Dark and Light Tales of Ripton Town
by John Decarteret
Teddy, was that you?
Nate had just moved in to his new flat in a small town called Ripton after breaking up with his wife of two years. He was only 23, and he had a son who was just 18 months old. Nate had lost everything along with his wife, his addiction to alcohol had cost him his job and his home. He and his wife had been together since high school and it felt odd to be single and in an empty house alone, but he was picking his son Jack up the next day since it would be the weekend, and he had not had a drink in three months. He was in the middle of painting his extremely small kitchen wall when his phone began to ring in his pocket.
“Hello,””he said, putting the paint brush down and sitting on the ladder he was previously standing on. It was his soon to be ex wife who had called him to tell him what time to come by the house and pick up Jack.
“Yeah, alright, sounds good,” he replied to her in a sad voice. She was having lunch with her friends and Nate had to pick up his son at eleven in the morning, across the other side of town. His wife kept the car since she still worked and had less time to waste with public transport, meaning he either had to call a cab which he could not really afford or take a bus which he hated.
“I need a break,” he said to himself, throwing his phone on the tiny Breakfast bar that hardly looked big enough to place a mug never mind a plate. He washed his hands in the sink with cold water since he did not have any hot water or even electricity yet, before changing out of his paint speckled overalls and into jeans and a sweatshirt that had not been ironed and smelled a bit since once again, he could not afford a washing machine or a dry cleaners. He did have an iron, but no means to work it, with no power in his flat. He grimaced at himself as he looked in the mirror on his bathroom wall which was already there when he moved in, all smudged with a huge crack through it.
“You look and smell like crap Nathaniel, sort your life out,” he said to his reflection and shook his head. He decided to get out of the shoe box he now called home to get some fresh air away from the paint fumes and self loathing that stunk to high heaven. The lift in his building was broken and he had to walk down staircase after staircase until he eventually reached the bottom, and left the miserable place behind him as he walked down the street. The street led him to a bunch of houses that did not look much better than his flat, the fences and gates were broken and dust bins were overflowing with junk, this was undoubtedly one of the poorest places along with the flats to live. There was a little old woman with a huge table on the road outside of her home with bits of old rubbish on it that she was trying sell. Nate walked up and gave her a slight nod as he looked over the table. There were little ornaments that were chipped and cracked and looked very cheap, and a box of dominoes he noticed was half empty. He got a little edgy when he spotted some old books stacked up, there were strange titles like “How to be a witch” and “The book of curses”.”He was about to leave and continue his walk, to get away from this person when he spotted a brown Teddy Bear, it looked surprisingly nice considering all of the other stuff the lady was trying to make money from. The Teddy had dark brown fur and round ears, it was fairly ordinary with short arms and legs that were just rounded off at the ends with no paws. Nate smiled and picked it up. It was soft and cuddly and had a red ribbon around its neck, one of its eyes were coming slightly loose, but he had some super glue that could easily fix it, it was just an average round eye you would find on any Teddy Bear.
“How much for this Teddy? My son would like it I think,” he asked the woman with dread who suddenly looked at him with wide eyes like she had been given a fright. She looked really old and hunched forward with a cane in one hand. Her long gray hair looked like it had never seen a brush in its life and her eyes were wide and dark from the shadow of her brow as she leaned forward and looked at Nate.
“Nothing, it is yours, take it,” she answered him in a broken voice that sounded breathy and harsh.
“No, I have to give you something for it,” Nate said as he dug his hands in his pockets to look for some change.
“Just take it, what use is it to me? I am an old woman, and you look homeless, just take it,” she said, waving her hand at him to be gone. Nate felt wounded at her words, but he also understood them, he did look homeless, he nodded to her and walked back the way he came towards his new home.
“Going to smell like a rubbish tip by the time I get up these stairs,” he moaned to himself as he began climbing. When he reached the top, he did indeed smell like a rubbish tip, and decided he would take a bath which would be cold, but better than smelling like that. He entered his kitchen and put the Teddy down on the breakfast bar before going to the bathroom and filling up the tub. He got out of his smelly clothes and took a deep breath before putting his foot in the water.
A House Out of Time
by John Decarteret
Richard and Rose were on vacation for the first time in years, they finally
had enough time and money to relax and enjoy their retirement. They had
spent their lives running a small grocery store and raising their children,
who were now all grown up and had kids of their own. They lived a
normal hard working life, and put the kids through college and made sure
they had the best education, as was normal. Now they were driving down
a quiet road in the middle of summer with no worries and all the time in
the world to enjoy themselves.
“How long until we reach the house Richard?” Rose asked her husband
who was looking at the map over the top of his glasses.
“Well we should be just about there according to the map, but I am not
really sure, I think this may be wrong, we have been driving down this
road for over an hour and we have not seen another car in all of that time,
do you think this is an abandoned road?” Richard said continuing to look
over his glasses at the map.
“The website where we found the house had that map on it for directions,
I am sure we are going the correct way, and yes it has been rather quiet,
but it will be dark soon and there is nothing around here, it is all open
country, not even any farms, no reason for anybody to be around here,” she answered him with a smile.
“Yes I suppose you are right, anyway, we will see the house when we
come to it.” Richard folded the map up and put it in his shirt pocket. They
found the house by chance on a website they had stumbled across, they
were looking for a quiet place to stay for the weekend, somewhere
isolated and pleasant.
“This is it Richard, it is bigger than I thought,” Rose said as the house
appeared in the distance in front of them, like the road they were on was
one huge driveway.
“That is quite odd, don’t you think? Should the road not go past the house
rather than directly to the front?” Richard asked confused. Rose did not
answer except for a nod, as the huge house became clearer as they closed
in on it. It was now in full view with a huge metal metal fence with gates
that opened as they slowed down and approached.
“They must have security cameras, and opened the gates when they saw
us, impressive place this,” Richard said.
“Oh, look at that! That is beautiful Just like that movie with the man with
scissors,” Rose said pointing out a hedge that had been shaped into what
looked like a dinosaur.
“Edward Scissorhands, I did not think people actually did that, except in
that movie,” Richard chuckled. They drove up to the doors of the house
and got out of the car. It was a mansion, with pillars on the porch, and a
swing that was moving back and forth with the wind and squeaking. The
house was painted white and looked like a smaller version of the White
House in DC. They walked up to the huge double doors that were at least
ten feet high, and just like the gates, opened on their own. They stepped
inside, into the hallway, the ceiling looked extremely high, and the
hallway was thin. At the end of the hallway, a woman stood with hands
crossed in front of her, she wore a long black dress, almost looking like a
nun from a distance, with her dark hair tied up in a bun. She had a pale
face and dark eyes. They walked towards her slowly, their footsteps
echoing in the narrow but high hall. They looked around at the paintings
on the walls that were brown and faded portraits, of gloomy faces that
looked quite disturbing for reasons unknown. A ticking was the only
other sound, coming from a grandfather clock that stood behind the
woman, it was enormous and wide, and towered above her.
“Hello, we are the Brown’s, we have booked a room for the weekend,”
Richard said to the woman who nodded, turned left and walked. Richard
and Rose looked at each other with confused expressions as they
followed the woman in black. The hallway opened up the rest of the
house when they walked out of it, the ticking of the clock followed them
as they walked behind the woman. She walked up to a desk just like any
other you would find in a hotel, and picked a key from the wall with a tag
that had 666 on it. Richard took the key and gulped at the numbers, and
Rose rolled her eyes.
by Kimelene Carr
The town of Arouca was abuzz with busy pedestrians, noisy traffic and car stereos blasting the latest soca music of the upcoming Carnival season.
Early morning traffic on the Eastern Main Road was always congested and very much expected, especially on the first Monday on the opening of the new school term.
Horns blared above the common sounds of persons hurrying along and school children laughing and chatting excitedly as they idly awaited transport.
The ugly frowns on drivers’ faces expressed their impatience which was made more evident by the abuses they screamed at each other in bumper to bumper traffic.
Maxi-taxi passengers who knew their destination was near, opted to get out and walk the rest of the way. Parents hastened along the sidewalk trying to get their young children to school before having to dash off to their various places of work.
It was easy to recognize the ‘seasoned’ parents as opposed to the ‘first timers’. Those who were new at getting their kids to school, were merrily telling their infants how fun school was going to be, but at the same time, anxiously cautioning them about the do’s and don’ts.
However, parents who had a term or more of taking their children to school were simply yelling at them to walk faster. Bianca Ali was one of those ‘seasoned’ parents and she was very late.
“What happen to allyuh? Strolling like you early. Hurry up and walk fast, nah!” She playfully teased her two kids: a six year old boy and a five year old girl.
Despite attending one of the most prestigious schools in the Caribbean, where one was given an order mark for simply saying “Can I?” instead of “May I?”, Bianca found it easy to slip back into her native Trinidad dialect when her emotions were running high. This morning was no exception.
A morning like this was the usual dilemma for single parents. And why was she a struggling, single parent? Seven years ago, she was a wide eyed innocent who truly believed her entire world and very existence was dependent upon each breath Kenroy Fraser took.
He was everything her mother had warned her about: an uneducated, low class, street bum, but Bianca had loved the tingling excitement of danger that had always seemed to surround him and besides, he was so good looking. “Good looking,” her mother used to laugh. “That big eye, bean head, looking like Ma Coffee son? Girl, you too pretty for he. Better doh bring no belly here, you know. I don’t want no gorilla- face-looking grandchildren.”
But despite all that ole talk Bianca knew that were her mother still alive, Mammy Sue (as Bianca had so fondly called her) would have loved her grandchildren and given Bianca the support she desperately needed. She sure as hell didn’t have Kenroy’s support; not financially not emotionally.
His visits were few and far between. When it came to the upbringing of her children and other adult responsibilities, she played the double role. And by some miracle and also because of her own personal convictions, she was able to do everything without her ever having to be someone else’s mattress.
She thanked her good senses that she had at least finished her schooling and obtained the necessary certificates to advance to a degree. However, giving birth to two children and the responsibilities that ensued, didn’t allow her much time to pursue a full time tertiary level education.
And so, at twenty-three, she had only recently, through government assisted programs over the last two years, been able to reach as far as obtaining a first year degree in nursing and was fortunate enough to get a job at one of the country’s most highly advanced yet most hated hospitals.
“What a morning!” she exclaimed more so to herself, passing her hand over her head to smooth her unruly, soft, dark brown hair. In local dialect, her curly hair, soft, dark eyes and smooth olive skin, would be referred to as dougla.
Bianca wiped the beads of perspiration from her forehead as she bundled the children’s schoolbags higher on her back, at the same time trying to smooth the wrinkles that kept appearing on her work uniform. Her shift, she knew, had already started.
And as much as the doctors and nurses at the Hope Street Hospital had earned a reputation of being neglectful, unethical and downright evil, Bianca tried to believe that she could still make a difference in the lives of those patients who came into her care. If only she could get to work on time!
Further east of Arouca, much further, where the commercial elements of city life transitioned into the easy, nonchalant peace of rural country life, lay a town called Matura.
And there, amidst the cocoa field which curtained the rivers that were lined with fat pork and balata trees, amidst the forested area where a tasty curry pot ran on four legs and just under the horizon of clear, perfect blue skies that framed acres of banana trees, was where Trevor Lezama lived.
The Lezamas had been living in Matura ever since Mama Petunia migrated from Venezuela at the turn of the century and married Mr. Miguel Lezama who was also a native to Caracas.
There was no love story behind their marriage, just an arrangement of practicality. Mama Petunia needed a husband and Mr. Lezama needed a strong wife with great child bearing hips.
Together they worked hard planting the acre of agricultural land that adjoined the two lots that their one bedroom shack was built on.
Now, eleven children, eighteen grandchildren and nine great grandchildren later, their one bedroom shack was a solid cosmopolitan styled, two story brick house.
Trevor was one of those great grandchildren and he and his father were the only descendants of Mama Petunia and Papa Lezama who had a love for cultivating the land.
Trevor’s dad, Innocent Lezama, was contented in overseeing the multi acre plantain and banana plantation, carrying on the tradition and legacy that his grandparents had begun whilst his siblings had migrated abroad creating legacies of their own.
As for Trevor, all he’d ever known was the land. He breathed it, lived it, worked it,… hell, he even ate from it. And he knew that when he died, his very bones should be buried under a Gros Michel banana tree.
Now, this morning, despite his parents’ reassurance that he would always have the land, he knew his journey today would take him one step away from the only life he’d ever known.
“You should have your degree. Most young people your age have already completed their Masters and started successful careers, not whittling away on a banana plantation. Go and experience life! You don’t have to settle for my life,” his father had advised, several months ago.
Trevor knew his parents would never understand the fact that he wanted to ‘whittle away’ on the plantation. And as melodramatic as it may sound, he was about to die of boredom in a classroom.
The five years he had spent at North Eastern, despite attaining seven distinctions, had been sheer torture. But to ease his parents’ minds, he decided to give the degree a try after all… just not full time.
And so he was about to go to USTATT this morning, to complete the registration he should have done during the August holidays. Dressed in a black Kenshin T shirt, khaki Drydock three quarters and a pair of tanned Prestos, he jumped in his black, Toyota 4×4 and began his drive to the nearest USTATT Campus which was located on the compound of the Hope Street Hospital.
“Hope Street? Girl you crazy? Is just a lil fever Dexter have. Next thing I carry him Hope Street and he end up in the morgue? Dem people does kill yuh children. Not my chile! Ah-tal!”
Sandra Edwards called out to her sister, Jean, as she hung clothes on the line outside her apartment in Curepe. Sandra was one of the many parents throughout Trinidad who had learnt the hard way that only rich people could really afford to get sick because at least they could pay to get proper health care.
Poor people and the rest of the working class had to rely on the incompetency of public hospitals. Of course, Sandra knew, public hospitals did serve a purpose.
There, children were vaccinated, women were provided with ante natal care and pensioners could have their prescriptions filled.
There were also doctors and nurses who were very dedicated to their work and there had been a number of successful surgeries and birth deliveries at public hospitals (Hope Street included), but it did not even outweigh or even balance the many wrong diagnoses that led to multiple deaths(especially at Hope street) and numerous deaths by malpractice.
Sandra herself had been a victim once of the unethical and not so partial standards and so called ‘policies’ of the Hope Street Hospital. They had accidently cut the skull of her first baby with a pair of forceps during a routine C-section delivery.
Or as the highly educated doctor succinctly stated in his report: “A laceration was shown to appear on the skull of the fetus.”
And in Trinidad, poor people had no rights so justice was never served. Sandra was not about to let them take another of her children’s life.
Her son Dexter was sick, yes, but it was just a little temperature and besides, she would rather have her teeth pulled out whilst undergoing brain surgery without anesthesia, than let any doctor at Hope Street touch her sugar plum Dexter.
Just then, Sandra heard her sister, Jean, shouting, “Oh gawd! Sandra! Come quick! Look this boy eye rolling in he head!”
Now Sandra had lived at Starstella Street in Curepe all of her twenty nine years. Growing up and especially in more recent times, persons shouting in distress were quite common.
Her neighbourhood was labeled a crime hot spot in Trinidad so Sandra had become immune to the sounds of screaming, fighting and gunshots.
She had seen and heard it all: the loud explosions of guns firing, drugs selling right in her front yard and she even had to tend to a bullet wound of a resident gang member once, whilst waiting for the police and ambulance to arrive.
So there was nothing that could really scare her easily; except now. She had heard her sister’s words and they were like the stabs of knives inflicting pain through and through. Dexter was passing out?
Her darling, doux- doux sugar plum? Her little toolum, sugar cake was probably dying? Sandra dropped the clothes basket she was carrying and ran to the house crying, “Ah coming!
Mama spoil chile, ah coming!” And with a certain fear and all-consuming dread, she suddenly realized where she must take him. “Oh God, don’t let them kill my son, today,” she prayed silently.
Summer Moments… when moments make memories
by Kimelene Carr
When his car stopped in front her house, Michael remained behind the wheel as Alex got out. They had
driven in silence all the way and it seemed they would be parting in silence too.
“Good-bye,” she whispered and then as an afterthought she added, “Thank you for a lovely evening.”
She closed the car door and walked towards the house. As she stepped up onto the porch, Michael called her name.
Alex turned and watched as he got out the car and ran up to her. He held both her hands. Silence, then smiling, he said, “Goodnight.”
She managed a quick upturn of her lips, loving him all the while even though she felt
depressed. He released her hands and she opened the door and went inside.
Alex waited to hear his car drive off and only then did she let the first teardrops fall.
After saying goodnight to Jason who was already home from the clinic, she had taken a couple of Connie’s
pills to help her sleep and before ten o’clock, she was already out.
Somewhere in the deep realm of sleep, she heard her name. She woke up slowly and groggily looked at the
bedside clock. Two thirty-five am.
When she didn’t hear her name again, she knew she must have been dreaming. But just as Alex was settling
back against the pillows, there was a shattering sound of glass and a small rock hit the wall above her.
She instantly jumped out of bed and ran to the now broken window. She looked down and couldn’t believe
“Michael! Have you gone mad?!”
“Geez, I’m sorry Alex. I didn’t intend on breaking the window. I’ve been calling you and when you didn’t
answer, I thought I’d throw a pebble at your window.”
“A pebble? Michael, you threw a small rock.”
“Sorry?” he grinned bemusedly. “Look, I can install a new glass for your window. Could you come down? I
have something to show you.”
“Fine,” she said.
As she walked out her door, she bumped into Jason who was about to enter her room with his baseball bat in
hand. He put his finger to his lips, cautioning her to be quiet.
“It’s okay, Jason,” Alex whispered, “it’s not a burglar, just Michael.”
“What? What the hell has gotten into him?”
“Don’t worry. Go back to bed, Jason. I’ll explain in the morning.”
He let out an exaggerated sigh, mumbled something about turning grey in his early years and walked back
to his room.
Alex went downstairs and opened the door. Michael was beaming and there was excitement in his dark eyes.
He walked past her and went into the living room. She followed him, a certain excitement now bubbling in her
He spun around as she entered the living room, a broad smile on his face. His eyes passed over her tousled
hair, sleep-swollen face and rumpled pajamas.
“You look beautiful,” Michael said.
Alex rolled her eyes, smirking back at him,
“Sure I do. So, what could possibly be so important at two in the morning?”
She saw him dip his hand into his jeans pocket and unbelievingly and to her utter joy and surprise, he pulled
out her beaded bracelet.
He closed the distance between them and dropped it in her open palm. Alex stared at it with disbelief. Every
single bead… it was all there! Did she imagine it all?
“How?” she asked as she looked up at him in bewilderment.
“I went back for it,” he said. Alex was even more confused.
“But how?” she asked again, “I saw the beads scatter in the field.”
“I looked for them.”
“In the dark?”
“I had a flashlight,” he replied.
“That must have taken hours,” she wondered out loud, but he didn’t reply, just shrugged his shoulders.
She rested her palm against his chest, looking up into his dark eyes.
“You’d do that? For me?”
She saw his smile fading, his face becoming serious. His eyes intently searched hers and she saw in them a
look of newfound realization as he said,
“I’d do anything for you, Alex.”
She slipped the bracelet on her wrist and flung her arms around his neck, resting her face against his chest as she hugged him. Alex felt his arms circle around her. He held her close, his chin on her hair. Then slowly, he let her go.
“I better go,” Michael said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
She chuckled, “It’s already morning, silly. No point in driving out there at this hour. Maybe you should stay, get some rest.”
“Are you sure?” he asked. At her affirmative nod, he said,
“I’ll go get a pillow and some blankets. You can use the sofa,” Alex said, turning toward the stairs.
“Wait!” he called as he sat on the sofa, patting the cushion, “come sit with me a little.”
As soon as she came and sat down, Michael rested his head in her lap, stretching his legs over the length of the sofa. She watched his face, his eyes closed, and his lips apart.
“Maybe I should go get those blankets. You look tired,” she told him.
“Nuh-uh,” he answered and snuggled his face closer to her belly. “I’m not even sleepy,” he said, his words
“You’re welcome, love,” he said and was then fast asleep.
Sample Poems- Tropical Sunsets in Delhian Nights
* Fingers might as well have touched as the connection was ever so strong… words exchanged… he became an important part of her life… though… he was yet to know
East of the Sunset
Beyond the waves of a Caribbean sea
Through grassy plains and desert sands
Near the spice of the exotic Indie
Her heart beats on monsoon land
And though it may be plain now to see
It’s still a secret not to tell
Can’t let emotions reign free
He’ll just know her worst kept secret too well
* They both cherished the hour glass theme… holding dear the moments
within the sand grains…
Why do we hold dear
the sands of time?
Is it to keep alive moments and memories
in our aging minds?
These sands however
cannot be counted
And under the carpet
they shouldn’t be dusted
For forever has just happened
No need to number the grains
It is Time and not this moment
that has been swept away
Only our love now remains
Take my hand now
We can step out of the glass
There is no today no tomorrow
Only this here now
This once elusive happiness
That will stay with our Forever
And sweep away our shattered past
For you my love
And for what we share
I have cheated the hour glass
* How easily a mind can be seduced when thoughts of another persist…
When desires yearn… pour la crème glacée
I allow your beauty
to traverse my mind
but there is a wretched hurting
that stems from
my heart’s inward cries
along with decency dies
I let you
ravage the parts
which once made me whole
leaving my fragile emotions
in the bitter, open cold
Yet I do love
this uncertain pleasure
as the thought of you
…naked and breathless
…panting and shameless
Île de Contes… the story before the ever after
by Kimelene Carr
Chapter One: Return to Île de Contes
C’était la plus belle Île. Rouge had always loved staring up at the clear, blue skies as the sunlight warmed the earth. There was always dew on the meadow and a morning mist that nourished the earth.
Yet, it was on a tremulous night of raging winds and tumultuous waves that the Île de Contes appeared, rising out the South Pacific Ocean.
The grandparents had told them of the beginning of their people on the island; an island that was spoken of often in les chambres et salles de classe of the other lands, but no one ever seemed sure that the Île de Contes was a real place.
Though, it was real. It had risen out of a nightmarish sea and flourished into the most bewitching of all places.
There were always meadows of spring in verdant valleys, blanketed with flowers of every hue imaginable.
In the afternoons, children would play among the tournesols, les jonquilles et les callas as the grown-ups prepared croissants and la confiture made with berries from the surreau noirs.
At the farms, there was the usual symphony of animal sounds and the melodic farm sounds, such as the whistling of farmers as they molded the corn or the tingling of the dinner bell at noon or even the rustling of the tall grasses as young, starry-eyed couples sneaked a kiss or two among the reeds.
Then, there was the woods; the one dark place on the entire island. But the darkness was never très mal, nothing to really be afraid of. Everyone knew that it was the density of the chêne verts and saules, huge green oaks and willows, that gave the woods such a morbid setting.
However, the absence of the overall bright, cheerful atmosphere of the island evoked a fear of the woods in most islanders. And so, wild imaginations had produced the eerie sounds that persons claimed emanated from the deep, dark woods.
No one wished to venture into the projected recesses of their deep-seated fears and only ever did so, quite cautiously, when firewood was needed.
Though there was one who had lived in the woods, but was gruesomely murdered fourteen years before. Rouge had only been three years old at the time, but she was able, in her young mind, to piece together bits of stories that travelled across the island and soon learned of the tragedy that had befallen the beautiful woman with midnight hair who, for some reason, had lived in the woods.
Her name was Clementine. They had called her la sorcière, deeming her evil and defiled, labelling her a carnivorous consumer of innocent children. Rouge never knew the whole truth about what had happened to Clementine, only that she was found with parts of flesh eaten, lying face down in The Cauldron, hot springs that fell into the river basin at the edge of the woods.
Rouge though, always wondered if she really was a witch as the islanders said. Did she really lure children to her home to eat them?
Rouge remembered one time walking near the woods at twilight with two of her older sisters and she got a glimpse of a woman in flowing white garments, midnight hair blowing into the winds of the approaching night, almost ethereal, dancing among the trees with the forest animals.
Somehow, Rouge knew that a person who seemed so joyous and found serenity and beauty in such a lonely place, could never have been as diabolical as the islanders claimed her to be.
Now it was said that Clementine’s son, Darien, who had left at the age of fourteen, was back on the island. Rouge was curious about him. Why did he risk his life back then, venturing into and out of the timeless winds and rains and lightning and thunder that surrounded their island?
And of course, she now wondered now, why was he back?
At that very moment, Darien Wolfe was pondering that question too. Why was he back? Upon returning to the island, the feeling of nostalgia that burst within his chest and brought stinging tears to his eyes had really surprised him.
One would think that he would rage with anger and hateful scorn at the place where the people had murdered his maman. But the island was his birth home. It was the womb of his existence and that of his ancestors.
Like the other islanders, his heart had formed a fetal attachment to his Mother-home.
Despite the atrocities committed against Clementine, here, on the Île de Contes, it was the people and not the island itself that he despised.
He was walking along the beach where he had sailed in only hours before, aboard his small ship. He had stopped for a few days on the island of Iňec, just south of Keamu Island, to rest and gather provisions for the final part of his journey home.
Iňec was the last stop for most persons who had only heard the ‘legends’ that were, in reality, the history of the Île de Contes.
The news of his arrival rummaged through the island, bulldozing the everyday activities of the some 12000 islanders and creating fear and havoc as the ‘witch’s son’, the offspring of Clementine’s short relationship with Marius Wolfe, had returned.
They whispered about him as he passed through the beach market where goods were traded. The word exotique must have derived from the marché de la plage on the Île de Contes.
The fruit and vegetable stalls decorated the white sands of the beach, bleu! rouge! vert! marron! blanche! orange! jaune!…
He breathed in the delightful scents that his taste buds could almost savour. Ah yes! It was amazing how scents could resurrect memories.
And for a few moments, Darien stepped back into his childhood years when Clementine would prepare meals in the kitchen and he was always there, tugging at her long, flowing skirts that always seemed like layers of cloth of various colours about her body.
She would allow him to taste whatever she was making and even showed her young son how to prepare the dishes he so loved.
Those were beautiful days, Darien recalled as he trudged along the beach, pretending not to notice the eyes that moved with him as he walked.
“Monsieur! Monsieur!” he heard the voice of a young man calling behind him. Certainly it is not I, Darius thought, that the jeune homme is calling. But as Darien turned in the direction of the voice, he saw a young man of maybe sixteen or seventeen with a shock of straight, blue hair, running towards him.
“Oui, jeune homme?” Darien addressed as the boy stopped before him, clearly out of breath.
“Qu’est qu’il tu veux?” Darien enquired.
“Are you,” the boy began, pausing to catch his breath and then, “Are you Monsieur Wolfe?”
“That’s correct, oui. I am Darien Wolfe. But tell me, why do you ask?” Darien looked into vivid, verdant green eyes that were glowing like emeralds as the boy became excited. Green eyes that seemed familiar to him somehow. Could it be?… he wondered as he studied the young man’s face.
“My maman told me about you. She heard of your return and she said to me, ‘Go! Go find him!’ She wanted to give you a gift.
Everyone’s been talking about you and some of the older folks pointed you out to me.”
Darien heaved the satchel he was carrying higher on his back, aware of all who were intently gazing at him and the boy.
“Who is your maman? Et quel es votre nom, jeune homme?”
The boy tugged on the straps of his grey jumper and said, quite proudly,
“My maman is Sylvienne. Sylvienne Crochet and I am Jacques.”
Ça alors! Darien exhaled audibly. Sylvienne! She was the young pregnant woman who had helped him to leave the island fourteen years ago. The very person he was on his way to visit. And he had assumed rightly… this green eyed boy was a now grown up Jacques.
As he looked at Jacques, memories began to flood his mind…
Chapter Two: The Woman with the Silver Hair
He had been just a boy. Clementine was dead and he had needed to escape the turmoil that plagued him. He was on the beach, a couple of hours before sunrise. No one was coming out to the beach market that day because of the tempestuous wind that howled and lashed the South Pacific waves against the rocks and sand on the coast of the island.
And yet, in the midst of such harsh weather, almost mystical, almost magical, Darien saw a slender form of a woman, white cloth trailing her in the wind, silver hair like the crescent moon, shining in the pre-dawn darkness.
As she approached him, he noticed that she was with child, not very far along.
“Where are you going in this windstorm, jeune homme?” her voice was as soft and delicate as the first morning breeze that would sing across the plains and valleys and mountains of the island on calmer days.
Darien looked at her questioningly. He had good reason enough to be out on the beach in the windstorm, but why would a young, pregnant woman risk walking about in the raging winds?
“Oh?” she smiled, the salty air moist
on her lips as she licked them, continuing, “You wish to know why I am here?”
Darien did not respond as he waited for her to answer her own question.
“I like it when the weather is as such. C’est très merveilleux! It is as if my emotions are given a stage to bellow its suppressed voice.”
Darien immediately understood and for a moment, he thought her to be a silver-haired apparition of Clementine.
His maman had held like sentiments about the woods. She once said that her heart connected her to the darkness of the woods. To Clementine, there was a beauty to be found in the voile de la nuit.
She had shown Darien that the night was a wonder to behold when among the big trees and the moon was out, its ivory beams would give the woods a silver tint.
And the animals would venture out in the moonlit woods, the glory of which was never seen by the islanders who preferred to seclude themselves to valleys and plains as twilight approached the island.
Clementine would walk amongst the trees with the creatures of the night, basking, dancing in the magic of the moonbeam.
However, a lone islander who would dare to pass by the woods at such a late hour, would see Clementine and the animals out in the woods and by morning, everyone would be whispering about the late night activities of ‘la sorcière’.
“You are her son, n’est ce pas?” the voice of the silver-haired, pregnant woman snapped him out of his thoughts and brought him back to his present reality.
“Oui,” he replied to her through the harsh, salty air that whipped about them.
“Aren’t you afraid?” she asked, looking at the makeshift raft Darien had built from bamboo trees, vines and coconut branches.
“There is nothing else,” Darien muttered. “There is no other way. I need to escape the assault.”
“But no one has harmed you, or have they, jeune homme?” her voice held genuine concern.
“No. No they have not. Not physically. But their words, the things they say about my maman whom they murdered…,” Darien’s small, youthful frame heaved and then began shaking heavily by the cries of grief and hurt that had been torturing his emotions on the inside.
He had no one. The only family he had left, his grandpère, Adélarde, did not want him. He was alone on the island.
“Don’t cry, mon petit fils. Ne t’inquiètes pas,” the woman said, stepping closer and embracing him.
“I will help you. I want to help,” she said into his hair.
“How?” Darien’s tear streaked face looked up at her in the now approaching light of dawn that tenaciously tried to penetrate the thick darkness of the windstorm.
“My name is Sylvienne Crochet. My father once sailed the seas. He was not an islander, but would come and go at different times, bringing exotic plants, animals and gems from the places out there,” she gestured with her hand out to the sea.
“He was a skilled seaman and had learned to expertly navigate the winds that hold our island captive from the rest of the world.
He used to tell stories about his travels and how he would brave the oceanic currents. I too, will tell you how. And then you can escape this turmoil that ravages your heart here.
There are so many lands out there, jeune homme. You can visit them, learn from them and then return here, to the Île de Contes and recount your stories to me, as mon père once did.”
Darien nodded at her as she held him away from her, holding him by the shoulders, gazing intently into his blue eyes almost as if she was trying, by some invisible force within, to give him strength and courage.
“You must come home with me and I will teach you all that I learned from mon père’s travels, oui?”
Darien nodded, a bit fearful now as the reality of what he would be doing suddenly confronted him. Before Sylvienne stole upon him on the beach, he was simply giving vent to his hurt and anger, but he probably would have never actually attempted to sail through the storm and away from the island.
Now that he wasn’t blinded by his inner fury, he thought of just how dangerous such a journey out of the island would be.
He thought of the bodies of the young lovers that were found, bludgeoned against the rocks, just a few weeks before.
Sylvienne seemed to know where his thoughts were going and quickly cautioned him,
“Non! Do not think of them! You will not share their fate. Cendrillon and Charmant had left in a haste, just as you were about to do.
But I am going to help you, guide you. And I know that one day you will return.”
Cendrillon and Charmant, Darien knew, had wanted to run away together. Cendrillon was a known thief from the farmlands and because everyone shared and bartered on the island, theft was considered a heinous act.
Charmant was of the sheep-herding Demarais family who lived in the valleys. His parents frowned upon his friendship with Cendrillon and when he professed his love for her, his father sought ways to end his relationship with her.
The young couple would sneak away into the late evenings and share kisses in the approaching dark.
One evening though, while Cendrillon was waiting for Charmant on the Demarais pasture, Charmant’s father, Monsieur Demarais, had caught sight of Cendrillon and yelled ‘Voleur!’ and then began to chase her.
In a frantic haste to escape, Cendrillon had run through the reeds near the pond at the edge of the pasture and had gotten her foot stuck in the swampy marsh among the reeds.
Try as she might, she was never able to pull her booted foot out and had to leave behind her garden boot stuck in the mud.
As a child growing up, Darien had heard of Cendrillon’s many escapades, but none of them had ever landed her in so much trouble. It was that old, grey garden boot she left behind that made a trail back to her.
Monsieur Demarais had locked her away in a small cottage that was used to store hay with the intention of bringing her before the other islanders to have her stoned.
And despite how much Charmant pleaded with his father of his love for Cendrillon, she remained imprisoned at the cottage, awaiting her death.
It was then that Charmant had devised a drastic plan to free his love and together they would escape the island and flee to the unknown world beyond.
But theirs was not a story with a happy ending. The very next morning after Charmant had broken Cendrillon out of the cottage, their young bodies were found battered against the rocks on the coast of the Île de Contes.
“Ehien! Jeune homme!” Again Sylvienne’s voice brought young Darien out from the depths of his thoughts.
“I told you,” she said, “do not think of them. You must come with me to my home on the plains and I will teach you everything I know and share father’s journals with you so that you can navigate out of the island’s storms and into the world.”
She smiled then. And for the first time since Clementine’s death, Darien felt loved.
Travis by John Decarteret
CHAPTER ONE: BABY BOY
Lady Elizabeth’s screams echoed throughout the house, reaching down every corridor and into every corner like a strong breeze through an opened window as her body writhed and pushed through the pains of giving birth.
“Almost there, my lady. Just one more push should be enough and the little master should be here,” said Valery, the household cook, and a kind and honest woman whom Lady Elizabeth considered part of the family. The matronly woman was like a grandmother stomping around in her apron, quick to laugh and a twinkle always in her eye.
“Where is the doctor?” Lady Elizabeth forced the words out through clenched teeth as an increasing pain shot up her jaw, adding to the agony in which she was already submerged.
“Elsie has gone to fetch him, my lady. He should be here soon,” old Valery said in a tone usually used with toddlers or the puppy that Lady Elizabeth was given as a birthday gift. Valery shifted her heavy frame to a somewhat comfortable position.
“Alright my lady, here we go. Push!” the old woman screeched from where she was, before her mistress, her arms extended, ready to take hold of the infant when he came into the world.
Lady Elizabeth let loose a blood-curdling scream and out came the newborn, straight into Valery’s waiting arms. “Gotcha, little master!” Delight in her eyes, she cradled the baby whose hair was as dark as midnight and eyes green as emeralds. “A boy, my lady!” she said with a look of pleasure. “Congratulations!”
As Valery rubbed the baby down with blankets, a high-pitched wailing from the newborn infant echoed throughout the house, replacing his mother’s cries from moments before. Lady Elizabeth let out the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding as she waited for a sign that the child was healthy. A small, sad smile emerged but then disappeared suddenly as the weight of her new responsibility sunk in.
The old cook was at least fifty and had seen and done this all before, but this was Lady Elizabeth’s first child and she was extremely scared when the cook handed her the small, fragile baby boy that she had just wrapped up snugly. Lady Elizabeth was worried about Lord Blackett’s reaction to the child.
“He’s a looker, my lady,” Valery winked while cleaning her hands. She then went about trying to make the Lady of the house look a bit more respectable by cleaning her up a bit and removing the bloodstained blankets from under her.
As the old cook looked around the room, she thought it to be the perfect place for a child to be born. It was all furnished in beautiful oak: the wardrobe, the bed, the door, and other bedroom furniture. Even the window was framed in oak wood with beautiful, black drapes that let in streams of light even when closed, giving the room a comfortable feeling.
“What do I do, Valery?” Lady Elizabeth asked in a terrified whisper, a look of panic descending upon her countenance as she looked at the baby in her arms.
“He just wants a feeding, my lady and then he’ll have a bit of a sleep,” the cook said with certainty as she puffed up the pillows behind Lady Elizabeth’s head. Lady Elizabeth lifted her silk nightgown up and tucked it under her chin, then tried to feed the boy. “That’s not what I mean, Valery.”
The cook noted that her young mistress looked exhausted, indeed overwhelmed, and like she might vomit. “I know you have heard my husband and I talking,” Lady Elizabeth panted, out of breath.
Pity flashed across the cook’s face, but she didn’t meet Lady Elizabeth’s gaze. “Ain’t my business, my lady.” She kept her eyes looking down as she unfolded a small, doll-sized outfit for the youngster, a navy blue cotton cardigan with matching shorts and boots.
“You’re not just a cook here, Valery. You’re also a friend, part of the family even and I need some counsel.” An expression of despair had replaced her previous ‘I’m-going-to-vomit’ face. There was a moment of silence between the two women that seemed to Elizabeth to last a lifetime, but then the old cook looked up and offered a forced smile.
“You should get some rest, my lady. You’ve had a long old day so far and it’s only just past 9:00 a.m. As soon as the little master’s had his fill, I’ll put him down for a nap and you can get some rest too.”
A bang! bang! came from behind her and the old woman spun on her heel, avoiding the plea from her employer and friend which made her feel terrible, but what choice did she have? The lady’s husband was the one who had been wronged and so what could a servant possibly say? She loved Lady Elizabeth, but she could not deny that her lady had become pregnant while Lord James was many miles away for six months, working with Bow Arrow of the Elven Order in a place called West Forest.
The banging resumed on the bedroom door and the cook opened the door a crack with a sense of dread at the prospect of it being James. She felt a small amount of relief at the interruption, but remained worried that the conversation with Lady Elizabeth would continue at some point. She also felt a twinge of dread for her beloved Elizabeth who would have to have a similar conversation with her husband at some point. Thankfully, it was Elsie, a servant girl of seventeen who had only been working there for two months, and Doctor Lonagan who swayed in the doorway while holding on to Elsie’s shoulder.
“Come on, cooky! Open the door! Let’s not wait for the child’s first tooth!” demanded the doctor with a heavy southern accent. Valery stepped aside and let the doctor into the room. “Go back to your duties now, lass,” she said to Elsie, the servant girl, before closing the door. The doctor looked like he had been sleeping rough as he shuffled to the center of the room. He was in a grey suit that appeared to be older then he was and just as scruffy. He was about 10 years Valery’s senior and the only part of him that didn’t seem like it should have been in a museum, was a small red flower sticking out above his jacket pocket.
“Well, Lady Blackett, it looks like I was not needed to oversee the miracle of life in all its glory, eh?” Doc Lonagan spluttered before releasing a belly laugh and a gassy belch that stunk of alcohol and cigars.
“No,” the lady sighed before looking at the would-be homeless derelict doing a balancing act on the perfectly flat floor. “And may I enquire if you had planned to deliver my child whilst drunk?” she asked in a shocked tone while scrunching her nose at his deathly odor. The doctor burst into a mini-fit of laughter before a coughing fit took over. After wiping his eyes and blowing his nose on a handkerchief that looked like it had been submerged in dirty dishwater, he said with a huge grin, “My dear Lady Blackett! I am from Rankman in the south! If I had not been drunk I should think you would be more inclined to worry!”
Rankman was a small and very old country where the occupants were famous for always being drunk from the juice of what they called the Bliss tree. The country was, in fact, shrinking because the citizens lost lots of land to pretty much everyone while they were staggering around in a drunken daze. There was only one known Bliss tree and it grew in the center of their land. It was the biggest tree anywhere and had countless amounts of mind-numbing bliss that seeped from its branches and leaves which happened to be of two very different flavors, but equally potent.
He walked up to the side of the bed with a bit of a stumble and looked at the boy. ”Fine looking chap, Lady Blackett! Looks like Lord Blackett an’ no mistake!” he complimented, spraying his foul breath all over her and her child before shaking his balding head with wonder while scratching the unshaven stubble on his chin. An awkward silence followed with uneasy looks from the women in the room.
”Well all looks good here Lady Blackett! Man enough to out drink a Southern lawyer with the way he’s suckling way,” the doctor exclaimed with a bit too much enthusiasm for Lady Elizabeth’s liking while she had her bust out in full view. She quickly covered herself with a blanket and said, “You are no longer required. He is fine and starting to fall asleep.”
“Very well,” he said disappointed, ”I’ll bid you farewell then Lady Blackett.” He stumbled to an upright position and saluted her formally like she was an army General before trying to make his way toward the door with uneven steps as if there was an earthquake. ”You got a whiskey for an old man to keep out the cold, cooky?” he whispered in Valery’s direction while licking his lips and putting his hand to his heart, giving the pretense that he was going to have a heart attack and she was his only savior.
“Hell no, doc! I think you’ve had your fill. An’ no mistake!” She put on her best Rankman accent which sounded like a snake with a lisp, adding a bit of venom, completely bewildered at his forwardness in a Lord’s home.
“Oh well never mind, I have some bliss leaves left somewhere.” He started patting himself down, looking for it.
“Get your sorry, drunk backside out the door before you feel my big toe up it!” She started to push him out the door while trying to hold him up straight before he looked her in the eyes with a curious glare.
“I had no idea you were so passionate my dear, are you married?” the doctor teased, a look of expectation in his eyes as he patted her hand that was holding his waist to keep him upright. The cook took his hand away and continued to shoo him out the door as her anger started to rise at the old fool.
“Alright cooky alright, I’m going, so I am. Oh, and I’ll send Lord James through. He’s in the lounge, so he is.” He belched once more and walked into the wall facing the Lady’s bedroom door. The cook turned him left and pushed him in the back so he would move in the right direction before returning to the room and letting out a sigh.
“We need a doctor around here, not some drunken idiot. I’m sorry my lady.” She picked up the would-be doll’s clothes and brought them to Lady Elizabeth.
“It’s not your fault, Valery. I have told James what he is like,” Lady Elizabeth assured the cook. Valery looked down at mother and son with a wistful smile. She thought the sight was a perfect picture. Lady Elizabeth looked lost but still beautiful with her long brown hair, blue eyes and chiseled cheekbones. She was short and petite and only twenty-three years old, married two years and everything was already a total mess at this early stage of her young life. Despite the troubles, she was in a tranquil moment with her firstborn child.
Lady Elizabeth looked up at the smiling old cook’s face and offered a smile in return, thinking if only she knew the whole story and not just part of it, would Valery look at her baby the same way? Lady Elizabeth started to dress the baby in his mini outfit when another knock came at the door. Valery once again feeling dread, opened the door, this time to find Lord Blackett standing there, looking flawless in a black suit with black shirt tie and shoes to match, not to mention his hair which of course, like every other part of him was black and oiled flat to his head. Only his pale skin stopped him from looking like a lost shadow with freakish blue eyes that looked like a summer sky.
“Lord Blackett, Sir,” Valery greeted with a smile and a nod. “Valery,” he replied in a silk- smooth hypnotic way, returning the nod. “How is she?” he asked, letting a hint of worried emotion into his flawless voice.
“Fine my Lord, come in and meet the young master,” she invited, eagerly moving aside with an open gesture of a big arm, welcoming him in the room.
“Thank you, Valery.” He entered and suddenly felt the weight of the situation. “Could we have a moment alone please?” Lord Blackett requested, smiling at the cook, but fooling no one. The women knew by the edge in his tone that he was finding it extremely hard. “Of course my Lord, I’ll be in the kitchen making coffee and maybe a bit of breakfast for you both. Keep that strength up,” she said.
“Thank you,” Lord and Lady said in unison. The cook left rather ungracefully, shifting her weight from leg to leg and looking a lot like a penguin on stilts until they were alone.
Suddenly the silence in the bedroom was awkward between the two of them. Lady Elizabeth placed the child in the handmade oak cot beside the bed. Lord James walked up to the bedside and placed a hand on his wife’s and looked down at the baby boy sleeping, a look of pain in his face that broke his wife’s heart.
“I’m so sorry James,” she said in a gasp, about to break into a cry. “It’s alright my love, this must be just as hard for you, you gave birth to him, how are you feeling? You sounded in a lot of pain,” he spoke to her, not looking at her as a tear rolled down his cheek.
“Yes, it was a painful experience, but there are more painful things,” she replied, the hurt she felt filling the room. “Will you love him?” she whispered gently, afraid of the answer. “It’s not his fault after all.” Tears started to flow like water droplets from a flower in April. Lord James turned to his wife with a smile and asked, “What should we name him?” She looked at him with hope and answered,
“How about Master Travis Blackett?” Another soft smile between them both. “Yeah. Sounds good to me my love,” Lord James agreed, kissing her on the forehead and getting the strongest bear hug the lady could give in return. They sat hugging and crying together until Valery gave a gentle knock, waiting for the all clear to enter.
“Come in,” said Lord Blackett after he and Lady Elizabeth wiped their tears away and straightened themselves.
“Coffee and crumpets?” Valery offered, popping her perfectly oval head round the door and looking like a bright red balloon with her flushed cheeks and holding a steamy tray filled with more than just coffee and crumpets.
Valery cooked to relax, even before, in between and after meal times and the Lord and Lady didn’t mind one bit when she brought in a mini feast. She must have been up early that morning and in need of some serious relaxation after overhearing the Blackett’s talk about the unborn child the night before. She must have given herself away to Lady Elizabeth when she brought them both supper, she supposed. She was a terrible liar with her honest and normally smiling face, except she had been in shock and struggled to compose herself while in the Lord and Lady’s presence moments after being dumbstruck.
And while Lord James was smart, he had been a little too preoccupied to pay attention to the cook, but Lady Elizabeth knew Valery had overheard them speaking by a single glance at her, but she also knew she only got part of the conversation or she would have been in a worse state than this.
As Valery entered with the enormous tray which should have really taken two fully grown men holding an end each to lift and carry, she could tell they had been crying, but had come to some understanding with each other by their body language and shy glances while holding hands and acting like they had been caught in the act. She relaxed a little and smiled at them both. “Here we are then,” breathing the words out as she placed the door-sized tray down across the foot of the bed.
“My Lord, “Valery flashed an ear to ear grin at him hugely with a superb smelling coffee in hand, offering it to him and slightly nodding.
“This all looks amazing Valery, thank you, but could you please be a little less formal? You’re a friend joining us in a fabulous breakfast, not to mention saving the day bringing Travis into the world while Roger Lonagan was lying in the rose bush outside.”
His wife let out a chuckle, “So that’s why he was wearing a flower? From my rose bushes? I thought that was strange!”
The mood was now light and airy between them. Valery suddenly looked at them both in turn before looking puzzled, “Travis, my Lord?”
“Yes, Valery. Elizabeth’s maiden name, that’s what we are naming him, Master Travis Blackett.” The pride in his voice obvious and somewhat odd, given the situation.
“Oh of course! The little master!” cackling to herself and then apologizing for being a bit slow. “Marvelous name, my Lord!” She handed Lady Elizabeth her coffee with another one of her winks.
“Valery,” Lord James drew the name out tiredly.
“Sorry, James,” this time speaking to him very casually. He looked at her like he had been slapped across the chops and then they all burst into fits of hysterical laughter. After the feast and fussing over Master Travis for an hour, passing him around like a cold, Lady Elizabeth looked troubled.
“Valery? James and I need to tell you about Travis and explain what is going on. You must be thinking some awful things and you should know the truth.”
The Blacketts then told Valery everything and she believed every word despite how ridiculous it all sounded because she knew they would never lie directly to her face. If they had something to hide they would simply say nothing. She was their employee at the end of the day as well as a friend and she would respect their privacy. They had told her out of respect and she was thankful for that, but she did worry about what it all meant and about Travis too.