PUDDLES

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SHORT STORY Jan. 19, 2022

The laughter is what wakes me up. It’s deep, boisterous.

The kind of laughter that does not give a fuck where it is, or who is listening to it.

The kind of laughter that wins awards and says I want to thank me and only me because that is how important it deems itself to be.

My eyes are only starting to open up when my bedroom door is pushed open and I am met with the owner of the laughter.

She is calling my name, still laughing.

She is shaking me awake, still laughing.

Now she is taking away the warmth and safety of my duvet covers from me, still laughing.

I resist, and she takes that as a sign to laugh even louder.

This is a game we are playing – I bet that is what she is thinking.

She says, in that menacing voice of hers, that she had missed me so much.

Truth? I had not missed her at all.

But I manage a smile and say I had.

The next minute, dad is at the door. He has a cup of steaming something in his hand. He is smiling, but I can see the fatigue behind that smile.

He tells her to stop bothering me and hands her the cup of the steaming something.

We watch as she takes the first sip, and then, without meaning to, I find myself staring at the bandage on her left arm.

The gauze seems fresh, so I gather she got it recently.

I look up at dad and find that he is already staring at me staring at her bandaged arm.

She is taking sip after sip of the steaming something, all the while muttering mmhs and aaahs and that is how I know what is in the cup – dad’s famous cocoa tea.

She has always loved it.

Ever since she and dad met in that dingy bar down the street that is the only thing she ever wants for breakfast when she sleeps over. That and a wanting amount of whiskey.

During the first few days of their meeting, I often quietly wondered what dad saw in her. And then when I could no longer wonder quietly, I asked him directly.

If he was shocked or hurt by my question, his face did not show it. Instead, he sat me down and explained it to me gently.

He said, when he met her, it was like playing with puddles after the rain.

You know, just like you liked to do when you were young mama, and I understood it perfectly.

Then, he fucked around and got too deep, and now the fairy tale had worn off and he could see her true colors. Still, he loved her. All of her.

That I didn’t understand.

But dad is the kind of person who, when he believes in someone, he really believes in them.

He believed in me that day when I was caught shoplifting a lipstick from a make-up kibanda, and that day I was caught fucking Jane’s husband from next door, and that time I was expelled from high school after inciting other girls to burn one of the school dormitories.

Still, this was Shaniqwa. Couldn’t her name alone tell him that she was beyond redemption?

***********

Shaniqwa has finished her tea, and she is now touching dad’s chest with her good arm. Then, she nibbles his ear and whispers something dirty in it.

I know, because dad’s face is all flushed.

She takes one look at his face, lets out one of her ear-torturing laughs, and walks out.

But not before she turns around, faces me, and says, in the most condescending tone - I will see you around Irene.

I want to bite back, but dad’s eyes are pleading with me to give her yet another chance.

When he closes the door behind him and goes to do something dirty that Shaniqwa has promised him, I fall back on my bed.

My mind, which has been denied its sweet sleep, is out for revenge. It starts taking me back - back to Jane’s husband.

How it was between us at first. Playing puddles. Living in a fairy tale.

How it was in the end. Being beaten down by a hailstorm. Being ruined for life.

Maybe I understand dad and Shaniqwa’s love after all.

Or else, why am I taking out my phone, texting him that I miss him so much and that nothing will make me happier than our thirty minutes at the local lodging?

by Amanda Nechesa 16

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