Fake Eyelashes by Halieo Motanyana

Bootie shorts, skin-tight clothes, insanely low-cut tops, fancy make-up and always on stilettos: Beautiful girls are, as described by the world. A book judged by its cover; A generation ruled by a machine. Beep! The sound of a hospital machine breathing life into a human. Tap! The sound of a computer commanding a human. Click! A machine directing all the switches off and like every day, darkness overcomes the world.

Twelve hours later, the sun started flicking like a miner’s torch deep beneath the earth, where only black men could make money for their families thousands of miles away. The sun rose brightly in the wake of the beautiful mountainous Kingdom creating a silhouette of a rooster standing boldly on the peak of the hill singing his first-morning lullaby and waking up the first-class. The class that owned people somewhere. This particular class only needed thirty minutes to get to their second homes: work. They were the people who dreamed and hired people to build those dreams. They were the sources of the increasing income of the country.

By the time they settled into their second homes and started coming back to the reality of hunger, the roosters started singing again back home. With the help of the hens, even the laziest of the second class started to ice out of their beds. A woman, who woke up thirty minutes after the first class leaves her house afraid of being fired for being late. It is an everyday occurrence.

The last class is not really sure of when to wake up. But eventually, they did, even blankets are bound to get tired of people, right?

In one house, the father left in the hour of first class and the mother in the hour of the second class. The house was left with one person, a girl as she saw herself in the mirror in front of her. She looked very beautiful indeed, with her hair cut flat and her round face coated in makeup. Her artificial long eyebrows brought out her big round eyes. Her lips were glossed with a dark red matte lipstick that made them look fuller. For a moment, she looked blankly at her reflection in the mirror, frowning at the pale skin showing on her forehead. Something was not right. She felt everything was wrong.

The last month had been the toughest of her life; as if her father’s constant nagging about acting like an upstanding man wasn’t enough, her mother’s had developed an incessant need to match her with a reputable young man if she was going to continue to act like a woman. The day she walked out of her room dressed as a woman her father had slapped her across the face making clear that he would not allow such disgrace in his family, either she abided by his laws or she closes the door on her way out. Her father’s laws were never simple and they had caused her tears every day since she agreed to abide by his rules. Looking at herself in the mirror, all she saw was pain and sorrow in her eyes. This was not what she had imagined her life would turn out to be like.

She looked back to her best friend’s words when she confided in him, “This is a big step and many people are going to mock and disgrace you. Never lose faith in yourself. Remember you are doing this for yourself and you are not alone. I will always be here for you.” Remembering that always made her feel better about her situation.

There was an exercise she practiced often. She had read about it somewhere. It told her to create an encouraging word that will calm her heart every time she felt lost. It could be her name or God or her favorite word. She took a deep breath and whispered her name, “Mpho”. She repeated the routine several times.

Mpho sat in place even after her father had left. Just like waking up wasn’t her choice, sitting there wasn’t her choice either. Her mother had told her to wake up and prepare herself for the blind date that she had arranged for her later at 11:00 am. When she asked why she had to wake eight hours before the date, her mother answered easily, “You have to prepare yourself properly, my child. You have to make a very good impression to this man. He is a very important man and needs a beautiful wife. Come on now, these blankets will never get you a husband and good life.”

Like always, her mother was the one who had to get what she wanted in everything. She had reluctantly woken up and started going around the house doing nothing in particular. Despite the five other men who had already refused Mpho, her mother was still very determined to find dates for her in every possible way. She told Mpho that it was her fault that men didn’t look at her; it was because she hadn’t contained herself appropriately like a lady. When Mpho announced to her mother that she was a woman and not a man, her mother had taken it upon herself to find an eligible bachelor she approved of. Her father, on the other hand, was a completely different story.

For the longest time, Mpho couldn’t understand her parents. Just a month ago, she was her father’s perfect son. She went to work with him and was proclaimed as the heir of the company. She was forced to wear suits and act like a gentleman. She attended meetings with her father and everything was narrowly smooth for them. The only problem was when people would mistakenly call her a girl. That was when she incurred her father’s wrath.

Once after a meeting with prominent people, Mpho was greeting the men when one of them approached her. The man complimented her beauty and before his father could respond, Mpho had already thanked the man and blushed blindly. When they got home, her father complained to her mother about her behavior. His actual words were, “I can’t take this nonsense anymore ‘Mampho. Whatever the devil has possessed this child of yours is beyond control. He is a man pretending to be a woman flirting with other men in my business. Just try your prayers on him or whatever it is that you want, but I don’t want this demonic behavior in my house.” Hearing her own father say those words, her heart contracted. She could take anyone’s insults but not her own father’s. From that day onwards she stopped attending her father’s business and became her mother’s puppet instead.

To read the complete story please purchase the Sanctuary here.

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