|by Julie Swint|
love you and I'll see you in a few hours," the little box on the computer
"I can't wait," Yasmeen typed in response and whispered to herself, smiling as she revealed her beautiful white teeth. Her sister just stared at her in amazement.
"I can't believe you're going through with this," she said disapprovingly.
"Just come on," Yasmeen said, "You said you'd help me with the shopping. I have to get new sheets and towels. I can't believe I let this go until the last minute. His plane gets here in less than five hours and the apartment is still a wreck."
Yasmeen rushed out of the large two bedroom apartment with her sister in tow. "And don't try to talk me out of it," she puffed as she nearly sprinted to the parking structure. She turned around and saw her sister lagging behind.
"Always rushing to your death," Zinga sighed.
"Not a word," Yasmeen pointed to her as they took off down the road and headed for the mall.
"If you're so in love, then why do you insist on hiding the fact that you met over the computer? If it's love, then what does it matter? Huh? What are you trying to hide. I think you should tell everyone since you are so in love," her sister baited her.
"Listen," Yasmeen sighed." He's going to be hard enough to explain when I bring him home to mom. And I wish you would stop trying to get under my skin."
"What?" she asked, insulted. "I'm just trying to gently make you realize that you cannot possibly love this man you've never met."
"It doesn't matter what you think," Yasmeen said calmly, trying to find Zen in the car. She began to breathe slowly and deeply because she could feel herself beginning to panic, beginning to lose control and punch her sister in the nose.
"It does matter what I think," she said, "and it matters what mom thinks and dad and, Mario and Chelsea and Willie and...."
"OK," Yasmeen interrupted. "It just doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things because we're getting married tomorrow no matter what."
"That's fine and dandy, Yasmeen, just fine. But do you think you could do it in a less- public manner?" she folded her arms.
"I don't care who knows after tomorrow. But right now I want it to be a surprise. So don't tell anyone how we met, okay?"
"I just don't think a talk show is the proper venue," she said, shaking her head. "You're gonna give mom a heart attack. Hell, she thinks she's going to meet a long-lost relative. There ought to be a law against this talk show crap."
"Just relax, everything is going to be fine," she told herself and her sister.
"What does this guy look like anyway?" she asked, feeling a little better now that she had voiced her official protest.
Yasmeen bit her bottom lip and changed lanes.
"Well?" she prodded.
"Well, what?" Yasmeen said, annoyed. "It doesn't really matter."
"Oh, he's not ... is he? Oh god ... no, Yasmeen. I can't believe you've put yourself up for this tacky talk show fodder. God help her." She closed her hands and eyes in prayer.
Yasmeen remained silent for a minute as she whipped in and out of lanes, trying desperately to make it to the mall before it closed.
"I mean honestly," Zinga ranted, "what could you possibly have in common? Your lifestyles must be so different. What are you going to do when he starts wanting to go to the beach?"
"Now you're just being stupid," Yasmeen muttered as she concentrated on the growing traffic.
"You're going to give mom a heart attack on national television. It's not going to be pretty," she said, shaking her head.
"Could you just shut up? I don't know why I told you. Why are we in this car together?" Yasmeen asked herself out loud.
"Hey," Zinga said sharply. "I'm just trying to save mom's life here by trying to talk some sense into you. What is your problem? Why couldn't you find somebody right here? Mom is gonna die on that show tomorrow."
"Don't be so dramatic. She'll be fine," Yasmeen said.
"And you're willing to take that chance?"
"Contrary to popular belief," Yasmeen said as she pulled off of the freeway, "Mom doesn't have a heart condition."
"Of course she does," Zinga said looking at her sister as if she'd gone completely insane.
"No, she uses that to guilt us all into doing whatever she says. She has us all walking around on eggshells behaving ourselves for the sake of her health. What about my health? What about my mental health? Why can't I do whatever I want whenever I want? Shit, I'm 29 years old and I still afraid of my mother," she screeched.
"OK, calm down," Zinga said as her sister parked the car about a mile away from the mall entrance. "It's alright. Everything's going to be OK. Let's get your goddamn sheets."
"Don't patronize me," Yasmeen said, storming down the parking lot.
"I'm not," Zinga said, running behind her. "I'm just saying that mom is going to be upset."
"Don't I know it?" Yasmeen said. "But you're telling me that she's gonna die? She's not going to die over something I did. She's got us all thinking that the moment we step out of line something major is going to happen. I just don't believe it."
"Listen Yaz," Zinga said, grabbing her arm, "I'm just saying that you're going about this the wrong way. You could just invite him to dinner, plan a fucking wedding like the rest of the free world and let everyone get used to the idea. Why do you always have to be so in-your-face about everything?"
Yasmeen kept walking silently into the mall.
The two sisters entered the mall and ran toward the specialty linen store.
As they approached the store, one of the workers pulled down the grate.
"We're closed," the weary woman mumbled as she locked the grate to the floor.
"What am I gonna do now?" Yasmeen held her head.
"This is a sign," Zinga pointed to her. "You just can't marry some cracker on fucking national television."
"Don't you call him that!" Yasmeen snapped. "Not ever."
"I take offense to that," the weary woman mumbled.
"Fuck you," Zinga cried. "I'm just trying to help you out. What do you think his family is calling you? This is crazy. Don't do this, Yaz. You can't do this. What's so wrong with taking things easy? A nice long engagement. Anything but this."
Yasmeen turned to walk out of the mall.
"I don't need this," she said as she pushed the glass doors open.
Zinga ran after her sister again and caught up to her at the car.
"Were you just going to leave me here?" Zinga asked.
* * *
Oren Nolan grabbed his single bag of belongings and hailed a taxi to the airport. He sat in the back of the cab thinking of the tremendous torment he had endured through the years. For a thousand years he was forced to live no longer than thirty years; the age he was when he betrayed the only woman he ever loved. This year was different, his thirtieth birthday came and went without the usual calamity.
May you live a thousand years unrequited, the curse echoed in his mind; may your adulterous heart ache and may the orb guide me back to you.
"It's all my fault," Oren said out loud.
"What?" the driver yelled over the news radio program. "You want to get out?"
"No, nothing," Oren said as clasped a pea-sized iridescent orb in his hand.
It's over, he thought, we'll finally be together.
The cab pulled up to the terminal after a $10 ride.
"That'll be ..." the driver started.
Oren pulled out a heavy money clip full of hundreds, peeled off one bill and tossed the rest into the front seat of the cab. The driver just blinked as Oren ran for his plane.
After the plane took off, Oren rested his head on the seat with his eyes closed.
"Finally together," he chanted softly until he was fast asleep.
Oren dreamed of the few lives he could remember living. Each life was more successful than the last, but only monetarily. He was always just out of reach of his love. In some lives she would be a child but he could always recognize her. Sometimes she was a man and other times an old woman. And if they were in a comparable situation to be together in society and live happy or normal lives she would be thousands of miles away, and he'd always know of her existence. The nature of the curse was maddening. Some lives were sane and some were too much for him to handle. In one life he was a bug; he didn't know what kind and he was snuffed out cruelly by his love in a fit of hysterics.
In his last life, his love was a much older woman. He visited her dutifully and brought her whatever his money could buy. Most people, his love included, thought that he was a relative intent on making her last days a splendid tribute. They were right, but they didn't know that her last days were his as well.
"Would you like slippers?" the flight attendant's melodic voice sang over his head.
Startled, Oren opened his clinched hand and the iridescent pea rolled out and onto the floor of the cabin.
Oren gasped and was immediately on his hands and knees in search of the orb.
"Don't move!" he yelled as he spotted the little ball nestled in the arch of her tiny black shoe. He reached between her parted legs and picked up the ball.
With a sigh of relief, he sat down in his seat and chastised himself for being so incredibly careless.
"Carelessness is the root of your troubles," he said as he laughed and placed the orb into an ancient-looking pouch around his neck.
The flight attendant gave him a strange look and walked away.
Oren drifted off to sleep again, slowly patting the orb in the pouch. He remembered his second life and laughed to himself because it was the most traumatic life he had lived. From the very second his brain fully developed in his mother's womb, he realized that he had been cursed. He knew his name, he knew his purpose in life and he also knew that he was to be born to his love. His life was torture because he always knew who he was and why he was made to be there.
Oren watched his mother, his love, become abused by an alcoholic maniac. The second he could wield a knife, he killed his "father" and his mother later died of some unknown disease. Orphaned and labeled a killer, he lived his life on the streets of a city he could no longer remember.
"... may experience some turbulence," Oren heard somewhere in the corner of his mind. The plane took a violent dip and he bounced in his seat.
"I can't die now," he said, clutching the pouch around his neck.
"It's just a little turbulence," an old man across the aisle assured him.
Oren smiled, embarrassed, and thought of the last time he was jumbled about and felt the same terror, but for different reasons. He couldn't remember the year, but he did remember being bound and gagged and thrown into the dark, stinking hull of a great ship. There seemed to be a thousand others in the same predicament -- chained, miserable and unable to communicate.
After months of living as no animal should, he emerged into the blinding sunlight and was immediately sold to the highest bidder. He was then forced into a wagon that took him to an enormous plantation. As the wagon rounded the estate, Oren spied his love giving orders to two little girls who braided her long dark hair and fanned her plump white body.
"Things will change for you and me," Oren whispered and looked at the orb again.
"We will be arriving in Detroit in about ten minutes. Please return to your seats and prepare for landing," the pilot announced.
Oren smiled broadly; his body tingled and his eyes filled with tears.
* * *
Yasmeen parked in front of her sister's apartment and looked over the dashboard in stony silence.
"I have two packages of brand new sheets upstairs if you want them," Zinga offered.
Yasmeen visibly softened.
"I'll come back with you and help you clean up, too," Zinga said as Yasmeen began to smile. She turned to her sister and gave her a hug that reduced them both to tears.
"Stop it," Yasmeen sniffed. "I'll be all puffy for the show tomorrow."
* * *
Oren threw his bag on the king-sized bed in the suite the talk show provided for him. He sat on the edge of the bed and dialed Yasmeen's number from memory.
"Hello," Zinga yelled over the very loud vacuum Yasmeen ran in the next room.
"May I please speak with Yasmeen?"
"One sec." Zinga covered the phone and waved her over. "It's Opy."
Yasmeen gave her a grimace and then smiled into the phone.
"Oren," she whispered.
"I can't wait to get to you," he said.
Yasmeen could only smile.
"I have a strange request," he said.
"Anything," she said.
"Promise?" he asked.
"Yes," she agreed. "What is it?"
"I can't tell you. It's a surprise. Promise me you'll do it."
"Whatever you feel you can ask me, I'll do. I trust you," she told him as her sister's eyebrow went up.
"Promise me," he whispered.
* * *
"On today's show we're holding surprise weddings. The guests on this show think they are being reunited with a long-lost relative, but they are really here to witness the union of ...," the manic feminine voice announced from the television set mounted to the wall.
Zinga helped Yasmeen into her wedding gown and kept one eye on the television screen.
"Are you sure you're OK? It's not too late to back out now," she comforted her nervous sister.
"I love him, Zinga," she sighed. "How's my headpiece?"
Zinga stepped back and looked at her sister.
"You're beautiful," she choked. "I'd hug you but I don't want to mess up your make-up."
"Please welcome ... um ... Rahima Mason to the show," the television blared.
"That's Mom!" Yasmeen jumped up and down.
There was a tap at the door, "Miss Mason, you're on in two minutes. I suggest that you come out now."
"Do you know why you're here?" the host asked. Yasmeen and Zinga winced as they saw their mother recite the lie they had told her. Yasmeen opened the door and the stage hand pressed a finger to his lips and motioned for her to follow him backstage.
Yasmeen could see her mother talking to the host, and beyond them on the other side, she could see Oren. He seemed slightly less attractive than his pictures, but his eyes burned with passion.
While her mother spoke, stagehands set up an altar and a horrible white arch of plastic flowers in the background. The audience snickered and Rahima Mason turned around in her chair to see what was going on.
A minister took his place behind the altar and opened his Bible. Oren came onto the set, nodded respectfully to his future mother-in-law and took his place under the arch.
Rahima quizzically whipped her head around in every direction. As the trite wedding march began, she scanned the audience for her daughters. When her eyes fell upon Zinga, Yasmeen delicately stepped from backstage. Rahima's chest tightened and she regretted crying wolf all the times before.
Oren took Yasmeen's small hand in his and the minister began to speak,
"Dearly beloved ..."
Oren paused him with a finger and turned to Yasmeen.
"Looks like he has his own vows," giggled the caffeinated host.
Oren held the orb between his finger and thumb and poised it before Yasmeen.
"Swallow this to prove your love and love me forever," he whispered. Her lips parted and he placed the orb into her mouth; she immediately ingested the tiny sphere. "You crazy witch."
Yasmeen looked at him with a knowing smile and said, "You are forgiven." *
copyright ©1998 by Julie Swint <Noxxy1@aol.com>
Illustration copyright ©1998 by Romeo Esparrago <firstname.lastname@example.org>