Sesamee Seed: Prologue.

by | Aug 24, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

“My basil is dying, I don’t know why,” She said softly, holding a small plastic pot containing the sorry-looking herb. She’d used the ‘a’ as in ache when referring to the plant. Cradling it like an ailing child, she continued, her huge brown eyes filled with genuine concern. “I think it’s the air in this room, it’s too dry.

”His gaze drifted between the semi-desiccated leaves and those wistful portals to her soul. It took him back twelve months to the same look.

“Please don’t leave me here, I’ll die. I hate this place, I hate the people.” She’d pleaded for herself on that occasion, just like she did now, on behalf of the dying basil plant. Then it suddenly clicked, they were the same, these two mournful entities, and he carefully took the pot from her grip.

”Leave it with me, I’ll take care of it,” he reassured her. A promise that looked as impossible to keep as the one he’d made a year ago. That pledge, against all odds, had brought her three thousand miles to this tiny studio flat in his city.

“Would you like tea Azizam?” Her address, Persian for dear, was a trickle of ice water down his back.

“Yes please Princess, that would be good”, he answered. Princess, the name he thought was original but had turned out was her nickname since childhood. His mouth watered in anticipation of both the ritual and the beverage itself. She proceeded to make a pot of Earl Grey, adding a large spoon of Manuka honey and two leaves from a sorry-looking mint plant.

The brew was captivating and always reminded him of these brief visits. He’d made it at home several times but it was never the same. While sipping the hot, sweet brew, he studied the teaspoon balanced upright on the rim of the honey jar. This was one of her many strange habits, along with obsessive hand washing and making him remove his shoes. So insistent she’d been about the latter, he’d bought a cheap pair of slippers. Rarely worn, they stood near the door next to her small collection of footwear. This included the biggest pair of Doc Martens, reminiscent of Elton John in Pinball Wizard. He’d once placed his backpack next to the shoes and was promptly scolded for putting it in ‘that dirty place’.

As the mixture of caramelised honey, aromatic mint, and bergamot disappeared behind the bitterness of the tea, the awkwardness returned. He finished his tea and got up to leave.

“So soon? You’ve only just arrived!” she said, sitting on the edge of the double bed that took up half the room. He nodded silently and she added in a resigned tone, “OK Azizam, don’t forget Basil.” He smiled inwardly at her pronunciation of the plant’s name.

“Tomato,” he uttered out of the blue, the English way.

“Pardon? Tomato?” she enquired, using the aching ‘a’ again.

Looking straight into those huge brown circles, like two identical cups of macchiato, he began to sing the song from the film, Shall We Dance, performed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

“You say either and I say either. You say neither and I say neither…”

A look of puzzlement descended over her melancholic features, quickly replaced by a giant smile, like the changing colours of the night sky. Her prominent cheeks lifted a touch more, revealing a dimple beneath each eye, two shy birds peeping from behind a bush. He had only witnessed those bashful indentations once in twelve months, so rarely did she smile.

“You say Basil and I say Basil,” she giggled. Then, as the last indigo glow faded from the twilight of her expression, darkness descended.

“Please don’t leave now. I have something to tell you.” The exceptional smile disappeared along with the dimples, to be replaced with the most serious of expressions. The sudden transformation froze his blood. He knew her well enough to realise what she had to say was serious. She wasn’t the type to trivialise issues and he suspected there was something of a thunderbolt coming his way.

“What is it, Princess? Has something happened? “ He took one of her small hands in his, noticing the colour of her nail polish. It was identical to the honey in the jar on the table. Her taste was impeccable, even in make-up.

“I’m going home, Azizam. It was a mistake, I’ve let you down.” The simple sentences hit him like a runaway train. He struggled mid-breath, not knowing whether to inhale or exhale.

“What? Why? Of course you haven’t. I’m so proud of you. You’ll never know how much” The words crawled from his lips with the last gasp of air in his lungs. Still paralysed by her revelation, his vacuous chest refused to inflate and the room began to spin. The look on her face did nothing to kickstart his respiration. He had witnessed her full catalogue of melancholy in six months but this was Top Trumps. She looked lost like an alien who had landed on a hostile planet. Her eyes took on another level of dolour.

“Azizam, are you all right?” She echoed the concern she’d shown him all those months ago, which did nothing for his shock at her initial statement. Going home? Am I all right? His brain was sandwiched between the vice formed by the two sentences. The involuntary act of breathing suddenly became conscious. Staring at the half-finished painting, the image suddenly came to life as if a breeze wafted across the meadow and he gasped to feed his failing awareness. Clarity returned at the fresh shot of oxygen, in time to see her place the chair behind him into which he collapsed. Closing his eyes, he placed the heels of his hands against them until his retinas lit up with the pressure.

His eyes adjusted to the light and the release of the pressure from his palms. The room was moving again and he turned to the half-finished painting propped in the easel, which did its job. As his anxiety abated, he turned to look directly into her eyes. She seemed to be aware of this and averted her gaze. The moment had gone and he regretted all of the times he’d done the same to her. Whenever she’d looked at him, his first reaction had been to look away.


Two weeks later, while washing the dishes, he filled the tiny jug he used for the iron and poured its contents into the plastic pot. Immediately, it soaked through the black soil and poured into the saucer below. He swore that he could sense the huge mass of glossy leaves thanking him for the gift of life.

Clicking on the kettle, he took down the Earl Grey from the cupboard, tore a couple of leaves from the adjacent mint plant, and got out the jar of Manuka honey, attempting to balance the teaspoon on the rim of the jar. It fell onto the table with a clatter.

It was at that very moment that he recalled the day this whole saga began, in his friend and therapist’s surgery, not a hundred metres from her tiny studio.

Chapter One:

“You don’t know what it’s like to lose someone. Someone so close, so young. She was too young to die. How can you ever know what it’s like?” Tony Patterson half-pleaded, half-argued with the man sitting opposite him…


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