Short Fiction ~ Davina Philomena Kawuma
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 8
I could tell from the way the mannequin wore that dress that it would be too tight on me. (When like me you have trouble finding dresses that fit, your eyes develop a certain way; they train themselves to know when you should make someone go to the trouble of undressing a mannequin and when you shouldn’t.) But Anna, my sister, and Mummy, my mother, insisted.
I tried it on just so I could say ‘Didn’t I tell you?!’
The dress went past my waist, hallelujah!, you should have seen the smile on Anna’s face, but wouldn’t go much further up. Anna tugged and pulled at the bodice while Mummy steadied me.
I could tell from her rigid posture, and from the way her hand covered her mouth, that the shop attendant was afraid we were going to rip the bodice. But I suppose she was one of those people that truly believe in customers being kings, even when they are close to damaging your stock, because she said nothing.
I stared at the ceiling and sucked my stomach in for as long as I could. I was glad, in a way, despite having to go so long without breathing, that the shopping hadn’t turned out as badly as I feared it would. I love Anna and Mummy with all my heart and soul, but I dread the prospect of shopping with them. Not only do they want me to try everything on, but they also turn every fitting into a board meeting of sorts; sometimes they’ll even ask other customers for their opinions. Do you know how embarrassing it is to watch people try to politely turn down Anna and Mummy? Worse, still, after ALL that trouble, sometimes they’ll have made the attendant undress ten mannequins, they smile and say ‘katukomewo.’ This they say even though they have no plans of returning to the shop, which just adds to my embarrassment.
But what else could I do but stare at the ceiling and pray that nothing bad happened to the dress?
Anna eventually managed to get the bodice just past my nipples. At this point, perhaps to ensure that the dress went all the way up, Mummy’s hands clamped down hard on my breasts.
I screamed and pushed at her.
I was as startled as she and Anna were by my reaction.
I’d had ‘accidents,’ of a similar kind before but the pain had never been that bad. I pulled the dress down and said I didn’t like it and could we please go somewhere else?
Mummy said nothing, she immediately made for the exit, which meant Anna had to do the smiling and thanking and fake promising all by herself.
‘So, where next?’ I said, when we were all out of the shop.
Anna asked what had happened back there in the shop and I said Mummy hurt me. I tried to sound as casual as I could.
‘Where?’ Anna asked.
I pointed to where the lump was. I said it sometimes hurt and it sometimes didn’t. That it was really not that big of a deal, as I didn’t even really think about it. Anna and Mummy took turns feeling my left breast through my blouse, right there on the sidewalk. Some people pretended not to notice, others stood and pointed, but Anna and Mummy didn’t care. They prodded, gently, at the lump. Then they did the same with my right breast.
‘How long have you had it?’ Mummy asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘A long time.’
‘When did it start hurting?’
I pretended to think about this, although I knew exactly when it first started hurting and what I’d been doing that day. But of course, I wasn’t about to tell Mummy anything about that day, so I just said, ‘I can’t remember.’
Davina is a Ugandan twice over (fed and bred). She loves to write as much as she loves to read. She has a wide range of interests, including the socio-cultural evolution of religion, mythology, and the modernization of language. She's passionate about improving the research culture in post-secondary school teaching and learning contexts. In her ideal world, she exists as a cross between a Rwenzori Turaco and a Venus Flytrap. She's currently pretending to write (among other things) her first novel, whose working title is "The Other Side of Day."