twenty-one          

            At dinner it is Jewel's appointed turn to serve.

            Cain't! Gots to claim I sick o' somethin'. An'thin'! 'Cep' I make a fuss, Beulah likely pry. Awready her ackin' 'spicious. But no how, no way evah gonna tell what Massah awmos' do. Jewel sets her jaw determinedly. Not dat him admit it. Not dat him be 'lowin' it not right. Mayhap I be own', meanin' Massah's prop'ty, but what him 'bout las' ev'nin' still not right.

            Zachary sits erect at the dinning room table. He feels better. He has washed, put on fresh clothing, combed his hair, and shaved. Looking straight ahead (as Jewel approaches from behind) he reconsiders his actions secure in the belief that good, bad, or indifferent, a Master is irreproachable.

            Jewel sets down her serving-tray and lifts the hefty lid of a huge tureenórefusing to let her hands shake as she dutifully ladles soup.

            "Thank you, Jewel. You're looking very pretty this evening."

            Struck stock-still Jewel glowers... holds her gaze unflinchingly (despite his feigned hauteur)... turns and marches staunchly toward the dining room dooróarrested by his voice before she can exit.

            "Soup's cold."

            Backbone visibly stiffened, Jewel holds her ground.

            "Come back here."

            Won't. Don' gots to. Fo'ce me if you wan'; dat de on'y way Jewel mine.

            "I said, come here."

            Against the pull of conditioning, against a Master's absolute power, against the will of a man who repels and attracts her simultaneously, Jewel maintains defiance, takes a single stalwart step... and then another... then another... absent without leave.