THE LADY

“Ok,” I bite the bait, “ What is she like?”

“They say she wears all red.” she replies.

“Like blood?” I ask.

“Exactly. Especially her shoes: Blood red and high-heeled. And when you hear the cro…chiaa you know she’s coming.”

We sit in silence, my new friend and I, thinking about the sound of those heels. 

“My mother’s shoes cro-chiaa sometimes,” I quickly admit. But my new friend only has ears for the blood that drips from my palm to the floor.

“We really need to get that cleaned or else she’ll come.” My friend looks frightened. I am not. I’m not afraid of anything: Not even * kakalikas. Plus, the sun is still up. 

“Listen,” I try to reassure her “Nothing is going to happen to us.” But her attention is firmly locked on my palm.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” guilt laces her concern. I was practicing my ballet on the second rung of the steel frame that carries the poly-tank when her unexpected hello made me fall. That’s how we met, my new friend and I. Which is nice because most days I’m all alone on the lookout for my mother.

“Not really. But if it makes you feel better, here—” I make to swipe off the blood on my white tutu but my new friend stops me. “No! Use mine. My uniform is dark brown, You’ll just stain your white skirt.” She takes the hem of her chocolate coloured pinafore and dabs at my bloody hand. “See? On mine it just looks like an oil stain."

She’s right.

However, the blood seems to be flowing faster now.

“Listen” my new friend says standing up “Running some water over it will help and … it’ll stop The Lady from finding us. Come, I’ll take you to the toilet.”  Before I can concede, she’s pulling me off the pavement and dragging me to a bathroom somewhere across the yard. I follow obediently. After all, this is her school not mine. I just come for the ballet lessons. 

“Why do you say ‘The Lady’?” I ask “Isn’t her name Madam—“

“Sshhh! We don’t say the name aloud when we’re alone.”

“But we aren’t alone.” I try to point out, “I’m here and you’re here.” My new friend ignores me. There is an urgency to her pull now: But I’m not done.

“So why blood? Why does she come when you are bleeding?”

“They say she’s looking for her daughter. A daughter who was taken and she follows the blood in search of her.”  

Finally, the bathroom. 

“Why?” I ask.

“ I don’t know,” she reluctantly confesses.

The first tap isn’t working.

“Maybe that’s all that was left when they took her and she thinks following the blood is a trail? Or anyone who is bleeding had something to do with her kidnapped daughter? Does it matter?”

“Yes it does.”  The second tap is just as dead, “For the story to make sense—"

“Please! It’s not a story. It’s true.”

“Fine! In any case how do you know her daughter was taken? Maybe her daughter left?”

“Ehn?” The third tap produces a light trickle, “And left blood?” scoffs Ama

“Why not. Not all little girls are normal-- or good-- In fact, maybe she isn’t trying to save her child. “Maybe” I pause for effect, “She’s trying to stop her.” 

My new friend rubs my palm vigorously under the weak faucet, “From what?” She clearly doesn’t like where my take on her story is heading.

“From harming other people. Obviously!”

A pool of diluted blood begins to collect in the porcelain white basin as the possibility of this version wedges itself in her mind. 

And then… I hear it.

Cro.

My new friend swivels her head towards me, the whites of her eyes are glowing. She heard it too.

Chia

I pull her into the nearest bathroom stall—

Cro.

fastening its brass lock.

Chia.

We try to breathe as silently as possible but —

Cro. 

My new friend is shaking.

Chia.

A tear races down her cheek—

Chia.

As the sound comes closer.

Cro

She leans in and I clutch her tightly until it feels like her heartbeat is thudding in my chest. 

Then, the bathroom door creaks open and the unmistakable sound of heel hits the tile.

Clack.

 I shut my eyes retreating into the darkness behind them and willing my friend to hear my thoughts.

“Be still.” I silently plead. “Don’t make a sound.” 

Her head turns ever so slightly. 

“If you do, she’ll hear us.” My new friend, holds her breath 

“Very good.” I encourage,“Just keep holding that breath." She stops moving,

"Your Madame High Heels, she’ll never find us” Her body relaxes.

“And my mother, she’ll never stop me.” 

She slips.


* Kakalika / kah.kah.lee.kah / [Twi] : Cockroach