Thanks to Makeda Kalifa Braithwaite for this short story. Read below and let her know what you think of it! (If you want your short story or article posted on my blog, make sure to drop an email at Munazzabangash@hotmail.com)
Perhaps it was the smell of burning tobacco or the listless cries that echoed through the camp that prevented her from sleeping or maybe it was her own self-pity; the flashes of the weeks of residence in the camp. The underfed frame of her fifteen year old body twisted on the dirty mattress; sleep would not come to her. When she was younger and things were simpler she’d just run into her mother’s bed. Let her whisper soothing words to her, stroking her curls with her long fingers. Yes, if she had her mother to whisper to her she’d be asleep by now but sadly she had no such comfort but the cold of the interior air. She’d be in third form had she stayed, learning of Caribbean figures. History was her favorite subject next to art-oh, she used to paint the most beautiful things. Beautiful models in her mother’s magazines or her father’s nature books. The nature ones were her favorite, flowers that were bright and stunning from places she’d never see. A wave of self-deprecation came over her, how did she let herself be tricked into this? What crafty lie let her fall? What fable made her prepubescent heart flutter enough to be dragged into hell?
A girl next to her sniffled, one of the older girls who’d been there longer was crying. Anita was her name (they didn’t use last names in the camp) crying was something she did to put herself to sleep though sometimes it lasted until the morning. She wasn’t one to judge-they all had coping methods. There were around ten of them in the camp, ranging from thirteen to sixteen. They were made to work together, bathe and eat.
When she laid her head down she wanted to forget. Let the wave of darkness and dreams take her over; not that night. That night she could not sleep.
Closing her eyes she imagined her bed back home, her father humming to old calypsos and reggaes, her mother fussing over some little thing that was a big thing in their small house. Why did she leave? In her young foolish mind entangled with ingratitude how did she let someone with a nice smile trick her into leaving her home to be this?
Anita stopped crying having gone to sleep already. There were other cries though-other girls who wished they could be anywhere but there, the other day one of them tried to drown herself. Counting back from one hundred, she tried to let sleep claim her again but the rapping at the door ceased any thoughts of sleep. It was time for them to work.
As usual the girls were lined up, dressed in short dresses and make-up thick on their young faces. The men eyed them like meat at the butcher’s, the Madame stood a few feet away; the woman who told them all beautiful lies and promises. The devil that let them sign their souls away; children really who were now learning the way the world worked. The older woman’s gold jewelry and sweet nothings had been a lovely serenade to their hearts, they were promised a better life and wealth beyond their wildest imaginations.
Give a poor girl a dream and she’ll dance for you.
Tonight she wore a dark blue dress; the one Madame (as she requested to be called) had recently bought her. Anita stood next to her, wearing a similar dress. The others wore dresses as well-it was the trend with their nightly duties; dresses, miniskirts and short pants. Like items displayed for sale in a store-their bodies were shown out. Showing the interested parties what was available.
The miners both local and foreign found themselves at the Madame. The bush was not only known for its gold and mineral wealth but also for the teenage girls who were tricked into leaving their homes from all over the region and forced into a form of slavery. Work their bodies to the bone-no sleep.
She’d always seen commercials on television about it; human traffic was real. It was the new slavery-thousands of people went through it. Words in those advertisements seemed to be things from a horror story the plot of a new Stephen King book.
Yet here she was-in the midst of hell; letting things be done to her and doing things she’d never done before.
The horror story had become her life but it would not remain that way.
“Adeline.” The stern voice that made her stomach clench and soul ache said. She looked up at her, shaky hands at the sides of her board hips. Madame gestured towards one of the men; one she was familiar with and came for her often. Adeline nodded. She knew what was to be done.
Anthony was his name. A young man close to eighteen he worked in the pit with his uncle’s company, he was average looking and you’d look past him in the street but he was kind to her which made him the most handsome man in the world to her.
He held her wrist; they walked to the building down the dirt road. It wasn’t that far, a few meters away at most. “How are you?” he asked. He had been asking that a lot lately, though they talked all the time-it would appear her well-being became a concern in what had now become more than the business of being a forced prostitute, they were now something more human, normal.
Anthony squeezed her wrist tighter when she didn’t respond. “Do you want a lie or the truth?”
He blinked in slight confusion. “The truth.”
“Horrible, I’m living in hell not just an over dramatic teenager’s idea of hell but literal hell. Now shut up before someone hears us-we can talk in the room.” The Madame had ears all over, people everywhere who’d report back to her their private whispers.
Soon they where upstairs in one of the many rooms if the brothel; Anthony closed the door behind them. Adeline took a seat on the bed, crossing her legs and leaning back in a manner that was drilled into their heads. Girls forced into women, she posed like a woman. A skilled seducer instead of a scared little girl, at times she wondered which one she was. He watched her move around for a few seconds before sitting at the foot of the bed. In the dimly lit room, she lay peacefully and he watched curiously. “I’m getting you out.”
She rolled her eyes. Between the men and the Madame; how would he get her out? “Don’t talk lies-” He shushed her, and shook his head.
“Tomorrow morning. We’re going to do what we discussed, remember? Last time I came.” No she couldn’t remember the day, they were given no calendars but she did remember the conversation the promises that were made and the dreams discussed. She dreamed of getting away and he promised to help her.
Naturally she hadn’t taken it seriously, any fight she had was gone. Worked away just like whatever possible normalcy she could have had. “Anthony, you need to realize what I am.”
“A girl, a teenager who’s been ripped away from her family that’s what you are.” He was closer to her now, cupping her face in his hands. Staring into her eyes, eyes that once held joy that were now just sort of there.
“How would we get out, huh? The men you work with would sell you out, you could die! Madame-she’d, she’d send her sons after us. You know the men out there!” Gritting his teeth he let go of her face, and turned away to stare at the dirty wall.
“You’re just a kid and you’ve given up already.”
“Hope is a waste!”
“It’s anything but!” He growled, pointing a finger at her. “Maybe you don’t see it in yourself maybe Madame has made you think of yourself as lost but you aren’t and I saw that, I saw a spark there. A trace of a girl that you used to be, a girl I’d like to know.”
Adeline shook her head. “I’m a whore.”
“You’re a child who was stolen from her home!”
“I wasn’t stolen, I came here on lies! Hope of something better than what I had at home; it was greed and naiveté that made me here!”
He chuckled bitterly. “You think I don’t know that? I know all the horror stories but the Madame is the worst! Who in their right mind expects a child to act rationally? To think enough to make a decision like this? One way or the other you’re getting out.”
They were silent for a while, staring at each other listening to the thuds against the wall. Adeline was the first to look away, down at her thighs-eyeing the various marks and bruises left there. Could she be brought back from the edge of despair? Could her life ever truly be normal? No but she would heal; grow into someone worthy instead of the old tired girls she saw around camp.
He took out the square foil packet and turned to her, she did not feel as dirty as she had with other men but rather it was a consenting affair. Or so she consoled herself. When it was time for him to go-he leaned forward and gave her a kiss. Slipping a handful of raw gold into her hand whilst whispering something to her, ignoring the knocking at the door that signaled that his time was over; the gold wasn’t shiny like on television raw gold isn’t but to her it shun brighter than the sun.
Adeline smiled slipping the gold under her mattress. Hope was a new concept she could embrace. Forming a fist she rapped on the wall next to her, the girl on the other side responded with a knock of her own.
At least she wasn’t the only one still there.
Three hours later, after they’d been walked down to the creek to wash off and returned to the camp (which consisted of a small building and two huts) the Madame made them line up before the open fire. Adeline could see the bubbles of the water forming, the light purple-ish of the morning sky with a dying moon in the distance. Usually in the mornings it was only the two men, but today the Madame stood between them. Dark eyes squinted and staring menacingly at them, the gold in her ears seemed to glitter between her black braids.
Yes, the most evil people tended to be the most attractive ones.
“Last night one of you got paid extra. Everyone is aware of the rule that all money or gold must be given to me directly.”
She took out the small piece of gold and Adeline swallowed her spit, it couldn’t be her own. Madame walked in front of her and grabbed her ear, pulling Adeline’s head down to her hip.
The girl gave a slight cry.
“What do you think you are? Eh, girl? The money you make goes back to you ungrateful bunch. This-this is mine.”
The gift, her shining hope was in the hands of her capturer. The rage she felt was of everything-the rage of being taken from home, the anger of being made to taint herself repeatedly.
Adeline dug her nails so dip into the woman’s skin it bleed. She kept digging and scratching-tears in her eyes. Madame had cracked away pieces of her soul but she couldn’t take this too.
She barely knew what was going on around her-she heard the yells of the other girls but all she thought about was Madame. Adeline hadn’t known how long she was fighting until the other girls pulled her back.
And they did, running towards the promise Anthony had made her hours ago, promises that the Women Miners had come to survey the area. That if she got out they’d help her-like they had other girls.
Hope and fight.
It was all she had now and the future to tell her story.
My full name's Makeda Kalifa Braithwaite (yes I know, quite a mouthful). I'm currently in my first year of lower sixth form and I'm a proud Aquarius. I'm an avid reader, I like to design, write and love to cook (and eat, that's one of the reasons I can't fit into my jeans). My aim in life is to either become a published writer or to join the army and become the highest ranking female officer. As for talents, I can cook, sing and I'm good at craft. My philosophy in life is to do what you're passionate about, chase after it, make it your obsession because there's nothing worst than a dream that's not pursued. My message is similar to my philosophy, find your passion chase it and live it.
Reach her at; http://www.wattpad.com/user/embracetheweird