Monday, 28 May 2012

The Promise to Rescue - Part 2

The Promise to Rescue - Part 2
(A Short Story by Claudia Williams)

As the bus neared its final stop, the women knew their conversation did not have further to go.  They passed the little time that was left talking about how the rain might fall that evening;  how it didn't fall as expected the night before.

"It was a good thing, too," Elaine said. 

"How you mean?" Miss Green asked.

"The roof, man, the roof.  It's quite a while now since it leaking, you know.  I just can't seem to find somebody who will do the job properly and done," Elaine explained.

"What about Bimma?  He fixed my own last year and it just start leaking again," Miss Green offered. 

"I didn’t consider him, you know.  I guess I could ask him.  I hope I see him before I see the next raindrop.  It not easy to set pots and basins and then turn round and have to iron out the bed on top of all of that,"  Elaine said. 

As the bus pulled into its last stop, the women said their goodbyes.  It was close enough to the market for Miss Green.  But, Elaine would have to take another bus.  A loud greeting caught her attention.  It was somebody that Miss Green knew who was calling out to her.  Miss Green, about fifty years Elaine's senior, was making her way with strong sturdy steps toward her friend.   Elaine made her way in the opposite direction of the two reuniting friends to a nearby bus stop.

It was only during the school term that it took her this long to get to work.  During the holidays when Winsome visited her grandparents in the country, the commute was much faster with one bus across town.  Even though Winsome tried to convince her that she could take the bus on her own; even when she pointed to a few other children who did it, Elaine would have none of it.  Maybe in another couple of years – or so.

Elaine arrived at work on time as usual.  She was fortunate to have got the job at the government agency.  After Rupert, she had moved from job to job. Twice she got laid off; once the boss wanted to get laid. And, once she found out about a racket that she felt it better to stay clear of.   She kept her mouth shut, but the reason she gave them was that the bus fare wasn't working out.  She felt that some of the girls in her community talked behind her back because of how lucky she was.  For some of them, they remained unemployed year after year.  As a matter of fact, it seemed their job was to have children.  But, she was not ghetto like that.  Winsome was her driving force.  When she had gone for the interview for her present job five years ago, she hadn't given them her current address.  She couldn't.   Instead, she gave them her church sister's address near Half-Way Tree.  She figured that if her boss found out, she could just tell him that things had got worse in some ways and she had had to move.  Surely her work as a good secretary would speak well for her by then, if push came to shove.  Her boss was a tyrant but she endured him.  The frustration he brought on was minor compared to her hope for Winsome.

Elaine walked into her community after the bus dropped her off.  It had been a long day at work and a bit of frustration had set in.  She was behind in her partner, but the banker, Mrs. Lewis was a very nice co-worker.   Stern, when it came to the partner, but nice.  She told Elaine to make sure she paid up by next week.  The next draw was going to be in two weeks' time.  It wasn't just about the partner, though.   It was the every day living hand-to-mouth that got to her sometimes.  It came in peaks and troughs.  One week she would be okay and just carry on about her business.  Another week the feeling of desperation would hit her.  It was hardest when Winsome came home with a new demand from school about an outing or some such thing.  How could she keep explaining to an eight year-old that they only had enough for food and transportation?  Once in a while, her parents would send something "for Winsome", but she didn't want to count on that. 

Before Rupert died, he had arranged for them to get light.  After he died, she arranged for them to get cable.   Water was not a problem, either.  Those were a few of the reasons she couldn't leave.  Her mother wouldn't understand.  Yes, they had to live with the occasional gun fire.  But, those were not so frequent these days.  The most volatile time used to be during general elections  - so she had heard.  In the time that she lived there, there had only been two elections.  The member of parliament had visited them often and made big speeches.  Over the years, Elaine noticed that nothing had changed.  But, she knew better than to complain.  Rupert used to tell her, no matter what, never say anything against the MP for even the walls to hear.  They never talked about politics more than that.   And, in the two elections, she did as Rupert had long ago advised, and voted with the rest of the community.  She hadn't dared do any different for they were known to check the ballots.  So, that was that. 

She knocked at the gate two houses away from hers.  A stout woman opened the door and stood in the doorway. 

"Winsome! You madda deh here!" said the woman, as she flashed a smile at Elaine.  "You alright?" she asked Elaine.

"Yes, Miss Ivy!  How you?" Elaine called back. 

"Mi alright, man.  See your little one here," Miss Ivy said, as her outstretched hand guided Winsome through the door.

Winsome came bounding toward her mother, greeting her with a big hug.  "Hi sweetie," Elaine hugged back. "By the way, Errol dropped them off in good time?  I know yesterday he picked them up from school late.  Something about getting a roast?" she asked. 

"Yes, yes.  Him make good time today," Miss Ivy assured her. 

"It's only because him generally reliable you know - " Elaine started.

"And him know you and the other parents  won't fire him!" Miss Ivy interrupted.  They both laughed.

When they got home, Winsome and Elaine fell into their routine.  That night, though, instead of curling up beside each other as they watched an early favourite, Winsome asked her mother to read her a story.

"You're not too old for a bedtime story ma'am?" Elaine asked her daughter.

"Cho, Mommy man.  Just one?  I know which one I want to hear, too," Winsome leaped off the settee and went to get her book.   She was back in a flash.

"Really? Sleeping Beauty?  Again?"  Elaine asked in mock surprise.  She hadn't read it in a while, but, that was, hands down, her daughter's favourite bedtime story.

"Yes, Mommy, again," Winsome grinned.  "Come, I'll cover up in bed while you read, okay?" Winsome instructed.

"Okay, okay," Elaine followed her into the bedroom and waited until she got herself cozy under the sheets.  When she finished reading the fairytale, Winsome was no nearer sleeping than at the beginning.  In fact, her eyes were wide alert. 

"Mommy?" she began.  "Do you know why I love Sleeping Beauty so much?" She asked.

"No, actually, I've never asked you that.  Why do you?" Elaine asked.

"Well, it's because it reminds me of where we live," Winsome explained.

"What do you mean?" Elaine was now rather curious.  What was this child of hers coming with?

"Well, you know how everybody falls asleep for a long, long time? And the prince comes in time and he rescues Sleeping Beauty and everybody wakes up, and they didn't even know they were sleeping, and they all celebrate?" Winsome continued, excited.

"Mmhmmm," her mother replied.

"Well, it's like here. I can tell you're not happy here, Mommy.  You try to hide it, but, I see it.  Don't worry, Mommy.  It's ok.  I am your prince.  And, when I grow up, I'm going to rescue you!"


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