Warm hands slid over his chest and down his flanks. Pieter sighed at the
wonderful sensations flooding him. He reached up, pulling Joss' handsome head
down so he could take those luscious lips in a passionate kiss, running his
hands through that tight springy hair.
Pieter needed to breathe, and they parted. Pieter stared at his pale white hands
framing the black skinned face of his lover. It didn't matter to him that the
man he loved had a different color skin. To Pieter, this man was simply Joss.
The love he felt for the man in his arms never ceased to amaze him. It was
incredible that the playmate he had teased and laughed with growing up had
become this beautiful man, the most important person in Pieter's life.
Pieter knew they didn't have long; it was always a risk for them to meet like
this, but their choices were limited. He dreaded what his father would say if
they were ever discovered together but Pieter couldn't give up what he had
found. Joss meant far too much to him.
Life at the Van Leydens' Spinnaker plantation on the Caribbean island of Sint
Maarten was timeless, or so it seemed to Pieter. His family had owned the
plantation for over one hundred and fifty years; his relationship with one of
its slaves would change nothing.
The island wasn't very large, only thirty-seven square miles in total, divided
between the French who controlled the northern half, and the Dutch who
controlled the south. It was a remarkably peaceful co-existence. The climate was
perfect, warm most of the year but with the trade winds to keep any oppressive
heat at bay. It did rain during the summer months, but luckily hurricanes were
few and far between.
The Van Leyden money had been made during the infamous Tulipmania of the late
1630s, when huge sums of money were literally made and lost over the sale of one
tulip bulb. In 1689, Gerrit Van Leyden had invested his profits in the new
horizons of the Antilles, and, to honor where the money originally came from,
Gerrit named the sugar plantation he created after the tulip that had brought
wealth to his family.
After a slow start, the plantation had taken off during the eighteenth century,
by the introduction of slave labor brought from Africa as part of the triangular
trade route of the Dutch West India Company. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to
collect captured Negroes from the West coast of Africa, taking those poor
unfortunates to the Americas from where the company brought back sugar cane from
the islands of the Dutch Antilles and from Surinam, their territory on the South
Many years later, the plantation was still thriving, though not without
difficulty. Much had changed. The market in the Caribbean for cane sugar had
changed over the last twenty to thirty years, as other European countries had
abolished slavery in their territories, which meant those still growing the crop
with the use of slaves could garner a higher profit. Now, in 1855, only the
Dutch and the plantation owners in the southern states of America still used
The world might have changed around them, but for the Van Leyden family life
went on, and it was expected that Pieter would take over running the plantation
when the time came. He had never embraced the sugar trade the way his father
had, let alone its ramifications, but it had always been an expectation he
didn't know how to escape.
His father, Nicolaas, was the type of man to keep the reins of his business
tightly in his own hand, which had meant he had had little time for his young
son. Pieter's mother had been fragile, and she died when he was only four years
old. He had been brought up mostly by Effie, his father's Negro housekeeper, and
spent the vast majority of his time with her children as she kept the two-story
plantation house in good order. The smell of baking and squares of golden
sunshine falling through the tall windows, Effie's brisk voice drifting across
the wide veranda surrounding the lower floor as she chivvied the housemaids
about their duties formed the backdrop of so many of his childhood memories.
Matilda, whom everyone called Tillie, was three years older than Pieter, and it
seemed to him that she had always been there, looking out for him. Joshua, her
younger brother, had been born when Pieter wasn't much more than a baby himself.
He was known as Joss, which was about as near as Pieter had been able to get to
pronouncing Joshua when he was learning to speak. The three of them became
inseparable as they grew up, running wild and free and happy together.
Pieter enjoyed playing with Tillie and Joss on the veranda or in the kitchen,
but his favorite place was Effie's room at the top of the house, where the
housekeeper and her children lived. It was a large room, simply furnished, but
the old, well-polished wood of the two beds, chest and wardrobe and a rickety
rocking chair shone in the warm light from the large window which almost filled
Pieter didn't understand why the children's father wasn't around and when he
asked Joss his friend just shook his head. Pieter frowned, puzzled that the boy
didn't seem to know.
Turning to the housekeeper who was sitting in the corner sewing, he boldly
asked, "Effie, where is your husband?"
Effie looked startled for a moment before giving a wistful smile. "My man isn't
with us anymore."
"I don't understand. What does that mean?"
She gazed at him for a moment but she didn't say anything further.
It was many years later that he discovered that Effie didn't have a husband, as
slaves weren't allowed to marry, but that her man had been sold to another
plantation before Joss was born.
Pieter cheerfully joined in when Effie gave her children chores to do for the
Master. Indeed, as a child Pieter never took much note of the fact that their
skin color was different to his, and certainly never understood how it made
their lives so different.
When Pieter was seven, Nicolaas had arranged for him to have some schooling,
which irked the boy at first, because he wanted to be out playing with his
friends. Also, now he was old enough, Pieter was expected to spend the early
evenings in the company of his father, who read with him and tried to teach him
how to play chess.
He was seated on the veranda reading one evening when he heard his father's
"I have repeatedly told you I want Pieter to spend his evenings with me and
waste less time with your brood," Nicolaas said harshly. "You know how it irks
me that I can't spend more time with him."
Pieter edged closer to the open door.
His father's voice had calmed as he continued, "You know what he means to me. He
is already showing a pleasing intelligence and I have great plans for him."
"I know, master, I'm sorry, it won't happen again." Effie sounded nervous.
"No, it won't," Van Leyden snapped. "Your children will have no time to distract
my son. You will keep them better occupied, remind them that they are no
different from any of my other slaves."
"Yes, master," Effie replied quietly.
That was the first time that Pieter really understood there was more of a
difference between Joss, Tillie, and himself than just the color of their skin.
As the years passed, he saw still more differences in how his father, his guests
and his overseers treated his friends and their mother. Not that it ever
affected Pieter's attitude, for he still loved them like siblings.
When Pieter was about twelve, he began to visit the fields, to learn what his
father's plantation was really all about. He didn't fully understand, but he did
realize that it was hard work for the Negro people and that the white men who
worked for his father bullied the workers and threatened them with the short
whips they carried. Pieter asked his father why the white men carried whips and
shouted at the workers, but Van Leyden just told him it was necessary to make
the slaves do the work and that Pieter would understand when he was older.
Pieter grew to realize that the very clothes his friends wore were a kind of
uniform. At fifteen, Tillie was given a dress identical to her mother, plain
black with a round neck and elbow-length sleeves. As she was trained to serve
meals in the dining room she also began to wear a white mobcap on her thick
As Joss grew he was made to wear stronger work trousers and a shirt of thick
material in a nondescript brown color, and soon learned that the hard-wearing
clothes were necessary when he began to work in the cane fields. At first, Joss
would come home with his hands torn and bleeding and Effie would put a thick
cream on them that she said it would help them to not only heal but would also
harden his skin.
Pieter began to ask his father more questions, questions that Nicolaas found
irritating coming from the young man who would one day run Spinnaker and control
the lives of the many slaves who worked for them. Pieter confounded his father
at every turn, asking time and again, how could any man consider another man his
property? How could any man professing to be a Christian buy and sell and
mistreat the bodies of other men?
Nicolaas' answer, that black people weren't considered to be really human and
that you couldn't compare their treatment to that of white men, infuriated
Pieter in turn. He could not understand such discrimination.
It was hard for Nicolaas to argue with his son; world opinion on the
continuation of slavery was against the Dutch and part of him agreed with
Pieter's protests, but he couldn't allow himself to think like that. Pieter
needed to learn that philosophy and religion were all well and good, but life
was based on mundane truths. Business and trade kept the world turning, not
pretty fantasies and fanciful thinking. Nicolaas was of the firm opinion that
Christianity and business worked very well together; after all, hard work was a
Christian tenet, so providing hard work for others couldn't be wrong.
Nicolaas came to the inescapable conclusion that Pieter would never understand
this simple fact when the only life he had known was living beside the very
people he would one day own and manage.
No, the only way for Pieter to learn, to understand, was to see another kind of
life. Nicolaas decided to send Pieter to his cousin's family back in Amsterdam
to further his education. He had much to learn and not only in the classroom.
Three or four years living and learning in one of the most diverse cities in
Europe should teach Pieter everything he needed to know about life in the modern
Pieter had been reluctant to leave his small island home, which was all he had
ever known, to travel half way around the world to see a strange country and
strange people, even if they were supposed to be his family. At the same time,
Pieter had been excited at the idea of how much he would see, how much he could
* * * *
Pieter felt out of place when he first arrived in Amsterdam. His family helped
him to gradually fit in to the vastly different society of a European city.
Pieter had always thought the plantation house at Spinnaker was large; it was
certainly one of the larger houses on Sint Maarten, but compared to the Van
Leyden merchant's house on Herengracht, his home was modest.
Willem Van Leyden's house was so large that it comfortably housed the three
generations of the family, their servants—of which there were many—and still the
top two floors were kept for storage. The style of house wasn't called a
merchant's house for nothing; time was those floors were used as warehousing.
The house had a narrow frontage, mostly of red brick with some sandstone facades
around the windows and doors, but it was very tall, having five stories, and
Pieter knew they could take him in and probably never notice the addition.
Their house was in the most fashionable area of the city and they entertained
only the best people. Though at first Pieter was uncomfortable with the
formality of these people, he quickly learned what they expected and how to
He also developed friends among the other students at the university he
attended; others were from far flung Dutch holdings in other parts of the world
and they supported each other until they found their niche. Eventually, Pieter
made a very particular friend, a native of Amsterdam called Barend Courtlandt,
who was a couple of years old than Pieter. They gravitated toward each other,
spending more and more time together, and they gained the nickname of ebony and
ivory, which Pieter found ironic.
Barend had a dark complexion for a Dutchman, with eyes so dark brown as to be
almost black and his hair had that blue-black sheen that invited hands to run
through it to see if it felt as soft as it looked. In comparison, Pieter was
very fair-skinned, with piercing blue eyes and fine features and, though his
hair was still fair, it was a little darker than it had been as a child, almost
golden now. They made a very handsome pair and the longer they knew each other,
the closer they became.
It was Barend who helped him learn the truth about himself. Pieter felt closer
to Barend than anyone else he had ever met, except for his childhood friends
back home on Spinnaker. He found himself missing his new Dutch friend when they
weren't together, thinking about the handsome young man more and more. When he
realized that he thought a lot about the way Barend looked, the way he moved,
how often they each seemed to touch each other casually, even lean against each
other without any specific need, Pieter was puzzled and even a little afraid of
how odd it seemed, odd and yet somehow right.
When Pieter was twenty, the dreams began. Pieter was confused and upset and knew
he had to speak to someone; yet the person he shared everything with was the one
person Pieter didn't think he could talk to about this. How could he tell Barend
about the erotic dreams about him, how Pieter woke up as he climaxed following a
highly charged fantasy of Barend leaning into him, both of them naked and
touching each other?
Pieter wasn't stupid, he knew that it was possible, though wholly unacceptable,
to have sexual feelings for another man. However, he had no idea if his thoughts
and dreams were just a passing phase that all men went through or if he had a
more serious problem.
He had to talk about it and his choices were seriously limited. Pieter couldn't
possibly approach his cousin or a priest; that was unthinkable. The only person
he could speak to was Barend, but he was afraid of his friend's reaction, but he
didn't know what else to do. For days Pieter harbored his fears until Barend
It was late one night as they were returning to the Van Leyden house, crossing
the bridge across the Amstel that led to the wide avenue where the house was
located. Barend's own home was in the same district. They were halfway across
the bridge when Pieter stopped, moved to one side and looked down into the dark
Barend stood alongside him, his back to the bridge parapet as he looked at his
friend's profile, concerned by the pensive look in his eyes. "Tell me, Piet, I
hate to see you look so worried."
Pieter turned, smiling at the diminutive of his name that only his father called
him before Barend had taken to using it. "I'm worried because of what I have to
confess, Barend. I'm afraid to lose your friendship."
"Lose my friendship? Piet, you could never do that. I... You mean too much to
me, don't you know that?"
"Yes, I think I do. You're my friend, but what I've been feeling...what I...
It's more than friendship and I don't understand... I don't know if it's real,
if I'm just..."
"Say it, Piet, tell me what you feel. Don't be afraid. I think I understand."
Nervous but trusting this man he'd come to care for, Pieter confessed. "I
have... feelings for you, more than just as a friend. I...I've had thoughts,
dreams that... I should be ashamed," Pieter lifted his head and stared into
Barend's dark eyes and somehow he wasn't afraid any more, "but I'm not. It
doesn't feel wrong, Barend. It feels so right. Do you understand?"
"More than you know," Barend smiled. He lifted a hand to Pieter's face and
stopped a bare inch away. "Can I touch you? I have longed to touch you, to kiss
those wonderful lips."
Pieter gasped and Barend's fingers brushed his cheek and then feather-light they
caressed his lips.
That was how it began, a simple caress, two men confessing the unacceptable.
Then slowly, carefully, Barend showed Pieter how wonderful it could be to love a
man. He discovered that a man's lips were eminently kissable, that a man's skin
was as soft as velvet and that lying naked against a male lover aroused him so
much more than anything ever had before. Barend showed him how wonderful it was
for his cock to be kissed, licked, and sucked, how to pleasure his lover the
same way. His friend taught him the many ways one man could enjoy another until
Pieter felt confident enough to allow Barend to penetrate him. Barend was a very
generous partner making sure that whatever he showed his younger lover, Pieter
learned to do to him.
Pieter never told Barend he loved him. His friend seemed to understand that,
though Pieter cared for his friend very much, it wasn't the all-consuming love
that Pieter believed existed and that one day he would feel. Barend never used
the word love, either, though he frequently called Pieter his lover; both men
accepted they had feelings beyond friendship. Barend also knew that Pieter would
have to return home one day soon and he once told Pieter that he wouldn't allow
himself to fall in love with him.
Barend confessed that he loved Pieter as a friend, and that he hoped they would
meet again one day, but fenced this declaration around with realities as he saw
"Of course, we will both takes wives, even if they are that only in name."
Pieter shook his head, saying, "I can't imagine feeling for a woman what I feel
for you; no woman has ever assaulted my senses the way you do."
"I know; I feel the same. You know I've had lovers before, I know I prefer men,
but I also know that would make me an outcast and that I refuse to be. It might
be reprehensible of me but I intend to do my duty and take a wife, and yet still
have a lover. I can't imagine surviving without a man in my bed."
Pieter stared at his friend, not knowing if he could live like that.
When it was time to go home to Spinnaker a few months later, he wondered if that
was what his own future would be like.
* * * *
The young man who returned home to Sint Maarten shortly before his twenty-second
birthday had learned so very much in the four years he had been away. He was
very loving, very polite to his father, but he didn't tell the man all the
thoughts in his head. Pieter had learned circumspection among the society of
Holland's capital city, though it wasn't the most important, or the most
surprising lesson he had learned.
* * * *
Pieter had been home for barely a day before he saw Joss again. Pieter had
learned from one of the overseers where the young slave was working, and finding
him on his own stacking tools at the edge of the field was perfect. For Pieter,
the difference four years had made to the young man was breathtaking. Joss had
always been tall and slim with lively dark eyes, but now he had added muscle and
carried himself with grace. The twenty-year-old Joss brought only one word to
They stared at each other, both smiling and apparently unsure of what to say or
do. Then without conscious thought, they found themselves wrapped up in each
other's arms, laughing and both talking at once.
Tillie's voice behind him sent shivers of warmth up Pieter's spine. She was
carrying a large basket of food, lunch for the overseers, Pieter guessed. He had
missed her so much. He had wanted to embrace her when he first saw her on his
return, but with his father's presence in the room it hadn't been possible. With
a last squeeze to the shoulders, he released Joss and turned to Tillie. Pieter
swung his surrogate sister around, grinning happily.
"Oh God, I have missed you two so much!" Pieter said but found his gaze kept
drifting toward Joss.
When Pieter had discovered his penchant for men in Amsterdam, everything had
finally made sense for him. He had always assumed he was simply shy when it came
to the girls he'd met growing up. The only one he had ever felt comfortable with
was Tillie, but Pieter came to realize that he simply wasn't interested in women
that way. He gravitated toward men and they to him. Barend had keyed him into
the truth. The same truth Pieter recognized as he looked at Joss now. The young
slave couldn't take his eyes from Pieter, either.