She pulls out the last of her dresses from her closet. Every shade of the spectrum, embroidered so finely with saffron-gold and mallowsweet-ruby and dittany-pearl; you could swear the lines moved under the light. The lush fabrics were from her father, one of the early nodes of the chikondar network stitched between Hooghly and Treme, selling yards and yards of dreams of the fabled Orient. It was her father who taught her how to sew, how to bind seams with just a squeeze of the index and thumb, how to charm each dart with a fitting spell so that every body can wear your work, how to interweave strands of glamour and fortune.
She takes out a mahogany box lined with velvet, and carefully places vials of perfume within. Notes of asphodel and honeywater and jimson weed; one little whiff and your spirit apparates. The potions were from her mother, granddaughter to a granddaughter to a granddaughter of a Voodoo Queen, matriarch and crone and mediwitch to a community of vagabond peddlers and creep joint princesses. It was her mother who taught her how to brew, how to steep just enough belladonna to fly but not enough to crashland, how to portion off each tincture and oil with masterful precision, how to bottle fame and brew glory.
She picks up the tube of kajol that is older than she is and paints haunting dark rings around her bright doe eyes - a ritual since birth, when her father’s sister draws into her strength and protection.
She cradles the stole made from a wolf that died before she was born and hangs it off her limber slender shoulders - a familiar since birth, when her mother’s brother wraps around her power and sanctuary.
They are all long gone now, her elders: abba and moman and fupi and tonton. Claimed by tuberculosis and cyclones and Jim Crow. They left the world for her and left her the world. She’s always had a touch of the bede and the gitane in her, likely decanted from strings of long-losts dadis and grand-mères. The spirit of transience stirs in her - longing for adventure, getting away from the fading homeliness of New Orleans, mulling over her sweetheart’s invitation to New York.
Should she take up that invitation, head to unknown territory, start over? Enchant the locals with canny magical skill grounded in sincere empathy?
Isn’t that what her parents ultimately accomplished? Is that not just an approval but her birthright?
It’s time for her to follow in her family’s footsteps, and go.
Viola ‘Trixie’ Shafiq locks the door to her childhood home at the edges of Storyville and resists looking back.