Possession – Chapter 12

After a trying night spent fleeing the Georgia militia and traveling through South Carolina woods, Tavington now stood before Cornwallis in his personal quarters at Middleton Place. By luck and God’s good graces, at dawn, Tavington and Juliana had come upon a courier for the British who was on his way to Charles Town to pick up materials for his master at. He was able to drive Tavington and Juliana to town, shaving hours off their travel time by getting them to Charles Town by mid-morning. Tavington had reported directly to Cornwallis and had sent Juliana home to rest after their exhaustive night in the woods.

“Colonel Tavington, I have half a mind to draw up orders for your court martial,” Cornwallis said, barely containing his anger. “The only thing stopping me at the moment is the knowledge that our forces were able to hold the Continentals at bay and keep them from retaking Savannah.”

“I beg your pardon?” Once again, Tavington found himself puzzled by Cornwallis’s words. “My lord?”

“You are an officer in the world’s most advanced military,” Cornwallis said. “I’ve no doubt that, rising up through the ranks, you were not taught to flee from a conflict. Explain yourself.”

“My lord, I was caught in an extremely delicate situation,” Tavington began to explain. “You must understand that I was separated from Hawking and any other British military. A street of Continental supporters and militia barred my path back to Hawking’s door. To go back would have meant certain death, and I doubt that my premature death would be of any use to the Crown, sir. I believed I could better serve Britain if I survived to fight another day.”

Cornwallis was silent while he considered Tavington’s explanation. It had merit, but the general couldn’t just leave it at that. “You were staying with Colonel Hawking. Why were you away at the time of the attack?”

Tavington swallowed. This was going to be the beginning of the part that Cornwallis would not like. “I went out for some fresh air after dinner, my lord,” he said. “I went for a walk.”

“A walk,” Cornwallis repeated. He turned around to the large window behind him. “Colonel, did anyone happen to accompany you on this walk?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Cornwallis turned back to Tavington. “Were you with your girl, Juliana?”

Tavington blinked, taken back by question. “Wh-what? I don’t see what that has to do with anything?” Tavington sputtered. In fact, Tavington had foreseen that Cornwallis would ask about Juliana. He’d hoped the subject of Juliana wouldn’t come up, but he knew why Cornwallis was asking.

“Were you with her?” Cornwallis repeated his question.

“Yes, sir. She was with me,” Tavington revealed.

“Colonel, I thought we’d already settled this issue. I thought I’d made it clear that you’re supposed to take care of these improprieties so that they are a non-issue.”

“Sir –”

“Now, Colonel, I do not care what you do in private, as it lies outside the sphere of my control; however when you are in public, you are representative of me and, of the Crown, and of Britain. I will not allow you to besmirch the good reputation of the British military because you want to go gallivanting around the colonies with some whore.”

“Sir, if you would allow me to explain—”

“This is the last time I want to have this conversation with you, Colonel,” Cornwallis said, talking over Tavington. “I will not be happy if this subject comes up between us again. Understood?”

Tavington knew that there were times when speaking was warranted. He also knew that other instances called for silence, and this was one of those times. He resisted the urge to argue. Instead, he swallowed his anger and simply said, “Yes, sir.”

Cornwallis closed in on Tavington. “You said that previously, yet here we are a second time speaking of the very same thing.”

Tavington refused to wither under the older man’s imposing gaze. “I assure you, my lord – this is done,” he said.

/\/\/

Juliana sat looking out the window in the sitting room. Her mind kept going back over the events of the past couple of days, and she was incredibly confused because of them. She couldn’t determine the nature of Tavington’s behavior towards her. Was he being sincere in his actions; or was this only another cruel venture on his part, designed to demonstrate his power over her and humiliate her?

Before she could spend any more time in silent contemplation, the door opened. Juliana stood and expectantly watched the entrance of the sitting room. Tavington appeared in the doorway. Juliana waited for him to say something, anything. But he said nothing. He paused momentarily in the doorway, then moved away.

Juliana sat back down. She had anticipated something, be it either good or bad, from him; but she hadn’t expected nothing.

/\/\/

Dinner was silent. Not one word passed between Tavington and Juliana. They barely even looked at each other, only locking eyes two or three times throughout the whole meal. Finally, when she could endure no more, Juliana stood and walked away from the table. She left the dining room, frustrated beyond all hope. She didn’t care if it annoyed Tavington; she couldn’t stay in that room with him a minute longer. She quickly ascended the stairs and went directly to her room, closing the door behind her.

Juliana looked out the window, but didn’t see anything. Her thoughts were on Tavington. That man was going to be the death of her. He was going to cause her to worry herself into an early grave. She knew, now, that this latest development must be another example of his seemingly boundless malice.

Juliana heard the bedroom door open behind her. She didn’t turn around, she knew who it was. She wouldn’t look at him, wouldn’t look into his eyes. She heard him close the door.

“Juliana, perhaps we should talk,” he said.

“Why?” Juliana asked. “Is there somethin’ to talk about?” She kept her gaze set directly in front of her, refusing to look at Tavington.

“There is. We need to finish the conversation we started in Savannah, before we were so rudely interrupted.”

“I thought we had finished talkin’,” Juliana said. “When you didn’t say anything at dinner, I assumed the matter was settled.”

“That isn’t – I didn’t mean for you to – that wasn’t the message I was trying to get across,” Tavington said. He was stumbling over his words, sounding like a complete idiot. He needed to reign in his emotions before they ran away from him. He realized that Juliana was intentionally avoiding looking at him. He stepped in front of her, into her direct line of sight. “I didn’t know what to say to you.” He tried to make eye contact with her, but she deflected by looking down at the floor. Tavington was losing control of the situation, he realized. He hated not being in control, so in an effort to recapture some of that lost power, he grasped her delicate chin between his finger and his thumb and lifted her head, forcing her to look at him.

“There’s only one thing I really wanna know, Colonel,” Juliana said. She looked deep into his eyes. “Why are doin’ this? Isn’t it enough that you think of me as nothin’ more than an object for you to possess? Isn’t it enough that I’m a livin’ picture of the shame that you wish on my grandfather? You have to build me up and … make me feel like a person – a woman – and then you rip that feeling away. You must thrive on unkindness, Colonel Tavington.”

It was obvious to Tavington that Juliana was frustrated and angry. It excited him. All too often, people cowered in response to his aggression. Juliana had done it, too, at first. Now, she had grown bolder. Her demeanor was a welcome change for Tavington. He bent down and kissed her.

Juliana, stunned, pulled away. She turned from him, but Tavington wrapped his arms around her and reeled her back to him. Her back was pressed flat against his chest now.

“I knew it wouldn’t be long before it came to this,” she said. “If you want to have your way with me, there’s a much easier way to go about it. I won’t fight you.”

“How very wise of you,” Tavington told her. He held her for a few moments longer before speaking again. “I must confess – I am a little confused by your reaction. When I kissed you in Savannah, you didn’t seem to mind at all.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Colonel,” Juliana said defensively. “I was terrified of you.”

“Oh, really?” Tavington was skeptical. “Well, you don’t seem very afraid now. Why the sudden change?”

“You saved my life, Colonel. I figured that if you wanted any real harm to come to me, you would have left me to face those militia men on my own. But you didn’t. You risked your life to save mine.”

“Now you’re the one who flatters yourself. I saved you to preserve a valuable piece of property; so don’t fool yourself into thinking there was anything else to it all.” His voice fell to a whisper. “I will say something, though – when I kissed you, you liked it.”

Juliana didn’t deny it, but she struggled against Tavington, and he held her tight. “So much for not fighting,” Tavington said. He walked her over to the bed, turned her around and laid her down on her back.

“You would do this, even after I saved you?” Juliana questioned

“You saved me, I saved you. I’d say we’re even. Be glad that you saved me. You’re about to have the time of your life.” His body covered hers, and he kissed her hungrily.

“I know you, Colonel,” Juliana said. “I’ve witnessed your behavior these last few days. That was you, that was the real person. This – what you’re doin’ now – this isn’t the real you.”

He stopped, reflecting on her words. What was he doing? He wanted to have her, so much that it hurt, but like this? Not by force but without her consent.

Juliana continued. “I don’t know what happened while you were out today, but someone has said somethin’, somethin’ to bring out this change in you.”

Tavington stood. Juliana had taken a guess and had guessed correctly. She’d hit the nail on the head without even knowing it. It scared him to death that someone could seemingly peer into his soul so easily. He stepped away from Juliana and the bed, a little dazed.

Juliana pulled herself to a sitting position where she was on the bed. “I don’t think I know all that much about you,” Juliana began. “I’ve only known you for a couple of months. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I know more about you than I think I do. I don’t know. What I’m gettin’ at, Colonel, is that you’re a man who doesn’t like to be told what to do or how to do it, from what I can see.” She stood and walked up to him. “You shouldn’t let them tell you how you should be.”

Tavington looked down at her. She had a point, but it was easier said than done for a person bound by the constraints of military life. He left her room and left her alone.

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