Lafayette had lain recounting his day for hours, listening to the rain and Thaddeus’ steady breathing; by the time he dozed off, the rain had ceased and the birds were twittering. Now from the edge of his awareness, he could hear insistent rapping and it came to him, ‘someone is requestin’ entrance.’ Rolling over, he moved the pillow from his face to have the morning sun painfully blind him. Annoyed, he cried out, “Quelle!”
“Mister Lafe, I is comin’ in.”
Squinting, he watched Marie enter balancing a silver tray bearing a steaming pot of coffee and thick slices of bread spread with butter and jam.
Marie was the youngest of their house slaves. Overall, she was a tiny, little thing wrapped in calico. Her dark face gleaming from beneath an intricately, wrapped white tignon. “These here be Miss Simone’s words, Mister Lafe. They not be mine. She says, I am to say’em to you, just as she said’em.”
Grumbling deep in his chest, he flopped an arm across his face, already certain of what he would be hearing, “Go on then.”
“Well, she says, ’You is to get your lazy skin out of that bed or she will be ups here before you can blink an eye.” A shy grin played around the corners of Marie’s mouth. “Mind you, Mister Lafe, those are her words.”
Through a long, wide-mouth yawn, he garbled out, “sounds like her,” and flopping over he pulled the pillow back over his head. ‘I am dog-tired. Why in creation is Mams so interested in when I get up?’ he thought and lying there, he could feel Marie watching him. “Merci for the café, be a darlin’ and go tell Mams I am up.” He said, hoping she could hear him from beneath the pillow, because no part of him felt like facing the glaring light again.
“If you says you up, Mister Lafe then… you is.”
He lay there unmoving, listening to the rattle of the tray as she placed it on the sideboard, the whoosh of coffee pouring, and her scurrying about snatching hold of his discarded clothes. After a moment he realized, she still had not left. Lifting a corner of the pillow, he peeked at her, “Do I not look like I am gettin’ up?”
Marie’s eyes narrowed in her delicate oval face, “I hope you are Mister Lafe. You knows she can hear everything goes on in this house better than a cat, she can.” Then, with a rustle of cloth, and a whiff of vanilla, she left the room.
Tugging the pillow down tight, he groped for his blankets throwing them too over his head, ‘all I need is another hour.’ The warm, soft bed felt luxurious and burrowing deeper, he savored the sluggish feeling of drifting back to sleep.
He was uncertain how long he leapt before his snug, comfortable world shattered.
“Lafayette Henri Begnoir, get your lazy self out of bed,” Simone bawled, “I am in need of your assistance and you is too old and too young to be slacking so from the harness.”
Grimacing, he squinted at Simone, who was glaring fiercely at him with one of his blankets still trailing from her hand.
“Fine. I am up,” he moaned, rolling over and placing his bare feet on the floor. “See, pour l’amour de Dieu, I am up.”
“What have I tolds you?” Simone said, flinging down the blanket and reaching for his ear and missing it when he shied away. “Garçon, you be steppin’ out on the wrong foot this here morning.”
Sitting there trying to raise the gumption to stand, he heard Thaddeus’ laughter from the other room. With a loud snort, his face twisted into a sneer.
Hearing the snort, Simone snapped her fingers at him, “You breaks off being trashy and cease trifling with me, garçon. I am in non moods for it this day.”
Muttering under his breath, he stood on legs wobbly from lack of sleep, and when he took his first step; a shooting pain surged down his back, sending him lunging forward in a gulping whine.
“What be the matter with you?” Simone asked, placing one hand on her hip, turning to scrutinize him.
“Back is in knots from carryin’ Taddy, up them damn stairs. Doux Jésus but it hurts.”
This time he was not fast enough and the tight grip she seized on his ear had him up on his toes. “Lafe fils, how many times I gots to tell you.”
"Mes Excuses, Mams. S’il vous plaît, I ain’t goin’ to blaspheme non more,” he beseeched, his face scrunched up tight, waiting for the wrenching pain of the twist. When it did not come, he peeked open an eye, and to his amazement she was smiling.
“It be real bonne you be visitin’ your Grand-mère, ’cause I do not believe for the blink of my eye, you ain’t gonna be blaspheming non more.” She said, just barely twitching his ear. “Gets movin’.”
Watching him hobble to the sideboard for the cup of coffee, she shook her head. “Tis a shame, you looked so fine when you left here yesterday. I was mighty proud of you. Now, looks at you.”
“It was a long day.”
“Amen to that. This here goin’ be a long day, too,” she replied, her words wrapped in her irritation. “You take yourself on down to the stable, tells Peter, I said for’em to puts lineament on your back and a warm compress on that swollen eye. Then gets yourself rights back up here,” she declared pitilessly. “Cannot believe, I have to come up here and jerk you out of bed.”
Leaning against the sideboard, Lafayette thought, ‘I have had hangovers better than this.’
“You listenin’ to me.”
"Oui.” He took a drink of coffee, wishing it were hotter as he listened to her yanking his bedclothes into proper alignment.
“Then toss over that pillow.”
With a long moan, he bent, retrieving it and tossed it toward the bed.
Snagging it, Mams slammed it too in place, “You any notion what time it be?”
“It’s near neuf. Whoever heard of a healthy person sleeping till neuf?”
“Aw, do not kick so, Mams. I ain’t that healthy, mon head hurts.”
“So does mine. Here the Mister plans on sendin’ y’all South right quick. Humph, sendin’ m’ bébé’s a visitin’ without giving me non warning. Well, do not matter; I ain’t lettin’ a one of you enter the Vieux Carré lookin’ like poor relations. We got some mighty hard work ahead of us gettin’ you all prepared.” She waved a hand toward Thaddeus, “Him being just about worthless, Gabe off gallivantin’, yet again. That leaves me…” She glared his way.
He gave her a smile, though with his swollen, split lip, it was not much of one.
“… you, who wants to sleep all day like a dauphiné. Here I done used up all m’ bonne years carin’ for y’all just like you be m’ own. Not une of y’all carin’ une smidgen your Mams be gettin’ old and feeble.” She declared forcefully, loading a saucer with a slice of bread and pointing at the pot, she gave me a hard look.
Double-quick he filled the additional cup, scooping in several spoonfuls of sugar, the way he knew Thaddeus preferred it, when given a choice. The entire time he did this, she shook her head at him, her lips pressed so tight they were pale.
“Aw, Mams, do not carry on so.”
“Then you tell me how I should carry on.” She asked, halting between the two rooms. “You deux rogues realize, I am a dame libre, and if’n y’all be plannin’ on treatin’ me this way, after all the amour I have given then I figure I should pack my belongings and go on home to Miss Bueford. Leastways she would be happy to have me.” She stopped and exhaled, “Oh wait, you will be there.” She said, pointing at Lafayette with the coffee cup.
“Perhaps, I will finds myself somewhere else. Maybe take me a ship to France, make me a new life; one where I got non garçons treatin’ me poorly.”
Thaddeus sat up straighter, giving her his most playful grin.
“Do not you be smilin’ at me! You be just as wicked as that one, up and had us in a tizzy. Done broke Lafe when I needs him and all ‘cause you be unable to follow directions. So, you best be keepin’ yourself right mindful of your promise. That includes keepin’ your backside in that bed, ‘cause, Taddy I rightly know you ain’t spry enough to escape a switchin’?”
Thaddeus sucked in his lips, his eyebrows rising to his hairline, and his green eyes growing as large as gold dollars.
“I see you laughin’ inside, garçon. And, if’n you got a lick of sense Dieu gave a goat, you will keep it inside too.” Setting the cup on the bedside table, she shoved the plate at him.
Before she slammed the door to the hall behind her, she threw one final baleful glare at each of her charges, grumbling, “deux of you is gonna lay me in m’ grave.”
“Damnation, she is heated up.” Thaddeus said.
“I would not say that too loud, she might hear you.” Lafayette replied, finishing his coffee, he pulled clothes from his chifferobe, hastily yanking them on to a chorus of pain-filled grunts that were punctuated by Thaddeus’ laughter, until at last he spun on him. “If’n you do not hush the hell up, I am goin’ do it for you.”
“The way you are movin’? Hellfire, you are the one person in this household I can outdistance, so I sure would like to see you try grand frère."
Turning a well-oiled, twisted smile on his brother, Lafayette replied, “Once you are healthy enough to flatten, you best be watchin’ over your shoulder is all I got to say.”