Here’s another short story featuring our heroine from The Body Hunters
I head downstairs with a little extra pep in my step this morning. There’s no school today and I get to hang out with my grand mere. She has some special project she has to take care of and she asked me to come along. She could have said she was going to watch paint dry and I would still be excited. For as long as I can remember grand mere has been my parent, my teacher, my disciplinarian, and my confidante. Even though I live with my parents, they’re not always around, but my grand mere is always there when I need her.
Other than being family, grand mere and I have something in common: we’re both psychics. We both have the ability to communicate with the dead. It’s a trait that’s passed down from generation to generation in the Labouleaux women from way before our family migrated to New Orleans. My great-great grandmother trained grand mere how to use her abilities just like grand mere trained me.
At five years old I was diagnosed with a life threatening heart illness and while the surgeons were operating on me, I died on the table and was gone for a few minutes before I could be revived. This event gave me a deeper connection to what grand mere calls the ‘spirit realm’; the place where we’re able to interact with people who’ve passed on. Grand mere calls me a prodigy and promises that if I continue using my abilities like she taught me, I may be the most powerful medium in the world. Mwah hah hah! It’s a good thing I’m not plotting world domination.
I head to the kitchen where my egg and sperm donors, otherwise known as mom and dad are busy getting ready for their day. They have no clue as to my psychic abilities. Sometimes the things that I’m able to see and do freak me out; so I know my logical father and prim and proper mother couldn’t handle it.
I’m a product of a mixed marriage, dad is Haitian Creole and mom is white, her family coming from a long line of New Orleans aristocrats. Dad is an FBI agent and mom is a high society blue blood trying to climb back up the social ladder. With their busy agendas, it’s a wonder they ever fit enough time into their schedules to conceive a kid.
I follow my nose to the coffee maker where dad has a fresh pot brewing. Mom is sitting across the table from dad who’s busy with his nose in some of his case file while eating a bowl of corn flakes. Mom scowls at me, but I ignore her evil look and fill my mug with coffee and a copious couple teaspoons of sugar.
“Danielle, you’re only sixteen years old. You have no business drinking coffee.” She complains, peering at me with her violet eyes.
With my back turned I roll my eyes. If she cares so much about what I have for breakfast the least she could do is have some semblance of food prepared. Truth is she can’t boil water without causing a three alarm fire.
“I’ll be fine, mother.” I tell mommy dearest as I stuff a Pop Tart into the toaster. “I don’t think I’ll stunt my growth or anything.”
“What are you wearing?” She moves to the next subject of my attire. Unless it’s got a designer label or comes out of a boutique she doesn’t think it should be worn. I on the other hand find nothing wrong with my dark jeans with the hole in the knee and my button up cotton top over my tank top. I am not going to become a debutante, designer name dropping zombie like her so called friend’s daughters.
“What?” I ask. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” Mom hates confrontation so I love pushing her buttons.
“Well, it’s atrocious. You’re wearing sneakers, those jeans should have been thrown out long ago, and look at your hair. You have that beautiful hair and you tie it up in a ponytail? Really, Danielle how do you expect to attract a nice young man?”
“I already have mother.” I say. “Why just last week I gave Walter Brady my virginity.”
Mom just about chokes to death on her store bought croissant and dad is up in an instant patting her on the back.”
“Jesus, Danny!” Dad grumbles, handing mom a cup of water. “Are you trying to kill your mother? Juliana honey she’s just joking.”
She looks at me for confirmation that her dear sixteen year old daughter hasn’t yet been deflowered and I’m barely standing I’m laughing so hard. After I wipe the tears from my eyes I soothe her mind, letting her know I was just joking.
“Danielle you shouldn’t play games like that.” She scolds.
“Okay, mom, I was just kidding. Lighten up a little.” I say, taking a bite out of my hot Pop Tart.
“I swear, you’re meaner than a snake some times, little girl.” Dad complains, but I can see the laughter in his gold-brown eyes that are identical to mine. “You bout ready? I’ll walk you over to Mama’s.”
Luckily for me, Grand mere lives right across the street. Whenever I needed her, she was never that far away. As Dad opens the door to her house, the smell of her cooking immediately steps out to greet us as warmly as grand mere.
She still lives in the same house that dad grew up in and we moved in across the street when I was just a baby. Her house and decor has been seriously upgraded over the years though. You see grand mere was a woman of color ahead of her time. While my grandfather was a fisherman and shrimper, grand mere also had the entrepreneurial spirit, owning her own down home N’awlins style food restaurant. Tourists would come from miles and mile to pig out on grand mere’s cooking.
A few years after grandpa passed, a big corporation paid grand mere a pretty penny for her restaurant and her recipes for their own chain of restaurants. Ever the shrewd businesswoman, grand mere made a ton of money off the deal, enough where she could retire early and still have money left over to take care of the next few generations of the Labouleaux family.
“Mama, you sure have it smelling good in here.” Dad says as he walks through the house to the kitchen. The windows in the kitchen are fogged up because of the steaming pot she has on the stove. Grand mere is at the sink, picking collard greens fresh from her garden.
My grand mere is pretty jazzy for an old chick. She’s about my height at 5’ 5’ with a tiny waist and slender build. She too is biracial, her dark hair now streaked with strands of grey and curled into spirals. Her skin is a clear and flawless honey gold and she has the same golden eyes as me and dad, another Labouleaux trait. As always she’s wearing some of her colorful vintage jewelry, the type you see Liz Taylor wearing in those old movies.
“Thank you, cher.” She tilts her head so she can accept Dad’s kiss on the cheek. “Danielle, do your grand mere a favor and help me pick these greens.”
Obediently I follow her orders, washing my hands before separating the leafy greens from the stems and washing them. Grand mere stirs the pot on the burner where she has a smoked turkey neck cooking for adding flavor to the greens. She wraps the seasoned roast she has on the stove in foil before having dad put it in the oven. As usual grand mere has been working her culinary wizardry in the kitchen.
“Isn’t this a lot of food for just you?” Dad asks.
Grand mere smiles and pats his pot belly. “Well you know I try to feed my son and his family every chance I get, cher. I can’t have you starving to death. You know that pretty little thing you married can’t cook to save her life.”
I smile to myself. Grand mere has no malicious intent talking about my mom. Her not being able to cook is a documented fact in our family. Grand mere has tried to teach her to cook, but mom is just hopeless in the kitchen. Training me in my paranormal abilities isn’t the only thing grand mere has taught me; I’m a mean cook.
Dad leaves a few minutes later and grand mere walks him to the door. I’m following grand mere’s orders, seasoning the greens and reducing the temperature of the big stainless steel pot.
“What are we doing today, grand mere?” I ask as she reenters the kitchen, taking off her apron.
“Consider today part of your training, child.” She says cryptically.
We get in her sporty little Cadillac and head to the other side of town; the hood so to speak. Grand mere pulls in front of nice little house that looks like it had been transplanted from a nicer neighborhood. The two story house with the fresh coat of paint doesn’t seem to belong with the dilapidated housing on the block.
A Hispanic woman who looks to be in her mid-thirties is sitting on the porch in a white plastic chair. On seeing grand mere she stands up, moving like she just lost a heavy weight bout. Her eyes are red and by the balled up tissue in her hand she’s been crying. Grand mere hugs her, whispers something in her ear and takes a set of keys from her hands. The woman leaves and heads to a house next door and grand mere turns to me.
“What you are about to see is not like anything I’ve ever shown you before. I don’t want you to be scared, cher. But I want you to be prepared. You understand?” She says with a hand on my shoulder.
I nod dumbly, not quite sure what she means, but okay. I’m game.
When I was a hard headed seven-year old, mom and dad forbade me from watching the movie Poltergeist. I didn’t let their warning of the film being too scary bother me and I watched it anyway. For weeks my immature seven year old brain was having day and nightmares about child eating trees and little girls stuck in the television.
The scene grand mere and I encounter when we open the door to the house reminds so much of that movie. It looks like a ghost is having a telekinetic temper tantrum. Nearly every inanimate object in the room seems to have become animated and alive. A kid’s collection of Hot Wheels cars have turned the wooden living room floor into their own personal race track and a Slinky moves down the staircase and back up again. The living room chair is moving back and forth across the floor, while a pile of shattered porcelain lay on the floor. Upstairs a voice calls for ‘Mama’ as if from the top of Mt. Everest, the voice echoing throughout the house.
“It’s okay.” Grand mere assures me. “He’s not going to hurt us. He’s just scared and confused.”
As a butcher knife sails through the air, I silently hope grand mere is correct and whoever ‘he’ is he means us no harm.
“Grand mere, what’s going on here?” I finally get the courage to ask.
“Something bad, cher. Something really bad.” She says sadly. “Are you ready to go into the spirit realm, Danielle?”
I nod my head and we sit together on the sofa, which thankfully hasn’t been brought to life. She takes my wrist, her finger over my pulse. We’ve done this before, her venturing into the realm first and me piggybacking on her ‘signal’ right behind her. Grand mere is strong enough to slip into the spirit realm at will; I’m still learning so my gift requires a photograph to act as my bridge into the realm.
I concentrate on her ‘signal ‘ and I get the chill that comes with entering the spiritual plane, that feels like someone dropping ice cubes down my back. When I open my eyes again, we’re inside the house, but it’s not really the house, just a recreation of it. As most times when I’m in the trance, there is no audio, so it’s important to pay attention to the minute details of the vision. I’m standing beside grand mere and she silently nods to me; holding her right index finger is a little boy.
He’s probably about five and as cute as a speckled pup as grand mere would say, his big brown eyes looking at up at her. In much the way I used to when I was his age, he’s tugging on her finger like he wants something. He points up the wooden staircase; he something to show us.
We follow our tour guide to what’s the doorway of an adult’s room. Inside is another representation of our young chaperone and another child about the same age. Grand mere and I watch the scene unfold as the boys are playing with action figures on the bed. After a few minutes one of the boys grabs a chair and starts rummaging around the top of the closet. I’m holding my breath as I see him pull down a shoebox.
The two boys hover over their prize and pull the lid off the box; inside is a shiny handgun. Grand mere and I watch the scene unfold, wishing we could change it, but there’s nothing that we can do. Our little guide’s future is already set in stone.
The two boys toy with the gun, playing cops and robbers or army men, whatever little boys at that age play. All too soon the gun goes off. It’s surreal watching it happen with no sound, like watching a silent movie. The gun muzzle flashes, the brief flare momentarily lighting the room like someone’s taking pictures. One child drops the gun, his expression one of horror. The other boy falls to the ground, a blossom of red slowly spreading all over his white tee shirt. There’s red now all over the carpet, so much red.
The woman who we saw on the porch is in the room now and I realize she’s the young boy’s mother. She drops to her knees, cradling her son to her chest, rocking him back and forth. Grand mere and I are still observing as the paramedics come, pronounce our little friend dead and take him away. Even though I knew how his story ended, I still was hoping for a better ending.
We step away from the vision and the little boy is crying, still holding on to grand mere’s finger. Grand mere takes him and wraps him in a hug like she used to when I was little. She wipes his tears and I’m standing there at a loss, unsure what to do, feeling totally powerless. This scene is beyond the scope of anything I’ve ever done as far as my gift.
A nearly blinding light opens in the spirit realm, right where the bedroom door should be. Grand mere walks him to it, but doesn’t step thru it. On her knees one more time, she rubs his head, kisses his cheeks and hugs him one more time. I watch as the child walks into the light, looking at us one more time as an older Hispanic man with short grey hair and kindly brown eyes appears and takes his hand. I am instantly understanding this is his grandfather who passed before him. The older man smiles and then they are gone, evaporated in smoke. I feel a couple of tears drip down my cheeks.
My eyes open in my reality and all the movement in the house had ceased. Things are back to normal or as normal as this broken family can get.
“You okay, cher?” Grand mere asks as I shake my head, loosening the remnants of the startling scene I’ve just witnessed. With my gift, I’ve seen death, but never one so young.
“I’m fine, grand mere.” I say.
We head back outside where the mother is waiting, her eyes nearly overflowing with unshed tears. Grand mere takes the mother into her arms and the woman breaks down. My grandmother whispers words of sympathy and encouragement into her ears. She tells the woman that her boy is finally at peace and she needs to stay strong and keep living. After a few moments, the woman stands up, her teary eyes and red nose the aftermath of her broken heart. With a final goodbye, grand mere heads back to her car, but not before promising to call and check up on the mother from time to time.
As we’re headed back home, grand mere tells me what was really going on in the house. The little boy’s death was so sudden, that he’d been stuck in transition from this world into the next. His spirit had been acting out, desperate to break through the spirit realm and get to his mother. Grand mere had to step in and help him move into the afterlife, something she is hoping I will be able to do in the future. I may not she says, I may only be able to help them in their immediate issue but not actually open the door for them to move on. Either way grand mere says I have to heed whatever my gift allows me to do. She explains that just the act of righting a wrong may allow them to go to the afterlife on their own. Some come and go between the earth and the spirit realm several times at will just to have a wrong righted or give a warning at a particular time and place. She is also promised to teach me to discern which spirits really need help and which ones are just trying to get attention for attentions sake, otherwise she says I may go crazy with the visitations.
Coming home, we enter into her kitchen, the roast is now done and the house smells heavenly. It’s close to 2pm and Marcel and Julianna are heading from our house across the street. Mother of course looks perfect with her long brushed shiny black hair and yellow sundress, her sunglasses hiding her sparkly violet eyes. Dad is wearing his plaid dad shorts that come down to his knees and a white polo shirt. What a pair! He is holding her hand as they cross onto grand mere’s lawn. Ugh, now he’s kissing her. Grand mere is watching this hideous display of affection through her dining room window smiling at them. I stick my finger down my throat mocking the scene. Grand mere smacks me on the arm and warns me to behave. Dad opens the door and lets mother go through first. We are having an early dinner because apparently it’s the alien pods anniversary. Dad settles into a chair in the kitchen after kissing grand mere on the cheek. Mother follows suit.
“Mama that smells wonderful, we about ready to eat?” Dad is patting his belly. “Where did you two go today?” He looks directly at me hoping to catch me flinch. I know his interrogation techniques and I’m prepared to put on my game face.
Grand mere answers. “Cher, we just went to the mall, why are you always so suspicious?”
Mother speaks up on his behalf. “Danielle did you tell your grandmother we caught you sneaking out at night twice this week?” She’s boring holes in my head with her stare. I have to quickly defend myself.
“It’s not that big of a deal, I just had to give Amy her homework, she’s been out sick. I didn’t want to disturb you and dad fooling around on the couch.” Dad spits his sweet tea all over his shirt as I burst out laughing. Mother is hiding her face behind her hands.
“Danny!” Grand mere admonishes as she smacks me on the back of the head as I pass her to get plates. “Child, I swear you are going to be the death of me!” For the moment the subject of my escaping the prison is forgotten as we set the table for my parents anniversary dinner.