Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Escape (01/02/06)
- TITLE: Beloved, we are home.
By Val Clark
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‘Write English, not good. Speak better.’
‘I write English better than I speak it.’
I repeat her words.
‘Don’t worry. I will fix it up and it will still have your voice.’
‘Sound like you.’
‘No names. I am afraid….’
‘That’s fine. It’ll give your story universal appeal.’
I was born in the refugee camp. I met my beloved there. He taught me of the world beyond the camp. Together we planned to build a new life with our children, in a free country where he could write and speak the truth without fear.
I am a refugee. My daughter is a refugee. My beloved is dead. Murdered because he could not keep the truth to himself.
One day the government man came with papers. I read the papers. After fifteen years of waiting, we are leaving. I visit the place where my beloved is buried. I can no longer picture him but I know his soul and hold it close to my heart.
Beloved. Finally we are going to a land of promise; a place where our child has a future. Thank you, beloved, for showing me a world beyond the fences and barbed wire.
My friends are happy/sad to see us go. We sing sad songs. Shed many tears.
At the airport people in uniforms take away the carefully wrapped packets of dried food I have been saving for weeks. The precious metal pots that belonged to my mother are taken. I am angry.
‘What will we eat on the plane? How will we prepare food in our new land? We have no money! My daughter and I will starve.’
When I am calm they tell me we will be well fed on the plane. I do not believe them.
My daughter’s eyes shine with excitement as we wait for the plane to go up into the air. I try to hide my fear but she sees through me. She wraps her fingers in mine.
‘Mama, do not be afraid.’
It is night when we finally land. The airport lights are bright, like the smiles of the people who come to meet us and help us settle into our new country.
Anne. John. Barry. Sue. Such short, ugly names. I try to match the names with the faces. I do not realize they have been practicing for days how to say my name.
We carry all we have in two bags out to a car.
Tears start as we enter a house. We learn so many new words. My daughter is faster than me. They show us our bedrooms. In the kitchen a fridge and cupboards full of more food that we could eat in a month. Pots and pans! The stove. How to turn on a tap and bring hot and cold water to the kitchen and the bathroom.
‘Where are the other families?’
Anne smiles as if she has been asked this question many times before.
‘This house is just for you and your daughter to live in.’
I sit on the floor and cry. I had expected to share a tent. Anne sits beside me, an arm around my shoulder.
Sue makes us tea. It is a hasty ceremony, but perhaps that is because it is in the middle of the night.
They drink with us and leave. I hope my tears have not scared them away.
My daughter and I stand and stare at the beds. She laughs at me as I look under the bed. As I bounce on it. As I feel the sheets, crisp and smooth between my fingers. Then I am crying again.
At first light we go outside.
My daughter whispers, ‘We have a garden, Mama.’
Anne and Sue come back later that morning and I prepare tea for them. We have a table, but I prefer to sit on the floor.
Anne says, ‘Your papers did not say what religion you belong to. Sue and I are Christians. We wondered if you'd like us to pick you up for church on Sunday?’
My daughter nearly spills her tea and again I am afraid.
‘What is it? What did she say?’
They wait while we speak our own language. Tears are rolling down my face. It is my daughter who explains.
‘My papa was killed for speaking the truth of Jesus. We would love to come to church.’
Beloved, we are home.
This story is not autobiographical.
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