Going to a beautiful ball was her dream come true, or was it?
|In Treme' and Rampart, Louisiana, was often known for who lived there and who visited. The owners had constructed exquisite town homes with lovely interior gardens. The homes were as beautiful as some in the French Quarter or the Garden District.
Francine twirled in front of the oval full length mirror, admiring herself. She had her French Papa's striking blue eyes. Her long shiny hair was black but not kinky, laying in soft curls down her back. Even her light coffee cream skin, which whispered her heritage to the knowing, was unblemished. Her facial features were a perfect small perky nose, sun-kissed cheeks and a sensual mouth with lovely lips. Her eyelashes and brows were black and well shaped.
She had perfected the look that only some women have. Half smile and a pouty mouth was one that cries out for a strong male's protection. Her red satin gown had a low neckline showing the lovely half moons of her full breasts. It had been custom made in Paris. Her Papa, Philippe, had wonderful taste. The lace edging on the gown was all hand made with seeded pearls.
Even his "white" daughters didn't wear anything this beautiful. Of course, they could not wear red; the color of red roses, burgundy wine, and lust. They weren't allowed to wear anything this low cut either.
Her Mama placed the garnet and diamond necklace around her slim proud neck.
Kissing the nape softly, she whispered, "You are beautiful, my babe, any man would be a fool not to desire you".
Mama was giving her last minute instructions about proper behavior at her first Quadroon Ball at the Orleans ballroom. Francine wasn't listening; she had heard this all her life. She was so very excited, she could barely stand still.
"I know, Mama, I will use my best manners and not embarrass you or Papa. I will be proper. The gentleman can not make advances and must speak to Papa, all right?"
Her behavior was a reflection on her mother. Philippe would be very angry at Mama if Francine's manners were less than perfect.
Although you would never know, Francine was nervous as a cat. Mama had taught her all the tricks to make a man happy, but she wasn't sure she was ready to entertain the spoiled young white men of New Orleans. The thought of the wrong man pawing her was repulsive. She would feel like a cat caught in a tiger's cage because she had to be careful how to handle these men.
This would be her entrance to their society, an elite privilege for a woman of color. She was an octoroon, with only an eighth of black in her blood.
Almost white, she would possibly be the palest of any young woman at the ball. She had gone to finishing school, and lived in a nice home in Storyville with books and music, all thanks to her Papa.
Philippe, of course, had his white family. Francine had seen them in the marketplace. She thought she was prettier than his white daughters.
Her own Mama was a beautiful intelligent woman, light coffee cream with her own French heritage and education. But she also had the blood of the Negress in her.
Of course, Papa's white daughters had been to Europe and given everything. They would inherit the land and lovely plantation home when Papa died and they married. But it would belong to their husbands.
There was no son. This was a very sore subject with her father. That fact brought him to her mother, Celina, many nights. Celina had his son but he lived only two years, in spite of the best physicians.
Papa had just left their apartment. He wouldn't be at the ball but wanted to see her.
He smiled and nodded his head in proud approval but didn't touch her. He wasn't a physical man now that she was older but when she was petite, his arms were strong as he picked her up, teasing her with his mustache.
After the lovely ball was over, her feet ached. Soaking them, she thought of dancing with many handsome men who paid her compliments. There were also some that resembled toads, she laughed. She was not allowed to turn a man away and being pretty, there were many men interested. It didn't really matter though, the song played the same no matter how it was sung. These daughters were "sold" to the most promising gentleman, whether they were white or any shade of dark, octoroon or quadroon. They were a reflection of their Father's wealth and station in life.
She knew her future, always caught in the middle of two worlds, never quite belonging to one or the other. It was her fate, she sighed. A white man would select her, probably with a white family already. She would be considered lucky if he was kind and wealthy. It was a still a form of slavery.
Hopefully he would put her up in a nice apartment with a generous allowance. She would not be able to see other men. He would keep her for his sexual pleasure and possibly, even become her friend and confidant.
If children should come along, he would see to their needs, but not acknowledge them as his issue. In certain circles, it would be known but not openly.
She had looked around at the ball and noticed the other people there. She was as white as any man present. She was certainly more white than the other lovely young women who weren't as cultured and elegant as she was.
She had often thought about her secret scheme, but feared the consequences to her Mama if it didn't work.
But now, it was starring her in the face. A flawless diamond was valuable and worth much. These other women were merely rhinestones. If she believed and was smart enough, she could change her life. She had been saving money and had plans.
A decision was made then. In a few weeks, after careful secret preparation, and nerves of lace wrought iron, Francine Dubois would pass. She would be known as Melanie Wright, a lovely educated white woman in the North.
By Kathie Stehr
Dec. 12, 2021
Word count 1013