Rue Bourbon at Dawn © Anne Marie 2010
Trouble in the Vieux Carré
The key to planting revenge magic in the Vieux Carré is that you have to get in and out before some stupid tourist drunk from Bourbon Street sees you sneaking around. Or worse, a local catches you. Breaking and Entering is only illegal in New Orleans when you’re exiting. Then it’s worth the paperwork, and the chase I’d give them, to try and arrest me. Breaking in usually isn’t an issue because the cops wait for me to leave, pockets full of surprises. Good thing there’s the French Market to palm off the things I steal in the same hour I’ve stolen them.
Tante Opallina Mortisse gave me a task this afternoon. A task and a strict time limit. I have to be in and out in no more than five minutes. She must believe in me. Or I’m being set up by my own damn family. The trip from our house to the Quarter’s going to take at least thirty. I’m in my room deciding between wearing all black or something a little more conspicuous.
“Lucien,” Tante Opal calls from the front room. “Dispoze twa pakètas, souple.”
Tante’s got customers out there, so she can’t come out and say she’s sending me on a hexing mission. Not even in Créole. You never know who’s listening these days. Plus, she never really says anything in English or Créole. Everything’s in how she says it. The way her eyes bore holes in my skull. The way she places a hand on her elbow, tapping it with her finger. She doesn’t want to say “Don’t get caught” because that’s implicit.
“Wi,” I shout back, trying to find my hoodie in the mess I call my room.
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Read Part I
I stroll down the halls. Detention starts at 4 o’clock, but I don’t want to be early. Or on time. Or even five minutes late. Those times say, “I’m trying.” My locker is gray and bland. I dump the books and papers I’ve collected today inside. A few sheets slip between the cracks and down into the locker below. No reason bringing homework home that I have no intention of completing anyway.
This hallway has no windows, but I feel eyes on me. The hairs on my arms stand on end. I worry the ring on my thumb before slamming my locker door shut. The metallic boom echoes down the empty corridor. There isn’t a student or a teacher in sight. Guess no one wants to be here longer than they have to. The heavy tread of my boots thumps in time to the beat of my heart. I hum the summer’s one-hit wonder and follow my mental map of the school.
A half set of stairs leads down to the Science wing. The temperature drops by ten degrees and the skin on my arms prickles in response. They must keep it cooler down here for health reasons or they lack the funding for fridges. They better have protective clothing. No way I’m dissecting shit and getting formaldehyde all over my vintage 1990-era Screaming Trees threads. The shirt was dad’s … before the accident.
I push past the double-swinging-doors labeled “Dissection Lab – Beware” and find myself in a large room filled from floor to ceiling in stainless steel appliances, tables, cabinets, and flickering fluorescent lights. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe I’d stepped into a morgue. Imagined eyes sweep over me. I ignore the way my skin crawls because the room is as empty as my dad’s spot at the dinner table.
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“Skylar Alexis Cavendish!”
I jerk awake in the passenger seat, bang my head against the window glass, then wipe the back of my hand across my mouth. Mmm, drool.
“We’re here,” Mom says. Her hands are like the tiny tremors of a Hollywood Chihuahua. “This is the last one, young lady. Do you hear me?”
Uh oh. She used “young lady,” as if I want to be one of those, along with “do-you-hear-me” when she knows perfectly well I hear her. She’s the only thing I’ve been able to hear during my summer-long grounding. And her voice? It’s about as interesting as those Hollywood Chihuahuas. I twist Dad’s wedding ring around my thumb, careful to keep it under the sleeve of my hoodie. Mom believes he was buried with it. Oops.
“Skylar! I said, do you hear me?”
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