I thought I’d have a go at a series of similarly themed very short stories. I don’t know if these count as flash fiction.
Her eyes saved me.
She was what we used to call a ninja back when we were in school. Her hijab was one of those ones that flowed from head all the way to knees, leaving only eyes and feet visible. I couldn’t tell if she was beautiful or plain. Scarred or flawless. But her eyes sure were pretty.
I was standing in front of her husband’s stall in the far corner of Sabungawa market pricing albasa (hausa for onions) when it began. I would say that I didn’t speak a word of hausa but that would not exactly be the truth. I spoke and understood a few words of the language. She spoke no english. Having spent the last seven and a half months more or less living in hausaland, I had managed to pick up a few words and phrases of the language. Albasa, sai gobe (Till tomorrow), Lafia lau (Fine, thank you), ba kudi (no money), kadan kadan (small small), naira ashirin (twenty naira), naira hamsin (fifty naira), muje (Let’s go).
It was market. It was naturally rowdy and noisy and so I could never have gauged the situation brewing behind me from the sounds I was hearing.
Su na zuwa! Su na zuwa!!
I had no idea what they were saying or why they were saying it so animatedly and I would have shrugged it off except… It was the alarm in her eyes that interpreted it for me.
They are coming! Don’t you understand? They are coming!
I had been on my way home from CD. I had chosen a heck of a day to be standing in the middle of this market wearing a target emblazoned across my chest and back. My crested vest might as well have read INFIDEL across my busty front and SLAUGHTER ME behind. No way I could possibly blend in. Nowhere to run. Or hide.
She looked at me with fear in her eyes… and read utter hopelessness in mine.
Without any hesitation, she pulled off her hijab, a taboo, no doubt, and shoved it over my head. She was rather pretty. With an ugly scar running down her crusty left cheek.
And he’s missing me if he’s not kissing me
And when he looks at me his brown eyes tell it so
The first time he told me he loved me over the phone, I laughed it off.
Love? Really? After only a month of dating? Oh please!
That’s what I thought. The next time he told me, two days later, I was in his arms over at his place. I looked into his eyes and I knew he was true. He loved me.
Over the next few years, he would tell me repeatedly how much he loved me, adored me, cherished me, and searching in the depth that his eyes were, I saw no lies. Which is why I could never have believed Amarachi when she visited one afternoon and told me the things she did.
“Who is Cynthia?”
His eyes. The turmoil. A storm was brewing in there. The eye of the storm was when the pregnant tears finally fell.
Amarachi had told me no lies.
“Do you love her?”
“I love you. Only you.”
He was lying. Even now his eyes told me no lies.
Other fathers hug their children, play with them, love them. You were always so official, so rigid, so unemotional. Sometimes, I wonder why mother married you in the first place. Wasn’t… Isn’t marriage supposed to be spurred and held together by love? Where is the love?
I have never seen your features belie any emotion towards any of your children. Not pride, not love, not shame. Only indifference. Have you any idea how painful it is to see you smile at the child of another while I receive nothing but coldness from you? Nothing ever seems to crack through that dam you’ve so stubbornly put up. You seem to be unaware of the fact that you’re no robot. You’re human. Those pent up emotions need to be let out someday.
Today, I will crack the dam.
The thin, grim line that is your lips will quiver. The creases in your face will twitch. Your eyes will divulge the feelings they have hidden away all these years when I tell you of my lover. I will do more than tell you, I will show you her. And you will erupt with all the fire and brimstone that you have rained down from behind the pulpit while at work, whilst only giving us cold, barren brick at home. You will demand and plead and attempt to blackmail your only daughter while she offers you nothing but the plain bored look you have given her all her life. All my life.
And I won’t turn my back on you and walk away… not until I see resignation and defeat in your eyes.
I am looking at you and I am pleased. You are very beautiful.
Your smile is a wonder to behold and your eyes dart around intelligently. But your mind… it is your mind that holds me spellbound. The words they spill forth at me take me places I have never been and introduce me to people I will never meet. Every loop, every dash and every dot carries your character. The way you scrawl the heart over your name in your closing salutation tells me things that no one else knows, because I know I’m the only one who receives that heart. And I cherish it.
I must end this soon. Not because I want to, but because, as you can see, I am running out of space. Paper is quite expensive these days and so I must ration our exchange of correspondence to only one sheet at a time. You will find a plain sheet and a pencil for you to reply with as always.
I will see you someday and I shall not have to close my eyes to do it. No photograph can replace the beautiful words you use to describe yourself to me. It is an exquisite feeling I experience when you bare your soul to me, even more exquisite that I get to keep the words with which you do so. Every word we exchange brings us closer in a way that is truly indescribable. It is truly amazing how two people who as of yet, have never met can know each other so intimately.
Reply soon, my dear friend.
Benedict E. Smith
Immense pride and joy well up within her at the standing ovation.
Suddenly, without warning, shame and self-loathing spring up in their place.
She looks up at the broad smile beaming from the young man’s face in direct contrast to the dark goggles sheathing his eyes. The thick blackness of the shades he is wearing compliments the glistening ebony of the piano behind him. The grandness of the Rubenstein by far out-classes the five octave casio electronic keyboard his father bought him when he was seven. The same keyboard she threw out countless times. The same keyboard that, despite her efforts, accompanied him on the journey to where he is now.
“Little boys should be seen and not heard”
“But our son is special, Hanna. He could be great one day.”
“The music. It drives me crazy. Why does he have to play it so damn much?”
“It will all be worth it. Some day”
Someone beckons to her to join him on stage. As she rises, the thunderous applause swells. As she approaches the stage, the shame bites harder at her insides. As she takes each step, another tear falls from her face. As they do from behind his dark glasses. The audience misinterpretes the tears, hers at least. His are tears of triumph.
She comes to where he stands and as she does, he senses her presence and turns towards his step mother and opens his arms. She walks into his embrace and holds him close. The applause is rapturous now. She whispers in his ear.
“Your father would be proud”