Authors: Robin Alexander
Vera drummed her nails on the counter. “How about I take care of that then?”
“This should hold,” Jill said as she inspected her work.
“I think we got off on the wrong foot.” Theo gazed at Jill with a grin. “Get it?”
“Your humor is as bad as your magic.”
“Now there you go
’ ol’ Theo when she’s
’ to be nice. You want that knot on your head to grow bigger?”
“It’s a blemish, plain and simple!”
Theo tucked her foot back into her dress. “My momma and I were
’ about you last night, and she said something very interesting.”
“Did she give you the Powerball number?”
here, fool, I’m trying to help you.”
“As I said, I don’t need your help,” Jill practically shouted, then realized that there was another customer in the shop. She pursed her lips, then smiled. “We’re just clowning around, excuse us, please.” She lowered her voice as she returned her attention to Theo. “I fixed the foot, now go.”
Jill’s expression went blank until good sense kicked in. “That’s a blanket statement, it could mean anything. Your tricks don’t work on me.”
Theo pointed at her as she backed away. “You know exactly what it means. Come see Theo when you ready to be honest with
“What’re you doing?”
“I’m knee deep in mud taking mold samples from sugarcane,” Shawn said as she sealed a plastic bag with her latest finding.
“I thought you were working in a greenhouse,” Vera said.
“I am, and it’s designed to mimic the conditions of a field, complete with mud and bugs.”
“Dustin’s hotel is on Canal Street, and while he was in a meeting, I wandered. Want to know where I ended up?”
Shawn fought unsuccessfully to pull her boot from the muck. “You told me you wouldn’t do that.”
“I didn’t talk to Jill, I spoke to her cousin. Jill was too busy yelling at some black lady in a turban. I think your heartthrob has a short fuse, but she’s single. Here’s the scoop. She was in a bad relationship, and for two years, she hasn’t dated anyone. She’s damaged, so if this is really the one you want, you’re going to have to step up your game. If you ask her out and she says no, then offer your friendship and win her that way. This is my present to you, Merry Christmas.”
“You’re welcome, and if you haven’t gotten me anything yet, I want the silver bracelet with the New Orleans charms on it. Ask Rene, she knows the one, and she’ll give you a discount,” Vera said happily. “Now I need to get back to the hotel and get naked. Have fun with your mold.”
“I bought you the boots you tried on the last time we went shopping.”
Vera released a squeal. “I’ll still act surprised when I open the box.”
Jill spent days replaying Theo’s words in her head. Her heart’s desire was simple, she wanted to be whole again and enjoy the true love of a good woman. She didn’t believe that Theo could make that happen for her, though. Still, as she closed up shop, she gazed at the lights in Theo’s window and read the day’s sign.
Broken heart? Theo’s got the parts.
Jill stared at it for a long time debating on taking the short walk across the street before Theo locked up for the night. Why not take the chance? You may lose a few bucks and get a few more pimples, Jill thought as she stepped outside and locked the door.
As she walked into Theo’s shop, she heard a very one-sided conversation.
“I told you to leave me alone, you
’ heifer. You knock over my candles again, I’ll let my dog piss on your grave, and I’ll plant stinkweed next to
headstone.” Theo stared at the ceiling and waved her chicken foot. “Stay behind me, jackass, you ain’t got no protection.”
“I’m wearing a condom on my toe, does that count?” Jill quipped.
Theo lit a candle and whispered something before she turned around. “One day, you
’ believe. Why you here? Ain’t you got a Christmas party to go to?”
“No, I’m not in the party mood. I just came to get my brother a shrunken head. I think that would make a good present.”
“You ain’t after no head. Momma been on you,
’ you think. You’ve come for your heart’s desire.”
Jill grinned at the foolishness. “You aren’t my type. I don’t like women who wear animal prints or feet.”
Theo wagged a finger at her. “You got walls all around you, girl. One day, they gonna crack, and you gonna break up right along with them if you don’t deal with
“Are you a psychiatrist, too?”
“Almost. I had to drop out of medical school when Momma took ill.”
Jill gave Theo a wary look. “Are you kidding me?”
“You don’t believe a word I say anyway. It’s late, so let’s get down to it,” Theo said as she scribbled something on a piece of paper.
Ticket 1207 belongs to
Jill sighed as she read it twice. “No magical spritzes, no incantations. You just pulled one of our claim ticket numbers out of your ass.”
“That ticket belongs to the one you looking for. Now get on outta here before you make me mad.”
“Sure,” Jill said dejectedly.
“Take a head on your way out, that’s a bonus. It ain’t real, though.”
“Nothing is,” Jill said softly as she snatched the trinket and left.
She crossed the street and was halfway up the stairs to her apartment before temptation got the better of her. Her footfalls echoed on the stairs as she went back down into the shop and booted up the computer. After she typed the ticket number, a familiar name popped up on the screen. “Shawn,” Jill whispered.
With her eyes closed, Jill thought back to the last time she saw Shawn, and it was the day Theo first came into the shop. Shawn’s repair envelope lay on the counter for anyone to see. Jill clamped her lips together tightly before saying, “Good one, Theo.”
“Theo Brasseaux’s Shop of Voodoo, Madam Theo speaking.”
“Do you have a back door?”
“And Prince Albert in a can. You ain’t got good sense if you pranking on Theo.”
“This isn’t a prank. I’d like to visit your store, but I don’t want anyone seeing me come in there. I’m on the side street, and it’s raining. Would you let me in?”
“Look for a tiny black woman holding a big bat. Mess with me, and after I whip
ass, I’ll put somethin’ on you that’ll make an ear grow outta
chin.” Theo slammed the phone down and picked up “ol’ faithful.” “Silly-ass people ashamed of what others might think.” She rushed into the courtyard and threw open the gate. “I know you, and you always wet. Child, get
an umbrella. I ain’t got no towels.”
“I have on a raincoat,” Shawn said as she followed Theo back inside. She pulled it off and draped it over a box in the storeroom. “I need help.”
“It’ll cost extra if you got some disease on your private parts, and I ain’t
’ the mixture.”
“Nothing like that,” Shawn said emphatically as she stayed behind one of the shelves, so as not to be seen from the street. “I need…I’m shy, I need something to make me come out of my shell. I need courage.”
“Baby, it’s called a hurricane, you can get them in any bar in New Orleans.”
Shawn ran a hand through her wet hair. “This is silly. I’m such an idiot.”
Theo regarded her for a moment. Shawn looked like she was going to throw up or bolt for the door, maybe both. “Simmer down, I can give you what you need. I have to ask some questions first. Have a seat on the couch over there, ain’t no one can see you.” Theo grabbed a feather from behind her counter. “
answers have to be the truth, or this won’t work.”
Shawn swallowed hard as she stared at the feather. “Okay.”
“This courage you want, is it so you can talk to a woman?”
“Yes,” Shawn said while she continued to stare at the feather as Theo waved it.
“Is she stubborn as a mule with the personality of a dirty sock, and she works at the jewelry shop across the street?”
“No…I mean, yes, if you’re talking about Jill.”
Theo nodded. “That’s the one. Don’t worry, your bad tastes won’t ruin the spell.”
“She’s really nice, I don’t think you…” Shawn’s eyes crossed as she stared at the feather waving in front of her face.
Theo continued to shake it as she knelt down and pulled a small tin from beneath the couch and opened it. “Now you listen to Theo, girl. This is powerful stuff. Open
up to it. Hear what I say and believe it.”
“Okay,” Shawn replied dreamily.
Theo began to dance and chant, “I chi
,” as she waved the feather in front of Shawn’s eyes, all the while sprinkling white powder atop her head. “Do you feel the confidence welling up inside of you?”
“Um…a little—no, actually.”
“Child! Feel it. Say, ‘I am a confident woman.’”
“I’m a confident woman,” Shawn repeated with absolutely no conviction.
Theo swatted her on the nose with the feather. “Say it.”
“I’m a confident woman.”
“I’m a confident woman,” Shawn said with a little enthusiasm.
“You are not shy, you are a confident woman!”
“I’m a confident woman.” Shawn punctuated the statement with a sneeze.
“Feel it! Mean it! I am a confident woman, there is nothing I can’t do!”
“There’s nothing I can’t do because I’m confident!”
Theo swatted her in the face again. “Say it like I say it.”
“Child! A confident woman don’t apologize for something silly. Say it! I am a confident woman!”
“I’m a confident woman! There is nothing I can’t do!”
’ it. Do you feel it?”
“I do! I’m a confident woman!”
“Now go across the street and get
Shawn’s blue eyes widened. “I don’t think I’m that confident yet.”
“Well, shit.” Theo blew out a breath and dumped half the powder from the tin on Shawn’s head and started to dance. “Say it. I am a confident woman, and I’m gonna win the heart of that jackass.”
“Okay, you’ve gotta stop calling her names.”
Theo grinned and tapped Shawn’s forehead with the feather. “Now
’ it. Say it!”
“I am a confident woman, and I am going to win Jill’s heart.”
Theo nodded. “You are. You need one more thing.” She walked over to the counter, unlocked a box, and withdrew an amber vial. “Sprinkle this on her food, and she will be yours forever.”
Shawn stared at it wide-eyed as Theo placed it in her palm. “What is it?”
“It won’t hurt her. That’s one of Theo’s most potent love potions. Her heart will always be yours.”
Rene’s smile vaporized as Shawn walked in the door. She was wet, and it looked like someone had tried to mix up biscuit batter on her head. “Hi, Shawn…how’re you today?”
“Awesome,” she said as she looked around. “Where’s Jill?”
“She had to run some errands, and she’s going to pick up lunch.”
Shawn looked at her wrist out of habit. “What time is it?”
“A little past eleven. You want another towel?”
“Oh, no, I’m fine. That reminds me, I need to return the last one you loaned me. How long has Jill been gone?”
“About ten minutes, she probably won’t be back until around one.”
Shawn was disheartened by the news, she needed to get back to work, but she was feeling good and wasn’t about to back down. “I’ll wait if you don’t mind.”
“I really don’t, but…what happened to you?”
“You need to have a look at yourself.” Rene pointed to the door at the back of the store. “Go through there, the restroom is on the right.”
The look on Rene’s face conveyed to Shawn that she really didn’t need to question the offer. She walked behind the counter, through the door, and into the bathroom. When the light came on, she staggered back from the mirror. “Shit!”
“You want that towel now…and some shampoo?”
Whatever was in Theo’s special dust made Shawn’s hair stiff as a board, even though she washed it three times. She buffed it with a towel, and it stood off her scalp like a troll doll. She stepped out of the bathroom in a panic. “Rene, you wouldn’t happen to have a hat, would you?” she called out. But it sounded like there was a multitude of voices in the showroom.
Shawn stepped back into the bathroom and tried to tame her mane, but the drier it became, the higher it stood. “Shit,” she whispered. In desperation, she wrapped the towel around her head like Theo’s turban and tried the back door. The deadbolt locked with a key, and it was nowhere in sight.
Rene dropped the pen she was holding on the counter when Shawn stepped into the showroom. From beneath the towel, locks of hair pointed in all different directions. Shawn mouthed “thanks” and pointed to the towel as she made a hasty retreat.
On the ride back to her office, Shawn marveled at the fact that she really did feel more confident. That was a far cry from earlier when she’d stood on the sidewalk too chicken to go into the jewelry store and speak to Jill. She’d lost her nerve and was on her way back to her work truck when saw a sign hanging on the gate behind Theo’s store that read:
Block this driveway, and I’ll put something on you that’ll make your whole body smell like some stank ass feet. Theo Brasseaux’s Shop of Voodoo.
“I’m an intelligent, educated woman, not bad-looking.” Shawn smiled. “Hot, according to Vera,” she said as she sat up straighter. “I’m a confident woman.”
She chanted the mantra, slapping the steering wheel to accentuate her point. At a stoplight, she happened to glance at the vehicle next to her. An elderly couple stared back at her like she was insane. Shawn rolled down her window and smiled. “I’m a confident woman.” The old man in the passenger’s seat poked his wife in the arm, and she stomped the gas as soon as the light turned green.
Shawn turned into the parking lot of her office building, and unfortunately, the rain had stopped. She’d planned to stroll slowly in hopes that her hair would become soaked by the time she got to the door thinking it might slick it back down. She decided to handle the crisis with a ball cap she dug out of the backseat, but her hair was so stiff that the hat looked like it sat six inches off her head.
“Shawn, what the hell did you do to your hair?” one of her colleagues asked as she walked through the door.
“Rain—too much mousse. Don’t look at it,” she said as she sprinted down the hallway.
The store was bustling with Christmas shoppers when Jill returned. She quickly set their lunch in the back and returned to the counter to wait on customers. It seemed that when one wave left, another came in. The food was eaten bite by bite whenever one of them could find a second to run into the back of the store, and by the day’s end, Rene and Jill were exhausted.
“We did good today,” Jill said as she nibbled on a roll.
“Yeah, the real Christmas rush has begun.” Rene kicked off her shoes and rubbed her feet wearily. “Oh, I almost forgot, Shawn came in here looking for you just after you left.”
Jill stopped chewing and swallowed half of the roll that she’d stuffed into her mouth. “Did she break something else?”
“No, or if she did, she didn’t say. Her number’s in our system, maybe you should call her.”
Jill still had the slip of paper that Theo had given her. She wasn’t sure why, but when she was getting dressed that morning, she’d found it on her kitchen table and stuffed it into her pocket. She’d been played by Theo, of that she was certain, but a seed had been planted nonetheless. Shawn was in her thoughts.