He had been forced into closets before, but never by a witch. At least he thought she was a witch . . .
Ten-year-old Caster Morbadelli clamped his teeth over his bottom lip and inched his way to the closet door on his knees. In the utter darkness, time and space seemed to go on forever. He stretched out a hand, willing his fingers past his fear to the wooden door that separated him from his father, whom he prayed had not left him behind. The scent of mildew, dirty underwear, and old blood swam in and out of his nostrils and roiled through his empty stomach. A tear trickled past the right side of his nose to his mouth, and Caster flicked his tongue over the droplet, capturing it. He needed to pee.
He didn’t know how long he’d been in the closet, but it felt like an eternity. When he and his father had first arrived at Madame Toussant’s, the sun had been clotted over with storm clouds, which made it feel like late afternoon. But Caster knew better. It had been morning. One of those bad mornings when he woke on his own instead of to the sound of his stepmother’s deep scratchy voice, yelling for him to get out of bed and go fetch her cigarettes in the living room.
She was gone again. He knew it, felt it before he rolled out of bed and crept into the empty kitchen. Knowing the really bad part would come as soon his father woke and discovered she was gone, Caster quickly poured himself a bowl of stale cornflakes. It would probably be the only chance he’d have to eat today. As usual, there was no milk in the refrigerator, so he doused the cereal with tap water and was about to dig a spoon into the swill when he heard a crash from his father’s bedroom. So much for breakfast.
Within a matter of minutes, his father’s curses echoed through their small apartment, escalating in volume and vehemence as he hurriedly dressed, pausing only long enough to hurl a perfume bottle, her hairbrush, a can of shaving cream across the room. Caster knew the drill because they’d been through it so many times before. Once the throwing began, he had about five minutes to dress before his father dragged him outside. The rest of the day would be spent combing the streets of New Orleans, looking for her, something Caster couldn’t understand. If the woman didn’t want to be with them, why did his father keep begging her to come back? He’d never been brave enough to ask that question aloud.
Copyright 2007-2008 Deborah LeBlanc