Making space to write was one of the reasons behind my move to freelance.
So far, it hasn’t been working out too well. I’ve got a great method where I write down all the things I have to do, and then proceed to do none of them. However, today was a little different.
Here follows what may or may not be part of my working draft for “The Daughter of No One Famous“.
The henna cleaved out of the brown cone.
On the trembling palm before her, Shaira worked adroitly to lay down the strokes. In one ambit of steady movement, she marked outlines and filled in the curlicues and flourishes.
Her work was intricate and ornamented but there was something about it that was not beautiful.
The paisleys and flowers were done as well as the virginal red patterns left on the hand of a bride, but these lines were too carefully thought out. The points were too sharp.The brown strokes; thick and assertive, were a puncturing geometry not at ease with the soft roundings of the mango leaves.
Shaira’s work was a command, not a beautification. Hers’ was a pen of destiny.
“You will find love in the period of time it takes for the mendhi to fade. He will be someone you already know. You will marry within the year. There will be moments where you find him fussy and somewhat cruel, but with him you will find much joy. You must be patient. This is the Will.”
With her left hand outstretched to keep from smudging the wet henna, the marked one reached into a pocket in her cloak. With a quivering right hand, she pulled out a bundle of crumpled notes and left them in the bronze ashtray at Shaira’s side. A hoarse gratitude emerged from her small mouth, but so silent was she during the marking, that her voice could only find the ‘you’.
A little fold of a person, the marked one bent down awkwardly to scoop up her bags and hang them from her unburdened shoulder. “The henna is dry now. You can use both hands.”
She was startled, and ran her fingers along the raised patterns, expecting her fingertips to be muddied. It was only a few minutes earlier that the pattern glistened with heavy moisture. She cleared her throat, “Jazakallah”, and with the henna crumbling off of her hand, she gathered up her things and left.
Shaira stretched out her arms and made circles from her wrists. She opened and closed her hands. The cracks from her joints snapped low in the warm and dark room. “Open the curtains Sakinah. These notes are so dirty and worn; I can barely make out the amount in this light.”
Sakinah got up from a chair in a corner shrouded by drapings and clutter. “You really need to clean this place up Shaira. Or is it all for atmosphere?” Shaira didn’t respond to Sakinah’s snideness. She counted out the notes as Sakinah drew open the curtains. Without the barrier of the thick fabric, the hooting and shouting from the street below rushed into the room.
“With this one’s R150 and the R300 from the two earlier this morning, we can do a round pass the Big House tomorrow hey Sakinah?” Sakinah looked out of the window and down into Church street. She could see the marked one getting into her car and tipping the car guard before driving off.
“Don’t you feel bad doing this Shaira? Fooling these people like that. That woman really thinks she’s going to find love and happiness. All because you scribbled on her hand with that coloured mud you got from Akhalwaya’s and mixed with pareloo paani. It’s wrong man!”
Shaira put the notes into an old saffron tin and packed away her henna-divining supplies. “How am I worse than some moulana who claims he can remove jaadoo by having you stand in a cat-litter box while he hacks around your feet with a butcher knife? It’s all the same Sakinah. People put their faith in a lot of things, they only believe because they want to. I just gave that girl a bit of hope. She probably will find someone now that she’s being active about it. So are we going to the Big House tomorrow or not?”
The anger was large in Sakinah’s eyes. “I don’t like going there. I lost all the rent money the last time. You know there’s no barakat in money won from gambling.”
“Hey, I’m just trying to make my own destiny,” said Shaira as she wiped dry henna flakes from the table into a cupped palm.
mendhi – henna
pareloo paani - water that has had a prayer read over it
jaadoo – black magic/curse