Indian Summer is my historical novel. I mention the writing of it in an earlier post. It is written in the voice of Gabriella Deza, the daughter of the Spanish Territorial Governor and is set in 1739, a year before a major siege by the British. Gabriella is 15, but has a lot of intelligence and pluck for a girl her age. By chance, she overhears something that starts a chain of events she has no control over.
I was rounding the corner on my way to the privy when I heard hushed and hurried voices ahead of me. They seemed to be moving in my direction rapidly. It was the sound of men who didn’t want to be overheard. Urgency marked their voices.
I ducked into an alcove, pressing myself against the wall. Secluded and shadowed, I was nearly invisible unless one looked directly at me. Grateful that I wore dark clothing and didn’t carry a candle, I virtually held my breath, seeking to make no noise.
The two men stopped just a few steps past my hiding place. I knew by his voice that one of them was James. The other man I didn’t recognize. James talked earnestly, looking furtively all around him. Not, thankfully, into my hiding place.
“I’m telling yew it mus’ be tonigh’!” The other man was speaking with roughly accented English in harsh undertones.
“Absolutely not! I forbid it!” James’ cultured voice held an authoritative edge. “It’s too soon. If we move now, all will be lost! We must plan this carefully. Tell General Oglethorpe that if this operation is to be a success, he must follow my lead. Tell him I’ll signal when the time is ripe.”
“Jes ‘ow do you pr’pose ta do tha’?” His companion growled. “Ligh’ a bloody sign’l fire?”
James barely held his temper. “In point of fact, I shall. Tell them to look to the south end of the fort and I’ll signal from there, but in my time! Tell him it could be months! Be gone now before we’re seen!”
With that, he rushed off in one direction. The other man, a sailor by his rolling gait, ran in the opposite. When I was sure they were gone, I eased out of the alcove and made my way to the privy.
I puzzled over the conversation I had overheard, not knowing quite what to make of it. The fort was in danger. I had heard something very secret indeed. Admittedly, I had difficulty putting James in the role of spy. Hadn’t he been a guest in our home? Surely James was beyond suspicion?
I didn’t know which way to turn or what to do. Who would ever believe me? They would call it childish, female fantasy and ignore me. I couldn’t tell Papa, he was too ill. I didn’t think the commandant would heed me. I had to say something! But to whom?
I heard a quiet voice call my name from across the hospital room. On his cot, Manuel had woken up and was calling me. Still weak, he managed to partially sit up, but couldn’t rise from his bed. As if a bolt of lightning hit me from above, I realized the obvious one to tell was Manuel. The commandant would believe him, but would Manuel believe me?
I was a child in his eyes, a little girl with big blue eyes and a wild imagination. I had been through much today, surely he would think that this was side effect of that over excitement. I owed him my brother’s life, but he in turn owed his to James. I hadn’t made up my mind when I reached his bed.
He smiled a weak version of his familiar, winsome smile. The twinkle in his eyes he always held for me was dim, but there. He was rapidly coming back to himself. I felt a flutter in my chest that was as pleasing as it was unfamiliar. He was so handsome it fairly took my breath.
His shirt was off and he was left only in his breeches. Having dried on him, they were tight across his powerful thighs. The sun bronzed muscles rippled in his back. I couldn’t help but admire his physique. His form was classic, like a statue of Adonis. Despite his injuries, he appeared virile, powerful, brave. I felt a warm thrill when he said my name yet again.
I walked over to him quickly and quietly, not wishing to rouse anyone in the hospital. Manuel had many cuts and bruises on his arms, neck and back, as well as bruising and rope burns across his abdomen. His head was bound in a neat bandage, his right arm in a sling. A few of his ribs were wrapped. He tried to rise as I approached.
I smiled down at him. “No, Señor Enriques, please you must not try to stand. I’ll sit and then all will be well.” I pulled a stool near him.
He smiled at me again and his twinkle was stronger. “You’ve seen me near death, stripped almost to the bone and yet you call me Señor Enriques. It makes me sound like such an old man.” He sighed, shaking his head sagely. “I hear I owe my life in part to you. I insist you call me Manuel, and I shall call you – Señorita Deza.”
He winked wickedly and I blushed deeply, dropping my head in an effort to break eye contact with him. He was so close I could feel the warmth of his attentions and smell his manly scent. It was musky like sandalwood.
He lifted my chin gently with his uninjured hand. “You helped to pull me out of the sea. For that I thank you.”
I ducked my head again and this time he leaned his head sideways to gaze up into my face.
“So, she has no kind words for Manuel, eh? Well, perhaps one day she will. Perhaps too, she’ll save a dance for him at the next ball?”
I giggled almost hysterically at that. “Señor Enri-Manuel, I fear I can’t save a dance, for I’m not yet allowed to attend the parties.”
I blushed again feeling like a child, but this time I kept my head up and looked him in the eye. A slight frown played across his face.
“Well then, we’ll do this. When you have your fifteenth birthday party, will you allow Manuel to be your escort?”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes