The Shape of the Stars – Udochukwu Chidera | Short Story
There I stood, looking through the window with wandering eyes, staring at the pale moon and wishing to see your reflection in the stars that danced in the sky.
I wished to ride the Milky Way on Santa’s reindeers and meet you at the South Pole where bells jingle till daybreak.
This was the second anniversary of your death and it just felt like that sad night when the gun sang and the bullet replied in the shutters of your brain.
That night, the moon looked like it was turned upside down and sullen like a husband that rejected the wife’s meal.
It was as dark as you had prophesied in your magnum opus, The Dark Night, which was the painting that would have given you a place among the stars if you hadn’t dropped your brushes and left it staring into emptiness; the contours of the painting darkened in obvious need of the pixie dust of your brushes to bring them to life.
I still remember the night our lives changed. I was just finishing my night duty, ready to get out of my scrubs and bid the halls of the emergency ward that smelled of fresh blood and antiseptic goodbye.
With the rate of highway accidents, medical professionals like us would always pray that victims of road traffic accidents brought into the hospitals were not people we knew but that night fate dealt me a cruel twist; life was the Joker and it spurn me a rhetorical riddle from its bag of tricks.
I could barely recognize you when you were brought in. You looked dead, limp on the bed and everyone tried to restrain me as I screamed hysterically into the darkness.
“Get me the oxygen canister!!” I heard the booming voice of Doctor Madu as he battled to save you.
I went down on my knees and looked to the heavens to spare your life.
“Please, don’t let my husband die!” I cried. They stabilized you, but you lived to hear a damning revelation.
“You will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life.”
I saw the sadness in your eyes when you heard the doctor’s verdict. “How?” “Why?”, were the questions that bugged my mind.
We were still a young couple with so much to live for. You tried to take it like a man should, you tried to conceal the hurt in your eyes. You never let the tears roll and never healed your broken heart.
We never talked about it; in fact, you stopped talking altogether, locking yourself in your study for hours on end and refusing to get help.
“I wanted more than this for us. I wanted to be the best husband to you and the best father to our kids,” you said, on one of those days when you spoke in incoherent clauses.
I still remember that you went back to your first love and it wasn’t me. You were paralyzed from waist down but it didn’t stop you from picking up the paintbrush and never looking back.
I missed those days when I was your muse; the Rose to your Jack as we created sunsets re-enacting that iconic scene in the Titanic. We made them green with envy when you coloured me red with pocketfuls of sunshine stolen for the dark nights.
“Ada, I am tired. Please, don’t look for me,” it was the last time I heard that hauntingly beautiful voice swoon into my memories.
Why didn’t I stop you from pulling the trigger? My ears were deaf to your silent musings to the heavens and I only heard the deafening gunshot that spoke in the dead night finally sending the bloodhounds off your trail.
Why didn’t I see the sad eyes that were hidden behind tall canvas that held portraits painted with colourful tears from bloody palettes? The paintings called out to me like prisoners trapped in frames too small to seal their pain.
You were the tortured artist who lived in a two dimensional world seeing life from a distorted perspective. If pictures could speak I knew the shadowy voices from the disturbing silhouettes would tell me whether you hid beneath the collage of broken dreams.
You often told me of your dreams of owning your own art gallery but your abstract talent was too avant garde to all who strolled in at exhibitions. I never knew how sad you were until I saw your fiery feelings represented on the disturbing sunny murals etched on your room walls.
Never had depression worn such bright colours.
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In a fleeting fickle, you were gone with the graze of a poisoned sickle; a little rain, a little sunshine; we would have culled ripe fruits from the grapevine; all you left us with were crossword puzzles of unfinished masterpieces and I stayed up all night looking for a clue from the rubbles of scrambled alphabets.
I wish you were here to see the sunlight that shone on the Mona Lisa forcing a grin from the corners of her thin lips after I had taken her down and doused her in highly reactive bursts of undiluted water colours and softened her curves with delicate strokes of artistic wizardry.
I set her on fire and watched her set off a chain reaction the moment she strolled out of my laboratory and played to the gallery.
I just couldn’t let her get lost in the catacombs of forgotten gemstones or lay her up as supper for termites. The whole world never got to meet you but she will always be in their faces as a staggering reminder of how we let Hades gulp a shooting star.
I will still send you your flowers in death and keep staring at the moon, maybe someday; I would see my dark knight hidden in The Dark Night or your face in the shape of the stars.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Udochukwu Chidera, also known as Chi Deraa, is an award-winning writer, pharmacist and model.
She won the 2022 Movement of the People Poetry Contest, first runner up in 2022 August/September Shuzia Songs of Praise contest, the bronze medal in the 2022 May/June Shuzia Prose contest, won first place in the May edition of the D’Lit Review poetry contest, the 2021 Deborah Itohan Poetry Prize and the 2021 School of Pharmacy UNIZIK Poetry Contest.
She was also a top ten finalist in the 2021 Feb / March edition of the Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest and a two-time finalist in the 2020 and 2021 Parousia Christmas Short Story Contest.
Also, she was a finalist and contributor for the Marked Anthology published by Arts Lounge Literary Magazine, a contributor at Mystery Publishers Ltd and her short story Keziah appeared in their Our Stories Defined Anthology.
She is also a contributor at the Tush magazine, a digital online magazine where she was a finalist in their May /June 2022 contest and has her article on their website. She is also a contributor for Aayo magazine and her works appear on their website.