Le Soleil Levant Part 3

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Check out Part 1 & 2 Here

I sit in the hotel room, slowly pulling my gloves off of my fingers. Despite the shade provided by the lace-edged curtains, sweat rolls down my forehead like raindrops sliding down a windowpane. I stare at the letter, wrinkled from reading it time and time again. I know it by heart, every word, even the curves in the black ink across the paper. Looks like she wrote it in a hurry, under pressure. She didn’t seem under pressure when I saw her . . . just not in the best shape.

All right. She was miserable. Don’t think I’ve ever seen Marie miserable in all the years we spent together in that old, white plantation house with the painted rooms and ice tea sweating on the kitchen counter every summer afternoon. Days spent running around barefoot in the fields with our braids streaming behind us like the tails of a kite. Nights tucked in the same bed, whispering about the latest gossip in town or the new dresses Daddy was getting us for some special Christmas party and so on and so forth. I’d like to say we were close. Different, yes, but close. I know my sister.

And that wasn’t my sister up in that house.

She didn’t even look the same. I could see traces of the old Marie in her: the curling ringlets, porcelain complexion, and that prideful spark in her warm, brown eyes. Her coppery voice was always the same: cold one moment and warm the next. She was thinner than I had ever seen her in my life. Her eyes weighed heavy into her face like a pair of sinkholes. Her lips were cracked, her nails chipped, her hair oily. Everything about her just seemed tired and broken, like a toy that’s been left up in the attic for far too long.

It’s the house, I swear. Something about the way it keeps you wandering, stuck in a maze of some sort. The fog it put on everyone in there, sending them off to a groggy land of dreams. All those people, like phantoms and ghosts, wandering in and out of the house as if something keeps them stuck there, keeps them from passing on into the next world.

I fall back onto the comforter, staring at the tiled in the ceiling.

I can’t just leave her there. Not in that place. Daddy wouldn’t care that she’s . . . well, not his sweet, innocent baby anymore. He’d take her back without blinking twice.

I fish the two train tickets off the desk and toss them back down. I came here to get my big sister and I’m not going back without her. It wouldn’t just be a failed mission, it’d be desertion, like I left her behind as some prisoner of war. I swear, it’s something about that house and those people in it that keeps her there. If I could just talk to her again, get her alone, maybe I could get some sense in her. Maybe I could make her see that nothing holds her to that place; she can come home anytime she wants.

What’s keeping her in that place? Maybe the man in her bed was her lover and she can’t bear to leave him. Maybe . . . maybe she owes a debt and has to stay to pay it off. Whatever the reason, I’m sure there’s a way out of it. There’s always a way out.

I toss the train tickets into the desk drawer and start undressing. I’m not getting on that train without her and if she won’t come home with me tomorrow, then I’ll just wait here until she changes her mind. New Orleans isn’t the worst place to spend a little time, especially since I’ve long since needed a break.

Sitting down at the desk, I pull out some pen and paper, addressing the letter to Daddy.

I found Marie and she’s doing just fine. She’s made plenty of friends and doesn’t seem to want to come yet, so I’m going to stay and wait till she’s up and ready. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Tell everyone I love and miss them.

            -Sincerely, Susannah

Takes seconds for me to fold up the letter into an envelope, address it, stamp it, and pass it off to a bellboy to stick in the mail.

I give it a week before Marie caves and comes back home with me. Three months is hardly long enough to find any real attachment to this place, especially if you spend all your time in Soleil Levant.

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