Chapter 36: Magnet and Metal
It was a theory - an outlandish theory, but a theory nonetheless. One that made sense. One that would explain a lot.
We couldn’t prove that Marie II was Mama’s spirit guide - the one responsible for possessing her and taking over her body and will. Spirit guides - met tet, djab, whichever term - were personal. Therefore, it would be difficult for us to find out exactly who Mama’s djab was unless Mama went through a head washing or lave tet. This process took days, and if done incorrectly, could result in bad luck, mental illness or even death. But with a proper lave tet, one could come into direct contact with their met tet and their identity.
No one in the Coterie had ever gone through a lave tet.
“Too risky,” Aza said when I asked her why it hadn’t been done before. “And the Coterie got this fear that finding out who their met tet is will bring them bad luck.”
“You’re all seasoned priestesses -”
“That don’t mean nothing if the spirit got bad intentions,” Aza said seriously.
I shook my head as if the notion wasn’t making sense. “Okay. I understand not telling Mama that you and Hezekiah are related or that he had anything to do with Camile and Marie II’s escape, but this? Aza, Mama needs to know that her spirit guide might be Marie II, not the Marie Laveau. Marie II was - ”
“I know,” she interrupted. “I know who Marie II was, I know how she was. But we got no business getting involved in other people’s spirit guides. And besides, ain’t no way to prove it unless Alize agree to a head washing and she ain’t gonna do that.”
Again, I felt powerless. I felt like all of this information - these revelations - were being put to no good use; were not being used for a good cause. In reality, the only thing we could do is stand around and wait until the right moment came along. But when would that moment be?
“So, what do we do?” I asked Aza expectantly. Almost with a hint of sarcasm; patronizing.
She didn’t answer, but even if she were to, the sound of her front door opening and slamming shut caught both of our attention.
“Those heffers got some nerve, I tell you!” I heard Mama yell. “Making us seem like we the crazy ones. They gone know what crazy really feel like when they co-workers end up dead on the street with bite marks in they necks!”
Aza and I shared one look. Not a word, she said with the mere look in her eyes. I complied, following her through the hall and down the staircase. Kizzy and the girls were on the couch, standing up when they saw us. They had questions; they must have heard everything. What if they did? Would they rat us out, tell the Coterie that Hezekiah was Aza’s ancestor? What if they told Mama that there was a possibility her met tet was actually Marie II? Regardless of what they might have heard from us upstairs, they definitely heard what Doctor Ben told us today about the history between Marie and Terah’s clan. And because of this, Aza gave us all a terrifying warning look that put the fear of God in us.
By the doorway, the Coterie stood, slowly filing into the living room. Their co-workers were missing, this being the first detail I noticed.
“What’s going on?” Aza asked them. The Coterie turned to look at her, all of them clearly exhausted.
“We went to go see some of the other priestesses,” Qadira said. “Hoping we could convince them to ally themselves with us against Abraham.”
“We went to see four of them.” Mama held up four fingers towards Aza, those fingers trembling in anger. “Four. After I said that they wouldn’t want to listen to us, I was outvoted. And what happened, Qadira? What happened?”
Qadira signed, irate. “They all said no.”
“No, they didn’t just say ‘no,’” Mama added lividly. “They said, ‘fuck, no,’ ‘y’all crazy,’ you name it. Cyrus was the worst, laughing in our faces like he got any business to be disrespecting us.”
“Alize, they was just upset,” Mambo Nene said calmly. “It wasn’t no good time to go over there and put a burden like that on their heads.”
“No, Nene.” Mama bent down to reach Nene’s height. “It was the perfect time. Each one of those Mambos had missing co-workers from their house. Each one. You thought it was just a coincidence that those folks went missing around the same time Abraham came back?”
Missing co-workers? That was the first time I had heard this. The reality became dire for all of us once we heard about people from voodoo houses going missing. But for me, it began to tangle the web even more, because Abraham wasn’t the only possibility. What if it was the Council, taking male and female voodooists from their homes - from specific houses - and either killing them or turning them into bloodsuckers?
Everyone remained quiet after Mama said this. She turned to face us - all of us - and the frustration and exhaustion was evident on her face, especially in her eyes, which were nearly glowing.
“Abraham is picking us off one by one now. Whatever big plan he got, he’s gonna do it soon, and he’s gonna wipe all of us out. Our own people don’t even want to help us. They won’t even swallow their pride to look at the big picture here.”
“Madam Dumont,” Kizzy said, walking towards her. “We kind of have an advantage, though.”
The Coterie slowly turned to look at Kizzy, brows furrowed and lips curled. Aza and I looked at Kizzy, our hearts beating rapidly while we wondered what she was going to say. I knew Aza was scared, for she thought this would be the moment that her secrets would be completely exposed.
“What do you mean?” Mama asked.
Kizzy sighed, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but...Sajida. Remember when she came over to the safe house? She told us what Abraham’s plan was. Maybe she would be able to give us more detail? Become an ally?”
Mama, surprisingly, was silent. But it was only because she needed a moment to say:
Missus Taima stepped forward. “Wait, Sajida told y’all what Abraham was planning?”
Aza and Mama didn’t even look at each other, but instead, looked directly at Missus Taima, who was nearly fuming at this withheld information.
“There was no way for us to know if she was telling the truth,” Mama argued, finding a hard time continuously talking about her. “Sajida can’t be trusted.”
“Alize, Sajida’s a lot of things, believe me,” Aza said, arms crossed against her chest. “But you and I both know that the one thing she ain’t is a liar.”
“She no liar, but she’s conniving. She’s...different from what you and I remember her to be, Aza,” Mama said, almost pained.
“But what if Sajida’s telling the truth?” I said to them. “She could be the key to us gaining the upper hand.”
I couldn’t believe I was entertaining the idea of asking Sajida the Shunned for help. My first encounter with her still made me sick to my stomach. And finding out she was family made me wonder which of our ancestors possessed her and turned her into what she was?
“What is it that Sajida said, exactly?” Nene asked me.
“She said something about Abraham trying to find a ritual that harvests the power of the sun.”
I remembered the name Sajida brought up and began to slowly connect the pieces, but I didn’t mention it to them - I didn’t mention that Marie II wrote a letter containing information about harvesting the sun. This must have been the reason why Abraham had Hezekiah steal Marie Laveau’s enchanted seal and letter opener. All he needed was this letter - one sealed by Marie’s incantation - and Abraham could open it with the letter opener, reverse the ritual and become immune to the sun. No vampire, regardless of stature and strength, was a match against the sun. Sajida said this, and she was right. But if Abraham were immune to the sun, it would make him the most powerful vampire to ever grace the earth. What if he actually succeeded?
And if he didn’t, what if the Council succeeded instead?
Ava Claudette stepped forward, “How could y’all keep something like this from us?” she asked Mama and Aza, softly, as if this secrecy hurt her.
“Because we can’t trust Sajida!” Mama exclaimed - she felt like a broken record. “For all we know, she could be leading us astray!”
“But what if she isn’t?” Babette asked. “What if she’s right, but instead, we’re here running around in circles and letting Abraham get closer and closer to this ‘ritual’? I mean, for him to be immune to the sun? There’s no way we would be able to defeat him!”
“Is this ritual voodoo?” Qadira asked. “Or is it hoodoo? I’ve never even heard of a voodoo ritual to harvest the sun.”
“Where do we find it?” Nene asked. “We got to find wherever it is and destroy it.”
Aza and Mama locked eyes, realizing just how deep the hole they were digging was. “It’s in a letter,” Mama said. “That Marie Laveau’s daughter wrote. Them two was probably the only ones who knew about the ritual.”
“And where’s the letter?” Nene was expectant, but Aza and Mama couldn’t give her the answer they wanted. But to the rest of the Coterie, they figured that there was someone who could give them the answers they desired:
Sajida the Shunned.
It bothered Aza, how desperate the Coterie (excluding Mama) was to seek out Sajida for her help. It was widely known that Sajida was a witch - the Supreme Witch of the Bayou of the Shunned. Yet they looked past this in order to acquire her assistance. However, Aza was also a witch, and they continued to alienate her in her own home. Luckily, after the Coterie came to the decision that they would ask Sajida the Shunned for help, they all wanted to hurry back to their own homes, where the rest of the co-workers were staying. However, I wanted to stay; I didn’t want to leave with them and go back to the Dumont House of Voodoo, nestled in the heart of the French Quarter. I wanted to stay here, with Aza. Because I felt a connectedness with Aza that I didn’t have with anyone else; we knew things that no one else knew, and we were both burdened with secrets.
Mama’s face went hard when I told her I was staying.
“Why?” she asked, her voice cold and without emotion. I didn’t tell her how I felt. I gave her the excuse that I felt more comfortable there. If only I could tell Mama that I was afraid of her spirit guide - the possibility of it being Marie II.
If only I could tell her everything.
Mama wanted to oppose, but Nene urged her to let it be. And before they left, Kizzy, Rocio, Esther and Imani said that they would stay, too. Aza and I knew the reason - they wanted the truth. The entire truth. The Coterie was suspicious, but at this point, Mama let it go - she was smart. She would find out soon. Very soon.
So as they left, the house became quiet again. We all stood around in the living room, but the girls stood across from us, staring at Aza and I like we were the enemies.
“Okay,” Kizzy said. “What’s really going on, here?”
I looked at Aza and nodded, assuring her that they could be trusted. But Aza was skeptical.
“I don’t know if I can trust y’all,” she said. “It ain’t nothing personal. It’s just I’ve kept myself alive by keeping things to myself.”
“But right now,” Imani said, “the only way we stay alive is if we trust each other.”
“I know you don’t trust the Coterie,” Kizzy said. “You have every right not to; I used to practice witchcraft, Miss Aza. I wish I didn’t give it up to be part of the Coterie. But we aren’t them.”
“Far from it,” Rocio said. This sight amazed me - their trust and faith in the Coterie as a collective was waning. From everything they’ve seen, they were slowly drifting away, and seemingly, we were forming our own collective. We didn’t know what it was at the time, but it was something stronger than the Coterie. We put ourselves into Aza’s hands, assuring her that we had her back because no one else did. So, when Aza saw this, she deemed it safe to tell them.
“Have a seat,” she said. And once they all did, we heard something upstairs. It was a soft sound, but prominent enough to garner our attention. The footsteps came down the staircase, and once they saw who it was, they all jumped up in alarm. Kizzy almost ran to get her crossbow, but Aza stopped her. Me? I stared in disbelief, wondering why Hezekiah was back.
“It’s alright,” she said to them. “He won’t hurt y’all. I promise.”
“How do you know that?” Esther said, terrified of Hezekiah’s mere presence.
“Because,” Aza began. And from there, she told them.
Their reactions were more comical than mine.
When Hezekiah and Aza told the girls everything they told me, they all sat in stunned silence. Their heads began to ping pong, slowly back and forth between Aza and Hezekiah, studying their features like I did and finding the resemblance. Coming to terms with it.
Then, all of their eyes landed on me.
“So,” Kizzy said to me, “Y-your ancestors are Marie Laveau and Marie II?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“And Aza’s ancestors are Hezekiah’s wife and daughter, the first members of the Coterie?”
Aza pursed her lips. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Hezekiah’s your grandpapi?” Rocio said to her, almost disgusted.
“Four times, but yes, he is.”
“And ironically, Hezekiah’s basically the reason why the Coterie exists?” Esther asked.
Hezekiah nodded his head, not saying another word.
Imani was the first one to get up and pace the room, holding her head like it was about to explode. The rest of the girls just struggled with breath, continued to stare, even laughed in shock.
“Now you know just why the Coterie can’t know about none of this,” Aza told them. “They don’t even know the difference between right and left right now.”
“But we have to do something,” Kizzy said. “Can we?”
“Not right now, no,” Miss Aza said. “We gotta be smart about this. We let the Coterie go to Sajida the Shunned, and we can possibly get the location of the letter from her. We find it before they do, then we destroy it ourselves.”
“Why do we have to do it?” Esther asked.
“Because, I’m afraid we can’t trust Alize to do the right thing.”
It was odd, listening to my own mother be spoke about in this way. But I agreed with Aza; she wasn’t herself. And we couldn’t trust her until she was again.
“Can we at least tell them about the Council?” Rocio said.
“Absolutely not,” Hezekiah snapped.
“Why?” she asked, her voice attitudinal.
“Because, like Aza said, Alize ain’t in no position to be knowing nothing about what the Council really is. She finna risk us all getting killed.”
“We’re already at risk of getting killed by your master,” Rocio replied. “In fact, why even believe anything you’re saying if you’re still loyal to him?”
“I am loyal to him, but that don’t mean I agree with everything he be doing. Yes, your kind has stuck a knife deep in us, but if Abraham uncover this ‘sun ritual,’ there be a chance the Council can get they hands on it and end all of us; if you dabble with voodoo or a colored bloodsucker, you be as good as dead to ’em. He won’t listen to no one who try and tell him otherwise neither, ’cause all he care about is power and revenge,” Hezekiah shakes his head. “The Council always ten steps ahead of us. Always."
That shut Rocio up quick. In fact, that shut all of us up. This letter was more powerful than we knew, and we already had an idea. Wherever it was, it needed to be found. That was the first step in stopping Abraham and hopefully the Council. Every other step after that was unknown; the future was bleak.
In the silence, Kizzy had one last question; one last burning question:
“Why did you kill Tia Valeria?” she asked Hezekiah. And at this, we all waited for his answer. Even I waited, wondering what words he would reply with. And his reply was simple. It came with no effort:
“Why did you burn the Jubilee down?”
Their answer was his answer. Even though they didn’t say it aloud, it was clear that their reasoning was the same as his - we had loyalties to people that made us do things without questioning the morality of it. I saw it on Kizzy’s face - on all of their faces. Hezekiah’s question made them think. It made them ponder.
It made them reconsider everything.
It was late then, nearly predawn. Everyone was sleep except Aza, Hezekiah and I. Aza and Hezekiah were up in her study, talking. I was downstairs in the kitchen, leaning against the counter in my nightgown and wondering where my hunger that pushed me out of bed went. The empty spot I shared with Esther on the blow-up mattress beckoned me from the dimly lit kitchen, but I couldn’t go back to it. I stepped out of the kitchen and from the doorway, watched the girls sleep soundly in the living room and wondered why I couldn’t do the same.
You think too much, I thought to myself. And at this, went back into the kitchen.
Aza had some crackers in her cupboard. I grabbed the box and nibbled on one despite my now non-existent appetite. I nibbled until I saw a shadow by the doorway to the kitchen. My heart jumped out of my chest at the figure, but once they came into the faint light, I could make out the features of Hezekiah’s face.
“Why aren’t you sleep?” he asked me, taking careful steps towards me. Somehow, in this personal setting, I couldn’t bring myself to push the animosity I had towards him aside. I felt like I still didn’t know him and what he stood for.
I forced myself not to look at him; his stare was heart-stoppingly hypnotizing. “I can’t sleep.”
“Hm,” was his reply. He stood around, his hand pressed against the counter, leaning his weight on it. I looked down at my cracker, breaking it in half and playing with it instead of eating it.
“I’m surprised you’re still here.” My voice was a little colder than it should have been. “Your friends will find out where you’re at eventually.”
“My friends got no idea where I’m at,” he said, matching my cold tone. “To them, I’m still wandering a bayou somewhere.”
“So they’re looking for you?”
“They’re my clan. ’Course they are. Just gotta figure out when I’ll let them find me.”
The question was agonizing to think about, but I had to know. “What will happen to you when they do find out where you are?”
“That’s for Abraham to decide,” he answered. “Most of us have starved out and shifted before. They know what it’s like not to have no control over your body or your mind.”
I met his eyes then; he was staring at me. “Do you think he’ll...” I couldn’t even say the word - kill.
Hezekiah shook his head surely. “No. But Jeanie might try to challenge me for killing Beau. It’ll be a shame to have to kill her, too.”
I wondered if this amount of nonchalance was a trait of every vampire. Part of me believed that Hezekiah still possessed some type of emotion, but another part believed that Hezekiah was incapable of feeling much of anything. Jeanie was heartbroken at Beau’s death; was Hezekiah’s lack of empathy just personal?
I threw the cracker pieces into the trash bin and approached him. I hated his face for all the right reasons. His face reminded me of a painting when I looked at him, mapped out beforehand, drawn and measured, constructed beautifully yet full of alluring imperfections; there was a scar on his left brow, his bottom row of teeth were a bit crooked, and his nose was a tad bent on the bridge. But there was an exoticness to him - his deep russet skin and the sharpness of his jaw that ticked when he clenched his teeth, for one. Or maybe it was the subtle ampleness of his lips; the thickness of his eyebrows, dramatizing his eyes when he frowned. I even studied his hands, which were large, strong and worn. Calloused. Used and abused over the years but still functioning. He had strong forearms, too; his whole body was strong and muscular. These things made it hard to not stare at him. It made it hard not to fall victim to him.
“Why did you do it?” I suddenly asked him. “Why did you kill Beau?”
He shrugged his shoulders, “I can’t give you an answer ’cause I ain’t got one.”
“You don’t have one?”
“Or it’s an answer you don’t want to hear,” he said. “What do you want me to say? That I did it for you? That I knew he was gonna kill you so I killed him instead?”
“Anything’s better than nothing at all,” I said. He laughed at me. It was the kind of laugh someone does when they’ve hit a wall with someone.
“I-I don’t get you, Lisa,” he then said down at me. “It’s like you want something from me but you don’t even know what that is.”
“I want to understand you,” I blurted out. He was taken back by this answer; his face softened. “I feel like I don’t know you or what you want, what drives you. You’re an enigma. At first, I thought you did things for your master, no matter how heinous and morbid these things were. But then you contradict yourself by doing things that Abraham could kill you for. Do you even know who you are?”
“I can say the same thing about you,” Hezekiah replied. “I feel like you’re just drifting about, letting people do things for you, not realizing the potential you got. You hop back and forth between asserting yourself and hiding behind people. Do you know who you are?”
I didn’t say anything. None of us did. Because we were both right, and we couldn’t fathom being analyzed by the other. Did I even know who I was?
At that point, amidst the snoring coming from the living room and crickets outside in the bushes, Hezekiah and I were close enough for it to quickly become dangerous. I felt myself suddenly falling into him, like he was a magnet and I was metal. I couldn’t explain this magnetism, nor could he; it confused him, what was happening. Before, whenever we were this close to each other, we were about to betray each other or acquire something from one another; it was all self-interest. This time, it wasn’t that. There were no underlying intentions. No motives. I knew that I shouldn’t have; Hezekiah didn’t care about what was wrong or right. I pulled back only for him to keep coming forward. He waited for me to give in, and I finally did.
That night was the first time Hezekiah and I kissed. You would think a kiss would have happened when I let him into my bedroom or when we first had sex, but surprisingly, neither of those times did we kiss. It was this time in the kitchen of Aza’s house while everyone was sleep and I was in my pajamas. I don’t remember who kissed who first; I’m confident it was a mutual attempt. But I do remember every single detail after.
His lips were soft and inviting against mine - a taste and a feeling that sent chills up my arms and legs. Pressed against each other, our mouths began to move in sync, kind of like a dance we had never rehearsed together. My hands slid up behind his ears, pressing myself against him and standing on my toes - the only way to reach him. To him, this wasn’t close enough. He snaked an arm around my back slowly, pinning me against his body and nearly lifting me off the ground. His other hand held my face still as I begged for tongue, breathing into him, slowly becoming unaware of what air was.
He was well-fed; his erection was firm against me, and I began to throb for him between my legs. I heard him groan like it pained him every moment he wasn’t inside me. Gradually, we both moved towards the counter on the other side of the kitchen. Midway, his hands moved down to my ass, grabbing tight before picking me up effortlessly. I wrapped my legs around his hips; he swayed with me as he tried to find the countertop. I was unbearably wet, my panties soaked. Hezekiah felt this. The moment he set me down on the counter, his hand went up my nightgown and pressed against my pussy, his fingers moving against in a way that made me whimper out quietly, panting out. I called out to God which should have been the last person to call out to in that moment.
“Open your legs, babygirl” he whispered to me. I obeyed him, spreading my thighs as wide as I comfortably could. His hands moved up underneath my nightgown, quickly pulling on the waistband of my panties until they were down my thighs and thrown off to the side. With fumbling fingers, I began unbuttoning and unzipping his pants, though it was hard to concentrate with him kissing and licking my neck, sucking hard on my flesh and making me hold onto the edge of the counter for support. He then pulled down the collar of my nightgown until my breast was exposed to him and pressed his mouth against my nipple, swirling his tongue and biting lightly on my skin. It took all of my strength not to scream out; I was shaking, my nails digging into his shoulders as I panted out his name, managing to only get “Kiah” out as air continued to fail me.
Suddenly, his mouth moved away from my breast, and his hands moved onto my hips, pulling me forward. I finally got his pants undone, pushing them down until I felt his bare ass on my hands. He held the shaft of his cock in his hand and, in an effort to keep me quiet, guided himself inside me slowly. I looked down and watched it happen - I saw and felt the tip of his manhood inside me and gasped. And at this moment, Hezekiah and I looked towards the darkened living room and waited. Nothing responded except for snoring.
“I want all of you inside me,” I whispered back to him. “Just put it all inside me, I’ll be quiet.”
I nodded since I couldn’t speak. With a smirk, he pushed all of his dick in me. My fingernails dug into his shoulders again as I moaned into his neck. His first thrust was slow as if he was giving me a feel and testing the waters. But then he created a quick rhythm with his hips as he began to fuck me. My legs tightened around his hips and my toes curled with his rhythm. Every thrust was accompanied by a groan into my chest; a whimper into his neck. My arms were firm around his body, my hands gripping the strong muscles of his arms. Our first time having sex wasn’t anything like this, in the attic with a vampire-killing dagger underneath the cushion. It didn’t feel anything like this; this time, my body felt completely surrendered to him in ways I never felt with any other men I’ve had sex with, which was funny considering that technically, Hezekiah’s vampirism didn’t make him a man at all.
“Kiah, you’re stretching me out,” I said to him; the words slipped out without my permission. But he thoroughly enjoyed this, smiling at me, looking directly into my eyes; my pussy had an effect on him, too. I knew it did; his brows furrowed with every thrust, an occasional moan leaving his mouth even though I knew he didn’t want it to.
“You gonna come for me, babygirl?” he asked me - a question I never answer during sex because I felt it gave too much away. But for some reason, I had no shame in telling him yes. It wasn’t a lie - I was so close to coming, and he knew this because suddenly he fucked me faster and harder. I felt my eyes roll back, a deep-gutted groan leaving my mouth as my head rested against the cupboard. I was about to come, and when I did climax, I didn’t fight it. My pussy convulsed around him, my legs shaking uncontrollably. I panted out as his body stiffened, an animalistic moan leaving his mouth as he finished. But he didn’t come; there wasn’t anything leaving him and entering me. He did, however, feel all of the same sensations as an orgasm without having to pull out - every man’s dream.
I couldn’t move, even after he removed himself from me. His dick paralyzed me, it seemed. I sat there for a moment, the act barely registering in my mind. I was still in euphoria, but I was also self-aware. What Hezekiah and I did complicated things tenfold. I didn’t realize it then, but that night was a catalyst; it was more than just sex.
It was much more than just sex.
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