Writ in Water by Tiah Marie Beautement

Writ in Water, my latest short story for FunDza is live.

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Chapter 1:

As the three suns crested the horizon, Nonzame woke at a gush of water. The liquid came from her loins, soaking the sheets, causing Lukaya to stir. She had to help him into his wheelchair before she could remake the bed. It wasn’t until she smoothed the sheets flat, that the tears began to fall.

“Come, my wife,” Lukaya said. He opened his arms, and she curled up in his lap. He stroked her braids, whispering words of love and comfort. The couple stayed that way until the suns had fully emerged.

The midwife was sent for and arrived an hour before Nonzame was due at school. The hunched woman examined her patient with a gentle touch. “I am sorry, my dear,” she said, “but your baby is gone.”

Nonzame sucked her teeth. “Gone where?” She fetched the soiled sheets. “Look, not a drop of blood. The child must be inside me.”

The midwife clucked, and shook her head. “Look at your belly. It has gone as flat as a virgin’s on her wedding night.”

A low moan escaped Nonzame.

Outside, on the porch, Lukaya winced. But when the workers on his farm looked his way, he waved them off. His and Nonzame’s pain wasn’t something that needed to be shared beyond the walls of their home.

Inside, the midwife hugged the grieving woman, rocking her to and fro. As the cries quieted, Nonzame whispered, “How?”

“Every decade, when the three suns appear as one, there is a risk to the children who dwell in their mother’s womb. Nobody knows where these babies go; we only know they are gone.”

Click HERE to Read Chapter 2

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An American Refugee by Tiah Marie Beautement

DXMzwAMXkAAyFzh.jpgCast of Wonders has released Artemis Rising #4. My short story “An American Refugee” was selected as one of the stories for the Cast of Wonders Pod.   Yes, it has taken me 40 years to do something cool.

The story has been turned into a podcast (which is fab!) but they are not for everyone, especially the hearing impaired. If you’d like to read the story, the text is available below the Show Notes.

You can listen or read by clicking HERE

Extract:

Mom parks the hover pod and turns around. “It might be different, but we don’t know how different. People might think we’re taking their jobs, using up their resources. Not everybody is happy about the program. Look at the riots in the United Kingdom. They’ve had to put a temporary halt until things calm down. Even some Canadians have questioned taking American refugees, pointed out our country’s long history of booting our immigrants, even children.”

“It’s not our country anymore,” I say.

Mom shuts her eyes tight, like I’ve slapped her.

Dad simply opens the door. “Come, I want a hug before I board the heli-tilt.”

As soon as I’m out, he’s got me in a bear hug. “Fabiana, be kind to your mother while I’m gone. This has been hard for her.”

“Sure.”

He gives me a kiss on the top of my head, before turning to Mom.

Mom and I watch the heli-tilt take off. Soon he’ll be on the Russian owned gas-platform, one of the last of its kind, located in South African waters. “Who’d have guessed we’d have the Russians to thank for our freedom?” Mom murmurs.

It’s more complicated than that, I don’t say.

Zimbali Jadeite & Me by Tiah Marie Beautement

It finally happened – Zimbali Jadeite & Me went live on FunDza this morning. This was my first time writing a story with a transgender main character. It is also, I believe, FunDza’s first story with a transgender main character.

I put three weeks of research into this piece before starting to type. Then I ended up rewriting it again – and doing more research. And…even this morning we’ve been tweaking things to try to make sure this story is what it needs to be.

Big thanks to all who helped gather the research, read, and edit this piece.

Chapter 1:

“It’s going to be fine, Thando-Joy,” Mama says, as we walk up the path to the former-model C school’s entrance. “I’ve been emailing the Head for over a month and he says they are eager to help.”

I nod. We’ve been through this. A lot. Ever since Tata started looking for a new job. But I thought we were going to move somewhere big, like Cape Town or Durban or even Port Elizabeth. Not this small Garden Route town. What were they thinking?

We step into the small lobby and Mama starts talking to a blond lady sitting behind a window. She stares at me a bit, but I know I look good. I’m wearing my favourite skirt, with my red Converse lace-ups, and my top that says, ‘Dance like nobody’s watching.’ It’s great stuff.

So I ignore her wide eyes and step over to the doors on the opposite end of the lobby. Peering through the glass, I can see the playing fields, kids running this way and that.

Take that, Lwazi, I thought, admiring all the brown faces.

My cousin Lwazi is 13, two years older than me, so he thinks he knows everything. He kept teasing me that I’d be the only brown face in my new school. “Only small-minded white people live in that town,” he’d said. Ha! I sneak my phone out of my skirt’s pocket – I love skirts and dresses with pockets – and snap a picture of the kids and WhatsApp it to Lwazi, showing him how wrong he was.

But I’m still nervous. This is the only English language government primary school in the town; the rest are Afrikaans. What if the school turns out to be awful? We can’t afford private school. And I hardly know any Afrikaans. How could I learn if I can’t understand what the teacher is saying? This has to be okay.

A tall white man approaches the doors. I step back as he enters the lobby. “I’m Mr Visser,” he says, holding out his hand.

I take his hand and shake. “Nice to meet you. I’m Thando-Joy.”

He smiles, looking me right in the eye, before introducing himself to my mother and inviting us in to his office.

Things are looking good, I think, as we follow Mr Visser. The place is huge. There is a big wooden desk in a corner, that looks intimidating. But he directs us over to another area with some sofas and a coffee table. He sits down, opposite to us, and offers us drinks.

“We’re fine, thank you,” my mama says. “We’re simply looking forward to getting Thando-Joy settled into her new school.”

“Yes,” Mr Visser says. “As I’ve told you, we’ve worked with many children like Thando, and had great success.”

“Thando-Joy,” I say.

Mr Visser smiles at me, and an alarm bell goes off in my head. I’ve seen smiles like that before. They’re smiles of pity.

Mama stiffens next to me; I know she saw it too.

“Mrs Nzuza,” Mr Visser says, “fixing a situation like this can be a long and difficult process. But, again, through our many years of experience, I can assure you we can help your son accept who he is.”

Oh, no, I think, going cold all over. We’ve moved to a town of whackos, after all.

Click HERE for Chapter 2

 

Dear Fortune by Tiah Marie Beautement

The great folks at FunDza has published my short story “Dear Fortune.”

Landisa has been given a diary and has named it Fortune. But Landisa’s ‘fortune’ isn’t great these days. In fact some girls are being mean, and she can’t figure out why, or how to stop it.

CHAPTER 1:

9 October

Dear Fortune,

That’s what I’ve decided to call you, by the way. “Dear Diary” is so 80s, and while some 80s fashions are in – oooh, I look fiiiiiiiine, in leggings – some things are best left in the past. Besides, I’m an original, and you should be, too.

Fortune (noun):

  1. destiny, luck, something that happens by chance to a person
  2. MEGA rich

So now to tell you about me. My name is Landisa and I’m eleven and a half years old. I’m in Grade 5. I have a mama, daddy and one brother. My brother’s name is Mvuyisi and let me tell you, he does NOT bring me joy. He is eight years old, in Grade 2, and everyone thinks he is soooooo cute, yet he lies, lies, lies, getting me in trouble ALL the time. And nobody believes me. They just look at his big brown eyes, and he bats his thick lashes (why do boys get the BEST lashes?) and then they believe everything he says, and not me.

That’s actually why I’m writing to you right now, because I’m in trouble. Mama handed me you, in all your purple-cover glory, and said, “Why don’t you take a time out and think about what you did?”

I did NOTHING. There I was, trying to do my homework, when he kicked me. So I growled at him. GROWLED – which doesn’t hurt. And then he cried and cried and cried, like a baby, and said that I hit him.

LIAR!

Ugh. If I had one wish for today, it would be that I was born an only child. But since that’s not happening, I guess I’d wish for my parents to see how my little brother really is.

Click HERE to read Chapter 2

TSSF Journal, Issue 1

21557634_1659386047418854_6416383593060390209_n.jpgThe first issue of The Single Story Foundation‘s Journal is now live.

I strongly recommend downloading it and reading it on your computer or e-reader. The layout is stunning. (I can say that, because I’m not the one who formatted it.):
http://journal.singlestory.org/issues/

For those that cannot do so, you can read it in blog form here: http://journal.singlestory.org/

Many thanks to my fellow editors Tolu Daniel and Genna Gardini. Also thank you to TSSF founder Murewa Olatodera Olubela and our volunteers, Husband, Julie Keeton Bracker and Moira Richards.

We hope you enjoy.

Last Night by Tiah Marie Beautement

moon-and-dragon-108761_64010th of September is Suicide Awareness Day. To honour the day, FunDza has published my story Last Night.

Story summary: Meet Hope. She’s got a nice life – two loving and hard working parents, a nice house, private school, and never misses a meal. But her mind has turned on her. She’s named the monster of depression Tar Beast. And to battle it, she created a dragon – her dearest friend and protector.

Chapter 1

“I was going to tell you a story from long ago. It was a tale with werewolves and magic, elves and goblins, and things that whisper in the breeze,” I said.

“That sounds nice,” said the dragon. My imaginary friend was curled up in the corner of my perfect and beautiful bedroom, with her paws drawn under her chin, watching in the dim light.

I wanted to get out of bed, ask her if I could climb on her back, go for a ride, have her take me far from here. She had wings. Massive ones, that, when spread out, would dwarf my house. I could have held on to one of the many black and shiny horns that that ran from the top of her head and down her mighty back.

But all I said was, “It is a nice story.”

“I believe you,” she said. “And as soon as you want to tell it, I’m here to listen.”

I tried to nod, but couldn’t. Not that there was any point. Wasn’t much point to anything, these days. I was too tired for any of it. Even sleep. Two years ago, I would have laughed at anyone who told me that a person could be too tired to sleep. But now I understood: a person really could be so exhausted from existing, that all there was to do at night was wait for morning.

Morning is for washing, breakfast, shiny teeth, and tidy hair.
Morning is for packing homework, tennis kit, and piano books.
Morning is for shoulders back, posture straight, and smiling.

Because everything was good. Great. Wonderful. “I’ve given you everything I never had,” as my mother always said.

“Be grateful,” as my father always said.

“You are ungrateful,” Tar Beast hissed from my bed. “So ungrateful.”

I stiffened, as my imagination shifted and my evil mental-nemesis, Tar Beast, took over. The sheets turned to sticky muck, sucking me deeper into the bedframe. I wildly casted about for my dragon, but she was fading into the floor, to dwell where my good stories now lived.

I used to be a great storyteller. The best.

“Hope is a little liar,” my mother always said.

“Hope has an overactive imagination,” my father always said.

“Worthless,” Tar Beast hissed from my bed. “Wasting your time, always wasting your time, when you could be using it for something practical.”

Tar Beast sent up a long thick tentacle, dripping with muck, and wrapped it around my ribs, pulling me closer to its lair. My breath came out in short sharp gasps – faster than if I were doing tennis drills. Flames licked my lungs, as another tentacle closed over my mouth, the suction cups fastening to my flesh.

Help, I wanted to shout. But I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t groan. Air – snuff, snuff, snuff – made it through my nose, but it wasn’t enough. My heart picked up the pace–

“Relax,” Tar Beast purred. “Let go, just let it all go. You didn’t want to grow up to be a doctor, anyway.”

True, but the words remained inside me. Trapped by that thick, slimy, tentacle, sucking my face, robbing me of my voice. So ‘True’ was left to sink into my soul, sending out its inky poison, reminding me of all the ways I had failed.

“They didn’t spend all that money for you to throw it all away,” Tar Beast sang, dragging me further into the muck. “They deserve a daughter who appreciates the things they provide, a child who gives one hundred-and-ten-percent.”

True, I thought. I hadn’t even tried to speak this time. No point. Because I knew there was no way I’d live through the night. It hurt too much.

Click HERE to read Chapter 2

Auntie Jax by Tiah Marie Beautement

The good folks at FunDza have published my short story, “Auntie Jax.”

Chapter 1

“Honey, I’ve met stupid. I’ve worked with stupid. Lord knows I’ve even dated stupid. But your kids ain’t stupid. So, let’s just give it to ’em straight, okay?”

“Jax…”

Jacqueline turned to the three faces looking balefully at her and their mother. This was the first time they’d seen their Auntie Jax, from the American state of Tennessee, in three years. The woman defied their memories.

“Now children, you listen to your Auntie Jax. Your daddy loves you, but he did something stupid, okay? Being stupid isn’t a crime, but unfortunately, your daddy was so stupid he let himself be talked into doing something incredibly stupid, and the government is a little mad at him right now. So, me and your mama are gonna sort things out. Okay? And everything’s gonna be alright. Auntie Jax promises.”

Three pairs of eyes blinked. They took in the wild, reddish-black curls. “Big hair,” their mother had said. They took in the slim fingers, decorated with numerous rings and ending in long, red nails. “Impractical,” their mother had said. They took in her earrings, so large that little Ida could have used them as her doll’s hula hoops. “Can tell she doesn’t have children,” their mother had said. They took in the shoes, with heels so high and pointy they could have doubled as knitting needles. “Asking for bunions,” their mother had said.

Not that Auntie Jax gave “a flying fig” what their mother said. “Maddy’s confused. I ask you, what kind of black American gal goes all the way to Africa and ends up married to a white man?” she asked.

You can read the second chapter by Clicking HERE

Sting Like a Bee by Tiah Marie Beautement

The good folks at FunDza have published my story, “Sting Like A Bee.” This is Justine’s story, the missing sister from “Surfing & Shakespeare.” The tale begins in a dark place and fights its way to better times. I hope you enjoy.

I don’t like walking alone in the dark. Murky shapes shift and move: human, animal, ghost – I don’t know. Noises from shadowy corners: shattering glass, a scream, a groan, a whisper – “Psst, over here” – mix with the sound of passing cars, their tyres rolling over the streets with a hiss. The law says the bar must provide transport for employees at this time of night. But I’m working ‘under the table’ for cash stuffed in a pocket, a pat on the butt.

You’re such a screw up, Justine.

Footsteps approach. My shoulders tighten, weight shifts to my toes. Look ’em in the eye, make then know – I see you. I thrust my chin up. Two heads nod in reply. Step, step, step – the two men pass. Blue jeans. Sketchers. Fitted button downs.

Get it together, Justine.

I turn the corner, into the alley, suppressing a shiver. Creepy. I’m caught between high brick walls and locked metal doors guarded by bars. But if I don’t go through here, cutting via the parking lot, then it is an extra ten minutes in the dark to home, and the lighting isn’t much better that way.

Not that I have a home, exactly. Romario’s got himself a new girl now, and his sister wants me off her crappy futon mattress. Like, yesterday, if not sooner.

Almost there, keep going.

Footsteps arrive in staccato – tat-tat-tat.

“Wha–!” Air leaves my lungs as a heavy weight slams against my back, arm tightens around my neck, yanking me backwards. Another guy comes forward at me, and I’m kicking, pushing hard. He goes flying that way; we’re falling this way.

“Shi–” whoofs the body underneath me, while the other slams into the wall. My body is still moving, legs curling over my head, elbow jamming into the gravel, flipping those feet over, and then I’m rising, standing, fists raised.

This isn’t going to be any girly hair-pulling fight.

And in the dim light are two sets of eyes, aglow, looking at me in rage. Like I’m misbehaving, like I am the one doing wrong. Both creep closer, crowding in, as my eyes dart between them. The right one lunges – my leg lashes out. He dodges, as his buddy on the left moves in, catching my shirt and I twist and scream and yell, “Oh Lord, help me now!”

But deep down I know not a damn soul is listening, even in heaven. It’s all you, or they win. I throw that punch and hit target.

He smashes against the wall. As if somebody threw him. But I didn’t touch him.

I glance to my right, and my other attacker is gone too, running fast, as if a rabid dog is after him. Somebody is after him, running hard, and fast, and yelling, “Hey, get back here. I’ll fight you. Come on, I’ll give you a fight!”

A voice to my left: “She alright?”

I snap my head around, and there is a huge man in the shadows, looking alert and ferocious.

“I think so,” says a voice. Softer.

My eyes whip over to a woman, same height as me, approaching me slowly. She looks strong and fierce in her weird white pyjama-suit, yet kind. Softly-softly, she keeps saying, “It’s OK. You’re OK. Safe now. You’re OK.”

And that’s when I notice the object at my feet. A knife. A sharp, jagged, evil looking thing. And before I can stop myself, I’m quoting Shakespeare like an idiot, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle of my hand?”

Proving you can leave home, but its claws are embedded into your soul.

Read the rest of the story HERE

I Will Find You by Tiah Marie Beautement

The good folks at FunDza have published my YA short story, I Will Find You. The story is a reimagining of The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen.

I hope you enjoy.

Once upon the not-so-distant future …

“We have to go dancing,” Vuyisa said. She tugged on Ntando’s arm. “Come on, girl, the night is fiiiiine. Put on those red shoes and we’re going out.”

Ntando shrugged off Vuyisa’s grasp and looked away. She loved Vuyisa, more than any person she’d ever known. But tonight was not happening. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m beat; tired. You know how it is. That time of the month, and–”

“I’m gonna stop you right there, girl, because I know when you’re lying to me. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again – I can see those lies written right across your face. So spit it out. What’s the real problem?”

Ntando swallowed hard. She knew Vuyisa would understand. She, too, depended on bursaries and loans to attend University of Cape Town. But it didn’t make saying the words any easier. “I’m temporarily embarrassed of funds.”

Vuyisa smacked her lips. “So what? You know I wouldn’t leave you behind over money. Come on, it will be my treat. We’ve survived our first term, this is something to celebrate!”

The music thrummed into the marrow of both young women’s bones, but it was Vuyisa who moved as if she was the music. Joy radiated out of her, as her body glided and swayed with the beat. It was contagious. People around them fed off her energy. In her presence, everyone’s spirits lifted as their cares and woes slipped out through the soles of their dancing feet.

But only Ntando received the full voltage of Vuyisa’s attention.

The girls had become close since day one at varsity when Ntando, struggling with a bag of clothes and a box of books, had tripped, scattering her stuff. Vuyisa was the first to rush over and help. She had smiled at Ntando and said, “It’s all going to be OK.” And so far, it mostly had been.

“How you feeling?” Vuyisa shouted into Ntando’s ear.

“Good, but hot,” Ntando replied. “Let’s take a break.”

The crisp air caressed Ntando’s cheek as the pair walked into the night. Vuyisa took Ntando by the hand and led her away from the mingling crowds.

“Is this good?” Vuyisa asked.

“Better,” Ntando said, looking up into the starless sky. “But it’s freezing out here. Or was it just that hot inside?”

Vuyisa shook her head. “It was hot, but this is cold.” A slow smile slid across her face. “But I can warm you up a little, if you like?”

Ntando held her breath as Vuyisa’s lips touched her own. Warmth spread through Ntando’s veins, as she savoured Vuyisa’s kiss.

“How are you doing, now?” Vuyisa breathed.

Ntando nodded.

“Good,” Vuyisa beamed. “Because I’ve wanted to do that since the day I met you.”

Ntando opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out. A snowflake had landed on her nose.

“It’s snowing!” Vuyisa squealed. She flung her arms out wide and began to spin and laugh. “It’s only April and it is snowing!”

Ntando tilted up her head and opened her mouth. Snowflakes landed like icy wishes on her tongue.

“This is unbelievable,” Vuyisa laughed.

Then her laughter cut off abruptly. “Ow! Damn it. Something is in my eye.”

Ntando rushed over. “Let me have a look.”

Vuyisa blinked a few times. “No, I’m fine now. But damn, that hurt.”

“Want to go back inside and dance, or walk back?”

Vuyisa smiled. “Let’s walk. We need to savour this weather fluke. It will probably be gone by morning.”

Read the rest of I Will Find You by clicking HERE