Chapter 10

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The house was dark when Miles arrived home. No one in her family had cared to wait up. The front rooms were silent, and the bedroom doors closed created a dark hall that she stared down a little longer than usual. She went to the kitchen instead of her room as the faint smell of seasoned meat clung to the air and beckoned her. The kitchen was cleaned as if they weren't anticipating her return. Pots dried on a towel alongside the sink. Three cups, upside down. A tangle of forks and knives alongside plates propped against the green tile backsplash. It stung Miles' pride a bit. She felt like Dino had taken over her family with his baseless charm. The one family she'd had a hand in making sure they stayed together. Now she was an afterthought, the one left out. 

She'd found a meatloaf and potatoes in the microwave and was sure that it was Jelly's doing, not her mother's and certainly not Dino. She couldn't remember the last time Harrietta was far enough outside her own problems to make sure she'd eaten. Miles closed the door to the microwave, food untouched. She'd lost her appetite completely. Miles climbed on her bed trying to erase the memory of Sydney screaming by covering her head with her pillow. Within minutes, she heard a faint knock. When she pulled off the pillow, the door stood closed. The one time she didn't want to get up was the one time her family actually followed the rules of knocking first then waiting for a response. She grumbled beneath her breath as she stood and walked to the door. She pulled it open to find a dark hallway. No one was there.

She was sure she'd heard the knock. She peeked her head down the hallway, all bedroom doors were closed to the right and no light came from the living room to the left. Miles felt a stirring in her belly. The same feeling she felt as she climbed to the top of a rollercoaster, its car shugging slowly, building her anticipation. She walked to Jelly's door and turned the knob slowly. Miles saw his green nightlight first, then saw a mound under his covers. She watched the purple and green universe print of his comforter until it shifted and she heard his soft snort. She closed his door softly and walked to her mother's door. She placed her ear to the shallow wood. She heard movement, a woman's soft sigh and the creak of bed springs. She took her ear away before she heard more than she could ever forget. She started to walk back into her room but ended up back in the kitchen. She'd worked up an appetite with her worrying and speculation. She secretly wondered if she was going crazy. She turned on the microwave and waited the minute for her food to warm.  The house was eerily quiet. When the timer expired, she took the plate into her room and sat against her headboard ready to send a fork full of potatoes into her mouth. She stopped abruptly when she felt the bottle in her pocket, heat almost to the point of burning through her jeans to her hip. The pain startled and seared her. She nearly threw the food aside and fished the bottle out of her pocket to launch it across the top of her bed. It looked as regular as it did in Valva Dubois' shop. She felt the heat in her belly again, travel up to her chest, then her neck and to a dull throbbing in her head. She felt like she wanted to do something. Her body wanted her to do something. She felt the heat rise inside her.

"What am I supposed to do?" she croaked lowly.

Her eyes landed on the glass vial. In her mind she knew the liquid would be sweet and cold. Just one drop. That was all she needed.

She scrambled to the vial, haphazardly twisting its top and inserting one drop onto her tongue. She murmured with satisfaction and laid back on her bed. It was sweet, cold and satisfying. Her mind felt like the fog was lifting, her temperature was returning to normal. Her breath started to normalize. She closed her eyes and focused on the rise and fall of her chest. Deep breaths. She had never felt so compelled to do anything in her life. A small fear stirred in her that felt like she'd lost control. What had she done?

"You've done well, my child."

A deep voice hissed only inches from her ear. She sprang up from her bed, her back planted against her closet door as she peered around her room. Nothing was there. No one had actually been there. Miles felt like she was slowly losing her mind. She'd felt hands on her, voices in her head and felt like she was being watched since leaving the Dubois shop. All she could conclude was that Valva Dubois had gotten in her head. Done something to her. She'd go see her in the morning and demand answers. Force her to stop whatever it was she'd done. Miles returned to her bed now. She eyed the vial on her nightstand. What is it, she wondered. 

"It helps you speak to me." The baritone voice returned. Miles' eyes darted around the room. It sounded so clear, so close

"Who are you?" She tried speaking in a whisper. She felt silly talking to an imaginary voice in her room, "Show yourself."

The voice did not respond. She sat there alone, listening to the stillness. Her nerve failing her to continue the conversation. She rubbed her eyes with her fists. She wasn't feeling well, her stomach seemed to swell with heat again. Maybe she'd had a long day and was worn thin from her investigation. She needed rest. Yes, that's it, she convinced herself.

When she opened her eyes, there was a man standing in her closet. The door was half ajar but she could make out the profile of his face, the tall height of his thin body. Miles crawled back on her bed, gripping the covers in her shaking palms.

The door slid open, creaking on its hinges slowly until it showed the whole body of the man. He was dressed in a deep purple, velvet petticoat and dark trousers that tapered above his shiny black boots. His hat, low over his eyes. His eyes. Miles stared, captured in his gaze. They were moving. Something was swimming in his irises. He was looking at her but his cloudy gray eyes shimmered with movement. They seemed to Miles as if they lived their own existence outside of his vision. Miles had never seen eyes like his in her life and oddly, she never wanted to see another person with them. 

Miles couldn't speak. She didn't know how he'd gotten into her home, into her closet. She didn't know what he wanted with her. Her fear made her immovable.

"My pleasure, Miss Miles DuCote." The baritone voice, was smooth as silk and slid into her ear as if he was sitting beside her. He stepped from her closet nearer to her bed. His long legs seemed to go on forever and his spindle-like fingers stretched towards her in greeting. He stopped at the side of the bed, his height towered above her. His hand still reached toward her as if beckoning her to touch him.

Miles was still entranced. She couldn't move or think straight. Her breath had caught in her chest and she labored to find her regular rhythm. 

"Who...are..." Miles spoke between breathes.

"I'm Papa Legba. Here to grant your wish." A sinister, curling smile pushed his lips back and exposed a mouth of too many teeth. 

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