This week I am posting my very first flash fiction. My first book, What Binds Us, spanned ten tears, My third, Unbroken spans forty years, so for me writing flash fiction, a short-short was quite a challenge, Clocking in at 763 words, I give you "Sahel." Feel free to leave a comment , letting me know what you think of "Sahel."
“I do not like her,” my mother said.
“Who?” I asked.“This foreign girl. This Sahel.” She spat the name like it was poison in her mouth.
I was bewildered by her hostility, her venom.
Waiting for the light to change so I could cross, I stared at the row of dilapidated houses—some with porches newly painted bright colors, others, lacking hope, were shrouded in their original dusty brick and crumbling brownstone—all squeezed together and leaning to the left as if in defiance of the hill on which they sat, which leaned to the right.
The light changed and I hurried across the street. I was practically shaking with fright and excitement. Tonight, I would ask Sahel to marry me. My nerves were as jangly as the wind chimes on the porch. The ring in my pocket seemed to be burning a hole in my pocket.
My hands were shaking as I turned the key, blinking at the accustomed brightness of the turquoise door. Three quarters into the turn, I paused startled by the silence. The sudden absence of the familiar sound unnerved me. I listened carefully. And then I heard it, the baby crying. Somewhere. I tried to relax, finished turning the key.
Sahel would be waiting in my room, I knew. Naked and cold under the covers, watching the evening news and waiting for me.
Naked, under the covers, I crawled on top of her, the ring clenched in my fist. She turned her head from the TV, watched me. I swallowed. “Sahel, will you marry me?” I opened my hand and the ring fell awkwardly, cold and shiny, to her chest.
She picked it up, looked at it, then smiled. “Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.”
Suddenly too shy to kiss her, I touched her face, traced the line of her brow, her nose, her lips.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“In your face,” I said, “I see tradition.”
She laughed. “Crazy woman,” she said.
I sighed, lay my head on her chest, nuzzled her breasts, then fell asleep, her hands on my shoulders.
“You are going to marry Sahel?” my mother asked disbelieving.
“Yes,” I mumbled, head down, cheeks burning. Then finding my nerve, “It is tradition. To marry the person you love most in the world.”
“I do not understand why you love this person, this woman, who looks like you in a baseball cap,” my mother said.
It hurt me to see her so confused and unhappy.
“She’ll come around,” I told Sahel. “She just doesn’t understand—”“She does not need to understand. It is not your job to explain yourself. She just needs to accept your truth.”
“Sahel, please. She is my mother.” I rubbed my temple. I could hear the baby crying. I wished I knew where she was so I could comfort her, stop that endless grievous crying.
Angry, Sahel’s eyes, cold, and hard, flashed like diamonds in a face flushed red-gold with fury. “Why do your people act like children always? Sitting at the children’s table at Holiday waiting to be invited to the grown up’s table where there is talk and wine!”“What would you have me do, Sahel? She is my mother!”
“Stop waiting to be invited to the table. Stand up, walk into the dining room and pull up a chair.”
“What if they don’t want me there? What if they ask me to leave?”
“Who cares if they don’t want you there? It is your right to be there. If they ask you to leave, refuse. If they don’t want you there with them, let them leave. Do not make the mistake I did and leave your homeland!”
Days later, my mother came downstairs carrying a suitcase.
“Where are you going?” I asked regarding her over the rim of my coffee cup.
“I am leaving,” she said.
“Where are you going?” I repeated.
“To her homeland―that foreign land―where you found her. ““Why?”
“To find this tradition you speak so highly of.”
I looked at her. She shrugged. “Maybe, also, to find myself.”
As my own eyes started to fill with tears, the baby, the unknown baby who seemed to furnish the soundtrack to my life, started to cry again. I made my mother a cup of coffee—half coffee, half cream and six teaspoons of sugar—just the way she liked it.
I thought going might be good for her, might help her trace the roots of her hostility, her hatred. Maybe going away would help her find her way back to me.
Check out the Wednesday Briefs web site for flash fiction by other authors.
Check out my longer short fiction here: Damaged Angels