Chapter 1: Quaint Little Life
Please read book 1 before you read this. You’ll be very confused later on if you continue to read this book without having read the first one.
“Rania! Rania!” Calls a rather irritated voice from down stairs.
The dark-skinned girl rolls over in her bed, lazily tossing a pillow over her head to block out the sound.
“Naunet Rania Dupre, if you don’t get your ass up in the next 2.5 seconds!” Rania sighs as she tosses the pillow from her head. If her mother’s using her first name with the entirety of her full name, then clearly she’s in a bit of some shit if she doesn’t roll her ass out of bed. So Rania sits up and scratches at the long mass of dark curls atop her head as her smoky grey eyes squint at the clock beside her bed.
It reads 8:30 AM. Welp, she’s late for school. Rania releases a loud groan as she reluctantly pushes herself out of bed, resulting in her unceremoniously falling to the floor.
“What was that?” Her mother shouts in her thick Louisiana accent from the bottom of the stairs.
“Nothing mama!” Rania shouts back as she slowly picks herself up from the floor. She goes to the bathroom, after grabbing some clothes, and spends about ten minutes inside. She reemerges, fully dressed and ready for the day with her signature frown on her lips.
“You’re already late! Let’s get a move on!” Rania rolls her eyes as she haphazardly grabs her bag and throws it over her shoulder before jogging down stairs.
Her mother is waiting at the bottom of the steps with her hands on her hips. Her dark hair, more tame than her daughter’s, is wrapped up in a ponytail and her dark eyes are glaring with a promise of punishment if Rania misses another class. Her dark skin is covered in different colored powders from her tampering with those strange concoctions of hers’.
“I swear! What am I gonna do with you?” Her mother sighs tiredly as she wipes her hands off on a towel she pulls out from the back pocket of her jeans. “Alright then get on! I won’t be answerin the phone if the school calls. I’m tired of listenin to ’em!”
Rania gingerly walks to the front door and opens it. “Yeah, yeah! I know mama, I’m goin!” The door closes behind her as she makes her way down the stairs and through the shop. All sorts of strange bottles, and trinkets greet her when she enters. Her mother runs something of a Voodoo shop, as she likes to call it. It’s a big thing here in New Orleans, so at least they’re not starving and begging for scraps.
The shop’s little bell rings as Rania pushes the door open and heads outside into the hot and humid weather of Louisiana. It’s August, so the heat is at its most unbearable. It’s that time of year where Rania questions why her mother didn’t just move to one of them northern states where it’s cold six months out of the year. Like every day, Rania has a strong impulse to run back inside as soon as the hot air hits her. She hasn’t even been outside all of two minutes, and already her skin is uncomfortably sticky and moist. And she’s only wearing a green tank top and some knee-length denim shorts!
Already there are people milling about, going about their daily routines with smiles on their faces. Somehow in these parts of New Orleans, it’s always possessed of a celebratory atmosphere. There’s so many holidays and such, that people will really just find any reason to celebrate here. Not that Rania or her mother’s complaining. It’s loads of fun and good for business when the tourists come rolling through.
“Mornin Rania!” Calls Mr. Abellard, an elderly man in his mid-fifties. The man is always smiling, and it’s like looking at a brilliant white light against a particularly dark backdrop.
Rania grins as she answers, “Hey Mr. Abellard! Don’t got time to talk now, I’m already late!” She calls as she picks up the pace just a tiny bit. She didn’t really feel like trying to hold a conversation with anyone. The least she does is speak when spoken to. Rania can only remember how many times she’s heard that one from her mother while growing up. It’s been permanently ingrained into her system at this point.
The street is littered with shops, and already Rania can spot a couple of tourists browsing through the area. The festivities haven’t started yet since it’s still a bit early, but she can see some people already preparing for it.
She’d never say it out loud, but she loves this little corner of the French Quarter. It’s always so lively and colorful; never a dull day to be had. And the smells! She can already taste Mrs. Johnson’s freshly baked beignets, and Mr. Johnson’s famous Louisiana gumbo. Actually, she could even go for some of Mrs. Smith’s jambalaya or Cajun creole right about now.
Her mouth begins to water, and she immediately decides to put a stop to these thoughts. She already missed breakfast; last thing she needs is a reminder of her hunger.
But as she’s walking along towards the school, just out of the corner of her eye she sees a particularly strange individual. He stands on the street corner outside of one of the many restaurants on the street. His features look exotic, she’d even go as far as to compare the strange markings around his eyes to be Egyptian in origin. A brief study into Egyptian history at least taught her that much. The man’s hair reaches as far as the middle of his back in a tight low-ponytail held together by a golden band. His face is well-defined and his dark eyes almost seem to be studying her, but he’s trying to be discreet about it. The morning paper is in his hand, but Rania decides that it’s best to get a move on once she realizes that he’s just going to keep staring at her like some kind of creeper.
She jogs forward a block, and glances back. Talk about a weirdo… And she proceeds to run the rest of the way to school when she checks her phone to find that it’s already 9:15.
Somehow, Rania manages to make it to her first class. She isn’t terribly late, but just enough for her to get a scolding from her math teacher.
She scoffs as she walks down the hall. She doesn’t even like math, yet the woman has some delusional preconception that Rania gives two shits about it.
Rania groans. She doesn’t even want to be here today. Nor any day for that matter, but skipping school isn’t an option. She already tried that once, and her mother released all hell down upon her when she found out. It seems the school didn’t buy the absent note she submitted, and had promptly called her mother to check on her. How nice of them. Rania rolls her eyes as she heads off to her next class of the day. World history, a class that she, surprisingly enough, actually enjoys. Or maybe it’s just the way Mrs. Smith teaches it that makes it so interesting.
The history teacher is certainly a rather enigmatic young woman, so much so that she’s become one of the high school’s favorite teachers alongside the art teacher and one of the literature teachers. It’s people like these that remind Rania as to why she even bothers with her education.
“Rania my dear! Please enlighten us: who was the first Egyptian pharaoh?” Mrs. Smith sings as her Egyptian headdress tips off the side of her head. She quickly pushes it back as the class releases a few giggles. The woman always did this. Had some crazy get up or something or other that would related to whatever lesson she happened to be teaching that day. It’s one of the things that makes her such a cool teacher.
Rania grins as she confidently answers, “Menes was known as the first true pharaoh of Egypt, and united the upper and lower kingdoms. He was known as the first king of the first dynasty, which was the beginning of the Old Kingdom of Egypt.”
Mrs. Smith claps her hands rather enthusiastically. “Well done! Now then,” she trails off as she discards her headdress in favor of an Egyptian scepter instead. Where she got these things, is an absolute mystery to Rania, one that she doesn’t really care for solving. If it keeps class interesting, then so be it. “I want you all to browse through the Egyptians’ history, pick a god or goddess, and write a paragraph long summary about said deity. I will be collecting it on Monday so make sure you pick something good!” And with that, the bell rings signaling the end of class.
Rania packs up her things and walks out of the classroom. She releases a sigh. Still five more classes to go.
Rania releases a great exhalation of breath as she walks out the doors of the school. Sweet freedom! She managed to survive yet another day of school, and lucky her it’s Friday! Now she can laze about and do whatever the hell she wants for two days without much consequence. Rania gets as far as the main streets of the French Quarter before she comes to a stop in front of a sweets shop. She takes a seat on the curb and watches tourists stroll by as she contemplates on what she’s going to do with her two days of freedom.
Maybe she can go up to Lake Pontchartrain, and chill on the shores for a bit. Or she can always hang out at the docks overlooking the Mississippi River? Decisions, decisions. Whatever is she going to do with her time?
As she’s sitting there contemplating, a pair of rather expensive looking shoes enter her field of vision. Her gaze follows the shoes, to the nice pants, until they reach a casual dress shirt and a familiar face she had seen earlier. She frowns. Isn’t this the guy from earlier? The one that was staring at her like some kind of stalker?
“Um…” She narrows her eyes. “Can I help you?” She asks slowly as the man stands there, staring at her intently. He appears to be studying her; as if searching for something.
Finally he replies in a light accent; one that she’s never heard before. “You wouldn’t happen to know where I can find Madame Amarine’s Crown Jewel, would you?” Rania releases yet another sigh. Must be about the tenth one today. The name he mentions is the name of her mother’s shop. Honestly, her mother probably could’ve come up with something better, but this is what she picked, and Rania still can’t get around how weird it is.
“Yeah. I guess I can take you there.” Not like she has much choice in the matter. It’s where she lives, and her mother won’t be pleased if she discovers Rania had left some poor customer to fend for himself. So long as he’s spending money there, who is she to be picky about who she helps?
So she returns home with the stranger in tow.
Luckily, it isn’t that much of a walk since she was pretty much already half-way home when the stranger approached her. Though he remained silent as they walked all the way back to the shop, and didn’t say much of anything until they passed through the threshold.
The familiar chime greets her ears, as Rania takes notice of some sounds coming from the back. Her mother must’ve lost one of her strange powders again.
But she seems to have dropped everything as she comes whirling out from the back in a flurry of flower petals and powders as she says, “Sorry, sorry! What can I do for you?” Her mother pauses as she finally looks up. She stares at the man in surprise as he greets her with a soft smile.
“Hello Miss Amarine. It’s been quite a long time,” he says as though he’s speaking to an old friend. Rania just stares in confusion. This man doesn’t even remotely seem her mother’s age. Sure her mother may look young, but she’s anything but that! Though Rania would never say as such out loud. This man looks like he’s only a few years older than Rania! And she’s seventeen! Maybe her mother helped him out or something a while back? Baby sat him when he was a kid? Knew his parents? The possibilities are endless.
Rania breaks out of her thoughts when she registers her mother’s surprised tone filling her ears. “It certainly has been Hasani. What brings you to our little corner of the French Quarter?”
But Hasani’s smile is quickly replaced by a poker face, and Amarine’s smile fades. Dread flickers within her eyes, and Rania begins to question the sudden change in the atmosphere.
“You know why I’ve come.” Amarine begins to slowly shake her head with disbelief etched into her features.
“You can’t mean…”
“It’s time.” Time for what? Rania stands, the only one out of the loop. Just what the hell did she bring upon her peaceful little life?
Going to throw out this warning once more: if you haven’t read book 1, then please go back and do so. Otherwise you shall be very confused in the chapters to come. Updates shall be every other Saturday now instead.