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My Song will Fill Half the Sky

Photo by NEOM on Unsplash

Who are you that called to me 8000 miles across a continent?  Matter-of-fact eyes beneath thick bushy eyebrows.  A  hint of a smile in an austere, hard face.  I wished my heart would stop beating so painfully.  My hands felt cold and clammy.  The creaks of belts and wheels; the thumps of suitcases and bags.  Green or red?  Keep walking, keep pushing.  Your face, your photograph, my only image of you.  Round the bend, heart thumping crazily, overwhelming sea of faces, vision blurring.  I could not see you.


"Mummy", a voice whispers at my elbow.


"Yes, my love.  Why are you out of bed?  It's late. You should be asleep."


"Is that a picture of Daddy?"


There you were, in a faded blue anorak, standing just behind the front row of faces, a vacant expression on your face.  You had not seen me.  I was glad I saw you first, giving me a few moments to study you.  Surprisingly, you looked just like your photograph.  Not a handsome face.  Not ugly, either.  You turned towards me.  Your eyes studied me, gazed downwards and up again.  What were your first thoughts?  Was I pretty?  Did you like what you saw? 


"Would you like to sit on Mummy's lap and look at Daddy's picture?"


"Yes, Mummy." 


Dreamy eyes, soft smile, snug cottony skin.  I hug her tight and breathe deeply the warm scent of her skin.  Together we peer at the face which stares unseeing back at us.


Expressionless, dead eyes that lit up only when you were angry.  Then, they blazed white hot, searing and cutting.  Your throat tightened until you erupted in a churning vortex of hatred and bitterness.  If you had not liked what you saw, why didn't you send me back?  I saw it in your eyes, that first day, a flare of disapproval.  But I thought it was just my imagination, the noise, the tiredness, the feeling that I was still floating in the sky.


"Be careful, my love.  See, where your finger has left a mark on the picture."


Maybe, it was my calloused hands.  Hands that laboured and prodded the earth to yield its fruits.  Hands that were never soft.  An uncut, unpolished piece of stone, I could not be the alluring, enchanting woman you wanted.  Maybe, it was you, night after night, cursing the roaring flames, the spitting oil.  The smell of rancid fat, the grease smearing your hair, like a second skin plastering your face.




"Yes, my love"


"Where is Daddy?"


Where were you when I lay night after night in that hospital bed?  You stayed away for two whole weeks.  I had no friends, no visitors.  You left me to bear my pain alone.  They cut me open.  I nearly died.  In that terrifying white place of oblivion, you were the only familiar thing I could hold on to.  Even if you didn't love me, didn't want me,  I was your wife.  Just your presence would have meant so much to me.  Were you not even interested in your first born?


I know you were.  When you thought I wasn't watching you smiled and played with her.  I could see the pride in your eyes when she called you Papa, when she took the first faltering steps.  For a little while we were a family.  I was the dutiful wife and you were the man of the house.


"I don't know where Daddy is."


"I want my Daddy"


"I know, my darling, I know."


Do I?  Do I really know anything?  I was overjoyed the day your photograph arrived.  I was young, full of dreams and hopes.  I hug her tighter, stinging tears threatening to run over.  I wanted a little more.  I had ambitions.  Is it so wrong for a woman to want to stand beneath her half of the sky?


"Come, my love, it's time for bed."


Carrying her in my arms I cross the small room.  A bed in one corner, a dark wardrobe, one battered suitcase, a little cooking unit and sink, a desk by the window, a box of broken toys;  our new home.


"In you go.  Mummy will join you in a little while."




"Hush, my love.  You should be asleep now."


"Please tell me the story of the fairy princess and the cowherd."


"You have heard the story many times before."


"It's my favourite."


"Alright, but you have to get into bed first and you must close your eyes."


"Yes, Mummy."  She burrows deeper into the bed. 


"My eyes are closed now."


"Good girl." 


As I weave the magic of the fairy tale, I watch my little girl settle easily into her own teasing dreams.  Gently, I  lift her arm and tuck the quilt softly under her chin.  Returning to the desk, I switch off the table lamp and look out of the window. 


The stars stretch out in a swirling arc across the heavens.  Somewhere, out there, the fairy princess and the cowherd meet in an eternal dance of undying love.  Slowly, my fingers trace the cold outline of your face on the faded photo. 

Whoever you are, wherever you are

Your call is no more than a faint echo amongst the stars. 

My song will fill half of sky.

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