TGIF! I wrote this story a few months ago. I really felt close to the characters while I was writing, and so I hold this close to my heart. I really hope you will enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing.
The boy told me to meet him under the mango tree Sunday afternoon, when the sun was at its highest. I sat on the log and waved to every Tom, Dick and Harry while the pesky mosquitoes happily sucked the life from me. He was too much of a charmer to ignore. I giggled to myself as I remembered him leaning against the stone wall with a piece of dry grass in his mouth.
I was walking with a basket full of spices on my head. Sweat ran from my face, and my whole body felt wet and sticky. I knew my mother would be standing on the verandah with her neck sticking out, waiting impatiently. She would tell anybody willing to listen that “My head tough like rock, and she going knock me into God’s Kingdom”. He was laughing because I kept tripping over my own feet. I was hot with embarrassment and kept walking. I heard the feet thumping behind me, chasing me, so I walked even faster.
“Hey girl, you drop the black pepper” I turned and faced his amused expression. I started blinking rapidly because the salty liquid pouring from my pores kept going in my eyes.
“Thanks” I couldn’t even hear my own response. It made me uncomfortable for a boy with such a lovely face to keep staring at me. It could be nothing more than the little bumps spread all over my face and my coarse unruly hair. My face has been terribly blackened by the sun, and my hips go out a little too far. I have met people quite unattractive, and stare at them with a smile still in place. I knew he was only being polite, and was quite intrigued by my unappealing features.
“Lemme buy you a drink nah, by old man Henry bar”
“No I’m not allowed in a bar, my mother would skin me” Maybe his friends were there, and wanted to take me along, to let them laugh me to scorn.
I walked away with the basket steady on my head. I knew he was staring at my bottom, and the sweaty dress clinging to my skin. I began fantasizing about being in the bar with a freshly washed face, cleansed thoroughly with river water and sipping on a soda out of a glass bottle, like a real woman. I envisioned myself in the sailor neck dress I wanted badly. He would compliment me, and maybe kiss me on the cheek. After wards we would go to the drive in and watch the pictures. “I hope he has a car” I said aloud.
Sure enough my mother was waiting. She was swatting the flies with the dirty kitchen rag and scaling fish.
“Afternoon ma’am” I said and placed the basket at her feet.
“Going to take a bath”
She didn’t reply.
Later that evening I powdered myself for evening choir. The moonlight guided my steps on the rocky, dusty road. Lizards croaked in the distance, and the crickets began their chatter. I heard a giggle in the dark corner, where the ruthless boys and girls did their evil. They shuffled around in the tall grass, and I blocked their sounds and hummed an old hymn.
I heard singing in the church and walked briskly. Mrs. Jones deaf singing could be heard from a mile away. I tried to muffle the laugh as I walked up the steps into the large church. It smelt of polish, and I rubbed my nose. The benches were wiped clean for tomorrow, and the pastor’s chair (throne, I beg your pardon) shone brightly in the dim candlelight.
“Again” Miss Williams the choir director told the singing group. I slipped in the back row because I was late, and mumbled the lyrics because the boy occupied my attention.
“Matilda come to the front” She pointed at me with disapproval in her tone. I was sure she had already put together a story to tell my mother. I stood at the front and tried to join in, but the enthusiasm was not there. I only imagined myself in the sailor collar sipping soda.
The next day after church, I walked beside my mother and another church sister talking about the new generation. She was explaining that I did nothing, and if we had a television set the Devil would need nothing else to take me in his sinful arms. They laughed, and I lagged behind fanning myself with the hat. Young boys chattered noisily in the mango trees, throwing the succulent fruit to the ones on the ground, their backs arched and head high, being careful not to miss a catch.
My mother stopped at the old lady who sold coconut drops to talk. We were going to be there for a while, so I sat on the large stone that has gotten quite use to my bottom on Sunday afternoons. I watched as the one dangly tooth jiggled every time the old woman laughed. They shared the same stories, and my mother held her back each time she let out a cackle. A few other church sisters joined and it became a noisy after church gathering. There was no mention of God’s word that they revered, and held close to their heart. I overheard the whisper about Miss Lawson’s pregnant teenage daughter, and how no one knew if the daddy was around.
I was about to rest my head in my lap when I saw the boy walking towards the stall. I subconsciously wiped the sweat and straightened my dress. I pretended to look elsewhere, hoping that he wouldn’t see me. A couple girls walked past and giggled to each other, while stealing glances at the new handsome boy. A cigarette rested on his ear, and he wore cut off khakis and an unbuttoned shirt. The sweat glistened on his chest, and when he ran his fingers through his curls, places ached and throbbed that have never hurt before.
“Afternoon ladies” His accent was a town one, and my mother looked excited. She placed her hands on her hips in a sassy way, and pursed her lips. “Afternoon young man” She replied, placing emphasis on the man. He paused when he saw me and my mother blatantly told him “Order what you want boy” with a sharpness in her voice. She turned to face me, and I directed my gaze to the boys under the mango tree.
He gave me a final stare and walked away. My mother pointed at me with fire in her eyes that if I bring home baby, me and my trunk will taste dust. I gazed at him under my hat. He shook hands with some boys leaning against a tree, and kept turning to look at me. I felt moisture in new places that afternoon.
It was a rainy September, two months since I saw the boy. I was standing under Henry’s bar with my bag straining my shoulder. At two in the afternoon, drunken cane cutters stumbled out of the bar, some fell face down in the rain. I watched the water fall from the sky and quench the Earth’s thirst. A few of my other school mates leaned against the wall with me. We silently waited from the rain to stop showering, because the smell of alcohol stung. We wiped our noses and rubbed sleepy eyes. I kept my eyes open, in case a church sister happened to be passing. It wouldn’t matter if she decided to take shelter under the bar; I would be the only one sinning.
Saturday afternoon I went to pick up fresh spices for my mother. The boy was leaning against the stone wall and blowing cigarette smoke into the cool air. He stood straight when he saw me and crushed the cigarette under his shoe.
“You need help” He commanded, I didn’t know why my feet wouldn’t move. He took the basket off my head. He smelt like cigarette and nature. He stood so close that I could see the little hairs on his face, and stains on his teeth.
“Thanks.” I mumbled
“Anytime Miss Matilda.”
“How you know my name?” I was shocked and a little amused.
We walked in silence and I kept looking around because I feared seeing anyone who might not agree with me walking with a boy. I stared at his shoes; they were scuffed and beautiful like him. He gently swung the basket and kept glancing at me. I felt hot in the cool September, and tried desperately to hide my smile. He stopped at my gate, my mother wasn’t outside, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He handed me the basket, and held on to my wrist.
“Meet me under the mango tree tomorrow, when the sun high” He wasn’t even asking me. I felt as though God was finally answering my prayers. My knees would no longer be rough from kneeling too long, nor won’t my heart ache for knowing what the opposite sex was like. I planned in my mind what dress I would wear and what I would smell like. I jotted carefully in my mind what type of illness I would fake, and prayed that God would forgive me for the evil I was about to commit.
My mother was sitting on her high bed when I walked in. Her room smelt like oils and her Bible sat comfortably on her pillow. Her head was tied, and she seemed quite content in her night dress with her eyes closed. She was humming a hymn, so I knew it was reflection time. I tip toed to my quarters.
I was nervous that night, but she didn’t seem to notice my odd behaviour. My mother with the keen eyes and sharp ears didn’t feel my shaking legs, and how the fork would clatter against the plate, sending a loud, aching noise through the quiet house.
I listened to her in the early morning shuffling about her room. I heard the occasional bang of the wardrobe door, and the soothing sound of old hymns from the radio. The children’s programme was about to come on, and at seventeen I was still expected to listen to it. I waited for the call, and at the appropriate time I began squirming in my bed. I held my head and moaned. She opened the door and peered in curiously at me.
“You okay Lady Matilda?”
“No ma’am” I groaned, trying my best to frown and wiggle. She placed a cold rag over my head and rubbed me with the pungent bay rum.
“Best you stay home and rest” She sighed, and I heard clearly the disappointment of me missing church. I could see the gathering and my mother expressing how the Devil work hard… hard on Sunday.
The noon sun seemed as though it had forgotten and took a long to come. I hauled my best dress over my head and sprayed some my mother’s special occasion perfume on my neck. The sun blazed and burned the back of my neck as I walked to the mango tree. He wasn’t there and immediately I regretted skipping church. I sat and waved at those who didn’t bother with church. No one seemed to mind that I wasn’t in step with my mother and my oversized church hat covering my face.
I was fidgeting on the log, because my bottom was itching from sitting too long. I saw the figure in the distance, and knew that my new adventure and the long awaited experience was about to begin. Beads of perspiration formed a line around his hairline. He smelt manly of sweat and perfume.
“Whew, the sun” He smiled politely. I returned the gesture and made space for him on a log. We sat in silence until finally I perked up the courage to speak.
“What’s your name?”
© Copyright 2014 Renee (UN: reneej at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Until next time,
"Love as long as you breathe, laugh as long as you live"