Sheniqua Maria Greaves, 19, F, ‘The Juxtaposed Reprieve’ (fiction)
About the Author – Sheniqua Greaves is a recent graduate of Antigua State College. She loves reading and has a fondness for writing. She, also, enjoys watching animated movies, shows; and listening to music in her spare time.
About ‘A Juxtaposed Reprieve’: The story gives a glimpse into the daily struggles of two best friends during the height of the pandemic lockdown. Greaves said, “This story is inspired by my experience of boredom during the pandemic. As well as the notion of missing out, when in reality things will occur in the intended time.”
‘A Juxtaposed Reprieve’
Weary eyes gazed at the orange tinted glare of the computer screen. Shamia Anderson lazily scrolled through her social media feed for prospective job opportunities. Sure, times were hard, but there haven’t been any new job updates for two days and she was feeling antsy.
Deciding to refresh her page one last time, a candy-colored image came into view. “HELP WANTED,” it boosted. Quickly skimming for the requirements, her demeanor soured. More graphic designers? Really?
Tension was high, pandemic fatigue was in the air and she’d caught a bad case. Especially frustrating was the deviation from her plan. It was simple, graduate, get employed and raise money to pay for her degree.
Not sitting idly by while her family struggled to keep the lights on. Sure, it was hard to get a job in Antigua even pre-pandemic, but still… She was-
Ms. Anderson, “the smart one”, she was supposed to wow the interviewers with her personality, not stalk her rarely used Facebook profile like a scavenger.
Damn it. Her frustration and bitter tears welled up to the surface.
Then she let out a weary sigh, a reminder of the time. Wiping away her damp cheeks, she decided to get some sleep.
Declining her family’s request for a round of domino, and ignoring the 50+ messages from Andrea (poor girl, she had her own problems). She flopped on her bed, springs of the weary mattress protesting at her weight. Checking her phone, she scrolled aimlessly through her feed as the blue lights lulled her into a heavy sleep.
The sweet tunes of pan music in the live band blended effortlessly with the other instruments, blanketing her, from the cold of the beachside restaurant, in nostalgic tunes. To the front of her, couples swayed in time with the music.
Yet Shamia, ever the introvert, sat off to the side, sipping on a virgin sunrise. It was well deserved after a hard day’s work, after all.
A tap on her shoulder notified her of Andrea, who took the seat next to her, attired in a blue oxford miniskirt and plain white kimono top. They started the most enthralling conversation about why the formation of the letter “G” was just so peculiar.
When taking another sip, some drizzled onto her pants suit, embarrassed, she looked down only to see that her business attire had been swapped for a multicolored halter-dress, accompanied by a crimson hibiscus in her teased-coily hair.
Something wasn’t right here. She didn’t have the confidence to pull this look off, meaning…
She startled awake, sharply inhaling. The dark, silence of her shared bedroom stood out even more than usual after that vibrant scene.
Despite living in a small house with four occupants, she’d never felt lonely. It wasn’t real.
What even was the purpose?
What joy is there to find that fictitious scene? It must’ve been a particularly emotional night, as tears surfaced again. They were as silent and isolating as ever.
Andrea Scholar didn’t live up to her namesake.
Sure, she finished Jennings Secondary with a whooping seven subjects.
Still, she found it hard to find anything outside of her current supermarket cashier gig. Yet, she was thankful for it. She was deemed essential, which was rare for anyone outside of Shamia or her mom to think. At least she didn’t work in the tourism industry, she internally shuddered at the prospect.
Hopping off the company bus, she tugged her mask down marginally. Allowing herself the luxury of some fresh air as she strolled to her humble, single-bedroom abode.
After walking in, she hip-checked the door, unintentionally slamming it.
“Idiot!” She internally berated herself. She proceeded to step lightly in an effort to keep quiet. Yet, any groan of the creaking floorboard was nothing compared to the groan of her awakened ailing mother.
“Andrea, is that you?” she croaked.
“Yes, mama,” Andrea answered, making sure to keep her distance. After a few exchanged words, she allowed her mother to get some more rest and herself, a shower.
After dressing in some fresh clothes, she gently plopped onto the couch. She rummaged in her bag and pulled out her envelope of cash.
Okay, so first she had to make sure funds were put aside so her mother’s medication was paid for. Next the rent, bills, and groceries…
The excess $50 stared at her.
She really was hoping the reconnected the Wi-Fi or at least the cable, so her mom could get some entertainment when she wasn’t home, but it’ll have to wait.
Sigh. She’ll deal with this tomorrow. She just needed some rest, then she’ll start at some dinner for them. Lying on the couch, she stared listlessly at her roof. She hoped Shamia would eventually answer her texts. Poor thing was always so anxious.
Eyelids drooping, the sound of crickets lulled her to sleep.
Andrea sat upright on her couch as she sipped on a tequila sunset.
The sounds of Vivaldi spring and Shamia, busing herself in the kitchen, was a welcome deviation from the silence that usually permeated her house.
Shamia bustled as she prepared her specialty of roti and curry. Next to her, mother sat, looking better than she did in ages, enjoying her own cocktail. The designated chief grinned as she was quizzed on her method.
Deciding to help, Andrea got up from her seat and waltzed over.
Only for Shamia, to gently her away.
“Sit, sit. You’ve been working so hard.” She scolded.
“You really have dear.” Her mother added.
“I’m such a bad host,” Andrea protested, a sheepish grin on her face.
The three women broke out laughing at that comment. It really wasn’t that funny…
Gently she roused from her slumber. The muffled sounds of her mother’s coughs served to rouse her awareness.
Smiling to herself as she went to make some chicken soup. Her only hope is that her dream wouldn’t be the last of its kind, and maybe if she was really lucky, it’d even come true.
This story was edited by the author, post-judging, prior to posting. It is one of the winning entries in the 2021 Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge. Please respect each writer’s copyright.
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