The day after school closed for summer vacation, my sister and I boarded a plane for Antigua. We left there when I was five so my memory did not recall much, but my favourite recollection of Antigua was Sunday afternoons on the beach with my family after church. We would take long strolls down to the beach or sometimes my sister Rosheda and I would race my father to the end of the stretch of sand if we were in a particularly playful mood. My mother would sit laughing and smiling as she watched us play with our father, wrestling him to the sand or challenging him to a game of football or cricket. ‘The boy children Trevor never had’ she would smile and say. Her smile was so beautiful. Other families were there, but it felt as though the beach belonged to us alone. America was nice with its many stores and tall structures, but we who are born of palm trees swaying in the warm island breeze with the beauty of the Caribbean Seas can never seek solace in rivers and lakes. I rubbed my eyes and felt they were wet. I hadn’t realized I was crying until then. As I was bombarded by these memories, I realized that all it ever would be was a memory and it no longer possessed the ability to materialize and exist. Our mother died when I was five. Little known to us, she had been a survivor of breast cancer for six long years. After the funeral, arrangements were made for us to stay by her sister and our Aunty Irene, in Chicago.
Ten years later, here were my sister and I back in Antigua. We stayed by my father’s house with our stepmother Angela whom I disliked. Usually we would go shopping or village hopping but this morning I woke up feeling a bit weak so I decided to rest for the day. My father stumbled onto the porch looking like Jack Skellington from the Nightmare before Christmas. He looked like a stranger to me for he was so thin and his eyes sunk into his head with dark circles sitting beneath each. His cheek bones protruded through his skin and his clothes hung on him like a coat on a nail.
“How are you today daddy?”
“True? Well mind wind don’t blow you away” I jokingly said.
I learned that joke from my Grandmother Viola when I met her a few weeks ago upon arrival on island. She was a very pleasant woman who had the characteristic roundness that all pleasantly plump Caribbean women, especially older ones, seemed to posses. She fed us up on island delicacies and told riveting tales of my father’s childhood that could bring even a grown man to his knees.
“I have been stung by bees and jellyfish, but nothing could ever prepare me for Bethesda mosquitoes,” daddy said one morning joining me on the spacious verandah. He rubbed at some bite marks on his neck and shoulders. Subconsciously, I rubbed at a few on myself as a silent agreement with daddy’s statement. Just then Angela, daddy’s new wife stood by the kitchen door just behind us saying her usual fake cheerful good mornings to me. Though I disliked her greatly, one couldn’t help but admire her beautiful hair, stunning, almost mythical facial features and unmarked skin. I found it strange how she was never affected by the mosquitoes as the rest of us was. She gave me this unsettling feeling. She returned inside and left daddy and I by ourselves.
“Daddy I don’t like Angela.” “She’s only nice to Rosheda and I when you are around” I started.
“Now Alyssa Jarvis you need to give Angela a chance because she really does care for you and your sisters.”
My efforts were futile for daddy was too enchanted by Angela. He was tied, as these islanders would say. I knew there was no point in arguing and so I retreated to my bedroom where I stayed on my laptop until nightfall. I spoke to my friend Kendra on Skype and told her all about my wicked stepmother Angela. I felt like I dropped directly into a Disney princess storyline.
“A Dominica you say she from? Better min’ a nar duppy,” she joked in her fake Jamaican accent. I had to keep reminding this girl that I was from Antigua and that Jamaica wasn’t the only island in the Caribbean. Exhausted and weak, I retired early for the evening.
I dreamt I was walking down a dirt road with miles of barren land lying on each side. I was so thirsty and I came upon a little house. I came upon a lady in a broad straw hat sat in a rocking chair gently rocking in sync with the breeze. I told her I was thirsty and she simply got up and went into the house. Suddenly a soft, sweet melodious voice familiar to my ears, that could sometimes rock to me sleep reminding me of happier times and could make me cry ‘til tears offered no more consolation and make me sad in an instant, drifted to me riding on the wind. “Alyssa come” the voice beckoned. I went into the house and followed the sunlight streaming in through holes in the roof to the kitchen. Then I saw her beautiful face. I didn’t think twice about running into her arms outstretched like a crucifix. It felt so good to hold my mother again but this wasn’t right. My mother was dead. I soon after felt my tiny body being crushed in her embrace. I began to slowly lose consciousness with the inability to breathe, my vision warped. I slightly regained consciousness to glimpse Angela’s face bearing fangs. I felt the life being drained from me. I drifted out and the next time I drifted in I was awake. I was drenched in a cold sweat and my pajama top stuck to me, chest heaving as I tried to catch my breath. I wiped my forehead and got out of the bed to go the bathroom. I went to the bathroom, retrieved a glass of water from the kitchen and was about to return into my bed when I heard a floorboard creak in Rosheda’s room. I tiptoed to her door and slightly pushed it open. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. Angela crouched on the bed holding Rosheda’s lifeless body, teeth sunk deep into her neck. I lost all feeling in my body as I witnessed Angela drain my sister’s body of every last drop of life and blood. My hands went numb, I lost the grip on my glass and it dropped with a loud “Crash!” She turned around and flew with animalistic precision up the wall and through the skylight. Breaking my trance I pushed on the door and realized there was a dead-weight blocking it from behind. It was my father. He inhaled and exhaled weakly struggling to get some incoherent words out. He was still breathing and through quivering lips I promised my assistance soon. I flew to her side and cradled her in my arms begging her to wake up. I quickly felt for a pulse but found none. Rosheda was dead. My worst fears were confirmed at that point. Angela was a parasite_ so deadly, but so beautiful to look at.
AUTHOR BIO: Ariel Dunnah is a 16 year old fifth form student at the Antigua Girls’ High School. Writing is a hidden passion of hers and she saw the Wadadli Pen Competition as an opportunity to expose her creativity and gain experience in her writing. Her story, Angela’s Baby, which earned second place in the 13 to 17 age category of the 2012 Wadadli Pen Challenge was inspired by the poem Ol’ Higue – the old island story of a haggish old woman who feasts on a baby’s blood. It also addresses the social issue of infant fatalities caused by mothers who may have taken the lives of their babies or who may have had a very ill baby who eventually died from complications and may now be looking for answers. Her other entry, Every Rose has its Thorn, which won first place in the 13 to 17 age category and second place overall, also pertains to the supernatural though, as the chief judge said, it “feels real”. In it, Alyssa senses that all isn’t right with her new stepmother. Things become frightening when Alyssa’s mother visits her in a dream but nothing could prepare her for what happens next.
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