She turned around quickly. Her messy hair caressed the form of her neck. Her hair, it was red, juicy orange red like how I imagined the flames of hell after Mama read the dreaded book of Revelations when I was little. It always seemed to rub against the side of her distinct jawline when she talked, that being only when. The girl never spoke much, at least not to us, Mama said she thought she was better than us folks but I could never believe it. I always sat at the window, well-hidden by the curtains, next to Granny’s picture and watched her as she walked past our house to hers. She fascinated me not only because of her oddly shaped face or her sunburnt tangle of hair I daren’t call curls, but because she stood out like white on a black background.
‘What did you say?’ she asked softly. I had never heard her speak before, but her voice barely above a whisper hit me like a sudden drizzle on a sunny summer day. Her hazel eyes flickered upwards to my face as I let mine hit the ground.
‘The time,’ I repeated. She looked at her watch.
‘A quarter past twelve’
I looked up at her face to catch a last glance before she quickly turned around and continued her stroll to her house. It was then I realized that for the months that I had hidden behind that window, truly hiding behind myself that I had never really observed her slight features fully. I noticed way more in that glance than I had ever around anyone else. I saw her eyes flittered like a wounded butterfly, still picking up every movement; the sparse freckles that spread from the bridge of her nose to her tan cheeks, her trembling lips that spread to show a faint flash of teeth and the small scar planted on her otherwise perfect chin. Though her beauty did not depend on symmetry no amount of side glances and sneaky glimpses could ever fully capture it; however no matter how full the view it could never be devoured at once.
Mama wondered why I didn’t touch my dinner that night, why I just stared out of the window when she called me to help her peel potatoes, why I sang while watering her half-dead roses in the whole-dead backyard she called a garden but she wouldn’t understand. She never seemed to understand anything I wished she would, or she just never cared enough to give a good answer, it was always a ‘Dats life, boy!’ or the more popular ‘I ain’t got no time fo’ your curiosity, chile!’ Now I wasn’t prepared for her shrugs or careless answers so I somehow promised myself to gather the courage to probably ask the girl the date this time. She never walked past our house that day or any other day after that.
The old village gossip Miss Esma claimed she moved to the better half of town, some rumored she was getting married to a politician’s son. I was reassured of two things that day: I lived in the worse part of town and I was no politician’s son (Mama’s daily reminder about how much I was like ‘ma fadda’ had me quite sure.) I was just some nineteen year old boy who still lived with his Mama, who sat at the louvered window by the black-and-white picture of some stern, old lady and watched the passersby, just another lonely boy who never knew the time.
Life just went by after that day. But I never forgot her; every time I read the book of Revelations she came to mind, yes, the girl with the hell-flames hair.
‘Johnny you by de damn window again? Hurry up chile we reading Revelations tonight.’
But I was content.
BIO: “Love should be differentiated from enchantment” Asha Graham writes in her notes appended to this story; a statement marking the 15-year-old winner in the 2013 Wadadli Pen Challenge 13 to 17 age category and overall winner as an old soul. Graham attends Antigua Girls High School and says she “enjoys listening to music, eating and listening to music while eating.” She’s been writing since age 10 and dreams of being a future bestselling author. Our verdict: hey, she was tapped as the best in show for this year’s Wadadli Pen, plus her poem Remembrance also earned her third place in the 13 to 17 age category…clearly, with talent like this, the bestseller list could be much more than “wishful think(ing)” if she keeps reading, keeps dreaming, and keeps layering skills unto her remarkable talent.
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