If curiosity killed the cat, cora was doomed to die more times than you could count. Fortunately for her, that was just a metaphor and though curiosity pulsed through her twelve year old veins, she was no cat – and therefore she was safe from the inevitable death of a quizzical mind-or so she thought. Cora didn’t understand that within a metaphor often lay a deeper metaphor, and that the killing of the cat, didn’t always refer to a physical death. For every emotion felt, there was a potential death.
Cora sat in the dining room across the table from her mother who was hurriedly shoving papers into her briefcase getting ready to go back to work. Her lunch-break had ended twelve seconds ago and between Cora’s distracting never-ending questions and the clog of lunch hour traffic she was yet to face, Cora’s mother was sure she’d make it back to the office in time to be a whole lot late. Meanwhile, Cora sat, pencil in hand, softly tapping against her homework book.
“Don’t ask Cora, you’ll only irritate her,” she snapped at herself trying her hardest not to fall into a spiral of deep thought, which often lead to a dozen questions. But the harder she tried, the more coils of curiosity seemed to be added onto the spiral. She didn’t dare voice even just one question because she knew how relentlessly annoying her mother found it.
“Now is not the time,” she told herself. She caught a glimpse of her mother’s hazel eyes as they scurried across the room in search of her phone. As soon as she found it, they stopped dead on Cora and she said, “Go on then. Ask.” She couldn’t bare Cora’s overwhelmingly concerned face anymore. You could always feel it when Cora had stepped into a curiosity spiral. There was a heavy pause as Cora tried to phrase her question in the least annoying way possible.
“I have green eyes,” her fingers traced the words on her homework book, trying very hard not to make any eye contact.
“Why?” All the noise of papers being shuffled was swallowed up by complete silence and for a fleeting second, a look of panic was visible in her mother’s hazel eyes.
“Your grandfather’s eyes were green. Genetics, I guess.” Said her mother as she brushed the question away as quickly as possible.
“Lock the door behind me, your father will be here at four,” and with that, Cora’s mom whisked away to work leaving Cora, her orange pencil and her very confused self staring deep into the pages of her notebook, as if in search for some type of assurance. Had it not been for her mother’s strange end to the question, Cora would have been satisfied with the ‘genetics’ excuse. Cora had never known the truth could be portrayed through ways that weren’t spoken and in that moment, her mother’s eyes held more truth than the words her lips let out. Now Cora had two options: to just let it go or find out why her mother’s eyes contradicted her words. And because Cora didn’t have a ‘let it go’ bone in her body, the latter option was inevitable. Ten minutes later, her feet carried her all the way into her parents room and onto a stool. Now she stood balanced, arms stretched, digging through the pile of documents her mother kept in the top drawer of her closet. Her balance was disturbed from time to time by a sneeze because of how dusty the drawer was.
This meant that she could do two things at once; search through the pile of documents while cleaning it so that she could please her parents and they wouldn’t be too mad at her for going through their stuff. She stepped down from the stool and went to the kitchen to get a cleaning cloth. One-two one-two, she was back on the stool with a cloth. She pulled down all the document and the papers all splashed all over the floor of her mother’s workroom. She dusted out the entire drawer before she went down to go through the papers.
“I wonder what these papers are…” she said to herself as she sat cross-legged on the floor going through the papers. She took a quick glance at the analogue watch ticking away in the corner. “Wow, it is only two o’clock. I have enough time to go through everything and put it all back before anyone of them is back.”
The best thing about her mother was that she loved order so much that the papers were all labelled and arranged according to numbers so all Cora had to do was follow the numbers written in pencil on the bottom left corner of each page to know the order of the pages. The first two pages seemed like finances because everything was written in money language and there were a couple of calculations next most numbers. “BORING!” She threw that bunch far away from her because it held nothing interesting according to her. Most of the papers she was in possession of were dated a couple of years back with some stretching a two decades back. Going deeper and deeper through the pile with a juice box in her hand, she felt like a criminal investigator going through case files. Just as she was smiling to herself about how cool she probably looked, she stumbled upon a brown envelope. No address, no handwriting on the outside, just a small date typed on the top left corner.
“This date looks familiar…” she thought to herself and proceeded to carefully opening the envelope without damaging it that much. A few photos fell from inside the envelope. All the six photos were of her parents and they were all dated the same. She kept on staring at the date trying to figure out why it looked so familiar. Just as she was about to quit, she began to have an epiphany. “YESSS! That is two days before I was born. Same year, same everything.”
The picture had been of her parents standing infront of an office smiling and happy but something was not right. If it was two days before she was born, then why was her mother looking so not pregnant.
“What the he…” she tried to say as her juice box fell to the ground with her dad looking at her.
“Cora? What is wrong? You look like you just saw a…” he did not even finish his sentence when he noticed what drawer Cora had stumbled onto.
First half written by: Jennifer Valerie Motlaleselelo