“The Folies-Bergère.” Emilie said again, she took a long drag on her cigarette, and pursed her lips at me. “It is in the city. A dance hall.”
“Dance hall? What kind of dance hall?” I reached towards her and removed the cigarette from between her lips, placing it between my own. My earth stained fingers stained the delicate paper roll of the cigar. The sun that shone high above in the sky beat down on us with a kind of strange, threatening demure. It’s rays reflected through the leaves of the tree at odd angles, giving the illusion that the sky was a magnifying glass. Perhaps it was, perhaps the Gods were inspecting us, watching carefully as Emilie and I dug around in the earth, pulling weeds, making sure that we didn’t unearth some precious healing plant. Or else, they would use that magnifying glass to set us aflame. Emilie muttered apologies to the Creeping Charlies and Dandelions as she pulled them up between raw fingertips, as if that would appease the deities.
“Don’t let your mother see you smoking.” Emilie muttered beneath her breath. “The body isn’t meant to hold fire inside of it.’ She would say.”
“She won’t be to thrilled about the idea of me going to a dance hall either. What did you say the name of it was?”
“The Folies-Bergère, for the millionth time. It is kind of like, like the Moulin Rouge.”
I choked on the smoke that twirled in my throat, feeling it being sucked down through my chest. “The Moulin Rouge!”
“Yes. But, I don’t really feel like traveling all the way out to Montmarte, do you?”
“What in the world could we be doing in a place like that?”
“A place like what dear?”
Emilie waved he hand, and shook her head so that her snow-white hair blinded me in the sunglow. “It’s perfectly harmless, I’ve been there before.”
“Why?” I shrieked. A few birds that were settled in the Magonlia behind me were suddenly startled into flight. I could feel the rushing air from their wings brushing against my face. I turned to watch them. Birds had always fascinated me. It was the simple way that they had more power then any of us humans could ever have. They were such small, delicate, insignificant creatures with the freedom to see the world as if it was a miniature. They had the freedom to take complete advantage of life, with the liberty of going wherever the wind would take them. Passing all of us by as if we were statues. In that way, birds were almost, immortal.
“To meet men of course.” Emilie was saying. “That’s where you go to meet all the prominent young bachelors in Paris. With the added effect of adventure, deviousness, and pure immorality that has seemed to have been so boldly unveiled by those so called Holy Christians of France.”
“You are making yourself sound like a prostitute.”
“It’s 1870 my dear, all women are prostitutes.”
I shrugged in defiance, and cut off some sprigs of wormwood to use in grub killing.
“I don’t see why I should go.”
Emilie, took the cigarette that had burned it self down to a frayed lump of parchment from my fingertips. “I would have thought the reason was quite clear.”
“No, belle. It is not.”
“You dream wild.”
“They are just figments of imagination.”
Emilie shook her head and leaned down to kiss the Hibiscus that grew out from beneath her fingertips. “Non mon petit chou. You are a powerful witch. You have visions. Do not say that you do not believe that they are real.”
I could feel the sweet sting of the air tickle through my eyelids, as if that could be the redemption of findings. “I have had these visions all my life, and there is nothing to show for them. I am a daughter of a Kitchen Witch; the blood that flows beneath my veins will only be dug into dirt. Those visions can never possibly happen.”
Emilie stretched out and leaned back, onto the ground. Her elfish face smiled strangely, the eyelids fluttering into pleasurable slits. She drew something into her then, while twirling the deep pink Hibiscus flower between her fingertips. Her body went lax and calm.
“He. You mean he. Bel homme. How can he happen if you don’t go to him?”
“Do you have a feeling Emilie?”
“I always have a feeling.”
“Indeed.” I placed my bolline knife onto the damp earth, and began to crawl over to where Emilie lay on the grass. The dew left over from the morning dampened my crème colored petticoat. Some of the fabric caught in the toe point of my boots as I made my way across the grass. I crouched over Emilie on all fours, straddling her. “What is it that you feel this time Emilie?”
She reached up and kissed me quick on the lips. “Belle. Tell me about him.”
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“Oh, it’s so complicated. I don’t think I could describe him. There is the way that he looks, but the way he makes me feel, that is indescribable.”
“Whenever I see him, he has long mahogany brown hair, like Spanish chocolate swirled with caramel. He always has his hair tied back at the nape of his neck with some kind of band. Sometimes the band is gold; sometimes it is tied together with a thin string. Sometimes he wears charms in his ear lobes. His face is very prominent, like mine.” I laughed. “Maybe he is just my long lost brother.”
“I’ve dreamed him in so many forms. He’s been a cowardly painter who knows more then he should, a Vampire that seduces and suffocates you with iron, an initiate into a Coven. Once, I rescued him from drowning, once he disappeared from me through mirrors, once he taught me how to waltz, and once we had made love in the sky. He has tried to kill me, save me, forget me. Yet, no matter what, every single night he will kiss me.”
I sighed, and rolled over, so that I was lying beside Emilie. That strange, familiar clawing feeling was entering my stomach. “He is the only thing I have to hold, and he is not even real. I’m sick with my love for him. It is for him that I touch myself every night until I escape into sweet slumbers from which I wish I could never wake. For him, I have forgotten all reality. For him, I write the stories, I write the dreams. I try so hard to make them real. I’ve never felt this way about anyone.”
“It is a tension that I feel in my throat with the mere thought of his face, a nauseous pleasure, a beauty of candle light. In his arms I am pure and clear and beautiful. In his arms I am strong. In his eyes, I am my own creation.”
I looked up into the sky, squinting in the magnifying glass of the Gods. Looking to where the birds had flown earlier, escaping into a vast patch of blue sky. Forever soaring. Never ending. Never knowing the fear of death. Knowing only the way life looks spread before them, endless fractions of days, endless fractions of sky.
“He is the only one who makes me feel as if I could fly.”
Emilie was smiling up at me with sparkling eyes. “I think your mind is flying right now. If we fly tonight, just this once, maybe you will find him.”
I looked down at her. The sun was shifting, lying more in the west, the Gods were abandoning us. “How can you be so sure?”
She shrugged. “Only one way to truly know.”
She got up; her crimson dress shimmering with the contrast of grass stains along her hem. Emilie reached forward and took my hand. “Let us ask the cards.”
Together, we shuffled through the grass, the dampness sinking deep into our shoes. When we reached the veranda, Emilie broke into a trot, giggling and pulling me along. We ran across the mosaic tiles of the veranda, past the fountains of cherubs and moon Goddess’s that sprouted water from their mouths, the liquid flowing into pools around our feet. Emilie’s maid, an African voodoo witch by the name of Ada was scrubbing the tiles on her hands and knees. She looked up and watched us run by her with wide eyes, pursing her bee-stung lips and shaking her head.
Emilie reached forward and grabbed the post of the trellis that stood over the entrance from the kitchen garden into the villa; she swung her body around it and almost ran into the chest of her brother, Chane. He looked up at us in surprise, his green eyes swarming as they looked into mine. “Emilie. Do try to not kill Rose Red here, or me for that matter.”
“Yes. I’ve been reading these delightful folktales recently published by these two German brothers called Grimm. One of them is called, ‘Snow White and Rose Red’. It makes me think of you two, except; the characterization may be a little mixed up. You, for example,”
He said, looking at his sister, “look like Snow White but have all the idiotic untamed nature of Rose Red, and you,”
He looked me up and down, smiling deep inside his cheeks. “You are as quiet and unspoken as snow itself, and yet you look like fire. But maybe, there is a little Rose Red in you after all? What say you Lyris?”
“I say,” Chortled Emilie, “that you step aside so that we can get through.”
Emilie reached forward and swung forward the double doors that led from the veranda into the bright kitchen where her mother stood. Sunlight poured through the windows and through glass prisms that hung from the ceiling, casting a sprinkle of rainbows all along the walls. An island, hand carved by Emilie’s father from birch wood and painted with white wash stood in the middle of the room. Emilie’s mother stood at this island, chopping vegetables with a sharp shining kitchen knife that sprouted from a dark cherry wood handle. She arranged the vegetables in the order that they would go into the salad along the island surface. First the lettuce, then the tomatoes and the purple onionskins, followed closely by the carrot shavings and cucumber slices. She was dropping these pieces into the blue clay bowl that sat by her right hand.
“What are you girls doing?”
“Mother. We would like to consult the cards.”
The lines in Emilie’s mother’s face deepened, she looked warily from side to side, and quickly picked up a cotton towel that had been lying on the table, wiping her hands with it.
“Come quickly. We must be careful. It has been years since one of the Wicca was killed for the tarot, but our faith is still thought to be a sin against church and against that of state.”
She led us in through the sitting room, decorated with pink and crème draperies and golden curved furniture and up the cherry wood staircase that led to the second floor of their villa.
The upstairs hallway was dark from lack of sunlight and closed doors. I counted doors as we hurried past them, one-two-four-six. Into that sixth doorway, at the end of the halls was through where Emilie’s mother led us.
The room was dark but Emilie’s mother was quick to light the rows and circles of candles that surrounded the room with the piece of flint that she kept in her girdle. I gasped as the windowless room was illuminated by the golden glow, which cast strange shadows across our faces. The candlelight made us shine perfect and translucent as Goddess’s themselves. A large, circular altar was set up in the center of the room, covered by a light blue silk cloth. Upon which, two ivory sculptures of the God and the Goddess were carved. I recognized that handiwork to be that of Emilie’s father as well. Emilie’s mother’s athame lay horizontal on the altar, it’s black handle shining, the runes that read Emilie’s mother’s name and element seem to come alive in the beam of the ambiance. I marveled at the play of light through the crystal chalices as they reflected colors onto Emile’s face. She smiled back at me, her image distorted through the crystal like broken glass.
“Over here ma petites.” Emilie’s mother beckoned. “We must make haste.”
She led us to a table that sat in the corner of the room, to the large fireplace that looked as if it burned more then just firewood. Turning to that fireplace, her mother opened up the clock that sat on the mantle, revealing a various set of colored stones that were set into the wood. “Emilie’s father is also a very talented puzzle maker, among many things.” She said.
She pushed a series of five various stones, and we heard a gentle “click”. The wood swung open revealing a hidden compartment deep inside the clock. From within there, Emilie’s mother retrieved a small wooden box.
“Major arcana, minor arcana?” She asked.
“Major arcane.” Emilie replied. “For the big questions.”
“Ah,” Her mother smiled and her green eyes twinkled like the sunlight upon the sea. “Big questions, three card spread. Lyris?”
I stepped forward. “Yes Madame?”
“Have a seat at this table here.”
I complied and Emilie stood behind me, placing her hands on the back of my chair. Her mother sat across the table from us, placing the box between us. She opened its lid, reached inside, and brought out a deck of cards.
“This tarot deck was made by my Grandmother. She hand painted every single card with amazing detail, hidden symbols, and secret meanings. Every card has a different story to tell every time it is read. No two truths are ever the same, no two lies are ever as destructive as the next. Your past, your present and your future are yours alone. Do you understand Lyris?”
“You must never forget the knowledge that divination gives us, and what responsibility comes with that knowledge. Kings have gone mad with far simpler visions then that which the human mind is perfectly capable of seeing every day. Are you sure you wish to know the truth?”
“Behind your visions?”
“How did you know?”
“Shhh Lyris. Speak no more, it is the time for the cards to weave tales.”
She handed the deck to me, placing it carefully into the palm of my hand. “Shuffle the deck, all the while thinking of the one question that lies deep inside your subconscious. Then separate the cards into three separate piles in the center of the table.”
I fingered the precious aged material of the cards in my hand, feeling the ridges of the paint and the texture of the fabric. Carefully, I moved the cards, sliding them against each other, behind each other, in front of each other. Tell me, I begged them, What will these visions that I have been having sense before I can remember, these visions of a man, what will they bring?
I separated the cards into three piles as evenly as I could and I placed them face down in the center of the table.
Emilie’s mother’s hand hovered over the pile that lay at the far left of her. “This is what has come before you, all that has been seen, all that has been forgotten.”
She flipped the card and stared at its surface. It was a picture of an old man sitting in a throne, scepter in his right hand. Above his head floated the Roman numeral “five”, and before him, two men bowed.
“The Hierophant.” Mother said, her eyes closing. “The quest for knowledge, the increasing understanding of the culture and the world around you. Conforming to the way things are. You never did question anything Lyris. The world to you was always just that, the world.”
She moved on, to the pile that lay in the center. “This is how things are at this point in time, not always as things seem. This is the air you breathe, the current situation at hand, the conflict that is arising.”
She flipped the card and smiled at the dreaded skeletal black night upon his white steed. “Of course, Death.”
“Transition, a change of life, an ending to how everything was before, moving from the known to the unknown, eliminating, being in the path of sweeping change, experiencing inexorable forces, accepting the inevitable. Oh Lyris, what is it that you girls had planned for tonight?”
“We wanted to go to The Folies-Bergère, we thought that perhaps an adventure would help…” Emilie said, tottering off.
“Help the visions come true?”
“Indeed, well that is what will happen tonight if you go to The Folies-Bergère. There will be no turning back from the transformation before you.”
“And if I go?” I requested in earnest, reaching across the table to grab Emilie’s mother’s hand. “If I accept the transformation, the vision, if I accept it, pursue it instead of allowing it to constantly chase me. Then what? What will result from this revolution of soul?”
“What lies before you?”
She flipped over the last card, leaving it covered with her hand so that I could not see it. She glanced at it and then looked deep into my eyes. “Sudden change, release, downfall, revelation.” She recited.
“The Tower.” Emilie whispered.
“Indeed.” Her mother commended.
“What will happen?”
“The plot of your life will play out. Everything will change, everything will fall, and just when you find yourself beaten down on the sharp jagged rocks of immortality, only then will you find your release, and reveal the truth.”
“It sounds like some kind of novel.”
Emilie leaned down and whispered into my ear. “It sounds like a vision.”
I looked up into her green eyes. “It sounds like The Folies-Bergère!”