Growing up in New Orleans was probably a bit more different than most places. New Orleans is surrounded in a weird mix of religion (Catholic), music (jazz and the N’awlins sound), food, and cemeteries. Lots of cemeteries. We even have a joke – you know you’re from New Orleans when you get on a bus marked Cemeteries and don’t even think about it.
I lived uptown, between Carrolton, Broadway, St. Charles and Claiborne, and in my little part of the world, there were two cemeteries. One of them was a ½ block from my house. I remember sitting on our screened-in front porch, watching jazz funerals with my mother. We’d kneel on the big glider as they played Just a Close Walk With Thee going in to the cemetery and then When the Saints Go Marching In coming out, dancing and celebrating the life of the person who’d passed.
As kids, I’m talking back in the ‘60’s, we understood why there were four sections of the cemetery—and why one of them had no monuments, crypts, or raised plots. Why that one had only rough wooden or stone markers, why they were packed in so tight. It was the poor, black section of the cemetery. To me, it seemed like what a cemetery should be…with trees, grass pathways, and nothing fancy. After all, I’d been to funerals for my family, in rural Mississippi, and it looked just like those.
But in New Orleans, there are monuments, large crypts, raised plots for those who can afford them. Angels, weeping or praying, adorned them. Some had bronze doors, some green with the patina of age and weather, some were as tall as a full grown man, some had mini-lawns, most were made of stone and marble. There is a reason they call New Orleans cemeteries the City of the Dead. Our cemeteries have street names and street signs so you can find your way.
The beginning of New Orleans Second Lines opens with Matt and Lane, two 10 yr old best friends, who, like me, live just a ½ block from the cemetery. Matt is fearless and thinks nothing of going into the cemetery at night. Lane is scared of his own shadow, but needs to act as brave as Matt. He’s shaking in his boots, because Matt has just delivered something Lane did not want in his backyard clubhouse. A bone.
Lane stared at the long, dirt-stained bone lying on the floor of the clubhouse.
“Is that what I think it is?” He tore his gaze from the grisly thing illuminated by the flashlight quivering in his hand and looked up at Matt.
“If you think it’s a human leg bone,” Matt intoned in his scariest voice, “you’d be right.” As of the start of this school year, Matt had become Lane’s first best friend.
A shiver ran up Lane’s spine, and he swore his hair stood on end. The dark shadows in the corners of the clubhouse seemed to hold things he’d rather not think about. Or dream about.
“Where d-d-d-did you get it?” Lane whispered. He’d known Matt was brave, far braver than he’d ever be, but the idea that he’d touched the bone, much less found it, raised him up even further in Lane’s eyes.
“The cemetery.” Matt’s grin reeked of smugness, reminding Lane of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.
“No shit.” Lane let out a low whistle.
Matt nodded, crossed his arms, and sat back against the wooden slats.
“Last night. Snuck out my window, walked right over to the cemetery, and climbed the fence.” His voice took on a singsong tone as he told the incredible story. Lane leaned forward, his eyes wide, his ears straining to hear the soft words.
“Did you see him?” Lane had to ask, had to know.
“Old Singin’ Joe?” Matt chuckled. “Yeah, I saw him, but he didn’t see me.”
Lane blinked several times to wash away the dryness burning his eyes. He’d kept them wide open for so long. Matt was cool, but Lane would never tell him that.
“No one goes in the cemetery without old Joe knowin’. And if he c-c-c-catches you—” Lane made a slitting motion with his hand across his throat.
“But he didn’t. I was dressed in all black.”
“Like a spy.” Lane didn’t bother to hide the awe in his voice. “Smart thinking.”
“Sure. I knew what I was doing.”
They stared at the bone again. Lane fought for each breath he took in the small makeshift clubhouse. The old blanket covering the doorway hung down, blocking out sight and sound of his house. They could have been on the moon, in the middle of a jungle, or on a deserted island, not just across the backyard.
He needed some fresh air. They were breathing in “bone” air, and there was no telling what was in that. Disease. Spores. Death.
This book follows Matt and Lane as they grow up, going from friends to lovers to exes, and find a second chance at love even amid the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As their lives entangle with their elderly, yet dashing, landlord Sebastian, he teaches them what it means to love and to grow up gay in New Orleans. And maybe they teach him, it’s never too late for love.
Matt and Lane grew up together, best friends, sharing almost all their secrets. But on the last day of college, those secrets spilled in one night of passion and tore them apart, sending Matt to the West Coast and Lane home to New Orleans.
Now, Hurricane Katrina is set to destroy New Orleans. This might be the worst time to try for a second chance, but nothing can keep Matt from Lane. The man he let get away.
For Lane, no hurricane can pry him from the city, especially without Sebastian. The older man has been a dear friend and his landlord since Lane returned from college. Sebastian refuses to flee, preferring to stay in his Creole cottage in the French Quarter and ride out the storm.
Sebastian’s life becomes intertwined with Lane’s, as Matt finds out when he’s drawn into capturing Sebastian’s memoirs of being gay in New Orleans. The elder gentleman’s stories are full of surprises and lessons for the young men.
The most important ones Sebastian teaches them—and himself—are that second chances don’t come along often, and you’re never too old to fall in love.
First Edition published as Pinky Swear, Pioneers, and C’est La Vie by Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure, 2010.
Lynn Lorenz is an award-winning and best-selling author who grew up in New Orleans but currently lives in Texas, where she’s a fan of all things Texan, like Longhorns, big hair, and cowboys in tight jeans. She’s never met a comma she didn’t like, and enjoys editing and brainstorming with other writers. Lynn spends most of her time writing about hot sex with even hotter heroes, plot twists, werewolves, and medieval swashbucklers. She’s currently at work on her latest book, making herself giggle and blush, and avoiding all the housework.
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