Short Story on Hope by Nifemi Ayanga
I’m Jane. Just Jane. Plain ol’ Jane. Jane, the Rejected. Jane Freak that lives down the street. Right from middle school, I had gotten used to these names. You know, labels just stick after a while. I’m really not poor, I have parents that are doing just about okay. Good parents. The kind that would visit a new neighbor with apple pie and invite them over for dinner, but I still feel like an exile even in my own home. Most times, I wonder how it would feel like if I had been a boy. Maybe, my mum’s smiles wouldn’t be so fake and my dad wouldn’t have to take alcohol every time my grandparents reminded him that he wouldn’t have anybody to carry on his name. I recall this particular day, just after my grandparents had insulted him, while he was drinking, I said “Dad, you don’t have to drink anymore, I’d tell my husband to use my surname.”
That day, for the first time, I saw regret in their eyes and since then it had just been the beginning of one thing or the other. That day, it was like we opened the door for a sensation to wash over the house, the kind of silence that is very disturbing, it masked itself, feigning innocent and always rooting for peace. I hated it. I hated the silence. I hated the fake smiles. I hated that day, but most of all, I hated the fact that I wasn’t good enough, I hated the fact that I couldn’t give them hope, I hated the fact that I couldn’t make them happy.
Sometime around June, things changed surprisingly. I could bet my entire future fortune that it was because Dad got an unexpected promotion. We ate dinner like a proper family, we discussed and my mum even asked me about school. I just said school was okay, of course I couldn’t tell her that I had graduated from Jane the Freak to Creep Cruise.
My dad really never eased up to me but he was still bearable. Then, it dawned on me that hope had been restored even if it was just a spark, they couldn’t see it but I could. My best friend, Betty would always tell me that I needed to start living for myself, I never ever denied the fact that I didn’t have a life of my own because I always felt like my main purpose of staying in that house was solely to bring happiness back, but sometimes, I would be reminded that I could never be good enough. The hope in me could never be torn apart. I studied what I knew they liked, I always read, got good grades, so the incident that happened in the middle of July shocked me more than it should have. My mum came back from work and smiled. An actual smile! I asked her what happened and she said “You’ll know soon enough”.
The next day, Bestie Betty as I would like to call her, told me that my mum had signed me up for gymnastics because she noticed how flexible I am. I was beyond shocked. I thanked her when I got home and she did it again, she smiled!
Gymnastics sucked! I could feel Betty’s pain, the queen bees always picked on her because of what happened in March. Her dance video leaked and she was break dancing, which she couldn’t do to save her life by the way. She was just goofing around and she broke her arm, ever since then the nickname kind of stuck, she became Break Betty. When the popular kids in school would see her, they would say “Hey look! It’s Break Betty” and then, they would chant “BREAK BETTY, BREAK” She would run to the girls bathroom to cry there and I’d always comfort her.
I always gave her a piece of that hope in my mind that could never be torn apart, at least I was good enough for that, or maybe I wasn’t. After some weeks of unbearable pain, we finally got the hang of gymnastics. Although, the hope in my mind that could never be torn apart was being torn to shreds in front of my eyes. My dad lost his job, and he took it out on me and my mum but, mostly me. On some days, he would be good to my mum but he was never good to me, I became the child he wished he never had once again and I gave up. Betty encouraged me to sign up for a competition because she felt I was that good at gymnastics. After much pressuring and promises, I did it, I did it for her.
A bar was placed in front of me and as I was about to reach it, I fell on another bar. I decided to try again,
“Almost, my dear” came the shout which had been in vain. I smiled to myself and said “Plain ol’ Jane” It was a sad smile. “Was it insecurity? Was it a deformity?” were the questions that swirled and twirled in my mind, I just wasn’t good enough. I ran outside and saw that it was already night, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me to my house, grabbed my favorite hoodie and allowed my legs to carry me to an unknown place. I became the shadow of myself. I sat on the road, kissed the rain and cried. I cried because I had tried so much. I wrapped my arms around myself and wondered why I had never let peace in. I heard that peace of mind could make me sane and help me think straight. I melted in my arms at the thought. Peace of mind equals Faith in humanity, Faith in humanity equals Hope. Hope had always been there even when I wasn’t good enough.