The air clung to her skin, leaving it smelling faintly of the languid notes of cherry tobacco and sweat. It permeated the air and added to the scents that were so famously native to New Orleans. Margo loved the buildings along Decatur. They looked as if they were alive. They yawned and winked and settled into their skin of peeling paint and creeping moss. It was how she felt, old and stately and weathered.
“It’s a beautiful day Eva. A beautiful day.” Margo spoke as she held tightly to her sister. They were once young girls. They used to be tanned and beautiful and so full of life. They once had reigned supreme in this town. People either steered clear of the Lafayette girls or were drawn to them. They didn’t care which it was as long as they got some sort of reaction.
Margo grinned as she watched three young boys. They must have been no older than ten. No one seemed to question why they were out, performing in the quarter when they most certainly should have been in school. Their ebony colored skin contrasted against their white tanks as they heroically drummed out a jaunty tune on overturned buckets. They each had a little hat placed out in front of them. The boys scanned the small crowd that had assembled. They judged which ones would drop in a tip, and hoped for enough to buy a soda and perhaps a burger for lunch down on Canal. Margo opened up her slim wallet and took out three crisp bills. She walked up to each hat and slid in a dollar and a wish for health and happiness.
She could still remember when she and her sister would perform on the streets for the tourists. Eva would put on her sexy satin slip dress and slide in a white camellia. She had wanted to be just like Billie Holiday. She would sit and listen to her albums and close her eyes tightly, trying to memorize every inflection. Margo would strum away on her Uncle’s guitar. He patiently taught her chords until she could manage to figure out most songs just by listening to them. They were quite the pair. It wasn’t long until they were headlining in the small clubs along Bourbon. It was the happiest time of their lives, but as with most things, life happens.
She held on to Eva and continued to walk down the cobbled slate. Her feet hurt. They were stuffed into beautiful velvet shoes decorated with carefully painted peonies. But they were Eva’s favorite. And this, after all, this was her day.
“Remember when you made me buy these damn shoes? You said it looked like they were made for me and it would be a sin to let them go. They cost me a whole week’s worth of wages. But I never regretted it.”
Eva’s laugh hung in the air. It danced along in the meager breeze the slowly inched its way up the narrow streets. Margo breathed in deeply and let out a cough as she saw Tony walk slowly over. She elbowed Eva and felt an automatic pull, as Tony's eyes danced over her body. She may be old, but certain parts still beat to the rhythm of life and well loins. His gaze tracked over her colorful handkerchief skirt that was nipped neatly at the waist, up over her breasts and continued to the lines that time had etched carefully on her face, and even to her long gray hair that was tied to the side. Eva always said it made her look younger. She would take what she could get.
“You always were a devil Tony.” Margo grinned at his deep chuckle.
“And you always could knock the breath out of me. You are still so beautiful, even after all of these years. Where are you off to? Mind some company?”
“Actually I do mind. It’s Eva’s day. She held her sister close and looked defiantly into his eyes.”
Sadness settled into the lines around his mouth. “Of course it is. Good day to you Ms. Eva.” He looked at Margo and pressed his lips to her cheek. His kiss was warm, and his breath smelled of mint and whiskey. He always started his day with a drink. It was the only one he would allow himself aside from special occasions. He said it kept him young. Perhaps he was right.
The whistle of the steamboat Natchez broke her out of her revelry. It was nearly time. Margo slipped off her heels and walked down the steps to the river. They had always loved the Mississippi. The river beats with the blood of their ancestors, and if she closed her eyes real tight, she could still hear the Negro spirituals in the breath of the wind and in the song of the birds.
Eva had always said that when she died, she wanted to take flight in the wind that blew down the Mississippi. She wanted to be a part of the sky and land. To be taken up in the condensation along the river and come down as a summer thunderstorm. She wanted to give nutrients to the soil and provide a home to the wildflowers that would poke up from the ground in the spring. She wanted to be here and never leave.
“This is it, Eva. Our journey. We sure did live didn’t we?” Margo’s voice cracked as she held the satin pouch that contained her Eva’s ashes. She hummed Eva’s song as her sister slipped through her fingertips.
Allison deHart is a full-time English/Creative Writing teacher and part-time musician. She resides in the beautiful mountains of Southern California with her husband (who has authored several books), and her sons. She has her bachelors degree in Creative Writing from Cal State San Bernardino and her masters in teaching from Chapman University. After several years of a writing hiatus, she has once again started putting pen to paper. Fiction War Winter was her first published work. You can find her on Facebook at fb.me/littlebearvalleyblues
Eva's Wish is a Fiction War Finalist entry.
Please do not reproduce without permission from the author.
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