The Feels

Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
” Kamau, what if we are caught? ”
” Shhh,my love. They all sleep deeply, I assure you. Oh, how I’ve missed you! ”
Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
The sound pierces the once silent night. The lovers, absorbed as they are with each other, barely notice. It gives another pause, though, and has a shiver running down his spine. Another who should be speaking to the ancestors where they live on in dreams but is hidden behind the large oak tree watching them embrace. Another whose rage and jealousy is a living thing, threatening to consume him from the inside out. She is betrothed to him.
Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
He can barely make out the shadow of the bird among the trees. The sense of foreboding is strong. After all, everyone in the community knows that owls are a bad omen.
To imagine the prince, cavorting with a common maid! The king must hear this. He turns to leave.
Whoooooo. Whoooooo.
The snake is just a shadow on the ground, coiled at his feet. He sees it a moment too late.

Tangled

The night air was still,not a cloud in the sky. He moved stealthily, taking cover in the long shadows created by the moon’s illumination on the various buildings on the homestead. Surely, everyone was asleep at this time, he thought.

Every few steps he would stop and listen. He would take no chances. How unfortunate it would be for him if anyone saw him. They’d probably mistake him for a thief and raise the alarm. Once others came, they would do their best to maim or kill him. For her, he would risk life and limb.

Her hut was just ahead. A heavy curtain was drawn where the door was supposed to be. After one last look around, he slipped inside. Once his eyes adjusted to the gloom he could make out her lumpy form curled up on her pallet on the floor. He moved quietly to her and knelt down.

” Serah,” he whispered, ” wake up, my love. ” He shook her gently.

” Hmmnnnf, wha-?”
When she opened her eyes she didn’t see him. All she saw was a hulking shadow and fear was a tangible taste on her tongue. A hand clamped down on her mouth before she could open it to scream.

” Shhh,don’t be afraid, my love. It’s me. ”

She moved his hand away. ” Loti, what are you doing here? Do you know what time it is? Oh no, did anyone see you? ” Her voice, which had started out as a whisper, had risen steadily the more she got agitated.

” Please keep it down. Don’t worry, no one saw me. ” Loti helped her sit up. ” I’ve decided to go to the city tonight, and I want you to go with me. I left my bundle of belongings just outside the gate, and I’m here to help you pack. If we hurry, we’ll be able to take the last bus to the city. ” He looked around the small room. ” Now, tell me what you need and where you keep it.”

She had to stand. She couldn’t keep still any longer.

” This is madness. You know that, right? ” It was hard for her to keep calm and quiet. It was her pacing and the fact that she couldn’t keep her hands still that betrayed her inner turmoil.

He stood as well, and when she next went by him, he grabbed her by the shoulders and held her fast. ” Serah, all I know is that we love each other and we deserve to be happy. Together. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Don’t you want that? ”

” You don’t understand, ” she said in an agonized whisper. ” I-I…”

” What I don’t understand is why you seem not to want this. You should be as excited as I am, maybe even more so. You won’t have to get married to that man your father chose for you. I’m giving you a way out. ”

” I know, but-”

” When I see you in the village, I have to pretend to not know you. I have to go out at all hours of the night in order to see you. Don’t you see? In the city we can be free. They’ll be no one to divide us. ” He was getting pretty worked up. ” I love you, and I’m tired of hiding it like some shameful secret. I thought you felt the same way. ” His hurt was evident in his voice and in his eyes.

” I can’t just disappear. People would talk and my family would be devastated. My father…”

” The city is very vast. Your father will not be able to find us. Trust me. ”

What she’d been about to say was that if she went with him, her father would blame her mother for not keeping a close enough eye on her and take it out on her two younger sisters. Whatever she suffered now would be ten times worse for them. She shuddered to think of what her father would do to them.

Loti mistook it for fear and pulled her close. ” Don’t worry. Once we leave here, everything will be alright. ”

She couldn’t go. She realized that now. It almost physically hurt knowing that she would have to look Loti in the eye and tell him no, watch as the brightest star in her night walked away. Still, she couldn’t go. She would never have peace if she did, knowing the fate she would have condemned her sisters to. She would suffer alone.

She stepped back and looked him straight in the eye.

” I ca-n’t.” Her voice broke on the last word,a war raging inside her.

He must have seen the resolve in her eyes. She watched in horror as his shoulders slumped and the light in his eyes was extinguished.

” So, you would continue to live under your father’s thumb and marry a total stranger, yet you say no to the man you claim to love? I can see I’m not as important as I thought I was to you. ”

He turned and walked out without another word. She could barely see his shadow move through the sheen of her tears. He didn’t realize it, but he’d taken Serah’s heart with him.

” Loti… ” His name was a mere breath of sound.

Names

They called me stupid. Not to my face. Oh no, none of them had that much courage. They talked about me behind closed doors, seated down at their dinner tables feeling secure inside their thin walls and houses of cards. It made them sleep better at night, apparently.
They called me mad. It didn’t hurt me. I’d lost the capacity to feel a long time ago. I let them, knowing that sometimes, people pull down others to feel better about themselves. Sometimes, they hated what they saw in the mirror.
They called me an outcast. The one who had followed her heart. The one who had refused to be barefoot and pregnant. Look at her, they said, waving her learned ways in our faces and tempting our husbands with her knowledge of foreign places.
I smiled when they wouldn’t greet me, when they looked right through me. Like puffed up balloons, they couldn’t look past their noses at the rocks they were lazily floating towards. The revolution was here and it would crush them.
I smiled.

Of Masks and Impressions

It always amazes me how people from all walks of life and inclinations gather at a funeral. Tall people, short people, fat people, thin people, rich people, poor people, the young, the old…sure, some of them are related to the deceased and others known to him, but they mostly get together because of some macabre appreciation of death. It is like they have to see the dead body being buried in the ground with their own eyes to believe.

I can almost hear them from up here. Remembering the good times,talking about how nice Mark was, such a saint. No one seems to remember what a monster he was. I can’t help but wonder why it is that when a person dies the living automatically forget all the bad things he ever did.

*
When you are young and in love, the world is your oyster. You can do anything, be invincible. It is easy to ignore the imperfect, the small things that don’t fit into your perfect life. He has a hair trigger temper, ignore. He treats you like a paid hooker, ignore. He is too possessive, ignore.

I had a hard time in group therapy accepting that he had taken advantage of me and none of it was my fault. I kept thinking that if I had paid attention more maybe I could have gotten out sooner. Saved myself.

Once upon a time, a young village girl was charmed and swept off her feet by a dashing city boy. The romance lasted for six months, and then we got married. It was a fairytale wedding, a dream come true.

I didn’t have much to do. Mark was the only child of a very well off family. He was mostly a figurehead in his father’s company. He didn’t see the value of work when he was going to inherit it all one day. My role in his life was that of a wife. I spent my days cooking for my husband, puttering around in the garden, and getting well versed on all that reality television had to offer.

It was so boring I wanted to punch something.It was a day like any other. I was tired of my own company by this time and I decided to leave the house and look for something to do. I was not allowed to leave, ostensibly for my safety, but I knew this was just another part of Mark’s possessiveness. I had had just about enough of that.

My wanderings took longer than I expected and I found that Mark had gotten to the house before me. He was just seated on the couch, staring off into space. I remember thinking that was weird, because the lights were off and even the television was silent. I could see his silhouette illuminated by the moonlight coming through the windows. The curtains hadn’t been drawn yet. I thought that was mighty lazy and irresponsible of him. He should have done these things because he got home before me.

I went to kiss him hello, as was our custom. He moved away. I was quite puzzled by his behavior. In a quiet tone I had never heard him use before, he asked me where I had been. I started to tell him, at the same time thinking of what I could quickly prepare for dinner. I went to move but he grabbed my arm in a bruising grip. I let out a small gasp of pain. It seemed that Mark did not even hear it. In his eyes I could see the familiar anger I was used to along with something that sent a shiver down my spine. When the first slap landed on my cheek, my head jerked back with the force. I didn’t even
cry out this time. I could feel the pain radiating from the point of contact but my mind was still grappling with this new reality. In all my years I had never been slapped. For it to happen now,when I was a grownup and by my husband’s hand, it felt like someone else nightmare.

As he continued to beat me, even as I cried out in pain and cowered in fear from him, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. As if I were watching a movie of someone else life or as if this was a nightmare I would wake up from any second now.

I don’t know how long it lasted, I must have blacked out for a few minutes. At one point, I thought I heard the phone ring. The next thing I knew, Mark was back and he was picking me up off the floor. I instinctively made myself as small as possible, wanting no part of him to touch me. Mark started sobbing and saying how sorry he was. He took me to the bathroom and gently cleaned my wounds.He was extra sweet to me for the next two weeks. He bought me presents, stayed at the house and took care of me, and when the bruising faded, he took me out to dinner most nights.

He tried, but it just wasn’t the same. He had broken a part of me. I went through the motions as a wife, as a lover, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

I gave some thought to telling someone, but I chickened out. Apart from my husband’s family and friends, I knew no one else in the city. He was the golden boy, loved by everyone. If I claimed he was a wife beater, who would believe me?

Keeping silent was the worst mistake I ever made.

It wasn’t long before it happened again. I don’t remember the excuse he used this time, but I had to go to the hospital. I was bleeding profusely from the waist down. When he realized that he had hurt me seriously, he panicked and called his parents. They called their personal doctor to the house.

He told them some story of how I fell down the stairs. It sounded implausible. I could see it in their eyes that they didn’t believe that, but they let it go.

In a couple of hours, the bleeding had been stopped. The evidence had been successfully swept under the rag and life went back to my new
normal.

*
I have to go down there soon. I have used my grieving widow privilege for an hour now and locked myself in my room. I know that someone will be coming up the stairs to look for me soon but I am not yet ready to face everyone and pretend to feel sad that that monster is dead.

I wish I could remove all the funeral garb and wear my brightest colors to show how happy I am. Instead, I have to wear a black long sleeved dress to hide the marks he left on my arms, my body. Mark never did care if I lived or died after his beatings. Now, I just made sure he died first.

Rockabye Baby

Just this once, he said. One time. I want to feel you.
What of the consequences? She asked.
I love you, he said. I’ll take good care of you.
She loved him, she thought. He loved her. Surely, one time wouldn’t hurt. They would look back on this day sometime in the future and laugh about her fears, which would be moot. After all, everyone knew it never happened the first time, right? He was older and more experienced than her. Surely, he knew about these things.
*
I’m late, she says.
Late? Were you going somewhere? He asks.
No. I’m late late, she stresses.
He only listens with half an ear as the rest of his body is busy touching as many parts of hers as possible. Gradually it sinks in and his body freezes up, his hands go slack and his mind goes blank.
There is nary a sound in the room, apart from their breathing, for the next ten minutes.
Are you sure?
Yes, she says. I’m like a clock, regular and on time.
Have you taken the test yet?
No, I thought we could go together.
Okay, let’s go, he says.
One hour later, both walk out of the clinic in a daze. Turns out she was right, he was wrong. Choices do have consequences.
She thinks of how she’ll tell her parents who’ve worked so hard to give her an education and a better life. She’ll have to take a break from her studies. And how will she face people when it starts to show? Her mother will be so disappointed.
He thinks of how stupid she is. Damn it, she should have taken care of it. It was his fault for being with someone so young, so green. She makes him feel like a king, yes, but she is very naive. If word gets out that he made the mistake of a twelve year old boy, he will be the laughing stock in his circles. He can’t allow that to happen, he has a rep to maintain.
What do we do now? She asks this in a small shaky voice.
Don’t worry, we are in this together. I’ll take care of it, he says.
She sees wedding bells and holy matrimony. He slips away so he can call a friend who knows a guy. After the appointment has been made, he starts to smile again.
*
The room is dimly lit and very stuffy. It is situated at the end of a long corridor and the sign at the door simply reads ‘DAKTARI’. The man who now stands in front of her looks nothing like it. He is tall and as thin as a blade of grass. He wears an ill-fitting suit over which is a doctor’s robe, once white, but now various shades of cream and even brown in some spots. She cannot even begin to comprehend how her boyfriend knows this man, or how he could have brought her to this place. She is very scared.
The doctor’s eyes shine with impatience as she once again makes him stop. Her boyfriend, who stands beside her, stifles another sigh. Why does she not let this be over and done with already?
Are you sure about this? Is there no other way? She asks as she looked at him sadly.
We talked about this. This is the best option for us right now. We are just not ready.
But but…
No! He says. He gentles his voice as he continues, I love you, and I’m just looking out for us. It’s okay, I’m here with you. We are in this together.
She keeps quiet after that and the doctor gets on with his business. He knew that would work. She is always looking for sweet words and reassurance. Frankly, he’s gotten quite tired of her. Once this is done, she is history.
*
The pain in her lower body is excruciating still, even after two weeks. That is a walk in the park compared to the pain in her heart. There is a hole that nothing seems to fill.
She hears her, her baby, every time she closes her eyes. She sees babies everywhere when her eyes are open. There is no escaping her guilt, her shame, her suffering.
She has not heard from her boyfriend since that day. At first, when she tried to call him and go to his house, he’d made excuses. Finally, he told her he was tired of her and he never wanted to see her again. She had been devastated, and hurt by his brusque dismissal of her when she was still healing and needed him most.
*
She hears the key turn in the lock and comes back to the present. He was in such a hurry to get rid of her that he never asked for his key back.
She straightens the bed as she waits for him to come to the bedroom. She clutches a worn teddy bear in her right hand, one she bought with her child in mind. Very soon, she shall see her baby again, and bring her her teddy bear.
As the doorknob turns, she grips the knife in her left hand a little tighter.
He said he loved her, that they were in this together. He should be the one to see their baby first, then, she thinks.

 

*Originally posted on Storymoja.

On a Quiet Afternoon

via Daily Prompt: Subdued

It is quiet.One can barely feel the wind as it flutters the leaves on the trees.The sun is out,though it is not very hot.At 3pm,it is an almost perfect day.

They stand together,all in black.They stand together,huddled close.They stand together,united by their grief.They stand together.

‘Ashes to ashes.Dust to dust,’ says the man in purple.

A few discreet sniffles are heard.The lady at the front lets out a drawn out wail of despair.She wears dark glasses,probably to hide her reddened eyes.The tears that track down her cheeks can be seen by all.

She steps forward to set down the flowers in her hands.As she lays them down,she prostrates herself on top.She just cannot help it.Her only desire is to be closer to him.

Her son,the light of her life.Her son,whose promising life was cut short by an encounter with armed robbers.Ripping her beating heart out of her chest would hurt less than letting her son go.

Two others step forward and help her to stand upright.It is difficult to get close to her,sadness surrounds her like a shroud.

She cannot bear to watch as the casket is lowered.She looks over the land at the other tombstones.Some still white with fresh flowers beneath them.Others are grayish brown in color,with dried-up tendrils climbing up and down.The remembered and the forgotten.

She wonders,do the spirits watch and eagerly await another to join their ranks?

 

*Originally posted on Storymoja.