Maisha is curled up on the sofa, her long legs tucked under her. She holds the coffee cup between her hands, staring suspiciously at the brew and sits it down again on the table between us. Not a great start. I sip my own coffee and immediately regret it, the hot liquid scalding my tongue. I sit my cup down by Maisha’s. They look like two pawns on a chessboard.
“So,” I begin. “I just have a few questions for you.”
Maisha stares at me with bored brown eyes. She shrugs.
I take that as a yes.
“Would you consider yourself religious?”
Maisha laughed. “No.”
A strange choice for one of the chosen ones. “So you don’t believe in the gods at all?”
Maisha’s mouth turns up into a smile and she leans down, picking up the coffee cup. She takes a small sip, grimacing at the bitter taste. “My father once told me there is only one god worth shit – Death.”
“But the Sacred Flame of Deshral spoke your name. You are a leader of your people now.”
Maisha laughed. “Show me a talking fire and I’ll show you a man hiding behind it spouting nonsense.”
“Right,” I replied. Time to change the topic. Something innocuous. “What’s your favourite memory?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“Just answer it.” She’s starting to get on my nerves. I make a note to kill off a friend of hers later if she doesn’t straighten out.
She takes a minute, stirring some sugar into her coffee. “When I was five, we went to visit my mother’s family. They have a small farm to the south. Doesn’t grow much, the land there is too dry. But I met my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and everyone. Every evening, when the workers came back from the fields, we’d all gather round this great big fire pit and grandma’d pass around a huge bowl of kri kesh. Sort of a couscous thing with roasted vegetables and spices that’d make your eyes water. And when we had eaten, we would join hands and sing…” She falters off. “It’s silly really.”
I shake my head and it is my turn to smile. “Will you sing for me now?”
“Do I look like a parrot?”
Oh well, worth a shot anyway.
She stands, sitting the half-drunk coffee back on the bench. “I have to go.”
I look down at the paper on my lap. She’s barely answered any of the questions. “So soon? I still have a few things to ask-”
“Maybe some other time.” She strides to the door, opens it and leaves.