Her name was lost to history, but to him, her skin tasted like ripe apples and she smelled of blossoms in an orchard. He loved her with all his might, and if he could have, he would have held onto her. But they came from different worlds: his was soft and gentle. Hers was calloused and rough. She watched him beat her brother every night. He was reckless with his discipline. Ruthless. But he had grasped her with desperation.
At night, after she had brushed his wife’s hair and sat in front of the fireplace telling the woman he was meant to love stories, he would find her. Cinders on her palms from stoking the fire. He wanted to kiss the pain away, but he knew himself foolish because it was he (or his wife) who had inflicted it.
She was beautiful with dark skin and black eyes. Some mornings, she sang church hymns and he could have sworn he was in love. He wanted to lay his lips upon her dark skin to explore the tendrils of curls hidden between her thighs. He imagined his white skin on top of her brown flesh, and sometimes, the delight of it would cause him to shiver.
He was an empty man filled only with hedonistic desires, but in his fantasies, she always submitted to him.
Little did he know, her fidelity belonged elsewhere. There was a man who worked the neighbor’s field. His voice was molasses and he knew stories too. Though he was not allowed inside of the house like she was, he imagined the decadence of the homes from the opulence of the lands they tilled. They’d come together cloaked late in the blanket of night, his hair smelling like charcoal, her hands smelling of cinders. She was his midnight goddess and he wanted to offer her the world.
The house often smelled of cinnamon and clove, so when the man from the fields next door inhaled the unwashed scent of her thick hair, he smelled the scent of spices. And to him, it was magical. But not nearly as magical as the embers inside of her irises burning deeply into the midnight darkness, contrasting with the bright whites of her eyes.
Her skin tasted like ripe apples and she smelled of blossoms in an orchard.
He couldn’t wait until the midnights they were both unshackled from the day and evening chores, but he saw the way the man with skin the color of milk stared at her. It bristled his skin to see the man of the house look at her like that. With lust dancing in his pale blue eyes.
The midnight man was a man of integrity. He never pushed himself onto her or begged his way into her heart. He could tell from the way her skirts were ripped and the wisps of hair between her legs were damp with curdled cream of a pale man – she had been hurt.
Violated. Her body used as a weapon turned inward.
She told her midnight man there was no point in fighting. She told him she hadn’t wanted it, but what was the point of saying no if the man with skin the color of milk only heard yes?
She was a handmaid. This was her story. Yet this was only one tale of many.