Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about control by Chiranthi Rajapakse.
Chiranthi Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan writer. She grew up in Kandy and now lives in Colombo. She studied law and has worked as a journalist, communications officer, and researcher. She first qualified as a dentist, but realized that she didn’t want to pursue a career in it, worked with a human rights NGO and then studied law. She currently works as a project coordinator in the development sector. She currently shares a house with two dogs and one demanding cat and finds it impossible to answer questions like ‘Where do you see yourself in five years time’.
Chiranthi is the author of one short story collection Names and Numbers which was shortlisted for the 2017 Gratiaen Prize. Her writing has also been published in New Ceylon Writing and City, a quarterly journal of South Asian literature. Her miscellaneous writings can be found at https://chiranthi.medium.com/.
‘When She is Older’ follows a mother buying her daughter an expensive new dress.
The room was a small box full of colour.
As they entered, Mohamed was standing behind the counter cutting cloth. Lalani liked the way he cut without cutting, holding the scissor, and running the cloth against it, so that the pieces of silk fell smoothly to either side.
Lalani shook her head. Hasitha was half hiding behind her. She pulled her forward.
She upended the black bag on the counter. The glittering material slid out. From darkness to light.
Mohamed’s eyebrows rose.
‘A dress,’ Lalani said. Her hands sketched the air.
He still looked surprised. Usually Hasitha’s dresses were functional – good material, sewn to last. Adequate. Like the one she was wearing that day – a yellow cotton print, a little faded now after much washing – which would last her several months until she grew taller.
The cloth had come to Lalani unexpectedly, a gift from a relative visiting from abroad. It was not something she would have bought herself. When her aunt gave her the package she had peered inside the ugly white plastic bag expecting a sensible sari or jacket material, getting ready to speak the usual phrases: oh thank you, so useful, just what I needed. And this had slid out. A dark blue-green material, with a faint sheen that changed with the light. Perfect for a party dress. A dress with intricate embroidery and a flared skirt that would shimmer in the light. She had never had such a dress herself. It was not what Hasitha needed – she didn’t need a party dress – but faced with desire, need didn’t enter into it at all.