SHORT STORY: Rejection, death and betrayal

Saturday May 28 2022

Motionless under the bridge by a tree on the river bank. His silhouette was unmistakable, but his figure was hunched, shrugged under obvious tension. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


Cally had been excited to turn 18. Life with a step-mother who wanted nothing to do with her was miserable. So that morning when she woke to a spectacular sunrise, the setting moon in the west and the rising sun in the east and a wash of light, airbrushed colours in pastel tones drizzled decadently in a baby blue sky, she felt like a new day had truly dawned.

Finally, she could move out! Daydreaming and watching the sky grow lighter, Cally jumped when a shrill voice called out from downstairs.

“Are you awake?!” it was Pierra, her step-mom.

Inhaling as she walked down into a large airy kitchen, Cally found Pierra seated on a tall barstool along the granite kitchen counter with her usual dour look souring her pretty features.

“You’re eighteen,” she began before Cally could sit, “and that would mean I’m no longer responsible for you…but I know you and that boyfriend of yours are planning to live…”

“What are you on about?” Cally was testy, it was too early in the morning for an argument, besides, it was her birthday.


“You seem to still need a guardian to execute your finances in line with what your father would have wanted,” Pierra pressed on ignoring the wild look that sprung into Cally’s eyes, “And so there’s been a change to your trust…”

“What?” Cally cut in, panic rising gnarled, twisted and ugly in her chest, “And don’t talk about him!” she added, yelling vehemently at the woman who’d married her late father for his incredible wealth, and never bothered to hide her motives.

“Sneaking out, going to parties,” Pierra spread her arms and shrugged her shoulders that were draped in a fancy robe, “A judge already made the ruling, you can’t access your trust until you’re 25th…”

Seven more years?! Fury erupted like a savage animal from a cage Cally had guarded inside herself so long that the bars had grown rusty and weak. She couldn’t handle seven more years, just so Pierra could have more money. Cally’s mind went blank as she lunged forward, her arms extended, her fingers claws.

Seeing her coming, Pierra tried to move but the long hem of her robe got caught on one leg of the stool she was perched on, so as she jumped up, she stumbled back instead.

Pierra fell in slow motion, her arms flailing to catch at air, her gown rippling as if she were underwater, her mouth a perfect ‘O’, her eyes registering shock and fear, then going blank, as her head cracked hard with a sickening thud onto the granite counter top behind her.

It took Cally several minutes to register what had happened. She stood numbly, looking at the prone figure swathed in an expensive, black robe crumpled on the floor. Then, with an emptiness borne of shock enveloping her comfortably, she went back upstairs and packed everything she cared to take, loading it robotically into her car. As the sun rose high in the sky, Cally, trembling and slightly nauseas, drove off without looking back.

“Jack?” Cally’s voice was shaking as she called her boyfriend, “Something’s happened.”

“Are you okay?” The concern in his voice settled her nerves a little.

“I’m…” she paused, then exhaled her words in a torrent, “Pierra’s dead…she fell…just now…we were arguing...she changed a clause so I couldn’t get my money…”

“What!” Jack’s exclamation stopped her dead and Cally swerved dangerously as she struggled to control her car with one hand, the other cradling her phone to her ear, “Dead? How? Are you sure?”

“I…She hit her head…she fell…I couldn’t do anything,” Cally moaned, biting down the words that she hadn’t wanted to do anything.

“Remember the dinner we had those pancakes at?” Jack paused carefully, “The booth near the telephone? Wait for me,” the phone went dead and Cally almost cried at how lonely she suddenly felt.

It was late at night when the phone, hanging loosely on a peeling, stained wall, in the dimly lit shabby dinner, rang shrilly. Cally had been sitting, nursing a coffee for so long that the only other person in the dingy establishment, a thin waitress, had stopped staring sullenly at her and disappeared somewhere into the back. Cally snatched the phone up.

“It’s me,” Jack’s deep voice said, “Will you come get me? By the river, under the bridge.”

The night was cool. Thick black blue clouds drifted low in a navy sky, pushed by a strong breeze. It ruffled the mass of heavy curls about her head and Cally shivered, pulling her woollen sweater tight around her.

The drive from the dinner to where a narrow bridge crossed a river on the edge of town was short. Jack was exactly where he said he’d be. Motionless under the bridge by a tree on the river bank. His silhouette was unmistakable, but his figure was hunched, shrugged under obvious tension.

“I knew you’d come, I knew it,” Jack whispered as she drew close. His voice was hoarse and as he spoke, Cally heard the regret dripping off of every syllable. Freezing where she stood, realisation dawned hot and bitter as out of the darkness that had enveloped them snuggly, police sirens and piercing red and blue lights shattered their cocoon. He’d betrayed her. She’d was caught.

Read Part II here