Grrr... this one is too much tell not enough show. I am having a 'stiff' day. Forgive me.
If I could do it over again
Just shifted in place, his back uncomfortable on the scratchy hospital sheets. He had grown soft in his years on the Palace; he was used to high quality Egyptian cotton, Viennese silk, and the softest cashmere blankets. Kitten had offered to bring bedding from home but he had proudly refused. It was ridiculous for a man who had been born a slave to require such comfort. It was immaterial that Just did not remember slavery, it having been abolished before he was wearing long pants. The fact was, his roots were in poverty, and even though he had lived the majority of his life in luxury aboard the Palace, some part of him felt disloyal for craving those comforts.
The wind-up clock on the bed-stand ticked away the moments, reminding Just of the contrast his life and death held to that of his friend and employer Connor Graves. Connor had been born to comfort, the son of a wealthy engineer and a university proctor. He had been educated in the best Universities of the world and had made his first fortune by the time he was seventeen. The man was brilliant, insane, manic, and dear. And he had died a horrible, brutish death.
Just, on the other hand, had been born to violence and deprivation. He had educated himself in back rooms of bars, and on the decks of riverboats. He knew nothing of ease, of the pleasure of reading, or the joy of scientific discovery, but he was good with his hands. Just could build things. He carved toys out of wood, he took apart clocks and used their gears to create other mechanisms, he braided cheap cotton twine into ropes of cunning knots. His hands were always busy. And here he was dying of old age. At this point, Just would almost welcome a quick and violent death.
When Connor found Just, he was acting as stevedore onboard the Mary Sue, a steamboat making the run from St Louis to New Orleans. The unconventional pair struck up a friendship united by matching curiosity and desire to see the world. Friendship turned to devotion for Just when Connor saved him from capture by a group of rogue slave traders who had taken to kidnapping freed Scottish slaves and sending them to the Caribbean to work the sugar plantations.
Connor took Just on as a personal project, educating him in the classical European style, teaching him to use his mechanical gifts in the pursuit of science and engineering. For his part, Just attempted to be the man and business partner that Connor assumed he was. The two were nearly inseparable for twenty-some years.
‘And then,’ thought Just bitterly, ‘I left him to attend a funeral of a man I did not remember, and Connor was killed.’
Not the type of man to second-guess his past, in this one instance, he broke type. Just had never forgiven himself for leaving Connor’s side. He replayed the events over and over in his mind nearly every day. If only he had been there. If only he hadn’t let Connor talk him into going to his sire’s funeral. What good had come of him standing awkwardly at the grave-side of a man who had been sold away and never laid eyes on his own son?
Sighing the stale breath of unanswered questions, Just shifted his back trying to get comfortable on the hospital sheets. Maybe he would have Kitten bring the bedclothes after-all.