Fiction

Leigh-Ann Worrell

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The key to my Heart has been Broken

Half is stuck inside me: visible, barely protruding. Close enough to touch, to fiddle with, but you can’t quite get at it. Stick your finger the right place and it’s not hard to find; just there, almost… Tug a bit, and a bit more, and the only thing it reveals is frustration.

The other part is gone forever.

Conjure up love in all its glory; imagine and reminisce of the day that you found it — the day it shone down on you and all you could do was smile with it. Smile at it. Smile for it. But the key to my love has been casted away, weather-beaten and battered; tattered by tears at the rivers of Babylon.

That other part of the key to my heart is gone forever.

I flung it far, but saw it foaming at the mouth of the shore. Sea and fire. Sea salt and fire.

They slept.

One hand down her pyjama pants, poking and tugging at her navel, the other in her mouth. Right thumb in her mouth, index finger rubbing against her nose. Back turned to her lover, Alinda traced the drag of a steady snore.

“He’ll be out for the night,” she thought with a smile.

It was the first time Alinda felt close to the pos­sibility of a full night’s sleep since she and Sean moved in together three weeks ago. She double-checked to make sure her man was truly asleep before gently pulling out the second drawer of the nightstand, where a once-yellow blanket hid in waiting. Its thread­bare cotton was dark and dingy at the edges from years of wear and tears. Alinda filled her lungs with its famili­arity, breathing in humid nights and rainstorms in that place she always should call home. Placing the blanket under her head, she settled back to sleep, right thumb in her mouth. Finally at peace. She covered her face with the duvet — just in case. He could not see her. No one could see her. Not again.

Peace filled the room, and they slept.

***

Alinda closed the door gently. Leaning against the door, she slid off her black pumps and rolled down nude knee highs. Keys clattered and settled in the glass bowl perched on a small shelf in the coat closet. She shed her black pencil skirt, yellow silk blouse and blue matching underwear, making a trail towards the bathroom. Not bothering to turn on the light, Alinda closed the door and positioned her­self carefully on the toilet seat, relieving three hours of discontents. The loud swish of the flushing water intensified the dull stab of a headache.

She flicked on the switch before washing her hands. Staring intently at a fresh dark blue pedicure, Alinda resolved this time would be the last time. Just like the time before the last…and the time before that.

But this time would be different.

Grabbing a lighter from the bathroom cabinet, she dug out the faint blanket, now lodged between the bed and the wall. Telltale traces of small green and blue teddy bears asymmetrically danced across the old cloth.

Back in the bathroom, a quick flicker of the lighter heightened Alinda’s resolve, as her head pounded with re-memory: she was in the middle of a mandatory Monday meeting for the marketing department when her phone lit up with the fact that he had caught her in the act: one hand hidden by thick sheets, right thumb securely in her mouth, index finger rubbing against her nose. The worn blanket caressed her face.

“You is a woman, or a lil girl?” he accused in the picture’s caption. Alinda calmly, yet hastily, excused herself from the meeting. Her heart thumped to the beat of her black pumps hitting the tiles of the large office. A quick walk-run to the last bathroom stall barely made sure she shed solitary tears. Fingers trembled as she tried to call her man.

No answer.

Flushing the toilet, Alinda tried her best to exit the bathroom like nothing had happened. She skipped the rest of the meeting and returned to her cubi­cle. She booked a pedicure appointment right after work, at a nail salon a few blocks from the office.

***

I chose dark blue for the sea. Overseas and under the sea. Eyes open, breath held, looking for schools of silvery fish darting across the Caribbean blue-green. Nana lived in Fitts Village and the sea was her neighbour. Look left, then right, then left again and walk ‘cross the road, but don’t talk to nobody. But make sure to holler for Ms. Geraldine and put your towel at she back door. Sand powdered pale feet pounding towards a glistening shore. One…two…three…dive in. Water not too cold, just fine. Forever blue.

I chose blue for Barbados, where I spent all my summers until nana passed on at 85. I was 18 and unsure what to make of it. Nana had been my best friend and the first person to accept my becoming. At first I con­cealed my lack of maturity, my childishness, as mummy had called it.

“Young women keep don’t have these kinda habits!” Mummy screamed at me from the other side of the brown leather couch at adolescent therapy. Preserved bitter aloes from the Caribbean shop had been peppered with prayers, promises, threats and lots of shame.

“I don’t do it on purpose,” I bit back. “You don’t think I want to stop?”

“Not enough.”

I looked out the window of the psychiatrist’s office at a dull Toronto day. Vibrantly colourless. The ultimate melting pot, where spicy flavours sizzled to their demise. I always used to get lost ‘cause I never knew the names of places, ‘cause they were not mine to learn.

In nana’ house, my bedroom was small and airy. Light bore its way through cracks in the unpainted wooden structure. White curtains billowed overhead, bringing in the scent of salt, rotting trees and fish guts from the market not too far away.

I was reading a book with the door closed when she see me — right thumb in my mouth, left thumb keeping the page still. It was a book about first crushes and friendship and menstrual belts. Nana opened the door to ask me what I wanted to eat for lunch, but I didn’t hear. I pull it out quick. She say don’t worry, and I can stop when I ready, and nobody ain’t rushing me. I never bother to tell she mummy had tie up my thumb with tape and rub scotch bonnet on it, and that my brother tease me and tell his cute friend Thomas that I had a baby habit. I liked Thomas bad, but now he thought I was a lil girl. But I was 15 and my breasts were full and my hips were round and down there had feelings I could touch. Sometimes I would sit in the dark and play with them. Eyes closed, breath held, rubbing up against pil­low edges. Quick gyrations on eager fingers; gasping and grasping for air. I would imagine Thomas holding me close, telling me jokes as I sat on his lap. He would turn my face to his and tell me how he thought I was beautiful as he ran his hand through my stubborn mid-length coils. He’d grab a handful, in my dreams. Pull me a little closer. Lean in. One last look before the kiss.

Tongues united.

Other times I would think about Kelly-Ann. She liked to be called Kells. Her parents were from Dominica and she had big hips like me, but a bigger atti­tude. A steady stomp announced her arrival from miles away. All the boys were scared of her and all the girls wanted to be her. I wanted to know what it would be like to touch her naked. In my dreams, her skin felt like buttermilk and her voice was just as soft. Panties balled up on the floor. She’d let me hold her hand and call her Kelly-Ann, or Kelly. Her curvy frame wiggled its way between my skinny legs. She found a hairless opening and explored it with her lips, with her fin­gers. I never wanted her to stop.

After Kelly-Ann or Thomas dissipated, I would suck on my satisfaction. It was a little salty and smelled like the fish guts cut out by the vendors in the market. Like home. Most of the time I preferred thinking about Kelly-Ann more than Thomas, but I had to pick my battles. I tell nana about my feelings for Kells. She wasn’t happy but she say she could learn to understand.

“Woman ain’t make for woman, Allie. De Bible say dat. But I am you’ grandmother and I love you and what­ever you want shall be you’ own.”

And then she hug me. Charcoal black, heavy-set 4 ft 5” enveloping me as I sat in her best armchair. Nana’s breasts were in my ears. I hug she back and I knew then: anything I wanted should be mine.

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