Country of Origin: Nigeria
“You are so talented and smart. The dexterity in your work is astonishing. You, my dear, are going to be a star.” These were my mother’s words to me as she held my face in her hands, her eyes glistening with the hopes and dreams she held for me.
As I gazed at a distant view, I reminisced on how life has shown me its ugly nature. I watched people who formed my universe slowly dissipate into nothingness, their backs turned to me as they left. As time passed, I forgot myself in the whirlwind of events that made up my life.
A hard knock on the door helped me escape from my thoughts.
“Miss, it’s time.”
“You can do this,” I said to myself, feeling nauseous with every breath. The weight on my heart increased and I could feel my palms get sweaty with each second. I wanted to run and not face the same reality I have been living in for the last six years.
I slowly walked towards the stage and took my position in the background, attempting to look as inconspicuous as possible. I stood still and waited for my part. It finally came.
“Hmm,” I said. Yes, that was my part. That phrase which I worked until my tongue felt numb. I tried not to be too slow, fast, unnatural, or gruff. I needed to just be perfect.
“Cut!” the director screamed. “You there!” he said with a harsh tone I was all too familiar with.
“Me?” I said while feeling the heat on my cheeks from embarrassment.
“No, me dummy,” he said sarcastically. He started walking towards me briskly causing me to take careless steps backwards and stumble. He towered over me as he spoke, “What was with that tone, why are you so stiff? There are millions of people who are desperate for what you have and that is the attitude you show?”
“Sorry sir, let me try again. I promise I will do better if…”
My voice was shaky and my vision blurred from my tears.
“Enough! You are out.”
With that, he walked back to his seat.
“But sir, I can…”
“Did I mince my words? Security, get her out of my sight!” He glared at me with so much hate I felt a shiver run down my back. “This is what I get for taking in has-beens.”
They dragged me to the front of the building and pushed me out the front door. My attempt to break my fall caused me to bruise my wrists. My hands throbbed with pain and the heat of the summer stung my back.
I raised my head to meet the bewildered stares, the nods, and eventually slow departures after getting a good look at my pain.
I slowly stood up and walked away into the crowd. I have had enough for one day.
I sauntered around until I felt exhaustion in my bones. Then I went home. I did not want to lay on my bed reminiscing on a bad day.
I walked into my apartment, turned on the light, and stared at the dimly lit room. It was the size of a cubicle with just enough space for a bed and anything I could salvage when I left him.
I slumped into my bed, and stared at my pained wrists which had become purple and swollen. I smiled as sleep embraced me into its warmth.
The loud chatter from my neighbors woke me from my slumber. The memory of events of the day before came flooding in along with the pain. I felt hot tears fall freely from my cheeks. I cried for a while, but crying never helped me so I got ready for the day.
There was a feeling that came with auditions, the preparation for rejection, and the hope of acceptance. I sat at a coffee shop while going through my script. The coffee tasted as bland as colored water, making me regret every cent I spent on it. The street view, however, made it almost worth it.
“Do you mind if I sit here?”
“Yes,” I said, without bothering to raise my head from my script.
“But I want to.”
“Look kid, skedaddle, okay?” I tore my eyes from my script only to be astounded by her blue eyes that resembled the ocean floor. She smiled at me, revealing a gap in her teeth and adorable dimples. I smiled back at her contagious smile. She was a dazzling young child with curls and freckled cheeks. However, I saw something odd: her smile did not reach her sad eyes.
“Fine, sit, but only till your parents come.”
“They are not coming.” She said as she looked through the window at a distant view that I could not see. “Mum is dead and Dad is busy.”
“I am so sorry.”
I pitied her because her pain felt familiar, because she felt like I did.
“No biggie.” She shrugged her shoulders and glanced at my script. “You act?” she said, trying to change the subject.
“Yes, but you cannot go around telling people what you just told me okay?” I needed to stop her from letting this big mean world know her story, that was the mistake I had made.
“I have never told anyone, just you. I like you.” She smiled again and winked at me. It was awkward but I liked it.
“Do you want a drink?” I asked her.
“Nope, the drinks here are horrible. Even water tastes bad.” I laughed, which was something I haven’t done in a long while.
“What do you want then?”
“Okay, so why did you come to a coffee shop?”
“I like the view.”
“Makes sense,” I said and continued to look through my script.
“I have to go.”
“Already?” I said.
“Yep, it’s almost time for my tutor to arrive. I am home-schooled.” I watched her as she stood up and left, still thrown off by this meeting. A girl who spoke to me like we had known each other for ages.
Weeks passed and I walked past that coffee shop every day hoping to meet her. I didn’t even get her name.
My audition went as it typically would, a failure. As I was about to walk past the shop’s window, my eyes caught a glimpse of a girl with familiar freckles. My lips curled into a smile as I entered.
The bell jingled and she turned and stared at me, her entire face beclouded with intense sadness, once visible only in her eyes.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, feeling concerned.
Her lips quivered. “Everyone leaves me,” she said quietly but loud enough to make my heart break. Her voice had lost its sonorous essence
“What do you mean?” I asked while leaning closer.
“Exactly what I said!”
Her eyes welled up with tears and she started to wipe her cheeks frantically.
“What do you mean, did something happen at home?”
She looked at me intently until I started to feel uncomfortable under her gaze. I shifted in my seat.
“You remind me of her.”
“Who?” I asked puzzled
“My mum,” she bowed her head and stared at her feet as she spoke. “She died a year ago and left me.”
“I am so sorry.” I placed my hands on her chin, raising her face to meet mine. I finally understood her pain. My heart sank. This was a familiar feeling. The feeling of not being enough. It had dragged me down to its dark alleys for years and mocked my inability to leave.
“Darling, your mum never abandoned you, she…”
“Yes, she did!” she interjected abruptly. “She knew I needed her but she still left. And dad seems to be busy with everything else but me.” She broke into loud sobs. I realized people were staring at us.
“Please stop crying.” Her wails were heart-wrenching, and I needed to do something about it.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Susan.” she said as she sobbed.
“Well, mine is Stella. See both our names start with the same letter, isn’t that interesting?” She stopped crying and said, “I guess so.”
“Susan, where is your dad right now?”
“He is at home.”
“Well let’s take you home.”
“No, I don’t want to go back.” She stood defiantly.
“You have to because I have something very interesting to say to him.”
“You do?” Her eyes widened and glistened as she spoke. “Okay.”
I think she already had an idea of what I wanted to do.
We left and started a long walk to her house. “I thought you lived close by, Susan.”
“The goal was to be as far from home as possible every time I left.”
Her house was bigger than I had anticipated, causing me to gawk at its enormous size. We walked past the security guard who eyed me from head to toe suspiciously. “Good day, Sir,” I said to him.
He replied with a grunt.
“Be nice, she is my guest,” Susan said.
We walked into the majestic house, situated in the heart of an impressive garden.
The inside of the house was as elegant as the outside. The exquisite chandelier drew my attention, glistening as it illuminated the house. The Victorian-style interior seemed to be designed for royalty itself. I was in awe, but had to focus. I came here for a reason.
“Dad! Dad!” Susan ran upstairs, calling him. I paced back and forth, hoping to overcome the ruckus inside my head. I was unsettled, nervous butterflies in my stomach. This feeling took me seven years back.
“What do you mean I should quit?” I asked, puzzled.
“I’ve said what I’ve said and that’s that,” he said in a stoic manner.
“I will not quit my job because of your small-minded attitude.”
He chuckled. I have never experienced such coldness from him.
That was the beginning of my torture. Days turned into months and then years, and the pain stayed. He saw my growth as competition and did everything he could to pull me down. When he started acting out, I did not understand and thought he was just being fussy. Until he showed me his true colors. He ensured he soiled my name, spreading every horrible rumor he could think of. And everyone believed him because he was my husband. I left when I had enough but I was too late.
The thumping sound of heavy footsteps descending the stairway woke me from my daymare. Susan raced down the stairs, almost missing a step, and came to stand next to me. Her father wore a scowl on his face, with a look that judged my every breath. The air changed as he took the last step down and walked towards me. I started to rethink my actions but knew it was too late.
“What is your business with my daughter?” I flinched at his thundering voice as it reverberated through the house.
I cleared my throat. “I know it is not my place to do so, but I need to tell you that you have been brutally unfair to Susan and she has a lot to say to you.” I looked towards Susan and gestured at her to come forward and speak your heart.
She stared at me frightened. I smiled at her hoping to encourage. She took a step towards him, “Dad I would like to say that I do not like how you are always busy and the fact that you are leaving me alone for such a long time.”
His look softened as he approached her.
“Darling, I never intended to leave you. I just need to take care of a few things, and then we can spend more time together.”
“I don’t like that. If you are going anywhere, I am going to.”
He smiled at her. “Okay, I will be better.”
She smiled and hugged him.
I was envious of their love. I wish I had what they had, but I felt satisfaction watching them. I nonetheless saw my mistake. I had failed to confront my pain, failed to refuse to be a victim, accepted mediocrity, and lost the star my mother saw. My head throbbed and I knew I had enough.
“Why are you crying?”
I was glad to see them together, it was something I wish I had when I needed it. I felt satisfaction to see that Susan was not alone nor abandoned.
I touched my cheeks and felt moisture. “Oh, I umm…”
“You don’t need to explain Miss….”
“Stella. That is my name.”
“Thank you for your kind actions.”
“I think it’s time for me to go.” I turned and started to walk away quickly.
“Is there anything I can do for you, Miss Stella?”
Susan ran to me and held my hand. “Will I get to see you again?”
“Of course, darling, same place.” I touched her cheeks and smiled.
I walked out of that house as a different person. I had enough and I had to do for myself what no one else could do for me.
Thank you to Andrew Aguilar for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Fiction team.
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