Two days later, Alma and Alouette sat on Alma’s front porch, sipping tea while rocking in the swing. A cool breeze rustled through the trees, taking the heat and humidity with it. For the past hour after dinner, Alouette spoke of the horrors she’d been through, the terrifying experience of giving birth at such a young age, watching her mother die during childbirth. Alma knew the girl needed to talk—to release the painful memories—but hearing the tragic story made her feel sick and angry.
Once released from the hospital and papers signed giving legal custody to Alma, she’d taken Alouette shopping for clothes, shoes and a much-needed haircut. The poor girl’s hair was in such a deplorable state the hairdresser had to cut most of it off. Before, the dead, knotted locks hung down to the top of Alouette’s thighs. Now, the perky, cute bob framed her lovely face, setting off her beautiful features and graceful neck.
The loss of Elaine still hurt, but the addition of Alouette into Alma’s life was a welcome salve.
The last few minutes had been spent in silence. Alma assumed Alouette needed a break from talking and decided not to push or prod the child for information. It was best to let Alouette share when she felt the need.
Suddenly, Alouette burst into tears. “Why didn’t you want her? She was the most wonderful person and you didn’t want her. Why?”
Alma set her tea down and grabbed both of Alouette’s hands. “I’m not going to lie to you, Alouette. You’ve been through too much to endure more falsehoods. I wasn’t much older than you are now, and I was scared, not even near ready emotionally to be a parent. Cye and I weren’t serious—only dating. Neither of us could handle being parents. I only had two options: abortion or adoption. I couldn’t bear the thought of killing the child inside me, so I went to an adoption agency in Baton Rouge. I got to pick out the people who adopted her—the LaTorres. I met them and knew they’d be wonderful parents—give my child a life Cye and I never could.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. It’s just…oh, so many things. So unfair. So unreal.”
Alma brushed back a lock of Alouette’s hair. “What happened to the LaTorres, Alouette? Do you know?”
“They died in an accident in France when Mom was only six. Mr. LaTorre’s boss, Paul DeValle, took her in. Mom said he felt guilty for sending the family to France for a vacation and wanted to make it up to her. Not long after she moved in, he died. Mom was forced to go live with Foret and Ada LeBlanc, Paul’s half-brother and sister-in-law. Foret abused her and she got pregnant. I’m not really sure how we ended up with Herme, but I think we were sold.”
Alma’s sobs erupted as she reached over and hugged Alouette. “I’m so sorry, honey. Truly. I’ll never be able to say it enough. I can promise you this, though: you’ll never be hurt again. Ever. I’ll make sure of it.”
After several minutes of crying hot tears, Alma stood and went inside. She brought out the photo albums full of picture of her, Elaine and their parents. Both of them marveled at how much they looked alike when Alma was Alouette’s age.
“This is your family—your roots. All the dreams we’ve both had that we thought weren’t possible, are now. By crazy happenstance, we’ve been reunited. Now, let’s get some rest. It’s been a really long day for me, and tomorrow’s a big day for you. Are you sure you want to go to Foret’s funeral?”
Alouette nodded. “Yes. I need to say a few things—get them off my chest. I know he can’t hear me, but I still need to say them.”
Though she didn’t agree and certainly didn’t understand, Alma simply nodded. This wasn’t her call to make—it was her granddaughter’s.
“Elaine’s service today was really beautiful. I’m glad Papite was able to come. It was good to see him. He looks so different now. Too bad Remy couldn’t make it.”
Alma smiled through her tears. “Yes, it was. Elaine was a great lady—a perfect sister—and my best friend. Hard to believe she’s gone. I wish Cye would have been able to make it. We were all close. And yes, Papite looked so happy—so healthy! He seems really excited about his new foster family. I’m so glad they’re moving him far away from here. With all that’s happened, and the craziness of having an uncle as a killer, it’s a good thing he gets to start over someplace where no one knows him.”
“What will happen to Remy?”
“Oh, I’m sorry Alouette. I forgot to tell you! Detective Booth told me at Elaine’s service today Papite begged his new foster parents to take in Remy after he recovers. They agreed, given what the two boys went through, deciding it was best not to separate them.”
“That’s wonderful! Goodness, Pumpkin and Catfish are with their real parents now in Wisconsin, and Jacob’s back home in Baton Rouge. It’s all worked out, even though the journey to get there was hard. So very hard.”
Alma stared at the young girl in front of her, marveling at the wisdom she possessed and the fact she had a grandchild. How could someone who suffered so much still be so sweet and forgiving? Though she’d arranged for Alouette to start therapy next week to help work through the torrent of issues trapped inside her mind, Alma felt a sense of peace settle over her heart.
Alouette Emmett would be just fine.
Just fine, indeed.
Alma pulled up in front of Buie Funeral Home and parked. Alouette stared at the building, a weird mixture of emotions splashed across her face. Alma reached over and touched her hand. “You ready?”
Alouette nodded and exited the car. Alma walked by her side into the small front parlor. A simple sign printed out on an eight-by-ten piece of paper was stuck to the door first door on the left. Services for Foret LeBlanc.
Alouette squared her shoulders and pushed the door open. A simple metal casket sat in the corner, not one spray of flowers around or any mourners paying their respects. Alouette walked up to the casket and looked down. The stranger lying in the metal box looked awful. Thick makeup caked his face, unable to hide the multitude of bruises and cuts. A twinge of pity at dying in such a horrible way made Alouette feel sad for some odd reason.
“I don’t know you, or what kind bad things happened to you when little to turn you into such a monster, but whatever horrible things done to you by others, I’m sorry you endured them. Sorry someone hurt you so bad all you knew was hate and not love. For my own mental sake, I forgive you for what you did to me. To Mom. If I don’t leave my anger here to be buried with you, I fear I’ll turn out just like you. That, for my mother’s sake, will not happen. The nightmare you caused ends with you.”
Alma trembled with pride and pain while listening to the mature words spoken by a mere teenager who’d suffered unspeakable tragedies. She knew then, beyond a shadow of a doubt, her granddaughter had the heart of a fighter and the soul of a saint.