We all make promises, right? To ourselves, to friends, sometimes to people we don’t really know but somehow feel a connection to. And we make them for a variety of reasons. It would be lovely to think that making a promise is altruistic, that our motives are pure, and that we aren’t out for personal gain. That we intend to keep the promises we make is implied. A promise is a solemn vow to do something or act in a certain way in order to accomplish a particular goal. But what happens when promises are not kept?
Before we go any further, I should explain that this post comes to you courtesy of the off-cycle elections. In my state the candidates alternate between bashing their opponents and promising to do what they cannot possibly do without the cooperation of an entire corps of others. Governors can’t accomplish much if the legislative branch shoots them down every time. The legislative branch can’t accomplish much if there’s infighting or small groups intent on having their own way no matter what. It fairly boggles the mind to remember the promises made four years ago and realize that those promises are simply being recycled, not kept. Most of them anyway. It’s downright depressing to think that nothing has been accomplished in this state in the past four years. Of course things have been accomplished. Right?
That said, I voted before I left on my travels. It’s one thing I can do, and although there are those who say one vote doesn’t make a difference, my belief is that at some point they will be wrong. That someone will keep a promise made, no matter how small. That the people we elect will put the people they represent first and foremost when they take their oaths of office. Am I a dreamer? Of course…but it can happen. Think of that when you vote next week and think of your choices as promises in themselves.
And now, I’ll keep my promise regarding Mae. She’s on her way to resolving her latest mess…and then taking a rest as I spend November doing NaNoWriMo. Wish us both luck!
I’d like to tell you that everything went according to plan, and it did after a fashion, but not without some improvising on the part of yours truly and help from an unexpected quarter. My visit with Celine had not set well with Marie-Therese. On my return to the kitchen, she laid into me with a passion about neglecting my duties to cozy up to the young master, as if it would do me any good once the Mister found out my motives. For a brief moment I feared she’d found me out, but when she mentioned some mishmash about how her long years of service had made her immune to any “foreign takeover”, I realized she thought I wanted her job. I meekly assured her that was not the case and finished up my chores for the afternoon, hoping I could at least talk with Benard if I couldn’t revisit Celine before I left.That much I did accomplish. Benard reluctantly agreed to meet me at the cathedral to let me know if Cameron had agreed to Celine’s wish to visit Laura. Sylvain and I could then set the trap and hope our plan would work
It almost all went wrong from the start. Cam did indeed agree to Celine’s request and decided it should be a picnic as well. He arranged with Lisa to put together a basket of Celine’s favorite .foods and to add a thermos of jasmine tea for me. Celine, he said, had requested me to come in case she felt “weary” again. When Marie-Therese overheard the preparations, she promptly declared her intention to join us. Cameron was in no position to go against her wishes, especially as we had no real proof she intended harm to his wife, so our cozy party of four became one more. And I had no way to tell Sylvain. Benard and I could only hope for a miracle.
We left New Orleans by way of the I-10 but soon exited on to one of the many smaller roads that wind through the bayous. Celine wanted to see the country, not just cement and metal and Benard followed her wishes, despite Marie-Therese protesting that the drive would be shorter if we stayed on the interstate. Marie-Therese had commandeered the front seat next to Benard, leaving Cameron, Celine and me in the spacious rear of the car. While I wasn’t pleased with the idea, it did offer up an option for dealing with the Madame once we got to the meeting place, a small abandoned house just two miles from the plantation. It also meant I would need to stay behind. We were almost there when Benard started frowning, as if he heard something unpleasant.
“What is wrong, Benard?” Marie-Therese saw his expression and moved closer to him.
“Keep your seat belt on, Madame,” he growled. “The engine is skipping. Or so it sounds.” I looked past him to see our true destination just a few hundred feet down the road. “I…there. It’s getting worse. I think we may have…”and with that he hit the gas and then turned the key back to the off position, sending the vehicle rumbling into the high grass and almost ramming the railing on the sagging porch. “…a problem,” he finished. “You all right back there?”
“We are,” I answered. “Do we stay inside or get out of the car?”
and…” her voice faded as she saw two shabbily clad figures emerge from behind the house itself. “Who are you?”
“We’d best get out of the car, Mister Cameron,” Benard said, ignoring Madame’s question as the figures came closer. “I don’t see any weapons, but I don’t want us trapped inside just in case I’m wrong.” He got out from behind the wheel and motioned to us to leave by the doors farthest from the strangers.
“He’s right, sir, “I said as I slid the short distance to the door. “Just in case.” I nodded to Celine and was rewarded by a smile. She’d recognized her brother, and I was pleased to see Drum as his companion.
“Looks like y’all have a spot of ve-hicle trouble,” the taller of the two (Sylvain) drawled. “Kin we help? Maybe take y’all to the nearest phone?”
“We have a cell phone, thank you,” Marie-Therese scoffed. “Benard?” She held out her hand, only to have it swatted by my brother as Benard tried to pass it to her. The cell fell on the scraggly brush.
“No bars out here,” Sylvain said. He bent to pick it up, dropped it again, and then stepped on it. “My bad, y’all.” He grinned.
“I guess we’ll take you up on that phone,” Benard scowled. “How far?”
“Not very,” Sylvain said. “My cousin here will show you.” He motioned to Drum to lead us toward the house. “I’ll bring up the rear.” He ambled over to Marie-Therese. “Madame? After you.”
“In there?” Marie-Therese exclaimed. “You expect us to go in there?” She took two steps before falling to the ground, knocked out by the iron skillet Sylvain had liberated from his oversized coveralls.
“One down,” Drum announced.
“Explain yourselves,” Cameron said as he moved in front of Celine.
“This is my husband,” Celine said to Sylvain. “ Cameron, this is my brother Sylvain.”
“Which explains nothing,” Cameron said to her. “Including why my car suddenly dies right here on this country road. Someone had better tell me something I can believe, and soon.”
“More than happy to oblige, Mr. Rodrigue,” Sylvain answered, all business and no drawl. “If you and Celine will join me…” He indicated the interior of the house.
“It’s quite all right, Cameron my love. He’s here to save us. Please.” Celine took his arm and led him a few steps.
“I’ll listen, Cherie, for your sake, but this feels like a kidnap try and my father…”
“Hear me out, sir. Mae, perhaps you’d better come as well.”
“Mae? How does she…”
“Cameron, please. I promise you will understand once you hear it all.”
Unfortunately Benard was in no shape to answer, having been coshed by me with frying pan Sylvain had dropped on the grass. Well it was part of the plan.
“Five minutes of your time sir. But my sister leaves with me at the end of it, no matter what you decide. I won’t have her facing any more danger from your family than she has already.”
Cameron did not look convinced but the expression on his wife’s face was enough for him to grant Sylvain those five minutes. I went too, leaving Drummond to guard the unconscious Madame and cousin Benard.
I won’t bore you again with the details, except to add that Sylvain had the results from Marie-Therese’s soup. Old fashioned laudanum. Powerful and addictive but thankfully not given in enough potency to do more than case extreme lethargy. We’d caught it in time. It wasn’t much of a leap to plant the seed that Cameron’s mother might have been jealous enough of Celine’s beauty to enlist Marie-Therese to “solve” the problem. No proof of course, unless Benard could add that to his list of things to discover. Sadly, he would have to risk getting cozy with either the Missus or Marie-Therese to get any results, but that was for another day.
It took more than five minutes, but in the end, Cameron decided to leave with Celine. He’d been getting more and more unhappy with the turn his father’s business had taken but had hoped, untl this week, that the company was still a legal one. We never mentioned Benard’s role. Just in case. As for me, well I had the honor of being beaned with the frying pan just before Sylvain, Drummond, Celine and Cameron took off into the brush surrounding our meeting place. Like Benard, I had to go back.
We were a sorry sight when the largest of the Rodrigue vans found us. It was the GPS in Cameron’s car that finally led them to our location. By then, we’d all recovered from the frying pan bashing, my head plenty sore even though it was Marie-Therese who had the worst of it and sported two blackened eyes. She and Benard told their story to the Mister…and as a result I got fired. I didn’t fuss too much since the Mister gave me a week’s wages, but I got a few licks in against the Madame before I got myself gone and back to the loft by the river. Benard managed a message to me about Celine and Sylvain, but I didn’t see Sylvain himself. Drummond met me at the loft, his lovely eyes beaming at the adventure, but we agreed to pretend it never happened.
Life in The Big Easy went on, Thanksgiving nearer every day. Drummond and I stayed at the loft, hoping to see our landlord, but mostly just grateful we had a warm place for the winter. Most of my days were spent doing cleaning work by way of the parish. Drummond worked at keeping the church yard in shape, and getting his health back bit by bit. We had volunteered to help serve at the Thanksgiving dinner the church threw for those without any other place to give thanks and were busily setting up the trays and utensils when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“One minute and we’ll be done, Father,” I said as I turned to see Sylvain’s smiling face. “Well, I’ll be blessed, “I finished. “You are a welcome sight to these eyes.”
“As are you, Miss Mae.” He looked at the tables and chairs and baskets of bread and fruit . “I see you’re in the thick of it as usual.”
“Can you stay? How is your sister? I can set you a place at the table.”
“She’s just fine, Mae. So is he. They’re building a new life. Benard is, well…he’s still inside, but getting closer to the truth every day. He says “Hey”.”
“Better than ever. And I’d be glad to stay. Do you have room for two?”
“I brought an old friend.” He motioned to a shadowed figure, a big smile on his face.
“Morales!” My face felt suddenly hot.
“Mae!” He gave me a hug and nodded at Drummond. “I hear you’ve been getting in trouble again.”
“All his fault,” I said, glancing at Sylvain. “But it was fun while it lasted.”