Saturday, 28 March 2015


    Twenty-Seven years of a happy marriage, twenty-Seven years of a stable household were more than she ever asked for. Since she was a young child, she dreamt of aging with the man she would love and of seeing her grandchildren grow older…

     Our Story begins here at the very beginning of 1962’s long waited summer; June 4th, to be precise. That day was a Monday –God Mrs Shannon hated that day- the day on which her 16-year-old son Damon started working with his father at the factory since they needed every penny to pay the house rent and some of their debts. She, too, wanted to work but her husband said that hours of assembling heavy car parts were too hard to bear for a woman. That day was a rainy day, she had a premonition that something bad was about to happen. What exactly?! She had no idea. At the door, she kissed both her son and her husband goodbye, then came and hugged them tightly as if that was the last moment she would see them.
 Mrs Shannon had to distract herself from the anxiety within, so she went shopping to cook her son’s favorite meal “celebrating” his first day at work ….Time flew by like so fast an arrow that she didn’t realize that it was almost dinner time!!
Dinner ready, house clean… the mother had nothing else to do but to sit down and wait for her dear son and husband. So long she had to wait… “What could have happened to them? Why are they three hours late?” she was repeating to herself. She went to the kitchen, turned on the radio and her heart started thumping… “A tragic accident had caused several casualties including the death of a teenage boy and his father and some other seriously injured passersby. Our deepest condolences to their families” the radio announced…

    A month after their awful misfortune, Mrs Shannon was still shocked, still denying the fact that she had lost all her family. She even blamed herself for their death. The house owner kicked her out because she couldn’t pay her rent. The poor woman had nowhere to go. At that moment she believed that all the odds were against her and that her whole life was nothing more than a curse. She pledged that a day will come when she regains her safety and happiness… But she had to do something to survive. What could she do? The only activity she mastered was housework. “Working as a housemaid for a rich family would guarantee me shelter and food”, she said.  Only one family accepted her request- the Martins- a widow named Elizabeth and Amanda, her 5-year-old daughter.

The job of Mrs Shannon consisted in raising the little Amanda. The arrogant lady wasn’t a good mother; she refused to acknowledge her child except when disciplining her…The girl became quickly attached to her nanny. To her, Mrs Shannon was like the mom she wanted so much to have.

 While her mom was busy attending and throwing tea parties, the poor maid was taking good care of the little Amanda. Elise never missed an occasion to vex her at home, in private and in public. She typically enjoyed humiliating her in front of her extravagant friends. She even told her daughter not to consider Mrs Shannon more than a servant, a doormat she can trample at any time. That was very cruel… Mrs Shannon cried in silence. “How can a human being treat another with disdain just because he or she is different or looks different?"…

One day, when the poor maid was reading the usual bed-time story to the little Amanda, she was startled by a remark made by the little girl…Words that that may put the little girl in trouble.
The girl innocently turned to her after finishing the story, looked at her with admiration, then said " Nanny, why am I not black like you?"
The woman was surprised, stared back at her for a while, and then smiled gently. In her mind, thoughts were wrestling. She knew long ago that the girl wasn't like her mother despite the noticeable resemblance. The difference of course wasn't in the appearance. The girl, unlike her mother, was loving and warm-hearted and got along with all the kids she has met despite their colour and their status.

 “Why did she ask such a question? She can be proud of how she looks and how she lives…but nobody is born racist”, Mrs Shannon replied to her own question.
If her mom hears what her daughter said, both of us will be in trouble. I'm used to it, she thought, but the poor angel would be thrashed... Elizabeth may also accuse me of brain-washing her daughter and kick me out".

“It’s just a color sweetie. It doesn't matter how we look. We’re born that way. What matters is how we grow to be. "The girl looked perplexed but nanny continued ". Let's put it this way; when you eat your cereals at breakfast, how do you choose them?"
"… taste of course", replied the girl.
" Exactly" she said, “It would be stupid to choose them based on their color instead of their taste. It goes the same with people darling.”
" Oh, I see. It’s like when the beauty loved the beast for his good heart although he was ugly."
"Exactly", replied Mrs Shannon.
    Shannon put the book down, kissed Amanda goodnight, and was about to blow out the candles when the girl whispered “Don’t. I want to read it once more." Shannon left the room knowing that the girl could not read, she was just looking at the pictures.

       Amanda loved books though she was too young to read. When her eyes failed her to continue "reading", the book slid and hit the candles before it landed on the cold floor.
She was left alone in her enormous bedroom. She could feel temperature rising in her body; she was sweating, shocked by the terrible scene when she opened her eyes. Flames were devouring everything around her. A voice from the other side of the door was calling her name. She called for help but nothing happened. Then the bare truth hit her, the wreckage caused by the fire had blocked the door. She wanted to scream but words have failed her. Her brain seemed to be burning with the rest of the stuff in her room. Flames surrounded her in a corner, she fell on the floor. Every muscle in her body seemed to scream, she felt like she was boiling. Only her lungs seemed to fight, gasping for a breath they couldn't reach. Her eyes were closing now, but she could still hear a voice of broken glass. An arm was holding her, dragging her away. Was it death? Yet how could she feel so comfortable in death's hands? She saw a face… It was her guardian angel.

The next thing she felt was when she was laying on the floor, a woman beside her, her mother, looking anxious and pale. The first words she uttered were «Nanny!!! Mommy?…. where is she?" Her mom looked even paler now. She explained to her what happened. 

         It was Shannon who saved her life. She broke the window, got past the flames and grabbed her; something fell on her head while getting her out of the window. She lost balance, and flames surrounded her. Only after two fire-men who intervened that she was taken out. “They say she won't make it to the hospital even if they drove her immediately”, her mom said.
“I know she saved you, but it was her fault! How could she let this happen? She was supposed to blow out the candles. She put your life in danger!  Black trash!" she spat on the floor.
Amanda wasn't listening; she had spotted Shannon with people around her. She got up, and ran to her. Her mom was shouting something she could not hear clearly.

        She couldn't stand seeing her in that state. Her skin was burned and deep cuts were all over her body. Her head was bleeding but no one helped. They only stared. “Can anyone help?” she shouted.
She sobbed harder and felt incapable. Her mom was there now, too.
Shannon looked at the girl, gathering her force and said “Don’t cry, baby. We are all dying. I’m not afraid of that. You shouldn't either." She sighed, lifted her eyes to the sky and said “someone’s waiting for me there… Very dear to my heart… An angel like you. He left me early… He’s waiting for me… I’m going to meet him. I miss him so much…”
Amanda remembered the story Nanny told her before about her son. The little girl started to have a clear idea about death. But her thoughts were interrupted by Mrs Shannon’s words.

       Mrs Shannon turned to her Elizabeth. She lifted her hand, placed it on her bleeding head then held it to the woman's eye level and told her “we all bleed the same color after all…"

     The words devastated Elizabeth. She felt ashamed for what she did and said. The smile on Mrs Shannon’s dead face haunted all her life… 

Written by 
Youssef Mabrouki & Nour Azaiez

(1st Sec- Dar Chabaane Sec. School)