The girl at the beautiful gate [A WORK OF FICTION]

Trigger warning: this story covers a theme of suicidal ideation

I’m ending my life before the day is over.
If God exists I want a word with him or her when it’s done.
I hope mum and Miri forgive me.

Whatever sleep punctuated my night was engulfed by dreams.

As I lie awake waiting for my alarm to go off, I rack my brain trying to recall those dreams…I know he was there. I didn’t see his face, but there was a sense of impending doom which I awoke still feeling.

I won’t go through this again.

Looking at the ceiling my eye catches the water stains caused by an old leakage in the roof from years ago. My money-hungry landlord still hasn’t painted it over. Calling him doesn’t seem to make a difference as all he does is make promise after promise to get the job done, but here we are.

I would do it myself but I’m not the painting sort. But it’s no use bothering about the stupid stain because nothing matters anymore.

The sun has started rising early again and because I had the brilliant idea of moving my bed to try and create more space in my crammed apartment, mornings harass me with rays of light escaping through my upward-turned blinds.

Before my phone alarm has the chance to sound, I deactivate it. Within the next hour mum will be sending me some of her good morning messages accompanied by at least three of those e-cards that you can download from an app for “free”, for the price of four ninety-nine per year. It’s the kind of thing that parents and grand-parents love, but children and grand-children pretend to love only to avoid causing offence.

My mother, my rock.

I wish I’d been able to give her more reasons to be happy. I’m about to break her heart again. If reincarnation is real I’m signing up. Maybe as Miri’s child.

My twin sister, Miri, and I couldn’t be more different. She’s the sweet romantic. I’m introverted and sarcastic.

There had never been an issue with telling us apart as children, and mum insisted on dressing us in matching colours. I have the photographs to prove it. One occupies a place of pride on my bedside table. I gaze at it as feverish regret permeates every fibre of my being and the familiar lump of anxiety forms.

Don’t be like me. Don’t hold your tears back.

I hardly cry. I cried when my father died but I was sixteen then so I forgive myself that one indulgence.

Because everyone considers me to be the level-headed one, the role of emotional anchor after dad’s death was foisted on me.

My uncles and aunties added to the pile on. They hugged me and whispered how strong I ought to be, and I resented how they handled Miri with such tenderness as though she were some fragile being in need of bubble-wrapping.

Life has played out amusingly. Miri is more settled than I. She’s found herself a nice young man whom I suspect she’ll marry. My romantic life is non-existent.

Pools of liquid have formed in my eyes as I’ve inspected my photo. Miri and I were clasping hands- we couldn’t have been older than five. We were both wearing blue denim shorts with yellow shirts neatly tucked in, and socks pulled up to our knees with our feet in polished black buckled sandals. Both smiling widely with identical cropped afros.

We always joke about how mum used to pull up our socks in an attempt to disguise our skinny calves.

Miri has this photo on her bedside table too.

God if you exist please don’t let my sister hate me!

I rise from bed and make my way to the bathroom. My reflection stares back at me from a squeaky-clean mirror. I’m haggard and bleary-eyed and my gaze settles on the twirl of ink on my right shoulder.

In a bid to break free of our childhood Miri and I had gotten matching tattoos on the eve of our eighteenth birthday. Till this day mum hasn’t gotten used to seeing the scrawl on our skin. I’ve often caught her looking at Miri’s shoulder or mine with hooded eyes, murmuring under her breath about ‘permanent scarification’ and ‘modern rebellion’.

The murmuring has intensified amongst her and my aunties because of Miri’s impending wedding- assuming it actually happens. How is a bride going to look with borderline fading black ink on her shoulder? ‘Tacky, is what it is’, my aunty had quipped, clapping once as she always does when she’s in ‘judging mode’, the corners of her lips turned down and her nose wrinkled as if the tattoo emitted some putrid odour.

Something tells me Miri would have had her tattoo lasered off ages ago if not for me.

My index finger traces the outline of the tattoo as I turn to the side to look at it. An intertwined symbol of a cross, an anchor and a heart to represent faith, hope and love. Once upon a time it meant something to me.

My train of thought veers back to the subject of Miri’s upcoming-probable nuptials. I really don’t understand what the fuss is about her wedding dress. She can just wear something with sleeves, maybe even long lace sleeves as is the rage over the past few years since the princess got married, bringing the trend back with a vengeance.

After brushing my extremely sensitive teeth with the gentlest toothpaste formula available, I gargle some protective mouthwash then spit it out. This nasty stuff tastes like rotten wine. Add ‘sensitive teeth’ to the list of things wrong with my shambles of a body.

Showers are something I’ve never compromised. Twice daily at the very least. You will never know how precious it is to be able to stand and feel water run down your body till you’re so weak that someone has to sponge you down.

Shaking that image from my mind, I step out of the cubicle. I pull my shower cap off then look at my hair in the mirror. It will just have to do for the day.

My outfit is laid out neatly over the expensive swivel chair in front of my work table: jeans, a nice top, a leather jacket, and my loafers — the kind that are advertised as ‘air-breathing’.

Fashion is something that has always been important to both Miri and I. Our mum would spend a good amount of time dolling herself up early in the morning before work, expertly applying make-up, only half-aware of two pairs of eyes stealing glances full of awe and admiration.

Mum has always been prudent, her one extravagance being shoes. She’d buy herself a new pair at least once every two months. My dad used to tell her she was the ‘Imelda Marcos’ of our city. I remember once finding a pair hidden underneath my bed. I must have been twelve. I’d asked her why they were there, and without hesitating she told me she’d rather hide them than be the subject of my father’s acerbic humour. I guess she thought she would slip them into her closet at some point without him noticing.

Dressed and ready to go, I quickly open my fridge to look if there’s anything I can grab to eat. I’m not sure why I do this as I already know it’s empty, save for a half bag of semi-wilted spinach and some slices of extra-mature cheddar cheese. I slam the door shut in irritation.

I scrounge around until I find one oat breakfast bar tucked away in the back of one of my kitchen cupboards. I quickly shelve the thought that I need to restock my kitchen this weekend.

I grab my no-name brand paracetamol tablets and my keys and stuff them into my bag, then head out the door. Thank goodness my door has an automatic door lock. Miri has this annoying habit of checking that every plug socket is switched off and every door is locked. I’ve seen her check a door hundreds of times to make sure it has indeed been locked. My automatic lock doesn’t give any allowance for her compulsions whenever she visits.

My brisk walk gets me to the station within five minutes, and I run for the next available underground train. The reason I’d signed the tenancy agreement for the expensive shithole I live in is because of its proximity to the station. Even on the busiest days I can be at work within 30 minutes, albeit after being squeezed like Pilchards with everyone else.

There’s something very humbling about the underground. People from all walks of life use it. Some fragranced by designer perfumes, others by crusty sweat and last night’s bad decisions. For those minutes when we’re all crammed into the moving tin can, grabbing onto whatever we can to steady ourselves, it feels as if everyone is equal.

There’s a buzz in the air, a restrained excitement of sorts that is almost tangible in this sea of cramped humanity. Thank god it’s Friday. Even if it’s a one-way journey for me.

I get off at my stop and exit the station. The street to my office block is capitalism central. The Halloween to Christmas to Valentine’s Day theme switches happen as fast as those instant wardrobe changes in dance shows.

As I walk along the concrete pavement something in a shop window catches my eye: a pair of baby blue patent leather court shoes that Miri would love. I can’t resist stopping to take a longer look. I wonder if they’ve been positioned at the window overnight or if they’ve been there for a while and I’ve just never noticed.

Ted Baker ❤

Miri and I turn twenty-nine in three months. I’ve been thinking about what to gift her. Before we started earning we’d save up pocket money and buy gifts within a specified budget. It had become a habit brought on by mum and dad, who ensured we’d either buy or make something for each other.

There was a summer Miri became obsessed with flowers. She made me a collage of different coloured petals and some leaves glued to a cardboard sheet. It was beautiful. Mum has it tucked away somewhere. I’d given Miri a collection of sea shells picked up on our holiday by the sea. I painted a little box in baby blue watercolour and put the shells on top of a bed of cotton wool I’d over-sprayed with mum’s perfume. Miri loved it.

Miri’s flower obsession never faded. Most of her perfumes are floral scents and she always wears floral patterns. Her apartment usually has at least two vases of real flowers. She hates fake flowers. I chuckle as I remember the look of shock on her face when I pointed out that she’d have to get rid of her real flowers if she dated a man with hay fever.

In an instant I’m an eleven-year old in my grandma’s garden in Bamenda, Cameroon, surrounded by all kinds of flower pots filled with different coloured roses, and purple and white bougainvillea cascading over a metal archway leading to the main door of grandma’s bungalow.

One afternoon at Miri’s instruction, we filled our hands with rose petals and ran up the hill behind grandma’s house. Miri said to cup the rose petals close to our mouths and whisper messages into them. That we needed to fling the petals into the air and the moment they touched the ground the grass would carry along our messages to whomever we wished.

‘Let’s tell Nanny Lynne we love and miss her’.

‘Ok’, I responded, with no doubt in my mind that our messages would be delivered.

Three days after we sent our petal messages daddy walked into grandma’s kitchen as we were all eating fried plantain. Mum took one look at his face and burst into tears.

Nanny Lynne had had a stroke. I chewed my sticky sweet and salty plantain and watched dad hold mum as she cried. Our holiday was cut short.

Years later Miri would tell me this was the first time she was conscious of her ‘gift’.

Till today she claims she is connected to everyone she loves and has a ‘feeling’ when something significant in their life approaches.

I think it’s just coincidence and I always tell her so. Her response is to remind me how she was unexplainably ill right before dad was diagnosed. And this same ‘illness’ of hers manifested again days to my first encounter with the man of my nightmares.

Him. I shudder and snap out of my memories.

I resume walking to my office block slowly. On my way I glance to the left, in the direction of the beautiful Weston park. Each bench in the park has been sponsored by a family and has a metal plaque placed in the middle of the backrest with engravings containing a lost loved ones name. I’m sorry to have to desecrate one of those benches.

My office building is an architectural spectacle: a glass cone of twenty-five stories with a point sharper than Sleeping Beauty’s spindle.

Perhaps even more eye-catching is the metal archway erected at the main entrance. This work of art stands ten feet tall, made up of twisted metal grapevines its entire length.

At the centre of the arch is a large metal slab with the name of the building jutting out in Edwardian script, ‘The Beautiful Gate’.

I’ve often wondered how much this structural marvel cost to build and always conclude it was worth the expense. The sight of it cures me of the effects of some of the eyesores imposed upon our city over the years.

I’m at the lift just in time to stop it going up. Unfazed by the obvious looks of irritation cast my way, I squeeze in. With my back towards the door and looming over the packed little space, I look around. A pretty woman in a purple top is nearly hidden in a corner. Actually, it’s fuchsia. Miri often lectures me about my carelessness with colour classification.

The woman smiles when she notices me looking. I smile back, surprised at the traces of relief I feel.

By the time I reach the fifteenth floor the lift is nearly empty. I exit and head straight to the reception, glancing at the clock. Eight-thirteen. Not too bad for a Friday morning.

Sophie, our long-suffering receptionist and all-round girl Friday, waves at me from her station as she sips from her mug embossed with a rude meme. I smile and wink at her as I walk past. She’s one I’m going to miss. But only if you can miss people when you’re dead.

One of my bigger achievements in life was being head-hunted after years of freelancing. I’ve been with Eufemist magazine for the past three years and over here I’m known and liked, except by two people whom I really couldn’t care less for.

Our founder, Sayali Bhatt, is a bubbly and highly professional woman who proves it’s possible to have a fulfilled career with a family. She started this business on her own with the force of sheer will and wise investments. Over five years she’s built up a loyal followership to the point where Eufemist is considered on par with most other womens’ monthly glossies.

Sayali is another one I’m sad to leave. I doubt she’ll cry when she hears what I’ve done. She’s not one for tears. She’ll probably assemble the team and share some heart-felt words. Maybe eventually spin it into some kind of story. For what it’s worth I hope my exit can account for a spike in sales…

‘Successful Young Editor Takes Own Life’ is probably what our city’s blood-sucking weekly tabloid will have as its headline though.

Sayali’s fit frame walks through the door, wearing ballet flats. I’m tall myself so it’s always a relief to have another tall person standing next to me. She beckons for me to come to her office. She yells for Carol, who comes scurrying down as well.

Sayali slides her trendy biker jacket off her shoulders, sits behind her desk, and indicates for us two to have a seat. I get back up to close the door because I can already see Mark looking our way from the open office space. I do not like him at all. Nice looking, but a nuisance.

Striding back to the chair, I fall into the seat as Sayali begins. We speak about yesterday’s events and how we’re all satisfied with our plan for damage control.

Sayali continues with what has obviously plagued her for a while.

“All right I’m going to cut to the chase. I hate to pit you against each other, but right now it isn’t practical to have two senior editors. You’ve both known this was coming. And I’d like you both to know that it’s been a truly, truly wonderful time getting to know you both and I uhm…this hasn’t been easy for me. Our budget for the new financial year has my hands tied and allows me to promote only one of you, but I want to assure you that the minute the board approves it the other will receive a promotion as well”.

Carol and I look at each other with half smiles then nod in understanding at Sayali.

“We totally understand and it’s really been a wonderful time getting to know you too, and working with you all, and we don’t have any competition between us so we’ll go with whatever you decide”, Carol says.

“I feel the exact same way”, I chip in, simply because there is nothing more to add.

Carol deserves this promotion. So do I, but I’m not going to be here to take it.

After our brief meeting we make our way back to our respective desks and immediately I sit down I’m aware of Mark heading towards me. This man is insufferable. When I first started out here it was clear he saw me as competition. Carol says she had the same experience. She told me she had once come back late at night to pick up some story boards she’d forgotten only to find him typing away furiously at his laptop in the office with no lights on!

Miserable Mark in the dark.

He and his sidekick Vicky probably do more gossiping and scheming than actual work. A few months into working here, Vicky had asked me over a cup of tea in the kitchen if I didn’t think I was ‘taking on too much’.

There are people who, bless their hearts, always act as though you’re overdressed not realising that they are under-dressed. Annoying Vicky is one of them. Just can’t mind her bloody business!

I’d responded to her that laziness doesn’t run in my family.

Carol and I have worked our way to the top in a short amount of time and it is clearly rubbing Mark and Vicky up the wrong way.

Just few weeks ago I’d heard Vicky said Sayali had her eye on me and Carol only because we fulfilled a politically correct agenda: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic demographic, and female. HR got involved. Sayali, being kind-hearted, tried to smooth things over.

Later when I’d found myself alone with Vicky in the lift I couldn’t resist telling her that hard work gets you into the boss’s good books and she should try it some time. She’s glowered at me ever since.

Right now Mark wants to know what I think about Eufemist publishing the op-ed from a writer in hot water due to her controversial social media post from yesterday, which has made headlines this morning.

I calmly respond that while I know this has been on everyone’s mind for the last twenty-four hours because our next issue goes to print on Monday, Sayali and I discussed this yesterday and it’s being handled. The email will be sent round shortly.

His eyebrows rise slightly and I stare at him in response, silently daring him to push me further. Hands in his pockets, he nods slowly, turns around and slowly walks back to his desk.

I turn on my desktop computer then glance at my phone. I’d forgotten to take it off the silent setting I use overnight. Three missed calls from Miri and a text message: call me please. No capital letter for the first word, something she always does when messaging from her phone. I’ll call her back at some point during the day.

There is enough time to quickly browse through my inbox and see what needs immediate attention. I also remember to buy an email timing app. I only know about this app because I’d heard Mark mention it before. As annoying as he is, when it comes to technology and investigative journalism, he’s smart and experienced.

Thirteen priority emails await my response but after paying for the timer app on my phone, I test it by firing off a quick email to myself then glance at the clock.

It’s already time for our team meeting. These meetings, as frustratingly long as they are, get the creative juices flowing. They make me feel alive. We poke and prod one another, brainstorm, challenge, and sometimes even offend. But our output is always worth it.

I grab my electronic notepad with one hand and an empty mug with the other. ‘Going green’ being part of our company agenda means minimal paper usage at meetings, and no disposable coffee cups. Obviously a good thing, but some of the mugs I’ve seen on desks have stained inner rims. Disgusting.

As soon as I enter the board room I make a beeline for my favourite chair, although I suspect everyone knows to leave it for me by now. After claiming it, I help myself to some pieces of fruit set up on the side table and make my coffee. Two spoons of sugar and a generous portion of milk, none of that hideous plain black stuff.

Sheila is standing in the corner talking to Sayali, convincing herself I’m sure that drinking her coffee through a straw as she always does will keep her veneers from getting stained. I smile to myself, wondering if all those stained mugs I’ve seen prove she has a fair point.

After over three hours in our meeting, I want to quickly grab lunch from the mall next door and pop into the pharmacy.

I see more missed calls from Miri, and one from mum. I’d better do this now. Walking into the bathroom I dial mum’s number first and she answers with a cheery voice.

“Miriam says she’s tried ringing you several times today but keeps getting your voice mail”.

“Yes mum I know… It’s a busy day today… I’m doing well…how are you? Yes I remember that we’d planned to meet up next weekend… And I love you very, very much… Bye”.

Much easier than I thought.

Miri isn’t as easy to get off the phone. She keeps asking if I’m ok, if I want her to come over tonight, and I know she loves me right? I assure her that I’ve never had any doubt. She won’t hang up till I promise to call back later tonight.

After twenty minutes on the phone with mum and Miri I don’t have time for lunch before my one-thirty phone interview with our local MP. Shit.

An idea forms in my mind and I move quickly, hoping it works. I know Sayali will be on her lunch break now so I head into her office and grab a paper pad off her desk, while opening up her drawer. Bingo! She has paracetamol just as I suspected.

I slide the tiny box in between the paper pad sheets and casually walk back to my desk.

My tummy rumbles and I remember my hunger. I hurry back into the board room and find half-empty trays of fruit from earlier and dump all the fruit onto one tray. A sticky and messy job but at least now lunch is taken care of. I gather everything I need and head for the interview room.

Glancing at my notes which I’ll use to steer the conversation, I pick up fruit from the tray and eat as quickly as I can.

Interviews and public speaking don’t make me nervous, never have. The interview begins and as always I ask the questions that need to be asked.


The day before had been like any other.

Dennis, my co-worker, and I had headed to the mall during our lunch break. We’d been talking about trying the new noodle bar everyone had been raving over.

We’d settled down to eat but halfway through, someone a few feet behind Dennis caught my eye.

Telling myself I must be seeing things, I tried distracting myself by fully immersing myself in conversation.

My phone rang: Sayali. Instinctively I knew it was an emergency.

Trudie Holt, writer extraordinaire and fashion/lifestyle columnist for ‘New Femme’ had just put her foot in it. She’d posted on social media that breastfeeding mums should ‘respect their surroundings’ and ‘cover up their boobs, for goodness’ sake’. Her post went viral.

But Trudie had penned an op-ed for us for our next issue and her shaming of public-breastfeeding had not gone down well with Sayali, who had often breastfed her own children in public. And her views would probably not be well-received by our readers either.

Sayali wanted us to still run the op-ed, but she had quickly edited her letter to our readers. We would get on top of the situation by addressing it head on. We would also have to send out a social media message highlighting Eufemist’s stance on public breastfeeding days before our issue hit stands.

Sayali hung up, leaving me wondering about my own opinion on public breastfeeding. I’d never thought about it in-depth because I’m still not sure if I want kids, but it doesn’t bother me seeing women breastfeed. All my little cousins had always been breastfed in front of me.

During the phone call I’d been meandering around the food court. Turning around to find my way back to Dennis, I was still thinking about breastfeeding. My exact thought was, ‘surely the most important thing in all this is the baby gets fed regardless of anyone’s discomfort at seeing boobs’, just as I bumped into him.

I’m surprised I didn’t pass out or at least vomit from the nausea that came over me.

In moments like these you’re always acutely aware of your surroundings.

The smell of chips and vinegar in the air. The group in the corner taking a selfie. The family with so many children in the glass lift just few feet behind him.

“Hello”.

He loomed at least a head taller.

A dandy dressed in an immaculate blue suit wearing an unmistakeable trinity-knotted tie.

The same fragrance, the same smug face.

The need to find something to steady myself was strong but the desire to punch him in the face was stronger.

Dennis motioned to me from few feet away. I looked back at the man in front of me then swiftly walked towards Dennis.

It was all I could do not to retch. The cold, half-eaten remains of what had been a delicious lunch were unceremoniously tossed in the bin as Dennis and I made our way towards the exit.

Dennis said how pale I looked, nearly as if I’d “seen a ghost”. And it was at that moment I made my plan. I told him I needed to go to the pharmacy to pick up some medication. I went straight for the ‘aches and pains’ aisle.

They were legally not allowed to sell me more than two packs of paracetamol, which would be a good start.

Back at the office the rest of the day sped past in a blur, as did the journey back home. Once home I opened my fridge. Basically empty.

Starving, scared and frustrated, I set out my clothes for the next day then showered.

Miri called once I was in bed and we spoke for a few minutes. She kept asking what was wrong, and I kept lying that nothing was. I hung up, lay on my back, and said a quick prayer. Force of habit more so than faith.

Tears slid down both temples and disappeared into my hair.

I fell asleep in a deathly silent room.


Hardly anyone works overtime on a Friday. So it’s no surprise that Vicky, with her stiff upper lip, is side-eyeing me as she walks out of the office.

It’s just after six pm and I’m staying late to type my letter telling mum and Miri that I love them, and pleading for forgiveness.

While icons occupy half the space on my computer, the background image is still clear: a grainy photograph of my father’s hand holding mine, while I stare at the camera with an expression of worry. Apparently as a toddler I hated having photographs taken.

I stare at his immaculately trimmed finger nails and settle on his yellow gold wedding ring. This photo represents everything he meant to me. He was my hero and my invincible Black god.

I didn’t cry when, at fifteen, he gave us the bad news one evening. I didn’t cry when we were told nothing could be done. I didn’t even cry as I watched him cry because his headaches were unbearable, and Miri and my mum joined in the weeping fest.

I think my tears were locked away.

We were with him in the hospice room at his last breath.

The tears came later that night when I snuck into mum’s room and held his pyjamas in my hands. His smell lingered so strongly. I curled up on his side of the bed and cried myself to sleep.

After that, the dams were closed.


My phone buzzes and I glance at the alert for the email I’d sent earlier in the day. Good. The timed email app works.

It’s eight pm and my goodbye email is ready.

I walk slowly to Mark’s desk. I’ve seen him swallow a couple of paracetamol tablets before so I know where he stores his stash.

I open the drawer and rummage around. He has everything in here that you’d expect: trading magazines, chocolates, a dead phone, a whole first aid kit. I grab the paracetamol and amble to my desk.

My drug acquisition throughout the day has been successful. I now have just under thirty grams of paracetamol, which according to my trusted search engine should be enough to kill me. It will also be painful, apparently. Sleeping pills would have been my preferred option, but I don’t have access to them right now.

I cannot deal with more pain.

It had started with hallucinations.

Always the same: a man in a blue suit and trinity-knotted tie standing at the foot of my bed, accompanied by a strong fragrance of sandalwood.

Next were the headaches. Then there were consultations and different doctors and confined spaces in big machines.

Mum and Miri crying, afraid that just like dad I would die a painful drawn-out death. Constant prayers for healing.

Panic attacks.

They got so bad that mum moved me back home with her. The anxiety and fear clouded my brain as my unwanted companion began making appearances at random. Then he began to speak to me.

Pain after surgery. Pain during chemotherapy. Pain at recovery. The long bump on my scalp that I’ve hidden well beneath my afro serving as a reminder of everything I’d rather forget.

But the biggest pain was when my faith started to die.

Then one day we were told I was in the clear. Everyone said how lucky I was, and how grateful I should be.

I only felt free when he finally disappeared. Till yesterday afternoon when I saw him at the mall.

If he is back, then it is back, and I refuse to go through it again.

I remove the blister packs from the boxes and begin methodically popping out paracetamol tablets onto my desk. Once finished, I sweep all the tablets into one of the empty drug boxes.

Never mind how I plan to swallow over fifty tablets. I just need to get to the bench in Weston park. I place the box of my soon-to-be poison into my bag and grab my empty bottle of water.

For the last time I listen to our water dispenser chug as cold water fills my bottle. I turn off the lights and take the lift to the ground floor. As usual, I nod at the night guard. Willing myself not to turn around and have one last look over the beautiful lobby, I head out the revolving doors.

As I head towards the archway I notice a woman leaning against one end, puffing out some smoke.

Who in their right mind stays at work this late on a Friday night?

Getting closer I see she’s wearing a fuchsia top and black slacks, with a huge black bag slung over one shoulder. Miri would love that bag. In one hand she clasps her cigarette, and in the other a black jacket. I try to walk past quickly, as far from her under the archway as possible, but she calls out to me.

[Source]

“Hi”.

My initial thought is to keep walking, to ignore her, but I stop just across from her.

“Hello”.

She smiles and takes a drag of her cigarette as she cocks her head to one side, crosses one foot over the other, and raises an eyebrow. She moves with perfect fluidity. I have no doubt every move she makes is controlled.

She puffs out.

“I’ve seen you around…Nice hair”. She gives an indicative nod towards my head, a sardonic expression on her face.

I pat my afro in response and give a nervous laugh.

“What’s your name”? she asks, then takes another drag.

“Michael”, I say, now wishing I had shaved this morning.

“Michael, I’m Emma. What are you doing this evening”?

I glance in the direction of Weston Park.

“Nothing”.

“Oh? Then you’ll join me and my friends for a drink in the city centre, eh”? It is a question and a statement at the same time, her tone brooking no argument, as though she had planned this all along. She then uncoils herself from her sentry position and starts to walk away.

I take a hesitant step and she turns to look at me.

“Oi, come along then. We’ve got a train to catch”.

I feel a slight smile tug at my lips as I jog to catch up. Sometime later tonight I’m going to have to cancel my timed emails.

This can wait one more day.


This story means a lot to me, I explained why here, so I’m very thankful if you have made it to the end.