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With the release of The Crossroads coming up, Gabriel and Evangeline both wanted to share their stories for how they met. I was going to let them do it in one post but then I thought why not spread the love over a couple of days? They thought that was a fantastic idea and Gabriel said ladies first. So here it is, Evangeline’s telling of the beginning of their journey.
The beginning journey of Evangeline and Gabriel
Annie Rose Welch
Lightening bugs—I see them every time I close my eyes, they flutter and dance and light up the darkness. They create patterns as they whirl and swirl around, leaving streaks of stretching brightness behind them. I can hear Mère humming. She’s humming along to the next door neighbor’s music; he is out on his back porch, playing My Girl on his old record player. I hear the rhythm, crackling and popping like static. I see more fireflies coming closer to my face, but when they come together, forming a circle of light, she is there. I’m not dreaming, no, not really. I am in this place again and she is here. Her face appears out of the darkness, like a ghost from a shadow. She is waving and smiling at me.
I force my eyes open and sit up in bed, rubbing at my eyes and crying. The drops are cool against my hot cheeks and I try to muffle the sounds. Footsteps pace down the hallway, and the lights turn on. A stretching shadow moves toward me, like a slow melting ice cream cone, and then my grandmother’s face appears around the door.
“Evangeline,” she whispers. She puts her hand on her hip and narrows her eyes. “Ma étoile. Oh, ma child.” She rushes toward me and situates her body next to mine on the bed. Taking my face in her hands, she kisses my cheeks and runs her hands through my hair. The sweat on my skin has dampened my clothes. I am soaked with my own fear. “Come with me, ma chérie beb.”
She takes my hand and forces me to follow her. When we arrive at the back door, she stops for a moment and looks down at me with a smile. I smile back, but I can feel my lip start to tremble. She takes my chin in her hand and squeezes. “You’re going to be, all right, na’. You just don’t understand, and we fear what we cannot understand, étoile. But you have nothing to fear any longer. Come on, na’. We going to go and lay in the hammock for a while. It’s hot, but the warmth will make you feel better. It’ll be like drinking a cup of warm café au lait, you hear, na’?”
I nod and we walk out onto the brick patio. Beneath my feet, it feels rough and uneven, wet from the heavy air. I scrunch up my toes at the feeling and enjoy the slight breeze blowing my nightgown against me. I squeeze Mère’s hand as we walk. The music next door is louder as we make our way toward two small trees, each one holding a side of the hammock stretched between. I stare up at the light bulbs strung around the yard. They remind me of the ones on the street car. One of them has burnt out and I wonder what happened to it.
“Red, you still at it?” Mère screams toward the fence.
“Yes, ma’m, Missus Juliet,” he yells back. “Anything you’d like to hear, dawlin’?”
“Yeah, Red. Play one for little Evangeline. She needs a little love music in her life, to be the background to her dreams.”
“Will do, Missus Juliet,” he chuckles. “Will do.”
“Merci beaucoup,” she mutters softly.
She frees my hand and holds on to the hammocks rope as she situates herself in the middle, and it rocks back and forth. I stare at her for a moment while she smiles, and I think she is beautiful. She is so strong, like an angel. Her hair reminds me of strawberries and silver bells. I love her long hair, the way it’s braided in pretty patterns around her head. Her eyes are bright underneath the light, and they make me feel warm and secure, like the weather. She pats a blue pillow and holds out her hand to me. I take it and sit carefully on the woven-rope swing, and it cradles me before we start to rock. The netting is a little itchy, but to swing is nice.
Mère laughs as we rock back to front. I curl up next to her and inhale—she smells like sugar and spice. I close my eyes and listen as she hums.
“Mère?” I whisper, trying to keep myself from falling asleep.
“Yes, ma chérie beb.”
“Why do we call you Mère and not Grand-mère?”
She laughs. “Because your eldest cousin, Clémence, couldn’t say the words when she was just a beb. So, just Mère I am.”
“I love your name,” I say. “I wish I had your name instead of mine.”
“Now do you?” She sighs. “You shouldn’t, ma Evangeline, the fairest Acadian storybook princess, who awaits her Gabriel—she would stand in the lightning and thunder, brave a hurricane just to have him. You should always be thankful for the name you have. It was given to you for a reason, and if you would have ma name, then you wouldn’t be you. Someone out there in this big old world will be looking for you someday, and how will he recognize you without your name, ma chérie beb?”
“He won’t worry about my name, Mère.” I giggle.
“Tell me, how will he find you then?”
I take her hand and lift our hands toward the sky. “He will follow the stars.” I create a pattern with our hands against the blackened sky, thinking of an angel flying from star to star, looking for me someday.
“C’est bon,” she sighs. “You think pretty thoughts. That’s why you’re so special, child. You think pretty thoughts and you see the truth, just as I do. Just as your family has for years and years. It runs through your bloodstream like water through a rushing river. You mustn’t be afraid now. Think pretty thoughts and make dodo, so you can have telling dreams.”
“My dreams are not so pretty anymore, Mère.” My shoulders shake and I cuddle up next to her, even closer. “I don’t want to dream anymore.”
“You’re not merely dreaming, child. You are seeing your future; you are in another place, where there is neither space, nor time. You have to believe to make it come true, if it’s what you want and what can be given to you. The bad ones…the bad ones, well, you have to reject them with every heartbeat. It can be done; you will learn over time. Do not fear it, ma child, because it is a part of who you are. Never be afraid of who you are.” She runs her fingers through my hair, untangling the knots gently. “Na’ get some sleep, make dodo. Listen to the music,” she whispers. “Listen to the music and let it carry you away…”
My eyes flutter open and shut. The warm air feels nice, the rocking soothing, the feeling of her hands in my hair is pretty, and the smell of her makes me think of cinnamon buns, her special French toast, and beignets with coffee. I try to fight it, but I cannot keep my eyes open any longer. And now I am flying. I am flying high above the world, looking down at lights and strange shapes. I can feel the wind against my skin and I am in heaven as I glide. I twirl and flip and dive and soar. I chirp, because I am happy and it feels good to do it. I spread my wings even more, and the warm air against my feathers is my favorite part of this dream, this place I go to sometimes.
Something sharp and cold hits me and I’m hurting. I can’t keep steady. I try to cling to something, anything, to save me, but I am falling. The world is spinning and I see shapes and lights and they are making me dizzy now. I feel like I am bouncing from wave to wave, caught in a powerful, hurricane-strength wind. Finally, it lets me go and I hit the ground with a thud, the blow knocking the air out of me. I want to cry out for help, but can’t find my breath.
When it returns, and I stop panicking, I feel my wing, my arm; it feels like it’s been crushed. I can feel tears in my eyes, but I cannot move. My world is going in and out of focus. Where am I? I close my eyes and allow the darkness to swallow me up whole. I am the sparrow—or is it the canary?—in the cat’s mouth, like in that cartoon my brothers force me to watch every Saturday. I hear a voice singing a soothing song in the background. What’s that it’s singing? “Blossoms appear in the land. The time of the songbird has arrived. The cooing of the mourning dove is heard in our land. The green figs ripen. The grapevines bloom and give off a fragrance. Arise, come, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.” Am I rocking?
Then I hear footsteps approaching, and when my eyes flutter open, I keep my hurt wing closer to my side, wanting to protect myself. Everything is fuzzy, but I see something reaching out to me. I don’t move, in fear of what it could be.
“It’s okay.” I hear a boy’s voice say. “It’s okay. You’re all right. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Yes, you are,” I say.
“I’m not. I promise.” He moves in closer and finally he is in focus. I understand now it’s his hand that is reaching out to me.
I turn my head to the side and narrow my eyes, trying to make sense of him. My world is suddenly still. He is young, with wild black hair, as black as the moonless night or spilled ink, and dark brown eyes. His eyes are dark, but there is a silver light behind them that I want to stare into. Yes, I’d like to stare and then make a wish. His skin is fair and his mouth is tender, and he is slender and tall, standing over me. He’s wearing a blue shirt and he is beautiful, although, he’s just a boy, too. Just a boy, that’s all—a very bright, beautiful, strange, but normal boy. How confusing.
“What do you want with me?” I ask.
He shakes his head and paces around me. “I don’t want anything. I felt you needed me. I saw you fall and I wanted to help you is all.”
“What are you doing here?” I ask. “I’ve never seen you before.”
He stops his pacing. He stares at me for a moment. “I’m not sure what I’m doing here,” he whispers. “Where am I? Should you have seen me before? ’Cause I’ve never seen you before, either. But I feel like I know you.”
I shake my head. “I can’t tell you where you are.”
I think for a moment. “If I do, you’ll go away.”
“You don’t want me to go away?”
“You like me?” His cheeks flush cherry.
“I didn’t say that. I want to figure you out is all.”
“You talk funny.”
“So do you,” I say, still looking up at him while he looks down at me.
He lowers himself to the ground, placing one hand behind my head. “I’m going to help you up.” He places his other arm under my back and gently he pushes me, and I slowly sit up.
I feel dizzy and my stomach hurts. My arm burns. I try to move it and can’t. I want to cry, but not in front of this strange boy. I flinch when he goes to touch me and he says he is sorry. He wipes away the tears running down my cheeks. They are flowing without my permission. If I don’t die from the broken arm, I might as well die from embarrassment. I hate crying in front of people, especially boys.
“Keep your wing close to you,” he says. “Maybe it won’t hurt as bad.”
“What do you see when you look at me?” I ask.
He closes his eyes. “I saw a beautiful bright bird, flying against the stars at first. But now when I look at you, I see a beautiful girl wearing a pink dress.” He opens his eyes and shakes his head. “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” I listen harder. Then I nod. “Yes, it’s music. Not the music I first heard when I crashed. It’s Otis Redding.”
“You know, Otis.”
“Never heard of him,” he says.
“Mère calls him ‘the baby maker.’” I shrug and he shrugs, too. “That’s all I know about him.”
“I like this baby maker,” he says. “I’ve never heard anything like it.” He sits down next to me, so close our shoulders almost touch. He smells like the moon—sweet something mixed with boy.
I stare ahead with him, trying to figure out where I am. We are in the dark, him and I, and those same lights from the street car are hanging from the air without anything holding them—they are dim, though, barely lighting anything and flickering on and off. Lightening bugs dance above our heads, all around us, moving in slow motion. I stare past them at one of the lights until my eyes burn. When I blink and turn away toward the darkness, I am afraid she is going to appear again. I grab the boy’s hand because I am so scared.
He doesn’t move for a while, my hand the only one doing the holding. But I don’t care. Not really. Finally, he wraps his long fingers around mine and mumbles something under his breath.
“That’s not nice,” I say. “If you have a secret, keep it to yourself, but don’t whisper anything, when someone else can hear. That’s just nothing but rude.”
“Okay, okay,” he says. “You are sweet, very sweet to me. You are like cake and ice cream. I wish I could sing and play a song for you.”
“Then I’d melt.” I giggle and my arm hurts from the movement, so I stop.
“You are like sugar and spice and everything nice then.”
“You don’t even know me. I’m not that sweet. Ask anyone.”
“What’s your name?” he asks.
I shake my head. “I don’t tell strangers my name.”
“I’m just a kid,” he says.
“Why do you think I’m strange?” He jumps from his spot and stares down at me. The light from the bulb makes him glow and I feel like I’m floating again as I stare up at him.
I forgot what I was going to say.
“Why?” he asks.
“Why do you think I’m strange?”
I stare at his hair for a moment, but he doesn’t seem like he understands. Finally, I nod toward his head. He must have gotten caught in the same hurricane that I did.
I pinch my fingers together. “A little.”
I nod to his head again and move my head down to his feet. I nod again, just to end the unspoken sentence with a period.
“All of me?” he whispers. He turns away from me and hangs his head. His shoulders slump and he kicks at nothing I can see. He puts his hands in his pockets and my heart hurts.
I use the arm that doesn’t hurt to help myself up from the ground. When he hears me moving, he turns around quickly, and despite what he thinks I meant, he helps me. Our faces are close and his breath smells even better than his sweet boy scent.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean it the way you think I did. I don’t think you’re strange in a bad way. No, no.” I shake my head. “I mean you are strange in a beautiful way. You are strange like the stars and the moon, or the tide of the Mississippi river, or my Grandfather trying to play the guitar. I like you.”
I nod. “I really do.” I stare at him while he stares at one of the lights. “Why are you so touchy about being different, anyway? Different is special. There is nothing wrong with being you.”
“I get made fun of a lot,” he says.
I slap the air. “They’re just jealous of you.”
“Me?” He laughs. “Why would they be jealous of me? What do I have that they don’t?”
I touch his shoulder. “Everything.”
He turns to me and tilts his head one way, while I tilt mine the other. “Can I see you again?” he asks.
“I don’t know. If you can find me again, I say, yes.”
“How am I going to find you? I’m not sure how I even got here.”
“I don’t know.” I shrug. “Maybe you should retrace your steps, feel your way to me…follow the stars.”
“Maybe I’ll become one. I’ll be the biggest star on the planet, just for you.”
“That would be nice. Everyone would know your name and you could go anywhere, see anything. I’m sure you could find me then.”
“Why won’t you tell me where we are?”
“Because I really don’t know,” I say. “Mère says one day I will, but I have to find my own way. I haven’t found it yet. And I can’t control it. If I tell you, you might go away. So, can we just say that we are at a place of bright beginnings?”
He nods. “Why were you afraid when you were staring at the light?”
“My aunt, she died. I see her in this place sometimes. I don’t want to see her anymore. She frightens me, because why am I in the same place she is?”
He stares at me for a moment, and then he takes my hand in his. He’s warm, but cool, too. “I don’t know. But don’t be afraid, cake and ice cream, sugar and spice and everything nice. When you’re afraid, just think of me. I promise I will chase all the bad away. I will come back to you. I will find you again. I will always find you when you need me. I swear it, and I never make a promise I cannot keep.”
“You promise you’ll always be the boy in my dreams?”
“I promise, each and every day. Will you always be the girl of mine?”
I hold our hands up. “I promise.”
“But—but, I want you there, too. Not just here. I want you here and there. I want my cake and ice cream, with sugar and spice and everything nice.”
“Then you have to go back. If you do, I cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, I will love you there, too.”
“You love me?” he whispers.
I nod. “Mère told me the day I fell in love, I’d see lightening bugs. Our love would light them, like a hot flame to a candle. I see them. So this must be love.”
“I’ll go back then.”
“I have to go now,” I say.
“No, please don’t. Please, don’t leave me,” he begs. “Why do you have to go?”
“I don’t know that either. I just know I feel it when I have to go. I’m being pulled.”
“Wait!” he panics. “You didn’t tell me your name!”
“Does it matter?” I giggle.
He smiles for the first time, and a funny feeling flutters in my stomach, like the lightening bugs flittering around.
“Bye, bye, bright moon boy,” I say.
“Wait, I am going to fly you home…you can’t fly.”
He nods. “You can’t make it home safely if you can’t fly. And you can’t stay here, like you said. You’re not supposed to stay here. I don’t want you here. I’m not supposed to be here either, not for long. I know that now, because of you. Let’s go.”
And suddenly, we are flying together. I feel myself nodding and the world is fuzzy again. I hear him ask me where I live—he doesn’t recognize the place, he is just blindly following my path of stars in the world. I am about to answer him when my eyes flutter open and I look up to see Mère standing over me. Her hands are to her mouth before she reaches out to me.
I am laying on my back, against the hard brick patio, tears in my eyes, staring above at the light of the full moon, while Otis Redding continues to sing; my arm is broken, burning. I turn my eyes to the string of lights and find the one that had faded, and it flickers just for a moment before becoming as bright as the rest of them. I made a promise to the angel of my dreams, the bright, beautiful, strange boy who now lives somewhere in the vicinity of my heart and in my mind. And he has no idea where I live, or who I am. I send up a silent prayer that he keeps his promise and always remembers me; I pray that each and every day, he follows those same stars back to me someday, because although I am young, I am not too young to understand the glory of love—the simple, simple story of love.
Make sure you come back tomorrow to read Gabriel’s POV!
How do you get there, darlin’? Well, na’, you start by taking Brighten Place. Follow that road all the way down to Marigny Street. After you travel a little distance you’ll come to an old Red Dirt Road, and that road will take you even further, to Lotus Blossom Lane, but you’ve already been that way. Na’ you’re exactly where you should be, darlin’. You’ve arrived at The Crossroads of your life.
Gabriel Roberts is the most famous movie star in the world. He has everything one man could ever want. He has everything except the one thing he feels will fulfill his purpose and complete his life.
Raphael Rose is dying of pneumonia. As he waits on the waning clock of mortality to chime, he has a story to share. One of star-crossed lovers he has never lost hope for.
Two doors down, Madam Catalina has her own story – a shocking past, a love of a lifetime left undone.
Locked behind the doors of Charity Hospital during Hurricane Evangeline, the tangling of souls has unraveled and left each of them at the crossroads of their life. And in the end, whichever road they chose will lead them home.
MY REVIEW OF MARIGNY STREET
Born and raised in New Orleans, Annie has a habit of shortening her words and telling long stories. She speaks with a southern flair and cooks with it too. At the tender age of twenty- one, she hitched up her wagons (took her first plane ride) and moved out west to the big shake (California). Her writing career began one sleepless night when she imagined a gorgeous woman and a man with maniacal hair floating above her like lightening bugs falling from the sky. Curious about them, their story, and why they were floating around in her head, she sat down and penned (typed) her first novel, Marigny Street. A dream come true for her, she hasn’t stopped writing since. She loves a damn good love story, always has, no matter what the genre. She is particularly moved by imperfect love that in its own unique way is perfect, the notion of love at first sight, soul mates, and things that are generally out of the norm.
When she’s not writing she enjoys dabbling in photography and finding new, inspirational music to add to her collection. She currently (still) resides in the big shake (although her southern roots are calling her home) with her husband, daughter, and their two peculiar dogs, Boudreaux and Tabasco (who, call her crazy, bark with an accent).
For lagniappe (a little extra), a virtual cup of café au lait and beignets, please visit Annie’s website:www.annierosewelch.com
Not Everyone’s Mama