Michelle, a slender, brown girl of 18 leaned against the
magnolia tree watching them. The couple got out of their car: a
white man around 35 with windswept short blond hair and his
elegant wife also in her thirties with shoulder length black hair.
They looked casually rich in their designer jeans that were wrinkled
in all the right places.
They’d parked their jaguar in the driveway and now stood
on the lawn envisioning, Michelle was sure, lofty possibilities for the
house she’d grown up in as a child.
It was a two story sprawling wooden house with a wide
porch and what used to be a swing; before Katrina had splintered it
into shards of wood that now lay tossed over the lawn and steps
like broken teeth.
The demon storm had destroyed the inside of the house too
– photographs, old hats and clothing she and Simone used to play
dress up in, antique furniture, were gone now. All that couldn’t be
salvaged had been gutted and piled in the front of the house.
But the frame, as if immune to the elements had fought the
hurricane and won. Unlike Grandmere Angelique who’d died of a
She pushed her braids out of her face and fought back tears.
Hurricane Katrina in her fury had torn through New Orleans. Like
a woman scorned, she’d ripped and destroyed the city, leaving its
children homeless, hungry, in shock, crying for their brothers and
sisters, mothers and fathers, tossed to the four corners of America
– like their ancestors before them.
Her parents André and Louisa had fled to Baton Rogue.
André had begged his mother to come with them — had tried to
force her out of the house.
But Angelique refused. “I’ve seen storms before, Cherie.
They come and go. I’m not leaving my house, non – it needs me to
keep it safe.”
Michelle had found Angelique’s body in the attic. She’d hid
there when Katrina hit.
And now these people, these strangers, wanted to buy it.
What do they know of the scent of magnolias in the air each morning, or the
taste of the Mississippi?
She’d pleaded with her father to keep the house. But André
had said no. “The water damage is too bad and now the insurance
company won’t pay!” He spat these last words bitterly. “Thirty years,
thirty years Mama pay them bloodsuckers, eh? And now they won’t
fix her house!”
“We can fix it Papa!”
André only shook his head. “No Cherie, it’s just a shell, not
She remembered playing in the backyard with her sister,
Simone, both running from her grandmother giggling on stubby
little legs, past the vegetable garden and wild roses… until
Angelique would collapse on her white lawn chair laughing with
“Time for a snack, eh?” And grandmere would shoo the
little girls through the backdoor into the kitchen for sweet cakes
Michelle remembered the mantelpiece and the sepia
photographs that lined it too. Photos of Angelique when she was
young, and Grandpere Henri who’d died when Simone was just a
baby. There were pictures of her father as a solemn eyed toddler
too, wedding pictures of him and her mother Louisa, of her Great
Grandmere Cosette; and one photo of her lover André.
Angelique told them of their family history: how their roots
could be traced to Dahomey, Africa, where men and women were
great warriors, before the French had enslaved them. Grandmere
told them that their ancestors had fought in the revolution too
under General Toussaint to free Haiti, and some later made their
way to New Orleans.
When they were older, the sisters learned the history of the
house. Cossette had worked as a laundry woman. She was also a
great Vodoun mambo, who’d first met their Great Grandpere André
Dumont, a rich white man, in New Orleans. And Cosette had
petitioned the loa to give André sight into his own heart.
Soon after, he became smitten with her dark beauty and
strength. But to publically proclaim his love would have meant
death for them both. So he hired Cosette as his maid, and on his
deathbed willed her the house.
Michelle remembered her father shouting, when he first
caught grandmere telling his daughters about Cosette. She’d never
seen him so angry!
“You never tell them these things again!” He’d raged, his
café au lait face twisted with emotion. “Such stories to tell little
But when they were 14 and 12 the sisters had snuck away to
a Vodoun ceremony. Michelle remembered holding tight to
Simone’s hand in the moonlight, watching…With the sound of the
drums punctuating his movements, a young man stepped into the
dance court wearing a cane in the crotch of his pants.
The drums accentuating his movements as he skillfully spun
with leaps and pirouettes…suddenly he shuddered, and fell to the
ground as if in the throes of a seizure…then he became an old man,
walking laboriously with a cane.
It was Papa Legba, the ancient loa who stands at the
crossroads of life and death – the honored one who is called before
One by one, the loa appeared and rode their human horses.
The sisters watched wide eyed as a woman fell to the ground and
became a serpent… as another transformed into a growling
They never forgot that wonderful night. Years later, Simone
dismissed it as imaginary, “just moonlight and drums,” she’d
scoffed. But Michelle knew better.
The couple spotted her, still leaning against the tree and
smiled. She glared back. You don’t belong here!
They coming Cherie, you best make ready.
It was her grandmere’s voice, speaking as if she was
standing right beside her. The girl froze whipping her head around.
But there was no one.
The couple climbed the steps, unlocked the door and
walked inside. Papa gave them keys? They can’t have bought it so soon!
I don’t want no strangers in my house, non.
She bit her lip hard. Be quiet now! You’re not real!
A moment later, the woman, elegant and dark haired,
pushed the screen open and stepped out on the porch, looking at
her. She gazed at Michelle slyly and for a moment, she felt as if the
woman were looking right through her with her gray eyes – as if she
knew her secrets, her pain.
She smiled widely revealing fangs, and licked her lips.
Michelle eyes widened, she was frozen to the spot, held
captive by the woman’s strange eyes, as she moved slowly toward
Angelique’s voice broke the spell. Michelle backed away,
turned and ran to her car.
With shaking hands, she unlocked the door of her Honda
and got inside. She glanced back at the porch, and there was no one
there. Shock, that’s what it is. So much has happened. And we were lucky —
luckier than them trapped for weeks after Katrina in that damned super dome,
and those shelters.
Copyright 2010, 2013 Valjeanne Jeffers, Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson, Cover art and design Quinton Veal all rights reserved.
Contact Authors Valjeanne Jeffersand Quinton Veal at http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com
This story has been published in Specular Mythseed and Genesis Science Fiction Magazine
An excerpt was also featured on Black Tribbles Radio Show: Octavia City