Robert is tired. He’s been on his feet for six hours, walking the hot streets hoping to see her. It’s foolish, he knows, and painfully cliché – looking for a ghost in the French Quarter. Who does that and still has any self respect?
But Robert can’t let himself care. Can’t. He’s already seen her. Twice. So he already believes, already knows.
The first time, he’d been lost a little, turned around trying to find his way from St. Augustine’s to the Voodoo Museum. Yes, it was that obvious and ridiculous – from the church to the Voodoo temple, looking for magic and finding a spirit. He’d gotten himself confused, turning too early, onto Dauphine instead of Bourbon and losing his landmarks, his bearings.
“You know everyone can see you’re lost, right?”
She’d been sitting on the curb at Dauphine and Ursalines, cream-white skin, long thick legs in dirty cut-offs, a faded Joy Division t-shirt.
He stopped and looked around then back at her. “What street is this?”
She laughed, pointed up at the signs on the corner then gathered herself and stood, stretched. He hadn’t resisted looking at her body and had gone red-faced in his embarrassment when she caught him. She just smirked.
“Come on. I’ll walk you where you need to go.”
He had stiffened. He’d read about kids like her. They had a name, people called them something, “gutter” something. Not “trash.” That was a thing his mother would have said. “Punks.” They were called “gutter punks.” It didn’t seem wise to wander off to who knew where with her.
“Suit yourself. I’m not lost.”
“I’m not lost, but I –” he looked around again. “Can you help me?”
She hesitated a moment, smoothing the annoyance from her face, then looped her arm through his. “Such a leading question!” She laughed and started walking him up the street. “And so I’ll lead you … right to the museum.”
“The –” He turned to look at her. “How do you know I’m going to the museum?”
“Women’s intuition,” she said. “Also, I can read. You’ve got the discount card in your hand.”
He had walked with her, nervous and uncomfortable, imagining how they must look to anyone seeing them pass. Several people gave him looks he didn’t expect. He realized later they were probably looks of fear. At the time, he had no guess.
She surprised him by walking in silence. She led him along, keeping a firm hold on his arm, looking left and right with a slow, lazy curiosity as if window-shopping the street.
It was a short walk, as he hadn’t been truly off course. Two blocks up Dauphine, a block and a half along Dumaine. At the entrance to the museum, she released his arm and gave him a pat on the back.
“Thanks for getting me here, I’m –” She had already turned and headed back the way they’d come, and he stood, open-mouthed, watching her until she turned the corner.
A woman stepped out of the museum, took his chin in her hand and turned his face to her. “You’re okay,” she said.
“What? Of course I’m okay.” He started, giving himself a quick pat-down. “Unless she took my wallet?”
“No, she don’t steal, that one.” She smiled at him, dropped her hand. “You don’t know, do you? Know about that girl?”
“Know about her? I just met her. She walked me here because I was lost. A little lost.”
The woman nodded. “She must have liked you, help you out like that.” She turned and looked down the block in the direction the girl had gone. “That was a ghost, that girl,” she said. “She come around sometimes. Not usually so nice, that one. But you’re okay.”
This one … it’s gotten away from me entirely. Away from itself. It’s pages and pages now and no end in sight!