by Nod Ghosh
Aunt Zoryana stands in front of my Grandmother’s house.
Mother is beside me and looks at her sister-in-law. She says Zoryana is a broken woman. My aunt has to stick pieces of herself together, but I fear she’ll find the parts no longer fit.
There is a bruise under her eye.
Father takes her suitcase, but says nothing.
We drive my aunt to the airport. She will return to her family, to an uncertain future of bare shelves and the rattle of guns at nighttime.
How things have changed in a short time. I had painted Zoryana’s lips crimson on her wedding day. The elderly ladies who had dressed her said I did a good job. I absorbed the praise like bread soaks gravy.
After the wedding feast, my father lifted me onto a table.
‘My daughter found the bride,’ he boasted, lifting my chin. ‘She is computer genius.’
‘It is true,’ Mother had said. ‘No one knows Internetting like Nadia.’
Uncle Vitaly was forty-years-old and lived with his mother. A simple man in a complex world, he would jump at loud noises. He was frightened of mice and couldn’t keep his trousers clean.
When he came to visit, he would pull my ponytail and make fun of my dolls. He spoke in the old language and called me stupid when I didn’t understand him.
Before his marriage, Grandmother cooked Vitaly’s meals, washed his clothes and looked after his money if he ever had any.
My uncle struggled to hold down a job. He would break machinery, argue with the boss and steal other men’s boots.
My parents despaired.
When will you settle?
You should have a family.
You must look after Maty now, not she you.
There’d been no hope of a wife. No one in our community wanted an unemployable man as a husband or son-in-law, especially one who looked like a scarecrow with dirty hands.
Grandmother said she couldn’t keep him anymore. It might be different if he had a wife to help she’d said, otherwise Vitaly had to come and live with us.
I’d found the website.
‘We can find Uncle Vitaly a wife.’ I’d beamed, clicking from page to page, so my parents couldn’t see what I didn’t want them to.
My mother supplied a photo. Uncle Vitaly had still had hair when it was taken.
I filled in the form.
Are you fit and healthy?
(His leg had always been like that).
Do you have a criminal record?
(The police only cautioned him for urinating from the bus shelter roof).
Have you been married before?
(I could tell the honest truth. Sometimes).
Grandmother brought my uncle to inspect the girls on my computer. Father asked many questions.
I was careful with my omissions. The site said the girl of your dreams:
… will keep your house tidy.
… always look attractive for you.
I missed out the word sexy when I read that part out.
… remembers her husband is head of the family.
Vitaly smiled as my mother translated.
Father tutted at the cost.
Grandmother said she would be happy if her boy was happy.
Within a month I was eating wedding-cake, smiling at my new Auntie, whilst relatives whispered about the size of her feet and how much younger she looked in her photo.
It lasted three months.
We’re sending Zoryana back.
Grandmother uses the word whore a lot. I’ve never heard her say it before.
Vitaly says Zoryana should have obeyed him. He is head of the family.
Father has to pay for the airfare and a lot more besides.
He takes my computer and stamps on it.
‘I need that for school,’ I plead, but the computer is in three pieces. ‘They were only little lies,’ I cry.
‘It’s not the size of the lie, Nadia,’ Mother says, ‘but how far it is from the truth.’
I try to piece the computer parts together, only to discover they no longer fit.
Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Published work can be found in: Love on the Road 2015 (Liberties Press), Landmarks (U.K. 2015 NFFD), Sleep is A Beautiful Colour (U.K. 2017 NFFD), Horizons2 (NZSA), Leaving the Red Zone (Clerestory Press, N.Z.), and various online and print journals.
Further details: http://www.nodghosh.com/about/