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Hi, my name is Rowena
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Rowena (A Short Story)

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By Greeeny Send DollMail
Created: 2013-05-14 20:23:35 All stories by Greeeny
This is a short story that I wrote for English. I personally think it is a piece of crap, but whatever

Papa was a smart man. The only thing that saddens me most is the fact I never inherited his intelligence, but yet again genetics are amusing. I didn’t inherit his brain power but I inherited his appearance. At least I think I did, if I stand in front of the mirror while holding up a photo of him the difference is uncanny. When I look at my own eyes, I can see his staring back at me. I can also feel the warmth his might’ve generated too. I have his thick eyebrows and full lips which my mother envies.

Mama, who looks nothing like me, is an attractive woman. The sort you’d see on the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’, apart from the fact that she hasn’t worn a swimsuit in fifteen years or so. She has the zest I suppose many men would find ‘desirable’, she reminds me of the sound that a new Pepsi bottle makes when you open it for the first time. It’s like God had put on her on the Earth to be the light that shines for everyone even if she isn’t shining for herself. Sometimes I can see the exhaustion on her face at the end of day; she’d be trying hard to make others happy while barely finding time for herself. She once smelt like cinnamon until she started working night-shifts at the local petrol station, but I suppose she never would’ve drop any lower to accept government assistance. I used to joke about how she could blow up the apartment if she ever lit a cigarette after coming home, after realising that she was tired I felt bad and kept quiet. But I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard her crying in the room next to mine at night time. It was even more heartbreaking hearing her weep when Papa died, I’d wriggle my way into her bed and would clench to her like a barnacle. I was only four then, I didn’t understand, but now I do.

It was awful when he died. Mama had lost all hope for life and I stopped going to preschool because I kept picking fights with other children. I remember a little snooty girl with long piggy tales asking me, “Where’s your father Rowena?” while not seeming the slightest bit interested. The preschool had been alerted that my father died and made sure other kids weren’t bothering me, the last thing I remember of that incident was pouncing at her like a cat, with tears the size of green peas flowing out of my eyes. Oddly enough, I could’ve used a bit of affectionate irritation. I felt so lonely then; Mama stopped talking to me and spent most of her time sitting on the couch like a statue with a box of tissues beside her. Grandma had also stopped talking to people, and before we knew it, the lovely garden she kept neat and tidy became a sprawl of weeds and black bushes and the usual smell of pumpkin soup that hung around the rooms of her house turned into the smell of a thousand cigarettes.

After Mama managed to compose herself, we tried our best to get Grandma to do the same. But she couldn’t. He was her only son and only relative that was still alive. “I cannot. I’ve lost my husband and my only child, I cannot see the point of living anymore” she said to us one rainy day while looking out the window. I could see the real emotion behind her wrinkly face; it was more than devastation. She kept stroking the teapot that Grandpa had sent her from Germany while he was working there in the 70’s, as if it was the only thing that remained of him. Mama and I decided to leave after Grandma lit her 10th cigarette since we’d arrived there. From then on, we shortened our visits to Easter, Christmas and the school holidays.

I traced the photos that I had scattered all over my bed. I had left my workbook on the floor along with my pencil. I sighed. Not only is it difficult being semi-illiterate, but it’s particularly difficult to be creative, or to “Expand your mind” as my teacher would say. I picked up the latter off the floor and opened the little purple book up to the middle. I gripped onto the pencil and began to write:

“Todae iz choosday ve firteenf”

I paused and looked at the messy scribble I had written. Miss Jay had asked us to write a narrative, but since I couldn’t unclog my mind I figured that a short diary entry would do. I continued on by writing:

“I hav spent ve entyre naight luking at fotos of me and mi familee”

I continued on writing while listening to my cat Elvis nibbling on a cat treat. I finished the last sentence and placed the book on my bedside table. I picked up Elvis onto my lap and started scratching him behind the ears; he expressed his delight by continuously purring at me. I found Elvis outside our door when I came home from my first day of high school. My mother made meatballs that day and I suppose he followed the smell and landed on our doorstep. After feeding him a few meatballs, I realised I couldn’t let him go. He became a part of our household. The one thing I love about him is that he has black patches on his paws while the rest of his body is snow white. I scratched Elvis behind his ears as I began thinking about the first time I entered Miss Jay’s classroom.

It was just after the school holidays ended and my old English teacher signed me up for the year long program that aimed to help young people who had difficulties reading and writing. I received the letter a week before the holidays ended saying that I was accepted into the program and for the first time in my life I looked forward to learning. This year I was meant to do my School Certificate, but seeing as I can’t string two words together or even read a simple sentence like “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, I took my chances and started attending the classes the program offered.

I walked into her classroom holding my purple book and pencil, dressed in my best jeans, Chuck Taylors and with a nervous smile plastered on my face. As I entered the small room, as I should call it, I noticed that Miss Jay wasn’t one of those teachers that looked like a hag or a sour-tempered troll. She was young and happy-looking. She greeted me warmly and told me to sit in the seat at the front. I resented this more than being called up to the board to answer a question. Somehow, Miss Jay noticed this and told me “It’s for the best” with a smile, baring her perfectly straight white teeth.

Reluctantly, I sat down on the chair and looked around. Despite being small, the room was ‘unintentionally’ organised. There were inspirational posters neatly pinned up on the yellow and blue walls, the shades on the windows were drawn up which brought in much sunlight, an old computer desk and computer sat in the corner along with a bookcase (To my amusement, the books were sorted in alphabetical order and were colour-coded) and apart from mine, there were another 6 desks behind me.

Miss Jay walked over to her desk and picked up the white coffee mug that was sitting on it. She sighed and sat on the desk, looking every now and then out the window while slowly sipping her coffee. I studied her closely, from what I saw, life was treating her well. Her white shirt looked like it had been ironed precisely and her knee-length black skirt didn’t have a speck of fluff on it. And if my mother were there, she would’ve been drooling over her Jimmy Choo’s. Apart from her post-graduate law student look, her black hair was put up in a neat bun and her lips were painted a cherry red, precise as a geisha’s.

While sitting here, Elvis had begun snoozing peacefully on my lap. I carefully pushed him onto the bed and brushed his white hairs off my lap. I stood up and walked over to my study desk. There were a ton of work sheets scattered on the desk along with a dictionary that was still open. I picked up the dictionary and attempted to read the word I had underlined last night:

Resilience (noun): The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc. after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.

I looked at the other words I had underlined and closed the book, deciding to look them up later. I put the work sheets into a plastic sleeve and slipped it into my back-pack. I looked around my room and investigated the freshly repainted walls. And then I thought back to the time my Year One teacher made me stand up to write the alphabet on the board.

She coldly called my name out, and being the respectable child I was, I stood up without hesitation. As I walked to the blackboard, which seemed to be growing larger as I walked towards it with my legs feeling like rubber, my heart skipped two or three beats at a time. I picked up the chalk with my tiny fingers and carefully wrote “A, a” and then proceeded to write “B, b” and then paused. Dumbstruck, confused and not knowing what came next. I could feel twenty or-so eyes piercing through my back like X-rays. I could also hear Amy Cole, the little rat and her pack of pansies, whispering to each other and sniggering. I felt like sticking the piece of chalk up her snooty nose and ramming her head on the heater. “Sit down, Rowena” my teacher said, with a great measurement of disappointment lingering in her voice. I lowered my head and made my way back to my desk.

She later called my mother in, criticising her for not helping me. To this she responded, “You went to university for four years, and in the end you expect me to teach my child everything?” I could easily tell that my teacher got offended at this as she didn’t mention my learning deficiency after that. I managed to weasel my way through primary via an agreement that was made between the principal and my mother. The agreement was that if I attempted to do better, I would earn a C-grade and would be guaranteed to move onto the next year. I also managed to slither my way up to Year Nine with a similar agreement. However, my previous English teacher was smart enough to see that I would never pass the School Certificate and had arranged for me to spend a year improving my literacy skills.

I walked out of my room thinking about my new classmates. It is very comforting having a mixture of people from a variety of cultures in one room. One girl I have gotten very close to is Ava. She too, lost her father at a young age and grew up living with her mother and three other siblings in government housing. I was very surprised to find out that her father was part-Aboriginal, because she looked like the typical Australian beach girl; light blonde hair, sun kissed skin and blue eyes. Other than that, she is very proud of her heritage and likes to go up to Darwin during the school holidays to embrace her roots. Someone I’ve gotten quite fond of is Abdullah, who was born and raised in Australia, but couldn’t pen a single sentence up until Year Six. While we were sitting together at a café, reading “Where The Wild Things Are”, he opened up to me, revealing his silent past. His father was an alcoholic who constantly abused his mother and older sister. His mother later drank bleach and died in the bathroom. He found her cold, mingled body in the morning and he cannot forget the vague memory of finding her there, dead and expressionless. His sister later eloped with their Jewish neighbour and according to local rumours, she moved with her new husband to Melbourne. Abdullah soon after that moved in with his aunt and willingly signed up to the program to keep out of trouble. After we finished eating the hot-chips we ordered, he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. Something that made me blush bright red, just like the red Coca-Cola umbrella that was above us. I looked into his eyes, and for a moment, it seemed as if I had found my father in this young man. I looked over to the fountain that was across the street, and saw pigeons circling around it; their purple and blue feathers gleaming in the spring sun. Abdullah paid for the hot chips, and as we walked hand in hand down the street, with the sun kissing my shoulders and the wind caressing my cheeks, I realised that there was so much beauty in the world.

I slowly ate my breakfast thinking about what today might bring me. Will I learn a new word? Will Ava bring me another lip gloss? Will Miss Jay be wearing her Jimmy Choo’s again? Will Abdullah be wearing his green shirt again? I smiled and finished eating my last spoonful of Corn Flakes. I washed my bowl and spoon in the sink and went back into my room to get dressed. Just as I picked up my back-pack I heard a car honk. I ran out onto the balcony, not realising that my backpack was opened and that all my books poured onto the ground before me. I looked down to see Abdullah, leaning against a black Subaru WRX (His dream car at the moment), wearing his black shades and leather jacket. I giggled as the birds in the tree beside our balcony chirped happily. And then I felt as if I had just really begun the journey that is called ‘life”.

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