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Drake sighed heavily and refused to stand. "What is it?"
"I need to speak with you."
"Are you going to ask me to stand next? You know you aren't worth it."
"Was I worth it that Thursday evening a month and a half ago?"
"I hardly know what you mean."
"Sir, I've been to the Doctor in town." At this, Drake stood. He had the beginning of a look of unadulterated anger, and that was concerning. An angry slavemaster was a violent slavemaster.
"I went to visit Doctor Greene this morning after breakfast and washing the dishes and before starching the shirts."
"With whose money? I know well enough you have none."
"Your brother was kind enough to take me."
"He had no right. You do not belong to him."
"Sir, it was urgent!"
"Ida! It cannot be urgent. Nothing to do with a slave is urgent unless it has to do with a plan to run away." His hands were fists. "Wait here. I'm going to get my brother."
Ten minutes later, a horrified Trevor Olson saw a trembling Ida Mallardson stuck in a corner. "Drake, what's this about?"
Drake threw his hands up. "’What's this about?’ What are your actions about? You took off the property here without asking!"
"She needed to see Dr. Greene, Drake. She hasn't been well! She knew you wouldn't care, and-"
"So Ida ran begging to you?"
"Actually, brother dearest, I found her in the kitchen in terrible pain. Agony, you might say, Drake. She needed me." Drake scoffed and went to pour a fifth glass of whisky.
"Yes, because you once needed her."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Drake laughed almost cruelly.
"Drake, Ida's with child."
"That's fine, Trevor. That changes nothing."
"You know how hard you work her! On top of that, you send for her too many nights! She's worn and tired and won't be able to keep going like this. You have to send her off, at least until the child's born."
"Have to! I have to?” Drake feigned wiping tears from his eyes in mockery. “Trevor, I don't have to do anything. She will be just fine. Won't you, Ida?"
Ida stepped forward. "Yes, sir. I will be just fine." Drake smiled in mock kindness and went to her, pushing a rebellious curl behind her ear. He drew close, kissed her, and turned back to his brother. "You see, Trevor? She agrees with me."
"Because she has to!" The younger Olson brother ran furiously to her, taking the slave's hands on his own. "Ida, tell me you're lying! Tell him he's wrong!"
She looked up timidly at the man who had wanted to help her. "I will be just fine. I will continue doing the work I am given, no matter what. It is my place." Drake pushed her towards the door. "Go to my chambers. I'll be in shortly." Ida obeyed, eyes down as she walked to whatever fate was meant for her. She had a fairly good idea it would be something similar to what had gotten her in this predicament in the first place.
"How can you treat her like that?" Trevor was close to screaming. "How can you learn something like this and continue forcing her to do this?"
"Easily, and with great pleasure. I think you're only so upset because you feel a great deal of envy, little brother."
On the opposite side of the manor, Ida stood silently for a while in a lonely room, waiting for her master. Of course, her mind was a mess of thoughts about what might happen to her or the child she so desperately wanted to keep. Would he let her? Would he do what had happened to so many before her and force her to give the baby away? Or would he be extra horrid and find a way to get rid of her baby before it had a fighting chance? It didn't seem fair that something so helpless should be at the mercy of someone so awful. All these thoughts were storming through her thought process but she paid little heed. After all, she was only a slave. What could her fears be worth anyways? Certainly not much.
She was so busy not thinking about what might happen that the door opening took her by surprise. The first words out of her master's mouth were: "Go lay down." She did. Then: "I'm sorry this all had to happen." He almost sounded sincere. It was a lovely thought. For only a second Ida dared to dream he may actually someday care for the baby he'd forced into creation. Then, in a voice a polar opposite to the one that had just left her in a dreamworld: "Do you know what this can do to me? I'll be ruined!"
"Sorry isn't good enough, slave!"
"Just please let me keep it?"
"Of course I'll let you. You'll carry it and grow tired and fatter and sore and you'll be miserable. I can't think of a better way to punish you. Now, stop squirming. You know this won't hurt as much if you don't squirm."
He left her much later when he had finished- left her in a clotting mix of blood, sweat and any other fluids left behind. Her hand rested atop her stomach even in her sleep. This baby needed to feel love.
Ida awoke to Trevor Olson looming over her in an odd state of undress. He had trousers on, but his shirt was only half buttoned and completely untucked. Seeing him there terrified Ida; she was well aware that she had been offered to Master's younger brother before, but Trevor had always been so good to her that she never thought he'd take advantage of the opportunity. Evidently it was all written plainly on her face because Trevor was quickly apologizing and trying to explain through a nervous stutter.
"No, I'm not here for... I mean- I don't want- That is, you see, I... I'm sorry."
"You're sorry?" Since when did masters and their families apologize for what happened to a slave? Wasn't that all supposed to not matter at all?
"For how my brother treated you."
Ida had noticed that Trevor wouldn't break eye contact, and after the apology she sat up only to realize that Drake Olson had left her completely nude and without a blanket. She was utterly horrified when she felt her thighs sticking together. Trevor took a clean white linen sheet from the drawer in the corner and laid it out over her. "There. That...helps." His face had gone entirely red. "I brought some water and a few rags. I thought I might check what damage my brother's done, and maybe help you clean up. I've asked another woman to bring you a clean dress and whatever else you'll need. And I rearranged your schedule for today: all you'll be doing is starching more clothing." Trevor sat in a bedside chair, soaked a rag and gestured to a section of linen near Ida's middle. "May I?"
Ida figured that she'd already been completely abased, and nothing could be worse. She nodded slowly but not too hesitantly. Trevor pushed the cloth back and scrubbed as gently as possible at the dried blood on her skin. She said nothing.
"Oh, God. I told him to be gentle."
Trevor stared at five bruises, each with its own puncture wound at the center, paling. Drake had held her tightly enough to break skin. His grip on the rag weakened and he leaned forward in his seat, holding his head in his hands. "Ida, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I should have followed him." Ida only shook her head, saying timidly, "No, Master. He wouldn't have stopped. Not for you, not for anyone. He would have made you watch."
"I could have fought for you."
The younger Olson brother looked up, also confused. "Why would I fight for you, Ida? Because you deserve it."
"No: I'm only a slave."
"You're a person. You're a woman. And now you're going to be a mother. You have better things to do than to be someone's toy."
Trevor hesitated. "Perhaps..."
"Perhaps my brother was correct about how I feel about you. I might love you just the tiniest bit."
"Love me? That can't be possible, Sir."
"Ida-" he took her hands in his and kissed the calloused tips. She tensed. "Do you remember when I kissed you?"
"I told you then that you were special and that I loved you. I meant it."
"I thought you were only trying to get me to sleep with you."
"Ida, Drake may be my brother, but we are not the same."
"No, listen." His left hand released her right and went to her stomach. "Ida, my brother's child is inside you. We both know he won't be a good father. Let me take his place. We can run away together and raise this baby to be good and we can fight against slavery and be happy. We'll leave when he's not around."
"Sir, I can't. I won't leave. This life is mine, whether I like it or not. It's mine, and I belong here. I was bought to be here. I can't just go. "
"Then at least let me help with the baby, even before you deliver. I want to make sure you're both healthy."
"May I kiss you?" Ida closed her eyes and nodded in permission. She thought it kinder than telling him she didn't care, especially since he'd been so kind to her. She'd learned that men would always get what they want, and if his want was to kiss her, she had no right or reason to refuse him. She nearly forgot that he had just confessed his love until his lips met hers for the second time in history. Trevor was gentle and calming, not loud and demanding like his older brother. To be kissed and not assaulted was something entirely new. It wasn't exactly enjoyable, but it wasn't the awful thing she was used to. He wasn't sampling all the possible girls, he was carefully choosing, no matter what their rank. She felt hollow as he began to feel very full. She made him brave and proud while he made her smaller still. Each second he went on reminded her of the incessant burning in her core and the scattered bruises and cuts and the poor little thing inside her that would be born into this awful place. Ida noticed Trevor's hand was still atop her stomach. It was beautiful.
“I want you to be safe,” he whispered as if in confidence, moving from his seat to an open spot on the bed beside her. Still his hand stayed put.
“But I don't want you to get involved. He will hurt you too. It won't matter if you're his brother or not.”
“I'm not afraid of him.”
“Forgive me, Sir, but that's not very wise.”
“Fear will keep you bound.”
“Sir, it is fear that has helped me survive.”
“But you do not live!”
“I do what I must. If I perish, I perish.”
“Please, Ida. Let me take his place. I'll get you out of here and help you raise the child away from all of this. It'll be just us and no one can ruin it.” Ida sat up, wincing conspicuously. Trevor pulled both hands towards himself. “Don't you think,” he queried wearily, “that perhaps you could learn to love me?”
Ida smiled achingly, sadly, regrettingly. To find a man so in love with her and so concerned for her too late was a tragedy she felt was too much to be added to what was already there.
“I will let you take his place, but I must stay here. This is my home, no matter what I want. We can do our best for the child, and that's all. But promise me you won't ask me to be called ‘Father.’ I don't think I could bear that. If I ever marry, that man must have that name. I'm sorry, Sir, but I do beg you oblige me.” Trevor Olson nodded slowly, watching his plan crumble. There would be no shotgun wedding, not running away, no tragic backstory, no little family in hiding. There would be no forbidden romance; all romance that remained was strictly one-sided.
“I'll be Uncle Trevor, then. I'll keep you both as safe as I can. I'll do anything. Now,” he continued, watching a female figure enter in the corner of his field of vision, “I think you have some cuts that need looking after.”
He stayed with her until she was thoroughly cleaned, and helped her broken body into the cotton work dress. “You can sleep for another hour. I'll come for you when it's time to work.”
Trevor Olson sat beside Ida Mallardson until she began to dream, holding her hand and studying her face all the while. When he was assured that she was indeed asleep, he kissed her forehead and left the room, closing the door behind him. His brother was in town and wouldn't be back until late that evening, and she would be safe as he had promised.