Runway Flower: A Short Story For Windrush Day

Runway Flower: A  Short Story For Windrush Day

                                    Runway flower.

The sky had always covered her. Her whole life and day into morning and the next. It covered her, her family and school, the sea, the mountain of Grandada and over to the next parish. She never knew if at some point the sky just stopped, it never let her find out because it always followed.

She looked with big hunting eyes, tired and fighting to keep them open, at her new home. Ribbon flapped around her head, like big ears searching. The little girl clutched the old woman’s hand, who was coming to see her husband, stories reaching her back home of his outside family. They were both new, but feeling old. She would always feel new here, she would be always waiting to get back on that plane home.
“Now I want fi know is where you moder deh?”
The little girl knew it wasn’t a question, she had had thirteen hours of it. When people said it was unlucky for some she thought, not for her. Now she realised thirteens unluckiness had caught up with her. She would always hate it. People moved without seeing her or Miss Penty, passed straight over them and moved through them. The wind blew across the tarmac. Everyone from somewhere else slowly walked towards the big buiding, its flags blowing in the grey. It was the biggest building she had ever seen. Things moved in it and on it. White people pushed her and Miss P to get into the warm.

She was sent for to repair their marriage. Dada was playing with too much “hoochy coochy gyal”. He had “figet bout responsibility and let hingland tun him head”. Like so many others, released into ever loving arms, marvelling at skin and wanting to know if it was true or scared brown arms, looking to be someone’s anchor. Left in the care of Grandada, Grandma and Auntie Cynthia, the social worker she would become would marvel at people’s ease at leaving their children. That there was no thought for the small bundles of need that only grew as time went on. At the nonchalant way they would send them across the planet, with strangers for company.

“Come”, when she reached up and took the strangers hand that was her mother, her mother took it to mean agreement. It only meant submission, until she could escape.

She climbed the tree, the old cotton tree, older than the land that rooted it, the tree that shrunk as she got older, and found her spot, wood made smooth by her skins connection to it and laid down. Legs swinging, arms behind her head, this was her favourite place. Here, she and the sky would chat, catch up, make each other laugh. They had found her there, in the rain, the night she found out she was going to England. As soon as she walked down those too high steps of the plane she looked up and almost cried out loud. What was wrong with this sky, unwashed, grey, moving too slowly. Where was her sky? She had seen dark skies before, when it was about to push out it’s rain, it would go darker blue, grey-blue and before the birth of a storm, green. And when the storm was done it hung, turned itself over and became her friend again. She didn’t recognise this skies face at all.
“What is wrong wid you, come on, you want di plane to tek we back?”
She stood on the runway, unclean, she and the other runway flowers that had poured out the plane blooming amongst the concrete. They had brought colour, loud laughter and ribbon to the country. Every step she imagined her Gandada and Aunty Cyn would run up to her, laughing, smiling, chatting, that this was all a joke and they hadn’t meant to frighten her. That Miss P could go now and find her wayward husband, that they wanted their child back. It was all such a mistake and a “come mek we get di nex plane home”. Goose bump bumpies rose quickly all over her. She only ever felt that way when she had to get the switch. Here she would have to get the belt, the iron flex, the coat hanger, broom handle…here in England, the goose bumps would be permanent. And no amount of coconut oil seemed to help.
“She betta hurry up, beca me have to catch di bus”.
Nothing moved, not the sky, not the ground, not the faces. She and her fellow travellers walked towards the airport.

The woman in uniform, whose hair was the colour of sugar cane and her eyes the colour of soapy water in a wash basin, smiled at them.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes tank you”. Miss Penty’s grip tightened.
“Do you need assistance?”
“No”.
The woman bent down and patted the little girl on the head. Her hand tangling briefly with the ribbon.
“Take care, sweetheart. You people are so beautiful”.
She walked away, turned and waved into the crowd. Women with eyes like insects, stretched, elongated at the sides, swallowed her up. They pushed, shouted, held up papers with names on. There to welcome family they had never heard of, there to marry strangers, there to become parents again. The ribbons watched, the little girls face was shiny with cream.
“What is wrong wid dat woman, she no leave us di whole journey. Is why she want to talk to you”?
“Beca I keep her secret”.
“Wha, is what you seh, cho! Jus come on”.
Breathing in real air made her dizzy. She never wanted to go back on a plane ever. Life was too small there. When as a teenager she remembered what she had seen on the plane, it would make her cry and as an adult it would make her smile.

“What is it, why you can’t keep still, why me mus be trap wid you inna dis ting, me no know. A true you momma no have no money to come fi you herself!” And on went Miss P, thirteen hours of it. Everyone called her Miss even though she had been married for many, many years. It was as if no one really acknowledged it, least of all Mr Penty.
“Me wan go pee pee”.
“Git up an gwan no, you no see di lady tell you where fi go!”
So she rocked along, she could hear herself sucking the sweet given to her by Grandada. She had kept it in her hands all the time, till child sweat made it sticky, she had intended to keep it forever. She was sure Miss Penty would’ve made her throw it away, so she put it in her mouth for safe keeping. In this way, she told herself, if she ate it, it would always be with her, Grandada would be in her insides.

She drunkenly walked to the toilet. She stood outside, not knowing if it was free but too scared to ask. She could hear noises, grunting, giggles.
“SSh, hush you lip no gyal”
She could see through a tiny crack. She couldn’t help it. Without thought or shame, she pressed herself against it and pressed her eyeball against the crack. All she could see was an ankle, pale pink tights swung from it like a snake skin and a black shiny shoe that tapped the wall. She thought she could see something, shapes, colours, in the shoes, how they shone. Just like Grandada had taught her how shoes should look. The shoe kept gently tapped the wall. She manoeuvred round so she could see more. She tried to guess what the shapes were.
“Excuse me little girl are you lost?” She jumped. A man like no other she had ever seen before, smiled down at her. White, but brown, tall but hunched over, strong and yet weak looking. The tapping stopped.
“Waiting for the loo?”
“I want to pee pee”.
“Oh, er, ah, yes”, he walked away, nothing left for him to say. Had he been watching them too?
“Oh, hello”, her hair was newly fixed, her cheeks red, a shiny film of sweat covered her face.
“This toilet is occupied; I’ll take you to the other one”.
She didn’t see the man, she let herself be led.

“I want to pee pee”.
“Again, Jesus Christ on di cross you coulda tes’ Job. Is how you love a pee pee so? Git up den no, an hurry up”.
It had been hours since she gone before. She jumped up, not wanting to hear any more of Miss P’s argument. She rushed back to the same toilet, she stepped up as if stalking a prey like when she an cousin Stevie would try an catch bullfrogs in Grandada trees, but it was empty. She looked around in there, she didn’t really know what for, she wanted to know who the Island man was. She came out and had forgotten to use it.
The plane lurched forward and she fell onto the lap of man that she would dream about forever.
“Whoa dere, you alright?”
She looked up into the prettiest teeth she ever saw in the head of a man she had never seen. He was the colour of the world before dawn and his eyes told her everything that an eight year needed to know.
“What is di matter wid you, you shock?”
“No, you have pretty teet”.
“Well, tank you Miss forward”
He laughed, threw back his head and let out home sound.
“Are you alright sir?”
“Yes, tank you”, the woman with cane coloured hair smiled a twitchy half smile. She turned towards him, straightened her back, pushed out her small chest, so he could look at her properly. She stood between them, looking at one, then the other, she wanted to take the words that were left hanging and wrap them around both their necks. She looked down at all their shoes. He ran his tongue over his top, pretty teeth and slowly sucked.
“Bwoy, me tink me goin to like hingland, wha you tink?” He turned to the girl, including her in the game.
She said the first thing that popped into her head, “but will hingland like you?”
“Ha! Bombo..”, he laughed, digging his friend next to him in the ribs, “well we goin see, Miss Forward, we goin see”.
“Come on little girl, I’ll take you to the toilet”. She led her away, she briefly turned back to see him strap himself in.
“Now you will keep our secret won’t you?” She asked her as they walked.
She wasn’t listening, she looked in to the faces of all those flowers yet to bud. She passed other children, already crying, children already lost, children on their own, some even younger than her. Children that she would go to school with, share a ward with, children that would end up as her clients.
“Ok? This ones free, I’ll come back for you”.
In the toilet she thought about the man and the woman, her barely remembered parents and she wanted to cry. All alone in the sky.