Today was Valentine’s Day. And I knew there was no way I’d be able to leave Miranda to go on a date with Dank. Wyatt had planned a romantic evening and he’d been teasing her with little notes for weeks that left hints about what they would be doing. I walked into Miranda’s bedroom and she’d taken all those notes off her mirror and had them on her bed in a circle around her. The bear he’d given her last year was sitting in her lap and the necklace he’d saved so long for was in her hand. She was rubbing the smooth diamond as she stared at the notes in front of her.
When I closed the door behind me her head shot up and a small smile touched her lips. “Hey, I didn’t expect you here today of all days. Don’t you have a date?’
I shook my head and walked over to sit on the corner of the bed careful not to move or sit on one of those small slips of paper that were now treasures. “No, today I’m here with you. Dank can wait. I think you need me more than he does right now.”
Miranda’s smile wobbled and she squeezed the bear in her lap tighter. “I’ve reread all these hints a million times and I can’t figure it out. He’d been planning it for months. You’d think...” her voice broke and she took a deep breath, “you’d think I’d have managed to figure out the surprise by now. But Wyatt was so good at keeping secrets. He didn’t want me to figure it out. He wanted to surprise me.”
She was right of course. Wyatt loved teasing her. He’d teased her even back when we were kids. I’d always been the one tagging along doing the dangerous fun things and Miranda had looked like a little doll all dressed in pink watching us disapprovingly. He’d been enamored with her back then. She was something he didn’t understand but even as a kid he wanted to touch her. He treated her like a fairy princess. Something breakable and precious. I’d always rolled my eyes in disgust but remembering them that way made me smile.
“I’ll be okay, Pagan. You’ve spent every day with me since, since,” she broke off and touched the picture that sat to the right of her bed. It was Wyatt in his basketball uniform smiling brightly with his MVP trophy from last year’s State championship game. “Go with Dank. Have fun. For me.”
I couldn’t have fun with Dank knowing my best friend was curled up on her bed with notes from her dead boyfriend surrounding her while she mourned all alone. I needed to get her out of this room. “I have a better idea. Dank is busy tonight. I’ve released him from our plans and he decided he’d catch the Atlanta concert Cold Soul is having tonight. Originally he’d told them he couldn’t make it but now he’s already headed that way.” Okay so I was lying but she’d never know that. “So you and I are going to go bake chocolate chip cookies and then watch the entire first season of The Vampire Diaries.” I wasn’t a Vampire Diaries fan but Miranda was addicted to the show. She had every season on DVD and iTunes. She could watch it whereever she was. Like I said she was addicted.
Miranda rested her chin on the bear’s head and peered over at me through her long lashes that curled up perfectly without any help at all. “Okay. I can do that,” she replied.
“Of course you can. Now get up and let’s go raid your momma’s pantry for chocolate chips. Maybe she has some of those peanut butter chips again. We could make peanut butter chip cookies too.”
Miranda sat the bear down and laid the necklace lovingly on the table beside Wyatt’s picture. Then she carefully gathered up each note scattered around her bed counting them so she didn’t miss one and then laid then beside the necklace. Once she was finished she turned to me, “Let’s go make some cookies. I haven’t eaten in days.”
The smell of mold and earth and evil met my nose as I stepped into the old wooden shack. The rotten exterior of the house made it hard for me to believe it hadn’t caved in from something as simple as a rain storm. The walls inside weren’t much better from what I could see. Shelves filled with jars of items meant for spells and ridiculous concoctions meant to heal bodies, inflict sickness, remove memories and countless other purposes covered most of the walls. The people brave enough to venture out into this part of the swamp and walk through this door were the ones most desperate for an answer. Most people who knew of the true power of voodoo stayed away. It wasn’t an evil humans needed to dabble in. It could possess you, steal your soul if you allowed it.
The old woman I’d come to see was sitting by the small coal fire and covered in a crocheted blanket. The rickety old rocking chair stopped moving the moment I’d entered the room. She’d felt me. Even one who’d lived a life controlled by the unholy union of voodoo knew when Death was near. She expected me soon but it wasn’t her time just yet. I’d be back for her eventually and her soul was bound for eternal Hell. That I was sure of. A voodoo doctor never got another lifetime. Once they sold their souls that was it. No going back. The tin cup in her hands was set down beside her on a small handmade table. I could see the trembling of her arms as she carefully placed her cup down.
“May, de goose pimples say dat you here. Ahm ret to face de cos’ for my choices,” the old lady’s voice shook as she addressed me. I appeared in front of her leaning against the warm black coal furnace.
“Ah not hyah for you soul jest yet,” I drawled in the dialect I knew the old woman would understand easily.
Frowning she stared up at me, the whites of her eyes standing out against the darkness of her skin. “Whut you tink ah’m crazy?”
Chuckling, I shook my head no. “You might as well git it in dat haid, ah’m not hyah for you jest yet. Ahm not gon leaf befo I get wat I came for.”
“Wat dat be? Sho don want de gris gris. Dis me know.”
I nodded, “No gris gris, dat ain’t why ah’m hyah.”
She shifted in her chair and tried without success to sit up straighter. Her back humped forward so badly that it made her attempt impossible.
“Den tell me whut you wan an be don wit it. Me non lak you een hyah.”
No, I’m sure she didn’t like me in her home. I was the ending to her life. The only life she’d get. But I wasn’t here to appease an old woman’s fear. I was here to find out what exactly she did to Pagan.
“Tell me bout de gris gris dat saved de life of dat pischouette,”
The old woman began shaking her head with a look of horror in her eyes. “No, cain do dat. De spirit dat save dat gurl, he’s mean lak a warse.”
“Me know Ghede saved her. Ah’m not askin you dat. Whut needs to be don to end de gris gris curse on her soul?”
Her gnarled hands wrestled nervously with the afghan in her lap. Ghede was the voodoo spirt lord of the dead, Leif’s father. In her religion he was the end-all. Even though I stood before her she wouldn’t face me for all eternity. I’d simply remove her soul. Ghede would lord over her while she faced her eternity.
“Arryting Ghede do cos. Dat momma knew whut she’s doin when she axe me to save dat beb.”
“Den tell me whut dar can be don to change it,” I demanded, growing tired of her dodging my question.
With a deep sigh, the woman lifted her glassy eyes to meet mine, “a soul for a soul is whut it cos. Nothin less wilt do. Maybe cos more. Ghede want dat gurl.”
Stepping back out of the crumbling house I took in a deep breath of air. Although it wasn’t exactly fresh it was better than the... dank smell inside the voodoo doctor’s home. With a smirk at the irony, I glanced back over my shoulder one more time before leaving to go convince Pagan that she needed to confront the one person I knew needed to understand the consequences of her choices. Before Ghede decided to start demanding attention.