Spicy with a Hint of Tobacco
I'm not really sure how to start a diary. Or a story. Well, I guess I'll just start. Here goes.
I'm writing this because I'm sure that if I keep the words inside of me much longer, I might just burst. I have a lot to say, and I've got no one to listen. So here's to hoping that this book will listen to me as I write. Unlike everyone that's heard parts of my story, it won't mind if I cry. Or if I laugh, or even scream. And it can't run away from me, either, or take me anywhere I don't want to go. A book can't take you places, can it?
Well, correct me if I'm wrong.
My old English teacher, Ms Donnovan, once told me how to write a story.
′Instead of asking what your plot is, ask who your character is,’ she explained, ′Ask who they are, what they want, and what stops them from getting that.’ This is a story. This is my story. So I guess I need to answer those questions.
Well, my character is me. Sayna Albers. There is nothing more to tell, really. I’m boring. I’m me.
What I want—Well, it’s complicated, right? There isn’t just one thing I want anymore. Was there ever? Most kids my age might want the new computer thingy that gives their thumbs a workout – I don’t know what they’re called. Me, though? What do I want?
I can tell you what I used to want… It sounds pathetic, I know, but… I wanted freedom. I wanted happiness. I wanted a home, a family that loves me.
Ok, that’s unfair. I have a family and a home and, if I’m honest, a little too much freedom. But I didn’t have what every other kid seemed to have.
I didn’t have happiness. I didn’t have anything close to it.
But now? What do I want now? I have less than I used to, and yet I used to want everything. Now I don’t even know what I would like to have. A clean dairy, perhaps? No— that’s not right. I do know what I want.
I already said this, didn't I? What I want more than anything in the world is a kind heart, a kind ear. I want the shoulder to cry on that everyone else seems to have.
Anyway, moving on. The last question was what stops the character from getting what they want. Me? What stops me from having someone that loves me? I don’t know. Maybe I’m too dirty, too smelly. Maybe it’s the colour of my skin or the fact that I wear a second-hand uniform to school.
Whatever it is, the bottom line is that I ain’t getting that shoulder.
With every year older I get, I doubt I ever will.
“Sayna!” Mumma screams.
This is where we come in. Where we’re starting. In the present tense. I could go back and explain every situation, give details on every twist and turn in my life. But hey, my life is like anyone else’s. It’s complicated.
“Sayna!” This time there’s a growl to her voice.
I run inside the house, trying not to breathe in too much of the smell – it’s dingy in here, spicy with a hint of tobacco. “Mumma, stop yelling! Rita’s sleeping!”
“No, she ain’t. I checked her cot just now.”
“Yes, she is. She’s on the hammock and I only just got her to nod off, so don’t go waking her.”
Mumma nodded slowly, and I retreated back outside, where, mind you, I took a big breath of clean air.
I watch Rita sleep for a little while. It might’ve been creepy if I weren’t her big sister. Her eyes flutter every so often, her lashes long and gorgeous. I watch her lips, parted so adorably, as they move with the rising and falling of her chest. I remember when Mumma brought her home for the first time. I wasn’t allowed to see her for a week in case I hurt her accidentally, but one night I snuck into Mumma’s room. That night, I glimpsed my baby sister for the first time. A tight beanie was slipped over her bald head, her face pink and chubby and simply the most precious thing I’d ever seen. I sat there the whole night, watching her sleep. After that, it was every night that I slipped into Mumma’s room and sat with my sister. She woke up some nights, but she slit so neatly into my arms that it only seemed fitting to rock her back to sleep.
Now, she’s old enough to talk and walk and go to sleep herself. But with every night that I put Rita to bed, I feel like I have a purpose again. So while most little girls her age go to kinder and learn to count, Rita stays home and gets tucked into her naps by her big sister.
Want to know her first word?
If you were to take it literally, it’s a load of gibberish. But if you ask me, it’s a mixture of ‘Sayna’ and ‘sister.’