A Very Fond Farewell to 2017
Promised Land …
Enter to win a free eBook copy of Monsters & Angels!
*** Happy New Year, New Orleans ***
The vintage apartment on Rue Ste. Anne looked festive and, aside from a bit of shimmer on the hardwood floor, immaculate.
“What the—” Steven turned in a slow circle. He was standing in a sea of glitter. “Bloody hell! The staff will throw a fit.”
Coordinating the brush and dustpan was an awkward struggle until a trail of pine needles caught his eye. He dropped the tools and followed the track through a hidden wall panel and down into Lock’s private chambers to find a barefoot man, standing on a ladder.
“What took you so long?”
“You’re decorating another tree?” Steven giggled out loud. “You have two in the parlor already.”
“This is my personal tree.” Lock pointed to a table overflowing with velvet bags and colored ornaments. “All local antiques. I’ve been collecting.”
“Lots of sparkle.”
“I knew you would approve.” Lock pushed Steven into a formal chair and lit the sea of candles arranged around him. “A drink for my honored guest?”
Steven pointed at the cognac decanter.
“Perfect choice.” Lock sauntered to the bar and returned with a snifter. He knelt down, unlaced Steven’s shoes and tossed them away. “Now, relax while I work.”
“You’re seducing me?”
“Between my charm and the twinkling lights.” Lock unbuttoned his white shirt. “I certainly hope so.”
Steven’s eyes grew wide as he watched Lock float across the room and drop his shirt to the floor. “You know, you need to clean each crystal teardrop before you hang it.”
Lock’s glowing skin rippled over his warrior muscles as he fluffed branches. “Always in charge, aren’t you?” He breathed on each ornament and polished.
Wicked mercy. Steven pointed to the other side of the massive tree. “You might need to move the ladder. Lift things.”
“Yes, sir.” Lock climbed down one rung at a time and dropped his jeans to the floor before he repositioned the ladder.
Steven caught his breath and hid it with a healthy sip of cognac. He grinned and nodded vigorously when Lock looked in his direction. “Lovely…big blank space over there. Keep working.” He waited until Lock turned his back before unzipping his trousers and settling deeper into the chair.
Lock ran his hands under the waistband of his satin boxer shorts and slipped them lower on his narrow hips. He leaned across the tree, adjusting each jewel until they twirled flawlessly.
He loves watching me watch him. Steven melted into the romantic room. His eyes wandered across Lock’s sculpted physique. How did I get so lucky?
Lock flashed across the chamber, leaned on the arms of Steven’s chair and whispered in his ear. “Any more instructions?”
“Explain to me, how you’re so tan.” Steven unbuttoned his cuffs and ran his hands up Lock’s chest. “I’m a ghost next to you.”
“I was a surfer in Australia.” Lock brushed his lips across Steven’s mouth. “This is pale for me.”
“Don’t you miss it?”
“I used to.” Lock shifted back and locked gazes with Steven. “Then I stepped into New Orleans and laid eyes on you.”
“Tell me, again, when did you first see me?”
“At the Masquerade Ball—in your tuxedo and black mask, ordering everyone around.” Lock slid his thumb across Steven’s lower lip. “The past vanished that night. Now, I cherish the moments…every moment with you.”
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” Steven rubbed his nose against Lock’s. “Out of all that tragedy…it’s unbelievable.”
Lock dove into Steven’s lips, lifted him out of the chair and tossed him on the bed. “Believe it.”
“Wait!” Steven seized Lock’s hands just as he grabbed fistfuls of silk. “Custom tailored shirt.”
Lock flashed a smile and bared his fangs. “Take it off or I’ll rip it off.”
Lock leaned against an arched doorway as security shooed tipsy guests from Steven’s apartment. “Gentlemen, one last sweep for stragglers.” He snapped his fingers. “At Mr. Banitierre’s standing request.”
The guards finished scurrying and stood at attention. “All clear, boss.”
“Always remember.” Lock pointed at Steven, obsessively straightening bottles behind the bar. “He, is the boss.”
“Brilliant. I’ll see everyone again on…” Steven sighed at the silence when the door finally clicked shut. He slouched his shoulders and dragged his feet into the bedroom. “On Thursday evening. Can’t wait.”
“That look on your face.” Lock took measured steps across the stone floor. “Makes me want to cry.”
“I loathe these parties.” Steven unsnapped cufflinks and flung them in a drawer. “Juggling maniacs and their fragile egos—”
“Building alliances. We’ll need them when Sorcha comes home.”
Steven ripped his tie off and slumped against the antique armoire. “I lost her.”
“She’s not lost.” Lock place his hand on Steven’s shoulder and squeezed. “Just hiding, for now.”
“I didn’t sleep a wink yesterday. This place reminds me of family…especially during the holidays.”
Lock straightened Steven’s collar. “My apartment is just across the square.”
“Can I just shower first?”
“You smell delicious. But, come over whenever you’re ready. I have a surprise.”
Steven’s eyes followed the vapor trail of energy left when Lock flashed out of the room.
On this longest night of the year, darkness was still waltzing in her own glory when Steven stepped into deserted Jackson Square. Sharp wind swirling down the alleys reminded him of the damp red curls around his neck. He savored rare crisp air while his eyes roamed galleries ringing both Pontalba buildings and holly wreaths adorning empty flower boxes.
This used to be my favorite season. Steven strolled around a wrought iron fence decorated with red bows, and stared up at the spires of St. Louis Cathedral framed by a steel-grey sky.
The best view in the world. His mind flashed back to evenings when he walked the flagstones with an armful of friends and family.
Not a care in the world except shopping and celebrating.
Until the sky fell.
A closer look at the iron barrier revealed crooked and charred rails. Ugly scars left over from that fateful night.
Sorcha’s cape. The Allemand’s spell.
The first shots of a war that crashed an empire.
Exploding Christmas trees. A murdered nun.
Without Raimond, our family will never be…
“Damn it.” Steven collapsed against the fence and coughed so hard, he wheezed.
That was years ago.
He swiped a blood-tinged tear from his cheek and flashed to Lock’s apartment on Rue Ste. Anne. Beyond the plain white door, spiral stairs loomed at the end of a dark and silent corridor.
All right, Lock Dorge. Surprise me.
This is not a normal, concise and word-perfect post from me.
It’s a ramble because I need to say it, to heal, and to keep being me.
The past few months have been devastating for so many around the world—acts of terror, terrifying weather and just the unstoppable march of time.
It’s hard to believe that in 2017, I could be surprised at how hateful and cruel people can be to each other. Yet…I’m shocked.
My confession: I am not political.
My truth: I am human.
My advice to the President and anyone else who has the privilege of a platform and a voice:
In the face of absolute disaster and human suffering, do not tear others down.
Be kind to strangers, even if they are not kind to you. You have no idea what people are going through.
Take the high road.
Be a leader.
If you can’t or won’t take any of these actions, shut up. Please.
Then, Monday, October 2nd, 2017.
One of those days I wonder, why bother? We’re irreparably broken.
I stumbled across an old post I never published—I probably should have.
It was from another time that I questioned writing and reading fantasy, when everything was wrong with the world.
I felt frivolous, silly…like a waste of time…or a big lie.
It took some time to work my way free.
I didn’t post this yesterday. I couldn’t hit the button.
Today, Tuesday October 3rd, 2017…people are standing in lines for hours to donate blood.
I’m working my way free. So about that old post…
To the dreamers and the artists;
The singers, painters, jewelry designers, authors, photographers and songwriters—without your genius, every ounce of joy and beauty will be lost forever.
Never give up.
You are our only true hope.
The sun peeked above the horizon and sped across the ocean to a strip of sand that used to be a beach. One by one, piles of rubble were illuminated on a landscape changed forever in a single, dreadful night.
So bright—so frigid. The Queen struggled to come up from her fog. Where am I? Ringing silence gave way to the rhythmic pulse of rotors in the sky. So many voices. All strangers—swearing and talking about wreckage.
“This one’s ok—those others are junk.” Cameras clicked as three sets of footsteps passed.
Are they talking about me?
“The Osborne fire jumped the road,” One stranger said.
How bad am I?
“By the grace of God,” A familiar voice answered, “It stopped two blocks away.”
Why am I lying in sand? The Queen spiraled back into her darkness for hours or days—time stood still, sped and sputtered in a bizarre haze until squealing brakes woke her up again.
Amid strobes and police cars, the bus ground to a halt. A passenger stepped out onto the crumbled highway and walked through the remnants of the marina gate with her hand clamped over her mouth.
“Little girl, how did you get here?” A man barked in a German accent.
“I have ID.”
I know that voice. The Queen fought to wake up. Clara?
The girl whipped around and stared into the wreckage.
“This paperwork looks fake.” The man planted his hands on his hips. “Hello missy, pay attention please.”
“Thought I heard something.” The girl turned back to face him. “Who are you, exactly?”
“Hans, the crane operator. Workers from all over the world are here to clean up this catastrophe.”
“I’m Clara. I have to find my boat.”
“Is that the warmest coat you have?” Hans asked.
“It is today.” The whir of a zipper was followed by Clara’s voice muffled under a scarf. “I’ve searched the news footage…all the video is about the roller coaster in the ocean or the ruined mansions up the highway.”
“Which boat is yours, honey? They all look the same. This…” He waved at piles of ruined watercraft, some upside down and sinking and others torn open like tin cans. “This mess, is why people need to put names on their boats.”
A swipe of her fingers flicked away tears. “Glory.”
“You mean the Queen?” The man pointed south, across the yard. “She’s right there.”
“Where? The girl brushed her hair from her face and took a few steps south.
“Whoa, wait. You can’t walk the lot alone. There’s holes in the sand deeper than you are tall.”
Hans led Clara across the marina, pointing out jagged metal and steering her around craters. “The ocean roared through here.”
“I see someone’s entire kitchen and…” Clara picked up a shattered piano keyboard. “How high was the water?”
“Over your head, maybe over mine.” The man stopped short and pointed to the last boat on the edge of the debris. “Here she is…we’ve blocked her up now, so she wouldn’t roll over, but that boat behind her kept her upright. Bit of a miracle, but a shame, the only marking left on that little one is a tiny dolphin on the stern.”
Clara? A weak voice crackled into the wind.
“I found you.” Clara rested her shaking palm on the white boat.
Am I dead? The touch of familiar fingers, sparked energy that raced through the Queen’s hull. Is it over?
“Yes, it’s over. But you made it, Glory.”
Another man trudged across the lot. “That old girl is built like a tank. She didn’t just make it, she saved the Dragon too, though they left a few scars on each other.” He pointed to the swath of mud cut by seawater. “Right here—this was brink of disaster. The current washed her stern around but the bow, is exactly where I blocked it up.”
“Mr. James.” Clara hugged him with one arm, keeping her right hand on Glory.
“Clara, you shouldn’t be here. But, I know why you came.”
“She’s a survivor, my survivor.” Clara rubbed her hands across dings and scratches in the gel coat. “Can one of you do me a favor, please?”
“If you promise to get back on that bus and go home,” Mr. James said, “I know your parents and they must be worried sick.”
Clara nodded and pulled an American flag out of her coat. It unfurled to a full eight feet long. “Can you hang this? I have zip ties.”
“I’ll do it.” Hans grabbed a step-ladder and climbed to the top. He took the ensign off Glory’s bow and tossed it to Clara. “Hold onto that.”
“This was brand new in September.” Clara rubbed the fabric in her hands. The red and white stripes were shredded to ribbons and tied in knots, but the “Don’t Tread On Me” lettering and serpent were still intact.
“That’s what a hundred mile-per-hour wind does,” Hans said, “Now, where do you want this beauty?”
Clara pointed to the rail above her head. The flag whipped in the wind and she felt Glory’s hull vibrate, as trickles of life lit chrome and stainless steel.
Hans stood back nodded at the massive flag. “That should bump the roller coaster off the news. Unbelievable, in this day and age, nobody saw what happened here. No power, no satellite photos—just a disaster zone.”
I know what happened, Clara. I’ll tell you every detail.
“How will this ever get cleaned up? It’s so…” Clara searched for the right word. “Destroyed.”
“I’m not just cleaning it up. I’m rebuilding—better than new.” Mr. James spread his arms. “This place will be sparkling by Memorial Day.”
“I promise,” Clara whispered, “I’ll go as soon as the bus comes back.”
“Take your time.” Both men stepped away and watched the teenage girl rest her palms and forehead against the hull.
“She always talk to that boat?” Hans mumbled.
“And the boat answers,” Mr. James said, “People thinks she’s nuts, but you and I know she’s not.”
“I knew you’d make it, Glory.” Clara didn’t try to stop her tears this time.
Sshhh, please don’t cry. Your prayers saved me…saved my soul.
As the late autumn sun began to set, Clara boarded the bus as promised. She took a long look back at the piles of boats and mountains of debris. Glory sparkled on the edge of the wreckage, her new flag billowing in the wind, her light and life returning and growing brighter by the minute.
“My Glory.” Clara poked the bus driver’s elbow.
“All I saw was a pile of rubble when I dropped you off, but it looks like you sprinkled that ship with glitter.” The bus driver pointed to the red, white and blue in Clara’s hand. “You should frame that little flag.”
Clara slumped down in the seat behind the driver and dropped her face into her hands.
“I know it’s been a nightmare.,” The driver said, “A bad time for our shore, but if we work together, we’ll come out the other side.”
“Stronger.” Clara nodded.
The bus driver swung the doors shut. “I assume you named her?”
“She kinda’ named herself.”
“Never stop believing.” He smiled into the rearview mirror. “Hold tight, your soul.”
Clara wiped the final tears from her eyes. “It was Glory, who held onto me.”
Based on the true story of Glory Days…a survivor, my inspiration and a genuine Queen.
To catch up on the talking boats;