Snapshots Of A Stray Parade

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The streets allowed a ghostly grey limousine to invade their labyrinth. The car swung wide around tight corners, slowing every time a pack of vibrant revelers crossed its path. Shiny tires crunched to a stop in a parking lot on the neighborhood’s edge.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Sorcha rapped on the smoked glass until it disappeared. “I said I missed the French Quarter, but actually being here makes me…”

“For years, not a soul on earth could pry you out of this district.” The blond man squinted at a handwritten note. “Ivori and Charmaine are waiting in the lobby.” 

“Feels lonely.” Sorcha gazed down the tapered alley at snapshots of a stray parade. “Or empty? Might just be me.”

“It’s positively hollow.” He tossed the crinkled paper to the only other person in the car. “I’ve deciphered that scribble correctly, Lock?”

“Indeed you have, sir.” Lock kicked the car door open and grabbed for Sorcha’s hand. “Leave that dreadful device here.”

“It’s brand new.” Sorcha pulled her phone away from Lock, just to have it plucked away again. “Seriously, Draven?”

Draven flung Sorcha’s phone to the farthest corner of the car. “Doesn’t the incessant, social connection exhaust you?”

“Nothing feels like the old days, except the weather.” Sorcha peeled off her sweater and glared into the dark limousine before tossing the garment. “But, what if?”

“Anyone you’re looking for…” Lock pulled her away. “Has no need for that.”

The trio crossed the gravel lot, rounded a saltwater pool and stopped in the middle of a checkerboard floor. They found two girls drumming their fingers on a mahogany desk. Disguised in the realm of the concierge, a hidden door admitted them to tunnels below the building.

“It’s a sauna down here.” Sorcha swept the hair off her neck and twisted it into a loose knot.

“When you mentioned an Equinox reunion, Ivori, I assumed you meant something spectacular.” Draven touched the muddy wall and cringed. “Or at least, uplifting.”

“Nights of grand balls and original dresses are history.” Ivori walked into the pitch black. “Y’all took your sweet time getting here.”

“We were in opposite corners of the earth.” Lock’s frown was unveiled when Charmaine struck a match and lit her torch.  “I was hoping for an enchanted courtyard.”

“Me.” Sorcha raised her hand. “The cathedral bell tower.”

“This will be better.” Ivori stopped so short, everyone crashed into her back. “None of your supernatural eyes saw the big door?”

Charmaine pulled chalk from her pocket and began to write. She waited for each letter to disappear before she scripted the next. When the jumble was finished, a steel barrier slid open. Ivori strutted past and snapped her fingers.

“Aren’t you coming with?” Sorcha tugged on Charmaine’s sleeve.

“I’m playing gatekeeper tonight.” Charmaine handed her the torch. “I need to be here when the spell is complete.”

“Just lovely.” Draven growled when Ivori disappeared into the maze of shadows.

“Let’s humor her.” Lock tucked dark hair behind his ear and urged them forward.

“Bar noise, coffee-shop racket.” Draven pointed to the corridor’s grimy ceiling. “Is that traffic?”

“We’re under Decatur Street,” Ivori said, “Clueless fool.”

“Your creepy friend has grown nastier over the years.”

“Draven, calling her my friend is a bit—” Sorcha howled and dropped to her knees.

“That would be the railroad tracks.” Ivori scampered back and yanked Sorcha to her feet. “Suck it up.”

Sorcha took a deep breath and slammed across the barrier. She turned back to see Lock and Draven stroll past the same spot, unaffected. “What the hell?”

“That steel is the boundary of your city, girl. Not theirs.” Ivori dragged her forward. “Now that we’re on the fringe, maybe we can send some messages.”

“Infernal drumming.” Sorcha clamped her hands over her ears.

“That, even I can hear.” Draven clenched his jaw. “Can we get to the bloody point before we all go deaf?”

“It’s the river,” Ivori said, “Just swallow to equalize the pressure—like in your private jet.”

 The tunnel flared into chamber with solid walls and a tile floor. Crude benches surrounded a round fire pit.

“This is unexpected.” Draven ran his fingers over glittering gems set at regular intervals in cut stone.

“Sit down, it’s nearly midnight. The currents are whispering.” Ivori loomed over the fire pit and emptied her deep pockets. She arranged an array of sachets, vials and boxes onto a low altar. “Sorcha, center bench.”

Draven whispered in Sorcha’s ear. “Creepy enough?”

Sorcha choked back a giggle and Lock smacked her shoulder.

Ivori glared at them until the room was dead still. She tipped her head side to side in the heavy air and motioned to Sorcha’s hair. “Take it down, glamour girl. That’s where all your power hides.”

 

To be continued…

Where The Power Hides

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When Angels Weep

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Dearest Sorcha,

     Last night, I saw the splendor of our future. Not in the glow of the bursting full moon or the blaze of crackling fire, but in the halo of my protégé.

     In a tiny room, bathed in the glow of a rose-glass lamp, one of our dearest and loveliest patients received the Lord’s call. Reaching for the light, the elderly woman’s fingers trailed the air as if a loved one’s grasp fell short, time and time again. The hand she finally found belonged to you—her lifeline between the realms of heaven and earth.

     Then tonight, I discovered you alone and grieving in our private chapel. Your tears fell to the stone floor with the weight of time’s relentless march, reminding me of all the life lights we’ve watched flicker out and the spirits we’ve had the privilege to set free. While we share what some call the curse of immortality, in your hands it’s a miraculous blessing. You, the youngest of old souls, soar closer to the flame than most of us dare—ever vulnerable to the heart-wrenching pain of human tragedy. Dignity and grace in the face of death…that is a talent born into your blood.

    So, on this year’s darkest and deepest of winter nights, I implore you to celebrate the ritual of Solstice with our family. We will feed well, drink deeply, and unite our energies until the veil separating us from the ancestors falls away.

    Mourning and respect offered for those lost, will heal your heart. Joy that transcends time and restores hope for the new year, will grant you wings.

               Until tomorrow night then, my brave angel,

               Carry on,

            Raimond

 

Bienvenue

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All my families love Christmas.

As a little girl from New York, I remember a tree so tall it rivaled the Manhattan skyscrapers. My mother decorated every inch of our little apartment and the aroma of her cooking wafted through the windows and lured crowds from blocks away.

Of course, coven life was different but Christmas was remarkably the same. Peace, love and hospitality that bridged species and set ancient vendettas to rest for one sparkling night.

Duke Banitierres’ mission for the season was to surround himself with as much family as possible, and mend the broken pieces of their unconventional souls in the warmth of his home.

 The first weeks of December were filled with shopping in New Orleans but holiday central was at the plantation, sixty miles up the Mississippi River. Every room had its own tree, trimmed in a unique theme. For a week of nights we exchanged gifts, in the grand parlor, swamped in the glorious mess of wrapping paper, ribbons and bows.

On Christmas Eve, all roads led to Normandie Hall. One candle in the window, turned into a candle in every window.

Family and friends from around the globe, some who never attended a party or ceremony all year, always found their way through the arches of the white mansion. String quartets, brass bands and piano artisans took turns serenading a celebration that didn’t end until the sun came up.

Now, our Highland Christmas is traditional and austere. Bonfires and bagpipes on the lonely moor, a simple tree with white lights and a twinkling star; the beacon that has welcomed generations home for centuries.

Joyeux Noel

Hear My Prayer…

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In the dead of night, on the year’s longest night.

Decades ago I saw this castle for the first time, spires soaring into the jeweled winter sky.

 On this night, when drums of darkness triumph over the sun, our coven is still celebrating Nightside Mass around the corner.

A decadent party for them…pure torture for me.

A festive crowd, with a dismal vacancy.

My footsteps on these checkered tiles should be the miracle of a lifetime.  

Forbidden spells have been cast.

Instead it’s my desperate cry for help.

Obscene ransoms paid.

My fingers squeeze the offerings jammed in my pockets.

Hallowed doors click shut.

No turning back now.

Stone cherubs flash impossible smiles and flags flutter in dead-still air.

Candles spark to pale, blue life as I pass.

No thunder claps.

Flames flare to a sapphire burn when I kneel in front of the altar.

No bolts of lightning. Yet.

In my left hand, a crimson rose. In my right, a string of flawless diamonds.

Black wisps of smoke flash across stained glass.

I offer my prayer, to anyone willing to listen.

Silence, broken only by rustling in empty pews.

The love of my life is missing.

The eternal, binding ceremony is mere weeks away.

Gone, in search of answers to ancient puzzles.

In the dead of night, on this sacred night,

I beg you, my ancestors…help me bring him home.

 

So perfect, so tragic…

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So Anne Marie, tell me about Monsters and Angels in one sentence.

How about one picture?

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“We don’t choose who we love.”

                        -Sorcha Alden

NYC to NOLA, One Nurse’s Journey

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Tonight I had the pleasure of visiting a historic, French Quarter residence to interview Sorcha B. Alden,  a 2015 nominee for the “Light Up Every Room” award. A career nurse, Sorcha was born September 3, 1916 and has cared for patients around the world in her quest to relieve suffering and celebrate every precious moment of life. She currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ms. Alden, congratulation on your nomination!

Thank you for traveling so far for to interview me.

I know you’re from New York City, were you born there?

Yes, at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Hell’s Kitchen.

What prompted you to move so far south?

Initially, for a job, but New Orleans gets under your skin. I felt the ground shake when I stepped off the train in 1935…I didn’t realize it then, but I was home.

What inspired you to become a nurse?

My mother, Adelaide Alden. She passed away when I was 21 years old. My life’s path has been about honoring her legacy.

You don’t look a day over 22…what’s your secret?

I may have found the fountain of youth, but it’s cost me everything.

Who has been the most influential person in your incredible journey and why?

Dr. Raimond Banitierre. He taught me how to stare adversity in the face and cherish every gift I was given. Balancing love and duty was his greatest strength.

Have you ever been in love?

Once. Well…yes, just once.

Are you married?

In my heart, I am. Officially, my husband and I are separated. It’s complicated.

What are you most passionate about?

Preserving the dignity of people at the end of their lives. Treasuring our ancestors and their memories.

What makes you angry?

Seeing people disrespected because they’re different. Acceptance is the key to survival.

What makes you strong?

The unwavering support of my family and friends.

What character trait do you most admire in others?

Vicious loyalty.

One more hard question…what was the most important day of your life?

New Year’s Day, 1955. I faced my fears and won back New Orleans for the Banitierres and Aldens.

Now, let’s have some fun. What’s your favorite drink?

The Garnet Martini. It won’t be on the drink menu, but any New Orleans bartender worth their salt can mix it.

Favorite musician?

Band—Volbeat. Musician—Lady Gaga or Meatloaf. Depends on my mood.

Your favorite color?

Sapphire.

Favorite vacation spot?

Scotland. The Isle of Skye.

What holiday do you look forward to each year?

Halloween…and Christmas. I love to decorate for both.

If you could give a piece of advice to future generations, what would it be?

 Strength to forgive your enemies, vision to see power in diversity, and the courage to lead will pave the road for a brilliant future.

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