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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)

TITLE: Felicity's wonderful world
By Helen Paynter
03/06/07


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Felicity’s Wonderful World

The sun was shining and the world was a wonderful place.

Felicity smiled at herself in the plate glass window of the shop. Her reflection, all Calvin Klein and Gucci, smiled back. And why shouldn’t she smile? She was young, beautiful, and Daddy had lent her his credit card.

Turning into a clothing store, she began to examine the silk blouses, fingering the fabric with her lip curled, just as Mummy had taught her.

*

Jayani yawned and stretched. It had been a long shift, and she was looking forward to getting out. She couldn’t tell the time, but she was listening for the buzzer that would signal her freedom.

Her supervisor walked over, frowning. ‘This work is below standard, Jayani. Look at these seams!’

Jayani flushed. ‘I’m very sorry, Mrs Bassa. The baby was sick last night, and I had to help Mother take care of him. I’ll try harder tomorrow.’

Her superior shook her head, her lips pinched. ‘No you won’t, young lady. You’ll do them again before you leave. Here!’ She dumped twenty silk blouses onto Jayani’s table and hurried away.

With a sigh, Jayani took the top blouse from the pile. Screwing up her eyes in the fading light, she began to unpick the tiny stitches.

It would be another four hours before the twelve-year old made her way home.


*

Swinging her bag lightly from one finger, Felicity bounced onwards to the next store. She wanted to buy some jeans. Low waist, boot cut, understated but elegant. She knew just the place.

*

Kayin had finished work for the day. He stretched out his long legs and took thirsty gulps of the drink his wife had offered. In the evening shade, he sat outside his hut and gazed in sleepy contentment at his cotton crop. For three days he had paced up and down every row, spraying the budding plants with the magic pesticide. He didn’t know what it was, but it certainly worked. He’d watched earthworms shrivel and die before his eyes.

A sudden commotion. Two of his children tottered around the corner, carrying something between them. A cold hand grabbed Kayin’s stomach and squeezed.

‘Adisa, Folami. What is it?’

‘It’s Oni, Father. We were playing in the shed. Where you keep the barrels.’

‘We don’t know how it happened.’ Their naiveté was so evident in their voices: as yet they feared only a rebuke.

‘She fell into the barrel, Father. The one that was half-full.’

For every hour of the next two days, Kayin knelt beside the toddler’s bed and prayed for her to die.


*

Felicity had several parcels now, and she was reaching the limit of her tolerance. ‘Shop ‘til you drop’ was an over-rated idea, she thought. After all, there’s always tomorrow. Just one more thing, then home for a long hot bath. But first, she needed cocoa butter skin cream – Mummy’s beauty secret.

*

Kwame leaned down and gently disengaged his daughter’s clinging fingers. ‘I have to go now, Efia.’

The little girl looked up with sulky eyes. ‘I don’t want you to go, Daddy. I want you to stay here with Mummy and me.’

Kwame looked down at her, and across at his wife. Her grave eyes gazed back. She didn’t understand either. Didn’t or wouldn’t.

But how could he explain to them? The evidence was clear in their eyes – a good crop this year; the plants heavy with cocoa beans. How could he explain that he would be selling them at a loss? He understood little enough about it himself. All he knew was The Company had cut the prices again. All his wife knew was that her husband was leaving her with a child and another on the way.

‘It’s only for a while,’ he tried to reason. ‘I’ll go and try my luck in the city; send some money home. And Yoofi will look after you.’ He ignored the frisson of fear that tickled his spine as he said this. His brother would never harm them. Never.

‘Come on, cheer up. When I come back I’ll bring you a present.’ He grinned emptily; kissed his wife once more; ruffled Efia’s hair and turned away. With luck he’d catch a lift when he got to the main road.

When he returned a year later, he gave his wife AIDS.


*

Felicity stowed her bags carefully in the back of her sports car and spun homeward. The sun was shining, and the world was a wonderful place.

************

An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labour worldwide.

There are several thousand fatalities from pesticide poisoning every year. Children are disproportionately affected. Most poisonings occur in the developing world.

The large cocoa companies use their size and influence to drive down the purchase price of cocoa from the producers.

Poverty drives workers from their homes in pursuit of work; separating them from their families and putting them at risk of casual sexual encounters and infection with the HIV virus


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This article has been read 1310 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 03/08/07
Perfect irony in the title, and a breathtaking, heartbreaking piece. A further irony is that Felicity's world is also the world of those poor unfortunates--and of course, her name was well-chosen. I sometimes wonder why some are so blessed and some not, in this fallen world. Thank you so much for bringing these issues front and center.
Marilee Alvey03/08/07
Wow! This is a masterpiece. It is well written, creative, dramatic and points to world concerns. It is so moving to think that each "vignette" goes on in the same world as the others. How trivial Felicity seems, but then again, aren't we closer to Felicity than the others? This is a bitter pill....that needs to be swallowed. Thank you for writing this.
cindy yarger03/09/07
Great job of lacing these truths into your story. Sometimes just knowing the truth empowers one to do something about it.
Leigh MacKelvey03/10/07
A very imressive entry! I liked the unusual take on the topic. I'm so grateful for the information you imparted to me. Thanks for your entry!
Joanne Sher 03/11/07
Oh, wow! This is extremely powerful (not dull in the least, silly!). The contrast is amazingly well-portrayed, and the note at the end really brought the point home. My heart ached throughout. Exceptionally exceptional. :)
Janice Fitzpatrick03/12/07
So riveting and heart rending to think of what some people go through in contrast of others materialistic lives. I think I'm going to sit down and write about something that 20/20 revealed a yr or two ago and since then I had new insight on the subject. we need to hold up those who face harships and for God to turn around the hearts of those whose motives are only to get rich or prosper themselves. God bless your writing. Keep it up! Awesome!
Jacquelyn Horne03/12/07
What a demanding story. Well done. The comparisons were great. Very infomative. I liked the statistics at the end.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/13/07
What an eye-opening entry. May we never be "Felicy's" but caring Christians, prayerful for our lost world.
Catrina Bradley 03/13/07
Your stories tend to make me think really long and hard - and take a good look within. Powerful, and exceptionally well written. God Bless.
Myrna Noyes03/14/07
Very sobering and thought-provoking entry! Thank you for making us think about how our consumer mentality affects others.
Myrna Noyes03/15/07
CONGRATULATIONS!! :)
Loren T. Lowery03/15/07
I had read this earlier and meant to comment but took too mucn time collecting my thoughts. I really liked the way you were able to take the reader into two very different worlds in a very realy way.
Congratulations on a well-deserved win.
Karen Deikun03/15/07
Helen,your message is remarkably delivered. Thank you for caring about people so profoundly and for bringing to light these sinful situations. You write with passion. Blessings.
Karen Deikun03/15/07
Helen,your message is remarkably delivered. Thank you for caring about people so profoundly and for bringing to light these sinful situations. You write with passion. Blessings.
william price03/15/07
Helen, you remain one of my favorites. Congrats on your EC. God bless.