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Saturday, December 3, 2022

From Appalachia with love (Part 2)

roseBy Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine

This is the second of a three-part, short story grounded in love at first sight. Like the first version, this one is also an unedited one. It has not been copy-edited, although its novelistic value seems sound. This story has a dual mix, blending southern literature with an Afro-Caribbean flavor. It has been said that romance works well when it is crafted with dazzling novelistic prose. “From Appalachia with love” is an attempt to do just that. I will not go any further. An author does not critique his own oeuvre. Therefore, I will let YOU to judge. Part 2 is again a dedication to my devoted and fervent readership for its continued support, especially those of you who not only comment my works, but also chat with me in private about them— Naomi Deliard, Dr. Philicia Parker, Rosedad Saint Fort and others……. You are great! I’m glad you have chosen words over pictures.

__________________________________________________________________________

It is almost 3 AM, and Alain, weary and sleepy, exits Highway 75 and follows the line that curves around the ramp which meanders down the Indigo Lane, a stretch of freshly rebuilt country road that ultimately dies at the entrance of Willow Lakes. At this hour in the morning, the cold has already entered its freezing point. Outside of his car, a bone-cracking chill reigns, and all along the icy road, it is a snow-white landscape, frosty and slippery, where the frost whitens all evergreen trees. Above the towering mountains in the distance, a full-moon glow is pushing its way through thick foams of clouds to shoot its ray down the eerie universe of silence. So, he substantially slows his speed while commandeering his vehicle to the front barrier of his gated community. His car can’t push through the automatic gate, for it lacks the barcode. He tries to edge to the left, but the security guard, who recognizes Alain, asks him to stay put while remotely raises the bar and lets him in. Within seconds, he pulls into the driveway and finally into the garage. All lights are off when he steps into the hallway that runs to the island kitchen and the café area. When he paces toward the foyer and onto the bottom of the stairway, he takes off his shoes to avoid unwanted noises from the hardwood floor. All this is useless, however, for his mother has been waiting at the edge of the stairs. “Manman, you got me so__!”

“Shut up, will you?” Marianne snaps. “You need to tell me where you’ve been at this hour, something you’ve never done before.”

“I was with some friends at a party in Atlanta.” He lowers his voice in a submissive posture.

“Atlanta!” she growls. “Why in the world did you go all the way there for a party? Is this a new trend?”

“No manman. I never anticipated staying this long. It was just…..” He starts telling the truth, but he quickly refrains himself. He then wraps his arms around his mom’shoulders and lands a kiss on her wrinkled forehead. “Manman, you knew I told you I was going to a party.”

“You never told me it was in Atlanta.”

“Sorry manman. I promise I won’t do it again.” He takes her by the arms, helps her stand upright and then walks her up to the master bedroom door, passing by the lavish library, and kisses her goodnight. Further in the room, his father’s snoring sends the walls vibrate, and Alain certainly doesn’t want to wake him up.

Mom goes in. Alain gently closes the door and runs upstairs. He passes by his baby-sister’s bedroom of which the door is wide open, but she is not there. He smiles, for he knows where she is: in his bedroom waiting for him. He tiptoes to his room on the adjacent side and discretely pulls the door. This poor little Joséfine has fallen asleep at the foot of the bed, her short wavy hair sprawls over her pink pillow and her little story book is held firmly in her hand. Every night, she won’t go to sleep without her brother reading with her. Tonight, in her madras pajamas, she waits in vain until the power of sleep completely consumes her. Down on a carpet tapestried in oriental designs, she sleeps like an angel with her dovish, brownish, creamy little cheeks facing the door.

Alain bends down, scoops her up, wraps her in his arms and lays her tenderly in his bed. “Sorry, Fifine. I had to go find my soul mate in Atlanta. I’m sure I found her and, without a doubt, she’ll be your best friend, your best sister, the sister you never had,” he mutters as if Joséfine is listening.

Without taking a shower or even taking off his clothes, he hurries into bed, lying face up with his hands folded under his head, looking for the perfect spot to bring Tatiana closer his mind, body and soul—the girl he has just met and who seems to be stealing his mind. “Bye and drive safely.” These final words he exchanged with Tatiana earlier in the night are making his heart pounding. He keeps touching the bed, his clothes to be sure he is not in a dream and that his story in Atlanta was not a wild dream, or an ecstatic desire that has just taken him to a surreal adventure stemmed from his subconsciousness.

It is real, and he cannot believe it. He appears to have forgotten his primary mission in Atlanta. Now he has new strategic thinking, dazzling thoughts and hope that, if realized, will definitely put him on track facing life with the awesome certainty that someday he will have a chance to lay the foundation of his own family. These thoughts are finally rocking him up to sleep, but every time he dozes off, he can only see Tatiana’s saintly face smiling at him. So, he grabs his pillow and starts pressing hard on it until he slowly drifts into his sleep.

___________________________________________________________________

Tatiana’s own ordeal!

How can a girl go to sleep after meeting a gentleman like Alain? This is the thought that keeps invading Tatiana’s mind. She is now in her room, unable to rest her Creole body. She can’t believe it was truly her in the arms of a stranger, moving jollily in his warm embrace. “Is he the man I’ve always dreamed of? Or is he another coral snake, creeping its way into my life?” Her mind is turmoil. It’s been 3 hours since she came home, yet sleeping seems a distant reality. Alain’s magic touches, his seemingly sincere manners of expressions, his innocent smile, exceptionally phenomenal, marvelous, first-rate, matchless completely paralyzes her. She keeps lurching sideways in search of the perfect comfort to rest her mind. Unable to find it, she gets out of her bed and paces over to her dresser on top of which lies a biographical novel written by one of her favorite novelists: Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Her see-through nightgown floats about her herself, exposing the regal feature of her hips as she paces around the room flipping the pages. Tired, she steps back into her bed with the novel in her hand. Impossible to read, she simply lays the book on top of her lamp table. “I’ve never felt this way before. He makes me feel so special. No man has ever shown such indebtedness to me before.”

She gets up again, walks back toward the dresser and retrieves a headband from the top drawer with which she wraps her golden hair. Disconcertedly, she retreats to her bed, trapped, mired, consumed and utterly bewildered. Alain’s Givenchy eau de cologne has gone viral in her surroundings—her dress, her purse, her rings, face and now even her lingerie. As if Alain has never left her. The soft fragrant scent of his sweet perfume is like a romantic magnet, a magical spell that is stealing her heart. She wants to resist. It’s too quick to be real. What if he is just another well-mannered vagabond? What if he is only interested in wild adventures? What if he later finds me to be just the opposite of what he would expect of a woman? What if…….? Yet, he seems so virtuous, ingenious with a moral simplicity that bears an appearance of naivety that cunning or sly ladies would try to explore at first glance. Maybe he is the true romancero. Oh love hurts! Her mind turns upside down.

Unexpectedly, a stray rooster crows in the still of the night, and her eyes squint toward her alarm clock. It’s 4:30 in the morning. She quickly flicks off her reading light and closes her eyes with the dazzling hope that tomorrow or the next few hours will certainly be better, for now she has reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Tatiana sleeps like an angel in her comfortable bed. She does not wake up until midday, well….. almost midday. It is her worried mother who bursts into her room and finally wakes her up—a tall woman named Germaine with a strange birthmark on the left side of her ebony face. Germaine is a social worker who looks quite girlish in appearance and demeanor that too often she is mistaken for Tatiana’s sister rather than being her mother, especially when they’re out shopping or going out to church. These remarks immensely please Tatiana’s father—Monsieur Joinville—whose macho’s posture and the attractive feature of his wife make him feel very much in the game of love and chivalrous romance. He is a well-respected civil engineer who works for the city of Atlanta. He is also a golfer who, during the spring and summer months, would spend hours in his community’s golf course and who would not leave until Germaine finally comes to uproot him there. Monsieur Joinville is of a medium height, but he is strong and built for he works out six days a week, taking Tatiana with him every day in the predawn hours to the gym for a forty-five minutes exercise.

Tatiana is their only child, their exotic princess they are not ready to let any young man in search of wild pleasures to prey on. Equally Tatiana, who is a very assertive young woman, clearly understands her parents’ sometimes overbearing, domineering attitudes. She is determined not to disappoint them. This factored-in reality has put a lot of weight on her thinking, more so when it comes to courtships and sentimental overtures. At school, she is given the nickname of Madame Rejectionist for having to rebuff every single advance from young men she believes who are mostly motivated by lust—nothing more.

They live in Marietta, one of the suburbs in Cobb County, which gives them the best of both worlds—the comforts and expanse of suburbia with the vibrant culture of the big city—the metro area of Atlanta—just a short drive away. They have chosen to build their homes here because of its breathtaking scenery, well known for its high-performing schools, recreational opportunities, and swim and tennis neighborhoods. The area also features resort-style amenities, posh townhomes, luxury homes and active adult options. On her front balcony, Tatiana would spend hours contemplating Kennesaw Mountain in its blue ridge in the distance or talking on the phone with her cousin Bouche-en-Coeur who lives in North Fulton on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River.

“Tatou, why are you still in bed? Are you alright?” inquires Germaine with a worried look on her face.

“Manman, I’m fine.” She is stretching. “What time is it?” she asks.

“It’s noon. It’s been a long time since I saw you stay in bed this long.” With one hand, Germaine holds her long flowery garment to keep it from trailing on the floor while she paces over to her daughter’s bed. She gently pokes Tatou’s suave, golden cheek. “You look as just the same as you did ten years ago.”

“Manman, would you stop teasing me?” Her phone vibrates, and she hastily gets-up and reaches out to grab it. When she picks it up, whoever was calling has already gone. So, she falls back into bed, dropping the phone next to her; but her hasty move catches Germaine’s attention.

“Why were you so quick to get the phone? I was right next to it. You could have asked me to take it for you.”

“I thought it was Bouche-en-Coeur.” She lies. Alain is front and center in her mind; and the prospect of her mother hearing a male voice resonating on the other end of the line dreads her miserably.

“You talk to Bouche-en-Coeur every day. You were with her last night. Unless there’s an untold story—new and fresh—that she wants to share with you……”

“Manman, I already know where you’re coming from. It’s not what you think.”She lies again.

“Anyway Tatou, you need to get up now before you start complaining about your stomach cramp. You know what happens when you don’t eat on time.” Germaine lands a kiss on her forehead, exits the room and heads downstairs to feed her little brownish hound, yelping and whimpering for food.

Still, Tatou can’t get up. She is paralyzed. She wants to hear Alain’s voice, his romantic reassurance that he is still the same young man that he was last night. But Alain hasn’t called. Nor did he promise to call first thing in the morning. Anxiety and emotion blur her strategic thinking, her common sense. “I’m trapped,” she mutters. “Is this young man my new raison d’être?” She questions her mind. While she is whispering to herself, she can still smell his sweet perfume from her taffeta dress of last night, like a cannon fodder threatening to engulf her. She picks up the phone several times, attempting to dial Alain’s number. Her hand shudders and she drops it back near her pillow. “I can’t do this. What will he think of me—a slut? Haitian women do not bow. Besides, I can’t show sign of desperation.”

Suddenly, the phone rings, prompting her heart to race at 50 beats a second. She closes her eyes and picks it up. “Hello,” she answers, her mouth quivers.

“It’s me, Colette checking up on you after such a lovely evening.”

“Stop teasing me, will you?”She is clearly disappointed.

“I was happy for you last night, truly was. I’ve never seen you so engaged. He’s really a fine young man. Have you heard from him yet?”

Girl, I’m still in bed, and it was your call that just woke me up.” She yarns on Colette’s ear to prove her point. Then, the little brownish puppy comes wagging its tail and ultimately rests its head between its front paws at the foot of the bed. Colette could hear the hound’s whimper. “I gotta go feeding my puppy. Call you later.” She hangs up without giving Colette the chance to reciprocate. She scoops the little puppy up and rushes down, her hair in a mess while her nightgown floats about herself.

———————————————————————————————

Alain wakes up the next morning a bit anxious for he doesn’t know what the next hours have in store for him. It is now 9 o’ clock, but outside his window, gray fogs maintain a firm grip on the murky landscape. Sensing it is just daybreak, he falls back into bed, thinking about his adventure of last night. He is restless and he can’t wait for the right time to call her. He glances across the room, and notices one leg of his pajama hanging over his wardrobe, which triggers him to realize he forgot to undress the night before. With one leap, he bounces out of bed and paces over to retrieve his sleeping clothes. Suddenly, he ignores his pajama, and he doesn’t even use his blue cotton robe lying at the foot of the bed. Instead, he puts on his jogging suit but returns to bed with little Joséfine still sleeping by his side. He picks up his favorite novel that he has left on top of his lamp table. He begins to flip the pages, but unable to concentrate, he simply lets the book drop off his brown, soft hand.

Tatiana is in his mind, body and soul, and he starts thinking of how miserable his day is going to be if the young woman, who now occupies the center of his heart, denies him the opportunity to heal his pain. An hour later, he gets up again and, with two strides, he reaches over his window and pushes the curtains. It is still gray and misty like wintery weathers of the January; and he observes a pair of Blue Jays tweeting lovingly on the overhanging branches of a maple tree anchored to the ground in the backyard, few feet away from his window. He is trying to see how far his sharp, piercing eyes can take him to contemplate his picturesque backyard framed by a brackish watered lake—also called Willow Lake. Luxury waterfront mansions frame the embankment of the lake. Almost all of them are two-stories with wide-eaved balconies and mahogany ogival-double doors trimmed with polished bolts and clover-shaped heads. The foggy atmosphere simply denies him the stunning view, but the watch of these two little passerine, migratory birds moving playfully from branch to branch fuels his thirst for the voice of Tatiana.

He tiptoes passing the bed, gently opens the door and runs downstairs, barefooted. His parents are still sleeping in the master bedroom. He walks through the café area next to which a small closet is located. He pulls the closet door open, snatches a pair of tennis shoes from the floor and wears it without looking. “A great morning exercise will certainly rest my mind,” he mumbles. But when he pushes the backdoor open and takes a worried glimpse at the frosty shrubs and woody vines that slope down towards the bank of the lake, he comes face to face with an icy wind chill that hits him hard on his reddish cheeks. He becomes stupefied and disturbed, for his morning jog has been compromised. He then swiftly shuts the door and strolls passing the kitchen and onto an exercise room—a mini gym, if you will—where he is ready to get on his treadmill. As soon as he steps on the treadmill and turns on his iPod, the Misty Jean’s powerful song of last night comes back with a vengeance. He becomes completely numbed and collapses on the floor with Tatiana derailing his sanity.

The minute he closes his eyes, he is being transported to a surreal world, a fantasy world where he sees Tatiana dressed dans une belle robe blanche—a beautiful white gown—veiled and crowned like the Haitian queen he’s always dreamed of. He is l’ homme en blanc—the man in white—in a velvet suit standing tall, erect and proud next to his exotic Tatou exuberantly coquettish inside a Gothic chapel in Upper Nantes on the western bank of the Royal River, his hometown in France, near the Château de Goulaine. A dozen altar boys and girls dressed in tropical butterflies, shedding buds of roses down the wedding alley as hundreds of gleeful relatives, friends and well-wishers shower them with applauses. Also in attendance in the front row is the flamboyant mayor of Nantes, Monsieur Jean-François Gendron in a dark Yves Saint Laurent business suit, which has long become his popular trademark. Meanwhile, Christophe, Le Comte de Goulaine and also curator of the château clothed in black tuxedo and bowtie is flanked by his mother Susanne, Madame La Marquise, rebellious as always in her untraditional ways, dressed in the latest fashion de la Haute Couture—Coco Channel glasses, purplish décolleté and olive miniskirt. The three most prestigious personalities of the Valley de La Loire were astonishingly at hand, joyful and downright elated as they stand gracefully in a tête-à-tête with Alain’s parents in a cacophony of joyous laughter. Further in the chapel is a choir from Normandy performing La Caroline. Haiti has never been so far from this dazzling moment.

Suddenly, there is a bang on the door, which bolts him awake, bringing him back to reality. He quickly pushes the door open, and Joséfine overjoyed simply jumps into his arms. “Are you trying to stay away from me?” She bellows, squeezing Alain’s neck and shoulders as if she senses her brother is trying to abandon her.

“You’re choking me, Fifine,” Alain reciprocates, lovingly poking her little, creamy cheeks. “What am I gonna do without you?” He laughs.

“Take me with you wherever you go.”

“I wish I could, but I can’t take you everywhere.”

“Why not?”

“Because there’re places that are made for older folks, not for children like you.”

“I waited for you last night. You promise you weren’t gonna be late.”

“Sorry Fifine, but we can still read. Would you?”

“No, not now. I wanna eat breakfast.”

“Where’s mom? Is she still sleeping?”

“No, she’s in the laundry room.”

Allons-y, let’s go.” He puts her down while holding her arm as they exit the mini gym. With one hand, Joséfine holds her oversized madras pajamas to keep it from engulfing her feet and making her fall.

They pace over to the laundry room, but mom is nowhere in sight. They then stroll toward the kitchen. Here she is, making western omelet. A big smile beams on her oily face upon seeing them. She is still in her nightgown. Her long wavy hair is folded inside a blue head-cloth out of which reddish ringlets of tresses have escaped the kerchief to hang down over her shoulders. She immediately drops her long silver cooking spoon in a stainless spatula spoon-rest and turns around to face them. “Bonjour my beautiful prizes,” she utters, one hand on the hip. Her feline eyes widen and, with one step, she lands a kiss on her daughter’s forehead. “Are you hungry ma poupounette? She asks her with a motherly pride.

Oui, manman. I’m hungry like a wolf,” Joséfine admits, diving into her mother’s nightgown.

“I’m hungry too, manman,” Alain mumbles.

“I know my charming prince, but I’m still not happy with you after such a scare of last night.”

“I know, manman. You’ve got my words signed. I’m sorry. That won’t happen again.” He edges closer to his mom, but facing the stove’s burners. He then picks up the cooking spoon and starts fixing the omelet.

“Can you wait? You and your dad are just the same.” She grabs the spoon from him with a frown. Her saggy breasts heave, displaying little signs of depression.

“It’s an honor, manman, if I’m just like papa.”

“Yeah, right. Don’t try to impress me with your flamboyant papa.” She grins and gazes upward, as if going in retrospect. “At this stage of our lives, he still thinks he can rule my life the same way he did twenty years ago.”

“What do you mean by ‘ruling my life’?”

“Your father is the typical Haitian man: macho to the bones, but I love him unconditionally, and that blurs my eyes from seeing his flaws.” She turns off the burners and hunches over to one of the cabinet doors. There, she retrieves the breakfast plates.

“What about the breakfast rolls?” Joséfine asks with a jolly face, scampering off to the cherry breakfast table in the café area, waiting to be served.

“They’re still in the toaster, hot and fresh,” Marianne gesticulates.

“Manman, can I ask you a question?” Alain utters.

“Sure, my dear.” She peers into his eyes, trying to study the serenity with which her son formulates his question.

“Let me take the food to Fifine before we face a revolt.” He moves toward the pantry and takes out a wooden tray. “Here, manman. I’ll be the waiter this morning.”

“I served you yesterday, remember? Now, it’s your turn big brother.” Joséfine teases him from her seat at the table.

“Oui Mademoiselle…….your humble servant is at your demand.”

From the deeper end of the kitchen, Marianne bursts out laughing while fixing Joséfine’s plate and handing it to Alain to carry to her, which he quickly does. He hastily returns to the kitchen and pushes the door. “Manman,” he lowers his voice. “When you met papa for the first time, what was your reaction?”

“I don’t understand. Are you asking me if it was love at first sight?”

“Sort of, but more so, did you immediately feel he was your man?” he turns facing the kitchen window.

Marianne, in one bounce, edges closer and pulls him back while stroking his wavy hair. “My son, what curiosity that pushes you this morning to ask this question?”

“I mean___”

“I need no further explanation. I understand what’s driving you to ask this.” She cuts him off. “No, it was never love at first glance. I met him during a school project. I was assigned to his group. At first, I was interested in getting the work done. He was the most outspoken of the group and soon he established himself as the group leader, answering every difficult question and providing guidance for every treacherous impasse during the process.” Her oily face aglow, she pulls Alain tightly to her while landing a kiss on his forehead. It seems she’s searching for the young Louis-Jeune through her son’s youth glow.

“Then, manman….”

“He spoke with such meticulous eloquence that I began to see him as___”

“As what, manman?”

She avoids answering the question directly. “The charming prince….., but I shrugged off the thought because he never showed any sign of interest until one day after one of our regular sessions, we started to talk. Everyone was long gone, and we were still talking. When it was time to leave, he asked me out for dinner the next weekend, and I accepted. Later, he admitted he had his eyes on me the first seconds he met me.”

Really manman?”

“You ask him. I’m sure his memory is sharper than mine. Now Alain, did you meet a girl last night?”

“Yes, manman, and I think I’m falling in love. I’ve never met such beauty, so pure, so tender with an unforeseen elegance and humbled humility that…..”

“Did you make any advance?”

“No, I thought it was too premature to bluntly tell her how I felt.”

“You’re sounding just like your good-old-papa now—shrewd and sneaky as an arctic fox.” She steps back toward the burner and starts fixing his plate. “Yeah, you were right, mon prince charmant, my chrming prince. Most serious girl would not sign on to any early offer, and would probably rebuff every overture thereafter.”

He feels a great sign of relief, for so far he is being reassured that he played well the night before. He lands his hand to retrieve his late. “Oh, she’s pretty.”

“What’s her name?”

“Tatiana Célestin. Does this ring a bell?”

“Not really. I know some Célestin, but they’re folks from Martinique. Can you give me a little description? Is she a mulâtresse, a quadroon like me, a griffe or a chocolate beauty?”

“She’s none of those, but she’s beautiful, indescribably beautiful. You’ll see her if I’m lucky enough to have an opportunity to bring her to meet my parents someday.” He takes his food and readies to exit the kitchen door when he comes face-to-face with Mr. Louis-Jeune. “Bonjour papa,” he greets his dad with an air of surprise.

“I just heard you and mom. So next, is it going to be Ballade au Claire de Lune—a moonlit promenade— with Tatiana?” His both hands folded inside his robe’s pockets, Louis-Jeune teases him with a heartfelt pride.

“Oh pa, you were listening?” He runs to the breakfast table to join Joséfine while papa goes in to chat with manman.

Still at the breakfast table, Tatiana dominates his mind and completely steals his appetite. His wild dream at the mini gym leaves him totally baffled. He is trying to make sense of a dream that takes him to his birthplace in lieu of the place he wants to identify with. Why Nantes, not Haiti? Tatiana, a young Haitian woman with a pristine character, will never agree to a wedding grandiosely extravagant—one filled with aristocrats entirely out of touch with reality. Tatou is a natural beauty, down to earth with a moral heroism not seen too often among girls of her generation. He is in search of a girl who will help him understand the complex history of a country wallowed in poverty but framed with a glorious past that every one of its neighbors in the Americas would crave. Through Tatiana, he is seeking a Haitian princess to lead him to the zenith of his ancestral land—both in the grasp of its history and in cross-cultural awareness. Through Tatiana, he sees a heroin with a matchless bravery rooted in outright patriotism.

The Loire Valley and its châteaux and its great vines and wineries and its Gothic architectural sceneries will forever coif him, for sure. But he wants to extend his Breton attitude to his Caribbean lineage in order to create the inerrant symbiosis that Haiti would need to lead her out poverty. Consequently, Alain believes a Creole beauty like Tatiana seems the exemplary protagonist for this task in paradise. So, he imagines. Will it truly be paradise? Alain has read the complex struggle of his forefathers to bring Haiti to bear: the backstabbing, the revenge-killing, the occasional betrayal and the ultimate union between the old free or enfranchised men and newly-freed ones—mulattoes, griffes and blacks (Creole and Africans) that finally wiped out the fatal venom of slavery to let freedom reign.

In reading the history of Haiti, Alain takes pride in the genius of Toussaint Louverture, mixing war and diplomacy to push his way to the top and the prowess of Dessalines, his uncompromising stand against those who drew their wealth from the subjugation of his fellow countrymen. He knows Haiti had been a rebel from the start, rebelling against the order of the day and, against all odds, had defeated the Napoleonic army to give birth to Pan-Africanism.

Allez, you need to eat, voyons?” Joséfine urges him.

“Oui, Fifine.” He shakes his head in disbelief. His little sister has long been done with her food. Mom and dad are no longer in the kitchen. They went down in the basement to watch snowflakes pummeling the pines in the backyard. It’s almost noon time, and he feels the time is right to make the frantic phone call. “Fifine, take my food to the microwave in the kitchenette. I have an important call to make. I’ll be done in a few.”

“Alain, the omelet is cold.”

“Shhhhh, I’ll be back. Je t’aime.” He throws kisses to his little sister to keep her quiet. He then hops upstairs and rushes to his room. He goes straight to his closet to retrieve his jacket of the night before in which he has stored Tatiana’s phone number. Strangely enough, the jacket is nowhere to be found. Then he starts searching in every corner of the closet and then the entire room, including under the bed, under his pillow, his bed sheet, and on the carpet. He runs downstairs, retracing his route of last night from the garage to the house. Anxiety mounts, and he goes stir crazy. From the breakfast table, Joséfine becomes stupefied, watches in horror her brother who, unexpectedly, appears to be going down the drain. She is afraid the devil has, for some unexplained reasons, bewitched his mind.

Alain, goes back upstairs and into his room. His legs go weak, his hands shaking, he collapses, resting his head at the foot of the bed, trying to reclaim his sanity. Joséfine totally dumbfounded follows him to his room, wanting to share her brother’s pain. She comes crushing her head in his lap. Alain’s eyes turn moist and red. He’s never been in such dilapidated state of mind. All of a sudden, he seems to remember something. “Fifine,” he utters, his lips puckering. Did you see the laundry woman this morning?”

“Yes, why? She came in this morning while you were in the mini gym.”

Without replying to his little sister, he hurries down. “Manman,” he screams with such force that his parents get petrified.

“What’s going on my son?” Monsieur Louis-Jeune asks, preempting Marianne who fastened her march toward her son.

“Manman, did you let the laundry woman go with my jacket?”

“Which one?” Marianne seems frozen in heightened anxiety.

“The one I wore last night.”

“Yes. It was dirty, and as usual, I cleaned it off the pieces of papers before I gave it to her.”

“Tatiana’s number was in the inside pocket. Did you throw the papers in the trash can?’

“I’m afraid I did.”

He races to the garage again where the trash can is located. He turns it upside down and meticulously vets every piece of paper, but the search for Tatiana’s number turns up empty. “How do I move beyond this point?” he mutters, not knowing what saint to invoke for a miraculous rescue. He begins to wail in desperate cries like hopeless wayfarers in voyages of no return. Tatiana has never been so far from his radar screen. (End of part 2)

Note

A mulâtresse is a mulatto girl or a woman

A griffe is a person who is the product of an Indian and a black or a person of three-quarter black and one-quarter white ancestry. This word is old. It was used during colonial time, but it is used (rarely) in the French overseas departments.

Je t’aime: I love you

Manman: the Creole version for mother

Oui: yes

A quadroon: a person who is ¼ black and ¾ white. It is very difficult to see his African lineage at first glance.

Allez, you need to eat, voyons: Come on, you need to eat.

Ma poupounette: my little cutie

Also see From Appalachia with love (Part 1)

Dr. Ardain Isma is essayist and novelist. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at UNF (University of North Florida. He wrote this piece to appease the thirst of many of his readers thirsty for a new novel. He can be reached at publisher@csmsmagazine.org

 

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