This story is by Verbieann Hardy and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
In three days, Lisa must leave the United States. Anxiety about her son’s future had robbed her of sleep last night. Tired and worried, she dusted half-heartedly. Fortunately, there were quite a few “DO NOT DISTURB SIGNS” on this floor of the hotel, so she had considerably less to do.
As she adjusted a table lamp, she idly picked up a Bible. She opened at the bookmark in the thirty-eighth chapter of Genesis and then read the scandalous story of Tamar, who courageously dressed as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law, Judah. Tamar became pregnant with twins and secured her future.
This story of cunning and determination gripped her. Lisa thought of her mother Anna, although she never knew her. Her mother had abandoned country and family to live in the forest of Rupununi when she fell for Ricardo. He entertained as a guide by day and a guitarist at night. She wondered if she will ever outgrow the feelings of guilt on her birthday- the anniversary of her mother’s death. Maybe she would have felt better if her father had talked about Anna. He never did. He only saw her her when he avoidcouldn’t heravoid her. She had outgrown his excuseshis excuses.
Lisa was not used to reflection, but now it seemed unavoidable, as her life, all nineteen years of it, had rewoundinded and the play button was on.
She had been happy at the convent. It was her home for most of her life; yet she had no desire to stay there and become a nun. The sisters were reluctant for her to leave, but she found a job as a receptionist in a small hotel. There, she enjoyed meeting new people as she gained confidence and proficiency.
After a year at work, a group of American high school graduates and three teachers booked in. They wanted to visit Kaiteur Falls which has the longest single drop in the world. These guests were friendly, especially Peter who taught Geography; unlike the rich, middle-aged adventurers who speculated in diamond and gold fields. She spent time with them when she was off and enjoyed showing them different places of interest.
A couple of months after they left, she went farther into the forest to spend a week-end with Maria, the only parental figure she trusted.
The next morning, her retching woke Maria up. She remembered how dumb she felt when she denied being pregnant, insisted that she didn’t have a boy-friend, as if not having one made her immune against pregnancy. As Maria continued probing, she realized the meaning of the signs she had ignored. The awfulness of that moment would never leave her. Mother -dead. Father still looking for sugar- mamas and chasing free drinks. She was alone!
Whoever said that ignorance is bliss was flying high on something! She really couldn’t blame the nuns for her inadequate sex education. She should only blame herself for drinking, but she had to start sometime. She allowed Peter to take her home that last night because she was flattered. When he helped her into bed, her head was fuzzy. She felt unfamiliar touching, but sleep engulfed her. Next morning, she knew something had happened but wasn’t sure what.
She worked hard and saved as much money as she could. When she changed into maternity smocks, she wore a ring for the sake of appearances, but her colleagues knew her real status. Two days after she stopped work, she delivered, without complications, seven-pound Philip in Maria’s house.
A month later, when she returned, the hotel had new owners and most of the staff were gone. She spoke to Ivan, the new manager, and he suggested that she should keep in frequent touch. She did that for about three months. She was very thrifty but had to spend a lot on food to keep her milk for the baby. With her savings almost gone, she returned once more to the hotel, willing to run errands in exchange for food. She met the manager again. No vacancies in Reception; but he had a free guest apartment which she could have in exchange for filling in when required.
She was indebted to Ivan but two weeks later, he informed her that only children of managers could be at the hotel. He knew that Philip was kept away from the guests. As he continued his spiel, she realized it wasn’t about her son at all. She felt so helpless! She recalled that conversation as a pivotal point in her life.
She didn’t have much time to think of his ultimatum because he came that night with a box of chocolates. He asked her about her parents, curious about her American mother. They talked, and he kissed her. She wondered what she had missed with the American while drunk, so she responded to him with curiosity.
He was a skillful lover and soon Lisa became hooked. He admitted that he was surprised by her ignorance. She sensed that he enjoyed teaching her as much as he liked teasing her about her innocence. Despite this, he was also her boss. She knew that the nuns were unhappy with her lifestyle, but she hoped that one day, he would marry her.
Six months ago, a woman dripping in jewelry with her excited children demanded that Ivan be informed that his family had arrived. Ivan did not visit for over a week but saw her once at the hotel. In the presence of his wife, he ordered her to clean the foyer. Crushed because he spoke so coldly, she reviewed their relationship and failed to find any hint of commitment. The rumors flooding the hotel about his wife, other hotel guests, and shady business deals added to her anxiety about her situation.
When Ivan eventually visited, Lisa greeted him without reproach. She listened carefully to his litany of excuses. After their love-making, she served a snack. Then she casually outlined her plan to start a home business. Ivan agreed to fund her venture if she would take a parcel to the USA.
Lisa knew that it would not be legal, but it was her chance to get some money. She went to mass, asked for absolution for past sins. She prayed for success so that she can take better care of Philip. Leaving him with Maria with instructions to take him to the convent in the event of her detention or death, she left for Georgetown and New York.
She decided that she will never bring another packet for Ivan. She died a thousand times going through customs. Fortunately, the officers were busy with their drug seizures. She slipped through the “NOTHING TO DECLARE” gate with the illicit gold and diamonds. She was worried about forgetting the false name and password required from the chauffeur sent to meet her. It was so stressful. For all that, she had no guarantees about the money Ivan promised.
But Ivan was a good, if unreliable lover. He gave her a job and, although it was to his advantage, the chance to visit America. She loved hot water baths, air-conditioned homes and fast food. This was her mother’s land.
Despite her visa restrictions, she worked for a month at a restaurant. There, she met Bill, a regular patron. He looked older than her father but was easy to talk to. She was surprised when he asked her out. He was like her big brother or uncle always happy to buy big Macs and milkshakes, always urging her to visit the mall. He had no idea what living in a mining town in the forest entailed!
He made her feel loved and respected. He listened to her and understood about Philip. But he didn’t share her dreams. She doubted that he dreamt at all. Making love with him was comforting but even then, she missed Ivan.
He tried to dissuade her against taking the hotel job. She ignored him but to her surprise, he continued to date her. Two nights ago, he even asked her to marry him. She didn’t say “YES”.
Someone slammed a door so loudly that it disrupted Lisa’s intrusive thoughts. There will be other times to reminisce but now she has three days left to choose. With none to advise, she read Tamar’s story as a sign.
Like Tamar, men controlled her life. Like her, she would do what she must to guarantee her son’s future. Suddenly, she knew exactly what she will tell Bill. Dreams can wait in America, but Philip deserves a family now. The nuns would approve. She started to vacuum with great energy.