Wednesday, February 17, 2010

[Short Story] The Bracelet

By Ambrose Musiyiwa*

We were both in the kitchen when I first saw the bracelet.

Sharai had just come home from school and was having tea with sandwiches. With one hand, she was stirring some sugar into her tea, and with the other hand, she was fingering the bracelet.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s a bracelet,” she said.

“Can I see it?”

She handed it to me.

The bracelet was made of gold and looked like something that had come from Argos or H.S. Samuel.

“Where did you get it?” I asked.

“A friend from school gave it to me,” she said.

“Why?”

“Because he likes me.”

“And what are you going to give to him in return?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said.

“When you go back to school tomorrow, please return the bracelet. Tell the boy who gave it to you that I won’t let you keep it.”

“That’s not fair, Dad,” Sharai protested.

“You are taking it back tomorrow.”

“I want it. I want the bracelet. Mum knows about it and she says I can keep it.”

“It’s either you take it back or I do it for you. The choice is yours,” I insisted.

Sharai stormed out of the kitchen and she stormed out of the lounge, slamming all doors behind her. She locked herself in her room and would not come down for supper with her mum and I.
*

“You know about the bracelet Sharai got from some boy in her class?” I asked Maidei after supper when she was watching TV.

“Yes. And it’s not some boy. It’s Jason. They're in the same class and they've been dating for over a year now.”

“Sharai is 12 years old. Isn’t that a bit too early to be thinking about things like dating?”

“She had her first boyfriend when she was 8 years old.”

I was getting sidetracked.

“We're talking about the bracelet,” I said.

“Yes. What about it?”

“I’ve asked Sharai to return it when she goes to school tomorrow.”

“You shouldn’t have done that. I’ve already told her she can keep it,” Maidei said.

“You should've told me.”

“What’s the problem, exactly?” Maidei asked.

“Did you see the bracelet?”

“Yes.”

“It’s not something you give to a 12-year-old girl.”

“It’s just a bracelet. There’s not harm in her keeping it.”

“And what is she going to give Jason?”

“I don’t know,” Maidei said. “Nothing, I suppose."

“Presents like these teach acquisitiveness, which can destroy relationships and ruin lives.”

“I’ve heard what you said. Now I want to watch TV. Do whatever you feel you have to do,” Maidei said.
*

I was cleaning Sharai’s room, several days later, when I found the bracelet. It was on the floor, next to her bed, among the dirty clothes, rolled up pieces of tissue paper, shoes, pencils, books and photo albums.

I picked it up, put it in my pocket and finished cleaning the room. When Sharai came back from school and she’d had her sandwiches, I asked her, “You didn’t return the bracelet did you?”

“No,” she replied.

“And the reason for that was?”

“Mum said I could keep it.”

“Since you won’t return the bracelet yourself, I’m going to do it for you.”

“Dad, you’re being horrible.”

“No, Sharai. I’m not being horrible. You shouldn’t be accepting presents like these from people who are not close relatives. And this isn’t just about Jason. It’s about people in general. Today, they’ll give you a bracelet; tomorrow, a mobile phone; next week they’ll give you that camcorder you’ve always wanted. What if, after some time, and after some more presents, they start asking for favors in return? What would you do? What would you give them? How far would you go?" I asked.

“And what were you doing in my room, anyway?”

“I was cleaning it… which, again, is something you should be doing yourself but aren’t.”

“I hate you. You should get a job and stop spying on us,” Sharai said.
*

“Sharai didn’t return the bracelet last week?” I told Maidei. She was sitting in her chair watching TV.

“No, she didn't. I told her she could keep it.”

“Even after I’d explained to you how I felt about it?”

“I see no harm in her keeping it if she wants it.”

“If you think she should have jewellery like this, then you should buy it for her. Not Jason.”

“It’s not right that you should be interrogating me like this,” Maidei said. “You’ve been home all day, sleeping and doing nothing. I’ve just come back from a 12-hour shift.”

“This isn’t an interrogation and you know it. You knew how I felt about the bracelet. You knew I’d told Sharai to return it and yet, behind my back, you told Sharai she could keep it. What you are doing is not right.”

Tina Turner was on TV singing Simply the Best. Maidei turned up the volume until the wall of the house were shaking. She didn’t want us to talk anymore. I was being dismissed.
*

I went to Feerick Primary, the next morning.

I asked to see Sharai’s teacher and I explained to her that Sharai had received this bracelet from Jason. I didn’t think the bracelet was an appropriate gift or present for a 12-year-old girl. I wanted to return it and I also wanted to ask Jason and his dad not to give Sharai any more presents.

“Would it be possible for you to be there while I do this?” I asked.

“Jason and his dad should be here by now,” Miss Marsh said.

We went outside.

“There they are.”

Jason and his dad were standing just outside the school gate.

“Morning Miss Marsh,” Jason said.

“Good morning, Jason,” she replied.

Jason’s dad smiled and nodded at Miss Marsh.

“Mr Banner, can I see you for a moment?” Miss Marsh said.

“Yeah, sure,” he said.

We went to Miss Marsh’s classroom.

“This is Sharai’s dad,” she said.

“Yes. I know,” Jason’s dad said.

“Some weeks ago, Jason gave Sharai a bracelet,” she said.

“Yes. Jason said he wanted a present for Sharai so we went to Argos and he picked this bracelet. I paid for it. Jason and Sharai seem to be very happy with it.”

"I'm returning the bracelet," I said. "I’d appreciate it very much if you could take it back. I'd also appreciate it if you and your son don’t give Sharai anymore presents.”

“I don’t understand,” Jason's dad said.

“Please just take the bracelet back and don’t let your son talk you into buying anymore presents for Sharai.”

The whistle went. School had begun. Children started entering the classroom. I thanked Jason’s dad and Miss Marsh and left.
*

Much later, when I thought the incident about the bracelet had been forgotten, I asked Sharai, “What job does Jason’s dad do?”

“He’s a photographer.”

“What newspaper does he work for?”

“No, dad,” Sharai said. “He’s not that kind of a photographer. He’s a freelancer. He works from home and for many different people and groups.”

“He seems to be doing well.”

“Jason says most of his money comes from photos he does for a number of websites.”

“Has Jason seem any of these sites?”

Sharai shrugged.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe he has. Maybe he hasn’t.

“Mum says when my birthday next comes around, we’re going to go to Jason’s house. Jason’s dad is going to take many photos. I’m going to be just like a model. Mum and me will select the best photos and Jason’s dad will print them out for us.”

About the author

*Ambrose Musiyiwa studies Law at De Montfort University in Leicester. He has worked as a freelance journalist and a teacher. His short stories has been featured in anthologies that include Writing Now (Weaver Press, 2005) and Writing Free (Weaver Press, 2011). Currently he is working on another story.

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