Angelina Kalahari

"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself." by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Tag: short stories

ASTROLOGICAL ANNOYANCES

The Moon crossed her arms. She nearly stomped her feet but refused to be so crass. “That Mercury!”

The Sun couldn’t resist the hint of intrigue. “Why? What has he done now?”

The Moon’s voice was filled with frustration. “He is so full of himself, strutting around like he’s something special, just because he rules two Signs. I can’t stand it.”

Mars inserted himself into the conversation. “Well, he does. It’s a bit of a trip.”

The Moon and the Sun both swivelled round to look at Mars, annoyance clear in their eyes.

“Don’t look at me like that. I understand perfectly what it feels like to rule two Signs.”

The Moon was just about to complain about Mars’s interruption and attitude when Pluto stepped forward.

“That’s right. Mars did rule two Signs. He ruled Aries -”

“And I still do,” Mars interrupted.

Pluto smiled. “That’s true. You do, Mars. And you also used to look after Scorpio.”

Mars still resented Pluto, even after all this time. Pluto wasn’t even a real Planet, for heaven’s sake. “Yes, I did, until you suddenly appeared out of nowhere.”

“Not out of nowhere, exactly. I was here all the time.”

“Yes, but why would you hide like that? No one saw you for ages.”

Before Pluto could respond the Moon spoke again, her voice whinier than she would have liked, but she didn’t seem to be able to help herself. “What has all that to do with Mercury? His arrogance is beyond words. I don’t care that he is the only Planet to rule two Signs.”

The Sun tried to get next to her, but Mars blocked his path. The Sun had to crane his neck to look past Mars when he spoke to her. “I don’t understand why you’re so riled up about Mercury. What does it matter to you that he rules two Signs.”

The Moon pouted. “It’s unfair. All of us have only one Sign to look after, but he has two. And that makes him utterly insufferable. He’s always darting about, never still. It’s so annoying.”

Mars had always thought the Moon to be the most beautiful, but she had always scorned him. He was as curious as the Sun about her sudden outburst and hoped that she would confide in him, at last.

“Why? What happened?” he asked.

The Moon dropped her head, suddenly shy. “Nothing…”

Jupiter, who had overheard the conversation, came to stand next to the Moon and placed a comforting arm around her shoulders as he came to her defence.

“It doesn’t matter what happened. It’s between the Moon and Mercury. I’m just grateful that I don’t have to look after two Signs like he does. I can still remember the stress of having to do so. Long ago, I was responsible not only for Sagittarius but also for Pisces – nightmare – those two Signs couldn’t be more different. It was quite the juggling act! Probably similar to what Mercury has to deal with from Gemini and Virgo. I’m grateful that I have so much more freedom now that I have only Sagittarius to look after.”

Jupiter seemed utterly oblivious to the poisonous glances from Mars who was trying to reclaim his place beside the Moon.

Pluto was aware of Mars’s interest in the Moon and his jealousy aimed at anyone who got too close to her. But he chose to ignore it, and instead, nodded. “I agree with you, Jupiter. Not only about the freedom…also about the stress. Having only Scorpio to look after is quite enough, thank you. It’s a complicated Sign and takes up all of my time.”

Neptune had walked up without being noticed, meanwhile. “Why are we all standing here? What’s happened?”

The Moon shook her head, close to tears and unable to speak.

The Sun and Mars spoke simultaneously, “Mercury has done something again.”

Neptune immediately focused on the Moon’s distress. He went to her and took her hand to comfort her. “I’m sorry to hear that Mercury has upset you. Don’t mind him. He can be a bit…well…mercurial. It’s just his nature…nothing personal. Let’s go dancing, instead. I know it will cheer you up. You’ll forget about Mercury soon.”

The Moon swallowed harder at the tears that threatened to spill down her flawless face. How could she ever forget about Mercury?

Uranus, who’d overheard Neptune’s suggestion to go dancing, quickly took the Moon’s other hand. “Oh, yes! That sounds fabby. Let’s go dancing. I know just the place. It’s modern and hip and has fantastic music. You’ll love it. Let’s go.”

But just as he was about to drag the Moon off, Saturn appeared and they had to take a step back from his imposing form barring their way.

“Where are we going?” Saturn asked.

The Sun explained everything to Saturn, beginning with the fact that the Moon was very upset about Mercury’s attitude towards her. He ended by agreeing with the Moon that Mercury’s attitude probably was as bad as it was because he ruled two Signs and therefore felt superior, somehow.

Saturn took a moment to think things through. Everyone waited patiently. Even though in reality Jupiter was the eldest of the Planets, Saturn was the father and founder of civilisations, social order and stability. Everyone, including Jupiter, relied on him for his guidance and words of wisdom. Saturn always seemed to know the answer and he always spoke the truth.

He stroked his beard thoughtfully before speaking. “First of all, it’s not true that Mercury is the only planet to rule two Signs. Mars -”

Before he could complete his sentence, Mars interrupted. “Yes, we’ve been through this. I used to rule two Signs too until Pluto, here, came along and took one away from me.”

Pluto’s intense eyes cast daggers in Mars’s direction.

Saturn held up a hand to stop Mars from starting an argument unnecessarily. “Alright, alright. Yes, true. Mars, you did rule two Signs until Pluto relieved you of Scorpio, for which you should be grateful and thank him instead of trying to start a war. The same happened to Jupiter. He is responsible for Sagittarius only because Neptune now looks after Pisces.”

Mars was becoming very impatient. “Yes, yes, we know all that.”

Saturn didn’t allow Mars’s interruption to flummox him.

“But do you remember that I used to be responsible not only for Capricorn as I am now. I also used to look after Aquarius until Uranus came along to relieve me of that responsibility.”

The Sun clapped his hands together. “Oh, yes. I’d forgotten that. Thanks for the reminder, Saturn. So, actually, those of us looking after only one Sign are the special ones.”

The Moon looked up, hope shining in her eyes. She had forgotten that there were more Planets who once looked after two Signs. Perhaps Mercury wasn’t deliberately ignoring her. If what Saturn said was true, then looking after two Signs simultaneously was not a walk among the stars. Perhaps she was being unfair towards Mercury. But why was he forever on the move, unable to sit still even for a second? He always seemed to be in two places at once. If he would just stay still for a moment, perhaps she could talk to him. How else could she make him understand how thrilling she found him, how exciting, and how much she loved him?

Again, Saturn didn’t allow the Sun’s interruption to throw him off his stride. He continued as if he hadn’t heard the Sun’s comment. “Also, it seems to me you have all forgotten that Venus is still taking care of two Signs herself. She looks after both Taurus and Libra.”

The silence that followed as everyone processed this information, was suddenly shattered. Mercury and Venus arrived arm-in-arm, laughing and skipping as they came to join the others. They stopped in their tracks when the weird atmosphere hit them.

The Moon shook her head. She could not believe that Mercury would be so friendly with Venus. And that after she was prepared to forgive him. See? It’s probably because they’re the only two Planets who have two Signs each to look after. They have things in common that she couldn’t hope to share with Mercury. She blinked back more tears. Crying in front of the others was not an option and especially not in front of Mercury.

Mercury pulled his arm from Venus.

“What’s up? Why do you all stand here like someone’s died? Has someone died?”

Venus laid a restricting arm on Mercury. He could be very blunt. He turned to cast a questioning look at Venus. When she smiled at him, deep dimples in her cheeks made her even more attractive. She gestured for him to stay silent. She had immediately noticed the Moon’s tearful eyes and the hostility from Mars, especially, towards Mercury and understood exactly what was going on. But she didn’t care about Mars. Her focus was on the Moon and Mercury. She knew her friend could appear uncaring and preoccupied, but she had known him for many years. His heart was true and loyal and he had confided in her recently that it belonged to the Moon.

The Moon, meanwhile, wanted to run and hide. She didn’t want to have to witness Mercury’s happiness with Venus. How could she blame him? Venus was stunning. She always behaved with such decorum and diplomacy. She acted with wisdom and taste. Who could resist her beauty and charms? As these thoughts swirled in her mind, the Moon felt even more upset. But how could she escape without drawing more attention to herself?

No one responded to Mercury’s question but all for very different reasons. The Moon was too upset to trust her voice. Mars was too angry with Mercury for upsetting the Moon. Pluto and Saturn were watching Mercury, wondering what he would do or say next. The Sun, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune and Venus got that Mercury was only trying to lift the heavy atmosphere. They knew he was trying to use his usual shock tactics, which didn’t shock them at all. But when he pulled the biggest ruby they had ever seen from his pocket, everyone caught their breath. They parted to make way for him as he walked toward the Moon, his hand held out to her.

“I know this is your birthstone.”

The Moon looked down. A blush crept up her cheeks. She couldn’t believe that he was standing in front of her with such a huge ruby in his hand.

She cleared her throat and whispered, “But it’s not my birthday.”

Mercury moved even closer to her. She could feel his breath on her cheeks. His voice was soft and melodious as he spoke. “I know. I tried to find something that could adequately express my love for you, but this is the best I could find.”

The Moon gasped. She had not expected those words to come from his mouth. But she had longed for it forever. Once again, Mercury had more than surprised her. Her heart overflowed with happiness. He must have known that the ruby wasn’t only her birthstone, but that it also promised love, integrity and passion.

His embrace was gentle but firm. His kiss was soft and passionate. She didn’t care that everyone witnessed it.

***

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Fading…

 

Fading…

Some days, she was herself again. Some days… What happened on the other days, the days that she was gone, she had no idea.

On the days of clarity, it felt as though she had been away on a long journey, only coming home now. She loved the feeling of coming home. It felt good to be home. It was such a relief. She felt as though she could breathe again. She wanted the feeling to continue, so this is where she would start. Here, where she was sitting in her living room, with her things around her. Here, where she felt safe.

Music lived here. It had lived here for many, many years. She would play, and they would dance and sing. Well, in the beginning, when they were too young to sing, they danced. She would be over there, by the piano, playing. He would be here, sitting on this sofa, watching them, his little family. They would be dancing: her little boy and his two younger sisters. They made up their own steps and danced with such joy, such abandon, such enthusiasm, as only small children could.

It was love at first sight. She had been around six or seven, and she knew immediately, irrevocably, that music lived in her soul. She did not know how she knew it, but she had been certain of it. As certain as the sun that smiled on the exotic, yellow African Daisies outside her mother’s bedroom window. As certain as the music that poured from the record player in the corner of the room.

The first time he had heard her play was when she was twenty years old, petite, and quite beautiful. It was a knowing within her then, her beauty. Not something she ever shared with anyone else. It was enough that it belonged to her. Like her music. But unlike her beauty, the music wasn’t hers alone. It had to be shared. She remembered well the feeling of sharing it. Of seeing the happy smiling faces around her at the hearing of it. Her feelings of satisfaction.

The beautiful dresses she could choose from, the expensive jewellery. But no rings. She had loved rings. But never any rings. Or bracelets. They clincked on the keys.

The travel: New York, Dublin, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Paris, Saltzburg, Milan, Rome, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, St Petersburg, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Boston. Exhausting, thrilling, consuming. The audiences. The applause. One performance blurred into the next as she travelled from country to country.

“So exciting, darling!” “So glamorous!”

But it wasn’t. It was work, work, work. She never felt more alive, more vibrant, more herself. Music opened her soul. It allowed her to see for herself, her path ahead. She was doing the thing she had been born to do. The thing that eluded so many others. That caused so much frustration and unhappiness as far as she could tell. But not in her. Each day was a new opportunity to explore more music, to live her purpose.

And her hair… She had been enthralled with her long dark hair. It highlighted her flawless pale skin. Well, it did then. The person staring back at her from mirrors now was a stranger. A stranger she met anew each time she looked into a mirror. She met many strangers these days. Some insisted that she should know them. That she had known them. Others carried that hurtful look in their eyes when she did not recognise them. She had come to know that look well.

Thoughts… Many thoughts. Maybe memories. Maybe dreams. They lived at the edge of her memory, teasing her with their presence. Thoughts of music. Thoughts of family.

When her babies came, she had stopped travelling. She loved her babies. But they never asked that she give up her music. He and her babies and her music lived together. He would stay with them at those times when she played. The musicals, the recitals and concerts. Accompanying other soloists. The huge old pipe organ in church. These had become her outlets for music. She was grateful. Grateful that her purpose still lived alongside her family. These were her passions. These fed her soul.

The organ extended the music. Now there was Handel’s Messiah, too, and Bach’s toccatas and fugues for postludes. Practising in the beautiful old church was an opportunity to dress up, as much out of respect for the church, as for the music. Sunday dresses and the spiked shoes she would remove and replace with soft black slippers that would glide over the pedals as she played.

Some days, she was here. With her music and her young family and him. But somehow, they weren’t here. She could not find them. She was alone. They were gone. It was terrifying. She looked and looked but she was too tired. She felt too slow. She thought about taking a short rest. She would try again tomorrow. Now there were only strangers. What did they know. Of her music. Of her family.

But on the days of clarity her life was intact again. Connections made sense. Then, there were no strangers. Only her family that she loved. She recognised them. She knew them. They were all adults now, of course. And he was there, too. Older, gentler, familiar. It felt so good. She felt good. She would walk to the piano and sit down, her fingers already reaching for the keys.

I Could Have Danced All Night. Isn’t it odd that her fingers played that song in particular. She had not meant to play it. But that’s what came out. She tried again. There was so much music. Classical music. Ah, the Romantic Music she loved so.

Stupid, stupid, STUPID fingers.

Her daughter was here. Beautiful, talented. Her youngest. Christine sang. Christine sang the last song she could play.

I Could Have Danced All Night.

(For Nita, Smitty and Christine)

DIARY OF A LETTER

An awareness of my birth started with the first word. I savoured it even as I didn’t know what it meant. More words were added, and a sense of meaning began to form. The writing – margins and paragraphs, commas and full stops, capital letters and sentences – filled my pages until I felt full with their presence, pregnant with their meaning. I revelled in the feeling of my pages – two of them – pristine, neat and smooth. Ordered lines of writing covered my first page, the message completed on the top half of my second page. The empty white space beneath, a blissful freedom, neither waiting nor pining to be filled with words, at peace with its lot.

I shared the writer’s excitement which grew as she read and re-read the words on my pages. I was to deliver a message, an important message. I sensed the writer’s anticipation of a response to the message on my pages. Pride rose in me, pride that I had been especially created for this, and a sense of something else…that I was rare, that my appearance would be an unusually pleasant surprise for the recipient, somehow. The awareness came with the understanding that other ways to deliver messages were more usual. That, in part, I understood was the reason that I was uncommon, unique.

I wondered if the words I was carrying determined my personality, my energy, and my worth. I had a sense that it did. Unable to see the words, I could not even guess at their meaning. But it didn’t detract from my happiness. I had a purpose. I had a responsibility that only I could fulfil, and no one else. It made me extraordinarily happy. I was content.

But my tranquility and cheerfulness was suddenly interrupted in a way I could not foresee. I was being folded. Oh, no! My smoothness was being disrupted. One fold. No, two!

I could hardly stand it. How could anyone do this to me? It was clear that the writer didn’t have any remorse. Apparently, she considered this ill-treatment normal. She didn’t seem to understand that I would never be the same again. I had been changed forever. From this day, I would always carry the scars of the folds on my pages. The folds were severe. They diminished my size. I was now a third smaller than I used to be. Paralyzed from the shock, I froze, but the worst was still to come.

I was being stuffed into an envelope. Of all the indignities! My edges were being straightened within the envelope before it was sealed above me. Light disappeared. I stayed as still as I could, wondering what other horrors were to come. Hopelessness washed through me. What could I do? I was pretty sure I had not done anything to warrant such abuse. I had trusted the writer, felt safe with her. This was such betrayal. My thoughts swirled round and round. How long would I be contained in this envelope? What if the writer didn’t send the envelope off immediately and I had to languish here? What if the envelope got lost en route to the recipient? How would I ever escape then? Or what if the recipient didn’t open the envelope immediately, or worse, just threw it away? I tried to stop the suffocating panic from driving me crazy.

On one level, I was deeply disturbed at being forced into a situation I had no control over. But on the other, I realized that my thoughts were not helping my situation. If only I could control them… It was difficult to think of anything other than my immediate dire circumstances. But I had to… I tried to calm myself and look logically at what had happened. Had the folds in my pages killed me? No. Had being stuffed into the envelope killed me? No. All that had happened as a result of those two scenarios was that I’d been changed. But my panic level was still sky-high. My chaotic thoughts, although the truth, did not help me to gain any new perspective. Come on, think. THINK!

It worked. The terror faded slowly.

As I thought about my purpose, about the message on my pages and how I was the only one in the whole wide world that could deliver it, I started to feel better again. I could live with the folds on my pages. Okay, so it changed how I looked but it didn’t define who I was. Luckily, the folds didn’t disturb the words. The message I carried remained intact. My reason for existence, my worth, remained unaffected despite the ugliness of the folds. I was even beginning to think that being put into the envelope might have been a good thing. Perhaps the envelope’s purpose was to keep me and my message safe. Even though uncomfortable, it was a temporary situation and I could see now, necessary, for me to deliver my message in the best possible way.

The writer clearly trusted the process. Why shouldn’t I? But I wasn’t so sure about trust. I had trusted the writer and looked what happened. Forgiving her might be a long process. Change, however, seemed inevitable. I could see that. I understood change, appreciated its constancy. It was all I had, apart from my message. No matter how scary, how painful, how uncomfortable, change allowed expansion, transformation. That was the prize; the shiny new me with a wider perspective, and a deeper appreciation for myself, being reborn again and again.

SHORT STORY: WHEN YOU GOTTA GO!

I look up from my Kindle as the tube stops. Bounds Green says the sign on the wall. The digital message that runs above the windows inside the carriage confirms the same thing.

People board the tube and take the seats of those who had disembarked moments before. Opposite me, a mother and her young son take their seats. Like me, she sits in the first seat, her little boy in the second, next to her. I turn my attention back to my Kindle and pay them no further notice.

I don’t like children. I find their energy too disruptive and parents don’t seem to notice the effect their child’s behaviour has on the people around them. It irritates me. I don’t have children of my own…never wanted any. But if I did have children, I would want them to be considerate and kind, and sit still when they’re travelling on the tube, or eating in restaurants.

The little boy opposite doesn’t sit still. He’s off the seat in no time. But thankfully, his mother doesn’t allow him to run around. Even though she is reading a newspaper, she holds on to his arm as the tube shakes and jerks along the tracks towards central London. He’s about five or six years old I estimate, and a very cute, good looking little boy with a friendly smile. He smiles at me. I smile back. Just because I don’t like children, doesn’t mean I am mean to them. He can’t help being a little boy. But that’s the problem. Small children, I find, have entirely too much energy. His mother directs him back to his seat and he slides onto it backwards, legs dangling. He’s too short for his feet to touch the floor when seated. He’s asking her for something.

“Mummy…”

“Mummy…”

I can’t make out what he’s saying, but it sounds urgent. I continue to read, knowing that the mother would take care of whatever it is the little boy needs. Only when we stop at the next station, do I hear that he’s asking if he can go to the toilet. The mother remains very calm.

“There is no toilet on the train. You’ll have to wait until we get off.”

“But I have to go now, mummy.”

“Where do you want to go? There is nowhere here.”

I can now see why the little boy is getting off the seat. He’s dancing from one foot to the other. Poor little thing. He’s clearly in urgent need of the loo. But again, his mother directs him to sit down and wait for their stop. I am beginning to admire him. He sits quietly for a little while before leaning towards his mother and whispering to her. I can’t hear what he’s saying but it’s clear that he is still talking about needing to go to the loo.

As there is nothing I, or anyone, can do to help the boy, I return to my Kindle. But moments later, a sudden flurry of activity opposite me, makes me look up again.

The boy had wet himself. I’m not surprised. His need to go seemed really urgently. What does surprise me is his mother’s reaction. She seems more concerned with cleaning the seat than she does her son. The little boy is standing in front of her, pee streaming from his shorts down his little legs. But the mother ignores him as she grabs tissues and tries to mop up the pee from the seat beside her. There’s too much of it and she has to give up, eventually covering the seat with the newspaper she had been reading. I decide her actions must betray a sense of embarrassment. Why else would she ignore her little boy to deal with a wet seat, instead?

Apparently satisfied that she had done all she could for the pee soaked seat, she turns her attention to her little boy. She wipes his legs with tissues that she adds to the wet ones already in her bag. I can’t imagine how wet everything else in her bag must be by now or what it must smell like.

I pretend to read but can’t tear my eyes away from the mother and son.

By the way the boy acts, it’s clear that this is not the first time he’s has had to pee in his pants in public. He looks around, and smiles at me and the other commuters who are also watching. I imagine his shy smile covers his humiliation. I wonder if it would affect him later?

Whether by design or because of what happened, they get off at the next stop, and I watch as the commuters around the seat warn others not to sit there. Despite the fact that the tube becomes more and more packed as rush hour on a Friday dictate it does, the seat remains empty. Only the newspaper occupies it.

Now, when I get on the tube, I never sit in the second seat even if it’s the only one available. It will forever remind me of the little boy, of his trauma, his humiliation, and the part of him he’d left behind on the tube.

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