he does mind me and you being romantic with each other, amongst other things so I just iterated what one of the other many things that he minds - black people.”
“True enough.” I laughed. “But what I meant was that Blanchelande does mind the fact that we slept in the same chamber last night.”
“I knew he would.” Reget laughed.
“Then why did you do it?” I replied incredulously.
“I did nothing, you are the one who fell asleep.”
“True enough.” I shrugged.
“And are you telling me that you don’t love the fact that Blanchelande the moment he saw you laying there would have rushed to you and begged you to be his?”
“He didn’t, actually.” I smiled, looking away, realising in that moment that I had half wished that he had.
“Now I find that hard to believe, Elodie.” he raised his eyebrows.
“Well, it is true, Reget, he was more shocked than anything.”
“Of course,” he shook his head “shocked that a beautiful white French Marquise would be more at ease with me than him.”
“And attracted too.”
“He can’t see that I am attracted to you.”
“He can, that’s what shocked him.” he paused “And are you not attracted to him?”
“True enough.” I shrugged, realising that while I had no burning passion for Blanchelande, I equally held some tender curiosity towards him, as if he were a memory from a dream.
“You truly are a libertine, Elodie, I wonder what Blanchelande would say if he knew what a libertine you are.” he laughed.
“Well, if he must paint me as an angel, let it be with black wings.”
“Yes.” Reget replied, looking me squarely in the eyes. “Come on,” he smiled “we ought to return to the chateau before Blanchelande dies of missing you.”
We began up the beach back towards the safety of the docks. They were full of enslaved people, who all seemed to gaze at Reget with a mixture of admiration and mistrust. They were in irons, loading wooden crates of sugar, coffee and indigo onto ships that would head to America, France and Britain, Reget had told me. I tried to look into their eyes and yet once again I failed. I looked away and played with the lace on my pink parasol.
Reget continued as we walked up the hill to inform me of the conditions of slavery and to tell me that until last month, he had been unable to have the same rights as free men as he was mixed race, a phrase he told me denoted a person who was neither white nor black. I listened intently. He told me of the revolt here, of the secret meetings held in caves here under cover of darkness - the next of which was the following evening. I promised him that I would keep Blanchelande away if he wanted to witness one of these meetings and he gladly agreed.
When we reached the top of the jungle hill with the colossal castle we lived in full view in its full majesty, the doors swung open as if by the invisible hand of God.
“Thank you, Reget.” I smiled.
“For what?” he replied.
“For letting me be a part of this.”
“Oh.” he smiled back “Thank you for letting me into your world, Elodie.” he nodded.
“And your heart?” I asked, tentatively.
“What about it?” he smiled “Do you mean, have I let you into it?”
“Yes, have you?”
“Well,” he paused, “I have just told a white aristocrat when a secret revolt meeting is that would find a hundred hung if she so much as mentioned it to the man who is clearly desperate to be her husband, so you can draw your own conclusions.”
And I have just told a man I hardly know that I am an escapee - you may equally draw your own conclusions.”
“Thank you, Elodie, I shall.”
“As shall - “ I was cut off by an immense racket from directly above us.
“No, the last one was a lie, I do mind if you are romantic, amongst other things with Blanchelande.” he smiled.
“And Blanchelande definitely minds me being romantic with you, amongst other things.”