Category Archives: short stories

February 14 is around the corner.

Saturday is February 14th and as usual I am over the moon. No, not because of the queef-fest of hearts and cards and chocolates that marks Valentine’s Day but because it’s my son’s birthday! HUZZAH!

I am full of love for the universe. Seriously, if you ask me for anything today, the probability of you getting it is in the high nineties*. So in the spirit of love, sharing and being more open – especially with those of you who have been reading this blog since it was called that other thing  (who can remember?) and was just a twinkle of mischief in my eyes – I have decided to share another of my rare never-before-seen photos. This one is from our wedding preparation.

If you’re an editor, please overlook that long sentence above. 

A little back story:  After months of just being myself, the wedding week loomed and I started to panic. I bought into the bollocks that somehow, the person I was, the person who had attracted the man that would become my husband was no longer enough so I decided to do more, to try and be more so that when he saw me walking down the altar, clad in virginal white,  a great and mighty wonder would seize him and he would be struck dumb for the duration of our marriage.

Off I went to a MAC store during my lunch break.

“Excuse me?” said I.

Nobody moved. All the assistants were busy attending to people. I bumped the bumper of my Converse on the floor for five minutes. I cleared my throat.

“Excuse me,” I tried again. “Wedding.”

A girl instantly appeared, apron tied around her waist. She was blonde and had one of those asymmetric haircuts which mark people out as ‘edgy’. She reminded me of some sort of abstract painting, all angles in a tight, black, t-shirt and jeans, severe slashes of pink and purple on her face, cheekbones you could sharpen knives on. Beside her, I was a sculpture made by a two-year-old from its own excrement.

“Yes?” she said, without  appearing to move her mouth.

“Erm…yes, I was wondering…that is…I mean…I’m getting married and I rather hoped…that is to say…” I trailed off, gesturing at my face, apologetically.

The girl seemed fatigued just from listening to me.  She blinked half-open eyes slowly, pulled her hands out of the pockets of her apron. “Follow me? Sit down?” As if those were questions. I sat. My thighs spread out beneath me. She elongated the stool so that my legs dangled above the floor. I was her puppet.

“Any idea what you’re looking for?” she asked. She did not wait for my answer, but started arranging the things she would need; brushes, more brushes, brushes that looked like pencils, pencils with brushes attached, sponge applicators shaped to resemble teardrops and triangles.

“I just wanted… you know, photographs…and I have never…well, I mean,” I punctuated my explanation with the giggling of the supremely self-conscious. My university self would have slapped me. To think I used to be trendy! I gave myself a talking to in my head, cleared my throat again.

“I mean, I’d like to look fresh for the day,” I gestured to my face, leaving out the things I really wanted to say. Could you fix this? Make it glossy? Could you make me look as if I have lost 10kg? Can you make me a model? Make meeeeee beautifuuuuuul.

“Mhm,” the girl said, cleaning my face with a wet wipe. She started painting and patting stuff onto my face, narrating her actions and the products she was using. It took a while.  About five different colours went on my eyelids alone. I swung my legs happily, dreaming of Style Challenge and what I would look like when I finally looked  in the mirror.

“What about eyelashes?” she asked.

“What about them?”

“I think you will need them to bring this whole look together.” She showed me three different types; one long, one drag-queen long and a third that could only have been a joke. I chose the long. She put some white glue on the edges. “Don’t worry, it dries clear,” she said before sticking them on, tapping in place. My eyes began to water. She tsked, collecting the tears in tissues pulled hastily from the box on the counter top. “Could you hold still?” in her weary-annoyed voice. I knew what she truly wanted to ask was ‘Could you get your eyes to stop doing that?’ I was ruining the painting’s painting.

Finally, a few swipes with a mascara wand and she was done. “You can look now.”

I did.

Dear Jesus.

I guess she fixed me. She fixed me but good.

I think she might have taken my speechlessness to be one of wonder. “You have a really beautiful glow now. I used the yellow tones; copper, bronze and gold to bring this about. You’re wearing our primer, liquid foundation, mineralize in NW…”

I faded in on a girl with her heart full of pain. I wanted to look my best, but this was a different thing entirely. Was she saying I could only look my best if I had another person’s face? God. I came in for a makeover and now I was leaving with thoughts of  cosmetic surgery.

“So which products would you like?” she said, displaying about twenty-odd tubes, pots and brushes. I took all of them, handed over my card in a daze and walked back to work hoping that security would still let me into the building.

And just in case you think I am exaggerating, this is what she made me:

I have never felt so sad in my life.
I have never felt sadder in my life.
Stretching my hand out to take the pic didn't change the view...
Stretching my hand out to take the photo did nothing to improve the view…
...neither did moving my hair away from my face.
…neither did moving my hair away from my face.
I took photos for posterity – I had worn the look the rest of the day to see how it would hold up after a few hours. (Answer: It didn’t move. I felt as though I wore gauze strapped to my face). Needless to say, I ditched those eyelashes. I did borrow some of her techniques for the big day though. The groom still has not spoken since we’ve been married.
Mission accomplished.
*Fake stats.

My short story in Apex magazine

Apex magazine issue 66 is finally out and my story ‘Candy Girl’ is in it. I loved, loved, loved writing this story and I am glad Apex magazine did too. I am especially happy because the editor at the time, Sigrid Ellis, told me that I made her ‘break my internal promise to never publish a cannibalism story’.

What more does a writer need? I can die now.

Click here to read my story or on the magazine cover to get access to the entire index of (mind-melting, delicious, surreal) short stories. Let me know what you think.

Apex Mag issue 66 cover

‘Cali': Part Eleven

Hot yellow light sliced into us from nowhere.

It blinded me. I flinched. The asshole drew back. He turned towards the light. A look passed over him. Anger. In that split second, it seemed to me as if he was baring his teeth.

“Chielozona?” The silhouette behind the car headlights was a welcome relief.  I walked quickly towards Cali, almost skipping in my haste to get to him. I threw myself in his arms.

“Cali…my car died and my phone died and…”

“It’s okay,” he said. He held me a little away from himself and scrutinised me. “I waited than I drove down here slow-slow to see if I would catch you on the way. Sorry I wasted time.”

“No, it’s not your fault,” I shook my head. It was just like Cali to apologise when he was the one helping me out.

The dizzy feeling had all but dissipated. I cleared my throat but Cali was no longer paying attention. His gaze was directed at asshole behind me who now slammed the passenger side door and came towards us with my things in tow.

“Here,” he said, thrusting his arm in my direction ungraciously. He bared his teeth again, not quite a smile but not a grimace either. I could not tell what it was supposed to mean but it made me uneasy. I looked at Cali. He was unmoved, casually brushing his jacket aside to slip his hand into his trouser pocket.

“Cali this is Mr…” I almost said ‘Mr Asshole’ but checked myself at the last minute. “He’s a customer. He was just going to give me a ride.”

“Tenk you,” said Cali. He held out his right hand.

“Later, stranger,” said the asshole ignoring the hand. He walked towards his car, started it up and drove away.

A frown creased Cali’s forehead. It disappeared when he turned, smiling to me. “Ngwa let’s go, mummy.”

On the drive home Cali was silent. I didn’t say much too. My brain buzzed like a hive of bees. Something had nearly happened or had happened but I couldn’t figure it out still and it bothered me. If Cali hadn’t come would I have…what would I have done? Would I have gone with him? I felt myself wanting to, in spite of myself. And what did the asshole mean by ‘unaffected by me’?

“Mummy? Are you okay?” asked Cali. I could tell he was searching my face in the lit spaces between the darkness.

I looped my hand around his neck and pulled his face towards mine. Cali pulled the car over.

***

My fears seemed unfounded the next morning. I felt like one of those women tied to train tracks in old black and white films, screaming ‘Help!’ and waiting to be rescued. In other words? I felt foolish. So when Cali offered to drive me to work, I refused.

“It’s cool, Cali. I can get to work by myself. There is nothing wrong with my legs,” I joked.

He tweaked my nose. “Did I say there was something wrong with your legs?” His eyes jumped about in his face. I could tell he was glad to see me. “I just want to take you, that’s all. You’re my darling wife.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s like that the men in your village marry? No bride price? No palm wine on my head? You’ve tried.” I grabbed my bags.

“Okay, okay. Don’t be angly. You’re my wife-to-be?” Something in his tone made me turn around. Cali held out a box. My heart skipped a beat.

“Cali…what is that?”

“I was going to keep it until later but I think that now, you should take it. From me to you.”

“Cali…”

“Okay, okay. You don’t have to open it now. Just…take it.”

The box was a bigger than your standard ring box when I looked closely and my heart descended from my throat.  “Thank you,” I kissed him.

“I know you will like it….you don’t want to open it?”

My phone started ringing. I smiled at him, and raised a finger. “Hello?”

It was the bank manager. I handed the box back and raced for the front door.

***

“I swear I didn’t park my car in your spot, sir. I tried to get home yesterday and when it wouldn’t start, I just left it where I had parked it. By the wall.”

“I do not appreciate having to walk a long way through the car park with sensitive documents flying about because someone, a junior member of staff for that matter, takes it upon herself to displace the manager.”

I wondered what one had to do with the other but said nothing.  I had not parked in his spot, but  did he not have a briefcase for his documents?

“Mr Elendu sir, it won’t happen again,” said the floor manager, cutting eyes at me. I rearranged my face so that my thoughts would not show on them.

“See that it doesn’t,” said Mr Elendu. “It was very embarrassing.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll move it now.” I left quickly before the floor manager could run after me to breathe fire down my neck.

I slipped my keys in the ignition and turned it. My car roared to life.

‘Cali': Part Ten

I groaned. I could have sworn it was inwardly but the man laughed, so I knew I had done it aloud. His teeth gleamed unnaturally white in the dimness of his car.

“No, thank you,” I said. “I don’t take rides from strangers.” I started to walk away. He followed in the car.

“Ehh, let me guess. You can run your mouth when you’re behind the safety of your precious glass but now that I am here, I’m a stranger?”

“You were always a stranger,” I said, in spite of myself. Something told me to shut my mouth and just keep walking. I looked all about waiting for the okadas coming behind me or towards me on the other side of the road. Nothing. Only cars. Buses zoomed past without stopping. No conductors shouting for fares. They were all full. What time was it?

The man laughed again, as the last car whooshed past us. Darkness. I realised I had walked past the bank’s lit fence. My heart beat with so much force that it shook my body. I began to walk faster. I turned. The car remained ominously silent behind me…

“You’re being stupid,” said a voice.

I walked straight into the man. In front of me. I screamed.

“How did you…? Jes…”

“You’re going to break your neck,” he said. “Stop being a smallie. Get in the car. I’ll give you a ride. Okay?”

The asshole was almost murmuring now. I felt dizzy. I couldn’t think. My nose hurt from where I had bumped it against his body, like walking into a padded door. How had he got in front of me?

“I’m waiting for someone. My boyfriend. He’s coming to find me…”

His face was above mine. Way above mine. But I felt a disturbance in the air as if someone had sliced it in two with a hot knife. He was smiling again.

“No he isn’t,” he said. “Com’on. You don’t want someone to attack you, do you?”

What he said made sense. Perfect sense. Would I not be better off with someone I sort-of knew? But something in me was screaming. I backed away. I had been intending to get away and cross the road to the other side but somehow I got to the car and he was opening the door, standing near me, helping me in.

“You know, you really intrigue me,” he said.

My saliva turned to paste in my mouth. “I do?” I could see flashes of colour in my mind’s eye. Red mostly. Some silver. I knew I was afraid but it was as if my body could not feel it properly.

“You do. You seem…unaffected by me. Almost.” The asshole sniffed my ear, my neck. He backed away. “Listen. I’m sorry I called you a bitch. I didn’t mean that. And I don’t mean to scare you or anything. You are scared. I can tell.”

As he backed away, I felt a jagged feeling run though me, as if I was finally connecting to my brain. “Look, I’m sorry but I can’t…my boyfriend will pick me up.”

“We’ve been here for twenty minutes . Would you get in the car already? I’ve never had to work so hard to convince a woman to let me help her.”

A thought occurred to me. “No.”

“No?” he sounded surprised.

“No, thank you. I think I’ll…I’ll wait.”

The man stood there. I could feel the heat coming off him as he leaned in again. “Are you sure?”

Flashes of red. Silver. Sweat soaked into the wings of my bra from my armpit.

‘Cali': Part Nine

“I should LOWER MY VOICE?!” The woman shouted. She was getting louder, in that very Nigerian way of escalating an argument very quickly. People turned.

Real fear clutched at my heart. My hands grew cold. How would I pay my rent? How would I get another job? I had lied to get this one, won it by out-talking my rivals, as one senior management person told me on my first week. Could I do it again? Were there even vacancies?  I didn’t have enough saved up for my masters’. I couldn’t make a proper living as a writer, not without some side hustle. My life prospects flashed before my eyes. None of it was good.

Of course I didn’t want to work as a banker for the rest of my life. I hated the job! But it was better to quit than to be fired. And it was more pragmatic to quit when one had other things in place. Otherwise…

The floor manager marched towards my cubicle. Asshole reached over and placed a hand on the woman. She turned towards him.

“What seems to be the problem?” asked the floor manager. Her voice told me what I suspected. This was it for me.

“There was just a misunderstanding…”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Chielozona,” she turned to the woman. “Would you like to make a complaint?”

When the woman turned towards us again, she was smiling, all the harsh angles of a face contorted in anger had dissolved like a sugar cube placed in water.

“Sorry?” she said, looking dreamy.

The floor manager’s smile superior smile faltered. “I asked if you would like to make a formal complaint. You were shouting. You had a problem, abi?”

“Me? Shouting? No. It was just a misunderstanding,” she said. “No problem at all, ma.”

Customers turned back to what they were doing. The floor manager huffed and stomped away.

Asshole concluded his business and poked his head in my window – regardless of the woman standing there – and said “I’m leaving, I’ll see you later.” As if we were friends. I said nothing.  I didn’t look at him. I was so shaken up. Something had just happened and I couldn’t place my finger on what exactly. Asshole didn’t move from the glass. I looked up.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

I went through the rest of the day in a daze, counting down the hours till I finished for the day. I suddenly missed Cali with a fierceness that made me ache.

I slipped my phone out of my pocket. Cali, I will like to come inside tonight.

It had barely sent when I got my reply. Yes mummy. I am here for you. Then, Do you want me to pick you?

No, I drove. I’ll come to you.

What do you want to eat?

Surprise me.

Cabin and milk then.

LOL!

I started to feel better.

***

The floor manager took her frustration out on me by giving me a lot more work to do. I didn’t complain. I knew I had got off lightly. She was just annoyed that she had not got rid of me this time. By the time I left work the car park was deserted. I had parked my car almost by the front wall, a tight squeeze as there had been no space but now it looked forlorn being there all on its own. It shone ghostly sliver in the moonlight.

Shouting a greeting across to the night watchmen, I darted across the car park, taking courage from their sleepy responses. I flung my things in the passenger’s seat and slammed the door. I slid the key in the ignition and twisted it.

Nothing. Not even so much as a wheeze.

I tried again. It didn’t work.

“What the…?”

I pulled out my phone to call Cali but it was dead. I sighed. The day just kept getting better. I sat in the car while I weighed up the benefits of using one of the calling stands on the road to call Cali, then waiting for him to come all the way through traffic to get me, versus just jumping on an okada.

The okada won. I grabbed my things and set off, determined not to walk past the perimeter of the bank’s fence where it was well-lit. I waited. There were no free okadas. I was about to give up and make a call from the MTN umbrella down the road when a dark car pulled up beside me. Its driver wound down the window and a gust of cold air wafted out.

“Ah, it’s my friend with the attitude,” said the asshole. “Get in. I’ll give you a ride.”