Mardi Gras was a very lively time of year down in the Big Easy. People of all ages would come to enjoy the festivities. It was a time of food, fun and craziness. It was the time to let go before the start of Lent. The celebration usually brought all kinds of people to the streets of New Orleans, some more shady than others. Remy Lebeau used this time to get some work done. With thousands of people crowding the streets, he was sure to make a mint.
"Mama, ah wanna get mah fahce painted." Plead a little girl as she pulled on her mother's arm.
"Maybeh lattah Marie." The dark haired woman replied as she pulled her daughter along.
"But ah'm bored. Ah wanna do somethin' fun." Marie was on the verge of tears. She let go of her mothers arm and walked behind her for a few moments, before deciding to wander off and go back to the face painting lady.
The crowd was pretty hectic as Marie pushed her way through. She tried to catch the attention of various people. Some were rather rude to her and would push her away. Marie tapped a lady on the shoulder to ask for help, but the lady was drunk and basically spit on the young girl.
"People 'r so mean. 'Scuse meh."
Marie was pushed into the back of a young Remy Lebeau, who appeared to be about 19 or 20. He turned around to face the little southern belle." 'scuse meh sir, but ya wouldn't mahnd helpin a laday out would ya?" She asked in a sweet voice.
"Ah'm workin petit, mebbe dat nahce laday ovah dere can help ya." Remy pointed at a lady who was obviously a drag queen. "Or mebbe dat one." He pointed to a lady who passed out drunk before their eyes.
"Nevah mahnd, ah'll fahnd it m'self." The little girl pushed her way through the crowd until she finally made it to the sidewalk.
The music, lights and crowd caused the five year old girl to become a tad disoriented. She reluctantly followed the sidewalk until she reached Bourbon Street. When she saw the face painting booth she ran up to it happily. "Hello ma'am. Ah would lahke y' ta put a buttahflah on mah fahce please."
"Bonjour petit! Dat'll beh fahve dollahs."
"Y' mean it cost moneh? Ah'm sorray ma'm, ah don' have moneh." Her eyes started to tear up.
Above her head, Marie saw an arm holding out a five dollar bill. The arm had a long dark brown leather sleeve on it.
"Dere ya go cherie. Fahve dollahs so dat dis loveleh petit can have a buttahflah on her fahce." Remy handed the money to the lady. The woman invited Marie to sit in the chair. The little girl smiled at Remy and stepped up to the chair. She sat down and let the artist get to work.
Remy could have walked away, but he decided that this child was probably lost. While fun, Mardi Gras was dangerous for little girls wandering the streets alone.
The woman took about 10 minutes to paint a pink and purple butterfly on Marie's face. The wings were painted above and below her eyes, while her nose was pained as the butterfly's body. Looking in the mirror, Marie smiled.
"Don' y' look enchantin' petit." Remy smiled.
"Thank ya m'am!" Marie got off the chair and went to Remy's side. "Thank ya sir."
"Now, why don't ya run off to ya mama."
"Ah would, if ah knew where to fahnd her." The girl looked around. There were far too many people around. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
"Where ya'll stayin? Do ya live in da Big Easy?"
"Ah live in Missippi." Marie could not pronounce Mississippi. "Where is the Big Easy? 's it in Louisiana?"
Remy laughed. "Oui chere, it a name fo' Nawlins."
Remy took her hand and headed back to where he first saw her. Maybe she could backtrack. "Ya mama probably worried. 'S not wise t' leave ya mama in a place lahke dis petit."
Marie started to get really scared, because of all of the people. She shouldn't have left her parents. Marie started to tear up. Within seconds those few tears turned into Niagara Falls. "Ah know. Ah shouldn't a run off."
"Hey, don' cry petit." Remy pulled her into an empty alley so he could calm her down. He knelt down in front of the girl and placed his hands on her shoulders. "No tear chere. We fahnd y' pa'ents."
Remy knew of a little café close to where they were. All they had to do was get through the crowd of rowdy people. But that wouldn't be hard. He was experienced in getting through crowds, though usually he always got something out of it. "C'mon petit. Ah know what'll put dat frown upsahd down." Remy lifted her into his shoulders and held onto her legs.
"Yer hair is perdy mistah..hey ah nevah got yer name. Mah nahme is Marie."
"Remy…da name's Remy. An thanks. Da woman often say dat 'bout mah hair." Remy started to carry her through the crowd. When he spotted a man in a vulnerable position, he couldn't help but pull the man's wallet out of his pocket.
"Hey! That ain't veray nahce Remay." Marie was a little loud in saying that. Remy rushed to through the rest of the crowd.
"Hey, ah was gonna give it back lattah." Remy put Marie down and took her hand. The two entered Café Pierre. "Y' lahke ice cream?"
"Oh yes ah do! Mah favorite is Oreo ice cream!"
Remy found a small table for the both of them and pulled the chair out, like the southern gentlemen that he normally wasn't. He gave her a menu .
"Pick out whatevah y' wan' Cherie."
"What 'bout this?" Marie showed him the picture of a huge slice of chocolate cake that came with cookies and cream ice cream.
"'If y' can eat it, why not?" Remy decided to order himself a latte. When the waitress came around he ordered for both of them. While the waitress walked away, he took a nice good look at her ass.
"Why ya lookin at her lahke that?"
"Oh, ah wasn't. Ah was jus…day dreamin. Hey wanna see a magic trick petit?" He pulled out his deck of cards and shuffled them.
"Pick a cahd." He fanned them out before the girl. Marie pulled one out.
"How come this cahd has a phone numbah on it?"
"Oh dat?" Remy pulled the card away from her, to his own chagrin. "Dat's incase…um…why don' ya pick anothah cahd." Remy put that specific card in his pocket and fanned the deck again. Marie pulled another card, looked at it and slid it back with the others. Remy shuffled them a couple of times and pulled out a card. "Dis be yo cahd no?"
"How'd you do that?"
"It be magic Cherie." He winked at her.
"Um, mistah Remy. Ah hafta use the little gals room." She looked around to find it.
"It be ovah dere. Y' see where da waitress is goin? 'S bah da kitchen." He pointed to where she needed to go.
Marie stood up and followed Remy's directions. As he waited for his little friend to return, their desserts arrived. Marie ran out, rather enthusiastically. "Mistah Remay. May ah have a quarter? There's a candy machine at the bathrooms."
Since there was a gumball machine outside the bathrooms, he pulled out a quarter and handed it to her. When the girl came back with a little purple square package that said Trojan on it, he turned a bit red. He snatched it from the girl. "Dat ain't candy fo' kids." He tucked it in his pocket hoping to find use for it later. The girl was bummed that she lost her candy, but cheered up when she saw her dessert.
Marie couldn't eat another bite. She had managed to scarf down half of her dessert. Remy picked up a fork and ate the rest of it. "Dere nothing lahke French choc'lat." And he wasn't talking about last night's one night stand."We bettah go so we can fahnd yo' pa'ents. 'R ya stayin in a hotel?"
"It's a yellah hotel and there's a lion statue out front."
"Ah think ah know where dat is. Les go." Remy got up from his chair.
"What if we nevah fahnd them. Ah'll hafta live with ya." Marie climbed out of her chair and took his hand. "That wouldn't be bad, but ya smell lahke cigarettes. Those 'r nastay."
"We'll find 'em chere." Remy left the money and a tip on the table and took Marie's hand. He led her outside.
It started to rain. That was one thing the southern United States is known for. That's why it's so humid down there. Remy pulled his trench coat off and wrapped it around Marie to keep her dry. He knew exactly where the hotel was.
"We almos' dere petit. Ah've been dere a few tahmes."
"Ah'm tired Remay."
Remy picked her up. "'S not much furthah lil one." He carried her a few blocks until they reached the yellow building. He put Marie down and opened the door to the lobby. Marie entered and unwrapped herself from Remy's coat. "Can y' tell meh yer las' nahme sweetheart?"
"D'acanto." She grabbed Remy's hand and he led her to the desk.
"Ah have a lost chil' wit meh. She said she stayin' here wit her pa'ents. Her las name D'acanto."
The woman behind the desk looked up the name and confirmed that they were indeed staying there. The woman called the room and there was no answer. They must have been out looking for her.
"No one answered. Don't worry, she can stay here until they return."
Remy knelt down to little Marie. "Dey gonna keep y' here till y' pa'ents come back. K?"
"Okay." Marie hugged Remy. "Thank ya for helpin' meh. Will ah evah see ya again?"
"Ah'm sure we cross paths again in da futah. Y' only 'cross da rivah."
"Mebbe we can get married!" The girl smiled a huge grin.
Remy laughed and decided to humor her. "Mebbe, in 'bout fifteen years."
"But then you be old!" Marie hugged him again and kissed his cheek, never suspecting that this would possibly be the only safe kiss she would ever give him.
Remy stood up and parted ways with her. Something caught her eye near the hotel's entrance. It looked like a flat paper object. She walked over to it to see a red design on it. Marie picked it up to see the Queen of Hearts on the other side. It must have fallen out of his trench coat when she was unwrapping herself from it minutes ago. She smiled and held the card tightly in her hand.