Author's Note: Some of the stuff in here about voodoo is true - it's really mostly relatively peaceful, and the stuff you see on TV is for shock value. No zombies, no devil worship, none of that. I recommend Bob Corbett's Introduction to Voodoo for anyone who wants to know the truth (; However, this is a story, and of course I take a few liberties. People do it with Catholicism all the time, right?

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"Ma, it isn't that bad --"

"First you convert to that crazy religion and now you want to go halfway across the country -- he didn't even marry you, the stupid schmuck!"

"Ma! It's not like anything is happening! I'm just not coming home."

"You and your baby and the guy you didn't even marry are just gonna live together like white trash?"

"You know what? I bet he has more money than you and daddy did when you got married - and hell, you and daddy DID get married, fat lot of good that did!"

"Don't you bring your father into this!"

"Ma, I'm hanging up now. I'm sick of this."

"All right, honey, but we WILL be discussing this later. Love you!"

"Love you, too, ma," I mumbled, clicking off my cellular phone. Everyone else in the grocery store where I was waiting in line pretended they hadn't been listening. I shove the phone in my purse and jostle the rickety metal cart that holds my things.

That was confusing. I'll explain: I am an eighteen year old girl, preparing to go off to college. My boyfriend is a twenty-year-old with a few unusual 'gifts' and the appearance of a punked-out ne'er-do-well who actually does quite well. We have an eleven month old daughter named Hope, who presently was staring up at me from her position against my hip. I'm also a mambo - a female practitioner of voodoo.

Most practitioners voodoo can't raise the dead, nor do they want to. I don't want to, and I'm able to. I'm able to animate and resurrect, along with a host of other things. I'm servir a deux mains for that very reason - I serve both sides. 95% of practitioners are not into the dark stuff. I don't like to be, but destiny doesn't much care what I like.

My mother nags a lot, but pretty much lets me do whatever I want - she even took me to Haiti so I could get initiated. Of course, that was more out of necessity than anything else. She doesn't like Nero, my boyfriend, but he doesn't initially appear as a dream date for anyone's daughter, especially not sweet little innocent me. Truth be told, I wasn't that interested at first, either, but he's just so darn cute.

I shoved my way to the front of the line, Hope cooing at me softly. I ruffled her black hair, sharp in contrast to my blonde - she has her daddy's hair, but my fair skin and hazel eyes. She's a funny kid, charming and quite bright (though I'm biased), but not like most babies her age. She seldom cries, even if she's hurt, and can usually be found gazing blankly into nothing as if she sees something the rest of us don't. If she does cry, it's more of a high, animal keening than anything else to let us know she needs something, and it unnerves the hell out of any babysitter who happens to hear her via the baby monitor or in person. I was seventeen when I had her, June 16th. Twenty-two days after the end of school, and I had to repeat my senior year because of it. I don't mind, really: aren't most people eighteen when they graduate? I don't turn nineteen until September.

The girl at the check-out counter is someone from school, a junior. Well, senior now, I guess. She wears a lot of blue eye shadow and looks at me as if she's not quite sure I'm real. She's not popular, but neither was I for most of my high school career -- I was more infamous. When I was a freshman, I was a junior varsity cheerleader. When I came back for my sophomore year, I was a mambo. Bit of a difference, although I'm sure she thinks I did it to be rebellious and therefore it's "cool". She's the type of girl who smokes a lot of weed and thinks education was created to repress her "free spirit". Or her lazy spirit. Whichever.

"Hi," I greet her politely as she rang up the groceries, pausing to retrieve my checkbook from my purse. It's kind of difficult with one hand, but Hope is focused on something on the ceiling that I can't see. She murmurs into my dark blonde hair, tiny fist squeezing a lock gently, not enough to hurt.

The check-out girl smiles at me and cracks her gum. Her eyes dart to Hope, who can't be bothered to acknowledge anyone right now.

"S'gonna be a hundred and sixty-three," she pronounces, clearly assuming that's a lot of money for me. Why do people think that just because I gave birth without a wedding ring affixed to my finger, I'm poor? Statistics aside.

I write the check and she summons up a young, awkward-looking boy who looks at me and Hope when he thinks I don't notice. Unfortunately for him, my senses are pretty sharp, so most of the time I just give him an arched brow expression and he looks away.

Soon enough, I've packed my bags away and have arrived home, complete with an armful of groceries. I holler at the open second-story window for some assistance, and after a moment, Nero arrives.

Yeah, he's definitely not the kind of guy you want to take home to mother, but damn, does he work the bad boy image. Nero is tall, but not extremely so, standing at about five-eleven. His hair is naturally black, but he dyed it dark red and spikes it, contrasting his fairly dark skin and clear grey eyes. He can easily pick me up, and his body is littered with tattoos. He was wearing jeans and some button-up black shirt that had mysteriously lost its sleeves, unbuttoned and barely hanging onto his broad shoulders.

I guess we kind of look like an odd couple - I have long, straight dark blonde hair, almost apricot colored but a few shades lighter, that's never been touched by dye except for maybe the occasional highlight if the girl who cuts my hair decides I need to "liven things up". I have a small, finely boned face and tend to appear very innocent, something I guess I can be unintentionally, and also play up when I want something. My eyes are hazel, usually a goldish-mixed-with-green-or-blue kind of color, and I always wear brown eyeliner. My lashes are dark, despite my hair, so I don't wear any other make-up except maybe lipgloss if we go out, though I tend to have a naturally pouty mouth anyway (Nero claims it's because I'm always irritated with someone). I'm about five-six, and seem slender but am actually fairly wiry, packed with muscle so tightly it looks like I'm just small. My figure is ordinary and modest, a B or a C depending on the brand, and my hips are small enough where childbirth was not a party. Like it ever is. I usually dress conservatively - today it was a black blazer over a white t-shirt and jeans, my hair pulled into a low ponytail. That's pretty much my uniform. When you're famous for being the town pagan, you don't need to dress weird.

Nero takes Hope out of her car seat. She coos at him softly and squirms. Naptime is imminent, and she knows it. I gather the shopping bags and follow him into the apartment he was renting. In two days, we're moving - I'm going to college, and my family is going with. The groceries are for the loa, for the most part, not us.

Just before I shut the door, a gang of junior high age girls go by on bikes. They stare at me and giggle, swerving through the streets. I ignore them and settle in on Nero's lap as Hope toddles around the house, grabbing onto the soft material of the sofa we sit on before taking off again. She enjoys walking, although she's not completely steady on her feet yet.

"She's getting tired," he murmurs in my ear, locking his arms around my waist comfortably. I want to tell him about something, but I'm tired, too, and can't remember what. His fingertips slide under my shirt, to my stomach, across my hipbones. Hope gazes at the picture of Ghede, my personal loa. It seems strange to call such a powerful spirit mine, but that's the way things are. My daughter, my lover, my faith, my strange gifts, all wrapped up in one room that soon we would be leaving.

Hi, I'm April. Welcome to my world.