Hidden Jewel

By: VC Andrews

Landry #4



It always begins the same way. First I hear him singing the lullabye. He is carrying me in his arms, and we are walking over marshland where the grass is so tall that neither he nor I can see his feet, only the tops of his high boots. He is wearing a palmetto hat so the brim puts a mask of shadow over his eyes and nose. I wear my pink and white bonnet.

Behind us, the metal monsters do their

monotonous drumming. They resemble giant bees drawing the black nectar from the earth. When I look back at them, they raise their heads and nod at me and then raise their heads again. It frightens me and I know he realizes it does, because he holds me tighter and sings louder.

Then we come upon a flock of rice birds. They rise out of the grass with grace and beauty, but they are so abrupt and they come so close that I can feel the breeze stirred up by their wings. He laughs. It's a soft, smooth laugh that glides over me like cool water.

Before us, the great house looms against the sky.

The house is so big it looks as if it swallowed up the sky and can block the sun. I see Mommy coming down the stairs from her art studio. She sees us and waves, and he laughs again. Mommy starts toward us, walking quickly at first and then running.

With every passing moment she grows younger and younger until . . . she's me!

I'm standing before a mirror and looking at myself. I am so amazed at the blue in my eyes, the flaxen color of my hair, and the pearlescent luster of my complexion that I smile and reach out to touch my image in the glass, but as soon as I do, I fall backward. I fall and fall until I hear the sound of splashing water and open my eyes to look at a school of fleeing fish. Their absence reveals the twisted roots of an upturned cypress tree. They look like the gnarled fingers of a sleeping giant. They frighten me, and I turn away, only to come face to face with him.

His eyes are wide, his mouth open with just as much surprise that he is down here. I try to scream, but when I do, the water comes rushing in and I gag.

And that's when I wake up.

When I was younger, my gagging would bring either Mommy or Daddy or both of them. But for years I have been able to catch my breath and regain the courage to lower my head to the pillow in the darkness in search of sleep again.

Tonight Mommy must have anticipated the

dream, because she was in my doorway moments after I cried out.

"Are you all right, Pearl?" she asked.

"Yes, Mommy."

"The dream?"

"Yes, but I'm fine, Mommy," I assure her.

"Are you sure, honey?" she asks coming closer.

Why does it worry her so? I wonder. Is it because I still have the dream?

"When will it stop, Mommy? Will I have the dream forever?"

"I don't know, honey. I hope not." She looks at the doorway. "I can try another candle," she whispers.

"No, thank you, Mommy."

Once, she was so desperate about my dream

that she, tried one of the old voodoo remedies she had learned from Nina Jackson, my grandfather Dumas's cook, and Daddy got angry.

"I'll be fine, really," I say.

She wipes some strands of hair from my

forehead and kisses me.

"What's going on in here?" Daddy demands from the doorway in his pretend gruff voice.

"Just woman talk, Beau."

"At three in the morning?" he asks amazed.

"It's a woman's prerogative."

"To drive a man crazy, you mean. That's a woman's prerogative," he mutters and goes back to bed.

We laugh. In some ways we are more like two sisters than mother- gild daughter. Mommy looks so young, hardly thirty-six, even though everyone says caring for twin twelve-year-old boys has to be an age maker.

"Dream of good things, honey. Dream about tomorrow. Your wonderful party. Dream about going to college and doing all the things you've wanted to do."

"I will, Mommy. Mommy," I say and quickly grab her hand as she stands.

"What is it, Pearl dear?"

"Will you tell me more? Maybe if I know more, the nightmare will stop."

She nods reluctantly.

"I know you think it's painful for me to hear and you don't want to do anything to hurt me, but I have to know everything, don't I, Mommy?"

"Yes," she admits. "You do." She sighs so deeply, I'm afraid her heart will crack.