The morning dew clung on the grass like a boy who keeps hanging around after a breakup. The scent of a new dawn rented the air, you could feel it waft through your nose into your lungs when you breathed. Trees swayed gently in the direction of the breeze and the early birds were up, ready to catch the worm. Tony was one of the early birds. He walked out of the house dressed in blue jeans and a grey pullover, hands pocketed to prevent them from freezing. He was meeting Danny at Sahara restaurant, though Danny did not understand why they needed to meet that early. But since Tony had insisted that it was urgent, they agreed to meet nonetheless over a cup of tea.
Sahara village loved its sleep. It was never eager to get out of bed. At the break of dawn, it’s when it pulled over the sheets to its head, which is to say that there were very few people on the road, mostly school children and teachers. The children appeared to be dragging their feet, wondering why they had to be subjected to early mornings in the name of education. The teachers dragged their feet too, probably wondering what they did wrong to deserve being the first ones up, and also the first ones to bid goodbye to their salaries because they were too meagre. But it wasn’t the dragging of feet that got Tony travelling down the memory lane, rather, it was the fact that Eve was also a teacher. On any normal day, she would be among those dragging their feet to school but now she wasn’t. She was in his mother’s house, hiding from him. And perhaps, hiding from her feelings. From the hurt.
He wondered what she was doing at that point in time. Was she still in bed? Or had she been awake all night thinking about him? He chuckled. There was no way she could be thinking about him, and if she was, then it wasn’t in a good way. But he couldn’t blame her. She was an innocent woman going through life as a teacher when he came along, asked her out, and on their first date, when the moon hovered over their heads, lighting their path and the desire in their hearts, he had moved closer to her, wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer to him, kissing her on the lips. She kissed him back. And he couldn’t forget how his heart raced as if it was his first kiss. She had felt so delicate yet so strong in his arms. That night, they didn’t make each other any promises, no, not in words. But yet, they both knew that something had changed. A promise had been made.
He missed her. He wished things were different. He wished that that morning, he wouldn’t have woken up to go meet another man. He wished he could have woken up to watch her sleep, stroke her hair and then whisper to her ear a little too loudly, “I am sorry to wake you up, sweetheart, but there are teenagers out there whose life depend on you and your teaching skills.” And then she would open her eyes, grin, and swear that she was going to quit that teaching job because it was not like she was employed by the government yet! And then slide out of bed to go take her shower and prepare for work because, though she wasn’t a morning person, she just loved her job. And it was this, her love for her job, that Tony did not understand. He had told her over and over again that he found it difficult to admit that she was actually a teacher.
“You mean like I find it difficult imagining you as a banker?”
“Well, I am not working in a bank. I told my mum it was a waste of time and money for me to study accounts but she wouldn’t listen. She is a stubborn woman that one.”
“She just wants the best for her son.”
He always found it adorable when she sided with his mum, which was most of the time. It was not strange that she and his mum liked each other when they met. It was not strange, now that he thought about it, that they were together right at that moment, while he was being chewed with cold.
Before he knew it he was in Sahara restaurant. The restaurant was almost empty, which was not surprising given the romantic relationship that the village had with sleep. He threw his eyes around as he pulled a seat and sighed with relief when he didn’t see Valentine. He prayed she doesn’t show up while he was still there talking to Danny, a prayer that was answered. One of the waitresses, a brown skin with thick thighs dressed in black jeans, black sweater and a white cape, approached him to ask what he would have. When she spoke, a smile lingered in the corner of her mouth. A smile pregnant with lust. Tony looked her in the eye as he always did with all waitresses, quickly shifted his gaze to her head and noticed that she had such long braids, which looked like they were done with a hair stylist who loved her job. He shrugged at his own prejudice when he assumed that the stylist was automatically a woman.
He looked her back in the eye. “Good morning, I will have tea, please.”
“Anything else, sir?”
“No, tea will be fine. And, please, just call me Tony.”
“I know your name, sir. . . Sorry. .Tony.”
“You are a regular here, remember?”
“You are right,” he mumbled, feeling somehow guilty for not remembering if he had seen her before or not. “I did not catch your name, though.”
“Nice to meet you, Stacey.”
“Nice to finally get to talk to you, Tony. I have heard so much about you,” she said with a faint wink, “nice things, that is. Only nice things.”
Tony smiled, “I would really have loved to hear what you have heard about me but seeing that my friend is here already,” he pointed at Danny who was walking through the entrance, “I guess we will have to wait till later. But first, will Valentine be coming to work?”
“No, she hasn’t shown up for the last two two days, I doubt she will be coming in today. Why do you ask, you wanted to see her?” There was a tone of disappointment in her voice as if she wasn’t happy with him asking about another woman.
“No, forget I asked.”
The waitress shook her head and left, and Tony could have sworn that she swayed her hips more vigorously than she did before. He was still smiling when he stood up to greet Danny whose eyes looked like they were still battling with sleep. They exchanged pleasantries while still standing and only sat when they were done.
“Sorry for asking you to meet me this early.”
“I am only hoping your reasons are, well, reasonable,” Danny said, his eyes fixed on the waitress walking towards them with a glass of tea balancing on a tray. He watched her set it up on the table before asking him what he would have.
“A cup of tea and two fried eggs, please.”
Tony noticed that even though the waitress smiled at Danny, it was not the same smile she offered him earlier on. This was a courtesy smile while the other one was a smile rich in admiration and want. A smile that said that though she was happy to be serving him tea, she would also be more than glad to serve him with other things. All he had to do was ask. But he wasn’t going to ask because he was in deep shit already and he needed to focus. He needed to do things differently. He, simply put, needed to man up. And that’s why he had asked Danny to meet him.
“How is Clair?”
“Furious that I had to leave her alone in bed with this cold. I told her you are to blame for this and so she has sworn to kill you the next time you meet.”
Tony laughed, “I will write my will sooner then.”
There was a brief silence between them, especially when the waitress came back to serve Danny his tea and fried eggs. Danny stirred his tea with his eyes set on Tony who was sipping his and said, “You sounded worried over the phone, man. Is everything okay?”
“Eve is leaving me,” he said blatantly.
Danny stopped stirring his tea. “What? I mean, why?”
“She found out the truth.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am talking about your situation, you know.”
Danny stared him in the face hoping that he would blink but he did not. He leaned back against his chair, crossed his arms over his chest and said, “How did she find out? I thought this was supposed to be a top secret?”
“It was my fault she found out but look, that’s not even the issue here. The issue is it was a bad idea from the word go to come up with such an arrangement and we both need to come clean.”
“I am not doing that.”
“Bro, you do not have a choice. Eve already knows, so does my mum. It’s only a matter of time before Clair finds out and take it from me, it would be better if she finds out from you than from someone else.”
“No, I love Clair, man. I am not just going to ruin my chances of being with her just because you couldn’t do a simple thing like keeping a secret.”
“This is not just about keeping a secret. This is about me coming to my senses and realising that it would be a stupid idea to let another man raise my child as if he or she was his own. It is about me cleaning my mess, bro, and I am sorry for disappointing you but there is no going back with this. You said it yourself, you love Clair. And as such, you owe her the truth. The lies and everything else must stop. And they will stop.” he leaned in closer to Danny and said, “I have lied my way into sleeping with women for so long. The lies have gotten me out of many scandals and into many other scandals. That woman, Eve, has done a lot for me and she has suffered a lot because of me. Right now, even if I may never get her back, I owe just one thing, and that is doing the right thing.”
There was his mum’s voice in him when he spoke. The words he said sounded exactly like the words his mum would say. And somehow, Tony imagined her smiling wherever she was. Danny, on the other hand, remained wrapped up in his thoughts, like he was still processing what Tony had said. And Tony gave him time to process this so he went back to his tea. After a while, Danny sighed, a big sigh that almost moved the table, unwrapped his hand and dug into his tea and eggs. He was halfway into clearing his plate when he looked up, held his folk mid-air and said, “First, you are right. We need to set the record straight. And two, don’t be too sure that the baby Clair is carrying is yours. The baby might be mine, too.”
“What are you talking about? We both know you are . . . ”
“Impotent?” he cut him short? “That’s what I thought too but it seems the gods have different ideas.” He placed his fork down, fished out his phone, scrolled through it and handed it over to Tony. It was a message he wanted him to read.
“Who is it from?” Tony asked as he took the phone from him.
“It is from my ex, the crazy ex I told you about. She sent it two days ago.”
It read, “Danny, I know you want nothing to do with me but hear me out. When I said you were not the father of my child, I lied. Just as I lied about who the real father was. I put to bed one week ago and the girl, oh it is a girl, is your daughter.”