Monday, August 19, 2013
1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Mell Rev 2
Name: Mckenzie Mell
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Civilization of Light and Dark
Skylar shielded her eyes from the sun’s glare as she tried to find her grandfather amidst the busy bodies. According to her watch, she’d been standing at the Nairobi Airport Terminal for about twenty minutes.
Someone waved at her, but she wasn’t sure it was him. The glare from the Kenyan sun became an obstacle. When it cleared, she saw a smile she couldn’t dismiss. It was Alan Edoje, her grandfather. She walked to him, noticing he wore a T-shirt with the family-owned lodge logo. Definitely him and not some creepy stranger smiling at her, she thought.
“Skylar, my dear, how are you,” he squeezed her shoulders when she reached him. She hated when people squeezed her, but she forced a smile, “I am great.”
“You finally came home.”
"Yep," she pursed her lips, dropping her eyes.
Grandpa Alan didn’t say much to her on the ride. She was fine with it, since she didn’t know what to say to him at all, really. She didn’t know him that well, because she hadn’t been to Kenya since she was six years old. She had little contact with her father’s family throughout the nearly twelve years since she left. Skylar kept her eyes on the view of the landscape. Africa. Bits of blue sparkle caught her eyes. Lake Naivasha. Tips of the Mount Longonot could be seen when she titled her eyes upward, out the window. On either side of the road, few animals could be seen grazing. Skylar bit her lips, gathering her breath; her summer would be brilliant.
“Here we are,” Grandpa Alan announced.
The one-story house was across the yard from the two-story family owned lodge. Cleanly painted Luo and other African tribal designs covered the walls. A mock thatched roof completed its African look. It stood alone, except for the plain white, brick house, and a small barn lingering at the edge of the bush land. Grandpa Alan let her know she’d share boarding with her father, Ishmael, and his new wife, whom she had yet to meet.
“Aren’t we going to tour the place a little?” She asked, when she saw Grandpa Alan getting ready to leave.
Grandpa Alan checked his watch, “Too late now. Another day. I have some errands to run first.”
“Alright,” she nodded, a little disappointed.
He smiled. “We’ll spend plenty of time together later.”
She nodded, trying not to read much into his words, even if she didn’t quite trust the smile on his thin lips. In the small, tidy bedroom, she moved toward the window, admiring the view of the plains. She was excited about Kenya. Her main reason for coming to Kenya was adventure, and she intended to get into it right away.
In Toronto, she and her mother, Lorraine Labelle, lived in a small, two-bedroom apartment, away from nature. She had never been outside the city, and when she got the invite from Ishmael and Grandpa Alan, she really jumped on the chance to leave. Now that she was in Kenya, she planned to make the most of her trip, exploring the country and culture of her father.
After a few minutes of looking around, she found a phone in the sitting room and dialed her mother’s number. Lorraine sounded relieved to hear her voice. “How come it took you so long to call? Ishmael didn’t pick up you up on time, did he?”
It was an accusation. Skylar bit her lip. “No, Grandpa Alan did,” she admitted.
Lorraine hissed her teeth loudly into the phone.
“He’s not still into voodoo is he?”
She rolled her eyes. “Mom, I don’t know.”
“I bet he is.”
"Don't let that man drag you into anything," Lorraine scolded her, as if she hadn’t given her plenty of warning before she got on the plane. “All he cares about is that African spirit nonsense. He has nothing better to do."
“He’s not forcing me into anything,” Skylar assured Lorraine. Her mother didn’t listen, and continued to bash Grandpa Alan. “Mom, I have to go now. Dinner is ready," she lied. "I’ll call you tomorrow.” She hung up the phone quickly, thanking her lucky stars that she’d be away from Lorraine for the rest of the summer.
Her mother met her father, Ishmael Edoje, at university and married right after graduation. After she was born, they moved to Kenya, where Ishmael’s Luo traditions clashed with her mother's free-spiritedness. Around the time she was six-years-old, the marriage crumbled, prompting her and Lorraine back to Toronto. Since, Lorraine badmouthed the continent, all of it. Because her mother didn’t want her to come to Kenya, Lorraine stepped up the badmouthing of Skylar’s father and grandfather. Ironically, it only made her want to come to Kenya even more. It was only to get away from her mother.
As soon as she began unpacking, she heard rumblings outside her door; moving toward the doorway, she spotted Ishmael in the living room. He wore a business suit. He looked slimmer than she remembered him being. Then again, for a time, she couldn’t even remember what he looked like. Skylar approached him. Should she call him Daddy or Ishmael? “Dad?”
"Skylar," he said, with little emotion. “My goodness, look at you.”
“Yeah,” she shrugged, not sure what to do next. He made a move as if to hug her. She stepped into him, almost pulling back, before the two found themselves hugging clumsily. A second passed before Ishmael's wife came into view. Short and curvy, she stared at Skylar with shy curiosity, but didn’t say hello.
"When did you get here?" Ishmael asked pulling apart, to Skylar’s relief.
"Earlier in the evening," she admitted. “I was unpacking…”
"And your grandfather didn't say to me outside just now," he spoke unbelievingly. "Look at you. You’re a young lady now."
“No, I am not,” she squirmed. She was no lady. She lacked style and grace, and much of any lady-like characteristics for that matter.
"Skylar, this is my wife, Maja," Ishmael introduced, speaking a few words to Maja in Luo. "This is my daughter, Skylar. She’s from Toronto."
“In Canada,” Ishmael corrected.
“Oh,” Maja said, clearly having never heard of Canada.
"It’s so nice to meet you," Maja smiled, coming to pat her on the back. "You are eighteen?" Maja asked, releasing her.
"I’ll be in about a week, yes. July nineteenth.”
Maja shrugged, not having anything else to say.
Skylar didn't know much about Maja, except that her father had married her in the past two years. Maja was pretty and nice enough. Skylar took a mental note to avoid saying much about her to Lorraine; despite what Lorraine said about Ishmael, Skylar knew her mother still cared about him. Once, when Skylar had asked her why she had married Ishmael in the first place, if she didn't like Africa or his cultural traditions, Lorraine had quietly said:
“He was different."
In later conversations, she'd say she was a naive young girl looking to connect with her African roots. Either way, Skylar always concluded that she still loved Ishmael, and would've wished for the marriage to work out.
Dinner in the small house was quiet. A few times, Ishmael pondered the whereabouts of Grandpa Alan, but didn't dwell on it. After dinner, when his wife had retired to bed, Ishmael invited her to sit with him on the veranda.
“How is your mother doing?”
"She's fine." Skylar was surprised by the questions, and for a second, waited for vitriol about Lorraine.
"Has she remarried?"
"Nope," she answered too honestly. When Skylar thought about it, she realized it was a good idea to say as little about Lorraine to Ishmael as possible. Her mother repeatedly told friends she had no time for a man. Her only husband was her job, as the managing director of an independent radio station in North York; all her free time was spent working.
Skylar and Ishmael fell quiet for some time, because like her, he didn’t seem to know what to say. He was a man of few words. She knew that, but not much else about her father. Her only vivid memory was of him sitting by a baobab tree, holding her and smiling. It was the memory stored in her most treasured photograph of them.
“Why did you want to come?” he asked, suddenly interested.