Tavington dismounted first. To Juliana, he looked to have done it with such ease. Getting off the horse must be easier than getting on, she reasoned. But when it was her turn, she couldn't bring herself to do it. She sat there, looking down at the ground below, and it looked like it was so far.
"Jump," Tavington said from his position on the ground.
Juliana hesitated, but Tavington's outstretched arms were a small source of encouragement. She brought both of her legs around to the side of the animal and simply pushed. She slid from the saddle and fell from the horse into Tavington's waiting arms.
"Thank you, sir," Juliana said, guardedly looking up into Tavington's sneering face. A junior officer was already at the colonel's side, waiting to tend his horse. He dutifully began to lead the horse away. Tavington turned on his heel and began to walk into the house where they'd dismounted.
For the first time, Juliana looked at the house where she and Tavington had dismounted. Two people, an older black man and an older black woman, were waiting outside the door of the house. Juliana was simply happy to see someone else who looked like she did. And that was the only thing that compelled her toward the house as she followed Tavington.
Tavington walked into the house first, while the little welcoming committee remained outside. Juliana didn't take her eyes off them as she walked past them and into the house behind Tavington. The two 'greeters' finally entered once the colonel and his guest were inside.
"Are you hungry? Thirsty?" Tavington asked Juliana once they were inside. "Would you like anything?"
Juliana lingered near the door while Tavington ventured farther into the room. She looked to the man and woman for guidance, silent advice, but they offered none. She turned her nervous gaze back to Tavington.
"No, sir," she said, finally.
Tavington, now on the other side of the room, nodded, seemingly gleaning some kind of valuable information from her answer. "Eleanor and Nathan – give us some privacy." He said it without taking his eyes off Juliana. Eleanor and Nathan, whom Juliana, by this point, understood to be servants, disappeared obediently and silently. Juliana watched them go, wishing there were some way they could stay. She didn't know what kind of people they were, but she did know that she didn't want to be alone with this man.
"Why won't you look at me?" Tavington asked curiously. "I don't think you've looked me in the eye more than once or twice in this entire ordeal." He had stood a good distance away from her, but now he took slow steps toward her, beginning to close the distance that lay between them.
"Are you afraid of me?" he asked.
Juliana didn't answer him right away, not sure of what to say. It was a gamble. Did he want to hear that she wasn't afraid, or did he want the truth?
"Are you afraid of me?" Tavington pressed. "Tell me the truth. And look me in the eye when you say it."
Juliana, gathering all that she could, steadied her gaze as she leveled it with Tavington's blue-eyed stare. "Are you afraid?" Tavington repeated.
This time, Juliana answered. "Yes, sir – I am."
Tavington stopped his advance toward her and turned, altering his course and heading for the windows. "So, there we have it," he said. "You are afraid of me." He turned suddenly to her. "Why?"
"Because I don't know why you're doing this," Juliana said, mustering up some courage from somewhere. "I don't know why I'm here, what's going to happen to me. And I don't know you."
"I will tell you why you're here," Tavington said. "You're here because your master was a traitor. You're here because the Royal Army captured your master. You're here because the Royal Army has the right to seize the property of captured traitors. That includes slaves. You're here because I thought you might be more suited for house work rather than the military work the others will be assigned. I think you'll ... enjoy it here."
Juliana didn't answer but only looked at Tavington, gloom settling inside her. She didn't agree with his prediction.
YOU ARE READING
For Juliana Harris, life had always been cut and dry: People were Loyalists or Rebels, they were good or bad, they were master or slave. That perception of life changes suddenly one night...