Open 2020, Short Stories - Chiamaka Okike


14 lasts forever

By Chiamaka Okike 


She settled for a white top. She’d tried on seven. With each new top she’d turn around and look at the mirror and pull at it then pull at her skin and then she decided - the white one looked best. Today was going to be a good day. No, a great day. She was going to see him. Sometimes, she’d be hit with an uncontrollable feeling of disgust. The thought of him would repulse her so much she’d all but scratch at herself.


She didn’t want to be looked at by him, she didn’t want to be loved by him, and she certainly didn't want to be touched by him. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be touched by anybody. Those same days, when she lay in her bed she’d think about what a wonderful thing she almost felt when he called her beautiful. Those days were few and far between. In those moments she would convince herself she was in love. And even better, she would stay in love with him, forever. Because everything lasts forever when you’re 14.


You know those moments everything falls into place, your whole entire heart swells and you wonder if you can even hold it inside you- she had never felt that. It was like- choir practice. She would sing a line wrong and the choir mistress would correct her and then she’d sing the right line and she’d feel like ‘oh! This is how it’s supposed to go, how ordinary.’ But it was okay because everyone had a boyfriend and she was about to as well.


She wanted to walk past the school gates before assembly and sit in empty classrooms with her friends and tell them about all the things he had said and all the things he had done. She would say, ‘he held my hand’ or, ‘he carried my books for me.’ She would always say it like it was a fact and never like she was asking a question. But she was.


She was always asking ‘is this it? Is this the right line?’ But nothing ever really feels right and nothing can be perfect anyway, so when a boy tells you that he thinks you’re beautiful you say thank you and you look away and pretend to be shy. If you don’t already feel it, you make your heart swell. If something feels wrong- it’s not. That is the right line.


White top, black jeans. She did a full turn in the mirror again, craning her neck backwards to see how she looked from behind.


When she arrived, everyone had split up into couples and small groups. This was it, she was alone with him. It was a small bathroom with peeling paint and daisies on the shower curtain, but anywhere was right as long as she was with him. He’d barely looked at her since she’d arrived; he was barely looking at her now. Then they locked eyes and it was clear what should happen. Great, she smiled. Great, she breathed out.


Great, she breathed in. She leaned into him, for a hug she thought, she really wanted to be held. He held her away from him. He shook his head slightly. Not now. She understood. She tried leaning in again, for a kiss this time. He indulged her briefly then he pulled away abruptly. She tried again but he pulled away just as quickly. Then he moved his hands from the sink, where they had been since the two of them walked in. He placed them firmly against her waist. His hand slid up, over her white top then under her white top.


He pulled it down; it wasn’t meant to be stretched like that. She wanted to shake her head no but he was finally, finally looking at her. Not in her eyes but- her body technically was her. He leaned down- for a kiss, she thought. Her excitement faded fast when he leaned to her neck, past her collar bone, farther down than she wanted. But then he came up, he finally gave her that kiss. She smiled into it.


Then he went down again and she stopped breathing. She thought of the book she was reading, it would be on her bedside table once she got home. She thought of how late it was getting. What would she tell her parents kept her out so late? At least, she thought, he will come up to kiss me again. And he did. Then his finger trailed farther down, hooked into her dark jeans. What colour was her underwear that day? White too? He would soon find out, but did she want that? No, she thought. ‘No,’ she shook her head. But then he smiled at her, he was looking at her right in her eyes.


But she was serious then, not there. His hands asked ‘how about here’ and she wanted to say no again but he kissed her quickly. It was getting late and there wasn’t that bad. Then there was a knock on the door, she’d never been so happy to hear knuckles against wood. Shock had him stumbling back and her pulling up her bra and her white top. She buttoned her jeans and threw him one last small smile as she headed for the door.


She thought he might pull her back for a kiss. But he didn’t. It had never happened to her so suddenly, that uncontrollable feeling of disgust. But she knew then that if he reached out to kiss her, she would almost definitely kiss him back. In the car as she drove back home, she found herself lightly scratching at her skin. When she got into her house she greeted her mum as normally as she could, keeping sentences short and avoiding eye contact.


She wondered if she smelled like him. She entered her room and stripped into her underwear. It was a light green. The clothes did smell like him. She threw them into her wash basket. She didn’t shower, just pulled on an old shirt and tattered shorts. Then she curled into bed as tightly as she could and picked up her book.


When she grew so tired she could barely see the words, she kept reading. The book would be the last thing she thought of. She needed the book to be the last thing she thought of. The letters started blurring together and the sentences grew muddled in her head. Vampires, she thought.


Vampires, vampires, vampires, I never want him to touch me ever again, vampires.



Chiamaka Okike grew up in a quiet little community in Ibadan, Nigeria. Here she cultivated her relationship with long walks and literature. After putting it off for years she finally got round to publishing her debut novel. Now she’s settled in England for her university studies where she still finds herself wandering down winded roads and returning home to write about it.


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