Jan 27, 2023

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

SHORT STORY: Playing a good neighbour

It was her day off and she wanted to rest. She would put her feet up, watch a movie she had saved for a rainy day, cook herself a nice meal and do absolutely nothing. Prisca leaned her head back to stare at the sky and reveled in the shade sails that opened each time the clouds cleared. There were many clouds, low-lying purple-grey ones, each gold or silver tinged, floating lazily, forming a blanket that enclosed what might have been a sickly dampness if there had not been a gentle cold breeze that carried the fragrant scent from the coming rain.

“I should move,” she murmured, finishing off a lukewarm coffee and rocking gently in a chair that hung on the balcony of her high-rise apartment.

Swinged smoothly Prisca stood up and had barely taken a step when her doorbell rang shrilly. As it echoed through her airy apartment, each wave flooded her body with cortisol. She froze on the threshold of her balcony and living room, standing so still she was barely breathing. Maybe whoever it was would just leave?

“Hello?” it was her neighbor from the apartment complex across from her. “I’m here for that bread recipe we were talking about?” she insisted and knocked again, “Hello!”

Prisca exhaled measuredly and rolled her eyes. The woman was nice, it was just she was so talkative. For her, a simple hello was an invitation to engage in lengthy conversations that were an ingratiating mix of neighborhood gossip and small talk. Had she seen Prisca lounging on her balcony? If so, then it would be rude not to answer… But just as Prisca took a small step forward, she heard her murmur.

“Let me call instead.”

Prisca leapt forward, graceful as a gazelle, landing silently on the balls of her feet to retrieve her phone from the coffee table and quickly toggle on airplane mode. Then she stood still and thoughtful, feeling guilty for her behavior but unwilling to sacrifice hours of her precious day off. A moment later she heard them retreat, and with each step Prisca’s shoulders sagged as the fear left her.

Breathing more calmly, she padded quietly into the kitchen, closed the door, and began to cook. She wanted to treat herself to a leisurely lunch. She hadn’t had them in so long.

As an on-call doctor, she ate standing, ran down a corridor, or wolfed them down between patients in her office. Prisca swayed and hummed as she began slicing onions and tomatoes into bright red and faded purple heaps and dicing them into near-perfect cubes with surgical precision.

She had been to the market the night before, so now she spread out a selection of fresh produce on the counter and mentally selected ingredients for her stew. Carrots that glowed sparkling orange, eggplants the color of the dark clouds outside, earth and ivory mushrooms that felt spongy to the touch, deep green lush leaves of spinach…

Outside, the clouds let go of their burden at once a sudden, powerful torrent that came to life as abruptly as a starting engine.

Prisca jumped as the noisy rain fell, then happily wandered about staring out at the downpour, enjoying and romanticizing the scene , the soothing mingling scents of stew and rain, the sounds soothing now as the heavy rain subsided and the dark sky was lashed by bright lightning that rumbled with faint thunder. She stood and watched for a while, then winced as she remembered her stew simmering on the stove.

It was just beginning to spill out from under the lid and up the sides of the to drip down the pot. She turned off the heat and scooped up a large spoonful, blowing out the steam rising from the delicious-smelling mixture and drooling in anticipation. Prisca put the spoon in her mouth.

“Oh…” she exhaled, she had forgotten salt. Angered internally for leaving out such a simple but essential ingredient, she rummaged through her spice cabinet, yanking out the salt jar, then cursing out loud as she stared at the empty container in her hand. Prisca discussed her situation for just a moment before donning a heavy raincoat, hood pulled low over her head, and ran to a kiosk that stretched across the perimeter wall of her apartment complex, much to the residents’ distress and convenience.

< Soaked but victorious, salt in hand, Prisca tapped her foot impatiently as she stood in the elevator heading back to her apartment. Irritability had threatened her good mood, but now her relaxing evening was within reach, she could already feel it, the feeling of sinking into her couch, stew in hand, to watch a movie she had been waiting for so long had, comfortably with that outside it was raining steadily... The elevator rang as it arrived on their floor and the doors slid open.

“Prisca! I was just looking for you!’ it was her neighbor who answered: ‘I stopped by this morning but… what have you got there?’ she didn’t wait for an answer, she rarely did: ‘Have you been to the kiosk? I heard there are plans to tear it down, but Sarah’s husband, you know, the one who…” she continued while Prisca choked back tears and smiled mildly.