“We’ve to release the documentary on women’s day. It’s going to create a storm around the world.” Vinay said in a husky voice.

For a flick of a second, my eyes locked with Vinay’s. I looked away into the mirror at my own reflection.

“Which documentary? I don’t have time. I don’t think I would be able to come with you either,” I was annoyed. The last thing I wanted is to fatigue the freshness of morning with yet another fight. I’ve tried to regain my calm.

“Do you think we together have a chance of survival? No. There is no ‘we’ anymore. It’s only you. You can go alone” I immersed myself in the bathtub filled with lukewarm water, took the remote and switched off the lights. I lost the sense of my body in the darkness, I felt like I owned nothing except the air I am breathing.

As Savanna walked out of the shower, a gush of cold wind blew off the last bit of warmth from her body. She already had wrapped around a white towel, shook her head in disappointment when she heard Vinay’s hoarse voice.

‘Wait. Savanna, honestly  I am not trying to rebuild the shattered pieces of our relationship. You know, in Africa there are around 30 millions girls undergoing genital mutilation, even the combined population of Germany and France is lesser. This project is going to be a voice against the repression of sexuality”

Savanna’s heart stopped a beat, her mind ceases to exist for a while and she took the lenses out from the tear-soaked eyes. No, he should not see her tears. She turned back and walked towards her car.

On her way to the office, her eyes wandered around the waking streets but her mind has been morbidly stuck to what he had said. Did he know about her past?  It did not matter how she improved her life, the wound in her memory had been still bleeding profoundly which makes her sleep, and bath and have sex in darkness. The darkness to her has always been a safe exit from her past.

She still remembers the small thatched shack, nestled opposite to a giant tree with five-finger leaves.  Those weird five-finger leaves sprouted on the giant tree thought her the initial economic lesson of her life.

Twenty-two years have gone by, and still, she could remember every detail of that day in the grassland.

The sun rose out of the morning haze with vigour. She had heard her brother shouting from behind.

“Be careful, girl!”

It had been a struggle climbing on to the top, stretching and spreading her gentle arms to hold the giant trunk. She repressed the overwhelming pain caused by the grinding of her skin against the tree trunk. The pain worth suffering for the five-finger leaves awaits her on the peak. Those weird leaves were the trading currencies, the more leaves the richer she become among her friends. With that, she could rent their toys and buy their broken pieces of mirrors and magnets from them. She had done it countless times. However, this time, when she was about to come down her legs shook tremendously, the leaves and she into the sand.

Her mother shouted from the threshold, “Act like a girl. Today is your special day!”

She got up smiling, and said, “I slipped mommy, but I am fine.”

She asked curiously “Only for me? What would happen on a special day, mommy?”

Her mother had told Savanna, “Angels would come today to see you. They’ll get rid of the evil in you darling!”

Savanna had no idea what her mother had said then. She looked for her father, she could ask him anything, because she loved him. She searched everywhere, but she could not find him anywhere. She wondered where her father had gone on her special day?

Savanna had been waiting for this day ever since her mother told about the occasion. Invitation for the special day had not only just limited to her neighbourhood, relatives from far end had also arrived with gifts wrapped in gilt papers. She roamed around the corners of the house absorbing the care and joy emitted by the neighbours.

A long and leaden afternoon like so many others, the sun had peaked through the dry leaf roof and caressed Savanna’s chocolate skin. She had watched astonishingly at the white spotless cubicle partitioned inside her room. It had been made with cloth, solely for the occasion. Excitedly, she thought the angels would meet her inside the cubicle.

Her smile vanished when Savanna saw a giant woman, with dreadlocked hair, as if in a hurricane, drifting in the direction of her home. The woman grinned as she entered Savanna’s room. Everyone including, her mother had gone out of the room closing the doors behind her but the giant woman stayed.  Slowly the light in the room faded. Even as Savannah resisted, nothing stopped the woman from dragging her to the cubicle. The woman spread Savana’s leg forcefully and removed her underpants vigorously. Before she could resist, she had felt enormous pain pass through her veins. She felt a cold sensation flow through her legs. Sooner she had faded away but the pain floated somewhere deep in her consciousness.
Her train of thoughts was interrupted by a phone beep. She tried to wake her confident self, wiping the last bit of teardrops. No stranger knew her number. Yet, this number didn’t recognise any name on her phone contacts.

Hesitantly, she has swiped on her phone screen. The voice on the other line spoke, “Mr Vinay had given your number. Is it possible for you to give a Ted Talk?”

She disconnected without answering. Why did the caller ask her to give a Ted Talk?  Was she a successful person who is capable of motivating others?

Once when she was promoting her company, an interviewer asked her, “As a successful person what is your take on accumulating wealth in the hands of few?”

She thought about the idea of success. She replied, “I know that if we are measuring the success of a person with respect to the scale of assets she or he owns, someone who doesn’t have will say she is a successful person. I don’t consider myself a successful person, not because I need more assets but because I wanted to do more. I don’t know what to say probably you should ask that question to someone else…”

She never told her dream to anyone, not even to Vinay. Talking about her dream is like creating a crack against the wall she had built between her past and future.

Vinay knocked on the office door. He changed into a white hoodie and a pair of black jean. As he walked in, she noticed a slight restlessness in the composure of his walk.

Looking straight into her eyes he asked, “What did you decide? Are you coming or not? Whenever I try to move further closer, you always try to move further away from me. I don’t understand. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know you. You know this journey to find out myself is very important to me. This documentary is my dream. My life depends on it. I am begging you to please come with me!”

No, he has no idea about her past. Whatever he had told before might be a sheer coincidence, she told herself. Sometimes, she wondered how life would be like if she had met someone who had the magical power of seeing through the outer shell into the pristine soul of hers. Maybe this journey into her past with him would shatter the wall between them?

The light has been fighting against the darkness for dominance, the last stars without despair said farewell. However, the sky is still dark blue through the window. Outside the landscape is spread with a carpet of green grass, on it lay like a snake, what is it a river or a lake? She cannot really say from this high altitude. Suddenly her body shuddered; the one thing she hates about being on a plain is the unexpected turbulence. Her mind again drifted back into the savannah desert in Senegal.

The moonless night stood silently outside her home. Great piece of her sleep had been broken with, a reverberating sound piercing through her eardrum. All of sudden, her father holding her close to him, ran outside her home, through the desert of green land. She never saw what had happened that day her father forcefully wrapped his palm around her eyes. She could only hear the thudding inside his chest. The whole night they ran and ran, the whole time his palm was wrapped around her eyes. When she had opened her eyes, her gaze narrowed into a squint. She felt her father nearby but there was no trace of her mother. When she cried, her father said “It was either you or your mother. I chose your life. Don’t ask anything, we will find a land where we can live peacefully and chase your life.”

Her mind’s flight towards her past was crushed by the heavy turbulence followed by the pilot’s announcement. ‘We had lost both the engines!’ She stood impassively, watching her guards open the emergency exit. Vinay pulled two bags out, put one on to her shoulder. Before she could think of panicking, she has felt Vinay’s hand nudging her towards the emergency exit and just pulled her along with him into the vast openness below.

She felt the strong wind swell in her mouth as she pursed her lips. Initially, her vision blurred, sooner she lost the falling sensation the kind of experience she had on a rollercoaster. Like floating on an air cushion devoid of any kind anxiety or tension, she flew in the air in blissful peace within herself. Vinay has been holding her hands stiffly, falling together towards the gravity of the Earth.

She looked upon the spectacular panoramic view of earth. Is Vinay saying something…what? She couldn’t hear him.  Suddenly he had drifted apart. Mirroring Vinay she had pulled the thread to launch her parachute.

She landed on the lush, treeless green terrain floor, untangling the rope and nylon she had removed the bag from her shoulder. Where is this place? Where is Vinay? She looked up into the sky and squinted, her aircraft afar a speck in the whiteness. She walked and climbed the mountain of revelation.

Wait a second. She knows this place very well. In the middle of the grassy land, she has seen the giant tree, still young with many five finger leaves.  Two children wearing pink ran towards her from different corners. She knew these girls. The girls smiled back at her.

“Where is my barbie doll?” the youngest of them asked her. She smiled with a shrug and asked, “Where are the other girls?”

Vinay ran toward her and stood opposite her, breathing heavily. His hair, unlike sleekly tugged in-between his ears, have been messily dishevelled, he seemed more appealing to her, his lips parted into a smiled. Behind him, she saw the most beautiful smile in her life.

Her father’s smile.

“You knew this the whole time?” she slurred to Vinay as she hugged her father. Tears rolled down her cheek in excitement.

“Not really. What you are doing is a great thing. Why are you hiding these girls? Do you see the joy on their face?”

She replied wiping the tears, “When did you know about these?”

“When I had realised I didn’t know about you, I decided to travel back to the path you had travelled. The journey to find your soul was thrilling. There were many surprises awaited on the way. I was falling in love with the mark you made on the way. Finally, I saw your soul in here in these children whom you are helping. You uniting with these children will be the climax of my documentary.”

“I am really sorry Vinay. You can show it to everyone but not now. I am still worried about their future. I see myself in them. These few children are my asset. They won’t work for anyone. They all will create a new empire. Each of them will follow no tradition that is harmful to girls. However, they should not feel they are getting a charity from anyone. Indeed, I am not doing charity. This is a selfish deed to kill the tradition that harmed me.”

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Written by Soumith V

Soumith is an avid reader, who likes to read all kind of stories.