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Evelyn Virginia Wright was born on a hot summer day in her parents' home just outside Charleston, South Carolina. Her screaming joined her mother's as she slid into this world, and her daddy held her in his arms before she was even all cleaned off. He looked at his new baby girl and thought how the would had big things in store for her. Her mama was just glad it was all over and done with now, that nasty work of making a baby and giving birth. She loved her husband and was happy to finally get their family started, but she didn't like none of that stuff they had to do to make it happen. She though it was all kinds of wrong, and if it weren't for making a baby from it, God wouldn't be none to happy bout any of it happening, even in their marital bed.
Evelyn grew fast. Her arms and legs stretched like vines, and she was a quick learner, a bright little thing. She was always asking questions, why's the sky blue, how do cows know when it's gonna rain, how do we know God's watchin' out for us? Her parents answered the questions they could, and were relieved when she started school so she could ask her teachers all them questions instead. Sunday school was good too, what with all those questions about God. She needed to know He was always watching, even if you couldn't see Him, He was always there. But the stories her teachers said, the things the mothers read to them at Sunday School, and while mama and daddy sat in the grownup services, they all just sounded fake to her. They sounded so unbelievable she just couldn't believe any of that happened. People couldn't come back from the dead or magically heal anyone who's sick. No one could have had a baby when they were 90 or parted a sea or none of that, she was sure. A part of her did think maybe they were just makin' things sound more exciting for the kids, but she had her doubts.
Once she was old enough to mostly sit still through the grown up services, she got her own place in the pew right next to her parents. She would swing her legs and slouch, bored by the sermons the Reverend said, wishing she could be somewhere else, somewhere fun. She tried to keep herself entertained, fiddling with the hem of her skirt. Her mama would smack her hands and tell her to let it down, it wasn't proper to act like that. It was showing disrespect to God. She thought if God wanted all that respect, maybe he should make church less boring.
Course, it doesn't take too long for her to start paying a little more attention. A couple things the Reverend says are interesting, when he talks about sinning and temptation and all that stuff people ain't supposed to do if they wanna live good Christian lives. That sounded more interesting to her than all those magic tricks Jesus was supposed to do. And there's the way he smiled. It was charming, like men in cigarette ads at the drug store, or a movie star from Hollywood. Her parents didn't let her watch too many movies, though, thinking they're gonna make her want to wear high heels and go out dancing. Still, she watched the Reverend, and she kept playing with her dress during his sermons, only now she ain't just a little kid fidgeting around. She though she knew what she's doing, and any time he glanced at her, she gave him a big smile and her parents thought that she's finally starting to understand how important God really is.
She heard gossip from those moms who used to teach her at Sunday school. Eve listened to them, still always hungry, always trying to learn something new, especially if it's some kind of forbidden knowledge, like this all seemed to be. She heard them talk about the Reverend's dead wife, how she was a witch and a whore, and 'bout that woman who had tempted him before. They wondered if there's anyone else around that's a witch, whose soul had been snatched up by the devil. They said it's been a long time without anyone like that, so he must be doing a good job, must be doing God's work as their Reverend.
All this made Eve want to laugh out loud. She talked about all of it with the boy whose mom was saying all that, who had all those secrets to tell. He said he's heard some of that, he said his ma was there when the Reverend burned his witch wife and traitor brother, and it was like God himself had come down to smite them. Eve tried not to roll her eyes, then asked if he knew what kind of stuff witches were supposed to do. He said he sorta did, and after she kissed him, and asked him if it was stuff like that, he didn't have nothing to say, but grabbed her back close to him. Their hands were fast and greedy, and she could feel his heat when she touched him under his pants. She wondered if that was what fire felt like, and almost didn't notice the door open at the top of the stairs. The boy had his eyes closed, but she saw the Reverend before he turned around without a word. She just gave him one of those big smiles of hers and kept on with the boy. He made a strained noise and gasped, and then her hand was wet and sticky and she thought, no, that ain't what fire feels like at all.
When the Reverend came by their house and told her folks she was gettin' into trouble, she glared at him. She thought he's mean to tell them 'bout all that. He didn't say no details or nothing, but her folks believed him readily, and she cried big crocodile tears about how she ain't done nothing wrong. They sent her off with him anyway, agreeing it's better to get these things before they go to far. She needed help while she still had a soul to be saved.
She knew she had to keep her mouth shut while the Reverend talked to her 'bout the dangers of the flesh and temptation and sin. She nodded, hearing his words, but thinking they might make for better advice than anything to avoid. She figured she was right when he took her in his arms, still talking about her soul, how he'd be making it pure again. Her lips were parted in one of those smiles of hers and when he bent her body over and pushed hard into her she thought this – this was what fire felt like.
Eve knew the Reverend weren't curing nothing. If she had a soul to begin with, it was just as dirty as that day he found her in the basement with that boy. She didn't think God was watching them, or if He was, he sure didn't care what they did between their bodies. She didn't think the Reverend cared too much, either, for all he did with her. Not that she was complaining. He taught her all about witchcraft and sin and she took all that knowledge in like a starving man with those loaves and fishes. She would bring boys into her room, pulling them by their hands past her folks while she stared at them, challenging them to stop her. They became afraid of her. They tried asking her not to bring those boys around, but she'd just look at them, knowing there weren't a thing they could do, until they told the Reverend. She hadn't been keeping things secret from him, but it wasn't exactly like she'd been telling him all about them. He knew what she was. He shouldn't've been surprised who all she was putting her mouth on. He was still the only one she let burn her up from the inside like he did. He was the only one trying to cleanse her soul.
When the rest of the church decided she was a witch, Eve wanted to be surprised that it was her parents leading the mob, but she knew how they felt about her now. They believed in all those stories, all that magic, and they thought she put a spell on their precious Reverend. She couldn't stand and laugh at their faces though. In truth, she was actually kind of afraid of all them, out there together like that. But the Reverend weren't having none of that. He said they had to get going, and she asked him where. All he did was hit her, and hit her again when she asked again, but she still grabbed onto his coat, running after him and away from her family and all those yelling folks.
He wanted to take her anywhere, get on whatever train was leaving next, but she saw something better. The coal-black train caught her eye and she remembered that poster, those words that called to her, Le Cirque Noir. She told him they could work, she thought it sounds fun. She pouted and pleaded till he finally agreed, signing their names on some yellowed contracts. She felt at home pretty quick. She could do the work real easy, and there weren't no one trying to keep her from sin. No one there had a soul worth worrying about, anyway, and she would put her hands and mouth where they wanted, sometimes even making sure the Reverend was gonna find her, that he was gonna see her doing her witchcraft. When he punished her, she just smiled one of those big smiles she used to give him. She didn't mind his hands on her none, whether he was hitting her or holding her tight. She knew how he felt inside her, and she loved to burn.
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