keeeptalking

March 6, 2014

Rachel and Martha – Part 3

Filed under: Fiction — by Zuhair @ 2:31 pm

The sun was desperately sneaking into the room through the curtains. Rachel stared at it uneasily. She could hear her husband breathing next to her as he slept. So peacefully he slept, she thought to herself; as if nothing in the world could grieve him the way everything grieved her. She looked at her lifeless, pale, thin hand. The ring felt almost suffocating. It had only been three years. She felt the inscriptions on it, reading the words in her mind; words her husband had decided on when he gave her the ring, maybe even when he proposed, maybe even before that when he thought he had fallen for her and she had fallen for him. These were words she knew as part of herself.

He was stirring in his sleep. He opened his eyes and looked longingly into hers. He smiled a loving smile and kissed her passionately on her lips. She smiled.  That was how everyday started, she thought.

Soon the house was quiet. He had gone to work. Somehow Rachel did not want him to come back. She knew Martha would be coming soon. She knew Martha would be coming to stay permanently. She didn’t want him to see her that way.

Rachel went on with her housewifely chores. She cooked and cleaned and watched the maid. She knew Martha was silently watching her. She knew Martha had been watching her since the very first day. She had known since she had felt a pang in her chest; that bitter feeling that makes itself present when one is hurting. ‘What was it?’ ‘It was something he had done.’ ‘What had he done?’ ‘Something he had said’ ‘What was it?’ Rachel just could not remember. All she remembered was what Martha had always reminded her of. The feelings. Only the feelings, not how they came to be.

Thinking about it now, Rachel felt all the feelings were too much. They were much more than they ought to be. Where had they come from? Were they even real?

‘Yes. Yes they are real’

‘How do you know?’

‘I know you, Rachel. I know you better than you know yourself.’

‘No. You don’t’. Rachel could hear herself screaming.

‘I’m you, remember.’

‘I’m you, remember.’

‘I’m you.’

Rachel ran into the attic. She had to get rid of her. Martha had to go. She had to get rid of her. Rachel had to go.

Martha took out the wedding dress. Rachel could see herself in every stone that beautified it. It just wasn’t so beautiful anymore. Martha took a pair of scissors. She tore it into bits. She pulled out the stones and Rachel saw herself fall and hit the ground with every stone.

She had to get rid of her. Martha had to go. Rachel picked herself up and ran downstairs. She knew Martha was following her. She could hear her laughing with victory because of what she had done to the dress. Rachel’s heart broke thinking about it.

‘It’s his fault. That wedding dress meant nothing to him. He doesn’t care about it. He doesn’t care about you. Run away. Run away. Leave him.’

‘No. I can’t. I love him. He loves me.’

‘No. He loves me. He doesn’t love you.’

‘He doesn’t love you. He doesn’t love you. He doesn’t love you.’

Rachel stared into the mirror. She couldn’t see Martha anymore. She could only hear Martha. She could hear her laughing. She could hear her screaming, as if she was trying to break free. In the mirror, Rachel only saw herself.

She looked deeply into her own eyes. She moved closer and closer to the mirror, trying to find Martha. Was Martha gone?

‘Where’s Martha?’

‘I’m Martha.’

‘I’m Rachel.’

‘No. I’m Martha.’

‘No. No. No.’

‘Who am I? Who is she?’

‘I’m his wife. Yes. His wife.’

‘We’re his wife. We’re his housewife’

‘He’s our husband. We listen.’

‘No. We don’t’

‘We do.’

Rachel was suddenly exhausted. She slowly walked to the bedroom. Rachel dropped onto her bed. Martha followed. They fell asleep.

Hours later, Martha’s husband came home. He opened the door and looked for his wife. She was not in the living room or the kitchen where she usually was. There was no lunch on the table. The kitchen looked like nobody had been in it. The house seemed dead and dry.

He began to worry. He walked up the stairs and into the bedroom. There she was. Sleeping beautifully. She looked like an angel. He was her angel. He did not want to wake her up but he couldn’t help it. He approached her and kissed her forehead.

Martha woke up with a start!

He held her. ‘Are you alright?’ He seemed concerned.

‘Yes.’ She stuttered.

‘Are you sure? Are you feeling ill?’

‘No. I’m just tired today. That’s all.’ She replied.

‘Shall we go out and have some lunch, darling?’ he asked.

‘Yes. I’d like that.’ Martha replied.

‘I love you. You know that, don’t you, darling?’ He asked.

‘Yes….’

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February 16, 2014

Rachel and Martha – Part 2

Filed under: Fiction — by Zuhair @ 3:56 pm

The sun was silently creeping into the room through the slight opening between the curtains. Rachel stared at it longingly. She could hear her husband breathing next to her as he slept. So peacefully he slept, she thought to herself; as if nothing in the world could distress him the way everything distressed her. She looked at her pale, thin hand. The ring felt tighter today. It had only been three months. She felt the inscriptions on it, reading the words in her mind; words her husband had decided on when he gave her the ring, maybe even when he proposed, maybe even before that when he thought he had fallen for her and she had fallen for him.

He was stirring in his sleep. He opened his eyes and looked longingly into hers. He smiled a loving smile and kissed her gently on her cheek. She smiled.  That was how everyday started, she thought.

A while later she had given him breakfast. He had left for work. She sat quietly and waited for Martha. She knew Martha would come.

Eventually, she started to cook lunch. She decided on baked fish because he liked it. She liked to please him. While her fish baked, Rachel obediently sliced vegetables. 20 minutes later, she opened the oven door and too out her tray of fish. It smelled wonderful. As she closed the oven door, she squealed with fright and dropped the hot tray. Martha stared back at her coldly.

Rachel’s fish was all over the kitchen floor. Martha laughed at her.

‘This is wonderful! Now you can serve him fish right off the ground.’

‘I can’t do that.’

‘What will you do then? Bake more fish? There’s no time. He’ll come home soon.’

‘I’ll just tell him what happened.’

‘What happened? That you saw me and dropped the tray out of fright? He won’t believe you. Besides, you slave away in the house everyday while he’s out there living his life. For once, let him eat off the floor like a slave.’

Rachel reluctantly put the fish back in the tray.

‘No, I can’t do this. It’s wrong!’

‘Wrong? You know what is wrong? What’s wrong is you are stuck indoors, cooking three meals a day for him while he comes home hungry and eats without so much as a thank you.’

‘That’s not true. He says thank you. He likes my food. He appreciates it.’

‘You are lying to yourself. You think he loves you. That’s why you still haven’t torn you wedding dress or taken off that ring. I’m telling you it’s not worth it. Don’t you want to be free?’

‘I do. I do and I am.’

‘No, you are his slave. This beautiful house is your cage. All the beautiful things he gives you are bribes to keep you here.’

‘That’s not true. Its’ not true. It’s not true. Leave me alone!’

‘You know what you should have done, Rachel? You should have poisoned the fish.’

While Martha and Rachel were arguing, Martha had heard her husband driving into the garage and coming inside the house. She stole Rachel’s attention so that Rachel would not notice.

When Rachel had realized that her husband was home, he had already walked into the kitchen and seen her baked fish lying neatly in its tray.

‘Oh! I love your baked fish.’ He grabbed a piece and gobbled it. Rachel was hurt. She couldn’t tell him it was to be thrown away. Now she had to serve it for lunch. She could hear Martha laughing out loud inside her.

‘Your food is wonderful, you know? I love you. You are the perfect woman to be with.’ Her husband kissed her on her forehead and left the kitchen.

Rachel looked at the window above the sink. She had to set the table for lunch. Martha stared back at her with an amused, victorious expression on her face.

‘Hurry! Set the table. Why don’t you light some scented candles?’

Rachel was angry and hurt. ‘No! You will burn everything if I do that.’

‘Don’t be silly. No, I won’t!’

‘Yes, you will. Now leave me alone.’

Rachel walked up to the kitchen drawer. That’s where the candles were. She opened it slowly and listened as Martha instructed her on which one to take. She reached out for the prettiest one and placed it on the counter above the drawer.

Martha reminded her where the lighter was. Rachel was resisting. She reluctantly went for the lighter. Before, she could reach it though, her husband came into the kitchen.

‘Darling, let me set the table. Why don’t you go relax?’

Rachel heard Martha scream angrily inside her. ‘See! He’s watching your every move. He knew what we were going to do.’

‘What you were going to do. Not me’, Rachel whispered as she walked to the dining table.

Soon, Rachel was having lunch with her husband. Martha laughed as Rachel and her husband ate the fish from the ground. Rachel could see her in her fork and in her knife. She swallowed her lunch silently.

Rachel relaxed, deep in thought while her husband washed the dishes. ‘He’s so helpful’, she thought. ‘He must love me.’

‘No, he doesn’t. He’s buying your love.’

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January 20, 2014

Rachel and Martha – Part 1

Filed under: Fiction — by Zuhair @ 4:40 pm

Rachel and Martha

The sun was slowly creeping into the room through the thin opening between the curtains. Rachel stared at it deeply. She could hear her husband breathing next to her as he slept. So peacefully he slept, she thought to herself; as if nothing in the world could affect him the way everything affected her. She looked at her hand. She was still getting used to the ring that held her finger so tightly. It had only been three weeks. She felt the inscriptions on it, reading the words in her mind; words her husband had decided on when he gave her the ring, maybe even when he proposed, maybe even before that when he thought he had fallen for her and she had fallen for him.

He was stirring in his sleep. He opened his eyes and looked deeply into hers. He smiled a genuine smile. She smiled.  That was how everyday started, she thought.

She was making breakfast; buttered toast with scrambled eggs and some oatmeal. He took his oatmeal with cashew in it. She took it plain. He always needed something to change what was plain, she thought. His oatmeal had to have cashew, his bread had to be buttered and his eggs had to be scrambled with tomato and cheese. She had to serve it that way. She had to go through the trouble of chopping tomatoes and crushing cashews when they had eggs and oatmeal for breakfast. So that’s what she was doing.

‘Shall I do the tomatoes?’ he asked. ‘Shall I do the eggs? The toast? Would you like me to do something?’ He asked. As if she couldn’t do it herself, she thought.  He was just being nice. He just liked being nice so he was liked, she thought.

‘No, that’s okay’, she replied sweetly. Soon he’ll be gone to work and she can stay at home and talk to her friend, Martha.

‘I’ll see you at lunch, darling.’ And he was gone.

Rachel looked around the house. She looked for Martha. She looked at the shining glass windows in the hall. She looked at the mirror that hung by the dining room. She looked in the bathroom mirror. She looked in her bedroom, in the mirror of the dressing table. She was there. She had come.

‘He didn’t even help you at breakfast today.’

‘But he offered.’

‘But he didn’t insist.’

‘But I refused.’

‘No, I refused. You would have said, ‘help me.’

‘You shouldn’t have refused.’

‘But I did. There’s no need to make him think you need his help.’

‘But I would like his help.’

‘Don’t say that. You had not much to do besides.’

‘That’s not true.’

‘It is. You only have to cook for him. He hired a maid to clean the house for you and do the laundry for you. ‘

‘Yes. He’s very sweet.’

‘No, he’s not. He’s just showing you who has the power in the house.’

That’s not true.’

‘He’s pampering you so you love him.’

‘I do love him.’

‘No, you don’t.’

‘Yes I do.’

‘You shouldn’t.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because you love me.’

‘Yes I do but he’s my husband.’

Rachel crawled into bed and buried herself in her blanket hoping Martha would go away.  Two hours went by. Martha hadn’t come back. Maybe she won’t. The doorbell rang. It must be the maid.

‘He hired a maid to clean the house for you.’ Martha said. Rachel pushed her out of her mind.

The maid was a stout woman with a creamy complexion. She was tidy and always proper. She minded her own business and did her own work. All she ever said to Rachel or her husband were ‘’Morning’ and ‘Thank you’ when she received her fee. But Rachel watched her because Martha made her.  They waited for her to do something she was not supposed to. Martha was always the first to accuse.

‘She stole a spoon, I saw her.’

‘No she didn’t. I didn’t see her.’

‘Yes you did. You just don’t want to do anything to hurt her.’

‘Because she didn’t do anything wrong.’

‘Yes she did. She keeps stealing your silver spoons one by one.’

Rachel knew where the silver spoons were but she wouldn’t dare say anything about it to Martha. She just hoped that her husband wouldn’t notice anything because if he did and asked her about it, Martha would disappear and come back later and laugh at her. After the maid left, Martha left too. Rachel went up into the attic to see if the silver spoons were still there. It was cold. It was not the attic that scared Rachel but it was the thought that Martha would suddenly come to her. She looked behind her mother’s old lamp. They were still there, three silver spoons. She picked one up and looked at the intricate design on it. It was so pretty. They were pretty silver spoons, a wedding gift from her mother in law. The spoon still shined. Martha cleaned them every day, she knew.

She threw down the spoon. It had startled her. She picked it up again and looked into it. Martha stared back at her.

‘What’re you doing here?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Then why are you here?’

‘I just came to see what was up here.’

‘No you didn’t. Don’t lie to me.’

‘I did. I just came to see if there was anything we could use.’

‘You can’t lie to me. I’m inside you. I know you better than anyone.’

Rachel walked to the large trunk that lay in a corner. Her wedding dress was in it. She took it out and held it up to see. It was covered in the polythene from the dry cleaner’s. It was still as beautiful as it was when Rachel first saw it. Little stones glittered at the neck and the waist and in every stone she saw Martha. She put it back in and was about to close the trunk when Martha stopped her.

‘You know you want to.’

‘No. I don’t.’

‘Go ahead. The scissors are right there on the floor. You kept them there yesterday, remember?’

‘No, I didn’t. You did.’

‘Don’t be silly. You kept them there. You wanted to keep them there so you could use them today.’

Rachel picked up the scissors. In them, she saw Martha.

Rachel heard a car coming into the driveway. She dropped the scissors and rushed to the attic window. Her husband was home. So early, she thought. She hastily put the dress back into the trunk with the scissors and shut it. She ran downstairs.

‘See, he’s home early so he can watch you.’

‘No he’s not.’

‘You haven’t even cooked lunch.’

‘I haven’t.’

‘He’s going to be angry.’

‘No, he’s not.’

‘Rachel? Darling, I brought home lunch. I hope you haven’t started cooking yet.’

Rachel came down the stairs to receive a kiss from her husband.

July 20, 2013

Familiar

Filed under: Fiction — by Zuhair @ 8:29 am

The door creaked as he opened it. He stepped in silently, hoping his wife was asleep ’Don’t hear me’, he thought.  A dreadfully long day had gone by and all he wanted to do was go to bed. His shoes felt loose and worn out on his feet.  ‘It’s so dark’. A candle burned in the kitchen and shed its light on the lines that scarred the old table.  He could see her shadow watching him silently through the still air.

He heard his wife’s voice say, ‘They’ve cut the electricity. The fridge isn’t working. There’s no food in it anyway.’

‘I don’t know what to do.’

It was a familiar conversation.

‘Where’s the money from your salary?’

‘I spent it all. There’s nothing left.’

‘On what? Where could it have all gone?’

‘On stuff for the kids. On food.’

‘Then why is there no food?’ A pause. ‘I’m going to sleep. Put out the candle when you go to bed. It’s the only light we have left.’

He didn’t want to remind her that his salary was less than it once was. ‘It’s not enough for this life anymore. It’s not how it used to be.’

Emotionally and physically exhausted, he went to his room. He took off his shirt. It was crinkly, unironed and not as perfect as it used to be. A button was coming off. ‘How do I fix this?’ Walking into the dark bathroom, he looked into the mirror. The moonlight showed him a familiar face. ‘What do I do?’ ‘She’s sleeping so soundly as if nothing’s wrong.’ ‘She’s angry with me’. ‘I wish I could tell her.’ ‘But it’ll only worry her more.’ ‘How would I say it?’ ‘They let me go.’ ‘She’d ask why.’ ‘Because I wasn’t good enough? Because I didn’t have the right connections? Because I wasn’t productive enough?’ ‘How could they?’ ‘After 10 years with them, working overtime, going the extra mile… Why me? Why not him or her or him or her.’ ‘She wouldn’t understand’.

He lay down to sleep. The softness of the bed was of some comfort but not enough to put him to sleep. ‘What do I do?’

***

He came home. Her shadow stared at him in silence. He couldn’t sleep. A sudden thirst had overcome him, a thirst to end their misery, a thirst to quench the earth with their misfortune. ‘Should I put it right?’ ‘How?’ He went into the kitchen. There was a knife on the table, stained with blood.

She was asleep. ‘Why is there blood on the sheets?’ It looked so familiar. ‘Why isn’t she breathing?’ He stumbled to the children’s room. ‘They are asleep’. His children lay in bed as silent as the night; not a sound came from them. ‘Why is there blood on the sheets?’

The shock was too much. ‘Who did this to them?’ He looked in the mirror and saw a familiar face.

***

He came home. There was a knife on the table stained with blood. He couldn’t sleep. He looked in the mirror. The moonlight showed him a familiar face. He couldn’t sleep. A sudden thirst had overcome him. ‘Is that blood on my hands?’

He walked into the bedroom with the knife tightly held in his hand. She lay sound asleep. Watching her beautiful face, telling himself it was the right thing to do. It was the only way to put things right. ‘She deserves better and I can’t give it to her, not in this life.’

Her pulse had stopped. There was no breath. Her chest was still. ‘It had to be done.’ It was all too familiar to be left undone.

His children were sound asleep. It would’ve been easier the second time around and even easier the third time around but it wasn’t. They were angelic. The eldest one was too beautiful to kill. But she was too fragile for this world. ‘It had to be done.’ ‘It was too familiar to be left undone.’

The youngest was always the littlest princess. He told himself that there was better for them in another life. ‘They do not belong here, not in this cruel, harsh, evil world where  not every man can have fresh bread with an omelet with cheese and onion; where not every man can keep up with the bills and expenses; where not every man can buy his wife a pair of expensive shoes or his children, the latest technology. They do not belong here.’ She was the hardest life to take but she went the easiest.

He looked into the mirror. He saw a familiar face. ‘It was me.’ ‘Who killed them?’ ‘It was me.’ ‘What choice did I have?’ The shock was too much. ‘It had to be done’ His eyes searched for justification in the eyes of the familiar face that looked back at him, the same face that had been looking back at him since he had killed it after he had killed it’s family.

***

He came home. There was a knife on the table stained with blood. He picked it up gently and pushed it into his heart forcefully. ‘It had to be done. It had to end and so he ended it.’

***

The door creaked as he opened it. ‘It’s so dark’. It was a familiar conversation. ‘There’s nothing left.’ It’s the only light we have left.’ He couldn’t sleep. A sudden thirst had overcome him. ‘Why is there blood on the sheets?’ ‘It had to be done.’ It had to end and so he ended it.’ It had to end and so he ended it.’ It had to end and so he ended it.’

July 6, 2013

Ice cream

Filed under: Fiction — by Zuhair @ 11:35 am

It was a bright, sunny day. The sun did not hesitate to blaze and burn the sand. He showed no mercy in warming all colors; olive, dark, light and pale were equally exposed. His yellow eyes glared and stared, causing the poor plant to wither and thirsty street cat to pant like a dog.  I sat under the large tree in the park. As I moved slightly underneath it, I could hear the leaves crushing underneath my weight as if relieved to finally be forced into the cool soil.

The sprinklers were turned on and fought the cruel sun to feed the thirsty grass. I watched as the earth hungrily gulped the drops that they were blessed with. Part of me wished I could be that grass for I had no water to drink.

I heard a voice shouting in my direction. It came from a familiar person. He wore a blue uniform and sat at the gates of the park. Every afternoon, he would come to me and chase me away and I knew that that was what he had come for today. I had no choice. I stood up and walked away. I walked the streets as the sun burnt my back through my rags and the ground burnt the soles of my feet as it rebelled against the glowing sun.

I saw a little girl and she had an ice cream. Oh! What I wouldn’t give for a lick. It was smooth and silky and it was white. The sun couldn’t reach it. I watched her as she devoured it. I wanted that ice cream. She walked away from the store and I followed her hungrily, hoping that by some mean twist of fate, she would drop it. I watched and waited and prayed and hoped but half her ice cream was already gone.

I heard a bell, like that of a bicycle. It was coming closer and closer. I could see it from a distance. The flag at the back of it was as yellow as the sun but I burned with anger as I realized that it blew for the wind and the sun could not harm it. I wished I could ride that bicycle and feel the wind in my hair.

The bicycle came closer and closer. It was right in the path of the girl and her ice cream. Why wouldn’t she just drop it, so I could have it? She turned around and looked at me. I realized I had made a sound with my torn shoe as it brushed against a pebble. She froze. Did she know I was following her?

And then the boy rode his bicycle faster and faster and faster and that was when the glorious sun showed me mercy. The bicycle had hit her and she was on the ground. The boy had fallen off. Where was her ice cream? There it was, still not melted and still enough left to quench my thirst.

People rushed to help her but not me. I had to have that ice cream. I picked it up and walked away.

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Image: www.fotolibra.com. Retrieved 06/07/2013

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