tagRomanceMax & Lili Ch. 03

Max & Lili Ch. 03


1964 – Louisiana

He ignored the doctors. As soon as he woke and realized what had happened he got up, head and leg be damned. On crutches he set out, as fast as he could manage.

Junie found his loves mother, Demara rocking back and forth mumbling to herself, clutching her daughters bloodied dress.

She was filthy, hair a rat's nest, scratches all along her arms, musty.

But that dress? The sky blue silk dress with the little red flowers. The last thing he saw before he thought to take his leave of this earth and he'd never forget it. His 'Nelle was alive somewhere.

He snapped his fingers and waved his hand before Demara's eyes to bring her out of whatever trance she'd worked herself into.

Demara's eyes slowly cleared. She recognized him. Junius, her daughters bruised and bloodied love. A love that should be. A love that would be.

She stood.

Mistaking her look of steely resolve and determination as madness, Junie drew back as best he could.

She moved around the small house gathering this and that. Hair from a brush, a piece of the torn dress, a cake of incense, indigo, a white falcon feather, a wand of sage, wormwood, chamomile and lavender tied with sweet-grass.

Junie slowly realized what was happening, but not knowing what to do he froze in place.

At a small corner altar he had never noticed before, she knelt lighting candles and arranging bowls, muttering to herself all the while.

There'd always been rumors of witchcraft or voodoo with the women of the family but Junie had never paid it any mind. On occasion he'd hear his mother and aunts wish ill of someone and say a few words in passing, but he'd never seen an actual spell performed.

Where on earth is my 'Nelle?

Demara left and came back after a time barefoot and dressed in white, her hair was wet and she smelled of sweet herbs. She looked almost as if she were dressed for a baptism.

He hardly noticed as she went about with the wand of herbs smudging and purifying the space.

In a bit of a trance himself, the last thing Junie clearly remembered was watching her light the incense and pray, he didn't even notice she'd drawn close to him until she snatched off a long piece of his bloodied bandage.

Startled, he jumped - tangling in the crutches and almost pitching himself to the floor face-first in his haste to get away.

He had to right himself though as Demara was bent on her task and she'd taken no notice of his near mishap as she turned back to her altar and with the dress scrap and the hair and his bloodied bandage she braided the three together in a rough looking foot long ribbon of sorts and then tied it in three knots.

Tying the first the first knot, she said: "Grievous injustice and spiteful malice I do vehemently reject."

She tied the second knot: "Repeatedly will love will be made manifest flesh and through blood, bound."

The third knot: "By power of Oshun, Nana Burukú , now I equally implore and declare."

In a bowl with three drops of her blood mixed with indigo she dipped the knots.

"Justice and love be served."

She prayed for many minutes before lighting a lantern and finally addressing Junie. "She loved you. The love will be served, justice will be done."

With the ribbon, a spade and the lantern she went out towards the eastern edge of the cotton field. East, where things begin. There she met her end.

Max & Lili 3

Having been cleared by the dept of game and fisheries, we've been given leave to arrange a weekend hunt for the ravenous Canadian geese. They ravaged Hannibal's barely sprouted soybean crop. The neighboring farms took it on the chin as well and so everyone is more than a little put out with the predacious interlopers and are more than willing to help trim down the grain-hungry geese.

Hannibal calls up his new running partner Uncle Jack, who immediately invites Lili, who having inherited her mother's aim, is quite handy with a shotgun.

A day in the field could be just the thing to clear her head. Under lock and key she keeps a left-handed Benelli M2 20-gauge, a gift from Uncle Jack. They claim this is the first SA designed just for southpaws. Thankfully, gun companies finally understand that a larger percent of the population is wrong-handed.

Its early December, meaning the sun won't rise until late morning.

We meet up and drive out to the field Hanni's been watching for he past three days. The windshield wipers barely keep up with the falling snow. The heavy white flakes are quickly accumulating on the ground.

Lili cheerfully greets an excited Byte who will be acting as their retriever.

"Hello Beastie!" Smiling widely at the large friendly dog she pats his hide, wishing she could have a pet, but knowing Jackson's allergies won't allow it.

I am more than relieved that my ability to function in the morning has returned as I am trying to find things to do outside of the garage. I do like spending time with Uncle Jack and Hannibal. While they have a care for my level of comfort, they never belittle me or treat me like an inferior. Max could take a page from their almanac.

We arrived early to set up and Uncle Jack kept us moving to keep warm. He fussed with the blinds and cleaning the decoys until the sound in honking in the near distance had us running for cover.

Close to 50 of the giant geese watchfully circled the field 3 times before the leaders splayed their feet and touched down just in front right of our blind. What luck!

Hannibal let the rest of the flock drift into range before yelling the command to shoot.

The large heavily feathered birds hit the ground hard, and when the snow settled, we had seven large birds on the deck. Byte ran to a small copse of trees and retrieved an eighth.

This was quite a treat as it's not usually this easy during the cold weather months.

As we head back Hannibal is already planning to smoke one, in the smoker. Uncle Jack is planning on trying his hand at making a duck/pork sausage with lots of wine, garlic and rosemary. Both prospects sound interesting and possibly very tasty.

Personally, I don't much care for the oftimes fatty gamey taste of the surprisingly red meat. But one farmer declared the birds particularly tasty this year as not only had they been dining in the protein-rich fields, but had successfully battled the squirrels for acorn domination these last three months.

An eager Aurelia met us at the door. Looking at our haul she declared them to be in prime condition for the dinner table.

Hannibal too is excited, as he says his wife has raised the cooking of the geese to an art form.

While the hunters go off to the smoke shed to deal with the remaining birds, Aurelia gets to work. Quickly plucking and gutting the fattest bird, she reaches in and gets as much fat and fatty parts as she can for rendering and purification to be bottled and saved like treasure to be used throughout the year as goose and duck fat are among the most delicious of all cooking fats and far healthier than butter or lard.

Brining the goose over several hours she removes it, letting it slowly come up to room temperature. With a heavily needled Asian mallet, she pricks the bird all over before salting it and stuffing it full of garlic and sweet onions and placing it on a roasting rack over a deep roasting pan filled with half potatoes and half root vegetables and letting it slowly roast for an hour at low heat.

Removing the pan she rests the goose and removes the perfectly crisp roasted potatoes and savory vegetables off to the side. Again she pricks the bird all over again for a second time before placing it upright on a spike and putting it back in a now blistering hot oven to crisp the skin all over. She watches carefully until the color is a burnished chestnut brown and crackly to the touch when poked. Removing it to slowly cool on the butcher-block table.

The irresistible smell draws Byte into the kitchen and he whines and licks his chops as he circles waiting for an opportunity.

"I am watching you Mr. Byte." Says a stern looking Aurelia. She moves the bird out of reach and calls Hanni to come and get the animal.

He whines and looks pitiful.

"You worked hard today, didn't you boy?"

Seeming to understand her, Byte barks a loud and affirmative 'yes' and is given a bit of crackling skin and a small saucer of sautéed giblets and a good pat on the head and then for his own safety he is taken away from the kitchen.

While the goose has its final rest, Aurelia prepares Madeira giblet gravy as fine as anything found in any upscale restaurant.

Lili's stomach rumbles at the smells swirling around the cozy fire-warmed house. One less meal to cook.

Max and Jackson arrive just in time for dinner.

Uncle Jack and Hanni are still impressed by Lili and her hunting. And they toast her.

"To Lili, our patron lady of the hunt, who took down four birds on her own. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!"

Hunting? Pregnant Lili was out HUNTING?

Uncle Jack draws out three cigars and passes them around. With no small amount of pleasure Lili sniffs hers.

An uncharacteristically quiet Max is watching the celebration from the other end of the table; he is quietly fuming. Pops breaks out a flask of Pappy Van Winkle to share. Before Lili can take a sip, Max drops his knife and fork on his half-eaten plate of food with a clatter and stands to leave.

Aurelia draws back and slaps her hand on the table making the glasses jump. In a quiet, yet serious voice she says, "Freeze, Max. You know the rules of my house."

Rudeness is never allowed towards guests, manners and hospitality first, always.

Max stabs an accusing finger at Lili. "Cigars, Lili? Nicotine is a known carcinogen. You shouldn't even be touching that thing. God help you if I see you smoke it. In your condition, you have absolutely no business out hunting!" Max barks.

"My being pregnant by you hardly makes you a qualified authority on what I can and cannot do Max. All the proof you will ever need of my success as a parent sits to your right." Said a heatedly defiant Lili. Her cheeks were flushed in embarrassment and there were tears standing in her eyes but she held ground.

The table was silent. Jackson looked angrily at his father.

Hanni stands. "Aurelia, Max come with me right now."

They go off to the far end of the house but it does not a bit of good as Aurelia can be heard yelling clear in the dining room.

"Pregnant? Again?" She shouts.

"These are grown people 'Relia." Said Hanni quietly.

Aurelia continued like Hanni hadn't spoken at all.

"Max, so help me, you had better make it right this time. I will not miss out again because of your mess. I did not raise my male children to mistreat women and neglect their children. Don't make me choose between those babies and your grown and crazy self."

"Ma, I swear to God –"

With a shake of her head, Aurelia cuts him short. "Boy, don't compound the situation by blaspheming and dragging God into this. I cannot stand the sight of you right now. Get on away from me, get out. Out!"

Max leaves in a mild fury.

A humiliated Lili stands to leave with Jackson just as Aurelia and Hanni return. She is alone in the room as Uncle Jack took one look at his Lili-Pie and went to deal with Max.

"I should go too." Lili stands and wonders how in the hell she's going to get home, she came with Uncle Jack.

"No, please stay." Aurelia pleads.

"If you don't mind, I'd love to talk to you a bit." Aurelia says softly, she gently draws Lili down the hall to a daintily furnished room.

There's a table and two roomy slipper chairs in front of a bay window. Aurelia plugs in an electric teapot and asks Lili to make herself comfortable.

Lili takes in the rooms' surroundings and nods thoughtfully to herself. There's a shuttle loom, and spinning wheel next to a desk with work lamp and computer across the room, just off a bathroom.

"This is my 'room of ease' as Hanni calls it, for my particular use - a place where they know not to bother me. Every person needs one, especially mothers."

Yes, thinks Lili of her garage workshop and how much she misses it. A place where one can create and figure things out. If only people were as easy to solve and fix.

Aurelia watches the younger woman thoughtfully, trying to work out an approach. Lili is touch shy and not as talkative as Lou, but is equally beautiful and quite talented. Certainly can't fault my sons' taste, she thought wryly to herself.

She's quickly become a favorite of both Hanni and Junie as she fixed the family heirloom broken grandfather clock by remaking some of the rusted parts from scratch, and reassembling the whole. The look of delight on her face as Hanni wound it for the first time and it worked was something to see. An engineer. Though she refers to herself as a tinkerer/mechanic.

During the fixing of the clock 'Relia listened to Lili talk to Hanni about her love of mechanisms, engines, micromechanics, clocks, watches and whatever. Likening it to working with artificial intelligence to fix something broken, cobbling parts together, it's the closest you can get to bringing something to life, very satisfying.

She too speaks a few languages German, French and Spanish and Italian; showed up to help translate for Hanni when the parts arrived from the Italian clockmakers who are very under estimated in Lili's opinion as they produce some superior components. She's amazing but for whatever reason doesn't seem to think of herself as such.

Annelle, Louelle, Lulu and now Lili, each woman more divinely gifted than the last. And all the Wilde men caught up with them, it's so uncanny it borders on the supernatural.

Now it looks like there's yet another grandchild on the way. I am hoping for a little girl. They need to keep that genius strain going. I mean to be a part of this new child's life from start to finish.

The kettle quickly comes up to heat and Aurelia pours them each a deep cup of chamomile tea, both sweeten it with honey. Aurelia sits a jar of candied ginger nearby.

They settle politely for a bit.

Remembering her initial failed approach with Lili, Aurelia takes a different tack.

"I am glad you are such a good shot, because when you finally shoot my son in the ass for being a jerk, I don't want you to miss. Just do me a favor cher? I mean I do love the child even if he does work my nerves, so promise me you'll use rock salt and aim to maim, not kill. Eh?"

Aurelia blinks large grey eyes at Lili and daintily sips at her tea as her companion all but chokes on hers with a bark of laughter.

Smiling, Aurelia sits her cup down and reaches out to take her hand in hers.

Lili draws back, but Aurelia holds firm.

"My hands are a bit rough," says a bashful Lili.

"No, cher – these are a woman's hands, capable of fixing all manner of mess, able to go where male hands cannot. Not a thing wrong with them except for you having too much in and on them."

With Aurelia holding her hands, Lili feels a calm come over her she's not felt in so very long.

Aurelia continues. "I know what these men are like and I don't exclude or excuse my boys when they act up. My attitude has little or nothing to do with you. Max always was a devil, especially with women. He get's it honest, that poon-hound trait, inherited it from his grandfather, Hanni's father. That boy gave me no end of trouble throughout his high-school years. I had more than one angry set of parents show up looking for their daughter.

I was actually relieved when he decided to go into the military, until he drug Dax with him.

God knows I tried to raise those boys right, but between working and Hanni being oh so conveniently gone on the rig earning a living, and working as a full-time nurse myself, it was hard going. I felt like a single parent too much of the time.

Uncle Jack says you and little Jack go to church some Sunday's, I'd love to come with you if you'll have me. I know we got off to an awkward start, but I would dearly love to be there for the three of you if you'll let me. No matter what happens with that youngest son of mine. You're a remarkable young woman doing an amazing job with little Jackson. I hope someday to call you daughter but I'd be more than pleased to call you friend."


When Max showed up the next day to apologize, Jackson met him at the door and with all his small might, tried to bar him entrance into the house.

The little boy was quite specific with his words and made each one count.

"No. I don't like you right now. You made my mommy cry again. Go away! We do not want you here!" He actually tried to give Max a shove.

Max was rooted in place. Looking down at the small angry face in silent awe he was deeply hurt and in a flash understood for the first time some important things about parenthood. Shit, I need to begin making reparations to my parents. He ran a hand down his face.

"Jackson Henry James! Apologize, this instant!" Gasped an outraged Lili.

"I'm sorry, sir." Said my still ornery son with no small amount of hostility, through lips pulled in with anger.

However much Lili appreciated him coming to her defense, she couldn't have him disrespecting his elders. "Hey you, do you want me to tell Aunt Lou, huh? Because I will. You know better than to disrespect a grownup."

Now truly sorry, he looked up at his mother in mild horror.

"No, please no. She'll be angry and won't take me to Dave & Busters."

"Exactly, I suggest you get yourself together and apologize sincerely and graciously, young man."

"I'm sorry sir." Little Jackson hangs his head.

"That's ok kiddo. I'm sorry too. You talked to me once already about making mommy cry. I guess I forgot."

Jackson nodded. "Ok. I guess." He cut an eye at his father.

Lili is curious about that what they could have possibly discussed but lets them have their moment.

"Ok buddy, I am very proud of you, but I need you to go to your room for a bit while I talk to your father. OK? I left some cookies on the counter, grab a carton of milk and you can watch tv in your room a bit."

"Yes, ma'am." He runs off excitedly before she changes her mind. Since the birthday chocolate accident he hasn't been allowed to eat in his room.

The two stare at each other. Max gives a deep exhale.

"I can't even fault him. The kid was right, there was a better way to handle that situation last night and I blew it. I didn't mean to embarrass you Lili, I am sorry. I over-reacted a bit."

Lili nodded slowly. "Uncle Jack read me the riot act as well. Max I was so relaxed in that moment, a home-cooked meal on a weeknight, a good cozy fire the promise of a good drink, a good cigar, good company, it completely slipped my mind that I was pregnant. Pregnancy alters short-term memory. I'm sure I would have quickly remembered and self – corrected."

Max gave her a dubious look.

Lili laughed easily.

"I swear, I'm not high and I'm not crazy, I'm just pregnant. The mild exhaustion just makes it look like insanity."

The woman needs help and she won't ask for it. Not that she should have to. I should be here. I would be here, if she would let me. This isn't my house though; I can't just barge in and start telling her what's what. Can I?

"Lili, I don't like the sound of any of that. Mild exhaustion, short-term memory issues . . . I'm gonna hang out a few days here if you don't mind. Take care of Jackson and help you out. Cook a few meals maybe."

Lili had talked herself into a corner.

"You really don't have to Max, I have a support system that works."

Yeah thought Max, your support system had the blue lights upon me last night. Uncle Jack. Last thing I need is local police on top of me, they're operate like gangsters within the confines of the law and can make life difficult.

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