What Lies Between Us

Free What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

Book: What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nayomi Munaweera
along the nerves of my body. It reaches to every far capillary and vein, turning them green, the green of algae or stagnant water. I am covered, choked up, clogged on the inside. I know that if I am cut, I would not bleed red, but instead, a rotted putrid green.
    One thing helps. I keep a small fruit knife under my pillow, stolen from under Sita’s watchful eye. When I feel too filled up, I press its point against the skin on my wrist. I press until a single point of red rises. It’s always a relief, that glowing ruby bead when I had expected a necrotic green gush. It brings a rush of safety, a hum of quiet. I can sit back, fall asleep even. I know this: I have magic skin. When I pierce it, it quivers like a million metal filings rearranged by a magnet. Always this to calm me, to take me away.
    *   *   *
    When I bring my school report home, Amma looks at it, then at me with enraged eyes. “What is this nonsense? You were always so good at math! And reading. What are these ridiculous scores? What the hell has happened?”
    I shake my head. “I don’t know, Amma.” One foot rubbing against the top of the other. Can’t she see what I’ve become? I can’t concentrate in school. There is a hum in my head, a sort of heaviness and buzz that makes it impossible to pay attention. My body is always awake, wide stark awake and waiting for danger, but my head is clouded. It’s hard to pay attention to the teachers. It’s hard to pay attention to the other girls. Everything they do seems stupid now. As if they live some other life very far away from mine.
    â€œIs it some boy? Is that it? My god, if you’ve taken up with some boy, if you’re going to bring shame to us, I swear I will wring your neck myself.”
    Her words pound into my skull. I look down at my feet and say, “No, Amma, no boy.”
    Her eyes cut through me. “Then what is it? What is distracting you so badly?” She gets up, moves toward my room; already I can tell what she is thinking. “No, Amma, please, no,” I gasp.
    In my room, she rips open drawers, spills clothes and books until she finds what she is looking for deep under my bed. My treasure trove of American magazines. My Tiger Beat s and Teen Beat s and Teen Vogue s. Sent from America, precious as gems. She rips them up in big dramatic moves, causing whirlwinds of pages, great flurries of decapitated, de-limbed rock stars and actresses. Bits fly from her open hands, taken up by the ceiling fan, throwing a maelstrom of paper in the room. She says, “This is what you spend your time on? Nonsense? This is what you are doing instead of studying?”
    I run out of the room and down the stairs, burst into my father’s study where he is nursing his arrack and his student papers. Behind him on the wall, his parents in their old-fashioned clothes above the chest that holds the old hunting rifles. He has been locked in here for hours, slowly sipping his drink, pouring another and another and another. I say, “Thatha! Amma is tearing up my things. Make her stop.”
    He swirls the amber liquid, stares into its depths. His voice is blurred. “Why is she doing this?”
    â€œI don’t know. She … she says she wants me to study more.”
    He tips his head back, hands steepled around the glass as if praying. “Maybe it is time to put away childish things. Exams are coming soon. Time to concentrate, no?”
    He does not rise; he does not come. He will not intervene. He will say nothing to her as she says nothing to him. She will look away and he will drink his arrack. They will watch each other from a distance like a cobra and a mongoose and say nothing.
    I run upstairs again. Samson stands outside my door. Amma comes out of the room, says, “Samson, Baby Madame has made a mess in her room, go and bring everything out. Put it on the fire with the evening’s trash.” I watch as

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