Here’s a snippet from my brand new book, Savannah’s Bluebird.
She strolled down to the beach of Lake Pontchartrain and found a quiet spot on the bank. She stared at the ripples of water lapping the shore, mesmerized by the sound, which was accompanied by seabirds whistling and cawing as they flew overhead. She closed her eyes and let the sounds wash over her, attempting to block out the awful world she now lived in. The noise of someone clearing her throat interrupted Savannah’s reverie. She looked around and saw an old woman emerging from the tree line behind her. The woman was covered in layers of bright and ornate scarves and wraps that curled around her in the breeze. Her dark red hair was in a bun on top of her head, but stringy ringlets dripped around her face and neck, tangling themselves in her large hoop earrings.
“I thought I’d find you here.” The old woman cackled as she approached.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. You must have me confused with someone else. Do I know you?”
“No, I don’t have you confused with anyone else, dear, and no, you don’t know me.” The old woman had a bulge of tobacco in her cheek, and she spit some sweet-smelling brown juice on the dirt.
Savannah started to rise to leave, made uncomfortable by the weird old woman.
“No, chavi, you need to stay and speak with me. I came down here from Biloxi because I have a gift for you here in my bujo.”
The woman held up her large bag.
Savannah reluctantly sat back down, now curious about the woman.
“You’re from Biloxi?”
“No, dear, I’m from New Orleans, but I’ve lived in Biloxi a few years.” The woman plopped down next to her and began digging deep into the bag. She fished around for a long time and eventually pulled out a small object wrapped in a dirty handkerchief. She looked at it strangely for a moment, and then held it toward Savannah, who did not reach for it.
“Here.” She thrust it into Savannah’s chest. “This is for you. Take it.”
“I’m sure I don’t need any gifts, ma’am.”
“Just open it. It’s baxtalo. You would say…lucky.” She placed it in Savannah’s hand.
Savannah stared at the handkerchief and didn’t move.
“Open it,” the crone demanded.
Savannah placed it on her lap and tried to touch the filthy handkerchief as little as possible as she unfolded it to reveal a small blue object made of glass. She held it up between her thumb and forefinger and saw it was a two-inch-tall bluebird. She turned and awaited an explanation from the old woman.
“I knew you’d like it.” The woman smiled through missing teeth. She twisted her chin to the side and spit more tobacco juice onto the ground.
“I know you’ve had a difficult time since coming here, and I thought this would make you feel better.” The woman turned and stared at the water. Her expression grew solemn and she continued speaking without looking at Savannah. “Fate may not be kind to you, young lady, and you will need this item to face your future.”
“Ma’am, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, you don’t, do you? Tell me about Thomas Blakely.”
“What do you know about my father?”
“I met him about fifteen years ago…right here on this very beach.” She thumbed a direction over her shoulder. “Right over there at a little watering hole I worked at. He was courting your mother at the time.” She smiled. “I was young then, too, and I must admit, he was a handsome man, and I had eyes for him as well. He was working on those railroad tracks my people destroyed. They were angry that the train was going to go through their homes. I don’t mean near their homes, I mean right through the middle of them. My people have always lived off the land, not in those fancy houses like you live in. It was because of us that your father was here working at the time. It was because of us he met your mother, so I guess it was because of us that you were born.” She paused and kept staring at the small wavelets. “He sure was a handsome man. Too bad he wasn’t one of us.”
“You’re a gypsy.”
The woman nodded.
“Do you live on the beach in Biloxi?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes I live here.”
Savannah looked down at the glass object in her hand. “You’re the one who told my father the bluebird story.”
“Yes, child, I am.” She turned toward Savannah. “The bluebird is magical, and it can do some surprising things.”
“Yes, my father told me.”
The woman didn’t acknowledge her comment. “Sadly, I didn’t plan on him seeing the bluebird while he was with your mother. I was hoping he would see it while he was with…oh, never mind about that. Things happen and life goes on. We all have our own private destiny to live out, even if it affects others.”
Savannah stared at the woman’s face, realizing the woman wasn’t as old as she initially looked. She carried herself like an old woman, but there wasn’t a crease on her face, not a wrinkle around her eyes or lips. She was actually quite pretty in an exotic way.
“So, you were friends with my father?”
“You could say that.”
Savannah didn’t like the cryptic answer. Did this woman love her father? Was the bluebird story a spell to make her father fall in love?
“Tell me about August.”
A shiver went up Savannah’s spine. “How do you know about August?”
“I know everything, child. I know the past, the present”—she looked Savannah in the eyes—“and the future.”
“Are you a fortune teller?”
The woman shrugged. “No, I am no drabarni—fortune teller, as you say.” She spit again and shrugged. “Some people call me a witch, but I’m no witch, either. I just know things. Some people around here call it voodoo, but it’s not voodoo. My people come from a faraway land and some of us have special gifts.”
The woman slowly climbed to her feet with a few grunts and groans. She leaned forward a bit, half hunched as if her back was aching. Her scarves blew wildly around her head as the wind picked up, giving her a mysterious aura. She looked like a witch.
“I will tell you one thing before I go. My son, Bernard, and your August will meet someday, and you will need that little bluebird when the time comes. Keep it close to you. Remember the magic your father told you of the bluebird, and know that this one holds even more power than the story. It is a mulevi. It will make your deepest wish come true if only you will ask. But be careful how you use it, and don’t use it frivolously. You will know beyond a shadow of a doubt when the time comes, and it will be the most powerful thing you will ever witness.”
“What’s a mulevi?”
“An item to reach the dead.”