Four barefoot men led the parade. Orange turbans coiled on their heads, their beards to their bellies. Each man held a scimitar, the blade pointed upwards. Behind them rolled a van bedecked in orange flowers, spitting petals off each side, while an assortment of brightly draped men, women, and children hung out each of its openings waving at the spectators lining Sauchiehall Street.
“Aye, for fuck’s sake,” said one of two men viewing from the sidewalk, “What is this?”
“Aye, is-no just Pakis anymore, is it?” Said his friend.
“Fuck-sake,” said the first man, “Ah see my cousin there.”
“Is he fuck!” said the first man and he cupped his meaty hands around his mouth as he yelled, “Oy, Docherty! Hol you, cunt! Docherty! Aye, is me, you Jake!”
He lit a cigarette, and his glance focused on the girl standing a few feet away, and he pocketed the lighter as he spoke to her.
“What you looking at wee one?”
Flower petals sat on the fringe of her dark hair, and on the lime tartan shawl she wore over her head. Youth, or the deception of it, glowed from her face but her straight, plain features, dark eyes, and her olive skin gave no clue regarding her heritage.
The first man nodded, “Are you a Paki, or are you an American?”
The girl smiled.
“Aye, she’s a spazz,” his friend said.
The men walked past the girl, the first man making sure to bump her with his shoulder in the process. They hollered abuse at the parade until their voices were no different than dogs barking at a fence.
* * *
“That’s my favorite shawl,” she said as she watched The Fella wipe the lime green shawl over his bare belly and across his hips and genitals.
“I’ll buy you a new one,” Fella replied and he tossed the shawl onto the carpet and groaned.
She pressed her palms into his pale belly and flicked her tongue over the salty flesh.
“You didn’t leave any for me,” she muttered. “You didn’t have to ruin my shawl.”
“I’ve been on a bender, wee-yin,” Fella said in a voice more suited for talking to a basket of kittens, “It can’t be much of a pleasure for you.”
His fingers brushed over her hair and she left a flutter of kisses on his belly before she rolled back and folded her fingers over her tummy.
“I don’t have a sense of smell. What do I care?” She said, and she slid her caramel colored hands up to her breasts where she left them.
“Aye,” Fella said and he lifted one eyebrow. His thick, reddish brown hair fell over his blue eyes, “You’ll do anything for me, because you dinna realize sometimes, the world smells like wank-splash, and it isn’t pleasant when it does.”
“I don’t think the world is pleasant,” She said.
“I’m the Wank-Splash Cook, hen,” he said, “You have no idea how I stink.”
A crease formed between her eyes, and she sat up, pointed to the kettle, “Make me tea.”
“I stink,” he said, and he took the kettle to the bathroom.
“You don’t stink, you weirdo!” she said, over the noise of the water from the bathroom sink. “You would never let yourself go like that, you peacock! All I hear ever since I met you is how good you smell from girls and guys. You know all your guy friends wanna shag you? You know that right?”
“I stink,” he said, as he came back, “I stink like a lying asshole, and you willney even let me break your heart cause you canny smell the stink. It makes you cold.”
“It makes me the easiest girl in the world to leave,” she said.
She slumped on the bed with her forearms resting on her crossed legs, a woven basket of brown, skinny limbs. “I can’t smell your shit or anyone else’s so I never walk away plotting revenge. Be grateful.”
“Fuck up with the tough girl act,” Fella said, and he flicked the boil button on the kettle, “ You’re the kindest, most decent lassie I’ve ever met. You let people hurt you because you’re being polite. If I asked you to marry me right now, you would.”
The tiniest of flinches twitched her features, the slightest hardening glossed her eyes.
“Of course I would, but it would be a mistake.”
“See, I knew you would. I’m a fucking stud, hen.”
Her eyes fluttered to the gold band on his hand and she looked away, “Fuck up.”
* * *
The baby slept balanced on the panda soft arm of his mother, between his soft parents on their bed. Born early, labor induced, because he’d reached fourteen pounds in-utero and the doctors did not want to see how far he could grow. The baby emerged into the world a shrieking, raging ball of need. The baby was drunk on being the Buddha of the family.
At 3 AM her aunt’s body would give, and she would need to move her arm to get circulation back. The price of that flicker of comfort was the rage of the baby. A low scream quickly turned into a high one, and then the baby would inhale, and then on the exhale, the baby’s shriek would rattle the walls.
The girl would wake with a racing pulse upon hearing the baby scream. Her aunt would take about three minutes to get the bottle warmed up, soothe the baby to silence. She knew her uncle would have his back turned to his wife on the bed, earbuds plugged in, eyes pinched shut too tightly as he pretended to sleep.
Exhaustion was the reason her aunt’s hands shook while trying to trim the baby’s hair, and she nicked his ear. Blood seeped over her aunt’s fingers until she pressed the cut to clot, and she took the baby upstairs as tears slid down her face.
The girl stared at the napkin with the baby’s blood in the kitchen trash bin and her lips parted. She turned her hands palms up, traced her fingers over the crease that ended below her middle finger.
At the train station in Carlisle, waiting for the changeover train to Glasgow, an old German man sat next to her as she tried to finish her Victoria sponge.
“Senorita?” he said to her.
She lifted her arm and stared at it. Fella insisted she looked as white as any girl, although she attributed that to the trend of fake-baking in Glasgow. Milky skinned beauties turning themselves into charred pieces of jerky. Any brown girl would be white next to them. Fella’s father told her she looked Italian or French. Some of the Indian folk in Glasgow stared at her disapprovingly as she hung on Fella’s arm.
She stared at the train tracks, and wondered if The Fella would meet her in the Glasgow station. He told her where to find the cab. He told her he would be texting her to make sure she’d found her hotel. He told her to be careful. He told her not to talk to strange men.
“I knew girls like you before The War.”
The folds over the German man’s face intensified in contrast on his weathered flesh. His nose stretched long, bulbous at the tip due to age, but she imagined it would have been straight and perfect in his day. His day would have included goose-steps and straight armed salutes.
“Before the war there were many beautiful girls like you, they work hard, they dance, and they make men happy. They were painted. These beautiful girls disappeared after The War and you were one of them.”
She laughed, warmth flushed her cheeks.
“I’m not old enough to be one of those girls.”
She wished The Fella would text her or call her now, she wanted him to be here to see this German man calling her beautiful.
“You know Goya?”
“I love Goya!” she said and she felt her last defense go.
“Goya painted nude women, he drew…” and the German man hissed, “Raaaaaape. He drew rape, lots of rape. And there were collections in Germany before The War, and the rape was on the walls. Room after room of VIOLATIONS… destroyed by The War. All of that beautiful rape.”
She thought of The Fella’s cock when it butchered a swath up her cunt that lacerated to her womb.
“You are my Jesus,” she had gasped with the pain of his cock leaving her and she was on her belly.
“What?” he said and he’d pressed his weight on top of her. “Say it again.”
“You are my Jesus.”
“There is no Jesus.”
“Ooooo,” The Fella had chuckled and his lips tickled her ear. “I have this fantasy. I have never, ever tried it before with a lassie and I’ve always wanted to do it. Can you do it?”
“I’ll do anything.”
His hand slid over her flank and he whispered, “Let me in your ass.”
Her ass tightened as the German man’s left eye wept and he spoke of Goya’s rape, beautiful rape.
“Let me see your palm, Kitten, beautiful Senorita.”
The line that ended at her middle finger meant she was selfish in love. It meant she would never have real love. It meant love was broken.
She stared at that broken love line back in the Leeds house, and then she reached into the kitchen bin, and saw the German man’s weeping eye as she plucked out the bloodied napkin. She thought of the German man telling her he wanted her to be by his side as they walked through museums.
“You were in Nepal many times,” he said. “One of the beautiful girls on Nepal, and you will be again. Nepal always for you.”
“Brown is brown,” She said.
“And you’re not brown,” The German man said.
“No offense meant to brown,” Fella had said to her once, “but stop calling yourself brown, because you’re not brown.”
She thought of moments when she was a small child and she learned from the other children. If you have a question, then you ask a white person. They called her a dumb brown girl. As she grew older she knew that was all bullshit and she enjoyed her caramel colored skin.
Brown or no, however, she wanted only to be with The Fella. She wanted him to love her again. She would take that spell to the devil. She wanted a baby in her belly so she could strangle it on its birth, offer its body to Satan. Her Fella was her devil, and she wanted him back.
She ripped the bloodied napkin, and she popped it into her mouth without flinching. She let it soften to a metallic slop on her tongue and it stuck to her palate as she swallowed. Tears to her eyes and she shook her head, and she swallowed twice but could not get it all down. She had to gulp water straight from the faucet. It sloshed in her belly and she stared at the ceiling, listening to the low hum of a house that is asleep, each electric spirit buzzing with a mind of its own.
She ate three hot cross buns from the cupboard in rapid succession, they were pre-packaged with icing crossing their raisin dotted tops. They were as soft as Wonder Bread.
The chunks of hot cross buns slid from her belly up her throat and dropped into the toilet with rock-like splashes. They mingled with the floating bits of toilet paper and urine, at least four visits worth because her small cousin never flushed the toilet. Some of the water splashed back up into her face and she closed her eyes and vomited the rest. Would that be a worthy enough sacrifice to drop baby’s blood into the toilet to mix with a virgin child’s piss carried on the vehicle of bulimia?
She rinsed her mouth and made peppermint tea, her stomach rolling as she warmed her hands on the cup. She dialed home, no answer from either her sister or mother. She turned on the internet, The Fella logged off as soon as she logged in. She refreshed her Twitter thirty times over as she sipped her tea and then went to the rising voices of her aunt, uncle, and the baby.
“What’s going on?” She asked as she hopped off the last three steps and she saw the bloated toddler, rolls of marshmallow fluff, face contorted and twisted as he screeched. His legs were thicker than his older sister’s legs.
“They’ve managed to get gum in the baby’s hair,” her uncle said.
“I wasn’t chewing gum!” Her aunt cried.
At this point the baby began contorting into rigid lines, as if hooked up to electricity, arching his back and then his bottom lip trembled as he sucked in air, growling as he did. Blood vessels popped along his cheeks and nose, blossoms and dots of red. And his growls sounded out rhythmically, “Arrr ar ar Arrrr ar ar Arrrr ar ar Arrrr ar ar…..”
She had always been good with children but she knew, this baby, she would have drowned.
“Oh for heaven’s sake!” Her uncle said, and he went into the kitchen.
“Where are you going? Don’t leave me!”
“Getting scissors!” Her uncle snapped, “The ones you used to cut our child!”
She rolled her eyes and lingered at the front door. She’d tired of trying to defend her aunt days ago to that man. If she wanted to wither away under her uncle’s incessant criticism she was quite welcome to.
The creak came from the gold metal flap of the letter slot. It was up now, but there was no mail, there was just a pair of blue eyes staring in, meeting glances with her.
She crouched and met those eyes, “Hey you,” she said, “Are you Satan? You can have the baby. Just come ‘round later, but make sure you give me my fella back.”
The mail slot squeaked as it fell closed and she stood up and looked out the window to see not the devil, but a young, blonde man running away from the house.
The phone in her pocket buzzed, and she opened it to read a text from The Fella, “Dae a dance fae me, Wee-yin xxx.”
A startled, delicious zing prickled through her, and she smiled as she looked at the baby, screaming, and crimson as he struggled against his parents.