another lonely and excruciatingly long night for fifi. she is still trying to figure out what is more painful, the fact that she is now alone or the possibility that she will always be alone. alone? yes alone. she can still taste the mustiness of the last apple in her mouth. she tosses and turns to face the wall – take-away meal and alcohol smelled back at her. she pulls her blanket up and covers her head. she smells rubber from the wrappings of the last apple. she realizes that she has not prayed – praying to the God of the ceiling with your feet isn’t praying, it’s revelry. she means pray like her mother had taught her…for a moment there she had actually forgotten that she was alone… the prayer her mother taught her…

“oh mother,” she murmurs. “has it really come to this… our father who art in heaven…” tears well up in fifi’s eyes like they do every night. tears that have become her only companion through all the lonely nights. tears for what she has lost. her life, her soul, her only reason to live. tears of loneliness. another lonely and excruciatingly long night for fifi.

my darling daughter

i am longing for you. i do hope that school is not as lonely as home is for me without you. i hope you are studying hard my child. you are my only child, the gift that god blessed me with at an old age. study hard and remember all hope for a better future is on you. don’t worry about my health my darling daughter; soon i will be as fit as a horse. with all my love.

your mother…

“…hallowed be thy name…” fifi tosses and turns again, this time she uncovers her head and sits up. she had drifted into irreverent thoughts again during the prayer. not just any irreverent thought, but that letter she had read time and again and now knew by heart. the last letter her mother wrote to her.

“oh mother,” she murmurs again. she covers her face and sobs uncontrollably. cry as loud as you want fifi. pluck your hair from your head if you have to… scream fifi no one will hear you because no one cares anymore. saltiness in her mouth. “oh mother…” fifi, face still covered, realizes that she still hasn’t completed her prayer. the prayer that her mother had taught her… “thy kingdom come…”

why do you not take care of the things you do. do you not know that i can drop dead and die any minute now? who will take care of you when they realize the type of person you are. do you think my brothers care… they have their own families to worry about. no one will want to take care of you. you will always be alone. and that is when you will think of me. but by that time it will be too late. you shall come and cry on my grave but i tell you, no amount of tears shed by you will bring me back… think about it.

“…thy will be done…”agonizing memories strike fifi. she remembers sade singing after the first time, i’m crying everyone’s tears/i have already paid for all my future sins/there’s nothing anyone /can say to take this away/it’s just another day and nothing’s any good.” agony that makes her feel the offer to rip her heart from her chest right now would sound like a sweet melody. fifi bursts into laughter. “i never manage to complete this prayer without being distracted by the memories…” bitter, sweet memories… she laughs again. so loud. so uncontrollable. she forgets for a moment that it’s night, she forgets that she is lonely but she remembers her uncompleted prayer “…on earth as it is in heaven.”

“…give us this day our daily bread…” fifi yawns. “that’s a good sign, who knows tonight i might even have a good night sleep,” she muses. yet she knows the truth, the truth that creeps in every night and brightens into rays of reality – eating the apple won’t make her sleep. the truth that this is a night no different from the ones she has had for the past three years. she stretches out her hand to feel the unoccupied side of the bed. such a big bed for such a small girl… 25 is hardly a small girl’s age. and this has not always been her bed. even after three years she still calls it her mother’s bed.

…fifi. come sit here with me for a moment. i want to tell you something that i want you never to forget. life is not easy my darling child. it will never be easy particularly for you who has no father. do not despair my child. i am your mother, your father and most importantly your best friend. do not be intimidated by our age difference, feel free to tell me anything, anything at all. as long as it has nothing to do with small boys, because your first boyfriend is school. yes my child, education. i want you to excel in your academic endeavors so that you will become someone who people treat with respect when i’m gone. at least with an education you won’t have to be so alone…

fifi curls up fetuslike. her phone vibrates frightening her out of her reverie. “i wonder who that is”. fifi gets out of bed and walks over to her dressing table… her heart is pounding so fast, her step is clumsy and her hands are shaking. who can it be? she muses. the feeling of joy overcomes all previous depressing emotions. her phone is still vibrating … someone else has indeed thought of her tonight. fifi smiles ruefully as she thinks of the possible callers. she finds her phone easily as the light from the screen can still be seen flashing though it is face down. fifi is hesitant. she looks at her phone as it vibrates still. she closes her eyes and reaches for her phone. she wants to be surprised so she would not look at the caller id. she skilfully presses the connection button and listens. she hopes to hear a strong deep masculine voice. she wants to whisper hello but stops when she realizes that her phone has not stopped vibrating. she opens her eyes and looks at it. she drops the phone in grief – it’s her 2300 hours alarm.

“…forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us…” fifi picks up her phone, picks herself up and marches back to bed. she had retired to bed at 2100 hours and it was just 2300 hours. she stops dead in her tracks when she realizes she had uttered the part of the prayer which she had vowed to always leave out. forgiveness, where would she begin. how could she even dare think of forgiveness? who would she forgive? fifi sits on her bed. “let’s see. oh, yes elma. maybe she should forgive elma. her mother’s favorite niece, who had been almost like a sister to her. had she not been the one who refused to render her mother assistance when she was ailing and nearing her death? had she not been the one who had refused to drive her mother to a nearby clinic when she had visited her rural home? “aunt you say in my car, you say. well allow me to say that no security guard shall enter my car and leave it with the odor of poverty and sickness. she is ill you say. let her die i say.” had she not been the one who had carried around a pizza box nibbling on a slice or two at the grave site during her mother’s burial? had she not been the one who people pointed out as the causal link to the death of her mother? “dear god, sorry but this one i will never forgive.” oh yes emmanuel. my uncle. elma’s father. could she forgive emmanuel. emmanuel always emmanuel and never uncle because she could not bring herself to feel any kind of affection for the man who had accused her of sleeping with her male cousins during her mother’s funeral. fifi squeezes her hands together. had emmanuel not been the one who had vocalized his disgust in her when she completed her first degree in law and said “you shall go to hell just like your mother. she was a whore and you are a devil’s advocate”? “this one, dear lord i won’t forgive. oh maybe i will but not any time soon, not while he still comes for his apple.”

“…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…” fifi smiles. “hmmmm temptation, i wonder if it counts that one actually wants to be tempted and does not want to be delivered from that particular evil…” fifi realizes where her mind is taking her and quickly rebukes herself. what would your mother think of you if she was to know what you were thinking of, she thought. it’s not like she would disapprove of her falling in love. what law of love can stop the heart from falling in love with a man even though he is married? not that she was in love with willie – justice nakupenda that sounded way better. say it slowly. the man she had met on her first time in court, presiding over her first defense case. he had been clad in a big black robe and for some reason the golden ring on his thick and long finger never bothered her. in fact, she had heard something about men with thick long fingers. his face had tell-tale signs of an ageing man – but a thick long finger is a thick long finger. fifi clenches her sheets as hard as she can. the thought of willie – justice nakupenda always makes her dizzy. dizzy, but not as dizzy as she felt when he declared his desire for her. how she had been jubilant for days when he spent the night at her house. dizzy, she had never been as dizzy as the time the doctor told her she was pregnant. not even justice nakupenda’s kisses made her dizzier. she was having his baby, she could not help the overwhelming sense of love. her greatest regret was her anxiety to share the news. it overshadowed her sense of reason and for the first time she visited the judge’s chambers without alerting him of her visit. she walked in on him, and what she saw was enough to send her away as quickly as she had come. he never saw the need to apologize. she also saw no need to keep the baby, who wanted to be annoyed with demands of its attention, time, and love anyway. fifi rubs her belly as she thinks of the offspring that would have been. she laughs lightly. thanks to willie, married men are now her favorite pick, they do their business and go. now she doesn’t allow them to stay for the night or spend more than an hour with her. she just gets what she wants – and so she doesn’t get bored she has lots of apples. but the loneliness after they go…

“…for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen.” fifi smiles, finally she has finished the prayer that her mother taught her. she shifts the position of the pillow, bundles it up as she always does and puts her head down. she realizes that she has run out of things to think about but suddenly the image of her mother comes into her mind. this is the image of the last state she had seen her in before she died. her head had been swollen and doctors said pus had accumulated. she had been in so much pain she could not even talk. she could not utter words but she knew and she still knows that her mother loved her. fifi’s phone vibrates rousing her frightfully. “this better be something good,” she mutters. fifi takes her phone from under the pillow where it had slid. she looks at the caller id and drops her phone as she is overcome with sadness. she covers her head. her phone is on the floor – vibrating. the apple collector is calling…

F-K 2016.