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character sketch – Poems, Pictures & Prose by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee

(Fiction) Words for Wednesday: What we did to Sara

I wrote this opening with the grand plan of developing the story through the manic mechanism of NaNoWriMo. But as I’ve come to expect every single year, I start out fizzy and end up flat. I don’t see these characters living beyond the few lines I’ve put down here. Enjoy, as you can, their brief mortality.


What we did to Sara

It took three of us to hold her down.

“Where’s that fucking coke,” said Layla. Her fingers clamped around Sara’s mouth, prying it open, the thumbs pressing purple into the surrounding skin.

“Pour it into her mouth now. Bitch bit me.”

Sara’s arm spasmed under me and I almost dropped the can. Nadia held onto the legs as they bucked like sheep do after their throats have been cut. Layla poured the coke through the V of her fingers. The violent foam fizzed into Sara’s nostrils, down her chin and into the tight ravines of her neck. I couldn’t tell if the froth was just from the cold drink.

“I think that’s enough Layla, she’s going to choke if you give her any more,” said Nadia. She loosened her grip on the legs and started pulling Layla away. I held onto Sara as she coughed, shifting pressure from tyranny to tenderness. She stared at me, her eyes burnt dark red and flushed through with embarrassment and anger.

“Don’t ever talk to my guy again, you fat bitch,” Layla said, her tone neutral and menacing in one hiss. She walked out of the classroom with Nadia. I let go of Sara, mouthed I’m sorry and followed them. I closed the door behind me, my bowels twisted into ice.

I liked Sara. I never knew her to be anything but a fat girl cliché; jolly and friendly, with a pleasing prettiness squashed into her face. That was until she’d been put onto the right meds for diabetes, lost more than a few kilograms and started coming to school with cheekbones you could cut yourself for.

The first to make a move was Layla’s boyfriend, Rido. He offered her a ride home one afternoon, revving his modified Citi Golf, its suspension so low it scraped sparks off the road if more than two people sat in it. We had just walked out of the school’s office block, holding warning letters with spaces for our parents to sign. It was cigarette smoke this time, doing us in by wafting off our dark green uniforms towards the principal’s capacious nostrils. I saw Sara with Rido and tried to deflect Layla’s attention from the scene ahead but it was too late. She glowered, a bone-splitting stare, as Rido snaked his smile around Sara. To give Sara some credit, she didn’t seem interested but it’s difficult to pull away from the popular guy when you’ve hardly had any time to build up your confidence reserves. It didn’t matter that Sara declined Rido’s offer for a lift and walked home alone hunched over from the weight of her school bag, Layla had been roused. And once she made landfall there was no hope of emerging from her path unscathed.

Character: Sakinah-bhai

The rent money was gone.
Sakinah-bhai pulled back the decaying lace curtain to look outside. The street was still empty, Razi was nowhere to be seen.
That the rent money was gone wasn’t her only trouble, it was how it came to be ‘gone’. How would she explain it to Razi without that twit passing judgement and running off to tell her mother and sisters?
Stupid woman. Stupid woman. Her hands brushed against the tasbeeh on the sidetable. She picked it up and proceeded to thumb each prayer bead towards her. Stupid woman. Stupid woman. It’s what happens when you mix in the wrong circles. You try to impress, fit in. And you fail.
And you lose all the bloody rent money. Continue reading Character: Sakinah-bhai