Home > The Soul Always Remembers (The Beacon, #1)

The Soul Always Remembers (The Beacon, #1)
Author: Georgia Cates

 


Chapter 1

 

 

Caroline Beaumont

 

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

Present Day

 

My death comes gently despite its violent nature.

The dark thought materializes in my mind, unprovoked. Like always, it’s a mystery. I can’t discern where it comes from, what prompts it, or what it’s about. Nor do I understand what it means.

Welcome to Caroline Beaumont’s life.

It’s November and the bar’s bathroom is drafty. The water from the faucet is frigid when it hits my already-icy hands. I allow the water to run for a minute, but it shows no signs of getting warm. That comes as no surprise. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is primitive if you ignore the electric bartending gadgets behind the bar. Oh, and the video poker machines at the bar. Candlelight is the only illumination in the whole place. It’s a cool vibe that New Orleans tourists and locals alike love.

The bathroom lighting is almost nonexistent. It makes seeing my image difficult, but I can guess at how I appear––pale. I’m always pasty-looking after one of my episodes.

My fingers fish in my clutch for my favorite lip balm. The color is red dahlia, a subtle tint of sheer scarlet. I feel the appreciation of my chapped lips as I spread a thin layer of balm across them. My skin absorbs the much-needed hydration and softens when I rub them together.

Some added color to my lips should help my washed-out face. With luck, the girls won’t notice since it’s dark in the bar.

I examine my reflection. Long, golden corkscrew ringlets, the ends less curly because I need a trim. Eyes the color of a sunflower field––a mix of green, brown, and gold. A pretty girl is what others see when they look at me, but the world––except for my beloved grandmother, Coco––doesn’t see the true me. And especially not my friends. I wonder how they’d react if they learned the truth about the crazy side of Caroline Beaumont.

It’s my face I see staring back at me in the mirror at this moment, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes there’s a redhead in the mirror. Her hair is a stunning shade of copper, her eyes deep mahogany. It’s a lovely hair and eye combination––not something that you see every day. She’s a real beauty, but I don’t know who she is or why I sometimes see her face in the mirror instead of my own.

A man makes his presence known as well, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Enough of this. I can’t stay in the bathroom all night.

Two of the people in my life who should know me to my core––but don’t––are sitting at a table waiting for me to return from the bathroom. They don’t know that I’m hiding while I’m having one of my bizarre episodes. Why would I keep it from them? Because I don’t trust them to see the depths of my darkness and still love me the same.

The woman who adopted me and swore to love and mother me as her own child can’t stomach me as I am. How can I expect them to?

I’ve accepted my fate as a freak of nature. A misfit. I’m strange inside everyone’s Instagram-perfect world. I’m forced to fake it… which I’m pretty good at. My friends only get to see the stable version of Caroline, the one who has everything in her life under control.

It’s draining.

A round yellow mass of medicinal substance––one pill when I wake and one pill before I go to sleep—is the standard treatment for a person like me. At least that’s what both my most recent doctor and Google have to say on the matter. I’ve been taking this psychiatric drug, or something similar to it, twice a day since I was a young teen, although it’s rare for schizophrenia to present in females before their late twenties. I could think of a thousand other ways I’d prefer to be the exception to the rule.

Every single day of my life, bar none, I swallow those pills because a man with a bunch of framed medical degrees hanging on his office walls, many of them crooked by the way, says that I must if I don’t wish to be committed to a behavioral health center for noncompliance. I’m not sure one should trust a man who looks at crooked frames every day on the wall and chooses to not straighten them.

My family and friends like calm waters. No ripples allowed. So I take the stupid pills to keep them happy. I pretend that all is well, but it isn’t and never has been.

The medication suppresses hallucinations and suicidal tendencies. That’s what the medical professionals say.

Lies.

The medication doesn’t prevent the voices, visions, or random thoughts from manifesting in my head. And as far as suicidal thoughts go…

 

One must die in order to be born again.

 

 

Here we go––another dark and random thought popping into my mind out of nowhere. But there’s a difference this time. It strikes a very sensitive nerve in me when one brings up birth and death in the same sentence.

I don’t choose to think about that right now.

A drink is what I need. Some of the dark stuff, straight and tall. Something stronger than me. Something that’ll make the thoughts, and voices, and visions go away. At least for a little while so I can enjoy my girls’ night out with my besties. It’s been too long since I got out and had a little fun. It’s time to put the crazy aside and let my hair down.

“Oh my God, Caroline! We came up with the greatest idea while you were in the restroom.”

I might be eager to hear this idea if it was coming from Teagan, but Riley isn’t known for coming up with the best ideas.

I hold up my empty glass. “Let me guess. Another round of drinks?”

“That’s a good idea too, but no. Teagan and I want to get psychic readings on Jackson Square.”

I feel like I missed a lot while I was hiding in the bathroom. I must have been in there longer than I thought. “Why in the world would you want to do that?”

“Because it would be fun. And it’s something different to do,” Riley says.

Teagan is the levelheaded one who I can count on for good decision making, but she’s leaving me hanging tonight.

A psychic reading, a real one, for someone like me in front of Teagan and Riley could be disastrous. I can’t let them discover my secrets.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. You realize that every con artist in New Orleans looking to make a quick buck is on Jackson Square tonight.”

Riley shrugs. “Sorry. It’s two against one. Teagan and I win.”

I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this.

Our server places a glass filled with some dark stuff, neat, on the table in front of me. It’s poured high. Looks like a double from the looks of it. I didn’t order the drink, but it arrives as if on cue. I can use it about right now.

“The gentleman sitting at the corner table sent this over. The one wearing the white shirt,” our server says.

Men think they impress women when they send over a free drink, and perhaps some women are dazzled, but I fall into the category of women who want to figure out what he hopes to gain by purchasing a drink for a stranger.

What can I say? Cynical is my middle name.

No, not really. It’s Alexis.

I admit it. Today’s dating scene has tainted me and my outlook on modern love.

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