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THE NEIGHBOURS


They were a tandem. Selina and her brother Dane. They giggled like goblins and always left a hurricane trail every time they visited their grandparents. Grandma Debra's heart always bubbled and gurgled with love for her effervescent munchkins. Stretching over the precast fence she gloated, "I am so blessed Rita, you have it all a beautiful home, a loving husband, and two awesome! Rugrats, not forgetting my gorgeous munchkins Selina and Dane. Debra deliberately spoke with honeyed drips of condescending prattle. Rita replied gloomily," Oh you are my blessed friend I cannot say the same. My husband is almost stone deaf, even his earplugs get tired of my megaphoned voice. Also, he is blind as a bat, selective blindness if I may candidly admit. Both our kids are in Europe and I get to see my grandkids once in a year." And she thought meekly " why in God's holy name do I endure this vainglorious witch, who is always riding high on a crooked broom" They have been neighbors for decades and Rita grudgingly tolerates her swollen-headed neighbor from next door.

Debra was glued to Facebook; social media was her glamour arena. The virtual platform was where she reigned as a queen and was as famous as the stolen crown jewels. " I do pity Rita; she is a living dead. Has nothing exciting happening in her life. Oh, my word how boring and tedious to trundle on cooking and feeding a witless husband. Soon he will run, snack, crackle, and pop into a food coma."  She rattled like a spitting cobra to Jack her husband. He had his glasses perched on his nose and was browsing through the racing section of the daily newspaper. He was an avid gambler and his pockets had huge holes thus leaving him stone-cold broke most of the time. Jack peeked at his wife with lidded eyes, often he took her jibes with a pinch of salt or just blatantly ignored her. Today was the latter.

Jack indulged his wife's every whim besides her babbling tattletales. Debra weighed her blessings on a tilting scale of monetary value. She believed that she was God's only child, a spoilt rotten trapeze artist who dared all and sundry to scale her wavering heights. Rita could hear Selina and Dane over the volume of the television. She was watching her favorite movie. She cracked a satisfied smile for she was very fond of the little goblins. The kids always peeked through the holey precast fence and made toddler conversations with her. This always brought warm memories of her faraway grandkids.

 Ben her husband watched his wife in silent adoration. She was the secret sauce to his happiness. Her modesty, ethics, and empathy made him strive daily to take snippets of her wisdom. They loved each other unconditionally. Although they missed their kids and grandkids, it was a welcoming consolation to chat over skype every other day. Serving the community was his wife's forte and he assisted whenever possible. Grief and terror always walk hand in hand with despair following in hot pursuit. The scream came like contractions, hysterical then blatant searing anger mingling with desperation. "Jack did you hear that! sounds like Debra, what? in God's green earth could be happening" They both scrambled, hastily heading towards the neighbors. "Damn ouch! freak my toe I think my toe is broken," Rita exclaimed painfully. Jack had already scaled the fence and was next door, while Rita limped and approached them enquiringly.

Debra was frantic, hands flailing and screaming. "Oh no, no oh God Please God no “staring blankly, ahead. Jack had Dane on his side while the seizure gripped him unceremoniously. Without smattering a word, Rita called the emergency services. It would be futile to call the government ambulance service for they will only come with a dying wail in a couple of hours. The seizure continued to grip Dane and Rita was anxious and desperate. If it continued for longer it would be detrimental. The sound of the wailing siren gave her instant relief. It took the emergency crew a while to stabilize little Dane before they raced with him to the nearest hospital.

Debra was huddled in a corner of the room frozen with icy shock. Her face masked in grief and tears flooded her eyelids with droplets of mascara mixing happily with the salty tears and staining her skin tight jeans with dots of dark grey. The sun bid goodbye for the day and Jack was in the kitchen brewing chai tea. The sweet aroma of cinnamon barked gently and the night sky was embellished with glittering stars. A mist of gloom blanketed Debra's home and she lay sprawled on the couch with her hands wrapped around her head in anguished. Ben was not home and Debra was clueless about his whereabouts. Rita called Danes parents and they immediately went racing to the hospital.


After Dane was stabilized he was admitted into ICU, the news sent Debra into a serious bout of depression. Jack scaled the fence once again and went home while Rita stayed behind to be with Debra. The enormity of what transpired zipped her friend's lips and she refused to utter a word, just staring blankly ahead. It seemed she escaped to a niche in her head and refused to emerge from the cushioned comfort. Rita thought perhaps reality probably be sent her friend dangling over the cliff.


The clock was unaware of its surroundings and the circumstances and it raced nonchalantly past midnight. Debra dozed off and Rita covered her with a warm throw. The front door opened and Ben waltzed in reeking of alcohol. When his eyes registered the ladies. He gaped enquiringly. "Why are you here Rita? Is there something wrong with Debra? What happened. " his questions flowed like a faulty tap. Rita stood up anger and irritation masking her face. Her body was aching and she welcomed a nice hot bubble bath and a soft pillow to cushion her throbbing head. After impatiently replaying the day's drama, she bid goodnight and scaled the fence to her waiting husband.

 The next morning the sun greeted her brightly. After preparing breakfast for Jack, she went next door to check on her friend. Debra was rooted to the same couch; with the clothes, she wore the previous day. As soon as she stepped into the house. Rita, she was a whirlwind of emotions. Angry, sad, and cackling like a goose. Ben was nowhere to be found, so she presumed he either went to the hospital or work. 

She berated her friend to take a shower and open her eyes to reality. Although Debra's reality at present has to be quite warped and selfish. She stepped into the big modern kitchen and got down to making her some decent breakfast she was deaf to her rumbling tummy and oblivious to happenings around her. Grief and a lack of sustenance rendered Debra weak and she stumbled into the kitchen.

The rest of the day trundled in a daze and, Rita's head banged like a bongo drum, listening to Debra chiding herself and wallowing in self-pity. Dane's parents called and informed them that he was still in ICU and on a ventilator. "Debra you have to be realistic, challenges are inevitable, and please understand that every time something happens we cannot crumble like cookies. Dane is strong he will be fine, all he needs right now are his doctors and prayers" Rita encouraged her friend softly, with her warm, loving arms around her, rocking gently. 


It was as if she had ignited a wild veld fire, Debra stood up, flailing arms and hysterical. "Rita you know zilch, there is so much going on and I silently endure and display a perfect façade for the world to see. I only have my grandkids, if something happens to Dane I have to die because there would be no reason to live. They love me unconditionally; I see the way their eyes light up when they come to visit. I am a groveling basket case,  every day, I am demeaned and belittled. I am not indomitable instead I crumble and beg for my husband to not leave me." Rita listened for hours even the clock refused to wait and raced to the evening. They were sitting on the porch and the moon twinkled mockingly. "Your life is going to change from this very minute my dear friend, but first you invite God into your life and do not let go of him for anything in this world. “Debra’s head was churning with doubts and conflicting emotions, but she knew Rita was right her life had just somersaulted for the better. She hugged Rita in a vice-like embrace. " Thank you, my humble friend, your heart overflows with generous love. If there is anybody that is blessed, it is you and your dear husband, Jack. Their eyes met flooding with tears and a slight chuckle. 


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