We are thrilled to continue on with part 5 of Charlotte Harding‘s first chapter to her debut novel A Long Way Down. To catch up here is Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.Be sure to follow Charlotte on Twitter @CharlieHardAuth.
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A Long Way Down
by Charlotte Harding
“Annie one of the greatest gifts in dis life that I ever received was you, cher. I have devoted de last 22 years of my life raisin’ you as my own.” Auntie Vicki-Mae’s voice soften. I could make out in the multi-colored light of her office that her eyes were shinning with the first beginnings of tears. I swallowed the guilty lump in my throat. What am I doing? Auntie took a deep breath and continued.
“What am I yammerin’ about you ARE my own. You are my flesh. You are my blood. You are my sista’s first born child. You are her only child. She died givin’ birth to you Annie.” An icy cold panic began to form in my stomach. I had pushed and pushed to know, but now I doubted if I’d be able to handle any of this. What have I done? The words continued to flow out of Auntie Vickie-Mae like a bottle tipped upside down. No sense stopping it now.
“There.” He said enthusiastically.
“What am I looking at… That firework?!” Sid chuckled at his wife’s question.
“That’s the moon.”
Follow Sid and Caroline as the follow the moon’s light in “Oceanside Affirmation” featured in Smithing the Word By F.B. Wood. Follow F.B. on Twitter @FrederickWoodII
“We come from a long line ‘a strong women. Women who used everythin’ dey had at deir disposable to make a life of deir own. A free life Annie. A life that many a man or woman would have envied. I know you’ve noticed dat we live in a community of diversity. A meltin’ pot of cultures. WE are the meltin’ pot of dese cultures, Annie. WE are direct descendants of free French creole women of color. We’ve got a little bit of everythin’ coursing through our veins and honey be proud of its richness, but remember that our ancestors were forced to hide it.” I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat. You couldn’t tell hardly by looking at me, but Aunite Vicki Mae always said I was a Haitian, French, African-American, and Spanish. All this blood coursing through my veins means I was Creole.
“Voodoo, Annie, has been our greatest equalizer. Our weapon, our strength, and livelihood for generations. It courses through your blood girl. It seems dat dere is no hidin’ from it.” My heart began pounding wildly against my chest, I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. Anticipation, fear, wonderment were spilling over inside me.
“But why have you hidden this from me? Why did you think I wouldn’t understand?” Auntie Vicki-Mae’s eyes softened on my face. She stretched out a long bony hand and gently brushed it under my chin.
“I dun told you people have envied us from the day we emerged in dis land. We are a people that has blurred the lines. In a time where colored people were only viewed as slaves, no better than cattle, we were given rights, property, businesses, money, and titles. We even bore children of prestigious titles. Honey, folks killed to have what our ancestors had. In a time when women where viewed as male property our ancestors roamed free. Free to live as they pleased, love who they wanted to love.” A distant gaze fell over her face. A trance like state lulled over me, I was torn between wanting to bat it away and wanting to hear more. Auntie Vickie-Mae took my light brown colored hands in her soft mocha ones.
“Your great-great-great granny was the most famous healer and French creole free woman of color to ever live.” My heart threatened to sputter to a stop.
“Marie Laveau herself, The Voodoo Queen of Louisiana.” I snorted in disbelief. When Auntie shot me such a violent look I had to suppress an urge to throw up. My Auntie thrived off the connection, but I’d always thought it was just a ploy to get people’s money. I always shied away from any similarities to the great voodoo queen. Even the voodoo queen’s daughter who carried the same name. Marie Laveaus history was shrouded in mystery. Some regaled her as a great force for good, only practicing good Gris-Gris (magic) others believed she bended the craft to her gain seeking vengeance on those that crossed her. Most of the physical history on Marie Laveau has been destroyed in public records. Her tomb still stands in New Orleans. The only physical testament to the woman left. I had gotten a wild hair a few years ago to try to look into Marie Laveau’s family history. All I managed to find were a bunch of dusty old records far too damaged to make anything out of.
“It can’t be.” I whispered, my ponytail bouncing back and forth as I shook my head. “There’s lots of Laveau’s out there! Plenty folk claiming to be her kin.” Auntie Vickie-Mae pressed one long bony finger to my lips. A look of pride blossomed on her face.
“You are the kin, cher! I am her kin! After Marie Lavaeu’s reign as Voodoo Queen of Louisiana ended with her death, most of her living children fled New Orleans and went into hiding. The only one to stay was the daughter that carried her name. She fought for the claim of Voodoo Queen. One fled here to Baton Rogue and married a wealthy land owner by the name LaFluer. That is how Bellmonte Grove Plantation was built.” I bent forward and pressed my hands to my head. I was reeling from it all.
“What do you mean, ‘fought for the claim’? Didn’t it just naturally pass to her?”
Click in next week to read the exciting conclusion of Charlotte’s first chapter of THE LONG WAY DOWN (available summer of ’14).
Thanks for reading,
F.B. & Joy