Hiya, all! I affectionately call this story The Fic That Wouldn't Die, because of all the stories that have suffered due to my computer problems, this one tops the list and still it made it into existence. It was born in my mind around the same time as The Freedom Caper, and I must've rewritten it at least three times, but it was never completed until now. So, that being said, I'm very proud of this fic being posted! So I'd really, really love feedback.
An American Trilogy
By Eileen Blazer
I. Kentucky Rain
Italics = Present (Also, French)
Regular = past
The lone figure of a man caught my eye as I turned the corner of Starny and Main, and that's how things got started that rainy day in late July. He was a hitchhiker, with one thumb cast lazily in the air, while his other hand kept a steady grasp on a piece of cardboard that he was using as protection from the sprinkling of light rain. He was tall and male, with sloppy dark hair that seemed to be pasted across his forehead, but that's about all I could see. The majority of his lanky body was covered well by a long brown trench coat that looked heavy with water, and I figured he must've been standing there a long time because the real rain had been gone for nearly two hours.
As I changed lanes and neared this traveler, I wondered what could've brought him to Kerisburg, Kentucky. We're a nice town, too be sure, but a quiet one, and there aren't many visitors here. Whatever the reason, this man looked like he needed a little help. So I pulled up beside him and rolled down my window, calling out, "You need a ride somewhere?" He nodded, and I gestured towards the passenger seat with a smile. "Why don't you climb in?"
While he did just that, I turned back my attention to the backseat, where I always kept an extra sweater, not paying much attention to him as he opened the door. I guess that's why I got surprised when I looked back at the man climbing into my car and saw his eyes for the first time, since he'd wiped back a lot of his wet hair. They were, well, demon-looking. All red and fiery like. And they might've been awful frightening if they hadn't been framed in such a young, angelic face. He wasn't a man at all, I realized, but a boy, no more than twenty-one years old. His chin was covered with stubble, as if he'd missed a shaving appointment, and there was a distinctly tired look beneath his eyes, but none of that could hide his youth.
And I realized this boy hadn't gotten into the car yet. He was currently watching me, carefully, as if wondered whether or not he'd still be welcome. "Still getting in?" I asked. He paused, and then nodded. He removed his trench coat, and then slid gracefully into the empty seat beside me, accepting the sweater I offered him. "So, Son," I said, "Where you bound on such a cold dark afternoon?"
"Mary." He answered firmly, as if he'd been rehearsing the answer in his mind.
I started the car up again and we were off. "Mary," I repeated. "Well, you're in a bit of luck, Mr..."
"LeBeau." He replied.
"Mr. LeBeau, it just so happens that I am headed to Mary this afternoon to drop off some papers to a Church regular who couldn't make today's service." I smiled. "This has turned out to be a good deal for the both of us, hasn't it? You get the ride, and I get the company. It's a long drive to Mary in weather like this."
"T'ank y', Sir." LeBeau said politely. "I appreciate da ride."
"It's nothing. I'm Brother Patrick, by the way. I preach at the First Baptist just a few blocks from where I picked you up. If you're ever in Kerisburg again, we'd all love to have you." I said.
"I don't plan on comin' back," he sighed. "I'm just lookin' for someone."
"A fiancé," he said, quietly. "A man at da general store recognized her picture, an' said he saw her a few weeks ago. She told him she was headin' towards Mary. So dat's where I'm goin'."
I felt myself falling into counselor mode as I turned over the scenario in my head a few times before speaking again. The boy was out searching the South for a runaway love. The question was, why had she runaway? Did she not love him back? Was there someone or something else that had lured her away? I didn't ask any of those questions, though. Instead, I decided to start on something more appropriate like, "Who is she? Where'd you meet her?"
Remy worked in the family business, a collection agency, of sorts. It was a job he excelled at, and he loved it for that, but it did require him to travel rather frequently. He got to know the inside of his suitcase quite well, and it became a kind of portable home, as all of his things were always inside of it –his clothes, his pictures, his... work items, etc. Which is why it became an understandable shock when the Mississippi International Airport accidentally lost it. Of course, they would never admit to such a fault. It wasn't lost, they insisted, just 'slightly misplaced'. It would only take them a few short hours to relocate it and have it delivered personally to its owner, Remy LeBeau.
Remy and his brother, Henri, were on a particularly important assignment at the time –the kind of job that could make or break reputations in their business. It would require several days of observation and planning. So Henri was sent on ahead to begin the work, while Remy waited for his luggage to be returned. Naturally, he was still there seventeen hours later, when it happened that an airport security man came walking past with a young girl in handcuffs.
"There's somet'in' y' gotta know about me 'fore dis t' make sense," He said suddenly, stopping his story to look at me. "When I was younger I used t' steal...away from m' home, dat is. I'd like t' venture off t' parts unknown, an' sometimes I'd run int' trouble. M' Tante Mattie was always over protective, she'd insist dat I watch out fo' crooks and cops alike. So at a young age, I learned t' be wary o' da law."
Henri always said, 'Remy, you'd miss da end o' da world if a pretty girl was sittin' next t' you', meaning, of course, that Remy was entirely too preoccupied with the female sex. Some days, Remy happily agreed, explaining that there was no better way to kiss the world goodbye than on a pair of ruby red lips. Other times, he'd roll his eyes, call his brother jealous, and point out a situation in which he had been led by his mind, and nothing else. He thought of that as the guard and the girl walked by, because of the pair, it was the young guard who stole away his attention.
The young man's handcuffs were halfway out of his pocket, jingling like bells with every heavy step he took. And there was something thing smug, and offensive, in the way the man scanned the halls he was walking through, as though the cuffs were there to remind everyone who the powerful authority figure was. Remy disliked him at once.
Perhaps it was peculiar then that he found himself following the guard. Remy wasn't sure why he was doing it, except that he had a vague notion that their paths should meet. The pair was heading towards some destination unknown to Remy, although the security station was probably a fairly accurate guess. As they moved away from the crowds of people in the airport, towards some quieter, holed away building, the girl finally came to life.
"Ah didn't do nothin'." She said, in a voice rich with annoyance, frustration and fear. "Ah was just lookin' at the stuff they had. Why would Ah steal? Ah'm not that dumb!" But if her pleas at all affected the guard, it was only to boost his obvious feelings of superiority.
And indeed, when they were further still from the crowds, the young man glanced down at the girl in handcuffs. "Yoah in some kinda trouble, girl." He narrowed his eyes. "We don't take kindly ta shoplifters in dis airport, 'especially not ones who are freaks, too. They go an' on about how there isn't a problem, but everyday we see mo' mutants springin' up outta th' ground."
"Ah'm not a mutant!" The girl declared, now struggling to escape his harsh hold. She repeated, "An' Ah didn't do nothin'."
"Talk means nothin'." The guard sneered. "Fact is, Ah've watched th' cameras for months, learnin' how ta pick out a mutant from th' normal folks. Ah know what ya are, girlie, so there's no sense in denyin' it."
She stopped walking abruptly, but he pinched her arm and pushed her forward. "Stop it!" The girl cried out. "Lemme go."
"If ya don't this defiance, Ah'm going ta charge ya with resistin' arres-" The guard didn't finish his threat; a tap on the shoulder paused him, mid-sentence. He rolled his eyes, and turned slowly to see who dared interrupt him.
His face met a fist, and then his world went black.
"You punched an airport security guard?" I asked.
"And knocked him out cold?"
"Because he was mishandling the girl?"
Remy smiled. "I dunno."
"You know, that probably fueled his dislike of mutants." I sighed.
"Least he knows we can fight back."
"And the girl?"
"I'm getting' t' dat."
The girl screamed when the guard went sailing backwards. She flinched as she turned to look at Remy, as if fearing he might punch her as well. And that became the moment Remy would forever remember as the first time he ever saw the love of his life. Of course, he didn't think of her that way initially.
At first glance, she might've had the words 'Middle-Class Suburbia' stamped neatly on her forehead. In jeans, an oversized shirt, and white shoes, she had very little to distinguish herself from the other school-aged girls he encountered. Luckily, perhaps, for the both of them, Remy was never satisfied with a first glance.
And once he took a second look, his perception of her changed quite a bit. Her clothes, while not old or worn out seemed rather to have been worn too often. Her eyes didn't carry the sallow, tired, wise look of someone who'd grown up on the street, but they were somewhat lackluster, as though she'd just finished watching her dreams melt away. Having spent a number of years living alone himself, he could identify her easily enough as a recent runaway.
He smiled, trying to alleviate her fear. After all, he knew what it was like to be alone in the world, without a friend. "Bon jour, Cheri. Mebbe I could help you wit' da handcuffs."
"Ah..." She looked down at the guard, and then back at Remy. "Ya just punched a cop."
Remy waved off her concern. "He'll survive."
"What about cameras? They would've seen everything. Maybe they're on they're way as we speak ta arrest ya."
"Then you should hurry up an' let me let rid o' those handcuffs before I'm wearin' a pair o' my own." He pointed out, grabbing her wrists and working his magic on the metal. As he twisted them off of her, Remy asked, "How come yo' wearin' gloves?"
She frowned and pulled herself away. "Ah like 'em."
"Yeah. Is that a crime?"
He shrugged. "Why don't we start walkin'? Junior here's gonna start wakin' up any minute now." They did.
"Ah can't believe ya punched a cop."
Instead of addressing her concern, he asked, "What do y' t'ink are da odds the airport's already found m' missin' suitcase?"
"Ah haven't a clue."
"The name's Remy, by the way." He informed her. "An' you are?"
"Annabelle," She supplied. "Annie Moncliffe."
"Did you steal somet'in'? Food? Clothin'?"
She sighed. "Breath mints."
"Mints?" He almost laughed.
It wasn't so funny to her. "Ah wanted ta find a job," she explained, "but Ah realized Ah didn't have much goin' for me. Ah'm a young mutant, without the proper funds ta supply work clothes o' anythin' like that. But at least, maybe Ah could have fresh breath. Ah thought: Annie, ya can't steal a whole outfit. But whose gonna miss a couple o' Tic Tacs? That was stupid o' me."
"Yeah," Remy said. "It was."
She glared at him, something he found inexplicably amusing. "What's you're deal, anyway? Ya just go around punchin' guards an' insulting girls?"
"Hey, I didn't insult, I just agreed."
She thought about it a moment, before replying, "Same difference."
"Says you. But den, you t'ought it was a good idea t' steal mints." Before she could respond, as she clearly intended to, he went on, "Now if it was me, I'd have used a lil' more creativity."
"Ya mean like buildin' mah own mint outta candy powder, water, an' dishwashin' liquid?" She asked, with fake enthusiasm.
"Sarcasm ain't gon' get you nothin'." He answered. "What I was gonna suggest was askin' th' interviewer fo' a mint. Aside from getting' fresh breath, y' also show da interviewer ya pay attention t' details an' y' ain't afraid t' ask if you need help."
"Ugh," She murmured apparently disgusted with his good reasoning. "Whateva', Gumbo. Like you know anything."
It was Remy's natural instinct to respond to an unfriendly comment by teasing the commenter, a habit he couldn't kick. Living up to his nature, he winked at the girl. "Well... I know y' been in love wit' me since y' laid eyes on me. Don't try an' hide yo' love, Chere. It's always best t' be perfectly honest wit' yo'self."
"Oh, please," She said. "Ah love you like Ah'd love a brain tumor."
"Is dat very nice?" He wondered.
"Are you very nice?" She responded back.
"I'm better n' nice," Remy said.
"An' none too modest, right?"
He shrugged. "Aren't we all just what we need t' be? Yo' a thief, 'cause y' need a job t' get money. I'm not modest, 'cause da people I work fo' demand supreme confidence. When it comes down to it, we're all trapped by other's expectations an' wills. But we trap them in turn, so it all comes out even in da end."
She laughed. "Ah have no idea what yoah talkin' about."
For once, he was serious. "Then y' aren't payin' attention. Nobody survives alone, Chere, unless they pay close attention."
"An' you would know?" There was as much curiosity in her voice as there was doubt.
"I would know." He reassured her, as they reentered the place where Remy had been waiting for his luggage.
Less people were there to watch them now, but two in particular stood out. Security guards scanned the room, obviously in search of the man who'd injured their colleague. Remy saw them, and reached his hand around the girl's arm. "I t'ink it's time we both left," he advised in a low voice.
"Ah tend ta agree."
They made a move towards the hall that led to the exit, but suddenly a man was in their path. In a tailored suit, and orange tie, the man grinned. "Mr. LeBeau, Ah'm glad Ah found ya here." He held up his hands, and showed off a suitcase Remy knew well. Remy relinquished his hold on the girl to accept his luggage. The man went on, "Mississippi International wishes you ta know that we always take the very best care o' our customers an' we are quite troubled by the unfortunate experience ya had here t'day."
"Yesterday." Remy corrected, as the hours had passed enough for day to turn to night, and then day again.
"Yes, well, we would like ta give you a free plane ticket, Mr. LeBeau, so's ya know that we mean our motto: no customer leaves Mississippi International unsatisfied."
The guards were closer now, so Remy just smiled and nodded. He took the ticket and tucked it away into his pants. "Thank y'."
"No, sir, thank you. At Mississippi Inter-"
Remy raised a hand. "Goodbye now," he said, and then he reached for the girl's arm again. His hands came away empty. He glanced around, but it was clear that she had already fled. "Goodbye," he repeated softly, and though the Orange Tie smiled, Remy hadn't been addressing him at all, but the ghost of a girl.
"An' you've been lookin' for her ever since," I said, confused.
Remy laughed. "Non. Da fille left an impression den, yes, but not a heart-stoppin' one. After I caught up wit' Henri, I decided t' check up on her parents. I figured, mebbe I'd let 'em know their daughter was doin' all right."
"Did you have much success?"
"Non." He sighed. "I found out Annabelle Moncliffe was just a name she'd made up. Dat was what surprised me da most, Brother Pat. I don't get lied to very often, 'least not by girls like her, anyway."
I, too, had been a ladies' man in my youth. I smiled, quietly, in understanding. "So...you didn't know her name. Or her whereabouts. How is it that the two of you got reacquainted?"
"Funny thing, that." Remy answered. "About a month an' a half later, Fate decided t' intervene in our lives..."
Remy LeBeau was sure of only two things as he raced down the unfamiliar streets of Southern Philadelphia: one, that he was late, and two, that his brother Henri was going to kill him. Noose around the neck, knife in the heart, bullet to the brain; Remy didn't know the method, only that it would be something horrifically fatal. And why? Was he to die for a noble cause like love or the betterment of mankind? No. It was because the motorcycle he'd driven to Philadelphia in, the same one that proven so perfectly reliable during all of his other escapades, had decided to rock and roll over dead the very morning of Henri's last wedding rehearsal, thus leaving Remy stranded on the other side of the city – a remarkably desolate side- with no ride to the church.
Although, Remy thought, as he continued on his way at a rather rapid pace, it was all Henri's fault in the first place. Everyone else –including the bride-to-be, Merci- had been content to hold the wedding at the local church in New Orleans. It was a lovely, old-fashioned building, with impossibly high ceilings and stained glass windows. Really, Remy thought, spitefully, the perfect place to be married. But instead, Henri had insisted that the whole family temporarily relocate to Philadelphia, where the wedding could take place at the Our Lady of Grace chapel, where he'd first met Merci by chance.
Damn romantic inclinations. Henri sure as hell wouldn't be that sentimental when Remy finally showed up. He sighed and loosened his tie, wishing his mutant power was something more convenient, like the power of flight, or super fast running, or better yet, super fast flying. Or instant teleportation, he could work with that, too. Needless to say, his mind was rather busy thinking up good excuses when something stumbled out from an alley and wound up entangled in his arms.
He blinked once, twice, trying to clear his head more than his vision. It was a man, poorly dressed, with an old T-shirt smelling strongly of cigarettes and alcohol, jeans half torn, and a round silver belt. He was at once heavy and awkward in Remy's arms; the Cajun was accustomed to people falling to his embrace, but fate had fixed it so that the vast majority of those people were of the feminine variety. This man was most certainly not.
With a frown, Remy eased the man down to the cement, and instinctively checked for a pulse, because the mysterious faller had yet to open his eyes and realize his own predicament. In the back of his mind, Remy imagined the police driving up out of nowhere and finding him with a dead body in his arms. At least police detention would provide him with a nice alibi when he finally met up with his brother. But then he felt a faint beat, a pulse, and understood that the man wasn't dead. He just wasn't conscious, either.
"Is... he alive?" A quiet, hesitant voice called out from the alley. Remy looked up to see a girl fumbling with the bottom edge of her blouse. He knew a thing or two about women's clothing, and he could tell that her clothes had been tampered with. Tugged on too hard, so that the blouse was warped.
"He's breathin', Chere. Don't worry 'bout him. But what about you, are you doin' all right? He didn't..."
"Ah dandy now. Th' creep... he tried ta steal mah purse. Ah kept tellin' him that it wasn't holdin' anything o' value. Just a box o' candy an' an expired lottery ticket. But he wouldn't believe me. When he found out Ah was tellin' the truth, he started checkin' me for jewelry. Necklaces, earrings... then he made th' mistake o' pullin' back mah sleeves ta look for watches or bracelets. He didn't know Ah had poison skin."
She looked up suddenly, probably fearing she'd said too much. Mutants, especially mutants in her position, didn't often flaunt their extraordinary status. The public wasn't exactly teeming with kindness and respect for them. But funny thing, as she looked at him, she happened to flip her long, messy brown hair back, so that he got a good look at her at the same time.
They recognized each other immediately.
"Yoah that boy from th' airport." She exclaimed. "Reggy..."
"Remy," He corrected, softly, suddenly surprised to have a second chance with the girl he'd lost.
"Remy LeBeau." The girl nodded. "Ah remember now. How could Ah forget those eyes?"
"I don't believe I ever got yo' name, Chere." He said, stepping closer to her.
"Sure ya did," She smiled. "It was um..." Her brow furrowed in concentration, and he knew instantly what she was trying so hard to remember.
"Not Annabelle Moncliffe," Remy said. "Unless you're a fifty-seven year old Utah native with a burn scar across the right side o' yo' face. Of course, if y' are Annabelle, then I gotta say, you've got da best plastic surgeon I ever heard of."
"Yeah, well, he does work wonders."
"Chere," Remy sighed. "Y' didn't have to lie."
"Right." She rolled her eyes and started readjusting her long sleeves. "Ya want me ta give you, a stranger, mah real name so you could either track down m' parents an' turn me in o' stalk n' kill me? If there's one thing Ah've learned these past few months, it's that things are better when people know less about me."
"Well, ain't dat a terrible philosophy fo' life." Remy said.
"What do you know about anythin'." She said.
"I know nobody likes a pessimist." He said.
"Too bad," She answered. "I like me just fine, especially mah philosophy on life."
"But fo' how long? What's gon' happen when y' wake up t' find you really are a fifty-seven year old woman with scar –only yo's won't be on yo' face, it'll be inside yo' heart."
She gave him an even look. "What are ya, some kinda travelin' Cajun psychologist, eager ta save humanity from it's own inner demons?"
"Don't be silly," Remy answered, grinning to take the edge out of his words. "I only dish out words dat deep fo' exceptionally pretty girls."
"Ah," She nodded, like she understood. "So if I'd have been ugly, ya wouldn't have taken th' time o' day?"
"I didn't say dat."
"Yeah, ya did."
"Yeah, ya did." The girl spun on her heel and started to walk away, but Remy's hand was on her shoulder, holding her back. She looked at him, frustrated. "What now?"
"Learn t' take a compliment, Chere."
"Learn t' give a compliment that means somet'in', Cher." She responded.
He laughed, a gesture she didn't appreciate. He couldn't help it; again, he felt an irrational sense of glee when she narrowed her eyes and glared. "Yo' a spunky girl, ain't you? I can practically see da fire in yo' eyes."
"An' yoah a stupid boy who don't know what ta quit."
"I know when," he assured her, "but dis isn't dat time. What's da rule, y' gotta put out fires y' start? Smokey da Bear don't lie."
"Why won't ya just let me go?" She groaned. "Look, yo' all dressed up, obviously headin' somewhere important. I'd hate ta detain ya. So why don't we go our separate ways? Ev'rybody ends up happy."
"I'm in no rush," he lied. "Mebbe I just like t' look nice. What you think, Chere, did I succeed?"
"Ah am in a rush." She said, ignoring his question. "Before that jerk cornered me, Ah was on mah way ta work."
"Y' workin' now?"
He examined her carefully, from the black shoes she wore to the striped, now wrinkled, shirt. "What kinda work do y' do?"
"Ah'm a waitress." She said, almost defiantly, as if daring him to find something wrong with the profession.
Instead, he asked, "Where?"
"Clark n' Clarks," Came her answer, and again, it was a wary one.
He started walking, and talking at the same time, so that she began following him without even realizing she was doing it. "I dated a waitress once," he said, although truthfully, he'd dated several. "She was studyin' t' be an actress an' everyday between carryin' food t' tables, she'd be memorizin' lines from Shakespeare. Y can't imagine how many times I've heard Lady Macbeth's monologue. She had a compulsive need ta stand out. What about you, Chere? You lookin' t' fulfill big dreams?"
"Not big like that." She said. "Ah just wanna be normal."
"Normal like not a mutant normal?"
She shrugged. "All mah life, Ah've taken things like a family an' little peaceful home for granted. Ah thought everyone was guaranteed those. But now, whose gonna marry me? Mah skin can drain away someone's life. They're memories, emotions, everything. An' how'm Ah gonna raise a family? O' pay for a house with th' five-seventy-five Ah make an hour waitin' tables?"
He studied the girl, and thought that she was right about some things. She was young, still in her teens, with a face that seemed to grow prettier every time he looked at it, and a wit he enjoyed challenging. Love shouldn't worry her, yet he knew the affect a power likes hers would have on his peers. Her fear was not unfounded. Still, she was being a bit overdramatic. "Ya can't control yo' powers?" He asked.
"But y' may learn."
"But," she said, "Ah may not."
Remy sighed. He rarely got too involved with people he met on the street, even girls. His own life was already so cluttered –full of worries, hopes, plans, and people- that it often seemed like he didn't have time for anything else. But her half-empty glass way of thinking was bothering him. Perhaps Fate had thrown them together for a reason, maybe She was suggesting something, and who was he to go against the Lady that had carried him through so many dark times before?
"Why don't y' come wit' me, Chere?"
"Ah don't even know where yoah goin'." She pointed out.
"M' brother Henri is getting' married here in Philadelphia in two days. Had to have the right chapel for da weddin'," he explained, and bitterness touched his voice as he suddenly recalled his predicament. "We were havin' da last rehearsal t'day... but I don't think I'm gonna make it there on time."
"A dress rehearsal?" She said, running her hand carefully, lightly, over the crisp white sleeve of his semi-formal shirt. He looked at her curiously, and she pulled away, blushing.
"No. They're havin' a little pre-weddin' party after da rehearsal."
"Oh. So how come yo' walkin'?"
"M' bikes not workin' an' I rented a hotel halfway across town from da church."
"Why didn't ya call a cab?" She wondered. "Or a relative t' give you a ride?"
He smiled. "I wanted t' stay at da hotel, but Henri had already arranged rooms for us wit' friends. I took da hotel anyway, and Henri swore I'd regret it. He said, Remy, you gonna wind up in some kinda trouble an' need our help. So we made a wager an' if I show up anyway 'cept on m' bike or on foot, I owe him money. I'd rather be die –which I will- dan pay him an' watch him gloat."
"How much money is th' wager for?"
"Five hundred dollars."
"Oh mah Gawd," She exclaimed. "That's an awful lotta money."
"Well, neither one of us expected me t' lose. I t'ink we both figured dat I'd win an' let him off da hook since it was his weddin' day."
"So you comin'?" He asked. "You can act as m' personal shield, keepin' angry brothers and bothersome relatives alike away from me. 'Course we gon' have t' pick up some clothes for you, possibly stop off somewhere an' let you clean up."
"Hey," she said, "what are y' tryin' ta say?"
"Dat you be a diamond smudged with soot, Chere."
She rolled her eyes at that, but didn't get angry. "Yoah lucky you got a smooth tongue, Gumbo."
He leered. "I'm not da only one who could benefit from dat, Darlin'."
"Ugh." She wrinkled her nose like the very thought disgusted her.
"C'mon. Bet we could even have a job fo' you in da business. It'll pay better n' five seventy five."
"What kind o' business do ya run?"
"We have a collection agency, sort o'."
"What does a collection agency do, anyway?"
He smiled at her. "We collect t'ings."
The girl shifted, uncomfortable. "Ah don't know. Ah'm still not givin' ya mah real name."
"What's in a name? We'll make you up an alias. It'll fun."
"Ah'll bet ya have a lotta practice at makin' up fake names," she said, being sarcastic, but speaking the truth. He told her about his own work name, to which she had a strange response. "Gambit?" She half-laughed.
"An' they accept that?"
"What choice do they have, Chere?"
"Gambit," The girl repeated, shaking her head. She said it again, firmer. "Gambit. Like in chess. A carefully planned maneuver."
"Smart girl," Remy said, extending an arm. She didn't accept it, but she did step closer to him, an indication that she was ready to walk somewhere with him; they just wouldn't be taking those steps arm in arm. "You should call yo'self Dictionary Girl. Or Lexicon, dat sounds better, non? Like she's Dictionary Girl's hot cousin."
"Well that kills th' idea right there. Ah've already had mah fill o' hot cousins. A few years ago, mah daddy's uncle decided ta move into our neighborhood an' he brought his three teenage daughters with him. They were all six feet tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and cheerleaders, an' our daddies insisted that we hang out t'gether at least sometimes. As you can imagine, Ah didn't get much attention from th' opposite sex while with 'em."
Remy frowned and took a quick survey of the girl keeping pace with him. He said, with a tone so honest she blushed, "Why not, Chere?"
"Besides," she went on, quickly, "As Dictionary Girl, Ah'd be settin' expectations a bit too high. Ah didn't even finish high school."
"What does that mean? I never went t' high school period."
"Really?" She asked, incredulous, "Y' daddy didn't make you go an' beat you with a whip for stayin' out on school nights?" She laughed. "Mah daddy was always threatin' me about stuff like that."
"Well, m' own old man only cared about preparin' me for da family business."
"Oh," She said. "Why don't ya tell me more..."
They talked their way across town.
"An' dat's how we met again," Remy said. "As expected, we missed da rehearsal but made da party. Merci was so pleased I found a nice girl t' come to da weddin' dat she made Henri forget all about m' bein' late. Da girl –who we all started callin' Marie after m' Aunt Clarice mistook her for m' crazy cousin Marie Lynn- made such a big splash everyone insisted she come back t' Louisiana wit' us. They gave her a room at our mansion, an' from den on it was clear dat she was one of us. Me an' her became fast friends an' den we became somet'in' more. We fell in love." He sighed.
"I don't mean to sound doubtful," I said, wondering to myself, "But are you sure your affection was reciprocated? I've seen a lot of young lovers confused because they think there's been a misunderstanding, when really, their partner just doesn't-"
"Love 'em back." Remy answered with a nod. "I know." He looked so sad; I wished I could drive him all around the world until he was finally reunited with the girl he loved. That wasn't possible, but I wished it anyway. I felt like I had to know the rest of the story. Why had she gone? Where had she gone?
"Why don't you tell me about the last time you saw her, Son."
She was lying in bed, asleep, when he entered her room. Remy took a moment to soak in the sight of her; she was half tangled in a bright blue bedspread, her long hair splayed out underneath her head, covering her pillow, and spilling over the side of the mattress. He thought: she couldn't have made a prettier picture of herself had she made a conscious effort to do so. It was almost a crime to wake her, to spoil the beauty of the moment.
But the object in Remy's hand burned like fire, and he knew he couldn't wait. Besides, there was a very real chance that the next moment might hold a different kind of beauty –a better kind. He advanced towards her bedside, slipping down to his knees and running a hand lightly over her brow. He smiled, as the insides of his soul and stomach did strange flip-flops; he hadn't felt nervous in front of a girl for a very, very long time. But then, this girl always had him navigating through unexplored territory. Taking a deep breath –for courage, or strength, or just in case the words started flying out of his mouth and he was left unable to breath again until he'd finished saying what needed to be said- Remy readied himself.
Then, he spoke.
"Chere," he called, gently but loud enough to wake her. Her eyelashes fluttered, and she slowly turned to see him.
"Remy?" She asked, her voice heavy with sleep. "What are ya doin' here?"
"Sit up, Chere, we gotta talk."
She made an attempt at propping herself up on her elbows, but obviously, she was only halfway out of her dream world. Her strength gave out, and she fell back to the bed. "Ah'm tired," She explained with a yawn.
"I know, beb, but give it another shot. Dis be important." This time, he tried to help her. He put his hands on her back and pulled her towards a sitting position. She held it only for a few seconds, before slipping back down again.
"Roguey," Remy chided, shaking his head. "Do y' always gotta be so stubborn? I'm gon' tell you my news whether yo' awake o' not. Don't be blaimin' me when y' finally come t' yo' senses and realize what's happened."
"Oh-kay." She mumbled.
He sighed, and again considered waiting. But he couldn't. So he leaned closer, intent on finishing what he'd already started. Were she in better control of herself, Rogue would've pushed him away almost instantly. He was dangerously near her, so near he could feel her breath tickling his face, and there was but a hair's width between their lips. He wondered, briefly, what it would be like to close the distance and taste her; he didn't find out the answer, though, because he wanted to be conscious when she finally understood what he was saying. Instead, Remy moved on to her ear, where he whispered, "Roguey, we're gettin' married."
Her eyes peeked opened again. "S'funny," she slurred, "It sounded like ya said we was gettin' married."
"I did say dat," He answered.
"Oh, ya did just..." As Remy watched her, he could see the mist clearing away from her eyes, as they grew wider and sharper. She blinked, once, twice, and looked at him, as if seeing him for the first time since he'd come in the room. Maybe it was the first time, he thought, maybe she'd had two feet in the dream world before, and had only peeked her head into reality. Suddenly, she was quite aware. "What?"
He lifted up his hand and showed her the ring. Even in the dark, it shone. "Y' like it?" He asked, feeling giddy with delight again. This was the moment he'd been anticipating, almost more than the actual wedding itself.
"Ah love it." Rogue replied, sitting up, "But Ah thought we couldn't officially tie th' knot until Belladonna did it first."
"She did. Just this mornin', Chere. It was a secret ceremony, but I was allowed t' attend. News'll be all over town by t'morrow afternoon. But we don't care 'bout dat, non? 'Cause by dat time we'll be happily concludin' our own nuptials."
"So yoah free an' clear?" She asked, finally, a spark of joy lighting up her eyes.
"One hundred percent."
"An' Ah get t' be Mrs. LeBeau?"
He grinned. "No one else."
She dissolved into giddy giggles, and he knew exactly what she was feeling. Remy's family had always had a kind of agreement with a neighboring family, which involved his marrying their daughter, Belladonna. But though the two Cajuns had developed a sincere and comfortable friendship, no romantic love had magically sprung up between them. Still, since her family had been the one to suggest the connection, they had to be the ones to break it; therefore, the only acceptable way out was for Belladonna to marry someone other than Remy.
And she had finally done it, with Remy as a witness, leaving him free to marry the girl who had long since captured his heart.
"Ah can't believe it." Rogue exclaimed. She tugged at his sleeve until he rose up and joined her on the bed. "It's like Christmastime already." She quickly turned and frowned at him.
"An' don't you spoil th' moment with some stupid immature, chauvinistic comment, neither, or else Ah'll make th' next sixty years o' yoah life hell." They looked at each other and smiled again, amazed that they could talk about the next sixty years with such absolute certainty. It was one thing to want to get married; it was an entirely different thing to be actually engaged...
"We talked fo' hours after," Remy told me. "I didn't leave until th' sun was starting to rise. I had t' go to a special meetin', where mine an' Bella's engagement would be officially ended, an' her new husband would be acknowledged. Rogue was s'pposed t' have all our t'ings ready fo' when I got back."
"Where was the marriage to take place?" I asked.
"A nearby Church. Da same one I'd suggested for Henri." He looked down, and began fiddling with the zipper on his coat. "But when I got back...she was gone. Just like dat. No note, no nothin'. Just gone."
"Maybe the commitment was too much for her," I suggested, though it pained me to say it.
"It wasn't. Mon ami," he sighed, "I know it's hard t' understand, but I know dat she didn't leave 'cause o' dat. Same way I know dat she loves me. Somet'in' else pulled her away on our weddin' day."
He spoke with such conviction. I thought of my wife, and of my God, and knew my answer would've been the same as his. He was absolutely right: sometimes, you just know.
We passed the 'Welcome to Mary' sign as his finished his account, and I sighed, heavily, not knowing what to say. I was used to giving guidance and support, but at the moment I felt as though I'd just finished reading one of my wife's romantic mystery novels in which no final solution had been given. I did not know why the girl had left him, nor did I have the faintest clue where she'd gone. All I could tell him, all I could think of, what that the Lord works in mysterious ways. People call that a cliché, but it's the most honest truth you'll ever hear.
Remy LeBeau shrugged and gave me an agreeing nod. "I know."
"I'll pray for you and her," I added, softly.
"I'd appreciate it," Came his quiet reply.
I sighed again, while I pulled into a gas station. My tank was nearly full, but there was a convenience store attached to the pumps, and I wanted to do something nice for the boy before he passed beyond my site. "Can I buy you a coffee?" I asked, "Or a sandwich? You look like you haven't eaten in a few days. I know people usually cringe when they think of gas station food, but this place has the best ham and cheese sandwiches."
He hesitated like he wanted to say no, but then changed his mind. "I'd really like dat."
Together, we walked inside the store, passing the swiveling candy rack, a row of chips, and the newspaper stand. The papers that day were typically low-key –the local baseball team had won another game, the gas prices would probably be going up again, etc- so it didn't seem at all strange to me that his eyes were attracted to the infinitely more thrilling tabloid papers. He bent in front of one, examining the headline before snatching it off the rack.
"You shouldn't believe those," I said. "I'm afraid they aren't as truthful as they ought to be."
He nodded, but absently, obviously not really listening. He'd shuffled through several of the pages now and was engrossed in one article in particular. I imagined it had something to do with the headline as I read it: Like Cannibals? Death of Mutant Scientist Attributed to Her Former X-gene Carrying Colleagues.
"I...uh," I wanted to apologize to him for the paper, apologize for the behavior of my fellow man, but I wasn't sure how. He spared me the effort by explaining his own behavior.
"A few years ago," He started, "After I'd just gotten dis power o' mine, I found m'self strugglin' to control it. So I asked around an' found out about a man named Charles Xavier, who taught a school in New York. Officially, it's a great prep school. But unofficially, it's more of a trainin' ground fo' mutant children. I went t' him an' he accepted me into dis school. Once I got control o' my powers, I was asked if I wanted t' join da X-Men, a group o' mutants fightin' for equality an' peace in dis world. I said yes."
Remy ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath, as if gathering his composure before going on. "Y' probably wonderin' why it matters. Da group dey talkin' about is da X-Men. Da female scientist dey say died... she was m' friend. Jean Grey..."
The name struck a chord. I'd heard of her before; how could I not, for she was a much mentioned name in the Senate proceedings regarding mutants, and part of her testimony had even been aired on television. Purposely, I selected a national, more respectable newspaper and scanned it. Sure enough, at the bottom of the page, there laid the description of Jean Grey and her untimely death. "Oh, my," I muttered.
"I can't believe dis. Ol' One Eye's prob'y goin' crazy right now. An' Stormy... well, no wonder da weather's been so damn dreary all dis time. Da kids, Charles," He groaned and slammed the paper shut. "I can't believe it. Jeanie's gone. Dead, damn it." His fist hit the wall, and the man behind the cashier counter looked our way, alarmed.
"Son, try to be calm right now." I said, in my most soothing voice. "Just be calm."
"I gotta get there," he told me suddenly, "I gotta be wit' Scott an' Stormy an' Charles an' everyone else. I have t' go to New York." The words came out of his mouth firm, sure, determined, but I his eyes flicker slightly, as he must've been realizing what that meant. He might never pick up the trail of his Rogue again. She could disappear into time, becoming another memory, a question mark in his brain, a love never fulfilled.
But he repeated it. "I have t' go. Can you tell me where da nearest airport is?"
Well, I did better than that. I drove him to the Mary Airport, and saw him off on his melancholy flight. The last vision I have of that young man is the back of an auburn-crowned head, a long trench coat, only halfway dry, flapping over his right shoulder, and muddy shoes, leaving footprints where he stepped. I left him with a prayer that he'd eventually find his love.
As I continue the drive back to Kerisburg, the windshield wipers swishing back and forth, sliding away the rain as time has slid the boy from my sight, I can only hope and pray that he will be guided to her, someday.
End Part One
General Notes: Thank you for reading. I know that this was very much a set-up chapter for the next two parts, and if it feels like it jumped rapidly from their first meeting each other to their getting married... well, that's because it did jump. If you want more details about the progress of their relationship, and if you wanna see Bobby Drake and the X-Men being thrown into the mix, well, that's gonna require reading the next part.
If you can't possibly wait (yeah, right) I do have other fics you might read (shameless plug).
Also, if you aren't familiar with Remy, he mentioned several times that his family business is a 'collection agency'. I thought he might not want to advertise that he's a professional thief.
Oh, by the way, this is my Elvis Trilogy (An American Trilogy and Kentucky Rain are both his songs and they're classics, so listen to 'em). I do not own him or his music (but wouldn't it be awesome if I did).
But, anywho, yay! I finished it! You can't possibly imagine how good it feels to have completed Kentucky Rain. The only way for me to be even happier... would be for you all to review the story and tell me if you liked it too! And hey, even if you didn't like it, now's the time to tell to me how you'd like things changed, before I post the next part (which, by the way, will be very much set in the movieverse world, unlike this first story which focused on Remy and Rogue's past). Look out for the next part!
Oh yeah, and Review!
I enjoy any kind of feedback, so...
Questions? Comments? Coconuts? You know where to find me!