twenty-eight           

            One, two, three, four...

            Zachary counts the steps as if their number were significant. It is not. Counting is a dodge to keep at bay misgivings.

            She cared for me; she cares—obliged to or not.

           He pausespalms clammy, heartbeats echoing in his ears. The stairwell, narrow and oppressive, is thick with sultry darkness.

            She is property, regardless, and property cannot baulk, refuse, or in any way dispute its owner's legal rightmoral right, forsooth; did not the Lord give Man dominion?

            He resumes climbing.

            A lamb does not its shepherd's staff avert. If I desire a thing, must not that thing comply?

            Again he hesitates.

            Except to force one's will is to damage self-esteem. Surely an inferior ought to welcome congress with her better—else the act be reduced to a barnyard brand of husbandry... if, that is, I intend thereby to procreate, father a bastard half-breed; which I do not. Spawn of that low ilk would surely sully the line of Squire.

           Contradictory arguments paralyze Zachary's hand—closed on the attic entry's doorknob, its brass a cool departure from the overheated atmosphere.

            Let pleasure be my purpose, then—mine to be exacted. Unless it was affection more than duty that inspired Jewel's ministrations... in which case my craving might be matched by hers, much preferring me to some uncultivated field hand oblivious to her worth, heedless of her sweetness, undiscerning of her scent, disregardful of her beauty...

            The doorknob turns.

            ...for Jewel is beautiful, her colour notwithstanding, her blue-black hue, if truth be told, seductively tabootempting past the point of explanation or redemption should a break of sorts result.

            Zachary enters. Jewel is waiting, cowering, shrinking from a fate she fears foregone. Once again she has to shield her nudity.

            "Go 'way, please, Massah!"

            Her tone, though meek, is unequivocal; Zachary falters... rallies... wavers... plagued by indecision, bolstered by desire, overcome by a change of heart—diverting course of action.

            "Massah, please!"

          He takes a step... then another... which conducts him to the bed, its mattress flush with the framing, its bottom sheet taut with furrows—alluvial in appearance as they fan from the figure huddled at the far-side corner's edge—tip-to-toe concealed by an ineffectual coverlet... that Zachary tugs, strips off, to unveil skin slick as lanolin, ankles, now in his grasp, pried determinedly apart, affording him a glimpse, more enticing a whiff, of her undefiled vagina, hymen still protective, virtue still intact despite an institutional sanction authorizing otherwise, despite a Master-would-be-ravisheronce compromised by ginsober this time, save for inhalations of inebriating scent, Jewel's leached inadvertently, panic in her eyes... then surprise... then tense anticipation, braced against the pain of her maidenhead's pending breach, mind beleaguered by shame, body by sensations
foreign,
shocking,
intrusive,
yet shy of invasive—Zachary meting out kisses to parts so private Jewel is aghast, stunned, perplexed
loathe to be aroused (without her permission) aroused nonetheless, stroked (as she reacts) in a region inexperienced heretofore, fondled rather than mauled, coaxed not coercedthough compromised incontestably;
her responses are involuntary...
but how defy the tingle he is stirring coccyx to neck-nape, nipples to pubes, her spinal column's length(?), tension overruled by unbridled passion—his not hers—spurring him to persist in behaviour aptly scorned, reprimanded by conscience, held
in contempt by pedigree; what compels his stooping to such apostasy by tonguing her genitalia, infiltrating crevices with expert  precision, isolating hotspots while tendering rhythmic licks, greedy sips and slurps consuming her hapless seepage(?)—Jewel's resistance ebbing, resentment dissolving in a sudden liquid surge, shudders rippling through loins inducing a moan then long-protracted sigh... that she attempts in vane to stifle lest he who takes advantage misconstrues reflex and labels it consent; climax irrespective, Jewel withholds consent; deflower her if he must, no statute prevents it, no scruple countermands, 'sperm spittoon' the colloquial designation for a vulva once possessed, hers on the verge of attaining that ignominy, ready for his stab... yet no such penetration—where is he going(?)—hastens to occur; the bed that just bore twoher chamber door closes—only bears one; Jewel, in a sweat, in a post-orgasmic muddle, is left all alone.