Fiction

Story: The Headmistress

By: Adreyo Sen

headmistress

When Sinbad was small, I never thought she would grow to old age.

She was a sweet little thing, gravely affectionate and so eager to please me in her quiet ways.

Tractable in most things, she could be surprisingly stubborn. She obstinately refused to wear anything but a blue t-shirt and black jeans. Her cupboard was full of them.

Sinbad was five when she became curious about the little kitchen closet I never opened.

“What’s inside, Mommy?” she asked me sternly.

And then she would disappear into it for hours, emerging with toy planes, Egyptian scarabs, a cunningly crafted ship-in-a-bottle and an antique chess set with pieces carved from old oak.

“I’ve been to play with the Queen of England’s daughter,” she would inform me gravely, “And the eternal child by the railway tracks. I’ve watched the Norwegian dawn and the last embers of the dying sun over ancient Samarkand. I’ve flown with the raven queen.”

One of her acquisitions was this golden-haired doll that gaped at the world in plaintive bemusement.

Sinbad would lecture it for hours sternly. And she’d place it on the pillow next to me and sing the two of us to sleep.

I grew strangely fond of that gaping little doll.

When Sinbad was eighteen, short and stocky, with the gravely innocent ways of her childhood, she joined the RAF. “I want to see the world, Mommy,” she said with wearied patience, “I want to travel the seven seas.”

I cried myself to sleep for months after that.

And then one night, I woke to find the little golden-haired doll sitting on my nose and gaping at me.

“I’ve had this most wonderful dream, Mommy,” she said, “I was flying my Spitfire in and out the Turkish squadron, evading their fire and bringing them down. I’d never been happier And then there was this massive red light and I was sitting in a little black boat under a raven-haired woman in a black gown. She was singing so sweetly. And then I woke up and I am rather hungry, and can I have some cold chocolate please?”

And as I gathered the little girl into my arms, I knew that somewhere across the seven seas, under the gypsy shawl of the night sky, my Sinbad was dead.

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