Nice New Neighbor

Amateur

(DISCLAIMER: This story is an original work done by me, its author. It was originally written as a gift for a very dear friend of mine, and has since been submitted here for the sake of its artistic value. Do not claim this story as your own work, or reproduce it as yours. The people and events depicted in this story are all fictitious; any similarity to actual persons or events is entirely coincidental.)

(FURTHER NOTES: The events depicted in this story take place in the country of Jamaica. Therefore, some of the dialogue written here will be depicted in the Jamaican patois, which is a blend of English and other languages that is unique to the island. This story is especially recommended for those of you who have visited Jamaica before and were impressed with its people and its beauty, or for those of you who have never been to Jamaica but would like to visit there someday.)

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“Good, that’s the last of it all!” Kadija Hopeton said triumphantly as she stacked the last box into an empty space in her new closet. “Honestly, I didn’t think making this move would be such a hassle…”

She closed the closet door and studied her new bedroom. The walls were painted a deep yellow—not the color she would’ve chosen, personally, but she could deal with it now and change it at a later date. The floor had white marble tiles set out in an intricate pattern. There was a chest-of-drawers in one corner of the room, equipped with a mirror, and the obligatory bed was there as well. “Looking good, looking good,” she chuckled.

She went outside to the living room and appraised the place. All the furniture and appliances she’d brought were in their proper places: the dining table and its accompanying chairs at center-stage, the television at one corner, the couch in between the TV and the dining set, and a few feet away there was the kitchen, with the fridge, blender, and other necessary things set up and ready for use. A small smile crossed the 30-year-old’s face as she surveyed it all. “Okay…everything’s good to go!” she grinned.

Suddenly something caught the corner of Kadija’s eye. “Hmm?”

Looking toward the couch, she beheld in front of it, on the floor, a small cardboard box. “What’s this now? There was one more box to empty out?” she wondered as she crossed over to the couch and picked the box up. “What’s in here…?”

Opening the box, she looked inside…then reached in and picked out a small framed photograph. As she looked at it for a long moment, her face contorted into a look of utter sadness. The picture depicted her being hugged by a smiling, baby-faced man with a mustache.

“Nathan…” she whispered.

Like a tidal wave, the rush of memories came back over her: that horrible night last July…that phone call from the hospital…the solemn voice on the line informing her that her beloved husband had been in an accident and was battling for his life…her rush to the hospital and the refusal by the nurses to let her see him…

Shaking herself out of her stupor, Kadija hastily put the picture back into the box. “Well, there’s enough time to figure out where I should put you,” she sighed. “Right now, though…I said I needed to get some onions and seasoning, didn’t I?”

Kadija was originally from Ocho Rios, a tourist resort town and the capitol city of St. Ann, a parish on the north coast of the island of Jamaica. There she had lived for several years, including the six she’d been married to her husband Nathan. During that time Kadija had been pursuing her degree at the University of the West Indies, majoring in Music with a minor in Child Education; Nathan, meanwhile, was able to support both of them through his job as the manager of a popular hotel in the town. Unfortunately, one year ago, Nathan’s car had been struck by an extremely careless driver, and he had been seriously injured; and though he put up a valiant effort for life in his hospital room over the next week, he’d eventually succumbed.

Naturally, Kadija was devastated at her loss. She had not anticipated that she could have ever become a widow at so young an age, and the thought of having lost her husband in such a manner left her feeling bitter and emotionally scarred. Unable to stay in the same place where Nathan’s life had ended, she’d made arrangements to move elsewhere, to someplace where she could get away from the constant reminders of what had happened. And so, over the course of the next year following Nathan’s funeral, Kadija had sought out good places where she could live and, perhaps, use her teaching and music skills to make a living for herself. Although they didn’t quite agree with her leaving them behind, her family and in-laws understood her grief and did what they could to help.

It was her sister-in-law who had suggested the place where she now resided: a quiet little district in the cool hills of St. James. This particular area was only thirty minutes’ drive from the main city, Montego Bay, and also, the sister-in-law had asserted, it was where one of her old high school teachers now lived as well. If Gaziantep Escort Reklamları Kadija intended to go into teaching with her degree, the sister-in-law had assured her, then this teacher would be one of the best persons to give her recommendations.

So now Kadija briefly reflected on all of this as she strolled down the street. She glanced around at the neighborhood, smiling as she observed the children playing in nearby yards. A few of the adults standing nearby called to her in greeting, and she waved back as a courtesy.

“Good afternoon, ma’am!” one woman called to her from the verandah of a house, cloth tied around her head and broom in hand. “Yu jus’ move here to live, yes? Ah saw di truck goin’ up to yu house dis mornin’!”

Kadija chuckled as she heard the woman’s generous use of the familiar Jamaican patois. “Yes, I just moved in today,” she replied, mixing in a little of the patois with her usually proper English so as not to ostracize the woman.

“Well, ah hope yu will be stayin’ here a long time, ma’am,” the woman grinned good-naturedly. “Dis is a very quiet area, yu know, ma’am, an’ everybody will ‘elp u get settled in. If yu eva need anyt’ing, jus’ mek one a wi know, ’cause we is neighbor, yu know?”

“True, true,” Kadija agreed. “Anyhow, I need to buy a few things from the shop…you think you could show me where it is?”

“Yeah, man,” the woman nodded, and she pointed up the road. “See dat green house up dere so? Di shop is di blue house next to it—is really one place, yu know, ma’am, di shopkeeper have ‘im house dere so too.”

“Okay, thanks a lot,” Kadija nodded, and hurried on.

A short moment later, she arrived at the shop—a small establishment with a grilled window separating where she stood from the goods inside. There was nobody in sight. “Hello?” she called.

“Comin’!” a loud voice yelled from a back room, followed a moment later by heavy footsteps. Then the shopkeeper appeared, a large, fat man with a graying beard.

“Hello,” said Kadija politely. “Do you have any onions?”

“Yeah,” the man answered gruffly. “‘Ow much yu want?”

“I’d like three, please, and a half-pound of meat seasoning,” Kadija replied.

Nodding, the shopkeeper turned and began to search the lower shelves. Kadija decided to make some small talk. “I just moved into this district today, you know,” she said.

“Dat so?” the shopkeeper answered. “Well, welcome, den. Wat u name?”

“Kadija Hopeton,” she told him. “And yours, sir?”

“Me name Cyrus, but everybody call me Stallion,” the shopkeeper answered. He then stood up a moment later, three onions in hand, and placed them on the counter. “All right, mi a go measure di seasoning now. Jus’ gimme a minute.”

Just then, Kadija heard a car pulling up outside the shop. Turning, she beheld a beautiful white Tesla Roadster. “Oh, who is this?” she wondered aloud.

“Eh?” Stallion turned to look at the car as well—and suddenly he grinned. “Oh! Dat a Miz Atkins’ car!”

“Miss Atkins…?” Kadija repeated.

The car door presently swung open, and its owner stepped out, clad in a light-green dress suit and sunglasses. Pausing to lock the car, she stepped quickly but firmly toward the shop, nodding to its occupants as she entered. “Good afternoon, Stallion,” she addressed the shopkeeper.

“Afternoon, Miz Atkins!” Stallion replied, still grinning and nodding his head eagerly. “Jus’ wait a bit, please, ah servin’ dis lady here right now.” Then he turned and went back to measuring out the seasoning Kadija had ordered.

“Hmm?” The newcomer tipped her sunglasses down slightly to look at Kadija out of piercing black eyes. “You’re a new face around here.”

“Yes, I just moved here today,” Kadija explained, and held out her hand. “Kadija Hopeton. Pleased to meet you, Miss Atkins.”

The other woman smiled a little as she reached out and shook Kadija’s hand. “That’s Mrs. Atkins, mind you,” she corrected.

Kadija immediately remembered—in some parts of Jamaican society, women were often addressed with the title “Miz,” a sort of in-between for “Miss” and “Missus.” And she had to admit, on closer inspection Mrs. Atkins certainly fit the bill for a “Missus”: though she was roughly about 5’5”, two inches shorter than Kadija’s own 5’7” frame, she had the look of a married woman. That impression was further aided by Mrs. Atkins’s mature face, bearing the beginnings of age-wrinkles under her eyes and around her mouth, and by her hair that was showing the first signs of graying, set back in a neat bun held in place by a hairpin. But in spite of those wrinkles and the gray in her hair, Mrs. Atkins still had a certain attractiveness about her, one enforced by the chocolate-colored glow of her skin tone, the sharp but not unfriendly look in her eyes and the smirk that was set on her lips.

“So, Ms. Hopeton,” Mrs. Atkins now asked, “what do you think of this district so far?”

“Please, just Kadija is fine,” Kadija politely informed her. “And I haven’t seen very much of the district yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far. It’s a beautiful place, and everyone here seems so friendly and willing to help.”

“Yes, ma’am, dat’s ‘ow we all stay ‘roun’ ‘ere,” Stallion remarked, presently holding up the seasoning and weighing it on his scale. “All right, half-pound. So, t’ree onion and half-pound meat seasoning…dat a $145.”

“Thank you,” said Kadija, opening her purse and pulling out two $100 bills.

“Hmm…Kadija, you said?” Mrs. Atkins remarked while Kadija collected her change. “If I may just say, your spoken English is impeccable…I hear it from very few young people nowadays.”

“Oh, thank you, Mrs. Atkins,” Kadija smiled at her. “I guess you can thank my mother for that—when I was growing up, she always used to insist that my spoken English should be as flawless as possible. ‘The Queen’s English is the tongue of English-speaking professionals in the world of work,’ she used to say.”

Mrs. Atkins chuckled. “I think I’d like to meet your mother and shake her hand. So, have you been putting her advice to good use?”

“Well, I try to stick to it, but…I guess there are times when I just go right into the patois out of habit from my primary-school days,” Kadija admitted. “But I did my best to follow that advice during university.”

“Oh, a university graduate?” Mrs. Atkins inquired.

“That’s right,” Kadija nodded. “I did a four-year Music programme, and minored in Child Education. I want to become a music teacher.”

“A music teacher, eh? Well, you’ll have quite a lot of work on your hands. Oh, just a minute.” Mrs. Atkins turned to Stallion. “Stallion, could you let me have everything on this list, please?” she asked, handing him a slip of paper.

“Right away, Miz Atkins!” Stallion nodded, and he went back to searching the shelves for the desired items on the list.

“Mrs. Atkins, excuse me, but when I heard your name just now, I was wondering,” said Kadija. “You used to teach at St. Patrick High School for Girls in Montego Bay, didn’t you?”

“Actually, I still teach there—English Language and English Literature,” Mrs. Atkins replied proudly. “I’ve been there for 25 years now. But why do you ask?”

Kadija nodded. “Do you remember ever having a student there several years ago—one Naomi Singh?”

“Naomi Singh…Naomi Singh…oh yes, now I remember!” Mrs. Atkins replied eagerly. “She was one of my best students—graduated with two distinctions, one in Language and one in Literature! How do you know her, if I may?”

“She’s my sister-in-law,” Kadija explained. “When I was moving here, she suggested that I look you up, for help getting recommendations for a school I could teach music at.”

“How very interesting,” Mrs. Atkins rubbed her chin thoughtfully and grinned. “Well, Kadija, I just may be able to assist you there. Tell me, have you finished getting settled into your new house?”

“Um…well, I finished packing everything out not too long ago,” Kadija answered.

“In that case,” said Mrs. Atkins, “would you like to come over to my house a little later and have tea with me? We can discuss where you can go to apply for that teaching position you want, and I can give you a proper welcome to this neighborhood. And I would like to know how Naomi has been doing—it’s been so many years since I last heard from her.”

“Well…I wouldn’t want to impose…and anyway, I’m a stranger to these parts…” Kadija began.

“Nonsense!” Mrs. Atkins shook her head. “It would be no trouble at all—I haven’t had a guest over in many weeks, anyway. So I’m insisting that you come over. Please do. I’d be really happy to have you.”

“Hmm…” Kadija smiled a little bit, though she cast her eyes downward. “All right, if you insist…but I’ll have to go and freshen up first…I’ve been getting the place organized all day.”

“That’s fine,” said Mrs. Atkins. “You can come over, say, 6:30—that should give me enough time to get everything ready for you. My house is a big blue house with a star-apple tree in the front yard.”

“A star-apple tree in the front yard?” Kadija asked. “That’s right next door to where I’m living now!”

“Oh? You mean your house is the house with the picket fence that had a ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard? Then this is just perfect!” Mrs. Atkins smiled broadly. “We’ll be next-door neighbors! How about that?”

“Here’s everyt’ing, Miz Atkins,” Stallion informed her at that moment, presenting a black plastic bag full of food items to her. “Dat’s $835.”

Mrs. Atkins swiftly reached for her own purse and took out some money, counting out the exact change. “Thank you, Stallion,” she said to him, collecting the bag. “Well, Kadija dear, I’m going on ahead to get things ready for when you come over, all right? I’ll see you then.”

“Wait—would you like some help with that bag? It looks pretty heavy,” Kadija observed.

“How generous of you,” Mrs. Atkins praised her. “All right, let’s lift it together then.”

Nonetheless, the bag wasn’t so heavy that the two of them together could lift it out to Mrs. Atkins’ car with ease. “Thank you, dear; I should be able to manage it when I get home,” Mrs. Atkins nodded to Kadija as they loaded the bag into the back seat. “All right, remember—6:30, okay?”

“All right, Mrs. Atkins,” said Kadija, going back inside the shop to collect her onions and seasoning. “I’ll be there soon!”

Waving farewell, Mrs. Atkins stepped into the car, driving off a moment later. “An interesting woman,” said Kadija.

“Miz Atkins is a nice lady, yu know,” Stallion commented. “She been livin’ around ‘ere for all di 25 years dat she been teachin’ at dat high school downtown. She have two children, bot’ a dem grow up an’ gone America, but her husband dead ’bout six years now.”

“She’s a widow? Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” Kadija said sympathetically.

“Uh-huh,” Stallion grunted and nodded. “Ever since den, she hardly ever have any visitors to her yard, even though we all see her out and about di place all di while. Yu probably di first one she havin’ over to visit in about two or t’ree months.”

“That long? I see…” Kadija looked out at the road where Mrs. Atkins’s car had been parked moments earlier. “Guess she must really need the company, then…”

As she turned the car into her driveway, Mrs. Atkins couldn’t help but smile. To think that that Kadija Hopeton was the sister-in-law of Naomi Singh, Mrs. Atkins’s favorite student from all those years ago…and that she had such a polite and respectful demeanor…and that she was going to be Mrs. Atkins’s next-door neighbor now…it made the 55-year-old want to dance and sing, the way she felt so happy.

She couldn’t tell how long it had honestly been since she’d last felt so invigorated. Here, she felt, was someone to whom she could confide in deeply and personally, just as she’d been able to confide in Naomi six years ago, although that contact had lessened bit by bit with time and had ended with Naomi’s marriage two years ago. Mrs. Atkins’s own husband, to whom she’d been married for 25 happy years, was now dead and gone these last six, and everything they’d shared together she now held onto by herself. Her two children from that union, a son and a daughter, were both grown now with little ones of their own, and were raising them off in the land of the Red, White and Blue, though they periodically phoned her and brought their budding families to visit each Christmas.

Still, Mrs. Atkins had felt quite alone save for the intermittent times she’d gotten to spend with Naomi and a few of her other past students. In fact, this type of confidence hadn’t begun to be shared until roughly four months after her husband’s burial, when one of her own longtime high school friends—herself a divorcee—had approached her with what she now called her “hobby.”

Aside from Naomi, Mrs. Atkins had managed to include quite a few younger women into her “hobby” over the next four years. Some were single women who’d been interested in trying something different; a few had been married women who’d been initially hesitant; but none of them ever left each encounter complaining. Then, starting two years ago, one by one they all stopped indulging in the “hobby” for one reason or another: some of the single ones, like Naomi, eventually got married themselves and didn’t wish to endanger their happiness with their new spouses; some, including the majority of the married ones, migrated for parts unknown; at least one that she knew of had died of cancer. As a result, Mrs. Atkins had had to curtail her “hobby” activities, since by now there were few of her associates still around who could continue to meet with her and to whom she could “confide” in—indeed, the last time had been three months ago, with the same divorcee who’d introduced her to the “hobby” in the first place, and that had been meant as a farewell present since the woman was leaving for England to join her son and his family.

If there was one thing Mrs. Atkins hated, it was the feeling of loneliness that had always pervaded her being. And these last three months, since she’d stopped actively pursuing her “hobby,” she’d felt quite alone. In spite of her age, she was still attractive enough for men of varying ages—even those as young as her son, who was in his late 20’s by now—to express interest; but always she’d politely turned them down. For her, no other man could ever take the place of her husband, to whom she’d surrendered her innocence and whose children she’d borne. That contributed much to her loneliness, even if she wouldn’t admit it to anyone else.

But now…here, right next door to her at that, an opportunity to relieve herself of that solitude, and perhaps to begin her “hobby” again, had arrived. Kadija Hopeton…the sister-in-law of Naomi, one of Mrs. Atkins’s former “hobby” partners…she would do just fine. From Mrs. Atkins’s visual but discreet examination of her back at the shop, the younger woman appeared to be early 30’s, a little shy in spite of her politeness, and she certainly was an attractive woman physically. Skin the color of honey…beautiful hazel eyes…dark shoulder-length hair…full, pouting lips…and a set of very impressive curves set on a well-posed body, even though these had been muted somewhat by the well-fitting blouse and skirt she’d been wearing.

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