The Far Away Colony Chapter 1
The Far Away Colony
The paths of the Highs of the island, drawn for a long time by the residents who ventured there to seek refuge, led mostly in small villages scattered on the sides of the mountains, the hollow cirques, and deep forests. The Medlar Wood, so named because of the abundance of shrubs of the same name that grew there was a quiet little village that was halfway between coastal clarity and shadow of the forests. At that time, many people from the Highs especially the poor and disadvantaged families went to town to work. Among them, many girls who had reached the age of puberty do not hesitate to look elsewhere for a new form of existence.
A century ago, when slavery was abolished and Sarda Garriga, the liberator, was carried through the streets in triumph, the white ones, due to fears of further reforms and reprisals, were hiding in the mountains and the most remote island corners to rebuild their lives. They so joined the brown slaves, who had already taken up residence there, to build together a nation. Paths to go through were filled with pitfalls. Their struggle for survival was long and painful. Families faced huge difficulties in life, and the years spent in hard work brought them no fame nor fortune. Misery, they had tried to avoid, hunted them into the folds of their imagination. They lived with a troubled mind which constantly settled in their hearts a terrible doubt about their future. They kept, since then, to provide efforts to improve their living conditions. To do this, they would look elsewhere for what they could not find in their small village.
At dawn, a shape, that anyone would have no difficulty to compare to that of a woman, was furtively sneaking its way under the shadow of old trees. This rapid, strange and suspicious movement of a young girl of the heights indicated, at first glance, the state of disturbance in which her mind was.
Such unusual approach, that was rare in a remote country, hid so much mystery that a diligent and prudent observer would not fail to bind it to the personal frustrations, that was current then. At her passage through the daylight that rose up, the villagers who know and who cross that path by going to their work so early, did not miss to greet her:
« Good morning, Miss Julie. »
Julie Deschamps felt lonely and dejected that morning when she went through the tortuous path that led to the public fountain where she was passing because of the air flow. At this early hour, several people who had to go to work in the city is already gathered here. Julie's eyes were filled with tears and her heart was big when she moved to the bottom of the old bus, and when she threw her sad eyes on that small village which recalled many memories. The bus went down the ramps by making a terrible noise and stopping frequently at specific locations to pick up passengers who were traveling to remote areas. People brought with them bulky luggage which the driver filed on the roof of the vehicle.
The roads were in a bad state and the bus could not run quickly. Travelers were patient and never gave signs of fatigue or nervousness. They were quite happy to have this means of transport enabling them to reach their destination in less time than they expected. When they imagined that before their parents should travel all the way on foot, sometimes braving the stormy weather, they felt happy to do it in a proper manner.
The whole history of the country spread out the eyes of an aware walker in front of the remains of the recent past, full of legends and pleasant stories to listen to.
Such a harvest of cultures, at the time of great poets as Parny, Dayot and Leconte de Lisle, could add, to the existing heritage, wealth that was the pride of the people who did not have any recognition.
The blank stares of uneducated passengers remained indifferent to all signs that recalled much of the history of this remote island in the Indian Ocean.
When the bus passed through the crowded streets, the blocks of houses and stopped at the station which was at the end of the town, the young girl came down and mingled with the crowd. She went to the mall. She was tired from the trek. She wanted to rest a bit but thought it was late and the store would soon close. Noon was not far away and she had little time to make representations to good families to find work. She had time to show up at several retailers to offer her services. For her, it was the most accessible way to meet employers.
Colonial houses occupied the wealthy people and feel the richness retained her attention although she knew that it would be hard for her to meet the master or mistress of the house at this hour.
She went to the commercial center. She was tired from that long and painful journey. She wanted to rest a bit but thought it was late and the store would soon close.
Noon was not far and she had little time to make initiatives for good families to find work.
She had time to show up at several retailers to offer her services. For her, it was the most accessible way to meet employers.
While passing in front of the door of a furniture store situated in one of the busiest streets of the city, the young girl noticed, at the bottom, the presence of a Muslim woman of a reasonable age whose head was covered with a shawl of sober color. She sat behind a massive wooden desk and waited for the hour of the closure. The clock which was suspended from the wall indicated half past eleven. With a hesitating step the girl penetrated inside and says:
"Hello, madam. Can I talk to the boss, please?"
"The boss is away now, Miss. why do you want to see him?" the lady replied.
"I'm not here to buy. I am looking for work."
The store was not well enlightened. Little of openings which it had, were not sufficient to present the various furniture which was exposed. The woman made some steps forward to get closer to the girl.
" From which region do you come? "
"I come from the highs of Saint-Paul, madam."
"Have you already worked before?"
"Yes, madam. I have worked as the housemaid in my village in several houses of good families. "
"For what kind of work you look?"
"I can do everything in a house, madam, I wish to find a job where I am housed and fed. I have always given satisfaction wherever I worked. You can put me into the test and see by yourself. "
"Today is Friday. The Boss went to Saint Denis. He will not return until late in the evening. I promise you nothing but come back tomorrow."
Julie became sad. She seemed tired by the long journey she had made by bus. She needed to rest. She thought of the afternoon she had to spend and the night to come and waited. She did not know where to go. She left the store with courtesy by thanking the lady.
She kept the hope of finding work with the lady whose home had seemed friendly. She had noticed traces of generosity and kindness in her. She did not know if she has to rely on the answer she expected or whether she should continue to seek employment. In any case, this glimmer of hope rekindled her enthusiasm to be accepted by a generous family motivated her state of mind and gave her courage to proceed under the blazing sun. She stopped sometimes under the trees that lined the paths located on the waterfront and enjoyed the soft shadow projected by large branches bowing downward such as the tentacles.
She possessed very little money. She thought best not to waste it and spend only the strictly necessary. That was why she had bought a piece of bread and ham in a shop she had found on her way. She installed on a bench and ate her bread before going to drink water from a public fountain located a little further to quench her thirst.
What worried her was how she would spend the night. She did not know anyone in this town that she had very little opportunity to go for the sole reason that she rarely left her area and yet she did not want to sleep under the stars. She did not want to be attacked by people of bad character or neighborhood thugs. Only bad women lay around the streets at night. She was not yet in a position to be thought of as this kind of person. She should rather find a solution to solve this problem. Nevertheless, during the day when she had spoken to that lady in the store, she did not lack the desire to ask for hospitality. But she did not know herself why she had lacked courage. She regretted now she found herself alone and did not know where to go.
She was tempted to knock again at the door of the house to ask hospitality for the night. The boss might be there and she could use all her talents to explain the situation in which she found herself. She was to have no shame or lack of courage if she wanted to succeed. Otherwise, she would be lost forever in this world which does not forgive. It belonged to her now to decide what to do. The night already began to fall and she did not have a lot of time in front of her.
Circumstances sometimes require courage and determination. The decision was made; Julie returned obviously to the store, which represented the only hope for her.
It was already late. The sun declined slowly towards the horizon. Yellow beams still lit the old gate that was not easy to open. Julie called up several times but nobody answered. She pressed on the handle and then relieved to notice that the door was not locked. The court was dark. Julie decided to move inside.
When she reached the steps of the staircase leading upstairs, she heard footsteps. It was a girl of color, with frizzy hair, a face that pleased and beautiful lips which discovered white teeth. She was called Suzie and came from these poor and numerous families living in small huts scattered almost everywhere in the suburb swarmed with these miserable huts hidden behind the coconut palms that had replaced date palms in the time when the city had gained a reputation to be called Jericho. Although time had elapsed. Suzie left the house cheerfully to search for the bread at the bakery.
"Good evening," said Julie.
"Good evening," answered Suzie, "You are looking for someone?"
"Yes. I talked to a lady in the store this morning. Can I see her?"
"Ah, this is Mrs. Sheinaz. She does not live here. She will be here tomorrow morning."
"Well, in that case, I can only see the boss. Does he want to receive me?"
"Wait. I'll see."
While Suzie climbed the stairs, Julie scrutinized the darkness. She could hardly distinguish the facades of the big house and her eyes tried to understand the formless and unusual objects. There was total silence and waiting seemed long. Suzie appeared a moment later and asked Julie to follow her. They climbed the stairs, went into dark corridors and reached a waiting room lit by kerosene lamps whose flames flickered in a light breeze room.
"Wait here. The Boss is at a meeting. Once he finishes he will receive you. I have to run to the bakery before it closes."
"Thank you for what you did."
"It's nothing," Suzie answered before disappearing.