MiomboPublishing africawriting–  We humbly and confidently launch the great month of March  with a vibrant  short story from a mesmerizing storyteller Catherine Magodo – Mutukwa . The writer reminds us of the  value of women in our everyday lives.  MP would not like to preempt the   story of  its rich marrow. Readers  graze  your reading teeth into the  delicious flesh and marrow of the story Awakening . Miombo invites your  likes , comments and more follows. We need to  shape  our literary arts family together  for a better  global literary arts community. Contact us at miombopublishing@gmail.com.

 

She sighed, dropping her shoulders as if she was carrying a heavy load. She put the key into the keyhole and turned it, the door cracked open slowly revealing what was on the other side… but her feet wouldn’t move.

From the doorway, she could only make out the familiar setting in her head since she couldn’t see anything yet. Shuffling her feet, she made her way inside, finally. She switched on the light and stood in the middle of the room, yes, everything was still in its rightful place just as she had left it earlier that morning. The grey and black throw that matched the carpet and rug was meticulously folded and placed on the arm of the black leather sofa. On the far end stood a lonely 3-plate stove next to the grey fitted cabinets and sink with dishes neatly stacked on the dish rack. The whole room smelled clean, it looked clean.

Satisfied, she kicked off her heels and collapsed on the sofa behind her. She waited and listened, nothing…the silence was overpowering, she reached for the remote control and with the touch of a button the T.V roared to life. Flickering through the channels everything looked and sounded boring. It had nothing to do with the television shows but everything to do with some other complication in her life.  She finally settled for the food channel as if watching this channel would bring back her long lost appetite. On her back now, she stared at the ceiling, the white ceiling with no patterns, thinking, waiting, for something, anything…. Her palms were sweating and her heart racing, she reached for her forehead, no fever… “You have to get a grip on yourself, breathe, breathe, breathe!”

She shifted her small weight while the leather sofa protested in loud squawks. “I’ve never liked leather, it is cold and uninviting,” she thought aloud. She only agreed to purchase the lounge suite to please him. He… she swayed her head sideways to focus on the wall. The chiffon-coloured wall, with various sized picture frame assiduously positioned. There was one that stood out however, the one with the obsidian-coloured outer frame. There, there he was, HIM with his arms wrapped around her tiny waist with his clean-shaven face leaning close next to hers. He was whispering something into her ears and she couldn’t help it but giggle at his sweet nothings.

The sight of this picture brought a warm feeling in her heart, the kind that began to burn and the tears came. It wasn’t about him, the tears. It was about the dream. A casual glance at the T.V screen showed Nigella in her kitchen rustling up some salad while she playfully but skillfully plated a bowl with greens and some other stuff she assumed it had to be delicious from the way Nigella hmmed. She folded herself, burying her head in her chest just to hear her heart-beat, her eyes swam with tears and she squeezed them shut. “I can’t do this anymore,” she whispered and hugged herself.

Reluctantly she swung her feet onto the floor and sat upright. She picked up her handbag and shoes and headed for the bedroom, there; she neatly packed away her shoes and threw her bag on the bed.

The bedroom, a small cubicle off the main living area right next to the bathroom was sometimes her sanctuary yet at times it felt like a prison. There was no space for much except for the bed with hickory and cedar coloured linen and bedcover and continental pillows paired with standard ones lined up beautifully in front of the headboard. Over the headboard was a large window draped with curtains of matching colours facing south which hardly ever had any sunshine pass through it. Her little flatlet was on the first floor above a busy street from which the sounds of live engines bellowed.

In the small room, stood a decent sized walnut-coloured wardrobe, she opened it and pulled out her night gown. She slipped out of her slacks and blouse, tied her hair and went out of the room, switching off the light behind her. In the bathroom, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror. She stared long and hard, her mouth twitched, she couldn’t recognize the child she was once in the adult she had become. She wilted.

She ran her bath and sprinkled some bath salts which instantly released a soothing aroma meant to relax her tense muscles; she also added the bubbles and stepped into the huge tub. She lay on her back while the water and its contents worked its magic but even this…was not enough to tame her wild mind which had run away with her imagination. Her life was a puzzle she needed to figure out but trying to put the pieces together so they fit was again another thing altogether.   She was there but not really there, she cried with thoughts that lingered before she knew the sting of loss.

She lay with it whatever it was that made her heart ache, the dream she once had and the reality that stared right back at her. “What have I become?” she gasped and pursed her lips. She finally closed her eyes and opened them in a place where she had tried to forget. The first morning light had peered through the curtain; she was sprawled next to him. He was still sleeping; dreaming and his chest rose and fell with steady beats. She smiled. Three years together, they had both worked hard to build a comfortable life for themselves. Just the other night they were discussing about starting a family, something she had been praying for.

She had carefully chosen her career; she knew she wanted to work with children so she had chosen the path of becoming a teacher. She had graduated with a Masters degree in Education and her future looked promising. Being an educator allowed her to have more time for her family and future kids while doing what she loved most. Her husband had chosen an accounting career; he was finishing up his articles at the end of the year. She took in the sight of his sleeping form and sighed. She was really happy. He slowly opened his eyes and saw himself in her eyes, the corners of his mouth curved up. “Good morning sweetheart, he had whispered. “Morning darling she had replied and grinned.

They had talked about their day up ahead, they showered together and had breakfast. H e grabbed his laptop and lunchbox on his way out but not before placing a soft, soft kiss on her forehead. Just when he was about to disappear behind the door he stopped and gave her a once over… “I love you” he had said so lovingly, his words had embraced her, she felt so warm and really loved and then he went. She was left there still smiling; after a short while, she too took her laptop and walked out of their apartment heading off to work.

The day had breezed by between phone texts from her husband and teaching her class she truly adored. She got home before him and started marking some books. She had made reservations for dinner so there was no need to cook. Just before 6p.m she dolled up for her man. She remembered standing in front of the mirror and applying mascara to her eyelashes. She wasn’t a foundation and face powder kind of girl; she preferred the natural look with a bit of enhancement, eyeliner, lip gloss and a little bit of mascara.

The message tone for her husband sounded in the background. She wasn’t quick to take a look at what it said. She knew it was him apologizing for being a bit late. She was ok with it; he was kind of a workaholic. Satisfied with the final product of her efforts, she walked over to where her phone lay and picked it up. She began scrolling through ignoring the other messages till she opened her husband’s one. It read, I will be home soon just wrapping up a few things here honey, can’t wait to see you, looking forward to tonight, can you please put out any clean shirt that matches the colour of the dress you are wearing tonight? See you in a bit…p.s I love u always.”

She had laid his shirt on the bed and went into the sitting room where she waited for him. She must have dozed off because she awoke to heavy pounding on the door. Half asleep she had opened the door to a collection of faces she still had to attach names to. The look on their faces spelled concern and some other thing she couldn’t make out yet. They had asked to come in and she had let them. They finally told her… somewhere in the conversion she had lost them, their  words sounded like loud flapping of wings in slow motion, it wasn’t them, it was her heart, she couldn’t breathe, the sharp pain enveloped her as she gasped for air, she blacked out.

She awoke to the sight of frantic figures trying to resuscitate her, once composed they continued… they told her they found him pinned between the stirring wheel and the driver seat. He must have forgotten to put on the seat belt. The impact had punctured his lungs; he had drowned in his own fluid. A truck had hit him from behind. Emergency services tried their level best to resuscitate him but he was gone. While she slept and dreamt, he was dying together with their vision. For a while she was made at him for living her behind, she was angry with him because he never lived long enough to live out their dreams but with time she realized, it couldn’t have been his fault.

Drip, drip, drip …the water from the tap trickled down into the wash basin, she felt her hands trembling. She remembered the pain and the havoc it created in her body and heart. She took a handful of water and splashed it on her face hiding the tears. She reached for the hot water tap and turned on the faucet, she wanted to stay there just for a little while longer. Her sorrow, she couldn’t awaken from, the challenge now was to silence her mind while she transitioned from one version of herself to another. There was no silver lining to anything here, just mere nothingness.

She retreated inwards, she wanted to go to bed forever, how dare God take away her vision before it came to pass? She was angry with him. She had survived this far by building walls around her since the death of her husband, nobody could come in and she couldn’t get out of her self- created isolation. But today her tired bones protested. This was not the kind of woman her blood produced, the kind that got lost in the many silent wars of life. There had to be something in it that she had to learn, it couldn’t have been all in vain. Her heart beat with a quickened pace, an attempt to resuscitate the woman she had been once and could be again. She closed her eyes again this time Ambuya was there with her smiling eyes. “Ambuya, my heart has been wounded, Ambuya I’m bleeding pain no pressure can stop, it hurts, it will always hurt, let me give me in and give up, my life was buried with him a few weeks back.”Ambuya was a hazy form that quickly disappeared as soon as she tried to reach out to her.

Ambuya had been there alright, to make her presence known, to remind her of her courageous trait she had forgotten about amidst her sadness. She realized, she was a woman with a backbone of women who refused to let circumstances stop them. She had a destiny to fulfill. Her life was not her own. Many looked up to her and giving up now would mean failing them. She stood up and came face to face with her reflection in the mirror. She was no longer the woman who stepped in the huge tub an hour earlier. The woman she had tried to compress and bottle up. She took a handful of water and splashed it all over her body washing away desperation and despair. She embraced determination again. She pulled the plug on the former and watched as the water drained away with all the afflictions. She was clean now. As she stepped out of that bathroom, a new woman imaged with her passion reignited.

@cathymutukwa 2017

Catherine Magodo – Mutukwa Image may contain: 1 person  was born in the 1980s in Mutare but grew up in Harare.She is a Zimbabwean poet/author currently based in South Africa.She has a keen eye for detail, an attribute that makes her a veritable artist and social commentator.In all her writing, she aspires to uplift the morale of women everywhere and to inspire all womenfolk to tell their stories and create others.

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