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On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe

from May 12, 2006

The world was exactly as it should be. No more and definitely no less. She had the love of a good man. A house. And her own money—still new and fresh and the healthiest shade of green--the thought of it buoyed her and gave her a rush that made her hum.

These same streets she had walked before seemed to have acquired a certain newness. Humming, relishing the notion of new beginnings, she thought of how much her life was changing: Luc. Money. A house. She was already becoming someone else. Metamorphosing, she told herself, recalling the word from a biology class. Sloughing off a life that no longer suited her.

What she did not know, what she would find out only hours from now, was just how absolute the transition would be.

Sisi navigated the Keyserlei and imagined everything she could buy with her brand-new wealth. It would buy her forgetfulness, even from those memories that did not permit silence, making her yell in her sleep so that she woke up restless, wanting to cry. Now the shops sparkled and called to her, and she answered, touching things that took her fancy, marveling in the snatches of freedom, heady with a joy that emitted light around her and made her surer than ever that the Prophecy was undoubtedly true. This was the true epiphany. Not the one she had on a certain Wednesday night on the Vingerlingstraat. That one was a pseudo-epiphany. She knew that now.

She was hungry and stood undecided between the Panos and the Ekxi on the Keyserlei. Her new life smiled at her, benevolent and lush. It nudged her toward the Ekxi, with its price a notch higher than Panos's. She went in and bought a sandwich with lettuce spilling out the sides, ruffled and moist. To go with it, a bottle of thick fruit cocktail. She sat at a table outside, her shopping bags at her feet; the bags shimmied in the light spring breeze, evidence of her break from a parsimonious past. What should she get? Maybe a gift for Luc. A curtain for his doorless room. Imagine a room without a door! Ha! The architect who designed the house had a thing for space and light, and since Luc was coming out of a depression when he bought the house, he had been certain that space and light were the very things he needed. The lack of a door had not disturbed him in the least. "Rooms must have doors," Sisi told him when he showed her around the house. "Or curtains, at the very least!" Luc had said nothing in response. And silence was acquiescence. Certainly. Curtains with a frenetic design of triangles and squares, bold purple and white splashes against a cocoa brown, found in the HEMA. She imagined what the other women would say of Luc's doorless bedroom. She imagined their incredulous laughter. And that was enough to feed a guilt that she was trying hard to stop. She hadn't abandoned them. Had she? She had just . . . well, moved on. Surely, surely, she had that right. Still, she wondered: What were they doing now? When would they notice that she was gone?

Excerpted from On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe. Copyright © 2011 by Chika Unigwe. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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