Image: Flower Fairy - siabona.com.
Secret Agent - modifywordpresscourse.com.
Her name was Makayla, his name was Kamal, and their friendship was not a coincidence.
“You’re lying,” Makayla whispered. They were crouching under the salad bar at their parent’s garden party, and aside from the blaring R&B music they caught snatches of conversations in English, Nigerian, Urdu, and weirdly, French. It wasn’t a good day for a garden party, but it went ahead anyway. The smell of tasty barbecued meat was divine. The sound of shrieking laughter from Makayla’s mother and the sight of rolling grey clouds overhead, not so much.
“There is such a thing as a Flower Fairy.” she insisted. “Not that I usually believe in them, but I saw one. They really exist.”
“No, there isn’t. Girls and their imaginations.” Kamal said impatiently.
“What about your imagination?” she argued.
“The man watching me was really there. You’re just making this up.”
Outraged, she filled her lungs with air and Kamal covered his ears thinking she would scream. Instead, she shouted, “So you can have a secret friend and I can’t have a secret friend!”
“You’re such a baby. Too old to have imaginary –”
Makayla let out a burst of shrill laughter, not unlike her mother’s. “Your secret friend is a secret agent. That is really dumb.”
“He’s not a secret friend! And he’s not a secret agent!” Kamal shouted, “I don’t know what he is. He’s watching me! I didn’t ask for a government spy to keep following me!”
“A gov – !” Makayla burst into peals of laughter.
“Kamal?” came an alarmed voice and the tablecloth lifted. Makayla and Kamal flinched from the light.
“You two get out from under there!” Mrs Oma scowled. “What did I tell you about playing around the food Kamal? What did I tell you? You want another beatin’ already?”
“No,” Kamal said sulking, rubbing his arm from her last beating, still sore. He’d been playing ball inside the house. He’d only dislodged one nail but it sent an entire cabinet of precious china crashing to the living room floor. He barely remembered the crash but he sure remembered the sound of his own sobbing.
“I didn’t think so. Get out from under there, both of you.”
“Yes Auntie,” Makalya said, embarrassed at being told off. Mrs Oma wasn’t really her auntie, but a family friend – and despite Mrs Oma fierce tone, she gave them both an iced bun when they’d brushed off their clothes.
“Kamal, you should be looking after your sister. She’s only little, she shouldn’t play with the big kids.”
“I don’t want to be stuck with a baby, Grandma! Anyway, I’m almost a grown-up now.” Kamal protested.
“Oh really.” Mrs Oma said amusedly.
Now it was Kamal’s turn to puff out his chest with pride. “Yes! I’m nine.”
“And I’m eleven, which means I know better than you, and you are not a grown-up. ” Makayla snapped, then she hissed, “And there is a flower fairy and I’ll show you.”
“Well well,” said a calm, steady voice. “You’ve been talking about me.”
With a small gasp Kamal snapped upright, snatching the covers close. His room was dark but after a few blinks, he made it out. The man in the suit. The dark, dark suit. Dark brown hair with streaks of grey at the temples, a shirt so white that it seemed to glow in the dark, and pitch-black sunglasses that shadow monsters seemed to dance on. A wire trailed from his shirt collar and into his ear.
“It’s you.” Kamal breathed.
The agent looked down at his torso and feigned a surprised look. “It is, isn’t it?”
Kamal felt a flash of anger. “Stop making fun of me! What do you want? You’re going to get me into trouble, I know it. I just know it. I already got told off by my dad for ‘talking to myself’ and my cousin thinks I’m lying.”
“Your cousin’s been telling little lies of her own, hasn’t she.” the agent sniggered, pushing his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose. “I mean, fairies? And she’s meant to be older than you, isn’t she? Tsk tsk. Girls and their imaginations.”
Kamal’s eyes narrowed. “Go away. You just want trouble.”
“Do I?” the agent said with a short laugh. As he walked to the door, his black polished shoes clicked quietly on the wood floor. He paused and thought for a moment. “No, I don’t want trouble. I do want you to still be around when this is all over.”
A short silence hung in the air.
“What?” Kamal whispered, barely breathing. Fear clung to the bottom of his lungs like a bad cold. “What’s happening? Are they coming?”
The smile the agent gave him was almost sinister. “Yes. I told you, didn’t I? Oh yes, they’re coming. In fact,” A bemused grin. “They’re almost here.”
Kamal leapt out of bed and turned his old toy box upside down until his Titan Gloves came tumbling out, and he slipped them on.
“Oh good! You kept them. Awfully convenient.” the agent said, sounding both surprised and pleased. “There’s hope for you yet. There’s even more hope for you if you can follow instructions... most people can’t.” He pursed his lips. “If you do exactly as I say, I think you’ll live to see tomorrow.”
In the middle of the night, a gentle glow emitted from the windowsill. Makayla had primed herself for it, waiting for it gentle lilac radiance to hit the curve of her china lamp. She sat up with a squeal and gazed with admiration at the sight of that gentle pink skin, the dress of spider webs and the flowing turquoise hair.
“You’re here, you’re here, you’re here!” Makayla shrieked. ‘Kamal is such an idiot,’ She thought crossly. The flower fairy beamed down at her. She was impossibly tall – the top of her head brushed the ceiling, and her wings were more delicate than crepe paper. They fluttered every time they brushed against something.
“You’re awake today!” The fairy’s voice was as soft as petals dropping to fresh snow. “Yes, I am here.” She smiled. “As promised.”
“Are you going to take me away?” Makayla pleaded. “For real?”
“Yes. I have to. You are... not safe here.” The fairy hesitated. “There will be difficulties. Obstacles.”
“Like wire fences?” Makayla piped up, slipping out of bed. “I can climb wire fences now, I’ve been practising. I won’t trip like last time.”
The fairy laughed gently and sat on the window sill. “Not quite, little dancer. Now we will be the mice that escape the cats.” She hesitated and lowered her voice further. “We are the rabbits that must escape the wolves.”
Her tone made Makayla afraid. The seat of her stomach lurched like that ride at Thorpe Park that she hated but Kamal would ride again and again. The fairy saw the girl’s face and quickly asked, “Did you keep my gift to you?”
Makayla grinned and held up her Glimmer Gloves. “Of course! I’d never ever, ever give them away.”
The fairy stood and beckoned her to the window. “Stay by my side and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Quickly. We’ll be just in time.”
Over and over again she told them, but they laughed and called her a crazy old woman. Isn’t life a funny thing. She gave life to these ungrateful children and they squandered it on fast food and cheap thrills. Throwing away their education, sitting in front of the blasted TV, sitting at a desk all day and drinking themselves to death. She was quite certain her children would be dead before she would, because they were never grateful, never happy. They’d moan themselves to death. At least, each day, she found a reason to smile and remember the joy in life.
One lazy afternoon, when Makayla had come over to play with Kamal, the girl found a ladybug on her hand and she took it over to a flower. she started whispering to a flower and – now, this old lady was certain she was sure she saw correctly, her glasses were from Specsavers – the petals curled open. The sight almost stopped her old little heart. Why had it never occurred to her that future generations might be blessed – and cursed – with the same affliction she had? They said she was insane then, too. Funny thing, it was. They were all dead, all those doctors and psychotherapists and counsellors, and she was still here.
“Kamal!” she called him from the garden, thinking of Makayla – perhaps Kamal was going through the same thing. She had her feet up on a nice plump stool, and the hem of her dress brushed the grass, damp from the dew.
“He’s eating, Mum.” Jill called back from inside.
“It’s important. Send him out.” Mrs Oma called again. A chair scraped against wood, and then Kamal appeared through the sliding glass door. It was such a lovely evening. Only God knew why they were all eating dinner inside when Jill spent all that money putting damn waterproof furniture in the garden.
“You’ve been seeing someone?” she questioned him. “Someone following you?”
Her grandson’s eyes grew wide. He was so paralysed by uncertainty that he said nothing. She could tell, at that moment, he’d already been opened his mouth and been shunned. She felt such pity for children who were so easily humiliated by adults. Her heart bled for the quieter ones.
“Who? Is it a man? A woman?”
“It’s no-one,” he stammered, “I was confused. I was –” He bit his lip and then burst out. “I was making it up!”
“No you weren’t, but you’re lying now, aren’t you?” she scowled and spanked his bottom with her crossword book. Kamal howled, and when his pain subsided he scowled at her. “Well, tell the truth! I know your mother taught you better!”
“I’m not crazy!”
“Did I say you were crazy?”
“Fine, it was a man!”
She sighed and started fanning herself with the book. “Listen, my sweet boy. Whatever he tells you to do, do it. Whatever he gives you, keep it. And no matter what he says, always know that they can be tricky, those phantoms. They can be fiends.”
Kamal thought on that for a moment. “What’s a fiend?” he asked.
Soon, he would fly, the same way she has flown. And she’d never seen her grandson again. She gave him a very grave, very sombre look. “The opposite of a friend, Kamal.”
A couple of days after, the morning after the garden party, Makayla’s frantic mother rang the house and said the girl was missing. Soon, Jill discovered that Kamal was missing too. Her husband woke, then Kamal’s sisters, then his brothers. Soon, it was family chaos. Then came the screams and name calling all up and down the house, the turning the house upside down, debating, arguing, yelling, the jog around the block, the endless phone alls...
Then the doorbell rang.
The moment she opened the door, her heart lurched with fear. There they stood, three men and two women dressed entirely in purple suits. Their faces were white and their eyes dead black. She never thought she would look into the eyes of her childhood nightmare, the ones she escaped all those years ago when she was young and helpless. Out of the madness, her zazen scholar appeared and led ehr to safety, invisible to every soul in the world but her.
“Kamal Oma. We’re here for Kamal Oma.”
Oh God, they were here for the child. Mrs Oma wasn’t even sure who spoke.
Mrs Oma drew herself up to full height even though she was shaking. “Get off my doorstep.” she growled at them. Her wrinkled hand trembled on the door handle.
One man watched her with glassy eyes and an emotionless gaze. He said, “If possible, direct me to the parents of Kamal Oma. This is an urgent matter. We have come to collect him.”
They spoke like those dumb hi-tech robots. Mrs Oma cupped her hands to her mouth and felt them tingle as if she still wore those old gloves. With a deep breath in, she screamed. Fire burst from her mouth and engulfed them, wrapping them in tongues of flames before they even had time to scream themselves. Of course, they did scream eventually; they roared with the fire and staggered backward across the front porch, collapsing to the floor to roll in the grass but disintegrating into ash before they made it. The summer breeze scattered the purple flecks in the air before they settled, and finally the only noise was the din coming from the house.
Mrs Tomlinson stared from across the street, opened mouthed, newspaper hanging limply in her hand. Mrs Oma glared until the nosy uptight woman had the decency to compose herself and hurry inside.
“Mum! Who’s at the door? Is it Kamal?” Jill shouted. Mrs Oma could hear her approaching the hallway.
“No no, dear, go back. It’s Jehovah’s Witnesses.” she said. Glancing back at the purple ashes scattered across the front garden, she muttered, “Bitches. Not my grandson, you don’t.” and slammed the door.
24 October 2014.
If posted, the Author's Notes link will be here.