Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: An Unholy Alliance #10 (3.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts. 

Having received word from the local librarian, Char heads to Mason Springs, eager to see what they found for him, and trying not to get his hopes up too much. See what's going on in this week's chapter of An Unholy Alliance. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

An Unholy Alliance #10 (3.3)

I found Casey ensconced in what she liked to refer to as command central, seated behind a large pecan executive style desk with multiple drawers, flanked on either side by smaller wooden tables. She possessed a pretty decent computer set-up, one that included two monitors, an exterior hard drive, a laser printer, and more. The library had a definite online presence—luckily for me, or I might never have been fortunate enough to meet Casey in an Internet genealogical forum. Those Mason Springs residents who were computer literate could request books from within the library’s collections or from other libraries that were part of the same lending system, and these Casey kept behind the desk on a faux wood book case, waiting for the patron’s arrival. Of course they were connected to the Internet, which allowed ample opportunity for research and community outreach, and whatever else she wanted to do. I couldn’t help but regard Casey as a great asset to her community, as well as an invaluable source of assistance to myself, even though after two years I hadn’t located any specific information regarding my birth family. But I’d known going into it this would be a difficult task, and I might not find any of the answers I so diligently sought.

Casey rose to greet me as I approached. Music played softly in the background. I didn’t recognize what it was, but I found the melody soothing. “Good morning, Charlemagne!” She extended a hand which I held briefly in mine as I bowed slightly. Manners never go out of style, even old-fashioned ones. I had a strange upbringing. Doesn’t make me a heathen. At least I’d cured her early on of the need to address me as Mr. Toussaint.

“I was just about to put on some hot water. Care for a cup of tea? I just bought some Earl Grey.”

Despite the fact that it was summer in Missouri, which many people pronounced as misery due to the humidity, I was a huge fan of hot drinks since I tended to be chilly at the best of times. I especially enjoyed hot tea, and Casey knew it. How could I resist? As I’ve mentioned before, I do have a problem with self-control.

“Good.” Their dark eyes sparkled with humor that was almost contagious. Reaching under the desk, they brought out a couple of small, old books, and some printed material, which she handed to me. “I’d hoped to have a name for you,” she confessed, “but so far, nothing. I’ll have to get back to you later on that. Sorry.”

“No problem,” I assured her as I glanced curiously at what she’d found. Both books were small and handbound, as opposed to having been mass produced, with plastic covers. One volume was a genealogical history of southwestern Missouri and the other was a general history of the state. The papers appeared to be a list of slaves in Greene County in 1850 and 1860, probably part of a census taken at the time.

Just then, another patron approached the desk. Casey gave me an apologetic grin. “I’ll bring the tea back to you,” she said. “Usual place?”

“Yes, please.” I nodded agreement as I walked away, my mind already on the books in my hand, anxious to delve into them.

My usual spot was a niche in the science section, which was less frequented than other parts of the library. An oversized rattan chair with a delightfully soft cushion was my seat of choice. I nestled into place and turned my attention to the sheets of paper first.

I knew this was a long shot, but still I searched the rolls for… for what, I couldn’t exactly say. I didn’t have so much as a name to go by. I didn’t know exactly where I was born, or even when. By approximation, I calculated the year of my birth to be somewhere around 1861, so either right before the war started or right after. I wasn’t born Charlemagne, that much I knew. The name was given to me by Dominique, who thought it sounded grand for her little emperor, as she sometimes liked to refer to me. When she bothered to refer to me at all.

No, what information I did possess, scant as it was, had come from the woman who was more of a mother to me than Dominique could ever be. My nurse, governess, confidante… and so much more. The woman who taught me much of what I know today, taught me to read and write, to stand up for myself against my overbearing brothers. The woman who loved me as if I was her own… Mama Lil.

The woman who gave me the cross which even now I wear about my neck, although how she acquired it, I cannot say. Maybe I should actually describe it here. I could understand Tyrone’s fascination with it on first glance. But how to explain to him how much it meant to me, how it was all I had left of that remarkable woman?

To begin with, it’s known as a Canterbury cross, after the town in England. Silver, and almost square in shape, it differs from most crosses in that regard. On each of the four arms is a triangle, outlined in red diamonds. The triangle symbolizes the trinity—the blood, the life, and the death—of vampirism. On the curve of each arm small black onyx stones are set, and a square onyx lies in the middle of the cross. I know it’s valuable as a piece of jewelry, but it means so much more to me. I would not part with it for any amount of money.

Mama Lil passed many years ago, but I miss her to this day. Because of her love for me, I decided to uncover my roots. But the journey has not been an easy one. And Dominique has been no help whatsoever.

No surprise there.

 to be continued

Now go see what's going on with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell




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