by Mila A. Ballentine
Jan 16th - Jan 26th
Marie Tousant was an adventurous child, living a happy life until she had an untimely encounter with an entity in her back yard. From then on, she was no longer the same child, but even so, her parents were determined to maintain some sense of normalcy in her life. Although, they soon realized that, that notion did not apply.
Years later, hunting season begins, but Marie is the prey, pursued by practitioners of the dark arts, and they do not intend to let her slip away this time. However, a conflicting power emerges and shares secrets that may save Marie from the grasp of evil. Regardless of the dangers they face, Marie’s allies are willing to protect her; it becomes clear that Marie is in for the fight of her life, and there is no telling if she will come out of this ordeal alive.
Get a copy for 99 cents; $3 reg. Price valid from Jan. 16 - Jan. 26
“If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.” - Author Unknown
Marie Tousant sat at the edge of the bayou, gazing intently at the surface, red tresses flowing just above the river. Her likeness, mingling with nature’s replication of the sombre stance of weeping willows, Cypress trees, and Swamp Oak draped in moss around the water’s edge. Like most children of her age, she pondered, if another world lied beneath her reflection. Straightening her back, she looked out at the other side choked with foliage, picked up a pebble, and tossed it into the liquid, forming concentric ripples that cascaded to the edge of the banks. She put her hand behind her ear, extending it outward. Her mother has once said, ‘if you listen close enough, you’ll hear the bayou call your name,’ but even when she actively listened, all that she heard was insects and birdcalls.
She’d often daydream about sailing the bayou, exploring the waterways like a carefree pirate sailing the open seas. The allure of marshlands wouldn’t appeal to most, and could only be appreciated or understood by those who truly depended on the otherwise drab outlets for sustenance. Undoubtedly, the closest she’d come to exploring, arguably the next best thing—was going fishing. On his days off, her father took her out on his boat, sunlight bathing his tapered, black hair, he’d talk about anything that came to mind and she listened intently, adding an obligatory, ‘Uh huh,’ to fill the occasional void.
A fish tugged on the line, silencing him. He reeled it in, and as it made its debut above water, she clapped fanatically as the fish danced on the hook. A long stretch passed before the next one bit. By then, they broiled with excitement as he reeled in the line. Like most anglers, he lost a few, but it was during those opportune moments he shared a life lesson … “In life, we are all fishes on a hook, some survive, and some thrive, but most of us are destined to be meat.”
“Uh huh,” she replied without giving it much thought. Five minutes after he’d lost a big one, he reeled another in to more applause, and by then, they had more than they needed. After a few goes paddling, he let the boat laze, coasting toward the banks and moored it.
They ambled home with their catch in hand. Dan gave them to Angelique as she sat in a chair out on the back lawn, and she went to work, hands moving swiftly as she vigorously scaled the fish in a large aluminium basin. Like clockwork, once she observed the beginnings of her mother’s fish cleaning ritual, she jogged off to the other end of the yard, and looked on from afar; eyes filled with woe as scales flew, clinging to her mother’s hair and clothing. In a shorter time than it took them to catch their haul, Angelique stood and flexed her back, sending her long, wavy brown hair into a short-lived sway. She walked away from the bloody basin with a bowl of prepped fish in hand, trudged up the broad back steps leading up to the porch, and entered the back door. In a relatively short space of time, the fish were bubbling in hot oil, ejecting droplets from the frying pan, wafting an aroma outside, which is where her father relaxed in a wicker chair, waiting for his share of the spoils.
The outside wall shadowed her face as she lay on the reclined patio chair. Her earthy, hazel eyes glancing up at the clouds congregating below cruising altitude and soon, her lashes lowered, meeting as they closed, bringing her one step closer to sleep. Near her, Marie sat on the railing, looking over and down at the elongated neck of Louisiana Iris’s red petals drooping, near vascular ferns, and the white gardenias lining the edge below the raised patio. From there, a stretch of manicured lawn flowed down to the bayou’s edge, where wild shrubs took over and large trees plumed, shadowing the river.
Marie looked over her shoulder at her mother, fast asleep in the chair. She eased down from the railing, tiptoed off the porch, and hurried down to the bayou. She unlatched the rope tying the rowboat to a wooden post, climbed in, and gently pushed the boat away from the shore with the oar, finally embarking on the journey she’d long envisioned. Her bluish-green eyes took in the scenery until one of the oars slipped from her hand. She desperately reached for it, but her efforts were in vain as it drifted further and further away with each attempt. In a split second, her daring adventure turned into a stony cacophony of writhing fear.
Her shouts escalated into retched cries, echoing throughout the backyard. Angelique sprung up, “Marie?” Hearing nothing but cries, she stood up, looked around the back yard, and walked, half-heartedly, down to the bayou. Eyes widening as she saw her daughter drifting boat in their boat to the other side. “Marie!” She yelled, gasping as if she were borrowing breaths.
In the meantime, another unnerving request came from offshore. “Mommy, help!”
An hour hadn’t passed, but Marie felt as though she had been out there forever. Her heart—do-si-do-ed as she set eyes on Marie drifting in the bayou. She peeled off her shoes and dove straight into the murky water.
Mila A. Ballentine is a mystery writer who doesn't shy away from writing about the things that grasp the core of her imagination. Her writing is an extension of her mind’s eye and there is always elements of truth in each of her books. When, she's not writing, she enjoys traveling or doing anything that allows her to put her creative energy to use.