editing your story

Electrifying England (second draft)

(character sketch and background information at starting to write your story)

I hurtled through the sky at rather too many miles per hour, decidedly closer to the stars than I wanted to be, and to add to that – I was freezing!

It was a night flight and after the obligatory – almost tasty, almost identifiable meal, the cabin was darkened and blankets deployed. Solitary pools of light stood starkly against the dimness as readers made their sleeplessness known. I tried to drop off too, but even with my sweater, socks and an extra blanket I was just too cold. It had started in my fingers and toes then gradually crept deep inside my bones where it set up camp for the night.

After an age of motionlessness, my legs raised their volume of agony to such a height that I unwound from my seat and began to prowl the aisles – shivering like a sick dog. Moving slowly from light-pool to light-pool I read a few lines of trash novel here, a magazine headline there. The eyes of those souls – lost to literature, scanned restlessly back and forth between the lines, paying no mind to the cold shadow that I must have been to them.

No-one noticed me – until I came into her light.

Hair like ripe corn, eyes like lavender, skin like milk. The bottom fell out of my world.

As I locked eyes with hers, my heart lurched into space, and simultaneously – the plane hit a massive downdraft that seemed to go on forever. I felt certain that we would hit the ground any moment. There was no feeling of panic – my mind was held still by her smile. Calm, serene, she was my lifejacket in raging seas. When the plane stopped falling with an apocalyptic sideways wrench, I fell gracefully over her, bounced once, softly, on her lap and landed upright and unharmed in the seat next to the window. She tracked my eyes every second of the way.

With a voice like cream, and no trace of irony, she pronounced: ‘sit with me,’ and as calmly as an autumn leaf in the eye of a tornado, I settled back in the seat.

My mom would always place her hand on my chest – above my heart and tell me that I would do great  things with my life. She had always said that such a big chest contained a big heart and that she loved me with all her being. She spoke just like that: loving and clear.

This girl … this woman beside me now, took my big heart into her tiny hands, and it sprang open like an exotic blossom.

She had no boundaries. As she began to speak, she leaned into me,  touching my arm with such tender concern and … such heat! A sudden flare, and heat raced into me. Bones defrosted in an instant.

I was 21.

My English was impeccable, my accent more Oxford than Oxford. I was precise and exact, and I knew it. Her voice was music, and all my painstakingly accumulated knowledge, all my supposed superiority was washed away by the tide of her mellifluous tones.

‘Hi, she said – summer and sunshine as she smiled up into my face.

‘Hi,’ I said – all feign and confusion. I looked at the book still open in her lap. ‘What are you reading?’ It was the first of the tangled thoughts to tumble out from my mouth.

‘A book,’ as if she were saying ‘up, down.’ As if she were telling me to try again. Giving me another chance. First of many chances.

The thing I remember most about my dad is that he would always want to race me. ‘Last one to the shop is a clown,’ he would say, and set off at a sprint – his big strong legs pumping. I wanted to win, and tried my best. But I was ever the clown; straw legs, painted on smile and defeated eyes.

I let her unfold my life, layer by layer. I marvelled as her words wiped greasepaint from my lips and installed a smile. My smile broadened as she sparked victory into my eyes with her sweetness. A strength I had never felt before coursed through my entire body as her eyes caressed me tenderly.

Looking back now, from my lawyerly life, at the boy I was then, sitting in a pool of light a mile above the world letting this girl enter his heart, I feel such love for him. All that life! Short cropped hair presiding over smooth brow; skin as sweet as chocolate, and that smile – teeth shining out of a face as friendly as a rainbow. And for all the love I feel for him – still more I feel for her as she melted me effortlessly into her universe.

I was on this plane bound for England and a Master of Laws. It was part of the plan to live up to my mom’s dreams and live down my dad’s disappointment. I had heard how in England everyone was as pure as the sky and white as mlungu and this combination puzzled me greatly but in no way prepared for the electrifying reality.

For how could I have known then that for all my fears and confusion about the people I would meet in England, every single one of them would only become bit players; minor characters in the drama of my life. And that in fact I would only truly meet one person – and it was she.

At the age of 21, my world had already exploded and contracted into her. My heart was being emptied and filled again. She was my Alpha; and as she sits beside me now in our study – watching me typing these few words – waiting for my 38 year old fingers to be done so that we can run laughing into the garden for some childlike game of her devising, I know that she is, and always will be my Omega.