Her short dress made her uncomfortable. With the men’s prying eyes wandering over her thighs, she wished she had put on something longer. She stood at the furthest corner of the room, shrugging off men making passes at her and enjoying watching couples on the dance floor—the women’s hands delicately placed on their men’s shoulders as they swayed to Shania Twain’s Forever & For Always. She loved the music. She wished Masai were there to dance with her, though the idea of him dancing made her chuckle since she was sure he had never danced in his life. But she did not want Masai’s thoughts to ruin her night so she shrugged them off and sipped Coca-Cola from a mermaid-shaped glass. A short suited gentleman in a loosened tie approached her. She rolled her eyes when he asked for a dance and she was about to tell him off when she caught a glimpse of Hassan approaching.
“I wouldn’t mind, but I am with someone.”
The gentleman turned and came face to face with Hassan. He turned to look at Amara again, nodded, and walked away without a word.
“What took you so long?” she stepped forward to hug him. Hassan held on to her for a little longer, rubbing her back. When he finally pulled away, a smile the size of Russia was painted on his face.
“I had to drop Jane at her folk’s place before coming here.”
“Does she know I am here?”
“No. Does Masai know?”
“He would have if we were talking to each other.”
“I am sorry about that by the way.”
“Don’t be. He will come around. It will be his loss if he doesn’t,” she paused, looked around and then asked, “Whose party did you say this is again?”
“Fred. He is my friend. I convinced him to hold his party here because of you, by the way.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will in due time.” He took her hand to his and walked her to the dance floor. She placed her half empty glass on the tray of the passing waitress dressed in a black and white uniform and then placed her arms on his shoulders like the other women on the dance floor. He held her waist. She knew she wasn’t supposed to, but she loved the feel of his touch. She, however, made a mental note to refrain herself from any kissing that could happen. The DJ only played slow music, which made her forget she was dancing as her mind drifted to the argument they had with Masai.
She remembered how, when he called that night, his tone was heavy with fury and accusation. You lied to me, he had said. She did not need magic to know what he was referring to but she still asked, “What?” He hung up. She called him back and her call went unanswered. The next day, she went to see him and he treated her with indifference. She could as well have been saying her sorry in Mandarin because he neither did nor said anything that showed he had registered her apology. Bitter that he was ignoring her, she snapped, “I don’t even know what I am apologising for because, technically, I didn’t lie to you. I chose not to tell you about my meeting with Hassan because after what you said the last time we were together, I knew it would only upset you.”
She was seated next to him on the couch and he turned to look at her, his eyes red with fury. For a moment she was scared, afraid he would beat her up, but he instead looked away sighed and said, “You are right. I have no reason to be angry.”
“That’s not what I meant. Look—” she took his hand to hers, “I promise I won’t meet him again. Now, can we put this behind us? I don’t want us to fight over this anymore.” He nodded in agreement. But when she leaned in to kiss him on the lips, he did not reciprocate the kiss. He was still angry, she understood, she needed to give him more time. She cooked him lunch that day and as they ate, she told him her mother knew they were still together and that she had even suggested he goes to see them. He said nothing. It stung, his treating her with disdain, but she was hell-bent on making sure things did not get worse.
After she left, she only heard from him when she called. It infuriated her when one day she confronted him over this and he said, “Don’t blame me for something you did.” His holding back his forgiveness and lack of effort to mend things enraged her. She let go the little care she had and one day called Hassan. He had listened; promising her Masai would come around. He called a day later to ask how they were doing and she said nothing had changed. They talked some more, him asking her about her hobbies and role models, and later inviting her to a party. She said yes without giving it too much thought. She did not even ask whose party was it or what it was for. She just said yes. She did not pause to think about Masai or how he would feel, for all she cared, he did not care enough so why would she? Achika was right, the notion that women bore the sole responsibility of making relationships work was bullshit!
“That was awesome. I wouldn’t have known dancing comes this easily to you.”
Hassan’s words jolted her mind. Was she a good dancer? She was there without being there. Hassan led her to the VIP section of the club, furnished with black leather couches, which made one feel like they were floating when they sat on them . There were only two guys and a lady there. Hassan greeted them all and introduced Amara to them. The ladies shook her hand with the tip of their fingers unbothered by basic introductions. She decided she did not like either of them. She doubted she liked anybody in that party. They all looked like people only good at aligning themselves with the direction of the wind; hanging out with people who made them look cool. Once again, she missed her Masai.
“What did you mean by you asked Fred to host his party here because of me?”
“Be patient, my dear. You will thank me later for this. Want a drink?”
“I think I have had enough.”
“Enough of what? The night has just started.”
She wanted to go home. At the same time, she did not want to disappoint Hassan so she decided to chill with him for a little while. She was on her second glass of Coca-Cola—Hassan’s efforts of trying and get her drunk had been thwarted—when Hassan stood abruptly and announced, “Your surprise is here.”
Amara stood and looked at this tall guy in a suit and in the company of a dreadlocked woman approach them. She was confused. She did not know how this couple, at least they looked like one to her, were a surprise to her. And why would the surprise be hers, it wasn’t her party! She thought. She looked at Hassan with questioning eyes and he told her to hold on. When the couple reached where they were, it was the guy who introduced himself. His name was Fred. The lady, in black jeans ripped at the knees and a loose fitting t-shirt, only smiled as she hugged them. She hugged Amara, too, and there was this excitement that caused down Amara’s stomach when they hugged. She had a jolly feeling, like the one she usually had when something great was about to happen. The three; Hassan, Fred and the lady, did not seat down. They stood and stared at Amara. She got nervous. Her smile turned to a frown then back to a smile.
“Guys, what’s happening here?”
“The dreadlocked lady smiled and opened her mouth to speak but Fred stopped her before she could say a word, “Wait, I must record this on camera.”
When his camera was out and was focused on Amara, the lady cleared her voice and said, “Hi, Amara, it’s a pleasure meeting you.”
Amara screamed in disbelief. “Achika! It’s you. Achika, it’s you. I know!” she hugged Achika.
“How did you know? I didn’t say my name.”
“You didn’t have to. Oh, my God, your voice is like my ringtone, I recognise it anywhere anytime!”
Achika laughed. “Hassan here told me you were my big fan and that you were dying to meet me. He also said you were going through a rough time and that it would really be nice if I showed up at this party and met you. He only said good things about you so, to be honest, I was dying to meet you too.”
It took a while for it to truly sink in that this was the one Achika and that she was not dreaming. For the better part of the night, they sat together, drinking soda as Achika too did not drink alcohol. When Amara teased her about it, she said, “My own poison is smoking, I have tried to quit but to no avail.” Amara stared at her lips. They were dark. A beautiful kind of dark. And sexy too. Amara had imagined what Achika looked like, but she never once thought that she was that beautiful now that she had seen her in person. She looked so gorgeous. And she sounded even more intelligent than she did on radio. At some point, Hassan proposed a toast before inviting Fred to give a small speech. While everyone surrounded Fred as he spoke, Achika and Amara remained seated. Amara had tried to stand, but Achika held her down. “He is going to say the same mundane things everyone says in their birthday parties.” Amara could tell she was enjoying her company too.
“How did you two meet?”
“Me and who? Fred or Hassan?”
Achika searched Amara’s eyes, “Wait you do not think that we are a couple.”
“Are you not?”
She laughed out loud, “No, Fred is my producer. Besides, I don’t date men.”
“I am not a lesbian either. Though that’s what I tell men who think that a girl like me, working on radio and all, only deserves to be laid by them because they drive posh cars. I tell them I am a lesbian and they leave me alone.” She said that with a soft voice and eyes delicately fixed on Amara that Amara was not sure which of her statements to believe. At the same time, she felt honored to be this close to Achika. To breath the same air as her. And to share her secrets. It gave her joy that Achika was treating her like they were friends all their lives. A guy approached them and sat next to Achika. She whispered something in her ear and Achika turned to Amara, winked, and kissed her on the lips. Amara surprised herself with the way she did not pull back from the kiss. With the way she kissed her back like they were lovers. The guy walked away. Achika broke from the kiss apologising. Amara simply stared at her with confusion, anxiety and excitement all mashed up together. She had just killed a girl. And not any average girl. It was her idol, Achika.