The following piece is just 496 words long and is my first published Flash Fiction. It’s a form I’ve wanted to get into for ages, but struggled with, mainly because it seemed so hard to get a complete story into a very small package. Having said that, this piece is long compared to some Flash which can be as short as 50, 75, or 100 words.
I won’t say much about this piece apart from the fact that it’s based on a true story and the experiences of a friend in Germany via Niger. It was published recently in the inaugural issue of Haverthorn Magazine (UK).
The First Wife
The Englishwoman came again today. Just wanted to check how you’re feeling. Need anything? Milk, bread, chocolate? She laughed one of those laughs that show all the teeth and let people know how old you are. I never laugh like that anymore. When I did, I’d cover my mouth. They do that in Japan too, laugh with the eyes and leave something to the imagination. Save it for the bedroom, my mother used to say.
Sarah, that’s her name, brought flowers. Picked them from her garden. Sounds like an afterthought to me, but a thought all the same, and I’m not in many people’s thoughts today. Not in his, that’s for sure. Have you eaten today, Haneefa? You have to keep your strength up. Having a baby at your age is a big deal, you know. If she knows I know, why does she have to say it? I know plenty that will never pass my lips. Those who know the most say the least.
He shouldn’t be alive today, dancing with his new brothers-in-law, eating food cooked by his bride’s mother and all those aunties. He never liked my food. What the hell is this? It might do in your bloody mud huts in Mali, but we’re back in civilisation now. We can eat proper dinners.
The Englishwoman has a good heart. She knows what today is, keeps track of stuff like that. I’ve told her a load of stories and she’s writing them down for a book. Sometimes I slant the truth to give her what she wants, mostly hardships. I’ve one more story to tell her.
I was fourteen when I saved his life. Germans go everywhere in the world because their country’s all the same. Everyone looks the same, all the cities, the same. His skin got browner and he got harder every month he spent under the African sun. This day, I saw his feet first. Big, dirty boots sticking out behind the grocery store. I heard a moan, desperate, like he was injured real bad.
He was sitting with his back to the wall, a bottle in one hand, half gone. On his thigh, little white pills. Too many for a pain in the head or the stomach. Go away, girl. I’m killing myself. I didn’t think, just grabbed the bottle, swatted the pills off his leg like flies, and ran.
Two months later, he converted to Islam and we were married. All my friends were jealous, knowing I’d be off to Europe someday.
Sarah made tea in my kitchen and sat down next to me. She sighed, patted my knee with her sinewy hand. What would you change if you could turn back the clock? she asked.
Nothing, I lied.
I’ve relived that moment and changed it in my mind hundreds of times. Two words, that’s what I’d change. Two words I’d shout so loud at him if I found him sitting there again.