A work in progress, please give honest opinions. It's my first attempt at a novel
|It’s been six months since this started, six months since I ventured outside of this doom. The darkness I am enveloped in gets deeper and deeper as my heart gets harder and colder. Six months ago I was young and happy, now I am bitter and twisted like an old woman whose life has brought nothing but hardship. Looking around my blackened prison, longing for the days when I had a glimmer of hope, a glimpse of light. Those days are long gone. Light no longer has a home here, with me. Darkness and despair are my friends now; they keep me in my isolated state, preventing joy from approaching me like two unwelcomed bodyguards.
I bask in their protection, although an unimaginable existence. Despair watches over me while darkness keeps me sheltered. Happiness isn’t welcomed in this place, such frivolous emotions are banned from here, and my bodyguards make sure they keep their distance. I am so protected within my prism of black; I fear the sight of colour coming back into my life. I look in the mirror at the black circles around my eyes, black like my heart, black like my prison. The reflection in the mirror tries to conjure up a smile, an image not seen for so long. But once again, my protective cell will not allow such acts of rebellion. Smiles are not allowed, banished along with all other joyous acts or emotions. Back to my pit, I crawl, the bed, my safety net.
Life was not always this way. Six months previously life was heading down a different path. I push those memories aside. I don’t want to upset my new friends who have remained so loyal to me over these past six months. My mind can’t help but wander back to the days when my friends were in human form, when the protection was in the arms of my beloved. I ignore despair’s cries and delve deeper into these memories. My beloved’s face flashes into my mind, an image I have ignored for six months. I fight back the image and lay my head on my pillow. My bodyguards have won for now, but I will escape this prison soon enough.
Today once again, I am ready to rebel. Today I want to face the images I have been hiding from. Today my bodyguards will have to deal with the light coming in as I allow images of Shamwari to seep through. Shamwari, my beloved. Shamwari, I say aloud. The words echo around my prison like a tennis ball being batted around a glass room. Shamwari, I say again, just to let my friends know that I still remember. I sense despair losing its grip on my thoughts as I picture that day. The happiest day of my life, then it strikes. The memory of how that day ended, how can a day so magical end so bleak? I picture how the day came to a close. The flashing blue lights, the blaring sirens. I try to fight the image but it won’t go. Why did I ignore despair’s cries and delve deeper? Shamwari laying there, no life, no soul. I am not brave enough for this. I cry out to darkness to save me. Depression resurfaces and I skulk deeper into his safety net. I let depression take a hold of me; once again my rebellion has failed.
My life is not what it once was. I cannot remain like this. I crawl out of bed and head for the mirror. This time, I stare hard at the reflection staring back at me. I almost don’t recognise the person standing before me. Her black skin is dull and pale, her curly afro hair is matted and her big brown eyes are glassed over, no emotion, no soul. Like Shamwari on that day. The girl in the mirror doesn’t look like me. I watch as once again the image in the mirror tries to smile. She manages to form a grin and her whole persona changes. I feel stronger today and now I allow that day to resurface in my mind. My bodyguards are losing their grip on my thoughts, losing their control on my emotions. My mind drifts back to that day…
I woke up that morning, six months ago, at my best friend Tanya’s house. “Ready?” She asked me, her face full of excited. “As ready as I’ll ever be!” I exclaimed, mirroring her excitement. Her house was buzzing with chaos, hairdressers, make-up artists, bridesmaids. It was my wedding day. My stomach flipped as the phone vibrated on the kitchen table. “My Baby” flashed on the screen; I dived towards the phone as if my life depended on answering the call. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered harder. “Good morning beautiful can’t wait to see you my princess. Only four hours until you become Mrs Nnamdi.”
I look at the mirror and watch a tear roll down the pitiful woman’s cheek, my cheek.
“See you in four hours Mr Nnamdi, I love you.”
I sat down and allowed the hairdresser and make-up artist to work their magic. As my hair was pulled this way and that, make-up was smoothed onto my skin, and eyelashes were curled with thick black mascara. Two hours later I was complete. I looked stunningly beautiful, a complete contrast to the woman in the mirror today.
It was time to slip into my dress. I held it up with care, the way a mother holds her new born baby. The dressed was ivory with a bead and crystal corset bodice, a flowing silk skirt and train. I slipped on the dress delicately and looked at myself admiringly. I looked like an African Cinderella, only better.
Shamwari and I had met 20 years previously. I was 5 and he was 6. I had just moved next door to him in Bow, East London. As the delivery van pulled up to my new yellow brick house, I turned to see a pair of bright green eyes staring suspiciously from behind a curtain, looking at the van. A pink tongue stuck out from a perfectly formed mouth on a dark chocolate coloured face. I cut a cold look at the green eyed chocolate face and turned to my mother who was directing the delivery men into the house.
The memory of a 6 year old Shamwari is unbearable, it makes my heart ache. The anxiety and pain are almost too much to bear. I’ve broken away from my new friends, wandered too far from their safety. I try to call them back, but Shamwari’s beautiful face, his little button nose, the silly face he pulled from behind the curtain are too engraved behind my eye lids. I close my eyes, shake my head but the image is too strong, too real. I grab my chest and try to catch my breath, I feel like I’m choking. I can’t breathe properly; the anxiety is making my chest tighter. I scream, but there is no one here to save me. Even my new friends are slowly deserting me and my human friends have long gone. I grab a pair of scissors on the dresser and look at my face in the mirror. The girl reflected back to me is distraught; she’s crying for my help, I have to save her. I open the scissor and slowly trace a line along my arm, and then another and another. I watch the blood trickle slowly down my arm and I fall back onto the bed. As soon as the pain hits, I gasp for air and it’s suddenly easier to breathe. I feel the adrenaline rushing through me. I feel like a drug is running through my veins, like a heroin addict who just took a hit of smack. The feeling is so strong, feels so good. I continue to watch the blood leaking out of my arm. Shamwari would call me silly, he would shout at me to stop, but I need this feeling. I grab a cigarette and light it, slowly inhaling the cancer inducing smoke trying to extend this new but somehow familiar feeling. With my free hand, I grab an antiseptic wipe from the chest of drawers and hold it down on my arm. The pain is now agony, stinging tenderly. The pain reminds me that I’m still alive, that I still feel. I’m still human, even if I am living like a ghost, alone with my non human friends to keep me company. A new friend arrives as I continue to breathe in the cigarette smoke, relief. I feel relief put his hand on my shoulder as I smoke the cigarette and continue to halt the flow of blood rushing from my arm. For a quick second, I relax; allowing relief to wash all over me but it doesn’t last. Despair and depression come running back to me. Relief disappears into the wilderness and I’m left with my pain and sorrow, and the memories of why I am alone. The feeling of being human disappears with relief as the pain in my arm turns into a dull aching and I bandage up the cuts.
This new but familiar brief feeling excites me. It’s different from anything I have felt in these past six months. I almost saw a flash of colour emerge with relief. I have a new friend, self inflicted pain; it’s like no other drug I could imagine. I grab the scissors and hold them close to my chest, my only tangible companion. The only thing that makes me feel alive. I’ve formed a bond with these scissors, and for the first time in six months, I feel a small sign of positive energy.
As my mother shouted directions at the removal men, the door of the next door neighbour’s house opened. A woman stepped out of the house, looking like an Egyptian queen. She had the same face as the boy from behind the curtain but older and with the same brilliantly bright green eyes. Her long waist length dreadlocks were wrapped in a multi coloured scarf and she was wearing a long African type dress made from the same fabric as the head scarf. She walked straight over to my mother and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Nakai and this is my son Shamwari.” She pointed at the boy from the curtain who was now sticking his head out of the front door. He walked over boldly and stuck his hand out to my mother who took it graciously as if this little twerp was of some importance. At this point I noticed that Shamwari too had locks, not as long as his mother’s though. They were neatly twisted and swung just below his chin. Shamwari’s mother bent down to my level and smiled the most electric smile at me, “and what’s your name?” I looked at Shamwari grinning like a buffoon and looked at his mother. I was finding it hard to imagine how this African Goddess had produced this munchkin standing before me although it was obvious. He was a spitting image of his mother but at that point in time I would never have acknowledged his beauty. “My name’s Kyanna,” I replied looking sheepishly.
My mother and Shamwari’s mother walked ahead of us in the direction of Shamwari’s house. Nakai had invited us to dinner, which was a relief considering the removal men were still setting up the house and who knew where the plates were at that moment in time. Their front door was painted black and glistened, like our door which was a navy blue. Shamwari turned to me, and looked deep into my eyes with those bright eyes, looking back with hindsight I could have sworn my heart skipped a beat but at the age of 5, it was a feeling I didn’t recognise. “Do you wanna play with my new Action Man set?” “Yeah ok.” As we walked into the house, the air was filled with the scent of a burning incense stick and the sound of reggae music.
I walk over to the chest of drawers and light the same incense stick; the scent sends waves of memories and emotions running through every ounce of my body. The same scent that was flowing through Nakai’s house on that day 20 years ago. I put out the stick. The scent, along with the flashback are almost too much for my heart to cope with. I allow the flashback of our first meeting to reappear in my mind.
A man walked down the stairs with a mini Shamwari in his arms, only female. He was the same dark chocolate complexion as Shamwari with dark brown eyes and locks slightly longer than Nakai’s and thicker. The baby in his arms looked like Shamwari but with soft, jet black curls. He introduced himself as Noah, Shamwari’s father. The baby was Shamwari’s sister, 1 year old Shamilah. Nakai and my mother continued to the kitchen chatting excitedly, the way women always do, followed by Noah and baby Shamilah. Shamwari led me up to his bedroom; it would be a bedroom I would become very accustomed with over the forthcoming years. We spent what seemed like hours but were probably 15 minutes fighting his Action Man figurine with his Incredible Hulk figurine before we ran down for dinner. As Shamwari’s family were Rastafarians, they were strict vegans. We ate a meal consisting of tomato and spinach pasta, tofu and delicious salad made with a whole range of vegetables. It was a meal I would learn was Shamwari’s favourite and something he cooked for me on numerous occasions. I remember the feeling of belonging and I knew then, at the age of 5, that I would grow to love these people as if they were my own family.
For the first time in six months, I wasn’t feeling pain as I fought my bodyguards from blocking this memory, but regret. Regret hadn’t surfaced before now. I regret that thinking about Shamwari should cause my whole body to ache, my chest to tighten and my lungs to search for oxygen. And I regret that I’m alone, without Shamwari in my arms. Regret isn’t a friend like the others; it doesn’t make me feel safe or content. Regret is an enemy I don’t want around. I lay back and close my eyes, drifting slowly into depression and despair, the only two constants in my life now. I pray, to who I don’t know, begging someone to prevent me from having that dream, that nightmare I have had every night since the dreaded day. Why I should think the dream won’t come to me now, I don’t know, but I hope nonetheless. I allow sleep to cocoon me, not even realising how tired I am until it gut punches me like a sack of potatoes smacking against my stomach.
I wake up with a jump, surprised by my shock awakening. It’s the same way I’ve woken up every night for six months, but I hoped tonight would be different after delving so deep into the memories, that fear may have allowed me to sleep peacefully, just once. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and shiver as the recollection of the nightmare springs to the surface. It’s always the same.