As soon as the pastry shop closed the following afternoon, Chay headed over the few blocks to Aunt Dixie's shop as Keagan had told him no less than nine times that morning that the woman had to talk to him about something. He had no idea what she wanted, but he assumed that maybe she had finally decided to tell him how much he needed to pay her for the furniture he had bought for Keagan. He didn't know if he wanted to ask her how she had known a few years ago that he would need that exact bed for the little blond who had totally captured not only his heart but his whole life in his delicate, but deceptively strong hands. To be honest, at this point he was a little afraid of her answer to that question.
He had known the woman ever since he had first come to the city. It was Aunt Dixie that talked him into opening his own shop in a town that was practically overrun with bakeries and pastry shops, yet just as she had told him, he hadn't gotten rich, but he had never had a month that he lost money. She was also instrumental in helping me find the building that he had bought and had just paid off last year, which was really amazing seeing that he had done it in only five years. Now a part of him was wondering how much of his success was due to the influence of the most powerful voodoo family in New Orleans.
"What am I going to do with you, Sugarman?" Chay winced at the tone of voice from Aunt Dixie as he walked into her shop. "You come to see me, and you forget to bring me beignet again."
"How could anything I make be sweet enough to repay you for all you have done for me and for Chipper?" he responded, thinking quickly.
"Your silver tongue don't melt in my mouth like them beignet, and besides everything I've done for my sunshine boy he deserved and more, poor child," she said as she wiped a tear from her face thinking of the pain she had seen and felt in the young blond boy had come in and brightened their lives in spite of all the darkness he had endured in his own short life. "But, now I'm curious, just what do you think I've done for you besides sell you some furniture that should have been Chipper's anyway?"
"You got me to open my own shop. You helped me find the building to do that in. You must have helped get customers because there isn't a lack of competition in this city for bakeries and pastry shops."
"You must think I'm Wonder Woman or something, Sugarman," the old woman laughed. "All I did was tell somebody who always wanted to follow his dreams to go ahead and do it. That building you're in wasn't to help you. I suggested that location so that old hussy Clairee Dunbar from the Senior Center downtown wouldn't open up a second-hand furniture store in it. You ain't the only one with competition in this town, you know."
"So, you never... umm... blessed my store or anything to make me more successful?"
"Why would I do that? You are a fine man and a fine chef. You didn't need any help to make your dreams come true. You just needed somebody to tell you that you could do it." Her face grew very serious as she then asked, "Do you think I'm some kind of evil monster now that you know my family and my place in it?"
Without having to think about this answer at all, he leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "No, ma'am, I think you're my sweet, wonderful Aunt Dixie who just happens to know things before other people do or that most other people don't ever learn. I promise I will not forget your beignet ever again, Aunt Dixie." He grew serious then and asked, "So what did you need to talk to me about? Keagan pestered me all morning so I would be sure and come over to see you."
"We have to talk about that boy," the old woman said just as seriously. "That mess he got into the other night has brought up a situation between my family and another one because one of their kin was there."
"The Lafayette boy came by my shop and apologized. He and Chipper are friends now," Chay told her.
"I heard that from Cassius, but you are Keagan's split apart, so I had to know from you that it's settled with our Sunshine and with you. Keagan, he ain't ready to take his place as the man he will be yet, but he's mighty close. Until he is, I will talk with you for him."
"His split apart?" Chay asked in confusion. Before Aunt Dixie could explain, what she meant, the door to the store opened and a very old man walked in followed by another man younger than the first, but probably ten or fifteen years older than Chay.
"Long life and happiness to Dixie LeVeau, and peace between your family and mine," the old man said as he bowed deeply to the old woman.
"It's already been a long life, Henri Lafayette, for both of us," Aunt Dixie said as she offered a hand to the man, which he kissed reverently. "It's always a happy day to see an old friend, even if he's afraid it ain't. As for the peace between our families, I know we will work something out. My family has always respected yours, and I have always respected you."
"You honor both my family and me, dear lady. But now to business; you know why I am here, Dixie." The old man didn't say it as a question. He knew that they both were aware of the situation.
"I do, Henri," she confirmed anyway. She held a hand out to draw attention to Chay. "This is Chayton Anthony; he is Keagan Parker's... guardian."
"This was my nephew, Phillipe Lafayette," Mr. Lafayette said, indicating his companion. The fact that he used the past tense in the introduction was not lost on either Aunt Dixie or Chay. "His former son Claude was at that party."
"You raised a very polite and honest young man," Chay told the father, even as he wondered about the strange wording of the old man.
"No, apparently I raised a fag," the man snarled in response. "Not that I should be surprised seeing the demonic influences he has had in his life. I knew I should have listened to my mother and moved far away from this pit of perversion years ago. Homosexuals and witchcraft, it's no wonder the boy turned out to be such a useless...."
"Phillipe, you go wait in the car for me," the older man ordered sternly. When the man started to say something else, Henri snapped, "Not another word from your mouth, you get out now." Once Claude's father was gone, the family patriarch looked at Aunt Dixie and Chay seriously. "Mr. Anthony, I apologize to you for that man's attitude. My brother was not blessed with the gifts of the family and he married a woman outside our culture. I never knew until now how badly she influenced my brother and his son. I came to negotiate for peace, and he insulted you and his son's victim." He turned to Aunt Dixie and once again bowed deeply. "How can my family settle this, your Majesty?"
"You said he was your nephew," Aunt Dixie started. "You have cut him from your family completely?"
"Yes, your majesty, it was already done, although the whole truth of what that means doesn't seem to have sunk into that hard head of his" the old man replied.
"Stop calling me Majesty, Henri," Dixie told the man with a smile. "We have been too close for too long to be that formal now. With that man out of your family, the penalty for his insults falls on him alone, not your clan and my Sunshine boy has made his peace with your Claude, and so you and I are the same friends we have always been."
"Claude came to my shop to ask forgiveness for what happened, even though he was not the one that lured Keagan to the party, nor was he one of the ones that tore his clothes and tried to rape him," Chay told them both.
"Rape?" the old man gasped. "I was not told that the party went that badly." He bowed once again to Aunt Dixie. "My heart breaks that one who was my blood brought such pain and shame to yours, Dixie. You know you are one of the best friends I have ever had, and my Calvin too."
"Your Calvin was a good man, Henri," Aunt Dixie told the old man as she reached out and wiped a tear from his cheek. "I know the pain of losing your split apart. Anytime you want to talk, I will be here to listen. We will not take your Claude from you. Sunshine has decreed the matter settled with your Claude. I heard the words you have spoken, Henri. That boy is not your family either, is he?"
"Phillipe publicly disowned the boy before I learned about the situation," Henri told her. "You heard from his own mouth how he feels about his son and the family. For this disrespect to me as his family prince, Phillipe was cast out of my family. I can't do anything for poor Claude, though. The boy doesn't even know yet that he has been cast out. Damned fool Phillipe spouts all his hatred of our family gifts, but he knew exactly what to say and do to ensure that I can't bring Claude back into the family. That boy was the son that Calvin and I could never have. I love that boy more than my heir. If he had been born with the gifts, he would have been my heir."
"May I offer a suggestion?" Chay spoke up.
"What are you thinking, Sugarman?" Aunt Dixie asked.
"Well, when Claude came to my shop to apologize, as soon as he learned that Keagan was kissed by Aunt Dixie here, he offered himself to Keagan as some sort of servant," Chat started.
"And well he should, I taught that boy our ways because he was always sneaking out of his house to come over and visit me and my Calvin. With or without a family to back him, he knows either a life of service or death is the only payment for what he took part in doing to Keagan."
"Well, Keagan made it very clear that he wanted no servants or slaves, and there would most definitely not be any killing," Chay continued. "However, I happened to notice that Claude seemed rather taken with Cassius, and Cassius with him as well."
"You think he and Cassius are split aparts?" Aunt Dixie asked.
"I'm sorry if this is the wrong time to ask, but what do you mean by that phrase?"
"Split aparts is what we call people that are meant to be together," Aunt Dixie answered.
"The belief can be traced back through time and many civilizations," Henri added. "The idea is that once people were whole beings, complete in and of themselves. Something happened however, and there are many different theories on what that was, but something caused people to split into two separate beings. They are only complete and whole if and when they find their other half; their split apart." The old man looked a little nervous, but cleared his throat and spoke again. "If an old man can be nosey, just why is it Dixie didn't introduce you as Keagan's split apart, when I can feel and see that you are?"
"I am not.... We aren't.... Why does everyone keep saying...."
"Calm down, Sugarman, you're going to bust a gut," Aunt Dixie laughed softly. "Henri, something else you apparently weren't told about that party Saturday night is that Keagan is only seventeen years old."
"Claude was involved in sexually molesting a minor?" the old man whispered and would have fallen if Chay hadn't moved a chair under him quickly. "Where did I go wrong with that boy?"
"Mr. Lafayette, Claude made it clear to me, and to Keagan, that he was unaware of his fraternity brothers plans for the evening," Chay assured him. "Claude had never seen Keagan until he arrived at the party. He attempted to stop what was happening as soon as he realized, but there were too many people in the way. He in no way agreed with or participated in what was happening beyond maybe some underage drinking and drug use that all of the boys at that party were guilty of doing."
"Thank you for telling me, Mr. Anthony. That does ease my heart," Henri whispered. "So as Dixie was saying, do you believe that Claude and Cassius may be split aparts?"
"I can't say if they are or not, but I can tell you that I believe they both see that possibility. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are hopeful for that outcome."
"Dixie, would you...."
"Henri, you know I will be happy to take your boy into my family," Aunt Dixie stopped him with a smile. "I wish there was a way for him to still be a part of yours, so that our families could be allied that closely, but know between you and me, that I feel that alliance in my heart, even if it is not in fact."
"Is there really no way for you to undo what Phillipe has done?" Chay asked.
"You run along home to Sunshine, now," Aunt Dixie told Chay with a loving smile. "Tell that no account no name jackass in the car outside that his only chance to save his worthless hide is if he leaves this town and never returns. So, mote it be!" She slapped her hand down on the counter in front of her and Chay staggered under a sudden ripple of power that blasted out from that point in the room. "I'm going to take my old friend Henri and we will see what we can do about Claude." Chay was almost out the door when she called out again to him. "And Sugarman, you hear me good, if you show up here one more time without my beignet, I'm going to turn you over my knee and spank your bare bottom right in front of God and everybody."
"Yes, ma'am," Chay answered with a nervous gulp and quickly ducked outside. He noticed that Phillipe had not waited in the car, after all. Well, it was on the man's own head what happened to him at this point, and Chay found that he did not feel the least bit sorry for the man. When he arrived home, he heard voices in his living room.
"What am I going to do, Chip? You know we have to pay the tuition bills by Friday, or we get suspended. I have no money, heck, I don't even have a place to stay since the cops shut down the frat house."
"I wish I knew how to help you, Claude," Keagan told his friend. "I would be in the same spot as you if I hadn't found this job here with Chay."
"Well, I guess it's a good thing that you both found me," Chay said as he walked into the room. "Claude, you will stay here tonight at least. I'm not exactly sure where you will sleep, yet, but we'll figure something out."
"I couldn't impose like that, Mr. Anthony, especially after what I did to deserve all of this."
"Stop right there, Claude," Chay ordered. "You did not do anything to deserve this. Your former father is a royal asshole, and he will be getting what comes to him and he will deserve it."
"You met Claude's dad?" Keagan asked with a blink of confusion.
"Phillipe came to Aunt Dixie's with Henri Lafayette to discuss the situation between the families," Chay explained.
"But, there shouldn't be anything between the families now," Claude blurted quickly. "The Queen can't blame Uncle Henri for what I did now that I'm not in the family, can she? Oh, this is awful. I started a war in the families. Why couldn't I have been born dead instead of gay?"
"Hey! You stop talking and thinking like that right now, you hear me?" Chay ordered firmly. "Aunt Dixie knows you made peace with Chipper here, so it's all good between the families. There is no war, and there won't be. You told me that you tried to stop what was going on at that party as soon as you saw what was happening to Keagan. Was that the truth?"
"Yes, sir, I swear I did," Claude vowed.
"Then, if anything, our new family owes you a debt of gratitude, and I know I do," Chay told him. "Let me pay you back for trying to help my friend by staying here with us until something else gets arranged." Chay suddenly found himself tackled by two college boys hugging him to the point that he could hardly breathe. "Ok, you leeches, give me air."
"I don't know how to thank you enough, Mr. Anthony," Claude said as he wiped tears from his face.
"Well you can start by never calling me Mr. Anthony again," Chay grumped. "Makes me sound old."
"I better not hear either of you finish that sentence, or the donuts you eat for breakfast tomorrow will be filled with laxatives."
"Yes sir," they both agreed quickly. The look of terror on their faces was rather satisfying.
"Now then, first thing we do is come up with something for supper, because I am starving," Chay announced as he headed for the kitchen of the apartment.
"No sir, you sit right down there and rest. If I'm staying here, the least I can do is fix dinner," Claude stated. "You two just sit out here and watch tv or something. I will find everything I need and fix you up something fantastic."
"Can he cook?" Chay asked Keagan after Claude was in the kitchen.
"I sure hope so," Keagan returned. "We haven't talked about that much. I guess we'll find out soon enough."