A seal upon your heart, p.2
A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.2Pepper Pace
Even wearing shapeless dresses and skirts and even though she lowered her eyes to look at the ground hoping that she would go unnoticed, her beauty could not be denied. But, of course there was no one to tell her this. Her life was the school and the sisters. Even when she had attended college, it was to an all-girl’s academy. Venturing into town in order to enjoy a bit of freedom was the only time that she became aware of the stares. And if she stared at the ground and never met anyone’s eyes, she learned that she became invisible.
The two young women climbed into the small car and drove back to Dhakiya’s apartment. Jane instantly fell in love with it, even though it was just a one bedroom with barely any room for all of Dhakiya’s artwork. Everything was of beautiful black people, sometimes painted with blacks and purples, sometimes with golds and pinks, some were of babies and some were lovers. They were very beautiful.
“Tell me about yourself, sis. Are you an artist?” Jane looked around the apartment as if she were in a fine museum.
“No,” her friend chuckled as she led them to a very small, very clean kitchen. “This artwork reminds me of my other life, the one before this one.”
“What did you do when you left the school?” Jane asked as she accepted a glass of lemonade. She had already learned that Dhakiya worked in customer service at a local cable TV company.
Dhakiya took a seat and gave the younger girl a careful look. “I went into therapy.”
Jane frowned. “Therapy…”
“I was very messed up. I still am. And no…don’t ask me if I prayed on it!” They both chuckled. It was the thing the sister’s always said when things got tough.
“Christ is the only therapy you need,” Jane mocked.
“Well Christ will be there to pick up the pieces when I lose my mind. But the thing is to try not to lose it in the first place!”
“I hear you!”
Dhakiya’s eyes grew sharp. “So what in the hell are you still doing at that school?”
“Well…I’ve been going to school and I just got my degree.”
“Congratulations. I always knew you were college material. But you have to get out of there, Martier. Their piousness is their poison.”
Jane shook her head, becoming uncomfortable. “You sound like one of those people they always talk about-”
Dhakiya’s dark lips twisted. “You mean one of those that are trying to lead you down the wrong path?” She rose and headed for the living room with Jane following close on her heels ready to apologize. “Do you still read the same book of the bible?” Her friend asked off-handedly.
Jane blushed and tried to deny it. Dhakiya reached a bookshelf and after a moment selected a book which she thrust into her friend’s hand. Jane saw that it was a collection of poems by Maya Angelou. She gave her a puzzled look.
“Do you know of this woman?”
“I know the name but haven’t ever read her works.”
“I want you to take this book. Read it. Read these poems and then you tell me if they are evil, if I am sending you down the wrong path.”
Jane nodded solemnly and they continued catching up while Jane explained her dilemma. Dhakiya revealed that she lived with her boyfriend. He was an African American man that was also an auto mechanic. She was in love and offered to prepare Jane a traditional dinner one day soon so that she could introduce them.
“I’d let you live here, but-“
Jane was already shaking her head. She couldn’t live with a man she didn’t know. How different her friend had become. They weren’t raised to live with a man in sin. She felt guilty judging her. But she also was not willing to cast away all that she had learned from the sisters just because Dhakiya could.
“When you have enough to pay for half of the deposit and first month’s rent then I’ll help you with the other half.”
“Are you sure?!”
“Very much so.”
As Dhakiya drove Jane back to school, she slipped a CD into the player. Jane began to nod her head to the beat of drums behind soft music. But then a voice began to sing and Jane’s eyes grew large. She looked quickly at Dhakiya. The female singer was chanting in Kinyarwanda and the voices of children could be heard. The music caused her heart to ache and her mouth flew open. She remembered…running in the sun with other little boys and girls…their voices were like bells-
Jane looked at her friend. They had parked in front of the school and Jane hadn’t even realized it. Her eyes sparkled.
Dhakiya spoke in soft Kinyarwanda. “Do you remember?”
“I won’t forget.” Jane responded in their mother tongue. Dhakiya searched her eyes. She ejected the CD.
“Take this with you-”
“No,” Jane was shaking her head adamantly. “I can’t. The sister’s-” She had moved back to English.
“Yego! Please…It’s for you to remember.” Jane swiftly took the offered CD and leaned forward to kiss her sister/friend. It was nearly eight o’clock and there was a curfew that was strictly enforced, even for an adult like Jane.
“When will I see you again?” She asked as she scrambled out of the car.
“Monday? Then you can tell me about your job.”
“Muramuke!” She called over her shoulder as she hurried up the walkway.
It was 7:50 when Jane entered the school. “Where were you?” Sister Short Mary asked. There were three nuns named Mary so everyone referred to them as Short Mary, Tall Mary and Black Mary; unless it was to their face, of course. Then they reverted back to just being Sister Mary.
“I-went to the library.” It wasn’t quite a lie…
“Well, you missed dinner so I hope you already ate. And Sister Louis was looking for you.” She didn’t seem very pleased. Sister Short Mary was a nun that had chosen to stay ‘out of the world’ her life revolved around the school, the children and church only.
“Yes, Sister. I’ll go see her now.”
“You missed devotion.”
Jane nodded as she headed up the stairs. “Yes…I’ll pray extra hard tonight.” She went to her room. Sister Callista had not retired for the night so thankfully she had the room to herself. She didn’t want to have to explain the book and the CD to the older woman. She slipped the items into her underwear drawer and then hurried to Sister Louise’s office. She wasn’t there so she went to her room.
None of the nuns had very large rooms, and they were each simply decorated. Even Sister Louise, who was as close to a Mother Superior that the school had, had only a simple room with a narrow bed, a desk and chair and 3 pictures on her walls. Jane never looked directly at any of them. They made her shiver. The first was of St Mary Bartholomea of Florence, of which the school was named. The other was of the Madonna with the Christ child on her lap and the last was of the Pieta; of Mary holding the dead Christ in her arms. Jane just couldn’t reconcile the two conflicting emotions that the painting brought.
She cleared her throat. “Sister? You were looking for me?”
The sister had retired to her gown and robe. She closed a ledger and stood. “Yes, you left so quickly I didn’t have a chance to tell you anything about where you will be employed.” The sister chuckled and Jane relaxed, remembering that sound of merriment from when she was a child and everything had been so scary until Sister Louise had brought her to the office and spoke to her so kindly. She’d laughed and the sound made Jane know that everything would be alright again. Now they were both older and the sister’s hair was steel gray instead of jet black. She had become even smaller in stature but she still carried herself as if she was as tall as Jane.
Sister told her that the law office was located in the heart of the city, which would make taking the bus very easy. St Bartholoma was located in a small suburb and the buses did not run very frequently to her area of town but she knew she could use the computer at the library to search the bus route. It was Friday and if she got up early enough Saturday morning, she would byp
Her hours would probably be 8-4:30 with a half hour lunch and her pay would simply be minimum wage. Neither of them knew what that would be, but Jane figured she could look it up when she got to the library. She was becoming excited at the prospect of working in the city—even as she was nervous at the idea of working in an important law firm.
After her meeting with Sister Louise, Jane returned to her room and opened her bible. She had neglected her reading and was expected to make up for it. But instead of reading the prescribed scripture, Jane turned to her favorite portion of the bible. As she read she became lost in the words. Her cheeks warmed and her eyes glistened in longing. She could read these words from her memory but enjoyed allowing her fingers to follow them on the page.
The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth:
For thy love is better than wine.
Because of the savor of thy good ointments
Thy name is as ointment poured forth,
Therefore do the virgins love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee:
The King hath brought me into his chambers:
We will be glad and rejoice in thee,
We will remember thy love more than wine:
The upright love thee.
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
As the tents of Kedar,
As the curtains of Solomon.
Look not upon me, because I am black,
Because the sun hath looked upon me:
My mother’s children were angry with me;
they made me the keeper of the vineyards;
but mine own vineyards have I not kept.
Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest,
Were thou makest thy flocks to rest at noon:
for why should I be as one that turneth aside
by the flocks of they companions?
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women,
Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,
And feed thy kids beside the shepherd’s tents.
When Monday finally arrived, Jane dressed in a nice navy skirt and white blouse. She only wore flat shoes due to her height, but she slipped on her nicer ones that were a bit fancier than what she usually wore. She had washed extra carefully because she had learned that here people did not like to smell the scent of your body. No one wanted to know that the space between your breast smelled of your soul, and the crease beneath your arms only told of your daily toils. Americans would much rather smell of the sweet perfumes that caused her to sneeze. But she didn’t have any of that, nor any of the scented oils that were used by her people and that smelled of spices and flower petals. All she had was soap and water and deodorant and that would just have to suffice.
She walked to the nearest bus stop, which would take her downtown, but then she would have to wait for the next bus or walk ten blocks. She walked. She was already tired when she reached the large building. She wished Dhakiya was with her right now as she looked around feeling lost and alone. There was a directory and an information desk but she decided to just look at the directory. It was already 7:45 and she had wanted to arrive early enough to feel unrushed. Now that wouldn’t happen. There. 7th floor; Rangbo, Singleton, Bradbury and Marx, Attorneys at Law.
She entered the elevator and at the 7th floor she saw another receptionist desk. The woman behind it was stylish with perfectly coiffed hair and a suit that looked like it belonged in a fashion magazine. Jane quickly straightened her navy skirt and resisted the urge to finger comb her hair.
The woman gave her a bright smile. “Good morning, how can I help you?”
“I was hired and was supposed to begin working today.” She almost put a question at the end of it. The woman nodded her head and opened a fancy notebook on her desk.
The woman kept scanning the list, and then she turned to a computer and began typing quickly. Her phone rang and she answered very professionally, “Rangbo, Singleton, Bradbury and Marx. How may I direct your call? Mr. Marx? Yes, I’ll connect you.” After she pressed a button on the phone, she returned to the computer. “Jane…spell the last name, please?”
Jane gave the spelling. “Are you sure it was today, Ma’ame? I don’t see you listed here. Hmm…let me phone the temporary service and we’ll get this straightened out-”
“Oh, I wasn’t hired by a temporary service. I was hired by Mr. Tim Singleton.” The receptionist frowned, marring the perfection of her face for the first time.
“You were hired by Mr. Singleton? Well that’s not possible. All hiring is done through human resources and Mr. Singleton would know that more than anyone.” The phone rang again and the receptionist answered without seeming ruffled. Jane just hoped that she wouldn’t have to be a receptionist. After a moment the woman focused her attention back on Jane. “I’ll call Mr. Singleton. Just one moment.” She pressed a single button on the phone. “Good morning Mr. Singleton. This is Tammy at the front desk. I have a Miss Nufaika that says she was hired by you—Nufaika. Jane Nufaika. Yes sir. Will, do.” The receptionist smiled again. “Mr. Singleton will be right down.”
Well the excitement of starting a new job was certainly not present. She just felt scared. To calm herself she began to plan what she would do during her lunch break. She wanted to go outside and look at the big buildings and maybe window shop. The sister’s gave her an allowance for the work she did for them each week. But it wasn’t considered pay, just enough for her to purchase her personal items and to eat when she was at the academy.
A large man entered the room. He carried himself well for such a large man, moving as if he owned the space he occupied…unlike Jane that tended to enter it apologetically and quickly retreat. Jane’s brow went up at his height. He had to have been at least 6’5” and he was built like a bear; a shaggy haired white bear, an unhappy shaggy haired white bear. Jane saw that his face was pulled down which increased the lines present. He appeared to be in his fifties but if he allowed his expression to move from one of annoyance…and maybe if he got rid of the white hair then he would fit very nicely in the age range of late forties.
He was very intimidating and she hoped that he wasn’t annoyed at her. No one had told her where to report and…
His eyes locked onto hers. “Jane? You’re Jane?” He closed the space between them.
“Yes sir.” She didn’t step back even though she wanted to.
“Can you type?”
“Yes sir.” She typed very well.
“Follow me.” He hadn’t even introduced himself. She glanced at the receptionist who gave her an apologetic smile as she followed the grumbling man. They got into an elevator and Mr. Singleton’s brow was gathered and his pale skin was ruddy from his annoyance at something that was thankfully not her.
“I can’t turn in this paper. It’s useless to me. I can’t find half my files and I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee in…” He turned to her. “I need you to type up a report for me. I need it to be without errors, do you think you can do that?” She raised her brow. There was a thing called spell check…
“Yes, Sir.” He seemed to calm a bit as he looked at her. Then he nodded and led her down a hallway. Small cubicles were set up neatly before larger enclosed offices with frosted glass doors and windows. When they got to the end of the hall she saw a harried woman who had several files on a messy desk. This area seemed separate from the rest of the space, though not by door or walls. A neat reception area marked its point of separation then there was the cubicle for the assistant or secretary and lastly a door leading to an office; a much more important office than the others she’d passed.
“Did you find them?” He asked in an annoyed voice.
“I’m still searching for th
He gestured towards Jane. “In my office.” She followed him and he shut the door soundly, very nearly slamming it. Mr. Singleton’s office was large and very nicely decorated in dark wooden furniture. There was warmth here that seemed at odds to the man with the pinched expression.
“I want you to use my desk and my computer to type the report. I’m going to be out there, helping my assistant find the proper files. Afterwards you’re going to help her. Obviously one person can’t successfully do this job, but maybe two can!”
A Seal Upon Your Heart by Pepper Pace / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes