Imagine if you will, Rosewood Plantation, lower Alabama, deep in Cotton country where the young, beautiful and virginal Tricia Lynn lives with her mother and father in their sprawling three-story Greek Revival white, 54-room mansion. Surrounded by no fewer than 42 Doric columns, the palace is home to one of the South's most prosperous, most successful and most prominent families. With more land, more cotton, more slaves and more wealth than any planter in the County, the plantation is a capitalist's dream.
On this late afternoon of haze, sunshine and tranquility, we find the Master's only daughter skirting up the steps of Rosewood palace holding a small basket of flowers that were freshly picked only moments ago by garden slaves at her command. As with any given day at Rosewood, Tricia Lynn's dress has been perfectly designed for her fancy then selected according to her mood. Today, her mood must in a state of love. Perhaps it is because she has a much-desired date this evening with one of the County's finest bred beaus to a debutante party at her cousin's? Nonetheless, her billowing, 10 bone hoops, massively spreads the white organza skirt like a blossom of cotton candy as it rustles with pride across the white, debris-free porch of the mansion. The skirt adorned with tiny silk red bows on the edge of each of the skirt's countless flounces, cascades like a fountain with its pattern of micro hearts and raised pedals. Tucked tightly in a corset of white with red ribbon trimmings of lace, her bodice and neckline proudly illustrates her creamy white skin. Her developing yet bodacious bosom can't be hidden from the silk entrapment of her bodice, despite a delicious attempt. The cameo necklace, given to her by her grandmother, a spit-fire southern belle herself, is worn in tradition until she too passes it on to the next generation of ladies in her blood line. The inflated puffy sleeves are also covered in tiny hearts and ribbons, screaming her virginal adolescence yet tantalizing to any of the limited beaus in Dixie worthy and wealthy enough for her hand. With each small step, the rustling multiple layers of frothy petticoats peep underneath the massive over-skirt as pearl-sewn ribbons around the bottom base of the dress try and protect her innocence.
As she nears the huge double French window doors, the wide sash of the red bow around her waist sways as it stretches from her frame and trickles across the mountain of her skirt. Standing motionless, one of the porch grooms bows to her as she passes while the interior doors are swung open by the skillful hands of the family butler. Other than the soft, rustling sound of her billowing skirt slapping the sides of the large door frame, not a word is spoken. Tricia Lynn holds out the basket of flowers to the servant and proceeds to the base of the curving staircase meeting any guest at Rosewood. With the doors quietly shut, followed by the latching sound of the door lock, Tricia Lynn sighs and tells the servant "Make sure those are on the table for dinner tonight" as she continues walking toward the stairs. The butler responds with a "Yas'm Miss Tricia Lynn" but is interrupted before she turns her head to him and with a whirl of fluffy mass, asks "Where's my Daddy?" The old butler, who had served as a dining room groom for two generations of fine planters before Tricia Lynn's mother said that he would make a good door darky after their other darky died of malaria, stopped with the basket and addressed the Master's daughter. With a bow, he responded "He's in the library Miss Tricia Lynn." With another whirl of silk and ribbons tangling with her motion, Tricia Lynn skirted off to the west wing of her palatial home to the library, where she in fact did see her Daddy, who was deep in thought with his feather pen and leather bound record books. Always loving surprises herself, she suddenly had an urge to share her joy of unexpectedness.
Tip toeing across the Italian rugs that covered the red-carpeted study hall of the library, she held up the layers of her dress and walked as silently as she possibly could. Luckily for her, there were sounds competing with her walk including the sound of shoes stepping on a stool as well as her Daddy's pen tapping on the rim of the ink jar as he calculated figures of plantation profit. The sound of the shoes came from one of the downstairs house maids as she dusted books in the study as part of her daily tasks as a Rosewood slave. Squinting her eyes at the Nigra, who raised a brow as she watched the young Mistress of the mansion gently walk over to her father, Tricia Lynn gave a threatening look if the maid blew her cover. In a matter of seconds, Tricia Lynn reached her destination, released her hands from her ruffled skirt and placed her magnolia scented hands over the eyes of her father. At first, he sighed almost a subtle grunt, but quickly smiled when he caught a whiff of his daughter's scent.
"Honey, what are you doing Lemon Cake?" he asked. "Oh Pooh! How did you know it was me? Fiddle-dee-dee. You're no fun Daddy!" she stomped. As she started to release some of her afternoon boredom, she tied her arms around his neck and bent over so that she could dominate the width of her dress that was resisting her forward motion. The back of her massive skirt arched several feet back from her Daddy's tall parlor chair that he imported from England after his back developed discomfort from his last lavish ergonomic expenditure.
"Oh Daddy, You're always doing math. I hate math and you should too!" she pouted. Laughing at her wit and her southern charm, he said "Why should I hate math just because you do Lemon Cake?". "Can't you just hire someone to do all of this for us?" she complained. As he continued to justify his reasoning for controlling his own plantation records, Tricia Lynn not only drifted away physically, but her focus slid into the evening's upcoming ball and it was in no time that she no longer heard a word he was saying. Inside of the elaborate furnished library study was wall after wall of the world's greatest novels, scientists, philosophies and an entire section devoted to Southern politics, which was one of her favorite collections because of the nice illustrations of party and ball gowns from the socials and gay-la events happening in exciting places like Charleston, New Orleans, Montgomery and Natchez. However, she chose not to partake of any of the bounded books this time but rather she decided to let her mind wander to the event this evening that could change everything if she were asked for permission to be courted by the plantation stud she had her eye on for several weeks now.
On her favorite red-velvety fainting couch, where she would often curl up to one of these Dixie digests after a hearty dinner when guests weren't visiting the plantation, she decided to rest her delicate posterior on the soft cushions decorating the lavish furnishing and dream of the rich, handsome and suave prince she'd set her like to.
By now, her Daddy had quit talking, but she didn't care. He was busy and she didn't want to disturb him, especially since he and her mother were also attending the ball tonight along with her and they absolutely could not be late! As Tricia Lynn wiggled her way on the couch, her dress rustled like salty ocean waves as with every ounce of movement. She managed to kick off her slippers as she reached down to spread her ruffles of taffeta that swallowed most of her body as the 10-bone hoop relaxed underneath her dress.
As she adjusted to the level of comfort she desired, she suddenly gave a squeaky "ouch-choo" after an abrupt sneeze. She leaned her head to the side where she found the maid dusting the books on the 8th shelf of the giant oak cabinet. Turning up her snooty nose, she selfishly asked "Do you have to do that now? I declare, don't you see me sitting here?" The darky froze and discontinued dusting the books. With her eyes and head lowered, she said "Yes'm Miss Tricia Lynn. I'z comes back and dusts when you'z on your afternoon ride with the gentlmums" she said. Wearing her drab grey and white house uniform with a turban over her head, Tricia Lynn watched the maid decline the step stool, making eye contact with her as the maid quietly walked to exit the room. The elderly maid bowed as Tricia Lynn flapped her hand as if she were shooing a fly from her presence. As the darky neared the main hall beyond the library, Tricia Lynn yelled "Tell Mother I want to see her". Followed by another bow and "Yas'm Miss Tricia Lynn", the young belle of Rosewood spread out more wrinkles from her skirt. In less than one minute, she heard the tapping of feet as her mother glided into the room in her monochrome skirt of emerald shiny green.
After a brief conversation about their departure time, Tricia Lynn's Daddy spoke up and said "I'm only wearing that necktie because it is my brother's daughter party" he joked. "Daddy, you'll be the most handsome planter there," reassured Tricia Lynn. As Mother reminded her that dinner, though abundantly spread with a never-ending amount of southern cooking, would be served later that evening at Shaded Oaks, it was hours away and perhaps she should eat a bite of something to hold her over until the feast at her uncle's plantation. "Yes Mother. I'd like a big chocolate sundae." Her mother agreed, reached down and kissed her only daughter's sparkling cheek and said "I'll tell Mae to have one brought to you". And with a sash of rustling petticoats, she walked away.
Moments later, as she and her Daddy were both remarking how lovely the gardens at Rosewood look this year, one of the small dining room niglets entered carrying a silver tray with a tall, Marie Antoinette glass filled with expensive ice cream and German chocolate sauce, unaffordable and unheard of in most parts of the South outside of the plantation belt. The servant set the tray on the elegant glass-topped coffee table centering the faint couch of where the plantation princess sat. Tricia Lynn took the glass and licked the side of it, commenting how delicious it was to the slave girl, who had never tasted anything so grand in her restricted life of servitude. After licking her lips, Tricia Lynn looked over the darky, who had repositioned herself against the wall as she waited to grant any more requests from her young mistress, ordered her to bring one of the longer feathers of the peacock fans and fan her as she licked her spoon on the ice-cream. Reaching for the tallest feather fan she could find in the extremely heavy Grecian vase of which they were kept, the small black girl pulled out a match and walked over to the couch of where the beautiful, spoiled Tricia Lynn lay in a pile of red tiny hearts and silk white bows. The darky gently waved the fan over Tricia Lynn as the young belle continued to indulge in her southern sweetness on this sticky, humid cotton field afternoon.
After only a few large bites, Tricia Lynn became stale to the idea of eating before the ball and with one final lick, she laid the spoon down next to the glass on the silver tray. Still pondering the idea of what she would say, who she would say it to, and if something didn't go her way this evening, she nervously began to tap her long, manicured nails on one of the silky cushions supporting her on the couch. Rubbing it until the thread of silk began to unravel, a small air pocket was released as tiny feathers of stuffing gently leaked from the pillow. Realizing what she had done, Tricia Lynn smiled to herself and inserted her finger even further into the expensive pillow, which had only been purchased last spring in New Orleans after the finest Frenchmen brought their ships over to sell their lavish loot to the South's most prominent plantation owners. As she wiggled her finger in the fluffy mix of the pillow's interior, she pulled out a couple of feathers that had caught her hand with the motion. She held the feathers with her fingers toward her nose and then, she took the feather and placed them in the palm of her hand where she proceeded to blow them out on the couch and floor.
As her Daddy mumbled something about 'more cotton', she continued to engage in this privileged behavior watching the feathers gracefully parachute to the table, on the floor, on the couch, and even on her wide fluffy skirt. With each blow, feathers fell unpredictably as the breeze from the fan above directed the wind current of each release. The solemn slave girl watched as her Mistress enjoyed her state as a plantation brat, daring not to say a word for fear of a tantrum by the short-tempered princess. Soon, a pile of feathers had gathered from the pillow to a dip in Tricia Lynn's skirt that collected feathers that didn't make it onto the floor. Some feathers had even managed to carry into her sundae as the ice cream and brown sauce began to melt creating a sticky mess inside of the glass. Tricia Lynn continued to blow as the feathers spread all around her and the furniture of where she rested. Suddenly, her mother skirted into the room followed by one of her personal maids holding a sash ribbon behind her.
"Tricia Lynn, do you think this sash matches your Father's tie?" she asked. Looking it up and down as her mother's personal maid held and extended it for the young mistress to see, Tricia Lynn nodded that it would have to do since there was no time to shop this evening and the ladies' vanities were calling in less than an hour. In agreement with her daughter, she yelled at her husband to take a look. He raised his bi-focals and shook his head, the best response you could get out of a planter who was overseeing his wealth and profits in the study. As she looked back at Tricia Lynn, she noticed the piles and piles of feathers all over the floor and pretty much everywhere around her!
"Tricia Lynn, Honey what happened?" Tricia Lynn pulled out a handful of feathers from the pillow and told her how it accidentally had ripped when she anxiously thought about her upcoming evening. "What a mess, dear," she said with a sigh. Tricia Lynn looked over at her mother's maid, still holding the sash ribbon, then looked up at the little darky fanning her and said in the most rebelicious tone, "Oh Pooh Mother. The niggers will pick it up" as she rolled her eyes and continued to blow more feathers. Looking at the pile that had accumulated on her skirt, she flapped the material of her dress as the pile of feathers fell all at once onto the floor as she giggled in her plantation thick southern accent. Her mother smiled and shook her head as she left the study and disappeared in the hallway...