Monday, September 15, 2008

Blood is Thicker than Water: Entymology

“Oh!” Juliet threw her embroidery in her lap. “That’s not what I meant! Women can be what they wish now, if they try hard enough. There are lady doctors and lawyers. I’m not going to settle for a life of mere domestic bliss, though I do hope to work that in. Or,” Juliet second-guessed Abby’s response, “a studious life of a school marm either.” Juliet sat straight, proud, keen eyes twinkling. “I’m going to be a naturalist.”

Abigail’s face was blank. “A what?”

“A naturalist! Abby, I’m going back to England when I’ve saved up enough money working for Miss Pettijohn. I’m going to go to Cambridge. And I’m going to become one of the world’s foremost authorities on beetles.”

“Did you just say beetles?” Abigail asked cautiously.

“Yes.” Juliet glowed with pride.

“Weeeee!!!” Abigail waved her hands in the air. “Just the life of adventure I’d crave!”

Juliet’s shoulders squared. “What’s wrong with it?” You can go places—like the Galapagos Islands or Africa…”

“Oh yes! In search of bugs!”

Juliet’s shoulders drooped. “Yes. Well, I know it’s not a typical aspiration for a woman, but we do need to branch into all fields, especially science. There are those who say a woman’s mind is not capable of such things, but you and I know that is not true. Besides,” she smiled suddenly, dreamily, “there’s the great J. Hamish Broadstead to consider.”


“The foremost Cambridge authority on beetles. The Darwin of his school.”

Abby laughed. “You’re sweet on a bug professor?”

Juliet blushed. “Well—”

“You are! That beats all!” Tears welled in Abby’s eyes because of the laughter. “Oh Juliet,” she giggled, “I’m so sorry. I think it’s wonderful you want to study beetles, truly I do!” Here Abby erupted into laughter again, then stifled her laughter. “Every woman should love bugs! And buggy professors! But really, I didn’t mean academics,” Abby said, sobering up slowly. “I meant day to day living. Let’s do something exciting.”

“What do you mean?” Juliet asked flatly.

“Let’s see some of the mystery of New Orleans. Maybe some of the voodoo in the city.”

Juliet’s face registered her shock. “You can’t be serious!”

“Of course I’m serious. We could visit Lake Pontchartrain. I hear ceremonies go on out there all the time.”

“That’s absolutely impossible—” Juliet was interrupted by the tingling of a small bell. She stood up quickly. “Miss Pettijohn wants me. Now Abby, it’s best to put that voodoo idea right out of your head. That’s dangerous. Polite young women don’t—”

“Drink chicken blood?” Abby interjected.

“Don’t be disgusting. Abigail Raintree, you are incorrigible.” The bell rang impatiently. “We’ll discuss this more later.”
Abby walked to the mantelpiece and drummed her fingers on it. Who would have thought? Juliet, with a big interest in creepy creatures like beetles, but no interest in big creepy creatures. Ah well. She could probably find a student that would go with her.

A noise caused Abby to whirl around. Dalia stood in the parlor doorway. Abby walked over to her. “What are you doing here?”

“I go to school here. I thought it might be pleasant to surprise you with being your classmate.” Dalia kissed the younger girl’s cheek. It was smooth, warm, and alive, and Dalia could feel the blood coursing underneath the skin.

Abigail genuinely liked Dalia. Underneath the polished veneer she presented to the world, Abby sensed that Dalia too was an adventuress, with savageness in dealing with the world around her. Dalia would go to Lake Ponchartrain if Abby asked her.

“I heard you talking about voodoo when I came into the other room. Old Juliet’s a stick in the mud you know. But she’s right. You mustn’t think about that sort of thing.”

“Yes?” Abigail grinned slyly. “And you’ve never been the least bit curious?”
Dalia echoed Abby’s grin. “I didn’t say that.” Dalia paused, just long enough for drama. “I’ve seen things…”

“What things?” Abby was eager for fuel to feed her curiosity.

“I could show you, but I don’t think your aunt or Miss Pettijohn would approve.”

“I’ll worry about my aunt.”
“Then, I’ll take you there.” Dalia’s voice was decisive. “Soon. I know a place where we can hide and watch everything.”

Abby nodded approval. Finally, something to do in New Orleans at last.

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