The time was nearing 7pm and the sky was dark… (W.Tadhuvana)5 min read

The time was nearing 7pm and the sky was dark, stars at sunset were shining like never before, illuminating the dark sky like snowflakes.  The crickets were in competition to outsmart each other in chirping, their chirps being the only sound in the atmosphere.  The temperatures had dropped to below three degrees Celsius and the girls, Mara and Mildred (the twins), Jessica and Farai were gathering around the camp fire.  The fire seemed to be shy and occasionally died down as though the wood had entered self-preservation mode.  Its flames seemed to be sucked into the air before reaching the girls’ frozen hands thus there was brisk rubbing of hands to generate heat. 

With more wood added by Mara, the fire started burning brightly with orange flames that would put Sean Paul’s ever blazing love to shame with the flames going up into the air in a curvy format as though they were doing a belly dance of sorts. 

Copious amounts of Fourth Street and Rose were being consumed and there was chit chat mostly centred on who had become engaged amongst the former high school classmates, who had gotten what job, what promotion, small talk like that.  There was laughter in the air, which seemed to be energised by the brightly burning camp fire.  It was a girls’ camp after all and what is a girls’ gathering without laughter.

Jessica suggested that they play two truths and a lie.  That had been their favourite game since high school as it enabled them to catch up with each other and to show themselves how much they knew about each other.  They always bonded over the game.  It also brought out their competitiveness as they outwitted each other to get the most points and ultimately win the game.

The game was progressing well and as usual, Mara was leading.  It was as though she had an elephant’s memory when it came to remembering the finer details of her friends’ life events and this always gave her an advantage over them.  She was also agile and quick on her feet and as such, she was always the first to get up and answer, again giving her a lead over her friends and twin sister.

Mildred cleared her throat, attempting to get up and staggered, falling back on the blanket that she was sitting on.  She stood up again, this time more determined not to fall and raised her half full glass as if to make a toast and this was met by cheers and claps to celebrate her finally being able to get up.  There were beaming smiles on the girls’ faces as they also raised their glasses. “Stage three breast cancer, stage three breast cancer and stage three breast cancer!  Two truths and a lie right?” Mildred shouted almost running out of breath whilst raising her glass again and quickly sat down.

An eerie silence engulfed the camp fire.  The crickets which had been falling over each other to make the loudest chirps suddenly stopped chirping.  In the distance, there was a staccato of bursts of laughter by a hyena who did not seem to understand that his laugh was ill-timed.

The fire was still burning brightly but it was cold and raining in the girls’ hearts.  Collectively all the girls wore puzzled expressions at the same time showing a surging perplexity and shock.  The girls were stupefied.

What had just happened?

Was this drunk talk or coming from the abundance of Mildred’s heart?

The fire as if sensing the fall in the girls’ energy slowly began to die down and retreat into a cocoon, also perhaps because no one was poking the fire anymore to keep it alive.  It was as if the fire’s energy was simultaneously dying with the girls’ energy.

A stream of tears cascaded down Mara’s cheeks.  There were no two truths and a lie anymore, but just cold hard facts that her twin had stage breast three cancer.  What tormented her soul the most was that, Mildred had not thought to share this with her at all but chose to reveal her truth in such a manner.  Her heart felt as though it was breaking into tiny fragments.  She felt anguish and betrayal.  Betrayal because her twin had not confided in her, they were sisters who were supposed to stand together.  Mara felt numb from the grief and anguish and was feeling colder than before, despite the fire’s warmth.  At the same time, Mara could not help but wonder what Mildred was going through.  Her not confiding in her meant that this was deep and weighing down heavily on her thus the silence.  But they had always shared everything about anything thus the depth of this issue was no excuse for Mildred not sharing her pain.

Mara was not sure how to feel towards Mildred, anger or sympathy?  Anger because she had let her down by bottling up the issue and not confiding in her.  But sympathy too, what was Mildred going through? Nerve-wrecking fear and confusion?  Had she sought treatment?  Did she have any options?  There was so much to consider.

Jessica and Farai exchanged brief stolen glances.  Jessica regretted having suggested the game, for had she had not suggested it, the gory truth would not have come out in the manner that it did.  Farai wondered if she and Jessica needed to excuse themselves so that they would leave the twins to iron out their differences and have a heart-to-heart conversation.

Mara got up with tears still falling like a waterfall and walked to where Mildred was sitting.  She knelt next to her hugging her and started weeping to which Mildred responded by weeping as well.  Jessica and Farai also got up and knelt next to Mara forming a circle around Mildred whilst hugging her.

There was weeping around the camp fire.