Chapter 55: The Council (Part II)
There were eyes on me from every corner of the room. All from different factions, and all for different reasons.
Never would I think I would be at a level of such importance at a function such as this one—with vampires and witches and voodoo priestesses, all high and low in rank, but still more significant than me. However, I was more influential than I thought; I was more significant than I thought. And I was coming to terms with this newfound jump in rank. Yet it wasn’t the time to bask in this new knowledge. I was here to find a different type of knowledge—from Abraham.
It would be nearly impossible to find a good time to speak to Abraham and ask him what I wanted to know; there were people everywhere, and most of these people were infected with the disease that not only gave them a thirst for blood, but also gave them heightened sense of hearing; I would be a fool to try and speak to Abraham anywhere out in this foyer.
Sajida was beside me, drinking her now second glass of red wine. The platters that these servers carried around were color coated—silver for wine, and black for blood. The vampiric guests gracefully picked up these glistening glasses off the black platters and drank very slowly, licking their lips after every sip to remove the evidence of the thick red substance. Whose blood was it? Where did it come from?
My eyes landed on Mama, who was staring into my soul and ripping it apart in anger. I should have been afraid of her and her wrath, but all I did was stare back at her with a nonchalance in my expression; the betrayal and fury of being locked in my room for an entire day resurfaced in me, and these feelings were heightened, knowing that she was the one who locked me away.
But Hezekiah helped her, too.
Hezekiah, standing next to Abraham, forced himself not to look at me in the presence of his master and his brethren. Though only an idiot wouldn’t have been able to notice how distraught and upset he was. But he also seemed nervous; his eyes were wide, unblinking, and his mouth was pressed into a firm line. He was thinking of all of his secrets that Abraham could become aware of at this party, if Abraham wasn’t aware of them already and just kept skillfully quiet about it.
My heart was racing. Where to begin?
I would tackle my Mama, the beast, first. She was coming towards me, gliding through the crowd with Aza right by her side. I turned to Sajida, who had a delighted smirk on her face when she saw who was coming towards us.
“Something wicked this way come,” she said, her voice almost like a hymn, deep and melodic. It seemed like forever until Mama finally approached me, but she finally did, with no words being exchanged the first few moments. Her dress was dark brown and black, with a matching tignon that Aza also wore to compliment her blue ball gown. In fact, all of the members of the Coterie wore tignons as a symbol of pride in this function dominated by creatures who loathed their religion and the color of their skin.
Mama looked at Sajida. “I’ve half a mind to strike you down right now,” Mama growled at her.
Sajida chuckled, “Ain’t nothing stopping you, sis.”
“You think this is funny?” Aza asked her in a low voice. “You think this a game?”
“I think that it’s inhumane to lock your own daughter up in her bedroom in the dark for lord knows how many hours ’cause you’s afraid of what she already know.”
Sajida’s smile nearly waned at these words, making Mama and Aza stare in disbelief.
“This got nothing to do with you, Sajida!” Mama hissed.
“This got everything to do with me,” she replied calmly. “More than you know.”
“What you trying to get out this?” Mama asked her. “What is it you really want?”
“For you to look in the mirror, Alize. You turning more and more into Mama every day.”
Mama scoffed, “Hush up about that ‘Mama’ nonsense. If anything, you more her out of the both of us. Look at you. An evil witch. Evil. Not a good bone left in your body and I know that more than anybody here.”
Sajida rolled her eyes. And figuring that getting through to Sajida was a lost cause, Mama brought her attention back to me.
“I’m giving you one last chance, Lisa. Leave. Right now.”
“Or what?” I replied. “You gonna lock me up for the third time?”
My tone was icy and uncaring, reflective of how my heart felt towards my mother. I saw her as nothing but a deranged woman too afraid of the truth, even when it was already gaining up on her. She knew how powerful I was; the three of them—Aza, Mama, and Sajida—all knew what I was capable of. But I didn’t. Not yet. However, I was getting closer to this epiphany, and the three of them felt very differently about this.
Mama was completely speechless, whereas Sajida cooed and stifled a laugh at my remark. As the air began to become as cold as my disposition, we were approached by none other than a couple of the Council’s members—Russell and Sylvia.
Mama composed herself as if our conversation never happened and put on a happy face in their presence. Aza tried to follow, but it was a half-assed attempt; when she looked at them, all she saw were the monsters responsible for almost killing Doctor Ben.
“Hope we aren’t interrupting anything,” Sylvia said, smiling cordially. I knew this was bullshit; they were eavesdropping before deciding to come over.
“Not at all,” Mama replied. At this time, the rest of the Coterie had joined the group; the moment the Council approached us, they removed themselves from their secluded corner and joined their sisters in support. Sylvia chuckled at this, then shrugged it off. Russell could care less. In fact, he was more interested in me than in the fact that the Coterie increased their numbers out of distrust.
“Ladies,” Russell said to us. “You all look beautiful tonight. Again, I’m glad you could make it.”
We just smiled in response. No one said a word; the air was tense.
Soon after, a few of Russell’s friends came forward and introduced themselves to us—two gentlemen and a woman. They were very polite, but there was something about the look in their eyes after every bow and curtsey that ensued; they looked like it hurt to be nice.
“My, I’ve always loved those little scarves y’all got on your heads,” the woman, whose name was Georgina, said to all of us. Her smile was uncomfortably bright, and her strawberry blonde hair looked fried. “So pretty!”
“It’s called a tignon,” Aza said, making Georgina laugh uncomfortably.
“Oh,” she said. “Right. Well, I remember way back in the day when all the ‘colored’ women would be walking around the street wearing them. Especially the girls dancing with them on in Congo Square. Adam, you remember those colored girls?”
I saw Mambo Nene slowly look to Mama with a grimace on her face before turning back to face Georgina, who looked confused at the silence that came after.
“Georgina, we don’t say ‘colored’ no more,” Adam whispered to her.
“Really?” She frowned, then began to laugh. “Well, then. What do we say?”
“People of color,” Sylvia said matter-of-factly. “Or African American. ‘Colored’ is...outdated.”
I wanted to roll my eyes, for even Sylvia didn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth.
Georgina processed Sylvia’s words before responding, slightly annoyed, with: “Well, I’ve always just heard we don’t call them the ‘n’ word anymore. I don’t remember ‘colored’ stopping, too?”
Sajida busted out in nervous laughter while gasps and wide eyes erupted from the Coterie. Russell’s back went pin straight before he gave Georgina a strained smile. But before he could interject to cool the situation down, I opened my mouth and let my thoughts roll off my tongue.
“’Colored’ stopped, or should have stopped, after segregation ended,” I said to her. “I’m sure you remember when that happened, right?”
Silence. This silence prevailed for a plethora of different reasons for everyone, but it happened. Georgina looked at me like I had lost my mind, her eye twitching and her pale skin seemingly becoming paler. Sylvia’s face was hard and tense, whereas Russell was suppressing a smile at my snarkiness. It got to a point where bystanders were listening in now.
“I...yes, I do remember when that happened,” Sylvia said, her voice almost croaking. “I remember watching Dr. King’s speech on the television.”
Silence again. Georgina was having a hard time remaining cordial, so she urged Adam to take her to a group of friends by the grand piano to mingle.
“Nice meeting y’all,” he said to us before Georgina practically dragged him away. I felt like I could breathe again when she was gone, but the feeling of breathlessness came back when Russell and I made eye contact. I looked away from him, goosebumps rising on my arms.
“I apologize for Georgina’s lack of propriety,” Russell said to us. “It is quite sad how there are some among us who are less ‘progressive.’”
“Some?” I said, not knowing the words came out of my mouth until Sajida laughed again.
“Lisa,” Mama hissed, but Russell was entertained by my outspokenness.
“Yes, some,” Russell said. “Are you suggesting otherwise?”
I took a deep breath, “Well, most if not all of you were born during a time where black people weren’t even considered human. Even if ‘some’ are not as progressive as others, you have to admit that there’s a superiority complex apparent here with everyone part of your ‘camp,’ right?”
Russell thought of his response for a moment, “I agree, there are vampire clans who think of themselves as superior to other clans, specifically clans of color, but to say every white vampire is prejudice is quite a bold statement.”
“Not every white vampire, exactly. But every white vampire from your time that’s here at this party? I’d be willing to bet on it.”
“Then in that case, what about me? Are you saying that I’m prejudice?”
I laughed, “Why don’t you tell me?”
“Because it will be an answer you won’t like.”
“So, I’m right?”
“No, you’re wrong.”
I scoffed, making Russell laugh.
“See? An answer you don’t like because it does not validate your claim.”
“You could easily be telling me what I want to hear.”
“Or, I don’t fit the mold you have of me in your present mind, which confuses you.”
Present mind. Two words that both Russell and I both caught onto quickly, making it hard for me to form any other words. The look he gave me was as if he was holding back deeply; he wanted to speak about our time together in the past. He wanted to share the memories. But he couldn’t, because he knew I had no recollection of them yet. So he played them over in his head and enjoyed them himself.
I hated that Russell got the last word in, but he enjoyed being the one to finish the discussion. With a smile, he told us to enjoy the party, and that he would see us again later on in the night for “The Meeting.” Then, he and Sylvia disappeared into the crowd that parted for him like he was royalty. Though despite the eyes on him, his heated stare turned to me one more time before returning to the crowd.
Mama knew I could not be stopped. She knew I could not be hidden or shielded. So she didn’t get in my way.
She returned to her corner with the Coterie, and when this happened, I figured I had won. But then I realized that I would be a fool to underestimate her.
Good. You’re learning.
Marie was in my head in this time, speaking to me. Coaching me. I listened; my ancestor was guiding me, and I would be a fool to ignore her.
I stayed close to Sajida; Kira was gone. We kept to ourselves, looking at the vampire clans watch each other and pretend to enjoy each other’s company. I could not see Abraham anymore, nor could I see any of his contemporaries, but I continued to look for him; I looked for Hezekiah, too.
As I surveyed the dining room, my eyes landed on Kizzy, who was near a secluded hallway by the kitchen. She was by herself, beckoning for me to come to her. Her eyes were wide like she was still shocked to see me in the flesh.
I rushed to her, ignoring the vampire’s and their curious stares. When I was close enough to see the hazel tones of Kizzy’s eyes, I was suddenly bombarded with questions.
“Where did you go?! What happened!?”
“Shh,” I said lowly, looking around. When I deemed it safe, I dragged her further into the hallway where we were out of sight.
“I can’t say much now,” I said to her. “There’s eyes on me everywhere, Kizzy. Everywhere.”
“Shit.” Her hand brushed over the green-jeweled necklace stretching across her collar. “Who’d you come with?”
“Sajida. She’s the one who found me.”
“Mama, Aza and Kiah locked me in my bedroom so I wouldn’t make it to the party.”
“Are you serious!?” Kizzy exclaimed, in which I could only nod. She blinked rapidly, trying to understand what I was telling her; trying to believe it.
“Mama doesn’t want me around any of these bloodsuckers, but I need to talk to Abraham. This might be the best chance for me to do it.”
“And how are you going to do that? He has a whole brigade surrounding him, and if you get through them, are you just going to casually tell him that you know he’s your biological father and that your destiny is to destroy him? Who’s to say he won’t kill you or try to kidnap you again?”
“I have a feeling he’ll be more reasonable than that.”
“Oh, come on, Lisa—”
“Just trust me,” I assured her. Kizzy sighed, conflicted. Then, after a moment of thought, caved.
“Fine. What do you need me to do?”
“I need you to distract the Coterie while I look for Abraham. You and the others. Mama can’t know what I’m up to.”
“Don’t you think she already has an idea?”
“Most likely, which means I need you to buy me some time.”
“Alright. But only ten minutes. You don’t find him by then—”
“I know. I’ll come back, I promise.”
I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this mission—looking for Abraham in this giant house. But I know he wanted me to look for him; that look he gave me before Mama approached me said volumes. He wanted me to find him.
Kizzy and I then went our separate ways. I navigated the hallway, eventually making it to a back stairway that led to the second floor. It was eerily quiet as I opened the door that led to a larger hallway with locked doors on either side. I was shaking; I forced myself to continue onward. With my heart sinking into my stomach, I hurried down the dim, ominous hall in search for some type of clue that would lead me to Abraham. Would he leave some type of breadcrumb behind that would point me towards his direction?
I turned the corner, where the hall was darker than the previous one. But in this hall, at the end, was a door that had a red glow on the other side. I could hear female voices, low and muffled. I stood a few yards away from the door, wondering if this is where Abraham wanted me to land. It seemed like the most practical ‘x’ on the map. But still, I couldn’t bring myself to near it.
Suddenly, as I decided to take a few steps towards the door, a hand grabbed my wrist. I almost jumped out of my skin, forcing myself not to scream as I leaped back only to find Kira with her hold on me.
“What are you doing up here!?” she questioned, her white eyes filled with desperation and anxiety.
I couldn’t answer her. I only stared at her as she pulled me in the other direction with haste.
“You can’t let Master Van Doren know you’re up here. No one can know you’re up here!” she said.
Master Van Doren?
“M-Master Van Doren?” I repeated, but she didn’t respond to my question.
“Hurry downstairs,” she said to me. “Quickly.”
“Kira, why are you up here?” I asked her. “What was that room?”
She only stared at me, her pace slowed down to a stop. Her lip quivered, her eyes a blank expanse of ivory.
“Kira...” I said, knowing there was a story behind the silence she delivered. But something was holding her back from telling me the story. Something dangerous. Something deadly.
And despite her vow to secrecy, a blunt force interrupted our interaction.
A strong grip on my arm tightened its hold as I was pushed against the wall. Kira yelped, jumping back as Hezekiah pinned me against the wall, his eyes an inferno of fury. His outfit was the same as Russell’s, and the same as most of the gentlemen at the party—black dress pants, a black tailcoat, a bowtie and a vest.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he whispered to me. His voice, oddly, didn’t sound angry. He sounded apprehensive, almost scared. “You can’t be up here!”
When I looked into his eyes, I remembered him carrying me into my room, conspiring with my mother. I remembered a lot of instances where he demonstrated an aggressive authority over me. I didn’t trust him. At least it felt like I couldn’t.
He then began to drag me down the hall towards the back staircase.
“Bad enough you crawled your way over here. You ain’t got no idea how many them white devils are out for your blood. Not even just them, others too. You got a goddamn target on your back and you think it’s fun and games to come here anyway!?”
He didn’t look at me as he ranted. He just continued to drag me forward and speak to the walls, as if I wasn’t worth eye contact. As if I wasn’t worthy.
To them, I wasn’t worthy.
I slammed my arm into his, which did not hurt him. However, it startled him to the point of releasing his grip on me. I staggered back, Hezekiah turning around and finally looking at me. Now he was enraged. He stepped forward to grab me again, but I stepped back.
“Don’t touch me, Hezekiah,” I said. “If you touch me, I’ll scream. And they’ll hear it, I swear to you!”
“Fuck, Lisa!” he seethed. “Stop it!”
“No, you stop it!” I retorted. “By how you’ve been treating me—dragging me around, yelling at me, locking me up, lying to me—I got every goddamn right to act this way, so don’t make me feel less than for being upset!”
Hezekiah didn’t say anything to me. He saw I was upset; shaking, teary-eyed, confused. He knew what he did to me at Mama’s house was wrong. In fact, he knew of all the wrongdoing he had done against me. Only those times, he had some type of excuse. This time, he had run out.
“If you take another step near me, Hezekiah, I will scream,” I said slower, wiping the tears from my eyes; I hated the fact that speaking to him in this way made me emotional. “I don’t care who comes up here.”
“No.” I shook my head. “Nothing you say can make this better. Your words worked every other time, but not now. You always got to make me feel like I’m being unreasonable. Like me asking questions about where I come from and how I fit into this makes me difficult. You’re always belittling me, using me, jumping back and forth between sides, screaming at me, treating me like I’m a stupid child. You manipulate me. A lot. Like you manipulate everyone else to get what you want. So, I don’t care what comes out of your mouth this time, you’re not dragging me around anymore.”
Hezekiah Mercier, for once in his vampiric career, had been dictated by someone less than; someone far below his rank. Had anyone else told him what I had said, they either would have been dead or worse. But when I said this to him, he just stood there. He didn’t try and grab me again like I expected. He didn’t talk back. He just stood there and sifted through what he just heard me say to him; my feelings. Had he ever accounted for how I felt? Ever?
Ten minutes had passed. I made a promise to Kizzy I would be back to her if I didn’t find Abraham in that time frame. I erased Hezekiah from the image in front of me and walked to the door to the back staircase.
Don’t you let that man distract you from what you came here to do.
Marie’s voice was parental in my head; it almost sounded like she had said this to me before. This wouldn’t be hard to believe; in the past, I must have let Hezekiah lead me astray. I must have created chaos with him as a distraction.
I knew better. When I achieved tempus summatum, I promised myself I wouldn’t make this mistake.
I dried my tears. I removed any and all evidence of my emotional explosion. I walked through the hallway into the foyer where everyone continued to watch the others, “others” being subjective to each side. Since I could not find Abraham on the first try, I would move on. I would speak to Russell Van Doren again past menial conversation. I could wrap him around my finger; anything I had to do.
Suddenly, as I approached the middle of the foyer, I looked to my right and saw him standing still amidst the undead bodies—Abraham, clad in his black tailcoat and bow tie. Tall, large, menacing, destructive. Him and I locked eyes, and it seemed like everyone in the foyer disappeared completely. Abraham, with the large wilted scar on his left eye and death present in his look, was in the foyer. And he knew. He knew that I knew he was my father. I could see it on his face. I wondered how long he waited for me to become enlightened with my status as a hybrid—my whole life? Years? Months? Had he always been aware that I was his child?
Abraham pushed through the party guests, and I did the same. The voices drowned out, not because I forced them to, but because people stopped talking. An unlikely union was happening—the daughter of a voodoo priestess and the Lord of a vampire clan coming together. No one knew Abraham was my father; if they knew, it would disrupt the order. It would bring about questions.
Maybe this needed to happen.
We met in a clearing in the middle of the foyer. He towered above me, significantly superior in just height and weight alone. My chest tightened when I studied his features and realized that he and I shared the same smile. My eyes were from my mother, but my smile was definitely his.
Abraham said nothing. He only extended a hand towards me. I looked down at his palm, then I looked over at my mother, who stood with not only the Coterie, but the rest of the other priestesses that came in attendance. They all were horrified and scared, but Mama’s face was pure mortification; she was melting in front of us into nothing. Abraham’s clan stood behind him, confused yet anticipating what would happen next; what I would do. Then I saw Hezekiah, who now stood close to his Elder brethren behind Abraham. He had a look of defeat that no one else shared, and I knew that Hezekiah felt he was nearing impending doom. But it all depended on whether I joined my hand with his.
Here he was—the vampire who killed my great-great-great-great Grandmother. The vampire who killed Marie Laveau. He ended her life with pride, and now stood before me with his hand extended as an invitation for a waltz. I wondered if dancing with my djab’s murderer would be a disservice to her. Did she feel his teeth in her neck again when she looked at him through me?
Whatever it takes, she said to me. There was determination in her voice, because even she knew that this union was only the first step towards Abraham’s demise.
Whatever it takes, she said again.
Whatever it takes.
I took his hand.