Lola Opatayo

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Tender Love

Short Story


It’s raining, long lines of
transparent liquid falling on the cement floor. The raindrops falling on the
roof create a din that soothes me, I’m alone with the rain, the thunder and lightening
and that’s fine. I’d rather be here looking out my window than outside with my
parents. It’s cold so I grab my blanket and resume my watch at the window
staring at the rain and hoping it never stops.
“What do you mean by that?” my father
shouts angrily
“I’m asking you to tell me the
truth!” my mother shouts back.
I block out their argument, they’re
always fighting so I’ve perfected the act of shutting them out. She’ll never
hear the truth from him; she ought to know that by now. Lightening strikes.
“The neighbours have been telling
me things” my mother says emphatically
“Then maybe you should stop
listening for once!”
“I’m tired of making excuses for
you…” my mother says wearily. I think she has reached her breaking point. The argument
will soon be over; whenever she reaches her breaking point there is silence for
a long time and then she’s happy again. I wish I was a mermaid, part human and
part animal so that I get to choose when I want to be in the world and when I want
to be safe under water. If I was a mermaid I would also be beautiful and
wanted, I am ugly now and no one wants me.
There is silence now just as I predicted
and I wonder what they do when they are quiet. Do they just stare at each
other, walk away, think or fall asleep? I know when I’m quiet I think, there’s
a lot to think about and when I’m done thinking, I fall asleep. I yawn and my
eyelids are starting to close, it’s easy to succumb to the coolness of the
“What did you just call me?”
my mother
says surprised. I am surprised too, they never resume their argument after the
“N…nothing” my father stutters
and I can hear the fear in his voice.
“So it’s true and you’ve been
lying to me the whole time?” my mother says and I can tell that she now believes.
“She told me that you call her tender love” she says tearfully “You have been
touching my child?!” she says angrily now like a person who is just recovering
from the surprise of a slap on the face.
“Baby, I can explain, it’s the
work of the devil!” my father says pleadingly. I can’t believe that he is
fearful, he’s always so confident at night, calling me tender love and wringing
my neck when I refuse to cooperate with him. The very sight of him makes me
shudder, everyday I live in the fear of the possibility that one day when he
wrings my neck he’ll stop a second too late. I have tried to tell my mother of
his nightly visits but she has refused to believe me until now. So I have come
to love the rain and this window pane where I can stare out and dream as I imagine
the raindrops cleansing me.
“I’m going to kill you!” my
mother says with fury
“Please let’s work this out, I’ll
go for therapy, anything you want!” he pleads frantically.
I hope she doesn’t kill him
because then my baby won’t have a father.
Lightening strikes again.

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