Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)
TITLE: The life of the party
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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In her eyes, a little girl hides.
This little girl has been through hell and back, a hell that entails the stealing of her innocence by her own daddy, the murder of that same daddy, estrangement from her mother. Life in the trenches.
This little girl has grown to become the life of the party.
After the silence that ensued as people sipped their drinks, Julie is back on her feet. Where the little girl momentarily lived, there is now a sparkle, a gleam that has sent so many men to their doom.
“To Tim.” She says, and there is more glass clinking.
Silence terrifies Julie. When you’re silent, other people have the power to abuse you, to demean you, to make you do whatever you don’t want to. So she fills her every waking moment with chatter, with jokes, with flirting.
Tim is my fiancé, the man who has helped cure me of some of my demons. He is smiling at Julie but there is concern in his eyes too.
When I first met Tim, he seemed the last person on earth I would commit myself to. He’d had a happy Christian childhood, was a trainee pastor, was outspoken.
My life and Julie’s couldn’t have been more different. Both abused by our father from the time I was six and she five to the time I turned ten while our mother pretended not to know. Late one night, as daddy violated me yet again, Julie ran the sharpest kitchen knife into his side. Again and again and again. He died in my mother’s laps, on the way to the hospital. My father’s sister took us in with her while mother visited mental after mental institution.
For reprise, I turned inwards. Into books and magazine and libraries. Into a world where only my imagination was necessary. Julie turned to parties and short skirts and boys. Aunty Rose was patient, but not patient enough when Julie got pregnant at fifteen. After the abortion, she began to have nightmares. In the ethereal stillness of the night, my sister would shoot out of bed, her eyes terror-glazed, whispering daddy’s name. Sometimes she called to mother.
Even though we’re no longer kids, and even though this is a Christian function to send Tim forth into ministry, Julie’s blouse is a little too see-through, her skirt too tight, and her make-up too much.
In a way, her demons are mine. We lived the same terror for four years, never knowing whose turn it would be to be raped, making a pact never to tell a soul. But for a while, books were my salvation. Then after Tim, I surrendered to Jesus. The memories of those four years have not been wiped from my heart; the remembrance is yet like an itch under the skin that you cannot scratch. But I have come a long way towards healing.
“We should have some music.” She says a little too loudly, sealing her designation as the life of this party. “MaryAnne, don’t you think so?”
“Sure.” I say, wincing as she swings her hips a little too hard on the way to the CD rack. Tim’s four friends are watching her with a mixture of fascination and horror. I catch Tim’s eyes again and see sorrow. Sorrow and compassion.
He knows our story, is yet prepared to be my husband and Julie’s brother-in-law.
“Don’t let it bother you.” He whispers to me. “It’s only a matter of time.”
By this, I know he means that a day will come when Julie will give her hurts to God as I did three years ago. By this, I know he means that we need to continue to love this crazy, outgoing, skimpily-dressed woman the same way that God loves us – unconditionally.
I nod. Suddenly, I am not as embarrassed by my sister as I was before.
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