Chapter 13 – Surrender

Fidele by Jenna Lynn Brown

This chapter contains explicit content. Content warning for child abuse related by adult survivor.

Dorian called me the house a few days later. “Can you come into the city on Sunday? I want to show you the photos I’ve developed before I give them to Noel.”

Sunday morning, I drove to the house Dorian shared with three other students near the Tulane campus. This part of the city felt sleepy and languid, as if everyone was sleeping off their Saturday night hangovers or repenting their Saturday night indulgences in church. Even the house had the sense of quiet that comes when its residents haven’t gotten out of bed.

I parked on the street and walked up to the front porch. I rang the bell, and a few minutes later one of Dorian’s housemates opened the door and gestured for me to come inside. “Dorian’s in the darkroom.” He took me through the house and rapped on the door of what had likely once been a butler’s pantry. The little hallway smelled strongly of chemicals. “Dorian! Malcolm’s here.”

There were fumbling sounds inside, and Dorian opened the door. “Thanks. Come on in, Malcolm.”

I squeezed myself into the tiny room. Dorian had folded blackout curtains at the broom if the doors to block out the light. There were no windows, fortunately, but there was a deep stone sink and many shelves in the cabinet, which was also where Dorian had hung the developed photos to dry.

“Are you doing better since your fall?” Dorian asked me after we’d kissed hello.

“I’m all right.” I leaned against the counter. “Caleb keeps me busy.”

“He seems like a sweet kid.”

“He is.”

Dorian took one of the photos from the line. “This is a picture I took of him and Noel.”

I took the photo and studied it in the dim light. It was a charming picture, Noel and Caleb playing together on the lawn of Fidele, and it took me a moment to figure out what was wrong. “What are these dark spots from?”

“I’m not sure.” Dorian handed me another. “I’ve developed that roll three times with the same result — not on every picture, but on a lot of them. And then there’a this.”

It was one of the photos Noel had taken of the lost graveyard — of the big bottle tree in the center of the cemetery, with another mysterious shadow, vaguely person-shaped and slightly transparent, standing at the foot of the tree.