DISCLAIMER:The following story is a work of fiction. All names, events, locals, et al, featured in the work are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is entirely unintentional.

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Avalaide Monroe had had her twelfth, and final as far as she was concerned, disastrous wedding. Perhaps it all went wonky this time because the Best Woman, Sandy, had tried on the dress for the refitting since Avie couldn't get away from the baker and sandy wore the exact same as her or it could have been because there were exactly one hundred and one people in attendance. Maybe it was because the engagment ring belonged to Collin's mother — Avie didn't know at the time that Constance Gale, both Jr. and Sr., had been married wtiht that ring and all their husbands, and there hada been a great lot between the two, had died or were still missing person.

Perhaps, it had something to do with Avie being a serial bridesmaid before she'd married her first husband, Nathaniel Monroe (whom, at the time, had been five years her senior) the summer she turned sixteen (which was sixteen years after Anerica's Bicentennial.) WHatever the case maybe, the straw that broke the camel's back, for Avie at least, had been walking into the bedroom she'd shared with Colin, for the passed five years, and finding him in there with her ex-best friend, Sanda, rutting like goats and going at it like a pair of sweaty dogs in heat.

The day after, although it seemed like the same day to Avie, the first snow fall of the season covered the face of the sleepy hamlet of Galeslope, North Carolina, in a heavy quit of icy down. It came some two weeks later than the norm, which was unusual for that part of the mountains, where snow seemed as constant as the daily birth and death of the sun in his westward arc across the sky.

Avalaide coundn't have been happier just to stay at home, curled up on her Broyhilll with her chocolate Chantilly, Jewel, and a-few-mor- than-she-should-have pints of Ben & Jerry's  Cherry Garcia and watch, without really watching, whatever reruns were on the tube. Jewel didn't mind in the least bit, he knew where he was needed and, in fact, he craved the attention. He looked into Avie's gray eyes, the same shade as burnished pewter, with his knowinf black ones as if he were saying Collin wasn't the right man for you anyways. She lazily extended her hand to scratch him behind the ears, his favorite place to be scratched, olny to be greeted by her stomach. Jewel had bolted to the window, like an over-expectant dog spotting a mail carrier whom never came, facing the street.

"You don't like that house either," Avie said as she wobbled, on unsteady legs, to he window and reqarded to house across from her as she would the wreakage of a train collision before she scooped Jewel up in her hars. As she turned around, he put up a futile effort to return to the window, but, realizing where he was needed most, he quited his efforts and left himself be carried off to the couch.

That housed across the street from Avie's, on the corner of Addison and Grove, hid secrets. Not the kind of secrets that you tell you bff on Saturday night sleepovers at her home. Gale Manor hid the kind of secrets the sank deep into the floorboards, the walls, the foundation. A creak was a sigh of discontnet that would wake you from your in the midnight hour shaken to the very core by primeval fear, or at the very least, stir and turn over and over again, granted that was if you were brave enough to spend the night there. Avalaide didn't see that the attic lights of Gale Manor, which was supposedly uninhabited, were on. She wouldn't have cared, then, if she had.

Jewel let out a loud hiss – that broke the silence in the room, created by an unsusally long pause in the television programme, like a gun shot – as a car speed up down Addison Avenue, as was the custom when passing Gale Manor. "There, there, Jewel," Avie cooed lightly as she scratched him behing the ears as she sat back down on the eggshell colored sofa with a half audible sigh. As the theme song to Touched by an Angel floated to her ears she fumbled for the remote controller. Upon finding it, she hit the power button. "I never did like that show," She said to Jewel. (She didn't chastize herself for her sudden state of mind, for how she had turned out; an old recluse at nearly fourty. She knew she was a recluse, now, as she'd given herself over to holding court, as her would-have-been Mother-n-Law would put it, inanimate things, her cat, her own reflection.) He looked into her eyes and purred in responce, before, he jumped onto the hardwood floor hitting the remote for the stereo which began to play the opening lines of Mariah Carey's My All.

Heavy tears began to burn red tracks down her ashen porcelain cheeks surprising her that she still had any ters left to cry after spending a large portion of the previous day locked in her room balling her eyes and soul out. She was even more surprised that she still liked the song that would have been her and Collin's song. As the song began to play for the fifth or sixth time there were three short and shrap knocks on the front door.

Avie Jumped; half out of shock that she had been startled out of her thinking, half out of fear that it could be Collin or worse – his mother, Constance Jr. She reached for for the remote, turned off the music, and prepared for the worse.

Avie adjusted her  tattered terry cloth robe, suddenly aware of how horridly bad she must look, as she rose from the couch and went to answer the door. "Why, look what the metaphorical black cat drug in," She said wishfully. She was relieved that none of her fears had been confirmed.

"What, can't a couple of odd blokes pop up out of the fucking blue to visit their only living Aunt Avalaide," Célestine shot back without missing a beat.

"As opposed to whom, your undead living Aunt Elvira," She zinged back before adding "And watch your mouth. I will wash it out with soak. I think I have that old bar of black ash soap Gran used to for that purpose."

"And here I was beginning to believe we'd inherited our whit from Father Dearest," Céleste chimed in.

"No such luck. That old stick-in-the mud father you two've got wouldn't know if it was dressed in drag and bit him on the ass. And just so know, you got more than a sharp tongue and high cheekbones out of the deal."

"Are you gonna invite us in before we become living Popsicles," Célestine barked with a violent shiver.

"Well, at that point we wouldn't exactly be living, bro."

"Shut up. Aunt Avie, where is that aforementioned soap? I may need to us it."

"By all means, come in. What kind of aunt would I be if I let my own flesh and blood Medusaify on my front lawn before I so much as found out why the Hell they were here in the first place," Avie said under her breath as she stepped aside and let the boys in.

"Sorry about Collin," Celestine said.

"Yeah, me too," Avie said whistfully.

"Well, Me Lady, one day, after you've come out of your tower of stygian gloom, you'll look at this and say: "Antan. Antan. Óu sont les neiges d'antan; too fleetingly gone." Maybe, you'll even realize that happiness isn't an event in the past, but, rather, a whole world of possible futures."

"Bully for you, and, in a sudo Lord Tennyson and Villion refferance no less."

"Well, I do try," Celeste said in the prim manner of his.

"So why, exactly, are you two here in the dead of winter without so much as a loincloth to keep you warm?"

Célestine dug in his pants pocket, pulled out the crumpled pack of Luckies and offered Avalaide one. "Thanks," she said as she took one. Once they all had one Célestine dug in his pockets for a lighter and found nothing. "Want to see a magic trick," Avie said a slight smile dawning her otherwise bleak face.

"Sure," the boys said in unison.

"I'll need your caner sticks, please." She took the cigarettes and put all three to her lips and covered them in her long sinewy hands; the hands she'd once played piano for the Metropolitan Opera with. She lightly blew into them. A faint blue glow issued from the gaps in her fingers moments before the forge of her hands bellowed with faint gray smoke. She then, handed the boys their smokes.

"You have got to teach me that one," Célestine wheezed impressed.

"In due time. Are you going to tell me why you are here of do I have to conference call Old Fat Ass to get some answers?"

"Well, um..." Céleste started so say but his voice became thick and lodged like a bolder in his mouth.

"Bobby Dearest went psycho when he walked in on Dear Lestie there getting all hot and heavy with some Twilight reject or so I've been told."

"And you couldn't have lead with that? Now, it all makes sense. What do you know about your mother's murder?" She exhaled in a jet of smoke.

"'Til now, we didn't know she was red rummied," Céleste quipped. He was able to speak now that the topic of discussion was no longer on him.

"I need a drink," Avie said as turned and the boys followed her to the kitchen. She searched in the cabinets for liquor and found none. "Merde! Empty."

"I think I have a bottle of tequila in the trunk. I'll go get it after we've freshened up a bit."

"The bedrooms are upstairs. Towels in the linen closet to the left of the bathroom. I would go get the liquor myself but I'm afraid I'll turn into Jadis the moment I step out."


If you have any comments about this story, questions, or just criticisms (constructive ones, please) feel free to message me at: ama.nevre@gmail.com. I will attempt to reply to all messages in a timely manner (usually within a day or two of receiving it.)

Best wishes and happy extracurricular proclivities to one and all.  A.M.A.