Madame Marie’s dresses were shipped to her without a note. We heard nothing from Pierre, and thought that he had survived, because of the trunk that was sent. She was happy, she had felt bad about leaving Pierre, and she had already been fretting about getting dresses made and the expense and time it would take because we had to take advantage of the winter season, which was the time for house parties.
Of my lover she said nothing and when time passed and nothing happened, she was relieved, but she did not treat me as a little girl any more and gave me harder tasks to carry out, and she showed me how to shop and cook and take care of the household finances. She had a little house with wrought iron balconies and an inner courtyard, heavy with plantings and a fountain in the center and there she would sit in the afternoons, sometimes for long hours, looking into space or into the heart of herself, though I do not know which, considering what befell her later.
Sometimes, she was open and was to me as a friend or a mother and other times, distant. I did not know when these moods would come upon her or how to proceed, but in time, I let her take the lead and did not trouble her with small or grave matters unless she approached me. But she was kind and treated me well and had her clothes that were not in fashion cut down and restyled for me, and she too realized that heads would turn when we would pass.
‘It’s good thing,’ she said, ‘for you have beauty to fall back on.’ She would teach me in time how to keep the books and run the business once she was established, but even then if something went wrong, I could place myself well. I knew what she meant. There were many such women in the city who were maintained by French planters and lived well, but they were light, and I was dark as the chocolate she loved to drink. But she thought I was beautiful enough and perhaps that was so, because many times I would catch sight of us in the looking glass, I tall and slender and she honey colored, fuller and more sensuous, and for a flashing moment before familiarity set in, I could see what others saw.
The devil, wise serpent that he was, approached me first, though I shrank from him, until he won my trust. But it was her he wanted all along.