Slightly late, my minions, but I’ve finished my February writing prompt! You still have until the end of the week to submit me yours (Original post found here), but in the meantime, enjoy a piece of my first novel…Dollhouse Daughter.
Humidity congested every inch Azalee’s kitchen despite the blast of cool air from two standing fans and an out-of-date air conditioner jutting out from the window. Her kitchen was spacious enough to do normal cooking and her work, but it felt so small with the oppressive heat. Even her snake, Ayido, was submerged almost completely in a metal tub filled with water with only a few slivers of ice left floating above her iridescent coils.
Azalee’s customer sat in silence sat at her dinner table, looking out of place in his suit and tie. He had drained the glass of iced lavender tea within seconds of giving it to him, and he tried not to look nervous which in turn made him appear even more so. The herbs in the tea would calm him enough to start talking. In the meantime, she stood at one end of the counter to cut raw chicken for dinner.
She smiled at how lived in the kitchen looked. Almost every inch of her counter space was full. A collection of Haitian rum was arranged on the back wall behind her customers hunched back and as the counter wrapped around to the adjoining wall it seemed to grow a forest of fresh flowers and herb from the granite itself. Small mason jars were lined up beside the greenery with corresponding labels to the dried versions of the plants inside. They reminded her so much of home where the foliage grew unchallenged by Haiti’s minor modernization. But here in the U.S., nature was cut off at every corner and she was forced to grow inside her apartment since there was no yard or garden outside.
“Will you take more tea, Vernon?” her voice soft and melodic.
The man in the suit flinched at the sound of her voice and he shook his head no. He quickly turned his gaze back down to the empty glass to watch the ice melt at the bottom. She took a deep breath trying to keep control of her frustration and inhaled the lingering scent of the lavender to help calm her.
Most of her new clients had reservations about her craft, although they didn’t dare to voice their doubts in her presence. Hollywood had portrayed vodou with enough wrath and obscurity that her gaze caused a visible reaction from some of them. Those reactions tore at her heart, and her patience, when she had used the past ten years to build a reputation for being kind and approachable.
With a huff, she tossed the chicken into a pan with oil and sprinkled some red and orange powder lightly over it. After she washed and dried her hands, she sat down across from him and waited. He didn’t speak at first—didn’t even look at her. He simply stared down at the melting ice as if there was nothing else in the room. The only sound came from the hum of the fans and the sizzle of chicken slowly cooking on the stove.
Finally, after nearly a minute of silence he lifted his head to meet her questioning, but compassionate gaze. He mumbled at first and it took Azalee a moment to realize he was actually speaking words instead of gibberish.
“Go on,” she said. “I am not witch who will curse you for you sins. I am humble servant of the loa and in my home secrets are heard with open heart and closed mouth.”
“I just want to be loved,” he said loudly, his London accent was clear of any hitches despite the tears forming in his eyes.
“Vernon, love is everywhere if you let it in. It is rare to find if looking for her, but she will find you when least expect her.”
“I have spent years of my life looking for love with all the wrong women. After all this time, I have found nothing.”
Azalee head tilted to the side, curious for his answer and watching as her words penetrated his nervousness and doubt. He moved the glass aside and reached for her hands, no longer afraid of touching her.
“There’s emptiness everywhere I go,” his voice earnest and more confident. “In my house. At work. I feel like Death would be a more welcomed companion than this loneliness.”
His hands were soft and clammy in hers and her body’s warmth drained into him as the pain of his loneliness seeped into her—an icy heartache that mirrored her own. Her gift to feel and relieve others of painful emotions was bittersweet on a good day, and tears dripped down her face as he wished and prayed for someone to love him back just as she had prayed to the loa only a few weeks earlier.
“I will do as you wish, Vernon,” she said, a hiccup caught in her throat as their pain melded together. “I will read the bones and the loa show me the way to find your renmen.”
Vernon looked up at her not realizing that she had been crying too, and clenched her hands tighter.
“Ren-men,” he said as he sounded it out slow. “That means love, right? You’ll really do it.”
“Loa, they take time, but yes. I will find love for you. The risk is worth the pain, yes?”
The relief in his eyes and his heart traveled through to Azalee and the coldness of his pain receded until only hope was left. She felt a whisper of air brush against her ear, a sign from the loa that this man was pure of heart. He had suffered long and with the guidance of the loa she agreed he was worthy of a love spell.
After refilling his glass with tea and ice, Azalee set to work gathering the ingredients for his talisman. She took a rosemary and yarrow from the herb jars on the counter and plucked a white flower and placed them all in a glass bowl. Next to the bowl, was a thick canvas cloth with symbols embroidered in purple stitching, which she handed to Vernon.
“This cloth must have part of you for the spell to work,” she motioned quickly to the sweat dripping from his forehead. “As you dry your face, think of what your heart desires most.”
He took it without question and slowly soaked the sweat from his forehead and brow with the cloth. His eyes were closed and his jaw clenched as he thought hard. When he opened them, Azalee had taken the cloth and filled it with the herbs and other items he could not recognize.
“In two week time, you come to me again with the moon high in the sky. I will read the bones for you and then the talisman will be ready.”
“Two weeks?” he asked. “Why so long? Can’t I just take it now?”
She shook her head and her beaded braids clinked like tiny chimes in a gentle breeze. His impatience should have been bothersome, but instead it excited her to do her work—to give back to her community as her mother and great-grandmother before her had. As every Mambo did at the command of the loa. When Vernon left, the spirits would speak to her and weave the magic that would bring one man to the woman who needed him as much as he needed her.
Hope you enjoyed this little piece of Azalee with her customer.
Happy Reading and Writing my lovely minions!