Excerpt from “23 Acacia Road”

“I’m sorry, I’m in your way,” I said apologetically.

“No, don’t worry. Please. It’s not a problem, really,” the woman replied.

Her voice was rich and velvety and her tone instantly calming. The way her r’s rolled off her tongue instantly reminded me of a girl I used to go to school with. She was Ethiopian.

The young boy was staring at Che. All of a sudden, he beamed the most beautiful smile. He had the widest and brightest smile I had ever seen.  Che was so taken aback, he just responded in kind, grinning widely.

Suddenly, they just started giggling. I knew there and then that these two would be friends.

“My name is Vanessa, and this is my son, Che.”

“I am Natania. Pleased to meet you. This is my son, Caleb. Caleb, say hello to Vanessa and Che.”

“Hello Vanessa and Che,” smiled Caleb shyly.

Natania’s smile widened. She had the same teeth as Caleb, only brighter, if that were at all possible. She had the highest cheek bones and dancing eyes.

“Well, may I be the first to welcome you to Acacia Road.”

“Well, thank you! You are the first!”

” I hope you will be happy for your stay here.”

“Again, thank you. I’m sure we will, once we settle in.”

“Does Che have a school yet?” Natania asked.

“Well, not as yet… our move came so out of the blue and I didn’t have a chance to make any arrangements. The truth is, we were kind of on emergency housing, after I found I had nowhere to go… the landlord suddenly wanted to sell up… Where does Caleb go?”

“Don’t be embarrassed.  We’re all here on the list for permanent house. He’s at Derwentwater Nursery, just around the corner. After they finish, they just go to next door Derwentwater Primary. I have a daughter, Soliana, she goes there. Some of the children who live here –”

“Louise! Get in here you bloody bitch! NOW!” A gruff male voice came bellowing out from above. Horrified, we all stopped and looked toward the upper window on the left.

In horror, I quickly looked down at Che, whose face registered frozen alarm.  When I glanced back at Natania, her face had lost its smile and a thin line had set in its place. Caleb crept silently to hide behind his mother.

“You must not mind Alice,” said Natania, apologetically.

My jaw dropped.

“Alice? With that voice?”

Natania looked deadly serious. She began speaking in a hushed tone.

“She’s very… um… inquisitive… and if I were you, I would… just don’t get involved with them or tell her too much.”

“About what? Who is she? I mean, what’s the scoop on her?”

“Look.. just don’t get involved. She’s trouble. She can make your life very… difficult. That’s all I’m saying for now. I’d better get inside now.

It was nice to meet you, I hope we see each other soon. Come, Caleb.”

With a quick yank on Caleb’s arm, she disappeared into the building, then with Caleb hanging on for dear life, Che and I watched in silence as Natania flew up the stairs, shopping trolley and all, into her apartment, slamming the door.

© Brucella Newman and Kensalfirehorse 2013

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