Janet & Alex (Part 1). 11th Feb. 2015.

 

Please note: This is an old Facebook note from last year. I’m including it here because a) I really liked it, b) it fits in the DustVille series, and c) I need to continue/finish the story.

[Fiction.]

3:16AM. Kyambogo

“Janet.”

The word appears out of the sky, in vibrant pinks and lush greens, billowing out of the clouds, drifting slowly into consciousness briefly before evanescing back into thin air.

She stretches out a finger and traces out the letters where the name had been. The clouds part playfully around her fingers, swirling, prancing and dancing like tiny puffy cloud people.

“Janet.”

There it is again. This time it pops out in a lush red, larger, more defined, more luminous. In the distance, a little bird flies into view, whistling merrily; a happy little tune that reminds her of her childhood and the endless Sunday afternoon cartoons, when life was about simpler things, like a dislike for tomatoes and onions and, the visits to the ice-cream vendor around the corner who had the largest fluffiest cotton candy clouds.

The little bird turns and flies straight into the “a” letter, which yawns very slightly and swallows the bird whole. A feather pops out and drifts, very lazily, into her hand.

“I’m all alone now,” the feather says, “what happens now?”

She laughs, and taking the feather by the quill, sweeps away the word, dispersing the letters into the sky, turning it a dark red. Odd, she thinks, it looks just like blood.

“JANET!”

The words burn themselves into the sky, bursting into flame as soon as they appear. The ground starts shaking, everything around her is on fire. In the distance, a dam bursts open and a river of blood and fire rushes towards her.

She screams loudly, and her eyes pop open.

“Janet. Wake up.”

Disoriented, Janet squints into the darkness, pushing the bedcovers back. It takes a few moments for her to find her bearings.

“Alex? What time is it?”

“It doesn’t matter, we need to talk.”

She finds her phone and switches it on, the glow suddenly illuminating the dark room, throwing sharp shadows everywhere. As she checks the time, the phone beeps a warning: LOW BATTERY.

She turns angrily at him, thrusting the phone in his face.

“Alex, dammit. It’s 3AM.”

He cringes, shrinking away from the harsh light and from her anger. Taking a moment to let his eyes adjust, he turns back to her, half his face in shadow. He looks at the phone, then at the slender fingers framing the phone. He takes her hand, and switches off the phone.

Holding her hand in his, he runs his finger lightly over the little ring with the little stone set in it. He felt her starting to pull her hand away. She was still angry.

“It doesn’t matter what time it is, baby.”

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

“I’m dying.”

In the silence, the phone’s beep is louder than a gunshot. Battery critical.

“I was at Dr. Semwanga’s today. I’m dying. He says if I’m lucky, I’ll have three weeks.”

The phone beeps again, twice, and goes off.

6:46 AM.

Janet didn’t notice it was morning until the warm sunlight softly caressed her upper arm. A smile crept unbidden.

She loved waiting for the morning in this spot. The wicker chair was nicely cushioned, with three gorgeous throw pillows that she’d knitted and stuffed herself. She loved the violent clash of colour between the seat and the cushions; a cool orange contrasting sharply with the patterned green and red of the throws.

The chair was a little refuge; a place where she could curl up and lose herself in a book or a cup of coffee, or just sit and daydream, watching the sun rise up through the palm trees right outside the window. It was also a place with memories that never failed to make her blush.

She gently stroked a pillow, the green one with the puppy embroidered on it, fingers lightly tracing a tiny strand of thread that had come loose. It was one of those annoying threads that somehow lose their way and forget their purpose and so keep getting longer and longer as they unravel, but yet, somehow keep the seam from tearing. She had always meant to fix it, that loose thread. In fact, she thought, maybe if she fixed it now, she could stop the damage…

“Babe…”

Janet looked up, slightly startled. Alex was sitting across from her on the large sofa, leaning forward, his left arm resting against the armrest and his right elbow digging into his thigh. His right hand partially covering his mouth, one finger across the bridge of his nose.

His brow deeply furrowed, he was looking at her with his usual intensity, that constant seriousness that had, for some strange reason, attracted her to him. He always knows when it happens, she thought, and turned away, embarrassed.

“Alex. I’m sorry, I drifted.”

“It’s okay, baby. I know. Are you here now?”

“Yes. Yes. I am. Thank you, Alex.”

She got up and walked to the kitchen, a small part of her wondering where she put that damn needle and thread, and asking herself if fixing it now would change anything. Why, she wondered, hadn’t she fixed it earlier? If only she had found the loose thread in time, the pillow would be fine now, and look as good as new.

She poured herself a hot cup of coffee and walked back, but this time, sat on the other end of the sofa. Alex turned to look at her. Intense. Anxious.

“What do we do now? What happens next?” She had asked the question a thousand times in the past three hours, after the screaming and the crying and the fighting and the cursing had somehow stopped.

“Well,” he chuckled. “At least we don’t have to worry about the wedding.”

“Damn you, Alex!”

She threw a pillow at him. And then laughed.

“Yeah,” she said.  “We don’t have to, do we? My mother will be so happy. She never really liked you, you know?”

He laughed again, loudly this time.

“Remember the first time I met her? With those super shady dreadlocks I had on? And the mid-seventies sunglasses that we all thought were the epitome of cool? A wannabe Rastafarian with the vocabulary of a poet. “A very good evening to you, Mrs. Nanfuka. It’s an absolute honor, and, I must add, a delightful pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.” And then your mum in her classic haughty manner, “Oh, shut up, boy. Jan, who the hell is this? And what’s that… thing on his head? Never mind, tuli late nnyo, Uncle Martin atulinze.””

Janet choked on her coffee, spilling some of it on the sofa. She giggled hard.

“You’re such an asshole, Alex. And I love you so very damn much.”

“I know, baby. I know.”

She put the coffee cup on the floor, and stretched out on the sofa, resting her head on his lap, her legs dangling over the other side. Her hand reached down, searching for her coffee cup. Somehow, her fingers ended up under the sofa, and she found a little metal box. She pulled it out and smiled. It was her embroidery kit. Inside, she knew, she would find a needle and thread. But what good, she wondered, would it be now?

As she looked up at him, turning the metal box in her hand, fiddling with the clasp, Alex reached down and stroked her cheek, tracing a finger along her lower lip.

“What are we going to do, Alex? What happens next?”

“How about…”

He leaned down and kissed her softly.

“… we take it one day at a time?”

Outside the window, awakening from its slumber, a bird started singing, a tune that reminded her of a time when life was simpler. Of feathers falling from the sky and huge, fluffy cotton candy clouds.

 

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