The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 3

the-man-who-wasnt-thereIt’s been about a year since their first battle with Mr. D. Brian and Jordan have embraced their roles in life and practice their skills to be better prepared for the next battle. Since last year, their relationship has changed, no longer just friends, they are now dating.

“Be safe,” Jackie said, making a sign of blessing on their foreheads as they leaned over to give her and Maribelle each a kiss.

“Yes, ma’am,” they chorused, laughing at one another as they walked out of the house.

Their mothers watched them go, smiling and shaking their heads.

“Were we like that?” Jackie asked.

Maribelle grinned. “Yes. I’m sure that Miles and I were awful. I knew I loved him from the time we were kids. He didn’t take to the destined for one another thing very well. He played the field.”

“So did Heath. It freaked him out when I knew every time, and called him on it.” She sipped her tea. “I don’t think Brian’s going to act like that. He doesn’t strike me as a player.”

“He and Jordan’s bond was forged in greater adversity than ours. If the circumstances were the same as ours, I could see it. I think it’s harder for the men to accept. I didn’t have a problem with the idea of Miles being my one and only.”

A plaintive wail pierced the quiet house.

“Herself’s awake. Excuse me.”

“I need to go anyway, honey. Call me later.”

They hugged and Jackie left. Maribelle went upstairs to the nursery. A tiny, pink clad form kicked and mewled in her crib. She stopped wailing when she saw her mother and smiled as she was picked up.

“Hello, precious,” Maribelle said, kissing her baby girl. “How’s my angel?” She carried the baby to a nearby rocking chair and sat down to nurse.

Elise Casey’s dark brown eyes gazed at her mother with love. Maribelle crooned to her baby as they cuddled.

The front door opened. “Where’s my girls?” Miles Casey called.

“Upstairs,” Maribelle replied.

Elise cooed as Miles walked in the nursery door. He kissed them both and sat on the footstool next to them.

“Good day or bad?” Maribelle asked.

“Good. Andre’s making excellent progress. Can’t say the same for Sweet. That boy’s got serious control issues.”

“Brian’s having trouble. I think you need to have Cliff work with him.”

“You’re the one proficient with fire, why Cliff?”

“It needs to be someone who’s not kin. I’ve pampered him. He needs a firm hand. Cliff will provide that.”

“Okay. I’ll give him a call later and see what we can work out.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m going to have a shower. Sweet boiled swamp mud. I think he caught a few crawdads or frogs too.” He sniffed himself. “Ew.”

Brian and Jordan headed to Sweeties Soda Fountain. A full service, old fashioned soda shop, they sold ice cream treats, hot dogs, hamburgers and patty melts. The decor hadn’t changed much since the shop was built in the late 1940s. They took seats at the red linoleum topped counter. Several of their friends walked in and sat next to them.

“So, going to the Halloween Ball Thursday night?” Chase asked.

“Jordan, you wouldn’t know this, but it’s been a tradition around here since our grandparents were teenagers,” his girlfriend, Marissa said.

“Longer,” Chase said. “It just wasn’t called the Halloween Ball. It was the Harvest Ball instead. They changed the name in the Seventies.”

“Why do people keep telling me that?” Jordan asked. “Honestly, I’ve been told about the stinking ball for the last month. Why is it such a big deal?”

“It’s the social event of the fall—until Homecoming,” Marissa gushed. “Come on, you have to go!”

“We’re going,” Jordan replied. “I just don’t know what the big deal is.”

“The rumor mill has a lot to say about it,” Brian replied quietly. “Apparently, back in the day, this was a big community for witches.” He nodded slowly, eyes open wide. “Isn’t that right, Annie?” he addressed their waitress, who was old enough to be his grandmother.

“That’s the skinny,” she replied. “Salem wasn’t the only place to hang witches. No one talks about it, but our town damn near wiped itself out in the early days. Between the witches getting hanged and the people getting hexed, there were only a handful of folks left. Brian’s many greats granddaddy was one of them. He went and married himself a Native bride. Somewhere, back in your ancestry, you’ve got Choctaw blood.”

Annie herself was at least half Choctaw. She bragged to be full blooded, but her brother claimed three quarters. No one argued with either of them, accepting their varying claims with a smile. Annie wandered off to take care of other customers, leaving the teenagers alone for the moment.

“You’re telling me this town hunted witches?” Jordan frowned. “And we live here, why?”

“Amazingly, our families weren’t among the ones hanged. The witches were evil and our ancestors fought against them,” Chase said, snagging one of Brian’s fries.

Brian smacked his friend’s hand. “Get your own. I’m hungry.”

Chase ate another before waving at Annie. He ordered his fries and leaned on the counter.

“How do you know all this?” Jordan asked.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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