It was way past seven in the evening and The girl was a bundle of irascible nerves as she sat at the edge of the doorstep, her gaze intent on the road that lay beyond the fenced gate.
Mhama is never this late, she whispered to herself again and sighed.
Sisi Geti, the help, keeps telling the girl to come inside but this falls on deaf ears as The girl remains deeply trapped inside her unpleasant thoughts. After one or two more stern warnings, she finally comes inside with a long face and petulant retorts which make Sisi Geti chuckle to her well pleased self.
Sisi Geti’s hips seem to be swaying to the rhythm of the discordant clamour she is making with her forks and pans as she washes the dishes and The girl observes intently, imagining to herself what it must feel like being an adult. What its like being a grown woman with a curvaceous body that looks as though it’s hording endless caverns of warmth within its many dips and folds. She feels drawn in by the feminine gestures Sisi Geti’s body ripples into and out of, even when she stands still her body seems to be telling a story, one that The girl feels warm and friendly spinning around her like a huge pair of invisible feminine ghostly arms drawing her into tight embrace .
And although most of Sisi Geti’s body is covered in a dull ill-fitting frock that hides her shoulder blades and everything below them down to the space below her knees, The girl conjures to her imagination all the bare possibilities that must lie under there. She finds the bodies of pubescent and adult women rather interesting and captivating, she likes to think of them and emboss her own face onto them so as to see what she might look like once mother nature starts to prune out the simple and innocuous leaving the vulgar, sensual and salacious budding and bursting out of her.
She likes to think of other things beyond what she wishes to see on others and herself too, things like texture and scent. Sometimes she wraps her little arms tightly around Sisi Geti and breathes in her entire being as though her very life depended on that laboured inhale. Women like Sisi Geti smell different to matronly women like her Mhama and matronly women like her Mhama smell different to young women like Chipochedu and young women like Chipochedu smell different to the even younger women in her class that are budding prematurely and these too smell different to delicate and posh women like Tete Chi whom she has only ever seen and touched once in her life.
Of all the grown and growing woman scents she has taken in, The girl has marked her favourites.
Tete Chi, smells like something expensive you are not meant to touch for fear that it might break and your whole life’s wages couldn’t possibly be enough to replace it. Something with delicate promises of worlds that never before made their existence known to you and now that they have you realise that it all begins to make sense why they were always a closely guarded secret. It was meant for your protection because now your own world has begun to unravel from self-awareness, inadequacy and dreams too expensive to lay your head on and soak in.
Although Sisi Geti always smells like hard-work and something ever in search for a man to lay a claim on, The girl enjoys her scent best. She smells like all the things she is curious about, nudity and bodies free to please each other because they are old enough. She smells like something wild that knows how it feels to be tamed by things The girl is too young to name whenever they appear on late night TV, while everyone else is already fast asleep. So all she does is gasp and gawk.
Sisi Geti sashays across the room with the last batch of dishes in hand and bends over as she begins to pack these away. The girl deliberates on her contours, bent over like this she begins to wonder about texture. Her mind recalls the time she pretended to fall from the bed in her sleep, landing next to Sisi Geti who slept on a reed mat on the floor adjacent to her bed. The Girl had willed herself to stay still long enough for her mind to be assured that the fall had not woken up Sisi Geti. Upon ascertaining that indeed Sisi Geti was fast asleep, The girl had proceeded to move closer to her body that exuded that warm feminine kind of divine welcome.
She was cautious with her movements, gently stroking her palms against Sisi Geti’s nipples in such a passive manner as to not wake her up. She was curious, she wanted to know how the nipples felt and imagine them her own. And as her hand brushed against the sleeping woman’s belly in retreat, the soft curly scant hairs made the insides of her palms burn with the realisation of an even greater curiosity. So she quietly led her palms to Sisi Geti’s panties and moderately inserted her hand.
The tuft of hair that met them was prodigious, kinky yet soft and providing a thick padding of comfort for her sore inquisitive palms. The girl allowed her hand to relax on the warm and cushion-y discovery as her fingers toyed with the springy coil of hairs until they got tired. She went to sleep with her hand firmly nested in those panties and when she awoke the next morning, she found herself comfortably lying in her own bed.
The girl is brought back to reality by the sound of the gate being opened, she runs outside to meet her Mhama and all the fears that had been festering and bubbling within her are soon forgotten, even her curiosities too. The girl stops in her tracks as she sees Chipochedu struggling to get out of the passenger seat, her Mhama is taking out some bags from the back of the car and when she notices her she motions for her to come and carry the bags inside.
The girl frowns at the bags and proceeds to call out to Sisi Geti to come help. When Chipochedu hears the voice of The girl, her eyes lift away from the seat belt they had been so preoccupied with and narrow in on her. Upon determining that it really is who she imagined it would be, Chipochedu begins to giggle whilst clapping her able hand against the other.
Chipochedu is making such a great show of all her emotions that even the car has begun to sway gently to the force being exerted. Mhama walks over to Chipochedu to help with the seatbelt and The girl grimaces, wishing her sight wouldn’t rouse so much unwanted attention. As soon as she is free, Chipochedu hobbles towards The girl and thrusts her arms awkwardly around her. The girl wants to back away from the embrace but she knows better than to attempt such a thing under the coaxing and piercing gaze of her Mhama and so she bears the brief moment of intimacy with her old friend before escaping the stranglehold. She cusses under her breath as she wipes the drool slowly cascading down her shoulder, where Chipochedu’s face had been a few seconds ago.
Mhama wraps her arm around Chipochedu and leads her into the house, whispering some rather interesting secrets into her ear judging by Chipochedu’s severe giggle. The girl presses her hands against her ears in exasperation and mumbles something unkind under her breath.
Seeing those two going at it like that makes her want to heave.
She hates it when her Mhama does this, rubbing so close to Chipochedu like that as if it will convince an entire world of intolerant able bodied and minded folk that there really is nothing wrong with her, nothing dirty and sinful at all about her continued existence.
She wishes Mhama wasn’t related to Chipochedu’s mother, that her own blood wasn’t unclean by association and that people like Chipochedu lived on their own piece of land far far away from other normal people. Most of all she wishes that the other kids in the neighbourhood were not as mean to her for things she had no control over. She wishes they didn’t taunt her every day for being related to ‘muDownsy’, she wishes they could just realise that the events that led to the circumstances of their collective existence were nothing but an unfortunate game of cosmic lotto. She just so happened to have picked the wrong ticket and ended up related to the subject of their taunts, it could happen to any one of them, really.
But this last thought The girl immediately sought to erase because if life’s circumstances were determined by a mere lottery ticket and if it could happen to anyone, then it would mean that she too could be in the same predicament as Chipochedu. This realisation of this made her sick to her stomach, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth which she gurgled out with some tap water before going back inside the house.
The girl’s appetite at this point was beyond ruined, all she wanted to do was show Mhama her homework and head to sleep. When she eventually went inside, she found her Mhama sitting at the kitchen table with Chipochedu who was eating and talking in between mouthfuls, from the look of the floor directly below where Chipochedu sat. There were bits of sadza strewn all over and meandering trails of the usavi staining the kitchen tiles. The girl shook her head with a scowl on her face she didn’t try to hide this time and walked past them , straight into the spare room where she was to leave the bags.
The light in the spare room was switched off. The silence, solitude and darkness seemed to draw out of the room making The girl wish she could stay there all night. It set her mind at ease and transported her to a place where she could just breathe. Where no Chipochedus would manifest with the sole purpose of embarrassing her into non-existence or worse, into an insignificant existence. It was a space where even the air smelt as though it had been purged of everything that might taunt her existence, even the vibrancy of the colours in this space spoke of the death of inconvenient familial bonds that made one the butt of all playground jokes. But this in itself was fleeting; it was a moment or a beautiful dream so hard to cling onto that she could have sworn it left an after sensation of gooey slipperiness in her mind.
It was said that Chipochedu wasn’t always non-able-bodied. When she was a toddler she didn’t have a limp in her step and she even spoke full coherent sentences that made actual sense for her age. Something strange and numinous had happened along the way, leaving her disabled and practically mute save for the unpleasant noises and giggles that always peppered her interactions with the people she’d grown a liking to. It is one of those unpleasant noises that the The girl is currently attempting to block out as she gets ready for bed.
There is a resilient unwelcoming expression on The girl’s face meant to shoo away Chipochedu.
When Chipochedu finally concedes, The girl begins to wonder what Chipochedu would have looked like if it weren’t for her disability. She also wonders if when she sleeps, Chipochedu dreams in her correct age and not the one her mind is currently limited to. She wonders about her desires, if she has any and what shape and colour they take on when she closes her eyes. She wonders so much until she starts feeling sad for Chipochedu and her eyes well up with tears. Before The girl decides it is time to court her own dreams, she prays to the heavens for them to restore Chipochedu’s entire being to what it was meant to be.
The girl wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of her parents quarrelling.
She strains her ear against the walls of her room that are adjacent to her parent’s bedroom. Her father is angry that he wasn’t consulted about Chipochedu moving in with his family. Several times he asks Mhama who the head of the family is, to which Mhama keeps repeating that Chipochedu is her sister’s child. Dhedhi insists that they can’t afford to feed and take care of one more mouth, especially when the extra mouth is a special needs case.
This is not a halfway house, he shouts and Mhama tells him that she will take care of all of Chipochedu’s financial needs. This seems to incense Dhedhi very much because he storms out of the room and leaves the house.
The next morning The girl’s father is not at the breakfast table and this leaves her feeling mighty anxious. That evening she hears them fighting once again.
‘I’m not the one that said he should touch her like that. I’m not the demon that possessed him.’
‘And so must she pay for something that was done to her? If I didn’t know you I’d say you are Satan in the flesh Isaac.’
‘Hey! I don’t care, I just don’t want my children to grow up with her. Who knows what she may start teaching them. ‘
‘I don’t come up with the stats okay, I read about them. So many girls who have been victims of sexual abuse end up prostitutes, you know why? It’s because they realise they liked it. Look at her, she’s 17 and she acts like she’s 5, she can’t tell what’s right from wrong. That’s why it took your sister so long to realise that her husband was abusing her. Doesn’t that scare you? Do you realise that to her all this was very normal? That she might try and continue doing it with someone else? Why aren’t you worried about this? Tell me!’
‘What if this was your child Isaac? Wouldn’t you want someone to protect her if you didn’t have the power? How would you feel if someone else was saying all those evil things about your own flesh and blood?’
‘I’m trying to protect my own flesh and blood damnit! I don’t want her near my children. I’m done discussing this with you.’
‘God have mercy on you, Isaac. May others be more merciful with you for the things you have no control over than you’ve been to others.’
The next morning The girl woke up to find most of Chipochedu’s items already packed. And when she stood at the end of the driveway waving goodbye, she wondered to herself if Chipochedu was aware that she’d liked it, if at all her mind had been lucid to the act at the same rate as her body. She thought about the day before when she had showered with Chipochedu, she thought about her scent again and wondered whether she too would have liked it if Chipochedu had stayed long enough for the two of them to play house.
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For more from Dzivaramazwi chekc out her other short story A Wilderness.