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[personal profile] paperninja69
There will be more but I wanted to post this. It's so hard to write the end. I keep coming up with other things that need to be done.

The bell tinkled, door swinging wide to allow Angel and her cello case to enter the shop. Joshua looked up from his book and smiled. "Hey, college girl! How was school?"
She shrugged. "Weird. The classes are so much smaller. Not many came back." She navigated through the racks of beaded gowns and costumes to set her case behind the glass counter. "The ones that are back seem to feel like their mere prescence is enough to spark a rebirth of the city." She sat on the chaise lounge next to him. "How's business?"
"Nonexistant." He closed his book and set it on the counter. "Yet both Cassie and Callie are convinced that there will be a need for such things."
"How can they be so sure?" Angel fidgeted, rearranging the costume jewelry in the case.
He checked his watch. "Callie belongs to the Krewe of Muses. If Mardi Gras is on then she'll know which krewes are rolling."
"Inside information. I can get behind that." She put on a tiara. "Is it me?"
He tilted his head and squinted. "You need a smaller one."
"Spoil sport."
"Well, that's us." He stood up and walked to the door, flipping the sign to "closed". "Another day, not even a dollar."
"Is anything open around here?" She said, half to herself.
"Gas stations, bars and random grocery stores." He opened the door. "You leaving your case in here?"
"No, I need to practice." She put back the tiara and picked up her case.
They left the shop, Joshua locking it behind them. He disappeared into a FEMA trailer, leaving Angel alone with her cello. 
She opened it reverently, settling on the stoop to play. Music, at once bittersweet and warm, floated into the silence that surrounded them and filled the spaces. The oak tree above, shivered as the wind blew its approval. She closed her eyes with a smile.
Cassie and Callie walked up, arms full of bags. Callie opened her mouth but Cassie held up a hand. They nodded at each other and went about their business in silence.
One of their neighbors came by and was shushed upon opening his mouth. He pointed to one of their camp chairs. Cassie nodded. He mimed eating, pointing to his trailer down the street and then to her. She nodded again. He gave a thumbs up and took off. Joshua came out of the trailer with a cardboard sign that read "YES: come on over and bring a chair. YES: bring whatever you'd like. NO TALKING!" He taped it to a chair and set it by the sidewalk.
People drifted over, read the sign and left. Some returned, arms loaded with chairs, kids, pots with interesting smells and drinks varying in alcoholic content. Cassie, Callie and Joshua directed them in silence, not wanting to disturb Angel. 
Plates and cups were filled, bodies settled into place with the only sound being the bittersweet music. 
Time lost its meaning. Angel let one piece of music drift into another, let the cello speak for her. It sang of a city shattered and it's people broken, mourned the loss and cried out against the blanket of despair that settled on everything like dust. The music refused to be beaten, offered a bright spot in the darkness and reminded those listening that there is bravery, beauty in standing up and trying once more. Some listening cried silently, not many eyes were dry.
Candles were lit as dusk approached. Callie and Cassie leaned on each other for support, Joshua's arms around them. "I don't want to go," Cassie whispered.
Callie kissed her forehead. "Not your choice, sweet. The timeline needs to be restored."
The music faded and Angel opened her eyes to a roar of applause. Everyone stood, none trying to hide their tears. She stood, puzzled, and bowed. Someone whistled, there were cries for more.
Joshua's voice rang out. "Let the poor thing eat before she passes out!"
Laughter answered him. The crowd parted as Angel passed, hands touching her and more than a few hugging her. She looked stunned when Cassie took her hand. "What happened?"
"It's so quiet these days that the entire neighborhood heard you play and came to listen." Cassie steered her to a chair, pressed a bottle of water in her hand. "We made sure no one disturbed you."
Angel accepted the plate Callie pushed at her and balanced it on her lap. A teenage girl touched Angel's arm. "Can you teach me to play like that? I already can play guitar and would really like to learn cello."
"Can we trade?" Angel swallowed some water. "I'd like to learn guitar."
The girl's face lit up. "Sure! Can I come by tomorrow? There's nothing else to do around here."
"I would like that. I get home late afternoon."
"Thanks!" She ran off.
Callie squinted at Angel. "I thought you knew guitar."
"I'm dead awful," Angel said through a mouthful of red beans. "Could use more tutoring."
Joshua poked Angel's head. "That was sweet of you."
She opened her mouth, revealing half-chewed food. 
"Dead sexy." He rolled his eyes.
Their neighbors drifted away, pausing to thank their hostesses. Some pressed money into Angel's hand, refusing to listen to her protests. Joshua cleared the yard and blew out the candles.
Callie's cell phone shrilled at her until she answered it. She answered it, wandering off out of hearing range and came back with a grin. "It's SO good to be me!"
Cassie frowned. "What's up?"
"That was my friend in City Hall. She says the mayor will announce tomorrow that Mardi Gras WILL roll." Callie's grin widened. "I know that Muse will roll, we've discussed it already."
"So?" Joshua tossed the trash bag into the garbage can.
" There's only one place in the city to get gowns." Callie gazed meaningfully at the building behind them. "Hope you enjoyed your peace, people. We're about to get very busy."

Cassie walked past Angel and a group of teenagers playing on African drums they borrowed from Angel's professor. Someone stumbled over their beats, causing everyone to lose their rhtymn. Laughter erupted, punctuated by good-natured teasing. Angel counted firmly and they picked up where they left off, led by a boy with dark hair twisted into a ponytail.
She went into the shop and smiled at the customers browsing the racks on her way to the counter. Callie chewed a pencil in thought and listened to whoever was on the other end of her cell while Joshua helped a customer choose a necklace.
A man in a suit approached the counter. "Can I speak to Callie Washington?"
Cassie smiled brightly. "She's busy at the moment. May I help you?"
"I need a gown."
"Sure." She grabbed a pencil, pad of paper and a tape measure from the box by the register. "What size?"
He blushed. "22."
"What is your lady's favorite color?"
The blush deepened. "It's for me, miss."
Cassie tried not to giggle. "Of course."
He glanced around the shop. "Can you suggest something?"
She paused. "Yes, I think I have something that may do." She took his arm and chatted as they browsed the racks. An hour later, another pleased customer left with a silver gown in a hanging bag complete with matching heels in hand.
Callie was off the phone. "I made a deal with Bead Warehouse downtown. They'll give Muses a crazy discount in exchange for a gown. So when Amy Eiderdown comes in, she gets whatever she wants. Toss in shoes and accessories to make it seem like we're doing her a favor." She wrote on a pad of paper and set it by the register. "Pass that to Angel, please. And if you two go to Bead Warehouse, mention my name for your discount."
"Wait, why would we be going there?" Joshua asked. "We're not riding, are we? Don't you have to pay dues and such? And it's October, for crying out loud!"
Callie shook her head. "Of course you're riding! I've paid for all of you. And you have to get a start on gathering your stuff. Not to mention finding a tux for the ball. That needs to be done before we have to take a damned four hour drive to find one because there's not one to be found for love or money in the city." She winked. "And you need to figure out what you're wearing for Halloween, which is Friday. No pressure!"
"Pressure, indeed," he mumbled and smiled at the older lady waving at him.

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August 2011


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