Shooting stars come rarely, and Faith learned from her grandmother that when one streaked across the sky, it means that a soul of the dead had found paradise.
As a little girl, Faith imagined that a shooting star traveled across the sky in a neat silver-white arc. She fantasized that she could wave at it, call it to her, and she could ask its name. Maybe they could be friends, she mused, and that it could take her to paradise so that she could take a peek.
Faith opened her eyes, barely catching the short path of a shooting star — space debris, she had learned. Dirt. Her fingers dug into the fine sand she was lying on, rolling the grains in her palm and trying to feel for each individual speck. So her old “lola” thought that the souls of the departed are like dirt — they just happened to be streaking across the sky to burn and to disintegrate.
It was not the ideal image she wanted to paint of her mother.
She quickly draped her forearm over her puffy eyes, as tears fell afresh. She came out to the beach to take in the salty sea air, but all she could smell was the burning wood of the funeral pyre, the woman she knew as her mother now nothing more than a pile of ashes.
Ashes cannot make her favorite smoked rice cakes. Ashes cannot hold her when she was cold. Ashes cannot murmur, “It’ll be alright, my love…” into her hair when she was in pain…
Dry sobs heaved from Faith’s chest as her fist clenched around the sand, willing it to form into something she can hold. Wish as she might, the tighter she held, the cold grains only slipped through her fingers.
Her father might already be worried about her – it was very late, after all. But she was still raw and hurting. She did not want to face him and have him talk about the duties of taking her mother’s place as sultana. All she wanted to be at that moment was to be the little girl curled up on her mother’s lap, and she would inhale the gently heady perfume of ylang-ylang, mixed with notes of cooked rice as she traced the elaborate patterns of her blue malong.
“You will wear this malong too, when you become sultana.” Faith’s mother would laugh whenever Faith said she wanted to try too-big malong. “When you are ready, my child. And you will be, soon.”
She wore the malong to the funeral, and yet by no means she felt the least bit ready.
Another piece written for FutureLearn‘s Start Writing Fiction course. The activity involved writing something inspired by the first thing that played on the radio; and I was listening to Spotify, Boyce Avenue’s cover of Airplanes came up, and so this is what I wrote.
Faith is character I dreamed about a few years ago, and I really do want to write her story, but the last 10,000-word affair I had was with fanfiction. Little by little, I suppose I can piece it together in drabbles like this — like a draft of sorts, and fill in the spaces as I go along.