A Pawn for Malice(14)

By: Cynthia Roberts

“When colonization became brisk, the Dutch West India Company was given a nice monopoly of American trade. Under its direction, Dutch merchants established friendly relations with the powerful Iroquois tribes, who welcomed them as potential allies against the French, occupying the St. Lawrence Valley. The trading company maintained posts as far up the Hudson River at Fort Orange, which later became the city of Albany.

It was at this post, Jessica, our history was born. Your great, great, great grandfather, Colonel Gerard Rochelle was the commanding officer at the Fort. Oh, he was such a resourceful and handsome young man!”

Jessica’s gaze met the portrait that hung on the far wall of the sitting room. He was indeed a very striking man, with eyes the same color green as hers, looking back at her.

“Your grandfather won the immediate friendship of the territorial natives and responsible for protecting the mixed colonies of Dutch, French, and Swedish settlers. Quite the crisis had begun to develop, when the English began to settle into the Mohawk Valley. They were a terrible lot, invading the hunting grounds of the Iroquois. The Indians had long been friendly with them, but it was feared such an insult would cause them to desert to France’s side, leaving them without a powerful ally.

So, the Board of Trade assembled a congress at Albany in 1754. It was attended by representatives from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the New England colonies. And my dear, because of the high esteem your grandfather was held by both red and white men alike, he was honored to represent New York at the young age of thirty-two.”

Jessica welled with pride. She had forgotten she was made of such fine stock. Being under the Wilton’s thumb for so long, and victim to their barrage of insults and abuse, had lessened her self-esteem over time. It had been a terrible struggle. Despite how strong of a person she knew she was, it was difficult trying to decide whether she should end her marriage. Her ambivalence was confusing … whether to stay or go … whether things would get better … whether Richard might change. It was like her Aunt knew what she was thinking at that moment.

“You come from greatness, Jessica. Your grandfather met the love of his life at that time, Florence Livingston, whom I’m named after. There has been a Rochelle representative at New York’s Legislature, up until your dad was killed in that terrible accident. Don’t ever question your worth, your strength, or your ability, dear … never again.”

Jessica pondered her words briefly, before she responded.

“When Grandma Rochelle raised me, she never spoke much about my mom and dad. Everything I know, is because of you. My dad must have been quite the Senator, hah?”

Her Aunt nodded and smiled wistfully, as she too reflected for a moment.

“My brother was something else, yes. His constituents and colleagues adored him. He would have never let you enter into such a marriage either.” She waved her finger matter-of-factly. “I hate to say it, but our mother was a conniving and manipulative woman. All she cared about was money and status. The way she misguided you, was unforgiveable.”

She watched as her Aunt rose and added another log onto the fire. She bent over to stoke the coals first, then placed the log over them. She rose and turned with a broad smile upon her face, as though she had some big secret to share.

“What are you thinking?” Jessica coaxed. “You’re up to something. I can tell.”

Her Aunt laughed heartily, as she seated herself and took another sip from her glass of brandy.

“Nothing really, dear. You’re going to fit in nicely with Bryan’s team. I just know it. It’ll be wonderful seeing a Rochelle back at the Capitol again.”

“I’m a little nervous about that. What if he doesn’t hire me? It’s been, my god ages, since I’ve conversed with people on such an intellectual level. Richard kept me prisoner, Aunt Florence. I rarely got out.”

Her Aunt waved her remark off. “Oh pooh. You graduated from Berkeley with honors in communications. He’ll hire you, and, you’ll assimilate just fine. Besides, by the time I give you some inside pointers, you’ll be one step ahead of those dimwits, who used bed sheets instead of brains and experience, to get their jobs.”

“Well, alright then. You’ve convinced me just fine.” She couldn’t hold back a long yawn that rose from nowhere and she chuckled lightly. “Sorry. Suddenly, I feel so drained. I guess we should call it an evening?”

“I’d say that’s a good idea.” Florence rose and closed the distance between them. Together they walked arm-in-arm out of the room and up to the second floor, where they bid each other a good night with warm embraces and sweet kisses.