Short Stories

One For The Money: The Message

Chapter 3

The stranger’s instructions were precise. She would buy three notebooks over the span of one month and begin detoxifying or ‘getting light before the sacrifice’ as he had called the process. The first would carry the liberating content hence written last after Ceria had passed all the tests. And if everything went as planned, it would introduce Samee to the good life ahead.

The second, an A6 spiral-bound lime green notebook that would contain all the messages she wanted to send to Leymu via WhatsApp on the detox day. She was to ignore all his texts and calls regardless of the urgency and send those messages the following day by 6 am in one long text.

Missed ‘The Market’?
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Chapter 2

According to the Range Rover stranger, Leymu would fall for it like a moth the light. He would demand to see her and ask his supervisor for a sick off.

“Now that’s a son!” The stranger had stressed. 

Ceria would then arrange to meet Leymu at a restaurant of her choice and pay for all expenses with the contents of the brown envelope she had received earlier. She would use the session to bid him goodbye saying she needed to travel for the remaining part of the month. This would mark their last physical meeting. Every other conversation thereafter would be via the phone. These instructions couldn’t be broken.

‘I miss my Mom title. It gives me a sense of responsibility. Big girl doesn’t feel like a worthy package.’

Ceria felt a rough patch of goosebumps growing on her nape. The spot Leymu’s hand often rested during their many walks. She had avoided responding to his ‘Good night, Big Girl‘ message and hoped he would get the message and not text her in the morning.

He didn’t, despite the blue ticks. Instead, a number 1 appeared on the far right side of his name in the message list at around 8 am. Then upgraded to 2 before she could peep to see what it contained. Something about being loved but without elaborating on the source of love. Was he scared that she was ignoring him, again?

She turned a new page in the lime green notepad letting go of the long subdued breath. She was dying to tell him the whole truth. But there was a sacrificial deal on the table that would set his life on the right path once and for all. A painful sacrifice which if he learnt the details would most likely turn down. She wasn’t about to take that risk.

‘I miss the earlier relationship, it made me genuinely care. I always will, son.’

The intolerable pain choked every nerve in her system. The previous day had seen Ceria and Leymu hand in hand at the crowded public beach. It was supposed to be an innocent outing, splashing water and running away from darting crabs, in her case. But as the sun sunk west, he tucked her arm around his protuberant biceps and walked to his house and knew her, biblically speaking, in the shower. A spur of the moment incident, never a fault of his.

She had vowed never to get this far with him so as to retain the Mom-control over him. This would also enable him to easily reconnect with the outside world upon her departure, and at least date a woman who would make him as happy as she prayed she had made him. But standing in the shower together taking turns to scrub each other’s backs, something her spirit resisted but her flesh coveted, led to the moment of passion.

Ashamed on her side, excited on his, maybe, they rode in a taxi with his large hand clasping hers and rubbing it against his bulky chest in a moment of deific connection. She would have melted into him under different circumstances, but the pain of knowing what he didn’t know was killing her. She turned away to hide her face from his probing eyes not willing to put him through the torture of seeing her shed the goodbye tears.

The bubble read 4. ‘Me‘ with a male emoji slapping his face, with the rest of the message trailing out of sight.

Yet another cloud of anxiety settled over her head tearing her being from the inside out. The stranger’s sentiments, ‘Things that people do for money’ however held her pieces together. She would definitely see this process to the end.

‘I see the number on the message bubble growing and I know the silence is breaking you apart.  I’m sorry, but I would be damned to read your texts at this moment. Let’s just say I’m fasting from you, for our benefit. Soon you will understand. I pray. I hate to imagine what’s processing in your brain as you wait for the ticks to turn blue and know that I am alright. It’s not your fault. I’m just hoping you will reinstate the mom-son state despite yesterday’s events, which I take full responsibility for. Name your price. Anything for you, son.’

A hot tear ran down her left cheek and landed on the notebook drawing a wet circle all over the word ‘pray’. It hurt to ignore the son she had grown to love as well as the ‘lover’ she hoped to son. But even worse was the guilt of robbing him of a well-deserved youth. Not even the price she picked would near right her wrongs. But she would try, and hopefully, carry the happy memories of the habit they had created over the little time they had grown to know each other.

At his age, seventeen years earlier, she had hated her life. Married, with a second child and having more adulthood than the youth to show for it. She regretted never owning a living space, not even a shared one with a roommate. Somehow there was always someone telling her how to live and when. And while most of her acquaintances wished they had her kind of life, she felt shadowed. Something she was dying to shed like a snake an old ugly skin. No wonder the two-month break she sought from the family.

Leymu, like her reincarnation before her, had everything she had ever dreamed of. He lived in a rented studio apartment, had the freedom to test the legal and illegal sides of life, and had no one but himself to worry about. Majorly because he gave himself permission to. Something she had never allowed herself to do.

It is this freedom Ceria craved; waking up only to tackle her life’s demands with no one else attached. Just her lifting weights, selling the creepy short stories she wrote daily and minding her own business.

Damn the breakfast!

Damn the evening shopping and the dinner!

Damn everyone she had to take care of!

It was enslaving to take care of everyone else as a matter of priority and hold herself and all her desires last in the name of family life. Share on X

A package she felt was devoid of attention; being wanted for the things she had to offer but never truly needed.

Damn! It! All!

Drumming the tip of her pricy pen on the notebook she replayed the previous night’s scene for the umpteenth time wishing she had allowed their relationship to flourish in the way she had initially planned. A genuine mother-son relationship, caring yet free.

The third notebook would be written second and on the D-day after Samee left the house. It would be placed on Ceria’s laptop with her favourite green pen tagged on its turquoise blue cover. Its only content would be Ceria’s Equity Bank account details and the words ‘Your good life starts after the beep‘, three lines below. An ATM card would sit put under the notebook until required.

End of Chapter 3

Go to Chapter 4: The Money

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