hi *waves.* The lovely people at BlackWomenBeLike recently asked me to contribute a short story to their Finish the Story Friday series, in collaboration with Storymoja Africa. The series and the platform itself exist for the purpose of allowing African women to tell their own stories from their perspectives. My piece closed out the series, the previous three also written by East African women. I had fun trying my hand at fiction! Here’s a snippet below, read it in full here.
“So, what did you do with all that cake?”
“Netsu, after I have just told you the disaster of that day, the cake is what concerns you? Mtsm. Just pass me the comb.”
She slid the bristles through my hair, easing the tangles out along the way, dipping her fingers into a jar of Dax for extra help.
“No, no, sorry mommy. Please continue, forget the cake.”
I’d heard this story before but I still entertained it, as I often do. She tells me each one with the same gusto as when it was still new. Sometimes I can’t feign even an ounce of interest and exasperated, I blurt, “I know, I know, you already told me this story.”
“Oh,” she mumbles, and shrinks away.
I can’t bear to see her shrink like that so I backtrack – “but that’s okay, I want to hear it again. Tell me.”
My mother is the type who thinks she’ll burst open at the seams if she’s made to hold her stories in; if she must swallow her anger, hold her tongue upon mistreatment, and bury her pain, though she does all three more than she cares to admit or show. But most days, she vents and I listen, with ears as open as my mood will allow.
“He said nothing. Barry said nothing. He just lay there on the ground, faking injury, even though we all had a bird’s eye view of his invisible wounds.”
Barry is the first father I ever had, a placeholder of sorts for the first two years of my life. But as soon as he learned the truth, he vanished, in much the same way as my real one.
“As they say, silence speaks louder than words. He loved Eve, long past their six-month union. But I wanted him to pick me, I wanted to be chosen, to be someone’s wife finally, wholesome and stable and respectable. But Satan knew too much, with her big mouth and cheap weave.”
I already knew who Satan was.
“As Eve stood there chanting ‘they have a daughter, they have a daughter, they have a daughter’ through blurry tears, she told on herself. She loved Barry, too.
Satan said ‘do they or does she?’
That jolted Barry back to life. In the next instant, it seemed his cuts and bruises had healed and he staggered to his feet with bewildered eyes.
‘Amina, what is Shiku saying?’
‘Barry, what is Shiku saying?’
That moment broke us. We knew too much to continue pretending that we didn’t.”
The cake became inconsequential, that’s what happened to it.
Of course I don’t remember any of this, 2-years-old and swaddling around the wedding reception hall in my poofy white dress. I was the ‘daughter,’ oblivious to the drama unfolding in my name. Who did I belong to – Barry or someone else?