Rochelle follows Ororo down the winding path to the lakefront,
trying not to stumble. This has all been so strange to her.
She still isn't completely used to being in this body. She
stops suddenly, awed by the beauty of the first light of dawn
striking the deep blue waters. Ororo smiles brightly, encouraging
Rochelle to join her in the shallow end of the lake.
Following her godmother's example, Rochelle steps out of
her robe and wades in. Laughing, she splashes Ororo. Ororo's
stern frown lets Rochelle know in no uncertain terms that
this is a time to be serious. She bows her head, acknowledging
her submission. Ororo hesitates. This situation is surely
as unusual for her as it is for Rochelle. In her eyes, she
sees Rogue's body, Rogue's face and hands, but in her heart,
she knows that it is truly Rochelle's spirit lingering inside.
Ororo takes a handful of fragrant leaves and crushes them
against her skin. She nods to Rochelle, who does the same.
Ororo raises a bowl to her lips, sips, then passes it on to
Rochelle. She sips, then gags at the unexpected taste of vinegar.
She watches Storm place a cube of sugar in her mouth and does
"Remember this, Rochelle, it is the way of the Baoule,
our way, to accept the bitter with the sweet. The vinegar
and sugar remind us of the true path of our lives. It is not
our place to question the blessings or misfortunes which may
Rochelle nods. She remembers her mother telling her the same.
A moment of sorrow washes over her as she remembers being
told that Raoua, her mother, had passed into the village of
truth. She lifts her chin, determined to show herself capable
of rising to the challenge presented to her. This woman before
her was worshipped as the goddess of her people; Rochelle
would do nothing to cause Ororo to think less of her.
"You understand, little one, that you cannot remain
in this body?"
"It will not be easy, but you must complete the journey
you were intended to make, Rochelle."
Ororo annoints Rochelle with a handful of water from the
"May Nyamia be with you, child, and brighten your face."
Rochelle wades slowly from the water to the grassy bank.
The morning sun clears the line of distant trees, sending
sparkles of light across the waves. She dries Rogue's body,
and slips into the new, soft robe which Ororo brought for
her. There are gloves, also, which she slips on, as Rogue
would. She turns, squaring her shoulders much as Ororo might,
and faces her godmother.
"I am ready."
Ororo, clothed again in her caftan, seats herself comfortably.
She opens her arms to Rochelle, who accepts her embrace without
hesitation. Ororo adjusts her body, letting Rochelle's legs
fall across her lap until she is cradling her much as she
use to do. Rochelle slips her hands around Ororo's neck. She
nuzzles her cheek against the comforting softness of Ororo's
breast. It will the last time she hugs her godmother. Ororo's
arms tighten in response.
"What do you remember, Rochelle?"
"I was in church."
"You were there, with mother and father."
Step by step, Rochelle retraces the last moments of her life.
Her voice is vibrant at first. Full of the youthful exuberance
she had on that day. Excited by her new dress as much as by
her first communion. As she remembers, her voice falters then
drops to a whisper.
"I am frightened, Nana."
"There is a man here. Why does he keep watching me?
He looks at me as if I should know him, but I do not."
Ororo's throat tightens.
"What is he doing, Rochelle?"
"I do not understand. Please, Nana, I do not want to
do this anymore."
Rochelle's tears dampen Ororo's skin. She closes her eyes,
feeling her own tears trickle down her cheek. Sometimes, it
seems she has lived too long for one lifetime. Grief. The
one constant in her ever-changing life. She forces herself
to push on, for Rochelle's sake.
"What is he doing?"
"He talks to me--softly. He likes my dress. He does
not seem to be a bad man. His eyes shine, Nana. He is reaching
out to me. I can feel his fingers on my cheek. It is not right.
It does not feel right."
Soft puffs of air from Rochelle's mouth tickle Ororo's neck
as her breathing quickens in fright. Her heart beats faster.
Hands that are no longer a child's tighten into fists. Rochelle
curls Rogue's body close against Ororo. She whimpers.
Ororo cradles Rochelle, rocking her soothingly.
"Tell me what he is doing, Rochelle."
"He is taking my spirit from me, Nana Ororo."
She cries out. A seizure racks her body. Then another. Through
it all, Ororo remains frustratingly helpless. She tries to
take comfort in knowing that, this time, Rochelle will not
die alone. It does not help. Her lips move softly against
her goddaughter's head, silently whispering Baoule prayers
for deliverance. Rochelle stiffens. A final, strangled cry
escapes. Rogue's body goes completely limp.
Ororo gently lifts Rogue's face to hers. She's stunned to
see trickles of blood on her nose and ears. A vague remembrance
of Henry telling her that this type of bleeding may indicate
cerebral hemorrhage flashes through her mind. Rogue sighs.
Her eyelids close.
Bright Lady, be merciful!
Ororo gently shakes Rogue. No response. Worried, she reaches
out with her mind for help.
>>I'm here, Storm.<<
>>Rogue, I cannot revive her!<<
After a moment, Jean's gentle probing touches Ororo's mind.
>>I've reached her, Storm. Apparently she's in a
semi-comatose state until Rochelle separates completely. I
wouldn't worry. I was able to get a clear contact with Rogue
and she should recover when you've finished with the funeral.<<
>>Are you all right?<<
>>I will be well.<<
Ororo cleanses the blood from Rogue's skin. The realization
that Rochelle is, for all purposes, gone, sinks in. She cradles
the body closer, rocking her in a way Rochelle will never
again experience. Her fingers brush the hair from Rogue's
forehead. And when all of the little caresses and soft whisperings
are completed, Ororo Munroe weeps.
Continued in Chapter
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