Royalty – Section 9 -Imelda

Sometimes I pretend to people that the fabrics I cover my many homes in have some secret meaning, I tell them that they are tribal, made in my families’ village, that the patterns mean something. Course, it might be true, who knows Africa ‘s a big place, I have to come from somewhere there and these fabrics, well they come from Africa, for sure, so who knows really.

Truth, Lies, Stories, doesn’t really matter to me.

But these pieces, well, i know where they come from, a battered brown faux leather suitcase at the dog end of an east London street market, sold by a woman whose skin was so black it was almost purple, the exact shade of an aubergine, glowing darkness.The seller tried to give it some fake patois thing, but I just stared, steady, not taking my eyes off her as she added piece upon piece to the pile . Our hands touched as she reached for the grubby note and she jolted back as if shocked. i shrugged and turned away, knowing that these scraps would come in useful one day.

Caz will read meaning into the patterns, the tiny, badly drawn women, joined together in dance. she will see narrative, promise, stories.

doesn’t mean anything to me, just something else to draw her in.

troy has clung to me since we came back from the city, i see him looking at me, when he thinks I am busy with the baby, sometimes his finger touches my face, tracing the  bruising. His touch is gentle, considering, but underneath, I feel his desire to poke, to prod, to push the swollen flesh. I am impressed with his self-control.

Cazs’ home is no more or less than I expect, tidy, shabby, impermanent. Kids toys stored in boxes so that she can pretend its all temporary, that at any time they can just up and leave.

Idly, I wonder how long shes’ been here, where she thinks she’s going to .I  know I should be asking questions, showing an interest, but suddenly, I am bone tired and cannot make the effort.

Instead, I focus on her child, put all my energies into charming her and in fairness, it’s not difficult. This is a child who cries out to be enchanted, who is herself almost as tired as I am.

Tired of her child mother, tired of her carer role, tired of being easy, sensible, no trouble to anyone.

So, i focus on her and she is like a thirsty little plant, greedily sucking up the waters of my attention.

We work together, her small fingers following mine, clumsy attempts at wrapping, folding, covering, disguising and all the time Caz is watching us.

I feel her growing confusion, this is not how she visualised this afternoon, she didn’t expect to be side lined, ignored. Her impatience grows, I ignore her, continue working with the child. I am aware of the other child, the boy, watching, a grubby stuffed rabbit in his hand, he sucks on its ear, watchful, aware of a danger he cant articulate.

But I need to move this narrative on, get things moving, so i stand up, straighten my body, making sure that she sees a flash of flesh, a promise of something.

I look around the room, the cloth has made its magic, i think about drawing the curtains, making the room a dark cave, but it needs candle light, needs real night-time. I tell her I will come back later, bring candles and her face lights up as if the room is already candle lit.

I need to make a phone call, like I said get things moving before boredom sets in.


About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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