50 Rose Tower by Oluchi Ezeh

• Sep 11, 2019 •

The summer before our family fell apart, a legend started on our estate. I was ten at the time, and like every other ten year old, all I wanted to do was spend summer riding around on my bike at the park near our house. The climbing frames in the park were rusty and completely discoloured – unless whoever built them had intended brown to be the colour of childhood excitement – so it didn’t appeal to many parents as an afterschool site. Also, I’m pretty sure that drug dealers used to hang out there but I never met any, so how much of a presence could they have been really, you know?

“Hooligans,” my mother would say, shaking her head as the plantain simmered in the frying pan. She was cooking three things at once, as per usual, and the plantain was always the loudest, though no match for her voice. “That’s what you want to be, abi Marcus? One of those ye-ye boys who hangs around this place, anyhow?”
I didn’t know what a ye-ye boy was; man was really just out here trying to ride his bike with his friends, but mum wasn’t having it. In the end, the only reason she let me go on these apparent daytime terror rides was because of Omar.
Omar was the older brother of my best friend, Yusuf. At 16 years old, he was a God among boys; we – myself, Yusuf, Caleb and Jacob – worshipped him. He could score a goal on anyone, thrash anyone on Playstation and I swear at one point, he was seeing two girls at once, without his parents knowing. He was the coolest guy I had ever known.
Any lesser mortal would have used our complete idolisation to their advantage – had us running errands for him all summer, making us his little worker bees, but Omar was cool. He liked us. He would hang out with us and look after us and instil any Nigerian parent with the confidence that their child was in good hands.
“Don’t worry, Aunty Uwa,” he would tell my mum with the easiest smile. “I’ll look after the boys. We’re just going to walk to the chip shop and go to the park. I’ll bring them back before you get back from work.”
In her defence, it was only a matter of time for mum to agree; Omar just had that power, even at that age. Like he knew everything was going to be okay, even if you didn’t. It was only later that we’d all realise that he hung out with us not because he wanted to, but because we needed it. Four ten year olds left to their own devices could fall into a lot of trouble in South London in those days.
On those slow, summer days, time would bend itself in loops and we’d do some things twice. There was always time. A lazy wander to the chip shop, double back through the park, finesse some 10p sweets from the corner shop…The journey was the same but never boring. There was time enough to make up legends.
Omar would collect all of our coins and exchange them for greasy red boxes of chicken and chips at the local shop. We’d climb onto the high chairs with the peeling red leather seats and lavishly sprinkle salt on our feast and then go back to sit around the park. If the Last Supper had been set in Deptford, Jesus would have had a box of chips, a snapback and an easy smile.
“Is the story about the Cotton Socks Boys true?” Caleb had asked one day as we devoured our food. Omar frowned.
“Of course it’s true.”
“I don’t think it is,” I announced. The Cotton Socks Boys was the story of the biggest legend around at the time. A group of teenagers, notorious for committing crimes without shoes, had been said to have hidden money they stole somewhere in Deptford. Nobody knew where, nobody could even say if it was true. Nobody except Omar. “Where would anyone get £1 million, in Deptford? And where would they hide it?”
“Somewhere only the smartest kids can find it,” Omar said, leaning forward with a glint in his eye. We all looked to him. “They say that there’s a treasure map out there somewhere and if you figure out all the clues, you’ll be the richest man in Deptford. No one could fight you for it, because you found it fair and square. They say the Cotton Socks Boys left it so that whoever found it would be their successors and be the protectors of Deptford.” After a moment, he leaned back, sticking another hand into his
box of chips. “But what would I know? It’s just a story, innit,” Omar shrugged and glanced up at the sun. “Come on, it’s getting late, let’s head back.”

“Quick, before Kwadjo sees us,” Omar would whisper conspiratorially as we reached the block of flats, and we’d all sneak our bikes quickly past the bottom right window of Rose Tower. My parents had lived in Rose Tower since before me or my younger brother, David, were born. Each block of flats in the area had a beautiful name. Daisy Tower. Buttercup Tower. Sunflower Tower. Bluebell Tower. Perhaps the council thought that the names would influence the place – that it would dull the smell of cigarettes and alcohol that filled the stairways, or that it would mask the always-broken lifts and always-peeling paint. 50 Rose Tower sounded like a fairy-tale address but the building left much to be desired.
Kwadjo, the object of our avoidance, was another man of legend. He had one green eye and one light brown eye and he walked with a slight but urgent limp. He never really smiled but he never really frowned either; he was what I imagined true neutrality looked like. Every day we would go to the park behind our house and every day he would come to the window and water his plants, and talk to himself – no doubt, in the minds of four 10 year olds who didn’t understand eccentricity, incantations he was using
to curse the locals into giving him what he wanted. Everyone would speed up when they got to Kwadjo’s house, and the same legendary rhyme would ring in their ears. If you see the man with two different eyes, say a prayer and look to the sky.
“You know, they say Kwadjo was one of the Cotton Socks Boys,” Omar told us once as we wheeled our bikes back. “It was his idea for them to take their shoes off and run from the police when they stole the money to make them silent.”
“No way,” I had laughed, and Omar shrugged faux-sheepishly.
“I don’t know for sure, I wasn’t there. But have you ever seen the guy wear loud shoes?” And from then on, we were all forever avoiding Kwadjo’s eyes and looking at his shoes.
On the other side of the flat doors, also on the bottom floor was Dionne. Dionne was in Omar’s year and she had the shiniest hair I’d ever seen. White teeth that shone bright against dark skin. She was everything four ten year old boys knew about beauty, and we imagined she and Omar were in love. One time Yusuf asked him and he’d snorted, putting down his playstation controller. “What does a ten year old know about being in love?” he laughed, picking Yusuf up and tickling him. Yusuf squirmed and
struggled and dropped to the floor, convulsing in fits of laughter that spread to the rest of us. In the ensuing chase, we forgot that the question lingered unanswered. Of course he loved her. You only kissed people that you loved, that’s what the movies taught us. And Omar kissed Dionne all the time.
Anyway, this was how it was from when I was seven to when I was ten. Summer was always the same. Days were always endless. Time was always bending. The chips were always good. We’d follow Omar the way the animals must have followed Noah onto the ark, sure of salvation. I’m stressing the metaphors here (biblical – can you tell I went to Sunday school?) to say that Omar was everything that we knew about being teenagers and being cool. This particular legend, the legend of this story, in which Rose Tower began to fall from the sky, would be impossible to tell without Omar, but equally impossible to tell without Tunde.

Tunde lived in the flat opposite mine. The first words I ever heard him say were let me carry this for you and I think in some form he was always saying that forever after. He wanted to help everyone – he carried the shopping bags for mum, he got the post for our neighbour, Mrs Olatunji, he even got peppers from the market for Kwadjo, unbothered by the man’s strange behaviour.
I remember the day that Tunde told my mum he had a girlfriend – it was the same day Omar had explained a book he was reading to us– The Three Musketeers – and we’d all scrambled to figure out which ones we were. Turns out there were actually four musketeers, a fact which pleased the four of us greatly. We were talking about their names, and I had happened to mention hers in the ever-growing list of strange names
we’d encountered.
“Her name is Princess?” Caleb said in disbelief and I nodded.
“Tunde said she’s a hairdresser. Aunty Zena doesn’t like her though. She acts like she does, but she always kisses her teeth behind her back.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Jacob whined. “Kwadjo is always kissing his teeth at nothing. Like, there’ll be no-one around and he’ll be kissing his teeth.”
“Yeah, but Kwadjo’s just weird, innit,” Yusuf said. “Have you seen his eyes? They’re so weird, man.”
“Heterochromia,” Omar said lazily from where he was lying on the floor by the bench, letting his chest rise and fall as he stared up at the sky. His arm was strewn over his face to protect from the sun, and he was fiddling with a tennis ball he’d found around his house days earlier. We all looked over at him from our hierarchical positions on the climbing frame. I was second from the top – of course, Yusuf was only at the top because
he was related to Omar, and Omar was the undisputed king. Even at this age we understood nepotism.
Jacob snorted from the bottom rung.
“Yusuf, what’s your brother speaking gibberish for?”
“It’s not gibberish,” Omar said leaning up on his forearms, and facing us. “It’s science. That’s what they call it when you have two different coloured eyes.”
“So he’s not cursed?” I asked and Omar grinned.
“Nah, he’s definitely cursed. Why else would he willingly cut his hair like that? All lopsided and everything.”

“I don’t understand,” Mum was saying to Tunde when I got back home. “Tunde, what time do you have for a girlfriend in your house? Is that not a distraction? Why don’t you get your degree first and then she can move in? Where are you rushing to?”
But I love her.
You can’t love her later?
No, ma. She has nowhere else to go. And I love her.

Then mum shrugged and said, “Well, it’s your own. I have said my own.”
A month later Princess moved in with him and his roommate, Emeka. It didn’t take long for Emeka to move out though – he got a job in West London and moved in with his brother there. So it was just Princess and Tunde in 49 Rose Tower, with only each other to look at every day.
I should mention Princess didn’t have a job. Nah, actually, that’s not fair. She was a hairdresser without a salon, so people had to come to her. Sometimes they did. Sometimes Princess just sat at home all day, in the silence of their flat, looking at letters with someone else’s name on them, in a flat she didn’t own, waiting for a man who wouldn’t marry her. Even though he’d moved in with her, he still took what mum said to heart. Get the degree and everything else can come later. Tunde wanted to be an
engineer. Princess wanted to be an engineer’s wife.
I’d walk downstairs every day to meet Omar and Yusuf and Caleb and Jacob, and Tunde would be in the doorway arguing with Princess about what time he got home the previous evening. They’d quieten down whenever they saw me – they probably thought I would snitch to my mum about their relationship if I saw anything, but I was just ready to go meet the boys. Besides, their relationship snitched on them more than I ever could.
Tunde had wanted her to make friends with our family, but it didn’t take. Princess was too loud, she was too rude, she was too much like the village girls my mum and aunt had worked hard to leave back in Nigeria. It wasn’t just that she wasn’t educated it was that she didn’t want an education. They had nothing to say to each other apart from good morning. Even my dad, as absent as he was, and as jovial as he was to everybody,
knew to stay away from Princess.
After a while, Tunde wasn’t much better. School in the morning, working at a security firm in the afternoon; by the time he came back all he had to say was hello and goodnight.
First Princess was confused and then she was sad. And then she was angry.
Fam. When I tell you Nigerian girls invented anger. Jeez.
Princess knew exactly how long it took Tunde to get from school to work to home, and if he walked in the door a minute late, she wanted to know why. Tunde was a proud man (Did I bring myself to this country, or did she bring me, he’d yell to my dad on the evenings when they’d had a fight so bad he had to leave) so she’d ask him questions and he’d shut down. After all, did she pay for anything in the house? Maybe she’d do someone’s braids once every two months and collect £40, but wasn’t Tunde putting food on the table every day? He’d tell her she needed to relax with the questions and she’d tell him he was a stupid mongoose destined to be an eternal student. Nigerians are imaginative with the insults like that.
Tunde and Princess fought, man. They would scream at each other from the moment Tunde walked in to the moment he walked out the next morning. Back then I didn’t know that love could be glamorous or kind or patient. From my parents all I knew was that Love was indifferent. Love sat five feet away from itself, in silence. It ate jollof like there wasn’t anyone else in the room.
Then Princess moved in with Tunde, and love changed. Love was sweet at first, and was always happy to see you. Until it wasn’t. Then it fought and screamed and woke the neighbours up, and held your front door open so Hate could come in while Love quietly slipped out and you never noticed the difference.
Then, one day, Hate wrote a legend that would make us forget all about the Cotton Socks Boys.

“We shall not, we shall not be moved!” We sang in a chorus from the climbing frame. Omar sat opposite us by the bench at the entrance, and he watched in entertainment as four young boys refused his simple request of returning home for the day. Yusuf had spearheaded the song, and pretty soon all four of us were singing at the top of our lungs, as Omar sat back, bemused at our deluded belief in our own power.
“Is it?” he called. “How are youse lot getting home then? Yusuf, you got house keys now?”
Yusuf glanced at me, wavering for a second but our resolve was strong. If we went home now, we wouldn’t get to hang out again for days – Omar was going with his father to visit their uncle in Manchester.
“Oi, listen,” Omar said, finally standing up, clearly having had enough of our songs. “Anyone who’s not ready to go in five minutes, you’re forfeiting your chips.”
“What’s a forfeit?”
“It’s when I eat all of your chips. Chicken too,” he announced, then clapped his arms. “Come on man, sharpish, I’ve got things to doooooo.” He dragged the end of the word out and we all begrudgingly got off the climbing frame.
As we rode our bikes back, the sound of yelling caught our attention. We all stood staring up into the sky, hands raised against the sun looking for the source of the disembodied voices.
Omar saw the source first. He looked over to me.
“Hey, Marcus, let me walk you up, yeah?”
The lift was broken, so the walk up to my floor was long but Omar didn’t complain. We didn’t speak really – Tunde and Princess were yelling enough to drown out any potential conversation.
As we got to my door, Tunde was leaving his own. He glanced at us once, then shook his head and carried on down the stairs, too annoyed to even try the lift. I looked to Omar, who wiggled his eyebrows as if to say how weird was that. I laughed, and Omar knocked.
Mum opened the door, and if she was surprised at Omar accompanying me up the stairs she didn’t show it.
“Thank you, Omar, you’re a good boy,” Mum said in the tone she always used to address other people’s kids. She glanced towards Tunde’s door, and ushered me inside. “Some people don’t respect themselves. How can you be living like this? For what?” she said, shaking her head. Omar shifted uncomfortably.
“I can’t take the boys to the park tomorrow, Aunty Uwa. My dad and I are visiting family.”
“Ah, it’s okay, my son. It’s so good of you to look after the boys during the holidays. I know you’re a busy boy.”
“It’s okay,” Omar said with an easy shrug. “I don’t mind.” Then he disappeared back down the stairs.

It was two days after that the event happened. Like I said, this was the story of Tunde and Princess, and two days after this things reached boiling point. Why, you ask? After all the arguing, all the insults, what finally made Princess snap?
A bloody laptop.
You see, Tunde, the eternal student had decided enough was enough – he was going to get that degree, get a job befitting of a graduate and maybe even marry Princess. He was going to get serious about his education. But to do that he needed to stop with the internet cafeé shit and buy himself a laptop.
I don’t know the specifics of the argument – all adults who were involved as witnesses have different versions of the story, but apparently Tunde had told her he didn’t have any money because he spent it on the laptop. He didn’t ask before he did this because it was his money after all. Then she, finding this unacceptable, had grabbed it and held it out the window and Tunde had started yelling. He opened the door and called for my parents, who came out expecting a fire. I followed them, also expecting a fire, and having never seen one.
The scene could not have been better if it had been painted. Princess, arm outstretched, the thick 2004 laptop dangling from her perfectly manicured fingers, the breeze from the window blowing her hair back. Cut to Tunde, standing on the other side of the room, hand outstretched, as if he could grab the thing from where he was stood. Cut to my parents, watching in horror, wanting to intervene but unsure of the best way. Cut to me, at the edge of the frame, sneaking in behind them, too young to see this iteration of Love. Cut to a long shot of all of us, frozen.
No sound. At least, I don’t remember the sound. I don’t remember much of what happened in the moments before she dropped it. Only that she did.
We all watched as the laptop flew out of Princess’ hands and if my stomach could have risen out of me, flipped and dropped again it would have. I see the moment and I wish I could have moved, could have caught it…but it’s too late. Already it’s flying out of her hands, already it’s soaring through the air, and Tunde is yelling and the laptop is crashing to the ground and Dad is running to the window, and the legend is forming
before our eyes.
Rose Tower is falling from the sky. I see the moment of the legend in my mind a lot.
I never see it from below, though. That’s where the real action was.
You see, at that same exact moment, Kwadjo is watering the plants in his ground floor apartment, and Dionne is leaning out of her window on the other side, and Omar is riding up with his bike, about to collect his young squadron for their daily chip stroll. Had he not slowed to see Dionne, to flash her the estate-famous smile, he probably would have been knocked out by the rapidly speeding laptop cutting through the sky. But as it happens, he was moving so slowly, riding up and not sitting on the seat, so
when the laptop hit the ground next to him and shards of glass flew into the wires and into his arm, he was only partially thrown off. It was the falling that did it though. An awkward fall onto the ground onto shards of glass that broke his leg in two places. Dionne screamed. Tunde screamed. My mother screamed. Omar groaned in pain as his wrist snapped out of place and his leg took on damage. The legend formed itself. Rose Tower is falling out of the sky. Check your head before you walk under it.

I don’t remember how I got back into my own flat, in my own bed. Maybe Zena came and got me, maybe mum yelled until I disappeared back in, but in my next conscious moment, I was sitting in the room I shared with my brother, watching anvils fall from the sky in Looney Tunes, trying to figure out why my heart was beating the way it was. At some point, I heard an ambulance in the distance but I was already drifting to sleep. I dreamed about the park in the summer and saw a man in cotton socks sitting patiently underneath the swing. He turned to me and smiled toothily and when he spoke the words caught on the wind and drifted away. He glanced to the sky and looked back at me and when he did, two different coloured eyes stared back. One green and one brown.
I picked up my bike to ride away, but suddenly the earth was shaking, and I was shaking and it was my mum, shaking me awake. Omar had been taken to the hospital. He was fine but she was going to make him some food and take it over to Yusuf’s house, and Aunty Zena was going to look after us while she was gone. Rose Tower is falling from the sky.
A few days later, Caleb, Jacob and I were riding our bikes back home from the park, but now we were aimless. There had been no chips. No legends about the Cotton Socks boys. As we were coming up to Rose Tower, something made us slow down. Maybe it was the screams of Dionne, Tunde, my mother and Omar all ringing in my ears, but suddenly I was dismounting and looking up to the sky for falling objects.
By the time we reached just outside the door, we’d all stopped talking. There, on the cracked, discoloured pavement was the remains of The Days Before. Broken laptop pieces were strewn about, though the crucial components had gone.
Nobody spoke.
We looked down at the broken parts, and Kwadjo laughed, the disembodied sound catching on the wind as we looked over to him. His smile was wide and toothy and he leaned out of the window on his thin, bony arms.
“You see how they picked it apart? Took all its parts and left the base? These people will take anything, you know!” He cackled again and looked up at the sky. I gripped the handlebars of the bike tightly and swallowed uncomfortably, before I began to push the bike up the small incline away from the park. “You boys check your heads always, you understand?” Kwadjo called after us. We wheeled our bikes faster.

The day I went with mum to visit Omar as he got out of the hospital, she’d sat me down and told me sternly that I wasn’t to say anything about how he looked, or ask anything about the surgery and definitely couldn’t mention The Cane. I nodded along, eager to see the leader of our gang. Abandonment had started to weigh heavier and heavier and all I
wanted to know was when he’d be back. I’d even been to the shop to get his usual six wings and chips, and now I was clutching the red box, still warm from bossman’s fryer, ready to present it to Omar. I knew he’d like it. He’d grin and douse it in ketchup and start telling me stories about the hospital and other legends about the Cotton Socks Boys.
Omar, who always manoeuvred us onto the inner side of the pavement. Who always made us ride ahead of him, and lined us up before he could give us all our chip boxes. The big brother we all shared, bonded by experience if not blood.
He didn’t grin. He didn’t douse it in ketchup. He didn’t even look at me as I came in.
He had been set up on the sofa by his parents, installed with blankets and pillows onto which to elevate his leg. His wrist was in a cast, and the right side of his face was all cut up, and grazed. There was a line of stitches right by his eyebrow. But the thing we noticed first was the scowl – a now seemingly permanent fixture that had apparently appeared the moment the doctor had produced the cane he would be forced to walk with for at least the next couple of weeks. No more bike rides. No more seeing Dionne. All because of a laptop.
Instantly, my mum goes to his mum, who busies herself cleaning things around the house. My mum hands off the dish of food, and his mum gratefully accepts. Seamlessly they move towards the dining table. Omar doesn’t look at me, doesn’t even seem to register me or anything outside of the TV show he’s watching. He has a look I’d never seen before. Perhaps anger. I’d never seen Omar get angry. Maybe this is what it looked like.
Hesitantly, I stepped forward.
“I brought you some chips,” I said in my meek, ten year old voice. Omar looked at me then, with emotionless eyes, before his gaze flitted down to the red box I put on the table beside him.
“Thanks,” he said, but his voice doesn’t believe it. Neither do my ears. I look at Omar’s mother, who has come back over and shifts uncomfortably before going to sit down next to him. She looks smaller somehow, even though to me she’d always been 100 feet tall.
Omar’s mum stroked his head. He jerked his head away, like her touch burned him. He looked away. She sighed, the love in her eyes wasted on the back of his head. Let me carry this for you. He turns the volume up on the TV.
After a couple of hours of nothing, mum and I head back home, and I dreamed of the park.

That night mum announced that we were moving. Just announced it, like it was nothing. Like she wasn’t breaking up the Knights of Deptford Market, as if we hadn’t just lost our King Arthur and could afford to lose Lancelot too. (Yeah I was definitely Lancelot, I worked it out. Yusuf was Percival. Caleb was Galahad. Jacob was all the other ones, I guess.)
I had to tell the boys as soon as I could. We had still been going to the park, although our mums would only let us stay for an hour – and there was no walk to the chip shop. Mum seemed to cover up her dislike of our journey by sending me on errands. This time, it was to get peppers for Kwadjo – since the incident, Tunde had been otherwise occupied and had apparently forgotten to get him some from the market. I had worked it into my
journey back from the park.
When I got there, they were already around.
“Is Omar okay?” Caleb asks me. Nobody is sitting on the climbing frame. I shrug.
“I think so. I don’t know.” I shifted on my feet. “I’m moving.”
No-one spoke. We sat in silence for a while until our allotted hour of time was up. I picked up my bike and rode to the market.

“You got something for me, boy?” Kwadjo said from where he was sat outside the block as I rode up. He’d brought out an old looking deckchair, apparently to watch the estate and had placed a CD player next to him. It blared tunes in a language I didn’t understand. Silently I walked my bike over and handed him the bag of peppers. “You’re a good one, you know. Tell your mother I said thank you.” He put the peppers down and seemed to
produce a half-peeled orange from nowhere. “Something new with you?” he asked me. Kwadjo never asked us anything.
“We’re moving,” is all I can think to say and Kwadjo peers at me strangely for a moment, so long it started to look like one of his eyes was shining brighter than the other. Then he shakes his head, looks back down at his too-bright orange and continues peeling.
“Your mum thinks she’s clever. But the sky falls everywhere, no matter where you are, you understand? Things always fall from the sky.” He looked at me like he wanted an answer, on his faded deckchair throne.
I didn’t know what to say so I just wheeled the bike on.

The next time mum goes to visit Omar with food, I steel myself for what lies ahead. I had convinced myself that he only needed reminding of the legends of Deptford. He only needed cheering up, and what was a musketeer for if not to help those in need? That’s why I brought another box of chips, took a deep breath and told him what I’d been thinking about all week.
“I think it’s under the climbing frame,” I said finally. Omar frowned at me, face still emotionless.
“What?” he said, his voice dry. The TV was still blaring in the background, a show that Omar wasn’t watching. He had barely said three words since the accident apparently, not even to Yusuf. Instead, Yusuf just hung around waiting for his brother to go back to the guy he was, to jump up and throw away his cane and declare that it was a day for eating chips and riding bikes. But he didn’t. He sat in front of the TV and watched
Deal or No Deal.
“The Cotton Socks Boys’ money. One million pounds. I think it’s under the climbing frame. I had a dream…” I trailed off.
Omar looked at me, and his eyes didn’t light up with adventure. His was the voice that launched a thousand missions, and yet when it spoke this time, it was full of something else. Disdain. Anger. A final realisation that the 16 year old mind was above the 10 year old’s.
“It’s just a story, Marcus,” he said finally, and looked away back to the TV. “Someone probably did that as a fucking joke.”

I dreamed about the market when I got home. In the dream, the man at the till had a massive bald spot and when he turned around to get me the peppers it only seemed to grow. “Come again,” he said in the dream, though his voice didn’t sound like his at all – it was strange and distorted. He handed me the blue bag when he said it, and he was making bare eye contact and it kind of looked like one of his eyes was green and shining brighter than the other, but my bus was coming, so I thanked him and made my way home.
I know right.
Maybe I’m projecting, but swear down, when I see him in my mind, I see two different eyes.

Anyway. That was how the legend of Rose Tower falling from the sky started. Of course, in the coming years, the legend would become that the building was crumbling, falling apart and killing those who were undeserving. If you walk under Rose Tower watch your head. Rose Tower is falling from the sky.
In a year my parents would be divorced and I’d be sitting in a cinema watching a
Shrek film with David while mum changed the locks. Yusuf and I would stop speaking. I’d never hear what happened to Omar and Dionne and Kwadjo. I know about Tunde though.
Aunty Zena came home from church one day and told us she heard he had a heart attack. He’d broken up with Princess as soon as The Event happened, and she’d been arrested and let go for some minor charge. She moved out and got on with a hairdressing business. Life moved on I guess.

The last day of summer, mum had made me take David to the park with me before she came to pick us up on the way back from work. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the park with my little brother, but he’d been inside watching Looney Tunes all week with Aunty Zena and it was driving her crazy. We walked down to the park together, him buzzing with energy, me feeling melancholy. I didn’t know that was the feeling at the time – melancholy is a big word for a ten year old. All I knew was I didn’t
want to be there.
When we got to the park, David ran to the swing, and I drifted towards the climbing frame. I looked at it for a moment, in all its discoloured glory, before walking towards it and slipping underneath it. On the bottom of one of the rungs someone had carved something. CSB. And an arrow pointing down.
“Marcus,” David’s singsong voice came out behind me. “Mum said you have to watch me. I can’t go on the climbing frame if you don’t watch me.” It’s just a story, Marcus. I sighed, and pulled myself out from under the climbing frame. I stood up and dusted my trousers off and then gestured to his backpack. “Give me that,” I said, tapping it. He slipped the heavy thing off his shoulders and ran ahead of me freely. I slipped one arm through the strap and let it hang off my shoulders. Then I sat down on the bench opposite and waited for mum to come pick us up.

Oluchi Ezeh is a recent English Literature graduate from Oxford University. She worked as the first Film and Theatre Editor for Onyx Magazine, a magazine for African and Caribbean students intended to encourage participation in creative fields. She has also worked in theatre as an assistant director and an actress, performing in Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Colored Girls’ in Oxford, and is currently working on other writing projects. This is her first short story. Twitter: @Olu30

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