Indigo Inspiration - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Indigo Inspiration

This week, I’m sharing all things indigo, a deep and striking color for Fall inspired by Natasha Boyd’s historical fiction, THE INDIGO GIRL! These are some of my favorite indigo things, plus, you can also get a sneak peek at the novel below! The story is about a 16-year-old girl produced indigo dye, which became one of the largest exports out of South Carolina, an export that laid the foundation for the incredible wealth of several Southern families who still live on today.

  • Synopsis

    An incredible story of dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

    The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.

    Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return — against the laws of the day — she will teach the slaves to read.

    So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

  • Excerpt

    My dreams became even more vivid than they had been in the past.

    One night, memories from childhood seemed to flitter in and amongst my imagination so that every time I awoke as the night wore on, I wondered what was true and what was not.

     

    We stand in the shadow of a lean-to, the fronds of jungle palms slapping against the wood, the sound of birds cawing.

    “Un mystère por un mystère,” Ben says, his wide mouth quirking with mischief. I’ve never heard Ben speak true French.

    Ben at eleven years of age is very tall. His features are angular, almost European except that his skin is dark as charred coffee.

    “It’s no mystery,” I say importantly “They’re just letters.”

    Then Ben is older. More serious. We are outside though it is nighttime now. I feel nervous, my palms sweaty, and I glance back toward the still house almost invisible against the sky. I’m not supposed to be out here.

    “You are daylight, I am night,” Ben whispers.

    We are sitting side by side.

    “Your eyes are rivers,” I respond, joining him in our game. We have read poetry with a small flame as our light, and now we play with words to find different ways to say normal things.

    “Like mud?”

    I laugh nervously.

    “Yours are green stones,” he says.

    “Emeralds? My eyes can hardly be compared to fancy emeralds.”

    “It is true, I have no use for fancy stones,” Ben says, his voice low, confusing me with what he means by that. As if he had need for my eyes otherwise.

    “I am uncomfortable with your words,” I whisper.

    “We sit en secret.” He slips into the French nuance his grandmother uses when she speaks. “And the color of your eyes makes you uncomfortable?”

    I swallow. My heart flutters against my ribs. “Not the color of my eyes … The way you see my eyes.”

    Ben studies me intently. I can see the reflection of our small flame dancing in the dark of his irises. “I see the eyes of a woman no one will ever forget.”

    I suck in a breath. “I’m hardly a woman. I’m but a girl.”

    “It’s no matter. I see what I see.”

    “The future, you mean? Is that part of the gift of your eyes? That you can ‘see’ like your grandmother?”

    He shakes his head and after a long pause where conflicting thoughts seem to pass over his face like clouds, he finally opens his mouth. “Today is my day to say goodbye.”

    “Why?” I frown at his words.

    “You are going away. Far away. To the place they will never forget you.”

    “I am most certainly not.” I’d only come back from England recently. There were no plans to leave Antigua.

    He shakes his head patiently. “I will see you again.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “One day you will need my help. And I will come.” He shrugs. Then he lifts two fingers and lays them against the small leather pouch at his chest.

    “Benoit Fortuné, you are the most peculiar boy. Of course, you’ll see me again. You’ll see me tomorrow.”

     

    I woke with a start, my heart pounding, my throat parched. Replaying my strange dream, I knew that beyond he and I reading a few poems together he’d found difficult to understand, the entire conversation in my dream was definitely not from a memory. Yet, I still held the nervousness within my belly and remembered the intense look in Ben’s eyes.

    Sitting up, I swung my legs over the bed. A glance to the window told me it was time to get up anyway. I was relieved.

    As soon as I was dressed, I went over my list of chores, writing in new ones and prioritizing others. Then I crept downstairs and out of the front door, into the dim breaking daylight. I breathed in the fresh salted air of Wappoo Creek that was mingled with sweet yellow jasmine and made my way toward the indigo fields. I checked the small green shoots incessantly to make sure they were pestilence-free.

    Movement at the dwellings caught my eye. Someone had already been up and stoked the large cooking fire. The smoke curled up, becoming invisible against the grey sky. I stopped and discerned the tall, proud form of Sarah quietly making her way into her cabin. She slipped inside without a sound.

    For a moment, I thought perhaps I’d imagined it. I mashed my lips together as I contemplated where she had been. And, I knew without a doubt where she had been. Next door.

    I hadn’t had breakfast, but my belly didn’t feel empty. It felt as though I’d partaken of a hearty helping of coarsely ground oyster shells.

    I headed toward Ben’s cabin before I could change my mind.

    The door opened, and the fleeting expression that crossed Ben’s face was one of minor surprise. As if he was expecting someone else and got me. Not as if he didn’t expect me at all. I took it as an encouraging sign, but I was so nervous my pulse pounded in my throat, making it hard to swallow. Or talk.

    Ben, bare-chested, held a wet rag in one hand. The bitter smell of lye soap perfumed with myrtle mixed with the salty smell of fresh sweat and musk.

    I’d interrupted his morning ablutions.

    Moments passed in silence. His face was so familiar, yet so much a stranger’s.

    A small pouch on a thread of leather rested against his breastbone, and I felt a jolt of recognition upon seeing it.

    He stepped back to allow me room to enter.

    The gesture, shocking, turned my feet to stone, heavy upon the earth.

    “I’ll be out,” he said when I didn’t move.

    The door closed in my face.

    I let out a breath and crunched over dead leaves and pine needles, settling on a fallen log.

    He came outside a few minutes later and took a seat at the other end of the branch. He rested his elbows on his knees, hands hanging between his legs.

    My cheeks felt warm, despite the cold morning air. The image of Sarah hurrying into her cabin assailed me again.

    I should leave well alone. Sarah deserved happiness. Ben deserved more even than that. “I saw her.” I wanted to bite my tongue off for bringing it up.

    He looked at me. I could tell he wanted to ask what I meant. The terrible part about his habit of not talking to me, combined with his propensity to only speak when answering a question, was it resulted in this silent torture. He was slave and I was master.

    “I saw her leaving here.” I swallowed. “Sarah.”

    Mortified that I’d brought attention to my confused reaction upon seeing her, I snapped my mouth closed before I said anything else inappropriate.

    It was none of my business. He ignored my statement, pulling his small knife and a piece of wood from his pocket.

    God above, there was so much I wanted to ask. Why are you angry with me? Do you miss our friendship, or am I the only one? How’s your grandmother? Except, I didn’t want to ask that. He didn’t know how his grandmother was. How could he know when he’d been sold to another island? Separated from her. Families were routinely separated and sold and they never saw each other again. It was something I wanted to avoid here at Wappoo. I’d made Sarah that promise.

    Sarah.

    Sarah who’d watched my movements around Ben with an eye that crawled over my skin.

    “Is that the same pouch your grandmother made for you?” I asked, indicating the talisman that hung from his neck. A brief flash of the day I began to teach him letters crossed my mind. Ben sprinkling a pinch of dirt from the ground upon which we’d stood into the little leather pouch at his neck.

    Ben nodded.

    “Did—did you know where Cromwell was bringing you?” I’d been unaware this question was something I needed answered until the moment it left my mouth.

    Ben glanced to the side. “Yes.” He nodded once and sighed.

    “I mean to me. Not just South Carolina.”

    “Yes,” he repeated. “He is here because of me.”

    “How?” I stuttered in surprise. “How did you know?”

    “You need my help,” he said and slid his blade against the wood in his left hand.

    The eerie similarity to what he’d told me in my dream sent a chill through me. I held my hand up in front of my face to make sure this too was not a dream.

    It looked and felt real.

    “I do need your help, but you won’t talk to me. And Cromwell is a pompous bully. And … and I want my friend back. I miss you.”

    Ben snorted with derision and the heat in my cheeks flared, my stomach feeling nauseous.

    “Why you not teach Quash to read?” he answered me with a question of his own, his chin tilting up in challenge. “Or the chil’ren?”

    His question took me by surprise. “I—”

    Quash’s question had been on my mind constantly though, which had probably been the instigation behind my strange dreams.

    I’d waited impatiently for Ben to come back from wherever it was he’d disappeared to with Cromwell the last few days. To ask his advice? To ask him to help Quash finish the indigo-processing facilities? To ask him why he’d told Quash he could read?

    I got to my feet, pacing back and forth. “I—it was different when it was you and I. It was different there. I was young. There are rules. And laws. I—”

    Ben stood and took a step toward me, bestowing more eye contact upon me in moments than he had collectively since he’d arrived. “Lâche.” He hissed. “You a coward.”

    Blood seemed to drain from my head, and I sucked in a sharp breath. “How dare you.”

    He raised an eyebrow. “Why you teach me? To anger your mother? Maybe it was a game? You change my life. You no do the same for Quash?”

    I couldn’t believe I was being spoken to this way.

    And yet I could.

    This was Ben.

    The lines of white and Negro, servant and master didn’t seem to exist here between us.

    “Do you want indigo?” he asked.

    “Yes,” I whispered.

    “Why?”

    “I—” I put my hand upon my throat as if I could control what came out of it. My pulse fluttered wildly beneath my fingertips. How could I explain my selfish need to succeed and yet ask him to help me in the same moment?

    This wouldn’t make him rich. Or Quashy. I wondered if Cromwell would ever free him. What incentive did Ben have to succeed here with me?

    “Why—” He grabbed the pouch against his chest as if seeking strength from it. His eyes closed briefly, his nostrils flaring. “It is a gift. Why do you deserve it?”

    “Does Cromwell deserve it?” I shot back.

    “No,” he said firmly, a snarl to his full lips. “But Crom’all, he holds my future. My freedom.”

    I took a step closer. Closer than propriety should allow. And I had the bizarre urge to press my lips to his, to soothe the twisted anger I saw there.

    Ben’s eyes flared. Perhaps with alarm.

    The instinct to look around for observers was strong, yet I held his eyes and reached out a hand to rest on his forearm. My fingers landed on his warm skin and I inhaled involuntarily, shocked at myself. Yet determined. “Benoit Fortuné,” I said softly and watched his eyes flicker at my use of his childhood nickname. “Someone else may control your future.” My hand squeezed his sinewy forearm. “But you control mine. You just said you are here to help me. So help me. Please. I’ll do what I can for Quash and the children here. But please.”

    Excerpted with permission from The Indigo Girl: A Novel, available wherever books are sold, from Blackstone Publishing
  • ❮ PRE-ORDER THE INDIGO GIRL: Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble ❯

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