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By Paiyne Panic All Rights Reserved ©



Lisette hated Louisiana. It wasn't because of the heat and humidity or the swamp lands that stretched across the southern parts of the state, but because Louisiana was where her parents had divorced. Louisiana was where the judge had ruled that she was to be given to her mother with full custody rights at the age of seven, much to her father's ire. The last time she'd seen the state was when she was seven as her mother drove away from the place she was born right over the line into Mississippi. They'd gone almost immediately north to Ohio after the divorce was finalized and the custody battle won. Her mother had settled them by the Great Lakes where it was cold and wet for half the year and a young child from Louisiana had to adapt to new slang and ridicule for an accent. 

Despite everything, however, if Lisette would have had her way, then she'd have never gone back to her birth state simply because of the memories it brought back. She was settled in Ohio. She had a nice little apartment that she shared with her friend Brianna and a degree in education she intended to put to use. As it so happened, it didn't matter what she wanted even now as an adult. 

"You sure you want to go?" Brianna asked, glancing at Lisette sidelong from the driver's seat. Brianna was a good friend, but she was asking a question that hadn't been unasked by herself since she'd received the call informing her that her father had died. With a mother already gone thanks to cervical cancer, there was no one else to reach out to beyond Lisette to take care of Travis Benoit's funeral and estate. Even if she didn't want to deal with any of that the lawyer she'd spoken with had told her that she was mentioned in his will as the person to contact when he passed. There were things that she needed to claim and sort through, and as much as she didn't want to it meant returning to her home town of Marais. 

"I don't have a choice," Lisette returned, not the first time she'd said as much in response to her friend's concern. 

The two women couldn't look more different, but they'd become fast friends. Lisette was short with pale skin and more freckles than she'd like from her brief childhood spent in the Louisiana sun. She had a shock of red hair just like her mother that curled into tangles. Brianna was dark and tall. Her eyes, her skin, and her hair all dark though her attitude was bright even when Lisette sometimes wished it would gain a bit more pessimism. Since they'd met in college the two had grown exceedingly close, thinking of each other like sisters which amused their other friends given their looks. Nevertheless, if it weren't for Brianna's often too-bright outlook on things, Lisette wasn't certain she'd have ever gotten through her mother's death among other things.

"Girl, if it bothers you that much we could just turn around." Brianna replied, the tone in her voice letting Lisette know exactly what look she'd have received were the other woman's eyes not back on the road ahead.

"I'm just going to see what I was left. I don't care about anything else, and as soon as that's over with we'll leave." Lisette promised, already dreading the upcoming visit. Marais was in the southern part of Louisiana and bordered along the edge of Malheur Swamp. She still had the vague memories of being scared off from going to close to the swamp lands. The Cajuns in the community always liked to tell stories about the swamps and what lay in it, and Lisette had always liked to listen. It was always her mother that would drag her back to their home, scolding her for letting old men fill her head with folk stories. It didn't ever stop her from going out to listen. She wondered if any of the men she'd listened to were even still alive. 

The county line drew closer than Lisette would have liked despite the fact their road trip had taken them a day to complete given that both women had to rest and eat along the over fifteen hour drive had they gone straight through. It was dark, and the familiar muggy air of swamp hit Lisette as soon as she opened the car door. Brianna, having never been this far south, didn't seem to be taking the drastic change of scenery well. Lisette could relate, having had to do the same only in the opposite sense of Brianna given she'd adjusted to the Ohio cold.

Marais was a swamp faring town that hardly ever had visitors. There wasn't much use for hotels or anything of the sort, so Lisette knew better than trying to look around for one. Last she remembered the best a stranger could do was go find a place that didn't mind sharing their home for a night. Given that Lisette wasn't a complete stranger she hoped to have some luck.

The houses around Marais were built by hand and passed through generations of swampers of all breeds. Lisette's mother hadn't exactly been a swamper when she'd married Travis Benoit, but she'd adapted the best she could until finally leaving. Most of the homes weren't run down or ragged, but there was the feel that the modern world had stepped right over Marais and kept moving on. There were lights, and simple amenities, but nothing much more. The people lived off the land and liked it, and after so long away Lisette had to admit she'd been spoiled by creature comforts in the years she'd lived in Ohio. She was better off than Brianna who hadn't set a foot in so much as a camp ground in her life, let alone a town bordering a Louisa swamp. It wasn't any surprise that the taller woman stuck to Lisette as they walked around, trying to find a house with a few lights on.

The first place she tried took one look at them before turning off their lights and locking their doors. The next couple had similar reactions, and it wasn't until the last one they tried that Lisette finally figured out why. The last house was owned by a family which Lisette had known as a child. Their son had been a friend of hers, and when his mother --Tracy La Fleur-- answered the door Lisette couldn't help but beam a bit at the familiar face.

"Mrs. La Fleur," Lisette said with a smile, and the woman seemed confused at first before she looked harder and smiled back. A little weary.

"Is that little miss Lisette I see?" At the red-heads nod the smile brightened out of it's tiredness and seemed to gain energy. "How've you been, darling? Heard about your poor father, I'm so sorry."

Lisette's smile tightened, but she didn't let herself falter now. "I've been doing just fine. I need a place to stay the night until I can get daddy's things settled in the morning." It occurred to her that after twenty-one years away from this town her accent was coming back strong despite herself. She'd worked hard to smother it from her speech though she still spoke with a hint of it, and now it was just getting more pronounced the longer she spoke with another native. It irked her horribly.

"Well of course," Tracy exclaimed, "Jase is going to be thrilled to see you. Come on in!"

"I have a friend, too. I hope you don't mind..." Lisette added quickly as the woman turned go in, but at her words Tracy turned around ready to greet whomever was with her. When the older woman's eyes landed on Brianna who stepped up beside Lisette her expression twitched unpleasantly and the smile on her lips quickly became fake. Cold. 

"Y'know, dear, I don't think we've got the room for two guests." Tracy said, and Lisette could just about feel as well as hear the falseness dripping from the words. Lisette's eyes narrowed, and she looked between Brianna and the suddenly unwelcoming woman before her. The reason why hit her all at once, then, making anger boil up inside of her. No one in Marais would take them, not simply because they lacked a hospitable bone in their body, but because they weren't accommodating to certain folk. Tracy, and everyone else, weren't letting them stay because Brianna was black.

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