By the eighties, this beautiful lawn was dissolved and a rent room was assembled that brought his home a small income. For this reason, his gate stood on the lane lying across the dusty road.
Worlds apart made an impact as he could hear those Hindi songs everywhere on the radio.
No matter how poor they were they stroked the air of freedom as Short and Shrink generously ramble at the corner looking at girls. They now phrased this feat as an ‘appearance on the road’.
As they shared their stories, they came up with clues and names for three of them; Arnelle, Mashiya and Hobby. In fact, their smiling classmate, Mubtasim, had a connection to Mashiya as he attended to teach some kids. Mubtasim said they loved ice creams. And that he saw a pile of passport photos with her. Arnelle was in the stack. Short asked for it and to convey his regards.
Short and Shrink brought porn magazines to the corner showing them to neighbourhood girls. Some rainy nights they would gather under the light post holding an umbrella over their shoulders. Short got his hands on a few. Especially, Riya who stared at the graphic images for long keen moments. She was a tall thin girl with straight long hair. He teased her in many ways. Short admitted his weakness was the sight of pretty legs.
Mubtasim kept his promise and gave him a black and white photograph of Arnelle. She wore short hair in fringe cut in the portrait, probably nine years old. Short asked if he passed his regards and Mubtasim replied he did mention to Mashiya who returned to say that Arnelle also sends regards to him…meaning Mubtasim.
Arnelle was the youngest daughter of Dick Lord. He married and divorced many women. He raised many children. Some already given birth to his grandchildren. He was a wealthy man but in recent years fading his name with many of his shops closed down.
Arnelle’s mother divorced in 1979 and moved to her home in Henvèru. She wanted her daughter to attend a school nearby. Arnelle quit Maradan School and joined Layla School. She was eleven. Lord did not let her out with her mother so she stayed at Bittersweet.
A half-sister of Arnelle stayed at Misty Lodge in front of Layla School. Her name was Visa – groovy, yellow and slim-built. At home she wore a slip-on and stood by the gate with hands on the hips exposing hair in the armpits. Kids would know about her ‘Love Affair’ that she fainted at school all about a movie star. She attended SES where they wore nursery kids’ uniforms. She was twenty-two and a party-goer. She was expelled from school for getting pregnant involved in a midnight study group. She had a row with her father and driven from home.
Short and Shrink taunted her without knowing who she really was. Visa knew Short was a half-cousin…a son of an uncle. Visa visited his house on the Land Rover when she was thirteen.
She’d never wear a smile unlike others who find their dirty acts somewhat hilarious. Visa often ogled at them with big brown eyes. Mostly she passed on a masculine bike.
Short learned about Arnelle’s half-sister but he was still oblivious to the fact that she was a cousin. They continued to encroach her about distinctive facial hair of sideburns that locals tend to believe would discharge an odour.
It rained that day. Little puddles of water formed on the roads and slightly breezy. Short and Shrink waited for the girls. Surprisingly, three popped by the corner and entered Shop Nine. Shrink always analysed to notice how hushed Short looked like a statue mould out of flour; stiff and stuck to stare down at her.
Arnelle wore green flip-flops, or rather known as roshi slippers, because it was wet and a silver wristwatch. Short gazed at her legs without socks and to those dainty neat feet. As she came out of the shop, wind caught her dress to blow baring her underskirt and pretty thighs. He quit the session at once.
That very night, 12th April 1982, Short prepared a box of chocolates with his name written on it. When he caught their appearance on the road, he began to follow. Short called her name. Arnelle continued to walk briskly with two of her friends on her sides. Mashiya glanced and asked in a wave of defence, “Why are you calling her?”
Short continued, “Arny! Would you like to have some chocolates?”
He tapped on her shoulder and Arnelle turned swiftly blowing her skirt and bashed on his face with her instruments box calculatedly.
Short came to a standstill. He peeked around to see some neighbours looking at him. It was just his luck. Anything he did, no matter how cautious he was, it would blow up in his face – a birthmark on his right rib indicates he cannot keep a secret. He was so traumatised he barely wrote it down in his diary.
Shrink paid an interest on Mashiya who actually noticed him freewheeling near her home. Mubtasim said she already committed to a sailor boy. They found letters hidden inside her book. Those days her father read tales like reading your mind on the radio; I Don’t Know If It’s About Him or Her…
Then came an inter-school debate night and the boys were losing to the girls. In the middle of the debate, a class of pupils dropped in filling the chairs in the back rows. They were boys and girls from Layla School. Short could not take his eyes away from those rosy lips.
After the debate, boys encircled the girls in the schoolyard. Some of his classmates chatted with Arnelle, Mashiya and Hobby. Short wanted to enter this group but he remained in the shadows and nobody noticed him. He listened to their exciting flirts and her high-pitched voice. Mubtasim and Shrink chattered on but none pronounced him. Short did not match their shoulders.