Spite and Malice

You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?

lavendar eyesI noticed her the second she walked in. She paused to scan the room, obviously looking for someone. As soon as she saw me, she walked right to me. Her face was oddly expressionless.

“I’ve been looking for you,” she said.

“Oh? Well,” I said playfully. “You most certainly did. Here I am!” I beamed at the girl, who couldn’t have been more than 13 or 14 years old. I did not know who she was.

“Yes, I did.” she plainly stated.

Short and very slight, she was the most striking beauty I’d have ever seen in a man or woman. Her jet black hair hung straight down past her waist, and the sunlight coming in from coffee shop’s storefront windows reflected back iridescent strands of Safire blue. There was not a blemish on her stunningly perfect heart shaped face. Her large eyes were deep lavender with bright flecks of garish gold, outlined by short, thick, jet black lashes and elegantly arched brows. Transfixed by the strange, beautiful child, I knew I was gazing at her the way little children will openly stare at something that fascinates them, but I couldn’t help it.

“May I sit with you?” She asked.

“Of course,” I gestured somewhat grandly to the chair opposite me. She took the seat, leaned a little bit forward over the table with her hands in her lap, and stared intently at me. I didn’t move muscle.

“This book you are reading, it is good?” She asked, gesturing with her head to the novel on the table in front of me. Her head moved in a kind-of reverent nod as she spoke. Mimicking her a bit, I nodded in reply.

“You will tell me about it. Please.”

“Uh…I just started it, actually, so I have no idea what it’s about. Not yet.”

“But you selected it….”

“Yes, yes, I did,” I interrupted.

“…with deliberate consideration.” Her head continued to bob up and down, again, as if in a kind-of genuflection.

“Of course.”

She was silent, but now searching my face. For what, I wasn’t sure. I felt my cheeks blush.

“So, how can I help you?” I said bluntly, needing to take charge of the strange situation. “You say you’ve been looking for me, but,” she started to reply, but I put up my hand to stop her, “…but, first, please, you have to tell me how you know me. I don’t think you sai…”

“Your mother,” she said.

I flinched. “My mother? My mother has been gone…my mother died years ago. I’m sure before you were…”

“Yes. She died when I was five years old.”

I couldn’t think of what to say. Mentioning my mother years after her death was very strange; something about this girl was strange, and my inherent no-nonsense sensibility began to reassert itself.

“Well, then,” I continued, “If you knew my mother, then you know that, were she here, she would insist that you respond to my questions, so,” and without letting her respond, I quickly continued, counting off on my fingers as I went, “How did you know my mother, who are you and, be honest, how do you know who I am?”

“Yes,” she replied again, this time lowering her head and eyes almost to the surface of the table before lifting up to meet my gaze again. “Your mother is a friend of mine. She is very amusing! I like her very much. She has taught me ‘Spite and Malice.’ She says, with more practice, I will become very good, and one day I will win and she will lose.”

As she spoke, a smile broadened wide across my face. “My mother taught you ‘Spite and Malice’…when you were five years old…four?’”

“You have other questions,” she said. “I must reply as you requested.” I gestured for her to continue.

“My name is Amrusha Koshi. I live here, in the city …”

“With your parents, I assume?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

I shrugged. “You seem young. How old are you?”

“I will be 14 in two months.” I smiled. I was right about her age.

“My auntie lives with us, as well. And I have an older brother. Do you want to know his age, too?”

“No, no. Not necessary. So, continue. How do you know my mother? I mean, I assume your parents were her clients, or maybe your aunt?”

“She came to see me two weeks ago.”

We sat in silence for a moment. I could not completely fathom what she had said.

“Amrusha, can I get you something,” I suddenly blurted, “maybe something to drink? A soda? Water? Tea?”

“Yes, thank you. I would like tea, please. Black.”

I excused myself and walked to the counter to get Amrusha Koshi, the very odd and very beautiful tweener, who apparently was visited by the spirit of my long-dead mother for the specific reason of teaching her how to play ‘Spite and Malice,’ a mug of Earl Grey. Neat.

As the barista prepared her mug and topped off my coffee, I watched her. She continued to sit very still, staring in front of her, when suddenly she let out a loud, high-pitched giggle, which drew looks from others in the café. Just as abruptly, she went silent and still again.

I placed the mug of tea in front of her and asked her why she had laughed.

“Your mother!” Her incredible eyes were bright and wide. “She is so very funny!”

“Yeah….Mom was a very funny lady,” I half-sarcastically quipped.

“The answer to your last question…”Amrusha started to say.

“Oh, I’m sorry…what was my last question?”

“How I know who you are.”

“Ah, yes. Please continue.”

“I assume that the answer was obvious, because I have already told it to you. I know your mother. She is my friend.”

I raised my eyebrows, drew in a deep breath and took a moment to gather my thoughts. “And, so, Mom, my mother, came to see you, in a dream….?” Amrusha shrugged. “…and apparently knew I was here at the café and told you to drop whatever you were doing and come find me? Is that it?”

“Not exactly. She…”

I stopped her. “Never mind. The point is, my mother, from the great beyond, told you to find me here today, at this hour. Here, in this place.”

“Yes.”

“It’s just that…not including how strange this all is…I don’t come to this place often. At least, not regularly.”

Amrusha was nonplussed. “She said you were here, and asked me to come see you.”

“And…did she say why?”

“No.”

“Ah. OK.”

My bafflement suddenly turned to benevolence. I narrowed my eyes at Amrusha. “And, do your parents know you are here? Or, where you are? And, why?”

I waited for her to respond, but she didn’t reply. She only blew air over her hot mug of tea before taking a tentative sip.

“Well,” I shrugged, and stared out the window at the street. My mother never once gave any credence to the likelihood that anyone could talk to the dead. “Ironic to say the least,” I muttered to myself.

“What is ironic?” Amrusha asked, herself now looking a bit confused. I wasn’t entirely sure if she was asking after the meaning of the word, or why I found the situation as such. Either way, it was clear Amrusha possessed absolutely no sense of irony.

“Nothing, never mind…And she didn’t say why she wanted you to come find me here today.”

Amrusha shook her head. I could not think of anything more to say.

We sat quietly considering each other for what seemed like a very long while. I finished my coffee. She sipped her tea. I broke off a piece of my cookie and offered it to her. She politely declined.

“Ya know,” I finally ventured, “I thought I spied several decks of cards, in the bookcase, over there…” Amrusha turned to see where I had indicated. “Why don’t we play some ‘Spite and Malice.’ I’ll give you a few pointers of my own.”

Amrusha paused and then let out another high-pitched giggle. “Your mother said to me just now that you do not play well, but if you happen to win, I am to accuse you of cheating!”

Tears welled up in my eyes. Whenever I happened to win at the card game my mother loved to play, she always teased that I was cheating.

“Oh, my dear girl,” I reached across the table, reaching for her hands. She lifted them from her lap and held them open to me. I grasped them both, “you don’t know how much it hurts to miss your mother.”

Amrusha smiled.

“Has anyone told you that you are a very beautiful girl, but also a sort-of odd little thing?”

This time she frowned. “All the time. My brother, in particular. He calls me, ‘weird,’ and tells me that I am to leave him alone. He is very mean to me.”

“Well, brothers can be like that. Don’t worry. He’ll grow out of it, eventually. Maybe. Anyway, c’mon. Let’s play some cards.”

This work by L Rose is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at bylrose.wordpress.com.

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