“Which one came first, the pole or the stripper? “Ryan was looking at her over the top of his sunglasses biting his straw when he asked. They both knew how stuck up she had been and had learnt to make fun of their differences.
“Well! Come on, the art is centuries old but don’t you think its essence is washed out in this age, like everything else? Cultural practices? Taboos? Gender roles?”
She didn’t jump on him for a tickly fight when she saw that mocking look on his face, like she always did when it was his turn to roast her queer traits. Like how she normally aggressively defended why all strip clubs should be shut down since they destroyed marriages. To him he rationally thought that the government would have to do a lot more than that. Like monitor the internet, the avenue of all things unorthodox since teen hood.
“You’re right “he agreed. However you haven’t answered my question.
“The stripper came first.”
“There you go! “He tipped his sunglasses up, made little lines on his forehead then proceeded to add, “Egyptians have been belly dancing since the cradle of their civilization.
“And the pole was a men’s sport in ancient China predated back to the 12th century, they wore full body costumes and laced the pole with rubber for acrobatic moves, not the fluid movement.” she interjected,”pole dancing, the modern craft, picked up in the United States in the 1900’s when women of travelling the fairs incorporated it to increase their audience. When its popularity increased, the remnant of this Chinese sport was the center stage in enticing men in 1968, when the first strip tease was historically documented. After that, it was a free fall of the art, craft and sport to basic enticement for a quick dollar.”
He dipped his head forward “Meaning, feminine dance is a biologically wired stimulant in every man, the years have taken the soul out of it.Just like they have taken the soul out of authentic feminity.The original demeanor of a woman is soft yet strong, beautiful yet mysterious, I mean if Nefertiti crawled out of her secret grave today and saw all the leggings and minis, the aggressiveness at work areas that is sometimes carried back home, she would, she would crawl right back! Wrong planet!”
“Belly dancing dates back to thousands B.C, it was fully costumed, the beauty in the mystery. “She said that enthusiastically, adding,
“perhaps that will change, more women subscribe to pole dancing as a fitness routine today. It’s picking up worldwide. I mean soccer mums and college students alike”
She smiled wryly waiting for him to utter his predictable suggestion, “So will you subscribe?
This time she jumped on him for a tickly fight, arousing the attention of people nearby their little shed at the beach.
Their vacation in the Kostera islands had refurbished their shaky union.
Three days of exploring the feel of the sand along the ocean, the forgotten terrains of the forest of the cliff facing the water mass, a sunset of Margaritas, evenings of roasted turkey meat at the beach and a starry night at the balcony of their rented beach house.
He opened chapters of her life that she had added during their time apart, devoured her words as they fell off her lips. A man of such control, sophistication and authenticity as he was to her, undressed her a thousand times every day without even touching her. He understood that you begin how you want to finish. This was a new beginning for them, with new dimensions. He began it with patience, friendship, the sibling type, and fun. He sought to understand how she could now order her own food preference, not seek his dressing approval every day, but most importantly, how she didn’t spark late night fights anymore. The simplicity of mundane duties and decisions explains the bigger perspective and state of one’s life. It’s a direct reflection.
On the third day, she woke up with eye bags and a hangover from the gods, from her three hour sleep after a night of drunk confessionals. Deeper than the priest hears. About the ancestral roots of their misunderstandings that they had carried from their homes. Belief systems, like her codependent nature and his growing lack of accountability. Prior to their separation she was a little girl in a grown woman’s body. Seeking absent daddy’s guidance and approval in every male she encountered.
“I have broken the rhythm, I feel me.”She uttered when the wine started kicking in.
He could see that, her outlook had changed. From a short bob cut to wild sultry hair, maxi dresses to boyfriend jeans, a full makeup face to a light touch of pinked lips and bare skin.
“I was a cocktail of every person’s suggestions who had ever molded me.Laugh loudly, my ex Brian once advised me, said it adds confidence to my introverted personality. He couldn’t stand my shy laughs. I have no idea why that didn’t sound ridiculous back then. Wear maxi dresses, said Humphrey, it’s more feminine. When he said jump, I would asked how high. I regarded him as my firm moral guide. I needed the same life support from you, a lifelong therapist who analyzed me on my behalf. You cut the supply and made me a rogue mess. When you didn’t fuel my drama, I had to find my own life support.”
“I spent a month indoors, getting still, then deleting every bad book that was on queue for me to finish, music I barely enjoyed, throwing away clothes and shoes with the first instinct of dislike.
At the end of the month, it was clear that I had been taking up all the personalities of the people I had ever tried to build a life with. I had no passion of my own except writing. So I became a little proactive week by week in the next month. Sometimes it felt as though I was on the worst trail ever. I did away with all familiarity and simply began to notice the things around me I was attracted to”
He leveled up her wine and added a layer of blanket, the starry night at the balcony was still a fancy on the second night. It was already 12 o’clock.
“I took long walks in the evening, ordered the food I never had before, streamed YouTube videos about everything under the planet, I was basically doing things on first instinct basis. By the second week I had spotted a drawing class in town, tried my hand at a posing 6 ft. model and failed terribly!”
“Wait…” he interrupted, “a lady or a guy?”
To get on his nerves she did what they do best, annoy each other “A 6ft chocolate man with luscious dreadlocks and………”
“Alright! Do they have classes for guys?”
“Shut up stupid “they giggled
“Met a gorgeous lady in the same session who invited me to her art exhibition on the next weekday. It was time for some attire scouting. Did the same thing again. Obeying the first instinct no matter how outrageous it felt “Got myself some cut out jeans, a pair of comfortable sandal heels and a black T-shirt.
The exhibition was the most wonderful presentation I had ever been upto. I even signed up for notifications on future events which I later cancelled when I learnt about the dance class down the street, from one of the advertisements on the art lady’s website.
“Hahahaha!I can barely get you to lift a foot with music on, “he was now sitting up listening to her.
“Nop! Actually yes. The first time I walked into the dance studio I felt more like the poles than the dancer,”
“Poles??Who are you??”His hand was rolled into a fist and on his mouth, eyes wide open then he stood up and did a little dance laughing before sitting down, even more curious.
“Luckily the instructor accommodated the newbies comfortably. It was out of my league and it will probably take me another beat down before I gain the courage to walk into such a studio again. It was a refreshing experience, I felt a part of me that scared me off a little. It takes a lot to twist the hips, do a cat walk around a pole than jump all night at a rock music festival. It was as if I was dancing in front of a crowd but my life depended on it.The vulnerability! That’s why I chose to instead attend a regular dance class and see if maybe”, she dragged the word maybe “that will lead me back to that class with a more confident attitude. You know, feel things and things like that, new things……”
“She was drunk but sleepy at 3.00 a.m.”
“I can see how that experience has been good to you, Apart from documenting it in a novel………”
She was already asleep. He was imagining how her, Atwood, his writer wife looks like in a dance class.Moreso a pole dancing fitness class. Something he was going to probe the very next day down at the beach.
‘I can tell a lot about a person by the comments they have about me before they get to know the real me, Monroe said’
That was the first sentence she read at her book signing event on a Wednesday morning at The City Center Library. Right before she looked up at the face on the last row of the two hundred people in the room waiting to ask questions about her new book ‘Release’ and get autographs as a souvenir of meeting her, the great author, Lindsay Atwood.
They looked at each other with a shared understanding of the triumph over their past demons. A renewed understanding and appreciation of one another. Even when they couldn’t see eye to eye, they knew it was one of times they were going through their own personal metamorphosis, to come together even better than before. It was a spiritual marriage. The book was a child of one of those times they had personal metamorphoses.
She had initially written a memoir and halfway through it, restarted it, and spiced it to a fictional novel.
After a month of uphill battles together, downward spiraling love and feeling as though she would throw books at him so he could have some clarity and accountability in their conflict, he still vehemently denied that he needed to grow up. She too denied that she had adjustments to make. He had the impulse control of a two year old. Temper tantrums for attention seeking. It was a warzone every time he had to express himself. Their days were mostly spent avoiding each other to avoid confrontations, when they weren’t already in one. Gradually, the relationship became as useless as a chocolate teapot. They had to avoid one another to get with one another. So she finally decided to take a real break from life. Head on to the cabin her aunt had left her at the beach. Carrying only her laptop for her writing. He stayed behind, lost in his maze of thoughts, angry, heartbroken and defeated at what the relationship had come to. With his busy work schedule, he couldn’t just fall off the planet like her, to gain clarity and realign his thoughts.
After six months, one which they spent on phone, feeling the newness and longing of one another, she finally decided to return to town, right after completion of her book. He preferred the thrill of getting to know one another again, hence choosing to attend the book signing to hear an excerpt of her thoughts instead of reading it, then afterwards knowing her like an open book.
‘When Monroe first met her husband, when she was twenty years old, he told her,
“I see the real you. I know people label you as aloof, I see a shy lady. You have a hidden caring and sweet side, always craving to get out of your self-composed image of professional mannerism. It can come out with just the right amount of comfortably knowing someone. An essence beautiful in its simplicity.”
At that moment, she knew she could trust him with her life. He saw her just like she saw herself. Her naked soul, she did not have to explain to him how her past hurt. How her parents damaged her. To him, that was the way of life. Every parent has a degree of damage to pass onto the children. From their own unresolved heart troubles. Completely unintentional too. That damage was part of what defined you as you grew up, until you resolve them. It happens to everybody he always said. Her wedding vow was not a stunt for the masses ‘I cannot live without you, ‘and she had meant it with every fiber of her being.
To her, her parents had tried enough to raise a modest, elegant and successful young lady. She embodied the lessons in every sense. She pursued two degrees in University, Literature and Law and was well ahead to School of Law to be an attorney and an author too.Eloquoently spoken, she spoke to high school girls on invitation from her high school principal on the importance of following their dreams while they were young. That was how she earned her money while studying. To everyone else, she was the result of perfect parenting.
Nobody knew, not even her, the extent of deficit her father’s absence in her life caused her. Her father had become a workaholic who highly valued his work ethics, probably where she picked up the dilligence.He was only concerned with the financial functionality of his family, how much wealth and comfort they could have, ignoring their emotional well-being. He had the feel of a manager in their household than of a father. He wasn’t initially like that. He had changed when his business grew and she was old enough to handle it.
Her mother was not any more maternal than their father. She was the teacher of morality and sophistication to her kids. She instilled in them the importance of financial independence, refined looks and cultured behavior. She however had no concern with affections.
These were the damages Monroe’s parents passed down to her. She was a success in her career and a failure in her love life and friendships. She had a parade of ex eye candy and soul empty girlfriends who always ended up doing the most unbelievable two faced betrayals to her, showing absolutely no genuine care.Their association was always fueled by a sole need of fitting in, looking the part but lacking in sincerity of friendship. Hopped from one relationship to another craving for something she did not even understand herself. Her missing father. To experience a feeling of affection with someone who genuinely loved her.
So when her husband. Ryan, said that he could see the real her, she knew she was home. A lifelong confidant and therapist.
With the weeks following, after their marriage months after meeting, she felt the most stable than she had ever been her whole life living with him. She had someone to listen to her who understood her. Except with every week her husband thought she was becoming a bit too unbearable even to him.
“My dad was never home, he has always had business meeting since I was nine years old. I remember how he took me out when I was younger every weekend either to the mall, or his games or to my kids’ fun hangout places. It all changed when my mother who is no fun at all always wanted me to stay home and study or be prepared for school.Who gets ready for school at anything below nine years old that thoroughly? She needs to lighten up!”
Every day he listened to a similar story of how much her father disappeared from her life, how her mother failed her, how her ex-boyfriends hurt her, like a broken record on repeat.
“Keith, my ex, was the most heartless bastard.He disappeared for three months one time and came back home like he had just dashed to the shop. No explanations.Nada! Zero! Zilch! Who does that?”
With every one of her complains he always had sound advice for her. Which got slowly replaced with impatience, avoidance and facial expressions showing the most ungodly emotions inside him. A slow brewing anger. Out of the impatience of listening to her. Even therapists had timed sessions and termination of therapy.
His sound advice got replaced with
”So what are we solving today?”
“Why would you say that? “She would fire back
“I just want to know why I should subject myself to another of your horror stories? “Then after a back and forth of lashing out he would leave the house to come back late at night.
For cold or no food and a series of questions.
“Where were you?”
“What were you doing?”
“Whom were you with?”
“Why did you even leave?”
“Are tired with me?
“Are you cheating on me?”
“Then you should have stayed there, do a little growing up to be able handle a conversation!”
Another bout of anger would be the closing punctuation of the night. To be continued the next day.
This new routine had them waking up at different times to avoid each other. Leave the house at times apart. Fill up their weekends with separate activities. Walking on eggshells when the weariness faded and they finally got together for a short while. It was a cold relationship.
She blamed him for changing. No longer listening to her. He was now getting impatient just listening to her.
He blamed her for draining the life out of him, enraging him.
When she finally pulled the plug and left, she had made the decision that would change her life. It would be on that escapade that she would go through a rebirth of mind and heart.
Leveling herself up mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
Realizing that not even her birth parents had the obligation to always make sure her life was wholesome.
Releasing them from the image she thought they were supposed to live upto as parents but failing her instead.
Releasing her ex-boyfriends from the fatherly role she had subconsciously assigned them.
Releasing the friends that had betrayed her from being something she wasn’t herself. A true friend who cared and loved. Not driven by the need to be birds of a feather by physique only.
And the biggest of all releasing her almost to be ex-husband from the role of therapist and father. Solving all of her life problems, being the only solidity she identified with. So that even when he lost his peace, so did she. That her wedding vow ‘I cannot live without you’ was the most tragic love story ever told. For she could. She could be joyful and complete without a codependent love, a symbiotic love, so she enjoys all the benefits that come with the freely given love. The ultimate romance.She recreated herself to a free spirit
This is a story about the journey of a lady to understanding that the chaos around her weren’t happening to her but for her. For her to elevate her vibration, to heal herself, better herself and be that which she desired to attract to her life. Loyalty and unconditional love.”
When she finally looked up, her husband was staring at her, with the eagerness for more, his two fingers placed on his lips. The cue a good listener adapts.
He couldn’t wait to surprise her with their tickets to the islands for a vacation. For them to fall off the planet together. So he tells her about the striking lesson of his journey to hers.
How his taught him that his environment cannot control him, he controls it.
Atwood knew her Ryan was proud of her and couldn’t wait for them to get reacquainted.
You know when you’re walking in the rain with a huge umbrella, shielded from the raindrops of a heavy rain, and the wind blows your umbrella inside out or completely from your hand, and the raindrops hit you hard, you just want to run to your destination?
That’s how Vashti was feeling twisting her little hand in his trying to loosen his grip.
She had been in a tough enough storm hiding her romantic interest from her father. Running away with Geoffrey was walking into the middle of the storm itself.
It was obvious in his eyes that he was ready to take her away right that minute. Certain there was no chance neither of them would want to live separately. Maybe he could make a decision for her, and in a couple of weeks she would grow into it herself. After fighting through the adaptation stages of relocation in a bolt to her choice of destination. The place they would elope to. If he had to stake himself to get them there he would.
She was staring at him dead on but wasn’t listening to anything he was saying.
‘I want to be there for you, when the new life becomes too strange to get used to,or too hard to keep living.
Fight for whatever dreams that are seeded in your heart to mature.
Travel the world for no reason at all but the excitement of a thrill with you’
She was waiting to wake up from this lucid dream. How could she just leave her family?
Her father, despite the fact that she was lying to him? Her sister who was an equal opposite of her? She was just starting to learn how to reduce the moments they spent convincing each other of their conflicting belief systems and explaining their mistakes. Her brother, who protected her like a second dad, without the strictness.
For Geoffrey’s master plan to set up a new life completely detached from the people she knew. Would she still be happy? For choosing her romance as her sole source of love? Cutting off her family to fire up her romance?
‘Turn me ‘she said ‘Turn me right now! It will be a win for both of us, I can keep my family and friends, as you will. We will see each other every day just as much as we will be able to travel the world. We can accumulate so much wealth and get married in a few years, or one! The only price I have to pay is lying. An almost a nonexistent price to pay, am already lying about you to my father.
So many things could go wrong if I just leave now! My father is sick. My sister is planning her wedding. My brother will be king…..What if my father dies in my absence? Or something happens to my brother while we are all gone?’
He interrupted her, ‘How could you possibly know that?
Why do you choose to let your mind run off into the future in fear?
Perhaps you got it from your family,
Always planning two marriages ahead, two reigns ahead!
Speculating, dreaming and planning around these expected tragedies
Who in your family Vashti has had the chance to travel the world?
To be at the fore front of the uprising in women empowerment?
The wheels of history are turning, society is becoming more accepting of women living in their true essence. I have lived a thousand years. I have seen the rise and fall of kings, the formation and deformation of religion, I know when the old and the new are intermarrying. When the new is taking over. This is one of those times.
Not behind the men in their lives.
Fathers and brothers and husbands! Daughter of a king, wife a king, sister of a prince as their sole purpose of existence.
I know no woman who has been let to access the sacred teachings of the kingdom except you. You are the one I know brave enough to nurture your passions in learning and feed your curiosity. You are learning so much about painting you could paint Paris, The City of Angels, and the edge of the world! And bring it back home as the pioneer that you are!’ Her cheeks were ripe with anger at the nerve he had to have such a morally condescending tone to her family. She had made a decision at that moment to stay. To not abandon her family for a moron who had no respect of family ties. Perhaps he couldn’t help it, His ancestors had cultivated the broken ties in his family.
‘So you think my family is too traditional for adventure? You and your family prune gardens all year, how could you possibly talk to me about adventure!
Hiding behind the shadows of normality. Fitting in as one of us.
If you were so attuned to the magic you are promising me today, you would have accumulated a fortune of souvenirs enough to make a kingdom by now.
The very reason you are a gardener is for the lack of governing among your people. My family members have close ties to one another and enjoy prosperity and stability. Confusion and chaos always follow disobedience. Your family is stuck in the chaos brought upon you by the decisions of the ones who came before you. Scattering around the planet with no urge to mend what was broken. It’s the savage way of life, after a while your lives crumble into a mundane lifestyle, working as servants to fend for yourselves. That is a lack of vision, lack of planning, lack of rules of life, lack of a stable way of life, like a kingdom has.
‘Vashti’, he said ‘I cannot turn you! It’s not that simple! Our way comes with wildness I too would be glad to be freed of. We are blood hounds! You cannot die for something you know nothing of!’
‘Tone it down Geoffrey! Vashti warned him.
The guard almost knocked down the door when he couldn’t get a response after knocking on it for a minute. They had been so caught up in the battle of the mightiest they hadn’t realized how loud they were nor was that it already dawn. The guard held the door for a minute to be certain it was just the dizziness from the long night’s shift. He was almost falling off his feet. Geoffrey had carried Vashti passed the door and into the forest when he had the door open almost knocking down the guard. He hadn’t seen them.
He set her down at a clear patch next to the river. The sun was almost up and they could hear the birds but not see them. The birds that build their nests next to the river or human inhabitation, built them far up in the trees. Shy birds.
Geoffrey knew he had to take her back before the sun started blistering the land with its heat, so he broke the silence ‘you are right my love, I cannot preach evolution to you and not live it myself. I apologize for being so unfiltered in my blunt expression about your family. It is the ways of the men of the 1500s to be mean to my lady. Forgive me.It is both an opportunity for you and I to break out of the mundane routine for a life of satisfaction. Lived through instincts and bravery.’
She smiled to take off the offence.
‘I also realize I cannot make the decision for my lady whom I would want to see follow her convictions to live her dreams. By her own accord. I will leave the decision to you my lady.’
It seemed the change in scenario had quickened his realization of the truth. He couldn’t impact his decision on her. She too had realized she had an opportunity to live out her life in her own terms.
‘I would love my days to be filled with you and I want to continue seeing you. I want you to show me all the undiscovered destinations you have fancied in your century’s old travel experience. I will speak to my sister so as to formulate a plan to keep my family together and my interests in harmony. You will be my family too. Perhaps father could have a change of heart when he sees how rewarding my freedom will be to my studies in paint art.The many portraits I will be bring him and the family. I must have his blessings.’
‘You have made me the happiest man in the kingdom Vashti. I too will speak to my mother who already likes you.’
There was a long drawn silence to assimilate fully the satisfaction of the pact they had just made before Vashti broke the silence.
‘Why are you staring at the river? Do you want to buy that for me too? Alongside my freedom’
‘Ha-ha, no princess, maybe a piece of it’, he replied as he took off his shirt and dived into it.
She smiled, knowing she was going to back home feeling like candy coated sin.
(NB: Feminine allurement is my muse. I am a self-proclaimed anti-feminist)
‘They are all monsters. There is not a single one that will keep you on a happy pill. I mean have you met him? He has gone to every war with his father’s army since he was seventeen. He looks as rugged as he feels. You do know the things warriors do in their camps right? Unforgivable sins. Am telling you even that sweet farm boy of yours has his flaws.’ Complained Jane. Vashti’s older sister.
‘Jane c’mon, you are getting married in what? One season? Feminism will grow roots in about two more centuries, father will require that you get married. You heard father, feminism involves economic equality. Meaning you will need your husband Richard, to fund your trips.’
‘Whatever! All the same I will be a queen, in a much bigger castle than this rat hole of a castle. You do know Richard’s kingdom has the best tailors right? I can get all my ideas down in fabric. Economic equality!’
Jane’s sister, Vashti, was the last of the three daughters of King Jeremy. Jane the second daughter.
Her first sister had married the prince of the kingdom down south, Racostar.She was her closest friend in her family. Too maternal even for a big sister. Mothering her sisters and friends. She dreamt of having little girls to play with and a happy little family. It must have been a retaliation for growing up in such a money hungry family. A need to have a happier family than the one she was born in.With a mother too concerned for wealth, she had been barely concerned with the emotional farewell of her family. Their father was aging fast since the death of their mother. In a couple of years, his body would be so sucked up, he would start feeling like a memory to the people around him. Knowing his next phase was death, he arranged profitable suitors for his first two daughters to choose from and left a will for his eldest son, William, to be his heir.
Vashti was the last of his four children. Three of each gender. She was only eighteen years old. He wed his daughters at twenty two, at his wife’s persuasion. Not the usual twenty, when the suitors started streaming in.Vashti had a number of years to grow into readiness. Her father was concerned for her, he knew he wouldn’t be there to give her away.
Every time her father teased her on marriage, she would cast her eyes down as if she was in confession. Her father had never understood the coincidence.
Only Jane did. Actually didn’t. It was the farm boy who Vashti had been sneaking around with, in the name of love. It made Vashti guilty, knowing her father would never approve of it.
Jane theorized that being a last child, Vashti was protected from all the hard methods of growing up their parents had experimented on them. She was lavished in clothes and trips. Things that had been limited for her and the other older siblings. Their parents often dismissed servants so they could learn responsibility, punished them by limiting their shopping and gifts and applying all the hogwash theories that only invoked the urge to leave home for better lives. The first two girls were marrying rich men. Vashti, however, had none of those hardships of life. She was well pampered, all she needed in life was feelings of bliss, not considering the conditions that maintained it.Wealth.She genuinely valued pure feelings of admiration and adoration more than wealth. She’d never had to. Jane concluded that by the time her parents were raising Vashti, they were too tired to try any wits on her.
Vashti had met James the farm boy on one of her fancied walks in the garden. One time, when they were a little more comfortable in their unorthodox affair, they had snuck into Vashti’s room where they were almost caught by the guard on his usual routine check. Finding the door unlocked, he’d walked in and inspected it, except under the bed where they had hidden. No amount of persuasion could reconcile James to sneaking back again.
On this day, talking to her sister Jane, all she could do was look out the window. The rains had been pouring all day like heaven’s artillery was let out. Staring at the dimmed forest far ahead.
It was dark and dreary with the rain, the edge of the forest was blurred out in broad daylight.
Her sister combed her hair as they debated on why Jane needed her marriage to Richard, rumors of the kingdom she was to be married for. She was half tuned to that and more focused on staring out her window.
Her eyes were cast far into the forest all afternoon trying to make out the shadows with the diminishing daylight. Her sister soon fell asleep on her bed.
She focused her gaze more when she saw a splash of colors moving up, down and sideways. Like a painters brush on canvas. Disappearing into the tress and reappearing. Quickly dismissing it as sleepiness. Sleep is as infectious as yawning, she assumed. Maybe her eyes were weakening with sleep.
She tapped her sister’s back to get a second opinion on what she was seeing, without batting an eyelid, or angling her head, Jane growled and went back to sleep. She was now assuming it was probably the wind hurling around things.
The freights were now standing a step apart engaging in what seemed to be an argument. The larger freight disappeared in a flash of color as the other was motionless on the ground. She was now watching with her whole body. This was no wind.
She almost jumped out of her skin when she had a loud knock. James was standing there drenched to his boots in water and face in blood. He was leaning on the door side.
‘Oh my…James! What happened?’ Her sister exclaimed now sitting up in shock in bed.
They dragged James to the bed. He couldn’t speak a word. His voice was like wind in a keyhole. His eyes narrow with exhaustion.
He could however make out the figures of them at the door sealing a deal as Jane rushed out. Jane had promised Vashti she’d tell the servants concerned it was a bad time of the month for Vashti, till they figure out poor James’ situation in private.
James was now looking at her not with the same anxious look he always had. Or the exhaustion he had banging on the door. He had a vicious look. An austere expression. It didn’t frighten her. She had never seen anyone so helpless with such fight in his face. Not even the soldiers who returned from war in care at the hospital.
The most astonishing must have been the deep cut he had on his chest when she removed his shirt. The shirt was clinging to his chest with the blood. She ran her fingers on it as she bandaged and cleaned him, as if to confirm her eyes weren’t blurry. He was watching her tightening his jaws and his eyes still. Waiting for the question for him to explain what had happened. She didn’t. That was one of the reason he loved her, she was a gentle spirit. She could possibly love the devil with such gentleness and bring out the good in him.
The air was now dark outside. She stared outside occasionally to finish her story of the flash of colors.
‘Thank you, Vashti. You are the best of hosts’ he said after licking the last of his dinner.
She smiled at him with a blink.
Jane had brought them two bowls of food, disguised, and covered in clean laundry.
‘So what was that? James, you almost killed me with all that blood on you’
He didn’t speak a word.
She narrowed her stare at him. He sure was acting strange that evening.
He smiled. Even differently. The certainty on his face of courage was unmistakable just as it was new. She was enjoying learning this new face. Very different from the timid one.
‘Can I start with a story?’ he finally spoke up. ‘It will make better sense afterwards. Centuries ago there lived a tribe in the middle of the jungle. They lived harmoniously with the jaguars, tigers and all the other creatures of the wild. They ruled the jungle and kept the balance of life. Their houses were built of the rare strong oak trees. They stalked their store with food to last all winter. Rabbits. They were a kind of creature too.’
‘What do you mean? Like creatures in the folklores?
‘Exactly. They fed on blood. Years of human invasion into their side of the ocean had tamed them to feed on animal blood. Originally they fed on the outcasts, rebels, criminals and their enemies. With the invasion of humans into their land, they slowly adapted to animal blood, to keep the peace as disguised humans. Problem was, the humans were invading the jungle too. Selfishly hunting animals and cutting down even the oldest of plants. The balance of life was out of balance. The animals escaped far away deeper into the jungle, even to other forests. The blood feeding people were angry with the invasion. So they started killing and feeding on their enemies. No one knew why no one ever came back from the jungle while out on a hunt. The blood suckers finished them all. Until one day, one human who escaped a blood feast, reported of his sightings back in his village.
’I shot him with a dozen arrows and he still came at me, I would have been dead had I not fallen off the cliff into the river and swam here.They are beasts, more savage than a bear.’
So they relentlessly searched for ways to retaliate for years. After eight years, they had found a way to finish the blood hounds and restarted their invasion with vengeance. This time they were armed with both artillery and skill. They secured the edges of the jungle with spiked oak spears dug into the ground. So they staged an invasion and waited for them to run into the spears like blind rats. Shooting arrows of fire into the forest, giving the hounds no choice but to run outside the forest. They had discovered a secret to finish them off and build a kingdom in the new found land. The oak tree killed the hounds, roasting them from the inside like burning meat. Some families however, fled from the other side of the forest. Some of them blended with the humans while others stubbornly protected their heritage and had found home in faraway lands.’
He now looked at her .Pausing for a moment to choose his next words prudently.
‘Half of my family blended. The rest found another untouched forest to restart their lives. Still looking into her eyes.
She was still, listening to him. Unmoved by the darkness just uncovered. Did she know? Or does darkness not scare her?
‘Hahaha Hahaha right, so you are a blood hound? I see. You got me.I did not anticipate that. Quiet the story teller huh’
That was not a compliment to him. He paused for a moment, contemplating his next actions. Then quickly tore away the bandage on his chest.
‘Vashti, how would you explain this?’ It was clean and healed.
She looked keenly, not keen to buy his story so fast.
‘My dear, ‘he lifted her and flashed to the opposite side of the room then put her down.
‘Oh my gosh, what the…what was that?’
He took her back to the other side in the same flash.
‘What treachery that? ‘Wait a minute, where were you in the afternoon, while it rained?’ holding her head to physically stop the spinning.
‘I had to see to an uncle.’
Looking up the ceiling ‘We are not to be intimate with humans.Traditionally,we, we don’t get intimate with…you know,non blood people. It feels a little awkward to say “humans”. So we keep a neat tight family association. The elders would rather have you marry your cousin than a ……….. human’
‘Immortals’ she interrupted, ’the people who do not die. I am still wrapping my head around that. It was all forklore.My grandmother used to tell us a thousand stories of the ancient people who were immortals. Their strength, speed and here is one, immortal.’
‘I cannot be with you Vashti, was will both be banished. Unless you become one of us. My mother sought my uncle’s advice, who is strongly against staining the family line.
‘I had to fight him to come here.I came here to ask for your hand in marriage, Vashti, marry me.I will stake myself before I let my centuries’ old practices run my life.’
He was now sitting across her, on the bed, legs crossed, with the ring in his left hand. His right hand grabbed her right hand. His new vicious look with intense passion, like he would snatch her out of that room before she even spoke the next word and leave town the same night. He was prepared to travel for days on end far from his delinquent family. He couldn’t bring himself to turning sweet Vashti into a blood hound. To him, blending meant full blending. He would protect her with his last eternal breath. Not that that made a difference, he’d still protect her nonetheless.
All she could think of was her sister’s words that afternoon in her room, from her misguided perceptions.’Monsters,’which she whispered
‘They are all monsters’
Her brows knitted in a frown, not scared.She was still holding his hand, a centuries’ old hand she thought. It’s as if she was waiting for reality to dawn, wake up from a lucid dream, or for a decision to be forced on her. What was the rational way to think in this situation anyway?
He smiled, slyly, cupping his hands on hers.
Nineteen years old
She was to most an emotionally detached lass.
Not cold, for she was sweet and sensitive with a glowing genuine smile every time she had that spark in her eye. Always. Just distant from the messy emotions people had. She preferred to lead her life without over analyzing the situation. Simply enjoying the moment but completely detached from what it did to her emotions. It was a win to her if she felt and showed no feelings without being cold. Aloof.
The spark that lit up as she smiled with her eyes, was for the good she saw in everybody, highly optimistic that each soul she interacted with couldn’t possibly be capable of hurting another.
By now you can guess what this story is about. That she was gravely mistaken.
But not so soon, no.
In her last teen year, nineteen, when most girls are known to be real rude,but faking it, as they phase out of teen hood, she had just had the most electric connection.
It was the kind of connection that shredded the common sense of even the most logical person. Every single time they were together they had jittery nerves.
At its infancy, in the thread of their conversation, they both confessed to a feeling of recognition. A many lifetimes before kind of recognition. The immortal one.
By day one, this was their texting,
‘I feel like I have known you all my life!’
By day seven,
‘I hear voices in my head, I don’t know, maybe I have been through so much in life’
‘Am a real friend, that’s the gift I can give you’ she replied
They were having no struggle getting along, like two kids who met at a totally adult party. Feeling blessed by life.
So by day thirteen, she was waking up to
‘Roses are red
Violets are blue
You add energy to my life, sweetness
The kind of pep talk you write your lady when you haven’t talked to her for two days straight, to escape the dog house. Except in their case, they were talking to each other through out their busy days.
This couldn’t pass for another corny fling. She was a straight A student in high school and he was a well-respected computer technology innovator working for the ministry. Smart enough to separate foolery from reality.
So to punctuate it all, just as a customary law, on day eighteen, he texted her
‘What is wise to avoid on a first date?
‘Ha-ha right, I will pick you up on Saturday at nine in the morning’
See, they did not need a date to build familiarization or connection. The universe had already done that.
So he took her for a surprise drive to a farm far out of town.
He enjoyed observing her, as she ranted on her beautiful mind to him, taking keen notice as she actively gestured her story telling, as if he was directing her for a scene.
Her innocent face.
Half of it covered with that long black luscious hair.
Her genius way of turning simple outfits into unique style statements that represented her being eloquently. Just as she had done on that day. It wasn’t the outfits he loved most. It was how she was so attuned to what matched her persona. Rugged jeans, enough to be funky but still modest, a bikers black jacket, a white t-shirt as simple and untainted as her, with the brown heels. Elegant and easy. Just like her.
They enjoyed the fresh breath air out of town as they walked on the sidelines of the little farm.
Affirming it as a perfect place to build a house at. Logically it was.However,even in their fast paced affair, it was way too early to fantasize on a home together. But you can bet in the back of their mind, it was a buzzing thought.
In the evening after he had taken her back to her home, she asked him if he was involved with anyone.
‘I met someone two years ago, tried building it, but with you, with my intelligence and your sweetness I will build something successful this time’
She loved that.
As they spent more time together, she admired the quickness and cockiness of his smile.
How low his jeans ran down his hips.
The vicious but protective smile he stared her down with.
The depth of his voice.
His full beard was the most alluring masculinity of his face.
The keenness and swiftness of his eye.
All this was perfect to her, she wouldn’t change a thing. It became the standard of good-looking in a guy, something she didn’t have before, an eye for grading a man’s looks.
Unlike before, when she had no answer to her friends’ question of what her type of guy is, now she had a pretty vivid picture of her type.
Fell for him hook, line and sinker.
The reality of their chemistry had become too massive to be easily dismissed now. Even to her. As aloof as she was, she could feel he wasn’t one of those guys she could simply run over and forget in a month.
As much as she tried refraining from wanting to see him, now she was almost always blowing his phone up.
Wanting to just see him, even for an hour or two.
She was about to learn just how slithery some souls are.
His time became limited, his phone always busy.
Was he was secretly devising an easy way out? She wondered.
He didn’t pass up as one of the hit and run guys. He had been too involved with her to be guile.
She needed answers. All class was out the window now. She blew his phone up day and night. Not once did he pick it.Not even to give her an excuse. Simply vanished.
It had been tales to her that men do disappear, until then. She was scared,confused,hurt,angry and anxious.
What she did not know, was that, he had just wanted a taste of her. She was too precious a being not be experienced. But not with the heaviness of anything close to a regular love affair, she was a reality he couldn’t face.
He had been scouting for a friend with benefits.
To him she was too simple and traditional to handle an urbanized affair. The one that fizzles over after some months. A friend with benefits. To him a friend with benefits understands the contract states that there will be absolutely no open friendly communication. He didn’t have to be as genuine as a friend to have her as a friend with benefits. Something he should have renamed to enemy with benefits. Still he’d walked into her life, teased her with forever. Her only fault had been being a real thing in his fake world. He too had felt the heat of the moment, different from any other of his conquests. Their difference being he wasn’t as modest to admit it.She was anybody’s type. Sultry looks and a vulnerable heart. A silent and fun demeanor.
When the reality set in, his cowardice set in.
A month passed before he called her. He bluntly told her he was on vacation with his wife. No he wasn’t broken up as she’d previously concluded from the little information of his last lover that he’d let out. He had only mentioned of having tried to build forever with someone for two years and failing at it.He didn’t say it was still ongoing or reconciled.
He said he had given her all the signs and she hadn’t asked for any further clarification.
She couldn’t think of a single sign. He had no ring marks on his fingers.
Called her at any time of day or night.
His apartment had no female touch.
Spent his evening and weekend with her.
For the love of the universe the man had said his intelligence would build them a successful love!
So was it her aloofness? Maybe she dismissed the fact she did not know not more than one of his friends.
Or his workplace.
Or why she didn’t seek to understand how a twenty eight year old fellar had no family or relationship responsibilities. She blamed herself for not listening to her doubts.
Still she wondered, how someone could gamble with someone’s soul for his own pleasure. A life. Reducing her to a mere memory. A piece in his collections. Just a picture to hold and mesmerize as a successful conquest.
She sobbed for months on end. Angry and still confused for she hadn’t been keen before to master her own emotions and intuition.
Time came she had to leave for university, slowly picked herself up and off to another country for studies. It was perfectly timed. Just weeks after the devastating experience.
A new experience would be a great way to forget and begin again. She swore to never be so unsuspecting again. She had all her energy focused on herself. Filling up her broken heart with a new life. She worked two jobs in business school. Gradually eroding away the emotions eroding her. Success would be her best revenge.
A revenge she served hot and heavy when she returned back home as a manager in a top supermarket in her hometown.
It was revenge without the hatred that she’d left with. Going back home had her remembering how lost in puppy love she had been before she left.
She had no hate or ill will in her blood for her past. She even met him a few times off work at his request. Just to prove to herself how far she had come in redeeming herself. Reminiscing on how she would fantasize on living with her past love was a ridiculous idea now. She would have been a wife to a heartless fellar, unaccomplished and spending her time indoors raising babies she wasn’t even certain she wanted at the time. Young love.
Tragedy and time equaled comedy.
She was basking in her achievements.
Even had her magnetic smile back. He still wanted her. His urge wasn’t any less than when they had first met.
This time it was her who stared him up, viciously pleased with the look of hidden regret on his face. It was her turn to walk away.
She didn’t adore him anymore. He was certainly no longer her type.
His raw appealing ways just seemed unrefined now.
The only guile nature he had now was of how to get back in her good graces.
His new slithery ways was handing her gifts like a movie called Second Chance, hoping she will read the signs.
Her innocent but slightly insulted look and the biker style she had maintained but revamped, was a picture in his mind he was now holding with regret. Not arrogant pride.
No matter how many times he reincarnated, to her no level fatal attraction would ever over ride common sense or intuition. Even mambo jumbo of an immortal lover would have to be accompanied by human decency of the suitor.
I mean it would be such an injustice to Cupid if she assumed that Cupid, the baby, who wore diapers was to decide for her, an adult, who would be her perfect immortal lover, in the name of the universe.
And she laughed at that thought.
Twenty six years old
Two months since she left her home town seemed like so long ago. She missed home. The pancakes and cupcakes her mum made at four o’clock for tea were her favorite balanced diet. She carried two plates from the kitchen in each hand for pancakes and cupcakes. A balanced diet.
It was her reward to herself for having a vegan lunch and cutting back on sugar so heavily. It had become easier to stick to her new food style, one month into it and her rosy cheeks and toned body making her a doll of a woman.
She delighted herself in annoying her brother who had gotten used to not ask her to bring his plate of cupcakes and tea to him.
‘Food doesn’t walk!’ she loved yelling at him.
‘I just heard your slave bells ringing, It’s nothing’ said her brother.
‘Cut it you two ‘intervened their mother.
‘It’s history ma, it already happened. Move on ‘he’d say
Her mother was a strong little sized woman who wouldn’t have even the slightest belligerent tone in her house. Especially in regards to the black community. She gave both her children African names.Tiwa and Banji, her annoyingly satisfying son. She loved to tell her friends who would still listen to her repetitive story that English names were slave names. She took pride in her warrior spirit against racism even in the slightest. To her the black people were awakening to even more equality and she had to do her part in that movement.
That warrior spirit had sprinkled down to her children. To Tiwa it translated not to be in the antiracism campaign like her mother but lively intelligence and a witty mouth.
She knew she got that energy from her mother. To her brother she often thought it was the reason he was a hyperthyroid rat on steroids. With all the smart little comments he had, of course he had a job as a celebrity lifestyle commentator on the local newspaper.
Commenting on sly little things like a wrong choice of hat or shoes and spinning it to a result of worsening life situation, rehab rumors and what not.
His sister was the one celebrity he would never in a million copies smear dirt on.
Tiwa was a tantalizing young lady with a voice that matched her look.
A 7.00 O’clock news anchor.
Her whole life was one the little girls and teenagers set the goals as.
Beauty, fame and the few publicized vacations were glamorous enough. Not to mention the rock on her middle finger visible to even the smallest screen in a home. She was engaged to an Italian businessman who often joked he couldn’t relocate to Tiwa’s neighborhood since it did not have a big church as Italians loved to live next to churches.
That was the half of her. Tiwa with the smooth good life.
The other half was the work not many loved to put in.
She was known not to put in long hours or extra days but to be diligent as she often said.
Her job was excellent on and off screen.
She was known to say, ‘Your level of excellence is equivalent to your quiet time’
If she could it have it her way, she would have been on vacation every weekend especially in the previous year while she was jobless. But she often loved her quiet time. It was almost her trademark that Sunday was her alone time.Well,along with almost all the late evenings.
That year, 2000, she was literally an oxymoron. She still had that organic and exotic beauty appeal and a smile that lit her up.
To the world she was as solid as ever.
Inside, she was a mess.
She had lost her job at the law firm, lost her house on mortgage, consequently lost her friends. Ended her hopeless relationship.
When she moved back home, her whole universe fit in a suitcase.
Her room aggravated the situation. To add on the fact she was now financially dependent on her parents again, her room was still decorated with her teenage spirit. Her celebrity crushes filled one wall and the closet was full of funky little outfits from the one dollar stores.
It was an all-time low she was yet to understand. Her daily routine after a little revamping of her room included watching her favorite cartoon shows, Sofia the first and Brave on cable just like a good dependent homely girl does. She was almost doing it for the pun of it.
Brave the Irish girl on Brave, had a little likening to her. The long Irish red curls. For some reason she hoped this likening had more to it like Brave’s braveness.
She spent her days replaying her boss’s words.’ You had one job, to solve a single land feud with full documents provided and you couldn’t.Damn!A paralegal could close that case with closed eyes. It was nice knowing you Tiwa.’
The words ate her up every day till she slowly began to accept her fate.Fate, became the new word.
So when she was watching Brave on Wednesday morning, fate is what she had the witch that was undoing Brave’s curse say. She sat up to replay it as if the universe was serving her wisdom from some Olympian height.
“Fate be changed
Mend the bond
Torn by pride”
Her new words.
Over the next few days, the first two sentences were her new words.
“Fate be changed
So she cleared her to do list of the next week, basically Brave, to be brave.
It was a heart wrenching experience unearthing all those unpleasant emotions and choices that had landed her on her mother’s sofa.
She was not only slaying her demons but dissecting them. Finding out what they had been feeding on.Self hate and fear.
She was running back to her authentic self.
No matter how far she had run away from them she would finally run back to herself.
“Fate be changed
Mend the bond”
She went as far as realizing that the core reason she had decide to pursue law was to match up with her high school friends.
For a reason, she herded buddies who pursued law too. Perhaps it was her sharp intellect and mouth that matched up with their nature.However,she could feel it in her gut, she had no passion for it.She did it anyway to fit in.
“Fate be changed
Mend the bond
Torn by pride”
The scales from her eyes fell off right that moment. Her body felt lighter with relief.
Her mind was reborn.
Her only to do list now would be to find a new niche. Not a lukewarm interest but a fire inside her.
Over the next weeks, her new word was rebirth.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes she was running towards the new.
Believing beyond logic the unknown was better than the past. She told herself ‘rebirth’ everyday even as she assisted her brother in his office. She was damn proud of herself for this salvation from the previous voices scorching her soul.
After work she would wander to the other side of the building to acquit herself with the news crew. Admiring how regular they went on their day. They spoke with regular life slang and stories. Not as glammed and composed as she saw them on a screen. Anyone could be them. She often jumped on the seat behind the table on off hours just to get the feel of it.Like she did as a little girl trying on her mother’s heels playing the part of an anchor reading the bible. It was a silly game but it sure felt better than her last job.
It was in the newsroom where she met Willy, who professionally commended her good looks and voice and graceful manner. He would be the one to fight for her to the news producer to casually train her for anchoring.
A few trainings later, she was perfect. Her first appearance on the four o’clock Sunday news fit her like a glove.
With her new tested and proven belief she envisioned and affirmed boundless opportunities.
To trust the instinctive little voice. The one you hear when you are still. Clear of a to do list. That likes juice over tea, heels over sandals-shirts over nightdresses, long hair over short, red wild hair over a neat brunette look. It was the same voice that would like newsrooms over courtrooms, a foreign admirer over all her local admirers. A bungalow stretched out with enough rooms to house her entire extended family over her mother’s sofa.
That life is laid out in front of her, for her to wish upon a star with a mustard’s seed sized faith. To be experimented unapologetically.Instinctively just as much as thoughtfully.
Brave and the witch