Seven Sisters:Seven Sisters 01

By: M.L. Bullock

Prologue



Mobile, AL, 1850

Her white hand shone like bone in the moonlight. Shivering, she stood perched on the walkway that led to the Delta Queen. To the casual observer, she might appear to be a statue, standing perfectly still, leaning slightly against the shiny wood railing. No, she was not a cold, unmoving statue but a real woman alive and free for the first time.

Musical notes jostled with one another in the air, and the voices of spirited patrons rolled from the riverboat like waves lapping along the shores of the Mobile River. Above the glittering riverboat hung a clear, dark sky filled with heavy stars that shone with an unusual brilliance. She heard no familiar voice but to her, those stars, the Pleiades, shone their approval like a message from heaven. Her lips turned up in a small smile as she imagined her mother saying, “Run—be free. Be what I can never be!”

She raised her hand to her lips to calm her heart—it leapt like a calf! She turned her head slightly, her long curls brushing her bare back. Looking down the sandy, moonlit path, she gave a small wave and smiled into the darkness at the friend she left behind. Then she disappeared into the bubbling soiree aboard Mobile’s most celebrated ship.

Once inside, the young woman was thankful for the music. She was sure that without it, all of Mobile would hear the pounding of her heart. Clutched at her side was a small satin purse, elegantly beaded and embellished with silk ribbons. She slid her hand into the purse and pulled out a small, leather-bound book, running a finger over the cover. The book had changed her forever. Inside were his words, which had opened her closed heart. Like Ali Baba whispering the words that had opened the enchanted door.

How beautiful and courtly were his words! How completely he had allayed her every fear. She had carefully gathered each letter and bound them in her book. They had given her the courage to forget the darkness that had surrounded her.

Suddenly, anxiety overwhelmed her. What if he no longer wanted her? What if she had been too late in her reply? Would she now pay for her aloofness? She could never go back! She had done the unthinkable. The die was cast.

Somewhere aboard the Delta Queen was Captain David Garrett, the gentleman who had liberated her heart. The riverboat would leave Mobile soon. She had seized her chance, a chance at happiness away from the ghosts of Seven Sisters. She would reveal her soul to him, the man who had proven worthy of her love and devotion. His writings had plucked at her courage, creating a crescendo of hope, love and desire that commanded release. It would be fulfilled by her spontaneous act of affection—her willingness to leave behind a world of favor and prominence for a more uncertain one as his bride.

She moved through the thick wooden doorway, humming along to the waltz that flowed out of the concert hall. A woman with vulgar red lips smiled up at a mustached man who held two glasses overflowing with some sort of dark libation. Callie’s disgust shook her back to her task. She hated hard drink; it made good men evil.

Her green eyes glittered as she searched the hall for Captain Garrett’s dark, handsome countenance. She had seen him less than a dozen times, but she had sketched his face perfectly in her mind and added details after each visit, like the curl of his hair and the dark fringe of his eyelashes. Always his hair curled around his crisp white collars. His wide, toothy smile and cleft chin made him look like an exotic Russian prince, she imagined. She would recognize those dark blue eyes in a crowd of a hundred men.

She moved amongst the partiers, touched and jostled by dancers and couples flirting. Such a different world from the ballrooms of the local plantations where elegant ladies prided themselves on navigating the crowd without crushing another debutante’s dress! A few gentlemen tipped their hats to her, but she was largely ignored. Her coral-colored silk gown, his favorite, rustled as she continued her quest.

Again, those questions screamed like banshees in her mind. What if he no longer wanted her? What if she had been too late in her reply?

She could never go back to her unhappy life. The dark thing she had witnessed, the many dark things she had seen, made that impossible. Her desperation rising, she asked a short, officious-looking man where the captain was. He silently led her through a myriad of hallways with a slow gait that irritated her. He tossed her a curious look once over his shoulder, and then unceremoniously left her standing in the hall outside a wooden door with a bronze handle.

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