Stepping back in time to Part I of this fictional story, Levi is an albino and travels with the carnival that took him in. He has returned to New Orleans, city of his birth, where he is drawn into a lounge and sets sights on a beautiful snake charmer. After being entirely captivated by her seductive routine, he finds the courage to seek her out. However, will such a radiant goddess even want to spend a moment of her time talking to someone like him?
* * *The room was illuminated by series of oil lamps set beside three wooden boxes that certainly housed snakes (as indicated by the hand-painted lettering on their surfaces), the low flames casting all sorts of dark figures on the red and gold walls. There were highly decorative oriental rugs sprawled across the hardwood floor, their colorful patterns almost dizzying. A comfortable-looking bed was pushed into a corner, the sheets a lovely ivory silk that matched the down-filled pillows and certainly made for an inviting place to sleep. Across from that were her costumes—carefully arranged so that the expensive fabrics did not touch the floor—next to which was set a dresser and vanity, where the goddess was seated. She wore a red silk robe loosely tied to expose her legs, which Levi discovered were each heavily tattooed with the intricate scales of snakes that wound up the pale skin and disappeared somewhere beneath that garment, tails re-appearing on the small amount of her arms exposed by the elbow-length sleeves.
Levi was awestruck as he silently observed her run a bristle brush through luxurious blonde curls that tumbled around her shoulders, lips humming along with the record she listened to. There was nothing his imagination could concoct that would have been able to compare to the radiant beauty who was still unaware of his presence. The light that danced on the mirror reflected off her porcelain face, the features of which could be the envy of even the most skilled artisan who would certainly fail at every attempt to capture them. Her intense green and gold eyes were framed by feathery blonde lashes, the shadows of which rested on each of her full cheeks, and those soft pink lips which had kissed the python moved in unison with the words that crackled on the phonograph. The speech perfectly planned in his head refused to be vocalized as he found his tongue to be frozen in his mouth, but he knew it was rude to just stand there staring at her with a lustful desire that made him no better than those hungry wolves who were still hooting and hollering outside.
"Excuse me," Levi managed to say after forcing the nervousness down his throat, and he dared to take a few steps towards her.
She turned around and surprise immediately seized her, hands clutching the robe so that her legs were swallowed by the red silk. "What are you doing back here?" she angrily demanded.
"Please do not be alarmed," he replied, maintaining his distance. "I was so captivated by your performance that I—"
"Thought you could have me?" she interrupted with an accusing glare. "You and every other man out there who believes I am some fantasy come true."
"No, you have it all wrong!" he protested. "My intention was not to come back here for…for a proposition." The words had tasted bitter, but Levi certainly wanted her to believe that he much different from those other men."
"Give me one good reason why I should not have Samson crush the life out of you," she said, moving towards the largest of the boxes and placing her hand on the lid. "He will not eat you, of course. Just squeeze the air from your lungs and break the bones in your body."
Levi recalled the numerous times that he had wound up in the snake pit as a special attraction at the sideshow, having to survive amongst a dozen or more mean-spirited and ill-tempered serpents who could have easily dispatched him from the earth if they had so desired. Studying the expression on her face,he wondered if the threat held any validity, or if she was just protecting herself with a bluff. Either way, his desire to gain her trust outweighed any fear that he may have had. There was no mistaking she held immense power, where every bit of her confident composure commanded respect, which Levi would easily give. Perhaps allowing her to be in command of the situation would ease the tension that she seemed to be filled with, though her certainly could not place blame for being protective of herself.
"I can offer you so much more than that," Levi finally said with a smile as he cautiously approached her, trying to keep his eyes trained on her despite their tendency to shift and avoid the light.
She examined him carefully, taking note of the high quality fabric that composed his suit, as well as the coordinating and equally well-crafted shoes. Only a select few could afford to dress as a gentleman, and he was certainly not there to exchange money for a sexual favor. In fact, she was growing rather curious of what he did have in mind.
"My name is Levi," he continued, extending his hand.
A smile crept onto her lips as she accepted the gesture and replied, "Evette."
Levi boldly placed a kiss on the back of her hand, taking in the sweet scent of her skin. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance, madame."
"Evette laughed as her cheeks flushed. "You are quite the charmer."
"I have to ask how such a lovely young lady winds up in a place like this," he remarked.
"There is always a reason the girls wind up here," she said, slipping out of his grasp and sitting on the edge of the bed, the hem of the robe fluttering to give him a glimpse of her inked leg. "They do it for the money; the attention they get from the men that come here looking to satisfy their most deviant urges. I have no interest in either."
"Then why are you here wasting your talent on those dogs?"
"Well, unfortunately not everyone shares that opinion," Evette replied as she laughed again, causing her curls to bounce slightly. "Many people believe me to be some sort of witch for being able to handle these magnificent serpents the way I do. You think that I would be allowed to dance in a theater amongst the elite who have trained for years to perfect their movements?"
"While I see your point, what you do is art compared to those tramps," Levi said, taking a few steps toward her. "Evette, I am certain that you would rather be appreciated."
"Of course…but there are not many who express the feeling."
He watched as the lid of the largest box was pushed open and a long pink forked tongue flicked the air. An enormous head three times the size of Levi’s hand peered at him with intense pink eyes. The albino snake was without the high yellow markings of the other one that Evette had been wrapped in earlier. It stared straight at him, carefully poised in mid air as though it would strike if he made one wrong move, but Levi did not back away.
“He will not bite you,” Evette assured. “He is just taking in your scent.”
“I know that,” Levi confidently replied, the palm of his hand upturned. “He is very beautiful.”
“I prevented them from being turned into fancy accessories for the rich, as albinos are rare and their skin is considered to be highly valuable,” she explained, disappearing behind an ornately carved black wooden dressing screen.
Levi smiled when Samson settled onto his hand, their eyes locking. “Yes, I am just like you,” he whispered in Cajun, “but we can keep that between us.”
The snake seemed to turn its head in understanding before slinking back into the box, never breaking its gaze from him.
“They are much more than pretty skin,” Evette continued as she re-emerged, layers of cream-colored chiffon flowing down to the floor, a white lace shawl wrapped around her tattooed shoulders, obscuring them from fully being viewed. "I have a bond with each snake, and they all have different personalities. One must learn that in order to properly handle them."
"Well I admire your courage for taking on that challenge," Levi remarked, wrapping an arm around her waist. "One must wonder if that extends to other things."
"Oh?" An eyebrow raised as she struggled to get a good look at his face, which seemed conveniently hidden beneath shadows cast by the brim of his hat. "Did you have something in mind, Levi?" She smoothed the lapel of his jacket, desperate to know if he was as handsome as he was suave.
The fragrance of her hair—pinned back from her angelic face with a set of silver combs—traveled up his nose and sought to embed itself in the pleasure center of his brain. Even the soft touch of those slim fingers was enough to tempt lust into filling his body, as he had always been convinced his odd appearance would cause a woman to keep her distance. However, he reminded himself she was unaware of the fact that he was no ordinary man, or that had something in common with those snakes she so easily tamed. Would she have enough skill to do the same with him? His name had graced those lips that tempted to press against his as though she uttered a sinful prayer. There was something about her that felt irresistible, and there developed deep within him a craving to know how sweet her forbidden fruit was.
"As a matter of fact I do," he said, tenderly clasping her hand. "I can bring you to a world that is far removed from all of this, where your wildest dreams will come true, and you will be treated like a Queen…as any woman should be."
"That is mighty convincing, but what about my snakes?"
"There will be plenty of room for them as well, and I promise that no harm will ever come to them, or you." Levi paused to stroke her face, taking delight in discovering it was as soft as it looked. "I know that this is a lot to ask, but I want you to trust me."
"There are reasons I can think of not to," Evette replied, "but my instinct is much louder than those thoughts, and it has convinced me that I should."
"You will not be disappointed with your choice," Levi assured her.
"My trust is in your hands," Evette said, flashing him a smile. She took a moment to gently speak to the snakes before ushering Levi out of the room, locking the door behind them, the key secured to her wrist. She knotted the shawl to keep it from slipping off her shoulders and took his hand once again. "We should go out the back so that no ones sees us. If they think you are a client, they will ask for money."
Evette slowly led him down the hallway so that their exit was undetected, and fortunately the other girls were too busy to even notice as the pair quietly walked out, the humid evening air greeting them with a better smell than that sex-filled corridor. Levi took charge once they left the lounge, cutting down dark alleys to avoid any prying eyes that might have been interested in their departure (as he understood her concern). If things went his way, she would no longer have to worry about anyone trying to bring her harm. In fact, he was hoping to convince her that she did not need to be put on display as if she were a slab of meat for the pack of salivating men that fantasized about having her alone in bed. Instead her talent could be utilized to draw in the crowds, earning more than just nickels as she amazed them with her tantalizing snake charming—and it would definitely add something extra to both the bally and inside stage of the sideshow. He had no worries as to whether or not the Family would accept her with open arms, as he felt that she already belonged to his world.
The few lights that remained burning in the canvas tents scattered across an open field were the only indications that life existed amongst the silent grounds. Levi glanced at the carousel as the glass eyes of the wooden horses seemed to follow him, but it was only the drugs causing the usual hallucinations. Ignoring the sensations that tingled through his body, he held the flap of the sideshow tent open for Evette, a sly smile tugging at his lips as he watched her saunter past. She surveyed the surroundings with curiosity, holding fast to the shawl around her shoulders.