Figures slender and dark shift shape, contorting to the needs of the terrain. They are wary of the bright eyes that search these warm nights, inauspicious glares looking to reveal the truth of those seeking emancipation. No matter the decade, country, city or town, young boys from this continent always fear the price of forgiveness.
The price this evening is True Gold – mother’s gold…and having escaped the inept watch of a least favoured uncle the run begins. As thin legs and flat feet beat the ground perpetually, they effortlessly navigate the uneven, cracked dirt road of their rural province. The purple twilight is a canvas for a dying flame and its air feels calming; cooling the heat of guilt that often emanates from the brow of sinners and delinquents alike. Whichever title more relevant is an after thought, and the only information concerning the youthful mind is the search for the forgiveness held inside mother’s True Gold.
All Dialogue Translated from French
-“Yaya hurry up! You’re so slow!”
-“It’s not fair you’re older than me!”
-“If your skinny legs make us not get back in time, I’m blaming it all on you and I’ll laugh as I watch you get beaten with the belt.”
-“Well Mummy said that I’ll be faster than you one day!”
-“Not if I eat all your meat! Now hurry up, we have to get back before she arrives!”
The boys, using shortcuts tamed over years of juvenile adventuring, are nearing their destination, a great river that separates two cities with a colonial history akin to sibling rivalry. It was at this location earlier that day that the first of several bad decisions was made…
-“Eight, nine, ten, eleven, TWELVE!”
-“See I told you I could do twelve.”
-“Yes you are so strong on pushups…but can you do a cartwheel?” As Yaya watched Julie the love of his very brief life effortlessly spiral across the riverbank, he could not enjoy her grace as it were meant to be, because all he could think is of outdoing her with another more audacious feat of his own. But just as he was about to interrupt her gloating, his eye flicking subconsciously to his brother. He was standing several meters away with another, engaging deeply in what appeared to him as the kind of heated discussions they’ve had about which character of their animated fantasy show was stronger. He was not very good at reading teenage body language…because second later his brother and the other were kissing. In his shock he quickly looked at Julie and exclaimed
-“Can’t you see? They’re kissing”
-“What? You’re so silly, you’re obviously just making excuses because you can’t beat my cartwheel, see – I am the best!”
-“NO, watch this!” After ten more minutes of their blow-for-blow battle of physical aptitude, Yaya began to tire. As he did awkward silence befell them, not even the vehicles passing on the dirt road behind them could shatter the mute sphere they found themselves in. He attentively observed her slowly catching her breath, and for a fleeting moment something sparked in him, a slight, supple bolt of pubescent sexual awareness. However before the onset hormone shift could take place the feeling was gone, and he noticed her facial expressions of boredom. Worried that she would soon leave, he rummaged through his cluttered mind for anything interesting. And in a corner reserved for secrets and guilt he found it. “Julie I forgot to tell you, I found something amazing.”
-“It’s a magic artifact…”
-“What’s an ar-ti-fact?”
-“It’s something that looks normal but has special powers.”
-“What kind of special powers?”
-“Erm like making you fly, breath under water or run really fast.”
-“Hahaha I don’t believe in things like that.”
-“Why not? They’re real, even my mum says so, you know my uncle even has some he said the doctor gave him to make strong with women.”
-“Strong with women?? Maybe you need that because you can’t even beat me in a fight.”
-“I don’t need to because I have True Gold.”
-“Yes but you can’t tell anyone about it…even my brother doesn’t know that I have it.” Yaya walked towards Julie, reached into the abnormally deep pocket of his dusty shorts and pulled out his closed fist. Inside was the treasured artifact. Was he was trying to build suspense, or maybe just attempting to prolong her company…either way she wasn’t a patient girl and demanded to see the so-called True Gold.
-“Let me see it then?”
-“Yes but be careful, I found it hidden in my mum’s room…she keeps it hidden because she says that if she takes it to work, it will reveal her secrets”
-“So its power is revealing truth? That’s rubbish; I thought it would be something cool like the power to run faster than a cheetah.”
-“It is cool, just look at it.” Yaya opened his now sweaty palm, exposing the True Gold to the elements and watched Julie’s face as her eyes absorbed its latent sun colored gleam. She took a second before reacting, and then looked up at Yaya smiling with deep maternal warmth far beyond her years.
Now back at the same place a different tone fills the night…
-“Have you found the True Gold yet??!”
-“No, not yet!”
-“Look harder, Yaya!
-“Why did you even take it? You know how important it is to mother, she is going to kill you if you don’t find it.”
-“I know, I know, but I swear I put it back in my pocket after showing her.”
-“Why even show her?? You want to impress her? Didn’t your twelve push-ups do that?? Would have been easier to just kiss her.”
-“No, that’s disgusting, she’s my friend.”
-“Well if you don’t find it you won’t live to see her again. Lets check by the bushes by that river edge.”
Two spirits connected by the psychological chains of blood and history search the topography of their surroundings for salvation…so desperate, they kneel in the moist earth, plunging fists into its loose top soil hoping to feel the familiar shape and texture of the lost treasure. The search was prolonged and intense, to the point that fingers were beginning to cramp under the previously soft resistance of the land, and without the sunlight to aid them, eyes were functioning at below optimum capacity. Surrendering to their fate seemed inevitable, like the exposing teardrop of the melancholy first blink. However just before the acceptance of all that could befall them, Yaya’s mind twitched…
-“Hey, stop digging in the dirt like a dog, I have a thought…”
-“You know…I think that girl you’re so fond of has probably taken it…maybe to give to her boyfriend.”
-“Shut up, she doesn’t have a boyfriend, and anyway I don’t believe she would take it.”
-“Yaya I don’t think you can take that risk…” Begrudgingly he had to accept that there was great validity to those words, and so he stood up, covered in dark mud like a child role-playing a Navy Seal’s secret incursion onto foreign land. After taking a few moments to mentally map out the route to Julie’s house, he began a slow defeated jog towards his new goal.
Thirty minutes later he arrived at the edge of the city center… The city lights that were like small, glowing fireflies at a distance had now become clear beacons of commerce and life. Cars of varying size and make zoomed by while food vendors proclaimed the excellence of their barbecued poultry, and shop retailers the complex quality of their fabric; the night was saturated with the intent to sell. Most in his proximity ignore him, after all what use is a child with no money here? Tired from his travels, the young boy walked slowly across the wide concrete road onto the pedestrian path.
-“Be careful Yaya! If one of these cars hit you you’ll end up looking like yesterday’s goat.”
-“I know, I’m not blind.”
-“Yeah yeah…so where does your pretty thief live?”
-“Whatever, she is a good girl, I’ll show you…Just follow me”
-“When do I not little brother…”
Finally outside the place he was told she lived at, and it looked very different then he’d imagined, the large stone building of modern design was somber and less inviting than he felt it should be. Not letting that peculiarity slow his mission’s progress, he rang the doorbell. Temporarily forgetting his age and place he was oblivious to how this situation looked. Before that knowledge could grace him, the front door opened…a mountain of a man stepped forward into the night-light.
-“Boy, why are you ringing my door bell?
-“Sorry sir, but can I speak Julie?”
-“Who?? Listen I don’t need lost street boys waking me up for no reason! Please go away.”
-“I’m not a street boy, I have a house and it’s nice, we even have a big TV.”
-“What are you talking to me about your TV for? I need to sleep. If you want money go and polish some drunk business man’s shoes”
-“Sorry sir I just want to speak Julie Mokemo, doesn’t she live here? She told me she lives here.” The large man kissed his teeth…scanned him thoroughly and said
-“Boy, I don’t know any Julie, but there is Charlotte Mokemo who runs the house of ndúmbás across the road over there”
-“House of what?”
-“Don’t worry you’ll see when you get there, plus I remember hearing that Charlotte had a daughter so maybe that’s the Julie girl you’re looking for”
-“Ah thank you mister!”
-“Yeah, just make sure you at least wash your muddy hands before you go in their, now go away” Yaya barely hearing the man’s advice rushed across the road to where he had pointed. Directing his older brother to keep up, he arrived at the open door in a pant, still blissfully unaware as only a child can be of how wrong it was to run around a city centre covered in mud stains. He locked onto the first person that looked his way and said.
-“ Excuses me, madame, have you seen Julie Mokemo? I need to ask her something important!”
-“Slow down young one, you can’t speak to a lady like myself without introducing yourself first like a gentlemen.”
-“Sorry, My name’s Yaya and I lost something, and really need to find it. I think Julie might know where it is, can you please get her for me?”
-“Okay, well firstly my name is Genevieve and it’s a pleasure to meet you, even if you look like you just crawled out of a river. Secondly, if you’re referring to my boss’s daughter she obviously isn’t here. This is no place for young ones.”
-“But, I have to find the True Gold or…”
-“True Gold?? What is that?”
-“It’s special gold that has magical powers, it reveals the truth of your heart.” Yaya heard his brother’s voice in the back remark, “So that’s why you wanted to show it to that pretty thief”. Ignoring it he continued his pleas.
-“Madame, please help me find her, she’ll know where it is. The man across the road said that she might be here.”
-“Calm down…What I can do is ask Charlotte too come and see you, in fact we’re not that busy at the moment just go up the stairs into her office. Just don’t get any dirt on the walls!”
-“Okay, thank you”
As the answers to all his questions approached like a stranger in the dark, he hoped they lead him to the truth and thus the forgiveness he ultimately sought. As he ascended the slim creaky stairway, he remembered the door lady’s words and kept himself as far from the walls as three-dimensional flesh and bones allowed. As he reached the first floor he saw Charlotte’s office door in front, and on either side the hallway extended further than his expectations of the building’s capacity. He was pleased to be getting closer to Julie, however loose of a thread that sentiment was. He tried to wipe his hands clean, but the mud has dried and without the softening caress of water would remain so. Giving that up he raised his hands to knock on the door, preparing in his mind what he’d say to Julie’s mother. Just at the moment a familiar voice calls out in a loud shrill from down the left hallway.
-“Yannick!!, what are you doing here??” The boy turned to his left the see an anguished face appear from between a door left slightly a jar. “What are you doing??” The woman ran out grasping her soft lacy gown tightly, grabbed Yaya by the shoulders and shouted at him, “ Why are you so filthy?? Do you know what time it is?? Why are you not at home?! I told my useless brother to watch you!”
-“ Mummy…do you work here? Is this the restaurant? I couldn’t tell, sorry but I came to find Julie.”
-“Charlotte’s daughter?? Why would she be here?? Why are you not at home? Start explaining yourself Yaya, or I’m going to get very angry!”
-“I’m so sorry mummy but I…I accidently took your True Gold, I didn’t mean to and then I think I lost it…” His voice started to quiver like the soft vibrations in the air before a downpour, he used all his strength to hold it back.
-“Accidentally?? Did you take my wedding ring from my room Yaya, and now lose it?! Do you know how much it’s worth??”
-“I know it’s special, you always say…I’m sorry…I will find it!”
-“How will you find it out at night like this?! You can’t even tie your own shoe laces.”
-“That’s why Simon is helping me find it, he came with me, and even helped me dig for it.” The boy’s mother paused, taking several seconds to regain control of her emotions, then knelt down to eye level and with a deep empathy saying quietly”
-“Yannick, are you seeing your brother again? I thought that had stopped?”
-“Why does he have to stop? He’s my brother he’s always with me mummy.”
-“It’s not good…I know how much you loved him, he and your father were my world too…but we have to be strong and move on…they’re not here to help anymore, we can only rely on each other.”
-“But…I like him being here…he’s the only person that plays with me anymore…” Yaya couldn’t hold back the tears anymore…any thought of letting the spirit of his brother go broke his small, fragile heart. Seeing the hands of despair begin to reach across her son’s mud-patched face, she stopped her suggestions. Grabbing his hand passionately his mother stood up.
-“Stop crying Yaya, we’re going to find my ring, ‘C’est du vrais Or’ so we can’t just let it vanish, can we? Yaya looked up at his mother, his tears breaking a path through the dry earth on his face.
A feather floats above, slave to a fickle breeze…Pedestrians walk below with their intentions and destinations unseen.
Within this sea of people, there is one particular couple walking side by side, enjoying a sun not seen for months, its glow warm and comforting on their skin. Bathing in that spring ambiance inspires a man to speak a truth he’s been hiding for weeks…
-“Babe…” he says loudly enough to be heard over the many voices accompanying them.
“Yeah?” she answers casually.
-“What time is your flight tomorrow?”
“How many times do I have to tell you?? 5:45PM.
-“Ah yeah, okay…well that gives you enough time,” he says tentatively, the man’s face beginning to show signs of concealed truths. She noticed this quickly and her mind starts to turn…
“Enough time for what?” she inquires, looking up at him intently as they walk. He didn’t answer straight away, during that pause she could see their reflection in the passing windows of the high-street shops. Normally, she wouldn’t be able to resist checking herself out in the glass, but her fiancé’s peculiar demeanour focused her attention. After a few awkward seconds had passed he, broke his silence and spoke.
-“Okay well please don’t get mad Jen but, I went to see her again, a few weeks ago…”
“You’re joking…are you serious?? After everything, you went and saw her again?!” The women’s intuition had signalled he’d been hiding something, but this…she never saw coming. This realisation sent her into a red-hot rage. She couldn’t refrain from hurling obscenity-laden abuse at him, she had a volatile temper and her fiancé was taking the full brunt of it. He tried his best to calm her down, to explain his actions, but the judgemental stares of those around was proof of its futility.
-“Babe you don’t understand, just let me explain, she called me! She said it was important! I would never have gone to see her otherwise.” Word after word just fell upon deaf ears, as far as she was concerned, each syllable was just another thrust into the dirt covered grave he was digging himself. Jennifer’s fiancé, knowing her like he did, soon realised that she was past the point of rational thought and there was only one way to get her attention. He turns to face Jennifer directly and in one swift movement grabs her forcefully by her shoulders, his masculine strength rooting her to the spot. His abrupt halting of her incensed flailing sends a shock through Jennifer, snapping her out of a violent rhythm.
In her surprise, she looks at him with wide eyes, almost as if to say ‘are you sure you want to be doing that??’ Jennifer feels his grasp deepen along the five points of his fingers. At which point, even her elevated adrenaline wasn’t able to conceal the pain, she slowly looks down to her left and while staring at his hand says, “Joseph…you need to let go of me right now.” Her tone was cold and her expression one of deathly seriousness, combined, they delivered a piercing message of intent to Joseph. A voice nearby exclaims loudly, “hey man you need to let go of your girl! you can’t be about that life…that’s not a good look man!”
Joseph, upon hearing the man’s words, pauses to think for a second…before he can say his next words, something changes his expression from a pleading focus to concerned puzzlement. Jennifer, tired of waiting, begins to try and fight her way out of his grip, screaming repeatedly “LET GO OF ME!! LET GO OF ME!!” Joseph’s pupils suddenly dilate, his mind struggling to deal with the onslaught of incoming stimuli, rushes to a brutal conclusion. Within a fraction of a second, he’s shifted his bodyweight towards her, and thrown her towards the glass window of the store behind! Her body flew back, as if weightless, the gawking people around gasped in horror at her impeding plight. The seconds slowed in Jennifer’s mind, her anticipation of the impact was a brief torture, compared to what fate had in store for her…
A song called pain had just started playing at the scene, the people gathered here by his invitation move to its rhythm as they stare. She was the belle of this ball and was asked to the dance floor by the figure ‘in all black tux’. To be close to her was its desire, for It had been written in cosmic ink that she would dance with death, dance to a requiem called pain. But, before she could, another stepped in, taking her place in its hypnotic sway. He would surrender to its will and perform this art in sacrifice, dancing his final steps towards the grave. For Joseph had actually saved her from an oncoming car that had lost control. He paid a high price for admission…And now the song called pain was finished. Although Jennifer was saved from its melodies, another song began, only she could hear…a song called sorrow.
Before his final breath, he left a parting message, “Babe…you have to go see her…I know we were moving on…but, she still has a piece of me. Forgive me…I really did want to spend the rest of my life with you, I never wanted things to turn out like this…”
Jennifer couldn’t calm her mind enough to understand the meaning of his words. By the time medics arrived in their blue and red lit chariots, Joseph’s broken body was pronounced dead at the scene. Watching the love of her life carried away left her inconsolable. The medics were attending to all her wounds- all but, the one that counted. She retreated into herself, looking for solace in memories of their time together. Yet only the unhelpful kept turning in her mind – “You said you’d never leave me…even after my 3rd miscarriage, you said you’d stay…Every time you came to visit me in rehab, I thought it would be the last…but you stayed. You said you’d never leave me…” This line of thinking was slowly circling her around the drain. she was on the precipice of a deep darkness…and unlike all those times before, he wasn’t going to be there to pull her out if she fell.
She was still, sitting on the edge of the pavement; the wreckage – behind a cocoon of screaming people that insulated her from the horror of the past minutes. Since she wasn’t the only injured, the medics took her tranquil gaze and bandaged wounds as sign that their work was done, and so moved on. A fatal mistake. In the confusion she invisibly slipped away, making her way back to the car they’d bought together. She sat in the front seat pensive, the subtle taste of her own blood still in her mouth. After a few seconds of silent waiting, she came to a conclusion. “You said you would never leave me…but you have…and its her fault. You would still be here if it wasn’t for HER. She can’t get away with this…I won’t let her.” she thought, bereft and angry. In that one moment this ‘other women’ had inherited all blame, become the focus of all hate…and now Jennifer was going to seal her fate.
20 mins later…
Jennifer arrives, behind her a trail of broken dreams and in front, a green wooden door. Its number – like her, barely hanging on. Three loud knocks signal her intent; the person inside senses it, tentatively comes to the door, and seeing who it is, feels compelled to let them in.
“Hi Jennifer…” She whispers, with shame in her voice.
-“Hello…” Jennifer replies, just as quietly.
“Do you want to come in?”
-“Yes…I think I should…”
In a vacuum of quiet awkwardness, they both walk into the living room and sit down, Jennifer’s asked if she would like something to drink, but she doesn’t answer. Her mind is occupied by how much she hates the fact this women is prettier than her, how she would love to change that…with her bare hands. Gritting her teeth, she stares at the other women, who nervously eludes her gaze. She thinks Jennifer has come merely to discuss why she’d called Joseph, even after she claimed that she never would again. She was wrong, and soon would find out just how wrong. Knowing she had a lot of explaining to do, she began the conversation. “Erm…so I guess you want to know why I called him…well–”
The women’s explanation was cut short by a sudden breath-stealing surprise. Jennifer had just plunged a blade into her stomach. It was something she’d stolen from the medics treating her and was now trying to penetrate the women’s flesh as deeply as she could. Her face close enough to her victim’s to be able to kiss it with her warm murderous breath. The unfortunate women – in shock – didn’t even let out a scream…Until Jennifer wrenched the blade, turning it, dragging it across her stomach, splitting her open, exposing her insides. Screams of agony poured out of her just like the blood flowing across Jennifer’s unforgiving fists. She continued her brutal attack, every strike an accusation of stealing Joseph from her. In between the women’s flailing and screams for mercy, she was trying to tell Jennifer something. Something Jennifer’s temporary insanity would not let her hear.
“Please stop! STOP!!! You’re KILLING HIM!!!”
-“No B**** you killed him, YOU did!”
This blind rampage continued for a few, yet interminable minutes, before her victims life began ebbing from her body…fatigue had slowed Jennifer movements and mind, and at this pace she could finally hear it properly. “You killed him…You killed Joseph’s…” Blood and tears muffled the words, but their meaning was clear. “…Joseph’s baby.”
Those were the last words the women ever spoke, and with them, Jennifer understood the truth. She was the only person responsible for removing the last piece of her fiancé from her life, from the world.