Set in late February, 2012
Carmelita knew a handful of things.
She knew that it was Mardi Gras and she was, by strange coincidence, in New Orleans.
She knew that her hometown was burning, crushed, and flooding, all at once, which was not, to her way of thinking, a very good state of affairs.
She knew that she was twenty-one and, possibly more importantly, that at the moment almost nobody anywhere was going to ask her age.
And she knew that, despite everything, despite everyone, despite the war and the so-called gods and the even-less-likely-called saviors, New Orleans was still running, still partying, still rolling.
She leaned over the edge of the balcony. “Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!” It wasn’t real French. It didn’t need to be. The burgundy in her glass wasn’t real burgundy, either, no matter how many times the man had told her it was. And it didn’t need to be, either.
“Sweetheart, come back inside.” The man had ideas, of course. He’d bought her the fake burgundy. He’d paid with stolen credit and thought she hadn’t noticed. His accent had changed three times in the four hours they’d been together. “Come back to bed, lovely Carmel.”
Of all the nicknames you could make from her name, she disliked that one, often also used to describe the color of her skin, the most. “It’s not ‘back to,'” she told him, a little more crossly than she might have, under normal circumstances. “I haven’t been there yet.”
“Come to bed, then. There’s more burgundy,” he coaxed her, his voice smooth as the not-really-silk sheets. “There’s Camembert and crackers.”
The streets were calling her. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” Carmelita muttered. The man was less interesting than he had been, once you saw him up close, like any forgery. “I’m not dead yet,” she called over her shoulder, and jumped into the street.
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