I have been fascinated with 19th century New Orleans as a setting ever since reading Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice. Today’s post is a sample snipped from a little ways into my recently released short story, Wicked and Loving Lies. This historical fantasy follows Lalin Pasquet, the daughter of a quadroon named Clemence, who lives in New Orleans in the year 1876. Madame Becque is Lalin’s creole governess.
On many days, Clemence entertained gentlemen in the house on Rue Dauphin. They kissed her fingertips and complimented the glow of her “high yellow” skin. These were important people: great merchants, planters and city leaders. And during the visits, the pocket doors to Clemence’s bedroom would shut and Lalin must go with Mme. Becque, who would find some quiet pastime to occupy them. On other occasions, Clemence flitted away on social visits and La would be left alone with the governess, who would not play, only restrict. ‘Do not go in that room,’ she would say or, ‘No running, chérie.’
Once when Lalin was seven years old, Becque said, “Come, look at this.” In her palm lay a seedpod, curled like a waxy snap bean, but albino white and with a pungent smell that made Lalin’s nose wrinkle.
“It’s a rèv pwa, little one. It is powerful magic and you must always be careful with such things.” She placed it in La’s hand and closed the girl’s fist around it. The little pod felt warm.
“Now it is yours,” said Becque. “Hide it somewhere close. Tell no one, not even your mother. And every night you must give it your secrets and make a wish so your dreams come true.”
La nodded, her face solemn. That night she held the seedpod cupped in her hands and whispered the secret of how she stole licorice from the great pink jar in the study, snuck food off her dinner plate to feed an old, dying tom in the yard, and woke in the night whenever Clemence moved restlessly around the house. She told the bean how she listened for the sound of the front door, fearing her mother might run off to join her missing father.
After this confession, Lalin thought for a long time about what her wish should be. She considered wishing for the pralines, toffee and caramels in the window of Shepley’s, or red boots like the ones Bridget Tillou wore next door. But this was an important wish. Those were baby desires. In the end, with her eyes shut tight, she wished for her father’s return. . .
You can find my published short stories on Amazon.