The Hedge – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

(Part 2)
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[You can read the first part of the story at Obinna Udenwe’s blog]

Confused for what had just happened and ashamed for his own actions, he followed his mum back home.

Life in the neighbourhood would be very different from now on, he thought, while passing by the hedge. What could have caused his neighbour to get so angry? He wondered, feeling sorry for her.

‘And you my son,’ his mum said, ‘don’t ever dare to behave like that again!’

He was sure there would be more problems. His mum would be leaving once all her medical tests were completed and the doctor determined which was the best treatment for her, but in his case, he lived there, and by now, he was sure that all his neighbours had learned about the argument with the girl. It would be a nightmare!

Mum didn’t speak to him the rest of the day. He didn’t really know what to say, so he let her alone. Tomorrow it’d be another day and may be everything would feel different then.

What he didn’t know was that just a few meters away, right behind his house, a series of phone calls had been made at the same time that he was trying to silence his overwhelming guilt.

At first, right after he had left the apartment, following his mum, she had thought she’d call the police and report the incident so he’d be taken to the police station, the least. But later, she thought of something better. Something that would make her anger get some release.

It took her about three hours but she had finally done it. Tomorrow morning, his horrible neighbour and his mum would pay for what they had done to her.

The president of the company she worked for was in good terms with many politicians and businessmen, and all of them found the way to make her wishes come true. After all, she had lived there for a while and she knew that all those powerful people had a particular interest in this area of the city that was growing a lot and had become very profitable.

The new changes, of course, wouldn’t affect her place, which she had decorated with the most expensive things that could be found in the city.

Some other neighbours would be affected, but it was for the greater good, and she deserved some sort of reward after giving her life away due to a job that had demanded of her a 24/7 dedication for years.

With the image of her revenge coming through, she finally fell asleep.

The next morning a strong noise woke her up.

‘What was that?’ She wondered while getting off the bed.

Her headache was terrible and the light that filtered through the window hurt her eyes. The noise seemed stronger than it actually was, at least for a simple knock on the door.

Stumbling around the living room, she managed to get to the door and answered from inside. ‘Who’s it?’

‘It’s me, your neighbour, I’ve come to apologise for what I did to you yesterday…”

‘Go away!’ It was her answer, leaning on the door as if she feared he could force-open it.

‘Please, accept my apology. I know what I did it was terrible, but you must recognise that you insulting my mum was also terrible,’ he said showing real concern in his voice.

‘You’re in so much trouble now, mama’s boy! You won’t even see when reality hits you with what you deserve! And now, go away or I’ll call the police, as I should have done it yesterday. Oh! And say good-bye to your comfortable life, neighbuor!’

Confused …again, and angry …again, he went back to his house.

He could understand that she was angry for what had happened the day before, but what he was completely unable to comprehend was what had caused so much hatred in her. Before yesterday they hadn’t even spoken. Why did she hate him so much? And why did she want to hurt him so badly? He also wondered what she had meant with those threatening words. After all, she had been the one who had initiated the fight when she went to insult his mother over the clothes being dried on the hedge.

With all these thoughts going around his head, he barely noticed all the noise that was coming from his house.

It was only until he had to push some people to get though the side-walk when he realized that there were a couple of black Mercedes and a patrol car parked in front of his place. Those were the exact kind of vehicles that brought people who intended to take care of official business. And the patrol car… ‘Had she finally called the police?’ He said aloud.

‘Son! Son! Come here! Hurry up!’ His mum called him out with an anguished voice.

He had to push some more people away, but he got to his house.

Once there, a big white paper with red and black letters on his door caught his attention.

Paralyzed by the surprise, the whole world around him seemed to disappear, even his mum’s cries.

Eviction notice, he read. And it was all what he managed to absorb in that moment.

‘How did that happen?’ ‘Why?’ He asked not addressing anyone in particular.

While trying to figure it out, two men wearing dark suits gave him some documents still enclosed in several envelopes. ‘Your mother refused to accept them, but you must take them, as the former owner of this property, you have to abide the law. You must empty this property today.’

‘What?’ It was all what he managed to answer.

The construction of a big parking lot and a shopping center was set to start that exact day, right in the area were his house was located, the two men had informed him.

Workers of a moving company had already started taking all the furniture outside and placed everything, small and big, inside of a big truck.

‘You can pick up your stuff at this address, previous payment of the storage fee, of course,’ one of the men said before going back to one of the fancy cars.

His mum reached for him and held onto him, sure that if he didn’t hold her, she would faint.

He hugged his mum tightly. Then he started to look around, as if a magical answer to this mess could be found somewhere on the horizon. Instead, he managed to see the tall and refined silhouette of his neighbour staring among the crowd. ‘How she dare?!’ He said, still holding his mum.

From total confusion to complete control, it took him no more than ten minutes to elaborate a plan to make his situation less complicated.

Gently, he took his mum to an empty bench close by. All those trees and flowers that the new government had been planting around had come along with some urban furniture that proved to be handy in this moment.

‘Calm down, mum. Just wait for me here. I’m going to fix this.’ He reassured her.

She took a deep breath and seemed to believe her son, but tears were still running down her face.

About half an hour later, he returned, placing his cell phone back into his pocket. A strange smile illuminated his face.

‘What happened, my son?’ Did you fix it? Do we still have to move?’ She asked with a hint of hope in her voice.

‘Yes, mum, to both questions. I fixed it, but we still have to move,’ he said, ready to explain to her what was going to happen.

‘We do have to leave the house because all the papers for a new development on this block have been signed. But we won’t be moving so far away, in fact, it’s just a few steps away where we’re going. I’ve arranged for the same company that took our furniture to the storage facility to bring it back tomorrow to our new place. Meanwhile, we’ll stay with a friend of mine who lives close to the hospital, so you won’t miss your doctor’s appointment.’

‘But how? Where?’ she asked.

‘You’ll see mum. I’m sure you’ll like it very much. The new place has all the best things in town and the best part is that we get to keep the hedge. It will be considered part of our property from now on, so nobody will tell us what we can or can’t do with it.’

Still confused, his mum followed him into the taxi he had just hailed.

Back there, behind his former house, the woman who had put him through all this suffering didn’t see this come. All of a sudden two men, wearing dark suits, got out of two black Mercedes that had been followed by a police car. They presented her with official documentation that forced her to leave the house that she had been renting for over two years, as the owner of the property had recently allowed a friend of his to buy the building.

After all — they explained to her–, the owner thought that being in good terms with the man who imported all the thousands of tires he needed every year for his transportation company, the biggest in the country, was a much better business than listening to a handful of local politicians and businessmen with small aspirations focused only in a small part of the town.

(Read the first part of this story here:

* * *

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* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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Weekly Photo: Reward

By Nora Vasconcelos

reward by NVS

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‘Your Best Bet’ – Short story

By Nora Vasconcelos

From his window on the plane, Marco saw the first hints of the Rivera Maya. It had been a long journey, visiting different countries in which he had intended to bring some international investors to collaborate with him in his business.

With more good wishes than concrete results, Marco had finished his trip and now it was only a matter of minutes for him to finally be home. He was really anxious to go out of the plane.

He couldn’t help it, any time he was on an aircraft the words of his father came to his mind, over and over: “Die young and die rich.”

What his dad wasn’t aware of was that one day, quite soon, his wish would come true when his jet crashed on a road close to Las Vegas, where he had hoped to repeat his last winning streak which had doubled his fortune with only one very lucky hand.

As a young adult, Marco had never been really interested in his family’s fortune, but it was perhaps because all his life he had been rich, thanks to the ravings of his father at the poker tables, the roulette, and even the slot machines. Gambling all the year-long around the world, money had flowed around his mansion in Rivera Maya, the same as if it were a river full of gold.

Marco often wondered what it’d be like if things were different. “How it’d be to have less money and a full-time dad?”

One day, the same as it’d happened with his father, life fulfilled Marco’s desire …sort of, because with his father’s death, money had stopped flowing and then it was time for him to take matters into his own hands. He and his mum sold their beach house, then they got an apartment in Cancun, and started an ecotourism business in Rivera Maya.

As the business grew, several trips a year were required. People seemed to like Marco’s style and hired him frequently to lead special tours in other countries when they wanted their foreign partners to be impressed so, they would open their wallets and invest in new business ventures. And for that, he had to overcome his aversion to flying.

The first time he got inside a plane -six months after his father’s death-, Marco was victim of an unusual dizziness. It was so strong that he thought he’d pass out in the middle of the flight.

However, continuous breathing exercises and a glass of Bordeaux helped him survived the rest of the trip. Anyway, memories of his dad’s death accompanied him the rest of the way.

Marco though he could remain in control until the plane landed, but it was just when the captain announced that they were about to touch land, when the nightmare began. He started to imagine the last moments in his father’s life. “Was he terribly frightened? Did he have enough time to say a final prayer?”

“For sure he was thinking about his family?” Marco thought, shaking his head. “Did he ever get time..?” He shivered.

Then he felt he couldn’t breathe and a flight attendant had to come close to him to calm him down and help him breathe normally. The plane finally landed, and Marco went on with his trip, knowing that the same terrible thoughts would torment him not only during his flight back, but also during the following flights for a long while.

In general, Marco was the spitting image his father. He had shared his taste for music, so he always enjoyed spending time at the club, listening to any new band that came to town. French wines were always present on the table and Sundays at the ballpark were a must.

Marco’s dad had also encouraged him to acquire all his wisdom regarding the cards and he had done it, but he didn’t enjoy it. However, Marco had always acknowledged his dad’s passion and dedication towards this activity, which he had considered a “real job full of entertainment and excitement.”

Gambling was out of the question for Marco, but he kept from his dad’s passion the complete dedication to his work. He also remembered frequently his father’s advice: “Look son, whenever you go to work be well prepared, measure your opponents in advance, find out what’s happening in the world, be a good conversationalist, dressed well because presence is important, but never look down on anyone just because you’re wearing a fancy suit.”

Marco had remained truthful to his dad’s advice ever since.

Now, several years later, although he ran a successful operation guiding tourists across the natural areas in the Yucatan Peninsula, Central America, and the Caribbean, keeping the business afloat had become more complicated since the problems with the global economy had caused that many people had to stay home for the holidays.

More money was needed, there was no doubt about that, but Marco refused to dismiss any of his employees, and even when he had inherited his dad’s ability at the gambling tables, he had refused to cash on it. So, he decided that finding some international investors would be his only option. “May be the foreign tourists he was taking on a trip tomorrow would be interested in a business deal?” He thought.

It was almost 6pm and the sunset was taking over the ocean view with its brilliant colors. For a few seconds, he fixed his eyes on the horizon. Several buildings were under construction along the bay. This bothered him a little, because all these new towers would block the sea view. But new hotels meant more tourists, and that was just what his business needed.

The following morning, Marco left his apartment very early to guide a group of 8 people who wanted to have a good sailing day on their way to the Caribbean islands where they had planned to spend some time doing business.

They had come from different countries and were interested in developing cruise-trip options for bays, marinas and small beaches not as popular or advertised as other places, but with lots of potential. Their plan was to use small boats that would allow them to offer luxury trips to people who wanted to explore new lands in style.

The first part of the trip was relaxing as the passengers mainly rested or had some snacks, leaving Marco alone. Then, as the vessel reached deeper waters, they seemed to have some interest in the way their guide dealt with the boat’s controls.

Finally, one of them said to him: “Hey, son. We’ve heard you run a good business here.”

Without taking his eyes apart from the horizon, Marco nodded, as the white boat continue getting the splash from the sea.

“We also know that you’re looking for some cash to sustain it,” the man, in shorts and a polo shirt, continued while trying to find a steady position. “What about coming to work with us. You would get some good money, and you can leave someone in charge of everything here,” he said with a hoarse voice.

Out of surprise, Marco seemed tempted for a second to turn his head, as if he wished to be sure that what he had heard was true. But he continued driving his boat steadily.

“What do you want me to do? What I mean is, what kind of job would pay me that much for me to have someone taking care of my business here while I work with you guys?” Marco asked, hoping this was the break he was waiting for.

One of the passengers, wearing a beach shirt and sunglasses, came close to Marco and told him almost in a whisper: “don’t play the fool with us, boy. We all know that you’re a much better player than your dad, he used to brag about it all the time, while we played cards together in Vegas. Finding you here running a legit business was surprising, but we’re sure this is just a front…”

It took a few minutes for Marco to bring the boat to a complete stop. Then he studied briefly all of his passengers, the same as if they were at the poker table, and with a firm voice he told them: “I don’t know what you’ve heard. Whatever my dad said about me being good at gambling, it’s just not true. I will take you to the next port and once there you’re on your own.”

“Come on boy!” The man wearing the polo shirt told him. “Don’t be like that. What’s the point on hiding your talents? You can be rich, the same as your dad was, and we need a talented man to run our casino business on our luxury mini cruises. It’s a win-win situation.”

“On the other hand,” the guy with the sunglasses intervened – getting very close to Marco -, “we’ve heard this is a deep dangerous sea for people who fall off their boats… why to risk it? Why don’t you come closer and tell us that you’ve decided to come to work with us boy…”

(To be continued next Wednesday on: )

* * *

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* This story is part of The Crosseover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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Weekly Photo: Rule of Thirds

By Nora Vasconcelos

Flower by NVS

*The Rule of Thirds is a photography concept that puts the subject of the photograph off-center, which usually results in blurry space in the rest of the image.

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‘A Desolate Return from Mexico’ – Short Story

By Nora Vasconcelos

– – –
(Part 2)

A strong noise woke Daniel up.

Not sure of what was happening, he ran around the house looking for Adamma, calling hear aloud: “Where are you aunt?” “Where are you?”

Over and over, he called her until he found Addama leaning on the wall of her sitting room, looking scared and with her eyes fixed on the other corner of the chamber.

The fresh aroma of the acacia, the frangipanis, the oranges, and Queen of the Night had come into the apartment, filling it with all those aromas that were floating in the garden, recently washed up by a heavy rain. The same rainfall that had made the air feel cool and nice.

However, there was nothing cool and nice inside the room. Daniel’s dad rested lifeless on the floor, with his head broken in many pieces the same as one of Addama’s precious porcelain vases. They had been given to her as a present by a rich businessman who travelled often to China, and had brought them here, especially for her.

Horrified at the scene, Daniel didn’t know if he should run towards his dad’s body in case there was still something he could do for him, or if he should seek shelter in Addama’s arms. Instead, he did nothing. He remained where he was. Not able to cry, not even able to move.

Then, the police arrived. A ‘concerned’ neighbour who had happened to pass by, had heard some ‘strange noises’ coming from ‘that woman’s house’, as he had reported it to the dispatcher, when he called the police department.

Looking at the blood around the man’s head, they promptly assumed that Addama was the one to blame for such unspeakable act, and they arrested her seconds later, despite the fact that she claimed several times that she was innocent, that some robbers had come into the house thinking they could get some money from ‘the gentleman who came every afternoon to pick his son up, driving his fancy car.’

Before leaving the apartment, Addama saw how a police officer took Daniel, still in shock, to one of the patrol cars, while other officers inspected the body, the shattered vase and the pieces around, as well as the rest of the place.

Handcuffed, she was taken to the precinct where she was thrown into a crowded jail cell in which all those people who couldn’t afford elegant lawyers were put away until a public defender could take care of their cases, along with 15 or 20 others.

The brief freshness that had come from the strong rainfall, just a short time ago, had been overcome by a warm and humid weather which, inside the cell, became a nasty brew of strong odours that made the simple act of breathing, a very painful one.

The hours passed and Addama fell into a semi-unconscious state that allowed her only to be barely aware of the conversations around her, although she was still able to catch the looks of people, inside and outside the cell, who judged her, as her past was well known in all the town. It didn’t matter that she had quit years ago, even before she had arrived to Williams Island, she, for sure, should be guilty of whatever crime she was charged with.

As the night turned into morning, Addama woke up from a very light sleep that had brought pain and no rest to her body. The shock of the events of the previous day had passed and now that she was completely conscious, she had realized that her situation was a serious one. Would she leave this prison some day?

Wondering about her future made her shiver. And yet, she refused to speak when her attorney appeared. Her silence granted her another 24 hours inside that stinky place. It didn’t matter that the people she was sharing the cell with had changed, the rancid smell that came from everywhere stuck into her clothes the same as into her nose.

But the following morning something unexpected happened. Mr. Belonwu came to precinct. The oldest man in the island, carrying heavily all of those years on him, years that people said were close to one hundred, had asked to speak with Addama, and out of respect, his request was granted.

Without knowing what was happening, and handcuffed again, Addama was taken to a separate room, one with a table and two chairs, guarded by two police officers. Inside, Mr. Belonwu waited for her.

She was so surprised that some tears ran down her face.

As she took her seat, the old man asked the guards to leave them alone. Hesitant, the officers granted him, one more time, his wish.

“We’ve never had a chat, girl. Right?” He said while he handed her his handkerchief.

“I’ve come here to listen to you and then decide if I use my influence to help you go free or not,” he stated with a serious voice.

Addama told him all what had happened the day Daniel’s dad had been found death.

As she related the old man the events that had brought her here, her mind went back to those last minutes in her apartment when the rich man, that was supposed to take his son home, had made advances on her, demanding the ‘benefits’ that he was sure he deserved since he was one of the wealthiest men in the island and there was no way she had quit her old job.

Except that she had, she assured him over and over, as the man tried to overpowered her. Then, with her not even realizing how it had happened, as if someone else had taken over her will, she saw her hand and arm swinging the heavy vase over the man’s head.

It was fast. May be no more than five seconds. The porcelain piece crushed her attacker’s skull with an easiness that it might have seem given only to a hammer hitting a nail. Next thing she knew, Daniel’s dad was there, lying on the floor, death in a blink, with his bloody head and the pieces of the vase all around him. Right after that, Daniel came from the other room and the police appeared.

She hadn’t meant to lie to the police about some robbers coming into the house, but when she saw Daniel’s face, she wasn’t able to let the poor boy know that aunty Addama had killed his father, and why. She only confessed this now to Mr. Belonwu because she knew that he was a wise and fair man who would do what was right.

“You have spoken the truth, I can see it in the clarity of your voice and the innocence in your eyes,” he said. “I’ll see that you’re released today but before I go, there’s something else I would like to hear from you…”

Addama smiled for the first time since the incident had happened, her eyes showing gratitude to the man who was going to set her free. “I’ll answer whatever questions you ask me,” she said.

“Why did you leave Mexico and how was it that you quit there both your old habits and your money?” His words let her know that his curiosity was a genuine one, out of concern and not coming from a morbid interest. So that, she narrated him her own story:

“After that rich merchant took me from Nigeria to Mexico, promising me he would make sure that I would live there as a queen, what it actually happened was that he sold me as cheap labour to one of his comrades that had established his business there. A sweatshop was my ‘home’ for 100 days and 100 nights, working 20 hours a day, sleeping on the floor, eating only once a day their putrid food, it was the same everyday until the authorities discovered his underground operation and closed his business down.

“Many people were arrested that day, many others, like me, we had no papers so we were sent back to our countries. The little money and property I had left here in Nigeria, all as a result of my glorious days, helped me go through until I settle down here, in Williams Island, the rest of my jewels, richness and dreams were taken away by those men who enchanted me with their false promises.”

A long silence filled the room before Mr. Belonwu asked Addama why she had never told her story to anyone in the island.

“When there are no physical injuries, people don’t believe you’ve been hurt. They say that it’s your own fault, that you provoked it, that you should have done something to stop it, after all, they assure, nobody was hitting you.

“But when your soul is hurt day after day, you know that you’re been abused, except that you show no bruises. That’s why I never told anyone my story. I came back here and acted as if that had never happened, after all, I knew nobody would believe me…”

“Well, dear,” Mr. Belonwu said, I believe you. And with those words, he left.

Hours later, Addama left the precinct feeling relief because she was free again but tormented for what she had done.

‘Would she ever be happy again?’ She wondered.


(To read the first part of this story you can visit:

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* This story is part of The Crosseover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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The story of the English Language

History of the English Language

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Weekly Photo: Symmetry

By Nora Vasconcelos

Symmetry by NVS

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