The Witches Malboeuf: Chasing Freedom
Silence fell upon the black night as I drifted off to slumber, cozied beneath my alpaca wool blanket, soft and fuzzy like rabbit fur. I could sense my mother peeking in on me, but I didn't stir. On my phone played classical piano, as it was the only thing, besides the potion my mother sometimes gave me, that helped me to relax enough to soar on the wind from consciousness and into lucid dreams, which most often led to sound sleep.
"Have you learned of the prophecy?" asked the frightful woman who haunted my dreams, but I could not yet see her face, the way she hid beneath the cover of a cloak. I could only see the way her body lurched and undulated like she was but a spirit waving upon the breeze. "Only you can prevent the prophecy, for it would bring great suffering to mankind. Prevent the prophecy, Charlotte. You could be this world's last savior, or you could bring upon this earth, its doom." My eyes opened wide, startled at the falling sensation that often accompanied this particular dream, as it had visited me dozens of times by now. I still didn't know what they meant, if anything at all.
Today was the day Jesse would be returning from Connecticut to visit us for the summer, since his own parents would be away in Europe from the end of June until early August, and they did not wish to leave him on his own entirely for the first time, so Simone asked my mother if he could sleep in one of our guesthouses until they'd returned
The last time I saw Jesse Malboeuf was when we were children; I was 5 and he was 7. He was cruel to me then, excluding me from a game of hide and seek with his friends. "You aren't invited to play with us, Charlotte. They're my friends, not yours." I growled in fury before calling upon the spirits, eliciting a spark of fire upon his foot, and I screamed as the fire grew, engulfing his shoe in a wild blaze. I fled the scene, running back to my mother and tugging at her dress, sobbing into the gathered fabric I'd swept into my arms while everyone in attendance of the party watched in horror. Young Jesse danced about, stomping the flames out. His mother ran at him, spilling her crystal glass of its punch, to inspect his injuries, for she was yet unfamiliar with my gifts.
I still recall that day, as the storm brewed and swirled in the sky above while I cried out to my mother, to take me into the safety of her arms and to press my head to her bosom and hold me tight, but she did not. So, while the wounds from that day ten years earlier were not exactly fresh, I wasn’t terribly excited to be reunited with him now, and I had already decided I wasn't going to give him the time of day when I saw him.
But then I saw him, meeting for the first time in a decade in the foyer of Croft Manor when he arrived from school that fine day in June: tall, regal, handsome and once he flashed his dazzling smile, I was obsessed. He pulled me into a delicate embrace, and I indulged in it, holding him close for as long as was appropriate, though when I closed my eyes, time came to a halt, extending our interaction for several seconds before discovery. When we withdrew from one another’s grasp, I noted a mischievous smile across his lips, and I couldn’t resist smiling shyly in return. Suddenly stunned by our relaxed, improper behavior, realizing what this meant, I looked about at the faces of everyone present, but they hadn’t seen the exchange.
My mother, Odette, and my father, Baroque, had been laughing and prattling away, but I couldn’t say about what, for my eyes saw only Jesse and my ears heard only the pounding of my heart as the blood rushed through my head, and for an instant, everything was suspended in time as I savored being enveloped into his embrace. I had breathed him in just as our bodies parted from the intimate nuzzle and I could still smell him on me. Never had I felt so intrigued as I was by how this moment came to be.
Jesse’s father, Baptiste, patted his son's shoulder, standing to Jesse's left, and smiled at him with pride gleaming in his eyes. Jesse's mother, Simone, was a true southern belle, having been born into massive wealth, as was I. Simone hailed of the Dupont family, brother to Beau Dupont, the man my father promised me to upon my coming of age. But I was not an obedient child. I would shape my own fate.
Jesse and I were so compatible on so many levels, and it genuinely surprised me that I had never known we shared so many interests, because surely I would have heard such things from Simone any of the dozens of times I saw her each month. My mother and Simone were quite close, having been classmates together from a very young age. I could see plainly how Baptiste loved her so, in stark contrast to my parents' relationship.
I was, at first, ashamed of how I regarded him, my beloved Jesse. But what could I do but fall in love when my heart sang for the first time in all my fifteen and a half years? There was naught that could have been done to prevent my falling in love with him. We spent much time together that summer and he kept me in a perpetual state of drunkenness through the billowing clouds of pheromones emitted from our parched bodies.
The day after he had returned to my family's estate, I asked him to join me at the pool, which resided in its own locked sunroom, a freestanding building all the way to the outer edge of my parents' land, tucked away, along with two guesthouses, in a location where no man dared to venture. I often wondered why the swimming pool sunroom was so far from the house, and I suspected my father had built it at a safe distance from the home he shared with his wife, so that my mother would not easily discover him inside the sunroom with other women, most commonly housekeepers or his office personnel looking to get a raise in pay. The idea made me pity my mother's foolishness and denial, for even my father's only child could see he was unfaithful to her. My father was a severely insecure man, possessing an endlessly vast fortune to settle and soothe his whims, and he indulged into his vices aplenty.
Once inside, I latched the deadbolt to prevent anyone walking in suddenly, had we found ourselves in a precarious state. I hummed a tune that had been stuck in my head for days. My heart pounded nervously and parts of me ached to feel his flesh pressed to mine. I was no stranger to intimacy, for I had already succumbed to lustful temptation thrice before, all with my father's protégé, Quinton Savoie, who my father mentored and brought home for dinner several times over the last year, and we snuck off to the pantry and made out numerous times, and three times did we engage in sexual intercourse, hidden away in a coat closet or my father's den while everyone else sat at the dining table and feasted.
I gave up on Quinton after the third go because the poor dear could not refrain from detonating the instant he felt my body wrap around him, then bang, he burst, each time, despite having been wearing protection. He had a disappointed wife in his future, unless of course, he suddenly became bilingual.
I turned about as Jesse found his way, excitedly – like a child – to the diving board on the deep end. Before he plunged into the depth, he hesitated to observe me a moment while I untied my robe and let the flowy black silk cover fall to the concrete at my feet. He didn't bother resisting the urge to whistle at me and I blushed at his sparkling grin. He raised his brows again and opened his mouth as though he was about to speak, but held back and shook his head and waved at me while he chuckled under his breath to forget it. And no matter how much harassment, I couldn't steal the words from his lips.
I inched my way in, stepping slowly down the ramp into the shallow, pausing to gasp each time the lukewarm water made contact with a sensitive patch of flesh, soaking me in the cool fluid, welcoming me into its depths. Uneasily, unsteadily, disgracefully I strode in, trying to be cool but I was a clumsy girl and I slipped on the ramp and plunged awkwardly into the three-foot-deep part of the pool backwards and onto my rump. I dunked my head beneath the water and stayed there for a long second, enduring the moment of embarrassment before I emerged and gulped in air to my lungs.
Jesse had noticed my humiliation, for I could see his pity for me in his turquoise eyes, but he did not tease nor taunt me for the fumble. He was a true gentleman, asking me if I was hurt and then smiling when I said I was fine. I wanted to thank him for his concern, but it seemed too much at the moment. We were just becoming acquainted and I was afraid to let him too far in, for I too was insecure.
I, at first, waded in the shallow end and Jesse dove into the deep. When he reemerged from beneath the water, he yelped, "woo!" and he flung his soaked hair back, causing the flat flap of hair to slap against the top of his head. Then he guffawed at how emasculated he felt in that moment, experiencing the tepid water against the delicate parts of his body.
We danced about in the water, doing our waltz and wading from end to end, safely keeping our distance from one another, swapping places every ten or fifteen minutes. There were many disconcerting pauses, but we mostly got to know one another more intimately.
"Tell me of your days away at school," I implored, for I yearned and even begged my parents to send me to a boarding school, but my mother would hear none of it, telling me of the atrocities I'd commit were I not under a spell limiting my energies' chaotic nature. Following the incident when my thoughts lit a spark upon Jesse's shoe over a decade earlier, my mother restrained my powers so we'd see no more of such episodes.
"There isn't much to tell," he said. "It was an all-boys school, and I'm significantly less fond of boys than I am of girls, but I wouldn't necessarily rule it out entirely if I felt so inclined." He chuckled. "But no one at my school ever ceased my fancy."
"What else of your years in Connecticut? What of snow? I hear it's soft and fluffy like marshmallows. How did you enjoy your classes? Have you taken any coursework of interest?" I pried for every detail that molded him into the man he was today. I needed to know every fateful moment of his life and what had brought us to this moment, and I already knew my side of the story up to now.
"My favorite class was literature every year. Reading the wild thoughts of Shakespeare or the racy connotations of Chaucer is something I can really sink my teeth into."
"My favorite class too is literature. I thoroughly enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo. I'm perpetually haunted by Edmund Dantes," I said with a chuckle.
"You and everyone else," he laughed. He was so sophisticated, he possessed such a grand, profound presence, and I wanted to know more of him, all of him, every square centimeter of his body and every unturned stone within his mind. I felt my heart jump inside my chest and the twinge of eagerness that swelled between my thighs. "Have you read anything of William Faulkner's?" he asked.
"Only As I Lay Dying. Is it not the most depressing book ever written?"
"That it is," he agreed and beamed another shrewd smile, sly as a fox, smirked and nodded his head in concurrence. He somehow seemed impressed by me, though I was the intellectual equivalent of a peasant by comparison, for he had attended and graduated from the most prestigious boarding school in the nation, located in Greenwich, Connecticut. I could hear the difference in his southern accent, for he'd lived among the Yankees for four years.
We didn't get too close that day, as we were both still sorting out the details of the scandal of falling in love with one another within our own heads. It took all my strength most days not to mow him down and take him into my bosom and make passionate love to him. I wondered, though I sensed that he felt the same, for he maintained his façade quite well, but I could read beyond skin-deep; I could see into his soul. And then there were little hints in the way his gaze often met mine, followed by a wicked smile and I would have been putty in his hands. I fervidly lost myself recurrently and thus I was left to mop my-melted-self off the white marble floor tens of times per day, and left to pick myself back up without ever having exposed that I was but a puddle upon the floor before him.
We spent most of our time meandering about the estate complex. Resting atop a wooded acreage was a mansion with no less than fifty-thousand square feet of indoor living space, a stand-alone sunroom with a pool inside, a set of two tennis courts, a pirate's ship playground, a bunkhouse for the help, and two guesthouses, the larger of which was where Jesse had been sleeping. I wanted to sneak out each night and knock upon Jesse's door, though there were many inquisitive eyes belonging to the many security officers hired to stand guard through the night. My family was quite important within our community, for we were of old money.
We lived in South Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the largest home in the parish: Croft Manor, built by Benjamin Croft and later purchased by my family. The massive acreage was surrounded entirely by trees so we felt we lived on an island, of which my family had a name: the Malboeuf Bubble – our own little world, tucked far away, safe from what my parents considered to be the filthy poor, for in her eyes, as a result of generations of brainwashing, poverty was punishment for immorality. Once the poor abandoned their sinful, lustful ways, they would graduate to the middle class, though to Odette, the middle class was merely a slight advancement above poverty.
My father owned three hundred acres there, effectively ruling the parish with his dirty money and his corrupt ideals. Baroque Malboeuf was the CEO of an unscrupulous charitable organization that took members of a certain status and pooled their resources together into monstrous sums and then those monstrous sums were used to pass exploitative laws that benefitted my father's fellow CEO friends while oppressing the working class. He was a successful con man. I can still remember the day I learned he was responsible for keeping the minimum wage at an unlivable rate, for passing labor laws to benefit national corporations and harm their employees as well as for local and federal tax cuts on the wealthy, effectively increasing taxes for lower- and middle-class families; I was appalled and I swore never to subscribe to his uneven perception of what the world should be, for the injustice perpetuated meant unnecessary suffering of millions of innocent poverty-stricken people out there. That was the very day I discovered how cruel and imbalanced the world truly was. How obtuse and naïve I was then. It was simpler when the world was black and white.
It was a Thursday afternoon in late June, and the sun was blaring upon us and the flowers were brilliant colors of red and orange and yellow and purple, when Jesse asked me to join him for a stroll around the grand garden in the east lawn, and it was the first time he pecked a quick kiss to my lips once we were out of sight from my family's home, while I chattered like a chipmunk, gushing over Jane Eyre, then he bounded backward, out of my reach. He seemed surprised that I didn’t react with a slap to his face in response. Instead, I stepped closer and stood atop my tiptoes as I closed my eyes and inhaled an anxiety-relieving breath, efficaciously stopping time around me for several long seconds before pressing my lips to his once more, much harder and more deliberately than his peck. He parted his lips just a little bit and I felt his tongue lightly touching my lips, and I too opened my mouth just a few centimeters and our tongues met for the first time, dancing gaily in their poetic waltz. I raised my arms and folded them around his neck, pulling him closer, closer, closer even still, for any distance apart was too far. I felt a twinge of desire in my loins, a tingle, a plea for our writhing bodies to meet in delicious woe and our souls to merge and he seemed to already know just how and where to touch me, exciting my senses, as if he could see into my thoughts. He wrapped his arms around my lumbar curve and then he ran his left hand up my back and his right hand down to my derriere and grasped my buttock gently. I could sense in his composure that he longed to unleash his overzealousness, but he was tender and controlled. As we withdrew from our first kiss, I could see the agony upon his face and I knew he struggled with the same feelings I'd had.
Already I loved him dearly, everything about him: the way his eyes caught mine in a stare, the way he smiled when he did inevitably catch me, the sensation of his lips to mine, the fervor he incited in me, his bright intellect, but especially the way he made me feel. He looked past the protective wall I kept around my insecure heart, in fear of further abandonment, as I felt with my parents, that they'd abandoned me, leaving me to die in the gutter. Never had he felt so strongly for another, as was evident in his eyes – those eyes of wisdom and great restraint.
Jesse was the all-time champion of unfaltering patience. Oftentimes, I couldn't reason with how complex our circumstances were, and most frequently wished to be shrouded within his embrace, though we could not, for it was improper. But already he knew me so well, so well in fact, it sometimes took me aback. He must've been listening, I would think. He really saw me, he saw into me like no one else ever had. He seemed to understand my emotions before I awoke to experiencing them. He knew somehow; somehow he had me figured out in weeks rather than years and it didn't take long before we were less than careful, arrogant in our mutual passion.
Jesse was six feet in height. He was lean and muscular with a charming boyish face, though he always had a shadow of bristled facial hair, and he wore beautifully his wavy light brown hair and bold turquoise eyes, like the sky. He had brilliantly, blindingly white teeth, of which he took much pride. He was going to be a writer, as was I. In my mind, the memory was lucidly clear: we lay tangled up with one another upon the large sofa of his guesthouse as we each dictated our stories into the notepads on our tablets.
He took my hand and tugged on me to accompany him to the building swimming pool sunroom and we spent the better part of an hour kissing passionately. We nearly lost ourselves more than once and had to back-pedal over light conversation until we wound up in one another's arms again. I didn't want to wait, it was he who resisted going any further. He would gaze upon me with wanting eyes, play with the golden tendrils of hair framing my face, and tilt his head a little to the right and then a soft smile would form upon his lips. When I asked him what was on his mind, he answered, "I think…" He paused. "I'm falling in love with you." His words scared me and excited me at once and for a brief instant, I came to my senses.
What are we doing? The question echoed in my mind. We both know nothing could ever come of this so what are we doing? I was too afraid to ask him the question that haunted my dreams, for fear he would end it and then my heart would break, and I was never quite ready to face that point of devastation.
Hiding a romantic relationship from those who know you well is treacherous. I wanted so much to boast of my love and swoon over him publicly, but I knew I could not. It was entirely too complicated for my conscience to overcome, but yet somehow I lived on, day in, day out, repeating the same day filled with longing and melancholy. He was mine though he still felt so out of reach and it wore on my panged heart. I yearned for the day when we could be free. But until that day arrived, my soul ached relentlessly, exhausting my emotional stamina, forcing me to retire early each evening, alerting my mother that something was amiss; it was all so trying.
I lay supine on my wide bed, staring wearily at the ceiling embossed with Fleurs-de-Lis that met the beige walls, that matched the delicate off-white lace draperies and bedding, decorated by my grandmother especially for me during a trip I took with my parents to Paris. When we returned, my bedroom had been upgraded from a pre-adolescent girl's room, filled with puffy, furry pink and purple things, all of which I had outgrown, to a young woman's room and I was so proud of it. Grammy (my mother's mother) had come to live with us after Grampy died and she had sold their home in Metairie.
My mother was thrilled to welcome her mother to live with us, as was I, for I loved and admired Grammy quite a lot. She seemed to understand things about me that even I did not. She pretended I could hide even the most buried thoughts deep inside the pit of my mind, but I knew she could read my thoughts. She always seemed to be up to date on my whereabouts and then winked at me when I came clean: "I stole away to go swimming with Jesse," after I'd been out a little too late with my handsome lover.
"Mmhmm," she responded and tapped her temple with her index finger before then pointing to me. "I know." Afraid of her apparent power, I fell back to the floor and scampered clumsily to my bedroom to cry in solitude. Did she know? I thought. I couldn't take the suspense, worrying each day if it would be our last. The expiration date of our liaisons was yet unknown to me and I dreaded its inevitability. It was unbearable and unsustainable.
"Worry not, my dear," Grammy said, when asked what she knew of my thoughts. "You have no treason to fear by me, my beautiful Charlotte. You know, that was my grandmother's name."
"Oh? I thought it was Grampy's great-grandmother as well."
"Not the same woman," she clarified and I nodded. "But they shared a name. My grandmother would've loved you to pieces." I couldn't resist smiling in response. "She enjoyed reading as you do. And my, did she have a way with words; you get that from her."
"You admired her," I said.
"Very much," she replied. "She was so kind and didn't seem bothered by my powers, since, you know, she didn't have any. But she was anything but average. Like you, she had a presence that was larger than life." Grammy made me blush at her kind words. I remember thinking what a shame it was that we only lived seventy or eighty years, if we were lucky, and then our children and children's children would live on, for they are our immortality: our genetic information passed on from generation to generation. That was the real magic: the way of the universe.
Upon moving into our home several years earlier, Grammy brought with her an aid named Claire. I discovered by accident that they were lovers, for I had caught Claire sneaking in from her own bedroom just as I left her mother-in-law suite one evening to wish her sweet dreams.
"Oh, Madame Malboeuf, please excuse me. I forgot to give Katherine her medication." I knew what Grammy took, as she was quite healthy for her age, and she had no medications at bedtime, only first thing in the morning. But I thought nothing of it, though the notion that Grammy was getting some made me laugh. That was when I was thirteen. Nowadays Claire remained always at Grammy's side, in and out of bed. I couldn't blame her, for Grammy was a glamorous woman. I had recently peeked in on Grammy since she seemed to know of Jesse and me and I wanted to ask her about it, but I lost my nerve. Though I caught a glimpse of how dearly Claire loved my Grammy. And I could see in Grammy's eyes that she too admired Claire.
Grammy and Claire reminded me of Jesse and me, for we usually got along quite well; that was how I knew we belonged to one another: seldom did we fight and nearly always were we kind, at least while no one else was around. I yearned for a day when we could run away together. It was my favorite fantasy; it was what liberated my caged mind.
One fine afternoon, the sky was clear and the air was still and hot and humid, which meant we should've been outside connecting with nature, but we wanted some peaceful alone time. I had vanished after saying nothing to my mother at the breakfast table, just smiling as I chewed the blueberry bran muffin, trying to keep myself together long enough to finish my meal. I stepped out through the back door after giving my used plate to Daphne, the cook, to wash with the other soiled dishes. I frolicked gaily through the woods that separated my family home from the guesthouses on the north lawn, about a quarter of a mile from the main house. The guesthouses had their own parking lot, which the sunroom with the swimming pool shared on the south side of a dead highway that no one used, except perhaps my father's countless slew of lovers.
Upon realizing my father was highly likely to be adulterous, I began trying to keep an eye out for evidence of my theories, and one fine day, Jesse and I watched through the living room window as a petite blonde lady with a lovely shape to her, nervously made her way from the front door of the smaller guesthouse and moments after she fled, my father stepped out through the same door and locked it behind him, straightened his clothes by sweeping his hands downward, to erase the indication that his suit had been wrinkled up on the floor of the family's guesthouse.
We laughed, for our suspect had finally revealed himself. And my, what a creep he was! My father was a dapper man of forty. I scarcely resembled after him, for he was a tall, dark, and handsome while my mother wore blonde locks, which too had blessed my hair of flaxen gold. I greatly resembled my mother, and I wore her face about as though I'd stolen it; she treated me so too. I was a massive disappointment to my mother, just as she was to me.
My mother had dreamt of one day having a daughter to pass on to another wealthy elder (over forty) whose first wife had died. Though I refused, my mother seemed to think she could overcome me and force me to. But I romanticized everything to a ridiculous degree and Monsieur Dupont did not cease my fancy. Though I had never, until Jesse Malboeuf, known true love's tender touch, once I'd had a taste of his juices, there was no turning back. While this day was no different than the abundance of that first summer when I'd fallen in love, I felt somewhat uneasy after seeing Mrs. Bellamy, the wife to one of my father's dearest friends, Daniel Bellamy, departing Coral House, the smaller of the two guesthouses on our property, with my father trailing closely behind and she appeared to be in a shameful rush.
Something told me to keep our interaction decent, so I kept my hands to myself while he made us some breakfast (even though I had already eaten). I sat properly on the chair, my ankles crossed and my hands gracefully placed atop my lap. I had worn a pair of freshly-pressed terra cotta slacks and a sleeveless blouse with only a few dabs of the same color, though it was abundant in sage and maroon and turquoise and honey gold.
I called Jesse to the window, and he trampled over next to me and we peeked through the off-white, semi-translucent drapes, our mouths agape and our jaws upon the floor. I turned to look at Jesse, surprised at how genuinely careless my father was with his extramarital affairs. Jesse and I wore the same expression: shock. "See?" I said. "What did I tell you?"
"I didn't want to believe it," he answered. "So sue me."
Over second breakfast, my nerves cooled some and the humiliation had abandoned my cheeks, leaving a pale ghost behind. The sticky-sweet French toast with stewed strawberries, still steaming in the saucepan, he'd made didn't receive the praise it deserved, for my mood was more on the sour end of the spectrum. Each time I planned to show up for breakfast, this was what Jesse made. He learned to cook quickly upon moving into our guesthouse a month earlier, when first I fell in love, and now he had officially mastered French toast, but one wouldn't know it at the look of my expression. I was sullen, suddenly depressed, seeing my suspicions come into the light and I couldn't explain why, but I felt pity for my mother then.
And my father was a disgrace for a man, for a husband, for a father. He clearly grew more careless over his affairs in more recent months, as I'd been seeing more of his office receptionist, Mia, than one might expect, for she answered the phone and did little else. If I wanted more from my job, I would find ways to be more valuable as well, and what was more valuable than a nice piece of ass to nail? Mia was a beauty with long black hair that reached the small of her back. She had wide blue eyes that stunned. She was a bit on the plumper side, but she wore it quite well.
Mrs. Bellamy was known for spreading her love all over her small social circle. She had a sexual appetite that one, two, or even three men couldn't satiate. She'd also taken a ride on her pool boy, Lance, her housekeeper, Jude, her groundskeeper, Emilio, and her butler, Harold. It wasn't front page news or anything, but the only person who didn't know of her lascivious reputation was her own husband. The hot gossip made for excellent entertainment, though I couldn't say how true it was until now.
Being the rebels that we were, we sat on the rugged hardwood floor at the coffee table and ate from it while we watched repeats of old animations we grew up on, that still made us laugh like silly children. We slowly scooted nearer and nearer to one another until his arms were folded around me, pulling me tight against his body so there was no unoccupied space between us.
I rested my head against his chest and he leaned back against the cushy sofa and for over an hour we watched television, until boring adult programming came up on the screen, and then our focus shifted more onto one another. He pressed his soft lips to mine and held it for a long moment. "I love you," he whispered, smiling slightly. I folded my arms around his neck and closed my eyes, pausing the tender moment between us, me and my dearest friend and my doting lover.
"I love you too," I replied and mashed my lips against his aggressively, passionately, sensually. Our tongues danced their waltz, twirling, whirling about the other's, and once again I felt that pang of famine that he incited within me. We clumsily remained connected at the lips while we shed our clothes from the living room, down the hall, and to the master bedroom, leaving them where they fell in a trail leading the world to our utopia.
We fell nude to the bed and, upon applying protection between us, united our ravenous bodies, thrashing and thrusting, moaning and suckling, soothing my starved body.