I stood at that door knowing the second I knocked on it I’d be a murderer.
I had just limped two miles up the bayou barefoot, the swampy mud still stuck between the cracks in my toes. My husband Eddie was probably at home, poured over a bottle of scotch. In the morning, he wouldn’t even remember the fight we just got into, and how his terrible rage sent me flying out the door. It seems every man I love beats me cold; I had the same style of the curse as my mother. You see, the Auzenne women have never been good when it came to the likes of men. For generations, the women who came before me were raped, beaten, or left for dead by the men who gifted them their names and their children.
That is except Aunt Lynn. You can say she was the lucky one. Every man who ever laid eyes on her fell in love in an instant. Even the white men in Slidell would sacrifice their wives just to be in her presence. Aunt Lynn always had the perfect suitors, and not one of them ever laid a hand on her, snuck around, or called her out of her name when they had too much to drink. She sure did have a way with the men, but if you ask me, I think it was the women in town who loved her most. That was mainly attributed to the fact that she had the power to heal their men. All a woman had to do was ask, and Aunt Lynn would conjure up a potion from roots and stones. In about a week’s time, the women would call her, swooning on how their men were suddenly cured of their afflictions. They no longer cheated, gambled, or beat their wives. Aunt Lynn took despicable men and turned them into perfect husbands. Women as far north as Monroe would travel down here asking for her help, they called her Deesse de L’amour, the goddess of love.
Now when I was younger I used to be mesmerized with how lucky Aunt Lynn was. She had the beauty to get any man she wanted, and the power to make a man love his woman more than God loves his children. She was the only Auzenne woman in over 100 years to not be cursed. Then one day when I was thirteen, my mother dragged me across the Bayou to Aunt Lynn’s front door, in hopes that she could heal my daddy. That was the day when I realized Aunt Lynn was the most cursed of us all.
It was the night of my thirteenth birthday, I could hear Momma and Daddy arguing from my bedroom. There was a terrible storm outside, and I wasn’t sure if the loud crashing I heard was caused by the wind making the trees slam into the windowpane, or from daddy making Momma slam into the walls. The next morning, Momma rushed me out of bed. She had a large knot sitting on her left cheekbone just under her eye. I already knew what it was from, so I didn’t ask what happened.
It was still raining outside as we walked to Aunt Lynn’s house. Momma was walking fast, pulling me and not caring that my jeans were becoming stained with mud. When we arrived, Momma didn’t even knock. She just walked straight to the back room and told me to sit on the couch and wait. After about ten minutes, I decided I needed to hear what they were conversing about.
“I don’t heal anymore.”
“I wouldn’t have come to you if I had any other choice, Lynn.”
“I’m sorry sis. I’m happy, and you know what will happen if I do,” said Aunt Lynn.
“And you know what’s going to happen if you don’t!” Momma replied. “Last month I had two broken ribs, the month before that I had to get my jaw wired shut. How am I supposed to go back to that house knowing the next time he gets mad I might end up lying in a grave?”
“I told you. I’m happy. I don’t heal anymore.”
Momma glanced over. She saw me staring into the room and shut the door as she began to whisper. I placed my ear to the door and tried to decipher what they were saying. Faintly, I heard Aunt Lynn say how she loved Uncle Donovan and couldn’t do that to him, and my momma replied with much anger that Aunt Lynn is always “falling in love.”
“Baby Girl, it’s not too kind to be listening to the conversations of others.” Uncle Donovan was Aunt Lynn’s sixth husband since I’ve been born, and from what I gathered, he loved her more than all of them.
“They’re talking about Daddy and I think it’s something important that I should know,” I said.
“If they wanted you to know, they would have invited you in.” He extended his arm and placed his hand out in front of me. “Come dance with me.”
I fell into Uncle Donovan’s arms. He had a way of making you feel safe, and I could tell that’s why my aunt loved him so much.
“This is one of my favorite songs,” he said as he spun me around. “I remember dancing with your aunt to this song on our wedding day. She was so afraid to marry me at first. It took me four tries to finally get her to say yes.”
“Four tries?” I said, trying to follow Uncle Donovan’s quick footwork. “I would have given up after the first.”
“Oh Baby Girl, your aunt is too sweet to give up on.”
Just then the door to the backroom flew open and Momma stormed out in a hurry. I don’t think she realized she was about to leave me behind.
“Momma, where are you going?” I called out to her, but she kept on walking, slamming the front door shut behind her.
I looked over at Uncle Donovan and his face was filled with as much confusion as mine.
“Caroline, come in here for a second.” Aunt Lynn was standing in the archway of the backroom, motioning for me to enter.
I walked into the room for the first time that day, Before, Aunt Lynn would always tell me I was too young to enter. Candles lined the walls and drapes hung from the ceiling. There was an overwhelming scent of sage in the air, and a circular wooden table sat in the center of the room surrounded by beanbag chairs and lace. The room looked just like those fortune teller shops that Daddy would never let me visit. He would say that the moment I stepped inside, evil spirits would swarm and stick to me forever.
“I didn’t know you was a Voodoo lady. Does my daddy know about this?” I said.
“Chile hush, it’s not Voodoo. God just gave me the gift of healing.”
“Is that why Momma was so mad, you not gone heal my daddy?”
Aunt Lynn motioned for me to take a seat and began to examine the bottles on the shelf.
“There are a lot of consequences that come with this gift and your mother knows that. I find it very insulting that she would ask me such a task knowing what would happen.”
I sat down on a beanbag chair and watched as she gathered a few items. A collection of roots, herbs, and oils filled her hands, and she placed them down on a table next to a large wooden bowl.
“I told your momma I was happy,” she said as she placed the roots inside the bowl and began to crush them. “If I do this for her, I’d lose a happiness I never felt before.”
She crushed more roots inside of the bowl and mixed in leaves. Then she sprinkled holy oil over it three times as she closed her eyes and asked the Lord to guide her. After the prayer, she pulled out a few strands of hair from a brush that looked identical to the one my daddy used and placed it inside a small brown sack along with my mother’s wedding ring.
She handed it to me.
“Now you give this to your mother. Tell her to put it under your daddy’s pillow and wait. It should cure him in a few days.”
I looked down at the ragged sack in my hand. “But, I thought you said you weren’t gonna help momma? Aren’t you gonna lose your happiness?”
“I will, yes,” she said.
“I can’t give this to Momma if it’s gone cause pain to you.” I placed the sack down on the table and slid it closer to Aunt Lynn.
She looked up at me and shook her head.
“There’s nothing more important in this world than to be loved,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to feel the love of over a dozen men, while some women are dying just to feel the love of one. Something I’ve learned in this life is that you have to help your sisters when they need you. For as long as I can remember, Black women have been shunned out and cast away. Now if we’re being honest, I’m sick and tired of it. So if one of them comes to me and says they need my help, well Imma help them even if that means sacrificing my own happiness.”
“But nothing, when God gives you a gift you’re supposed to use it. Now you gone and give that to your mother.”
I picked the sack back up and looked at Aunt Lynn. I could see the pain already starting to form on her face.
“When I’m older I’ll never come to you to heal anyone.” I said.
Aunt Lynn smiled. “I pray you never need to.”
“Lynn!” Uncle Donovan screamed out. A terror I’ve never heard any man speak was encapsulated in his voice. “You best get in here quick!”
Aunt Lynn and I exchanged glances and raced into the living room. We arrived just in time to see my mother standing there. In her hands was my daddy’s old pistol, aimed straight at Uncle Donovan’s head.
“So do I have to force your hand in order for you to heal my husband?” My mother looked over at Aunt Lynn. Tears streamed down her face, and the gun she held in her hand was trembling.
Aunt Lynn pushed past Uncle Donovan and centered her chest over the barrel of that gun.
“What do you think this is going to fix it, Dianne?”
“Well, if I kill Donovan dead you won’t have any excuse not to heal Claude.”
Aunt Lynn pushed her chest deeper into the gun. “You might as well just shoot me if you really fixing to shoot somebody.”
I stood next to Uncle Donovan. We were both terrified and confused as we watched the scene unraveling before us. Momma and Aunt Lynn began to whisper back in forth in French, a language my mother never thought fit to teach me. The tears in Momma’s eyes were now like full puddles sitting at the base of her eyelids, then I saw the anger in her face soften. I guess Aunt Lynn put some sense into her because I watched as Momma lowered the gun and began to hug her.
Then, while her arms were still wrapped around her sister, Momma raised the gun back up in an instant.
“I’m sorry Lynn,” my momma said, and she pulled that trigger.
The bullet shot through the room.
My ears vibrated from Aunt Lynn’s screams.
I was standing so close that I could almost feel the bullet burn as it itched through Uncle Donovan’s heart. He dropped to the floor in the same second the gun dropped from Momma’s hands. I stood paralyzed, staring at the lifeless body lying at my feet. Aunt Lynn rushed over and put a hand over her husband’s bloody chest.
“It ain’t ever happened this soon,” she said. “Every time I heal a bad man, a good one has to die in his place. And I carry the burden every time.” She looked up at me. “Make sure you place that bag under your daddy’s pillow. In about a week he’ll never hit your momma again.”
I looked down at the ragged sack in my hand and my eyes began to fill with tears. “Are you going to be okay?”
“I don’t think you ever get used to the pain of losing someone you truly love.” She looked down at Uncle Donovan and placed her fingers over his eyelids to close them.
My mother’s nails stabbed into my arm as she yanked me away. “We got to go now, Caroline,” she said, dragging me out the door and back across the Bayou.
Aunt Lynn was right; it took about a week and Daddy never hit Momma again. But, that day we left her there. Alone. Clinging to another dead husband and teetering on the edge of insanity.
I stood watching through the window as Aunt Lynn and her new husband Charles danced in their living room. I placed my fist in front of the door for the fifth time that minute, as I tried to decide if Eddie was worth the pain I was about to cause.
The music turned down, and the door opened.
“Caroline, chile what are you doing here this time of night, and what happened to your face?” Aunt Lynn couldn’t stop looking at the purple sphere surrounding my left eye.
“I need help, it’s Eddie,” I said as the blood seeping from the cracks of my lips slid down my throat. “Can you heal him?”
Aunt Lynn turned and looked at her husband. Her eyes watered, and I could see the pain leap out of heart, travel up her throat, and jump out of her mouth in the form of a cracked and broken tone as she turned to me. “Yeah, I’ll heal him. Just head on to the back room.”
I walked passed Charles and didn’t have enough courage to say hello. Only a sociopath can look a man in his eyes right before they kill him.
I liked Charles, but I needed my husband. I needed someone to finally love me. But I’m at a disadvantage because you see us Auzenne women aren’t too good when it comes to the likes of men, and my Aunt Lynn, well she’s the most cursed of us all.