SHORT STORY Jan. 12, 2022

It starts with the most subtle of hints - a touch of two fingers.  Not a smile. Not a wink. Not a lop-sided meaningful grin. No. It starts with the slightest touch of two fingers. In the dark. With all of them present. With all them clueless.

Later, it escalates. Now, a wink. Next, a grin. Later, much much later, a kiss on the cheek. Not to say no one notices. I, of course, do. I always notice. But when you are me, you know you are nobody. You know no one will believe you.

So while they are drinking and dancing and doing all sorts of things to ignore me and ignore themselves, I notice that slightest touch of fingers. I see the instant spark of electricity. I see the flames of a fire born. Glowing.

They see it too. Actually, they feel it. And in instant, each moves away from the other. Afraid of the burn. Afraid of the hurt.

I want to tell them that it is okay. Fire is good.

But the next minute, Kingsley stops dancing. He holds her hand. Not slightly, like him. His touch is hard, rough.

Kingsley, the one who has a crush on her. Kingsley the one who invited her here. Kingsley who has been bragging to his friends how he is finally going to “get some of that ass”.

She smiles shyly and follows him. I notice the subtle way she turns around while Kingsley leads her away. There is no smile in her eyes. There is something else there. A sort of fear. A sort of regret. A sort of everything.

When it becomes a wink, I am there too. It is after a few weeks when she is with Kingsley and his friends. Kingsley who is getting that ass on a regular now. Kingsley who is holding her waist now. Not slightly but hard. Rough.

He, on the other hand, is waking by with his friends. He sees her, and she sees him. He winks. He does not know why he does it. He just does. For a fraction of a second when that wink is released and when it is received, an eternity passes.

Her heart beats wildly. She does not return his wink. Or give him a smile. Instead, she turns away and pays attention to Kingsley and his latest story.

It becomes a lopsided grin pretty quickly after that. It is when she is walking by with her friends. I am not there for the lopsided grin, but she narrates to me the whole thing, and suddenly, it is like I am there.

She is walking by with her friends, and Wambo keeps urging her to tell them about Kingsley. Is he good in bed like all the rumors say? Does he give head? Is he a good kisser? Are they together together? Do they have a picture of them together? Can she show them to her?

She is utterly exhausted of Wambo and her questions, so when she spots him on a bench, concentrating on something on his phone, she smiles despite herself.

He looks up around the same time and gives her a lopsided grin.

The kiss on the cheek. That one I am present for. Kingsley, on the other hand, is not. She tells me she has someplace she wants to show me. At first, I think she has found heaven. Turns out, her heaven is alcohol and a dingy bar.

They meet at the bar when she is already had a couple of drinks in. Turns out, so does he. The meet is purely coincidental, but by the look they give each other, it seems cosmical.

He snoops around, sees no Kingsley, and heads towards us. When he greets her, he kisses her on the cheek.

When he greets me, it is a slight dismissive nod.

Taking cues to leave is my specialty.

Later that evening, she tells me there was more than a kiss on the cheek. First, there was a laugh, mirth shared between their souls.

Then, there was touching of bodies when he moved to sit closer to her. Then there were more drinks, more laughter, more touching.

It ended with a kiss on the lips.

It ends with a kiss on the lips. Not a dagger to the heart. Not a blow of fists. Not an exchange of gruesome words.

But when the exchange of gruesome words takes place, I am there. I am the fly on the wall.

First, Kingsley asks where she was the night before.

She says it is none of his business. And I agree with her. It isn’t.

Next, Kingsley says it is his business. She is his goddamn girlfriend.

She says:  No, you have never asked me to be your girlfriend, so, technically, I am single. And you can go fuck yourself.

Kingsley’s face starts doing this thing where his veins bulge, and his eyes go wild. I saw his face doing what it is doing once when he was fighting with a drunken somebody.

He says:  what did you just say?

She says: You heard me.

Her face is doing this thing – where her eyes have gathered all the fight in her.  

One second is what it takes, and her eyes are doing something else. They begin to water.

Her hands are doing something else. They are rubbing her cheeks.

Her eyes are doing another thing. They are looking at Kingsley, unbelievably.

She says: You hit me.

Shocked at first.

Kingsley says:

Kingsley says nothing.

She says: You hit me, you bastard.

She says it accusingly. Angry. Mad.

She launches at him. Hands flinging everywhere. Hitting his huge body. Hitting his cheeks. Grabbing his neck.

Her eyes are wild, looking everywhere, looking at nothing.

Kingsley is still. Very still. His eyes are no longer wild. There is just calm there. Dangerous calm.

When she stops grabbing his neck and launches for something else, he moves. So fast. Like a flash.

Bam. That is the sound her body makes when he flings her to the wall.

Boom. That is the sound of her head when she lands on the linoleum floor.

I am shaking, but that is the good thing about being a fly on the wall. No one can see when you are shaking. No one sees you when you enter a room. No one notices you, especially when they are both on a mission to kill each other.

But most importantly, no one misses you when you quietly open the door, slip out and start running because, on the off chance that Kingsley saw you, your body might be the next thing making the BAM sound.

I run to his house. When I reach there, he is going out to buy supper or something. My words come out in a ramble, and even when he tells me to slow down, I don’t. He catches the drift pretty quickly, and in his eyes, I see only one thing: Panic.

He runs faster than me and reaches the house faster than me.

When I finally catch up, he is beating Kingsley, Kingsley is beating him, there is blood on one nose, blood on one mouth, blood on random places.

I ignore them and choose to focus my attention on her, still crumpled on the floor.

Her eyes are open and unmoving, so at first, I think she is dead. I am proved wrong a second later when I see her eyes are not only alive, they are pointedly looking at something on the table.

I say: Are you okay?

She focuses her eyes on me for a second, then they go back to the table.

I follow her eyes and that’s when I spot it: the glitter of the sharp blade.

I am about to tell her something, I don’t know what, but she is rising too quickly, reaching for the table too quickly, taking the knife too quickly, attacking too quickly.

But as quick as she is, Kingsley is quicker. He sees her in time, and when he takes the knife from her, it is a shock to all of us.

Kingsley does not hesitate. One movement and the knife is buried deep into her lover’s stomach. Another movement, another burial. And another. And another.

There is blood everywhere now. Everything is red. Everything is screaming. Everything is frantic.

Something rooted really deep inside me, something that has never manifested itself before, tells me it is my time to act.

I don’t know what to do.

 I take a look around the room.

I know what to do.

There is this vase she has in her apartment. It is white, and once upon a time, it had the most beautiful flowers. The flowers withered after a while, but she kept the vase, empty.

 She said: Sometimes the beauty of something is not what it can do, or what purpose it can serve but simply what it is.

Turns out, the vase still had one more purpose to serve – break Kingsley’s head.

Now, both Kingsley and her lover are motionless on the floor. She is crying, I am not.

Suddenly, she stops crying, turns to me, and kisses me on the lips.

Thank you, she says.

That’s how it ends. It ends with the least subtle of hints. A kiss on the lips.

by Amanda Nechesa 52

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