With continuous harassment, Xavier convinced Isidora to accompany him to New Orleans to see his family. The flight to Louisiana was quiet and no one seemed to recognize Isidora, which was a welcomed relief. After they landed, they had a fifteen-minute wait for their luggage. As he looked around an overwhelming feeling rushed over him, he hadn’t been home in ages and the concept of home felt foreign to him. What was familiar to him was shirt clinging humidity that made his skin feel sticky. Sweat misted across his forehead and trailed down the length of his throat. Wiping moisture away with the back of his hands, he looked over and saw Isidora was as dry as sawdust.
Smirking, his eyes locked onto his lone bag then pulled it free. Seconds later, Isidora’s bag dropped and circled. When he went to grab it, Isidora cut in front of him and snatched it up and began walking toward the exit. Xavier watched Isidora’s hips sway from side to side, she owned a graceful yet authoritative gait that was perfectly tailored to her personality. She could enchant and intoxicate you one minute then the next your neck would firmly be under the weight of her crushing foot. He couldn’t quite explain what it was about her that made him want to declare war on the whole world if anyone so much as laid a finger on her. Every fiber of his being wanted descend into delicious madness and rebellion when he was within two feet of her.
He had always been the responsible child of his twin sister and brother. There were many things he couldn’t do, wasn’t allowed to do that his siblings got away with. The only time he could relax was when his father took him fishing or watched planks of wood become something amazing. Through many generations his father, Armande inherited a small house tucked away along the Bayou. Armande told him when he was old enough, the house and land would be his as well if he wanted it. At that old house was where he discovered his love of building. Xavier was enraptured watching his father and two lifelong friends build a boat from start to finish.
Of course, his projects were minuscule compared to his father’s. First, he tried his hand at crafting bird and doghouses, then tables and chairs. Finally, he had graduated to the point he could assist his father building the last boat a year before he left for the military. Those were good moments, peaceful moments, moments he hoped he could share in again.
“Lost in a reverie?”
“Have you made all the arrangements for our lodging?”
“Of course. I’m having someone pick us up so I can rent a vehicle for the duration of this trip.”
“Okay boy scout, lead the way.” His eyes roamed the length of the bus terminal to find a man holding a sign with his name on it and approached.
“Hello sir, I’m here to take you to Enterprise. You’ll find we have very affordable rentals that will fit your needs.”
“Talk about working hard for the money.” Isidora mumbled to herself causing Xavier to give her a knowing glance. She shrugged her shoulders and piled into the car. The chatty driver kept the conversation going until they pulled into Enterprise. Xavier didn’t know how anyone could be so energized at ten in the morning. Choosing a vehicle and signing for its release had taken no more than a half an hour. As they turned to leave, Isidora felt someone staring at her so she turned back to find the culprit. Their driver had been glaring at her on the ride here. Not one to be intimidated, she made direct eye contact every single time he checked through the mirror in the backseat.
“What is it?” Xavier inquired of Isidora.
“Is there something else I can assist you with?”
“I guess I haven’t done a good job not being so obvious, have I? I didn’t mean to stare.”
“Sure you did.”
“You’re quite blunt.”
“Yes, she is.” Xavier injected, growing irritated by the second.
“It seems like I’ve seen you before, very recent in fact.”
“Maybe you have.”
“I’d never forget a face like yours.”
“We need to get going.” He wanted to rip this guys eyes out. He knew flirting when he saw it.
“Well, sir, have a nice day.”
“You as well.” he smiled back at her. Xavier pushed the glass doors open and stepped out into the humidity. Their rental was parked a few feet from the building, ready to eat up the road. He tossed their bags in the back seat and slammed the door. Isidora slid in the passenger’s seat and waited for Xavier to adjust himself comfortably behind the wheel. On the road, she could tell something aggravated him so she decided to wait him out.
“You don’t care, do you?” he asked impatiently.
“What are you talking about?” she chuckled.
“You know exactly what I mean. You should have kept the chit-chat to a minimum.”
“Last I checked, I’m the owner of my mouth. I’m also not your woman and it isn’t a crime for a man to be friendly towards me.”
“Friendly? He wanted to slip and slid all over your body and you know it. You know how I feel about you.”
“Just in case I haven’t made myself clear, I belong to no one but me. There is no second or third party so you can just relax. No one will be slipping and slipping on all this sexiness.” Xavier’s scowl pulled into a slight smile at her response.
“Well, at least I know you like me.”
“I never admitted to any such thing.”
“You’re here with me, aren’t you? Would you go on a trip with someone you didn’t know?”
“I have. Almost had to bury that person alive.”
“Well, that’s just stupid.”
“It’s only stupid if one doesn’t know how to defend his or herself. I’ve already established that fact, remember?”
“Stop talking. I don’t want to hear another word from you until we get to my father’s house.” Laughter erupted from the pit of her stomach and hit his eardrums like a crack of a baseball against a bat. She rocked him, and he wanted to repay in kind, to shake her, turn her world upside down until she was empty. Though he hadn’t wanted to admit to himself, she held a massive amount of power over his emotions, while she kept him at a distance. Isidora had reduced him to man’s best friend waiting to devour his tasty treat on her word.
But she adhered to his command of silence as he stared through the windshield, undoubtedly preparing himself for this pending confrontation. When finally they reached their destination, he grabbed for the door handle; his movements became heavy. Limb by limb, his body emerged from the car and distress etched in his face. His posture was now hunched as if he’d taken a punch to the gut.
“Pull it together. You’re not a little boy who got caught sticking his nubby fingers in the cookie jar. Straighten your posture, head up.” Isidora never minced words with him and he’d have to thank her later for it. Standing erect, he led them down a short path and up the porch steps. She hung back leaning against a column as he walked up to the front door. Xavier turned back looking at her like a lost puppy. “Knock.” she pointed to the entrance.
He would have chickened out had she not accompanied him. That was his sole reason for asking her to join him, but he wouldn’t let her know that. Clearing his throat, he faced forward and knocked on the impeccably finished cedar door.
No one answered so he knocked again until he heard the top lock slog back. His pulse quickened and heart thumped wildly. Was he the only one who could hear the pounding of his heart, he wondered? He could hear the rush of blood between his ears as the faint sound of the door began to open. An immediate frown spread down his face and his heart steadied itself inside its cage, but the sudden crash left him light-headed.
“Well isn’t it a ghost from Christmas’ past.”
“Is dad inside?”
“This is how you greet your mother after all this time?”
“Where is my father?” he pressed.
“You were always his favorite,” she replied coolly.
“My father never had favorites, that was your thing. Are you going to tell him I’m here or not?”
She grinned slyly, “You really have no idea what’s happened? I suppose you wouldn’t since you abandoned tour family. You are the biggest mistake I ever made.”
Her words pierced Isidora through the heart. No son or daughter deserved to hear those vile words spewed from a parents mouth. Approaching the entrance, Isidora stood beside Xavier and began reprimanding his mother.
“There are many things Xavier is, but a mistake isn’t one of them. You’d do well to mind that putrid mouth of yours.”
“And who are you, his latest whore?” she bit back.
“Actually, no. My name is Isidora and I can’t stand injustice. You don’t have the right to speak to your son like he is a nobody. Furthermore, you’re not going to disrespect Xavier in front of me without repercussions.”
“I take pleasure in breaking women like you.” she seethed.
“Bring it id you think you’re bad enough.”
“Let’s just leave.”
“No. You haven’t gotten what you came for and we’re not leaving until you get some answers.”
“You have all of five seconds to loosen that tongue of yours or I’m storming this house.” Kora’s brows raised in shock and disbelief at this woman’s audacity. Isidora took a step forward and Kora cracked.
“He’s not here. Armande gave me the house in the divorce settlement, now get off my property!” Slamming the door in their faces, Isidora grinned at Xavier in victory.
“See, it didn’t take long for your mother to spill her guts.”
“I’m no respecter of person. And by the way, you’re not a mistake. I would have left home as well if I was in your shoes. So, don’t feel you did something wrong. You don’t have to take abuse from her. Just evil…”
“Thanks for caring enough to speak up, you didn’t have to do.”
“No problem. So, do you have any idea where your father might be?”
“There’s only one place.”
“Okay, let’s go. By the way, how many women have you had for your mother to mistake me for a whore?” Xavier was so taken aback he could only stare. “That many, huh? Never pegged you for a giggalo.”
“I’ve only been with one woman my entire life!” he choked out. “Honestly.”
“I said okay.”
:You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Just give it a rest, will you?”
“Not until you say you believe me.” Isidora chuckled down the steps and path to their rental. Suddenly, a truck pulled behind their car and a man hopped down onto the asphalt.
“Wah! When did you get here?”
“Today. We haven’t been here long. How’ve you been?”
“Good. I thought you’d never come back.”
“I’m sorry I left the way I did and for staying away for as long as I have.”
“I hated you for so long. I just couldn’t grasp why you bolted away from us, from home. I thought it was because of me.”
“No. You and Ada weren’t at fault for anything.”
“Yeah, but I figured out why you left and I’ve felt guilty for thinking you didn’t want to be around Ada and I. We know what mom did, her secret.”
“I’m sorry you were forced to keep her sins a secret in order to protect Ada and I. Dad too. I know you didn’t want us to get hurt and I can accept the fact I’m not your biological brother.”
“What are you talking about?” Xavier jabbed Adien in the arm, “You’ll always be my brother, nothing’s going to change that, likewise with Ada. Don’t let me hear you say something stupid like this again.” He pulled his brother in for a firm hug. Even though Kora tried passing off his twin siblings as their father’s biological children, Xavier never discriminated against either of them.
“I’m really sorry, man.” tears slid from Adrien’s eyes dampening his brother’s shirt.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’re alright. It’s good to see you.”
“You too. Ada’s going to hit the roof when she sees you. And dad…”
“How is he?”
“He happier than I’ve ever seen him. He’s at the old house. Got himself a real nice lady to keep him company.”
“He did suffer a heart attack when he found out we weren’t his biological children. Broke his heart to know mom cheated and deceived him for so many years. Even worse when he found out who she cheated on him with.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t around…I could have lost my father and not have known it.”
“Ada and I took good care of dad. He’s been waiting for you to come back, probably already knows you’re here. Words already spreading.”
“You’re a celebrity in NOLA, huh?”
“Not in the least.”
“I’m sorry, who’s the lady?”
“Oh, this is Isidora Torres. She’s a…friend.”
“I’m not, actually. He hasn’t made it that far yet.”
“Ouch.” Adien guffawed. “She’s a ball buster. You never could handle those types.”
“How are you, Ms. Torres? It’s nice to have you down in New Orleans.”
“I’m might fine and I’ve been here a time or two in my adolescents.”
“Is that right, now? Well, I hope you enjoy your stay.”
“Ahem. Shouldn’t you be at work?”
“Oh that, I’m on break. I am the CEO of my business. I can take as many breaks as I see fit.”
“Not to interrupt, but I need to eat.”
“Oh, ooohhh,” Xavier remembered her medical condition. He couldn’t have her blacked out in a coma, now could he?
“Rue’s on Tchoupitoulas Street has wonderful food. It opened post-Katrina.”
“Anything would be fine right about now.”
After lunch, Xavier’s mood improved greatly. All the jitters seemed to have melted away. Good thing, though, it was less than stellar watching him fret over what ifs. But, she supposed, he had his reasons to run away and hide; his mother’s wicked heart and blotted personality leaves much to be desired. Isidora knew a thing or two about wretched, selfish mothers. As she saw it, she was lucky to have run into her mother, Ava in her adolescents. She inherited a few of her mother’s features, such as her brown skin, the color of her hair, pitch black, and full lips. Isidora could see why her father could have mistaken her for her mother.
She could not deny Ava was beautiful, but that was all the charm she held. She surmised that’s what her father fell for, her beauty. The woman was heartless and cold. She admitted not wanting her, that she and her siblings were a mistake. Ava never wanted children but life happened against her wishes. Ava, in Isidora’s opinion, didn’t deserve the breath she was breathing after what she had cost her father and siblings. None of them would have had to go through what they did, abuse, misery, loneliness, abandonment. Yet she gets to live free and clear. Ava was going to pay for what she did even if Isidora had to drag her kicking and screaming.
“You’re too quiet, what are you thinking about?”
“That’s a very ambiguous answer.”
“Am I supposed to rattle off my life story for you and fall in your arms for comfort?”
“That would be a healthy start.”
“Not going to happen.”
“Will you be okay once you reunite with your father?”
“Yes. I’m not as worried as I was.”
“You know, you’ve seen me at my worst, it’s okay to open up about what scares you the most.”
“You still haven’t fulfilled your end of the bargain.”
“We’re on our way there, doesn’t that count for something?”
“You’re a difficult woman, Isidora Torres.” he smiled to himself. At the end of this, at least he had something to look forward to, getting to know more about Izzy. Driving along, one would never know Katrina had ever happened had it not been for new coverage. She was happy with the resilience of mankind, what we could do if we put our heart and mind to it. She just hated so many people lost their lives so tragically. But amidst the rumble, something good always come forth.
The lids of Isidora’s eyes shut out the world and noise into a welcomed peace. She was tired. There was a time when she never listened to the signals her brain was downloading to her. Fast used to be the only pace she knew. It wasn’t as if she had someone waiting for her when she finally came home. She was parentless and could do what she wanted. Now if she pushed past her limit, she found herself passed out for days at a time. Such is the life of an aging woman.
Isidora’s nap lasted long enough to feel partially restored. When the car crawled to a stop, she opened her eyes to a quaint looking house. Not too big, not too small but just enough for two people and maybe a child to live in. It looked like a peaceful place to wake up to on a Saturday morning. She loved Saturdays, it just held the feeling of family, as if life didn’t need to be rushed. A nice breakfast overlooking the balcony at morning first sunlight. Here she was thinking about family. A part of her wanted to try again but her heart was tired and hope diminished at the thought of putting the work in, all for it to fall apart in the end.
“What do you think?”
“Still looks the same. I found my passion here, helping my father build boats.”
“How’d you become a detective if you loved building so much?”
“When you run, you fall into all kinds of things that keep you away from your true passion. I’m sure you can understand that.”
“I can.” she added solemnly.
Exiting the car, they walked up the narrow stone path, passing a funky looking empty fountain. After they climbed the steps, Xavier knocked on the door and listened for his father’s voice. The small curtain that adorned the door was pushed back and then fell static. Armande whipped the door opened and practically ran out onto the porch.
“Hi, dad. How are you?”
“I’m great. This certainly is a surprise! Give me a hug, son.” Isidora watched them embrace and a slight smile tugged the corners of her mouth. Looks like there won’t be any more arguments today.
“It’s good to see you, dad.”
“Come in, come in. What brings you home?”
“A gentle shove from this lady right here.”
“Well, I’ll be. A woman got you to do, she must be a keeper.”
“We aren’t an item.”
“Ah ha ha! What a feisty woman. Come on in and have a slice of pie. I make the best key lime in all of Louisiana.”
“And that’s no tall tale.”
“I suppose I have room for one slice.” Closing the door behind them, the front room looked simple but elegant. A soothing breeze blew in through the windows reminding her of a trip to Hawaii she took. It was her first time sleeping with the windows wide. There was a certain appeal of openness and being carefree that made her feel she wasn’t on planet earth. Armande took brief glances at Isidora while he sliced into the cold pie.
“You look very familiar, miss.”
“It’s the second time I’ve gotten that today.”
“Hmm, no matter. Please, sit and tell me how you two met.”
“It’s not that interesting of a story.” Xavier lamented.
“Oh, come on. You have a beautiful woman beside and you can’t tell me how you met?”
“I kicked him in the shins.”
“What?” Armande sputtered almost choking on his saliva and graham cracker crust.
“I got in between her and a guy who I didn’t know at the time found it difficult to keep his hands to himself.”
“So, she kicked you?”
“Yes. She wanted to handle things herself. That’s her trademark.”
“I confess, it is.”
“And you’re friends after that?”
“We’re just two people that seem to be bound together for a time.”
“We’re friends, dad.”
“I don’t know…” Armande grinned. “Doesn’t sound like she wants to be saddled with you.”
“She does, she just doesn’t know it yet.”
“Pft.” she countered.
“Isidora knows how I feel about her, she’s just being difficult.”
“I see. I wish you the best of luck.”
“Yeah.” Xavier replied, surveying the house, “Still in good condition.”
“Yeah. Been living here for about five years, got me a good woman too.”
“Adrien told me. I went home and found mom there. I can’t believe you’re divorced.”
“Couldn’t stay after what I learned…”
“I’m sorry, dad.”
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for. I’m the one who should be apologizing. I should have been paying more attention to your sudden shift in behavior. I understand why you left but it would have been nice to receive a call letting me know you were alright.”
“I know, but I’ll be visiting more. We need to do a lot of catching up.”
“I agree. Now, let’s finish this pie.”
Next chapter here, Full Circle