Late in the night, they sat on Achika’s hotel room balcony. The beautiful street wedged between tall, dated buildings— though deserted—was brought to life by the light from lampposts lining its either side like soldiers on a parade. Amara looked up. The stars were showing off, moonlight flowing above them. She looked at Achika who sat with her legs crossed, holding a pack of cigarettes. It didn’t matter how long she stared at her, Amara could not get over her flawless beauty. She could not understand how someone’s skin could be so smooth. Did she not breathe the same air as everyone else? Or was it the water she drank? She could tell from the knowing smile on Achika’s face that she knew she was watching her. She continued to stare, willing her to turn and meet her gaze. Achika pulled a cigarette from the packet.
“The view here is stunning,” she said, lighting the cigarette. “Looking at these old buildings under the moonlight feels like staring at the pages of history.” She put the lit cigarette to her mouth and took a drag, letting out a string of white smoke. Amara thought she made smoking look cool. She even made her feel cool. Who wouldn’t feel cool about unwinding on the balcony with the great Achika anyway? Achika walked to the end of the balcony and bent over the wooden wall. Amara followed her and they stood side by side.
“You don’t mind spending the night here with me, do you?” Achika asked, “It’s a twin-bed room.”
Although it was obvious they wouldn’t sleep in the same bed if they were to spend the night in the same room, Amara was still disappointed she didn’t leave that choice to her. After she kissed her earlier that night, she figured it was only fair she had a say on how the night would go. But she also remembered Achika did not want to scare her. She had said she only told men she was a lesbian to keep them off but the way her eyes roamed her body when she thought she wasn’t looking suggested otherwise. Amara concluded she was either a lesbian or bi. She wanted her to be either or both for selfish reasons.
“I will if you want me to,” she finally mumbled.
Achika looked at her with narrowed eyes. “Of course I want you to. You know, the way Hassan described you, I was sure you were beautiful and fun to hang around with.” She inhaled, the butt of her cigarette burning red. Amara wanted to pinch herself. Slap herself even. Hearing Achika praises was something she never thought would happen. In her mind, Achika was a goddess whose words, praises especially, needed to be frame and hang in one’s hall of fame.
“Achika, you don’t know how much I idolise you,” Amara said, her hand on Achika’s waist. She didn’t think before holding Achika’s waist, she just did.
“I am honoured. Though I am just an ordinary woman.”
“Not to me.”
Sensing the air was growing tense with intimacy, Achika suddenly asked, “You want to try?”
“I have never smoked in my life.”
“I suppose you had never kissed a girl too before tonight? Am I right?”
Amara chuckled. Why did she think she could win against Achika? She took the cigarette from her and held it between her fingers like she saw her do it. She breathed deeply and prepared to choke to death but surprisingly, when she took her first puff, it was with class and precision like she was a chain smoker. But seconds later she felt dizzy and light headed and a slight feeling of sand in her throat. She handed the cigarette to Achika who was smiling with her eyes
“No more for you,” Achika said as she balanced the now small cigarette between her lips.
“I don’t want to spoil you.”
The word ‘spoil’ reminded Amara of her mother and how she would react if she knew what Amara was up to. What would she think if she knew I kissed a girl? Or that I smoked? She would collapse and die in disappointment and her last words would be, “Is this what I raised you to become? Eh, Amara? Why do you want to kill me? Where did I go wrong?” Her mother was a ‘true’ African woman who believed it was the woman’s duty to take care of others even if it meant neglecting themselves. She remembered once when she was in high school, her mother found a love letter between her book. “Amara, if you agree to be mine, I promise to give all that you desire in this world,” the letter read in part. Holding it at breast level, her mother had lectured her. She remembered sitting on the bed, nodding to what her mother was saying.
“What does this boy own? Tell me, what do his parents own? How is he planning on giving you everything you desire in this world? In fact, why are we wasting money schooling you when you already have a boy willing to give you everything you desire?” She came and sat next to Amara, placed her arms around her shoulder and pulled her into an embrace. “I trust you to make better decisions in life, Amara. You are a clever girl. But as your mother, it’s in my place to reinforce what you already know and should stand for.”
Since then, Amara tried her best to be on her mother’s good book. But kissing a girl and smoking would not only disappoint her mother but would also break her heart.
“By the way, what did Hassan mean by you are going through a difficult time?”
“He didn’t tell you?”
“He mentioned something about you and your boyfriend having issues but he didn’t go into details.”
Amara told her about Masai. They had now moved back to the couch and were seated too close to each other. By the time she was done narrating, her head was resting on Achika’s shoulder and she was stroking her hair. Achika continued stroking her hair absentmindedly after Amara was done talking, and just when Amara was about to ask if she had been listening, she said, “I want you to know that I am on your side but Masai has every reason to be offended.”
Amara was surprised. She expected Amara to assume her tough radio personality and say things like; It was unacceptable for Masai to behave the way he was behaving. That Amara should move on with her life and find someone who would appreciate her for who she was. But instead, she had said Masai had the right to be offended.
“Why do you say so?”
“You said Hassan’s wife used to be his girlfriend? I can only imagine what went through his mind when he learned that you met Hassan behind his back.”
“It was an innocent meeting. I apologised for it but he wouldn’t forgive me. What am I supposed to do?”
“You will go and see him tomorrow. I will go with you.”
“Yes. I am also curious to know how the man who stole your heart looks like. He must be quite a catch.”
The prospect of showing up in the village with Achika excited her. Now the whole village would look at her with beaming eyes in acknowledgement of who she knew. She would have an easier time walking the dusty roads of Ola village because boys will now be sticking to their lanes. Masai, on the other hand, would have very little time to decide whether he wanted to continue sulking or man up and wear the pride that came with dating a girl who knew people. It was not like they would recognise Achika when they saw her, but they would recognise her black Range Rover and would surely want to know who the girl who owned it was and how she could afford it. She would then say, as if it wasn’t a big deal, that it was her friend’s Achika, the one of a kind radio presenter. They would cover their mouths in disbelief and narrow their eyes to see if she was lying and she will do nothing that would indicate she was bluffing.
When they went to bed, it was on different beds. But when they woke up, they were cuddled on Achika’s bed. Amara lifted the bed covers to see if she was naked, she only had her panties on. Achika climbed out of bed and she was butt naked. Other than being shocked, Amara marvelled at her round butt which shook with every step she took.
“Nothing crazy happened, don’t worry,” she said, walking into the bathroom.
She came out with a towel wrapped around her chest. “I have always known Hassan to be a womaniser. But not even in my wild dream would I have imagined he would steal her best friend’s girlfriend.” She sat on the edge of the bed and looked at Amara with pleading eyes, “The stories I have heard about men and the crazy things they do make me hate them. I always had a liking for women but the older I became the more I liked women and loathed men.” She paused for a dramatic effect. “You are a beautiful woman, Amara, you truly are. Now, that is a good thing but also a bad thing because the first thing men will see when they lay their eyes on you, is you lying naked on their beds. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, men will see you as a sex object. So if Masai is as good as you say you are, count yourself lucky.”
Amara loved every word she said. This was the Achika she was used to on the radio. One who spoke like she was there before the beginning of earth and so she spoke from an authoritative point of view. But it was weird for them to talk about Masai when they had spent the night in the same bed, her half naked and Achika naked. She wondered how they could be talking about Masai when it was obvious there was a sexual attraction between them. Was Achika afraid of saying what she felt and wanted? She edged closer to Achika and before she could stop herself, she asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?”
Achika’s eyes twinkled with anticipation. “Tell me, do you want us to shower, dress up and drive off to Masai’s place or do you want me to jump back in bed?”
Amara bit her lower lip and knelt on the bed. She stretched her hand and yanked the towel off Achika and dropped it on the floor. Giggling, Achika crawled to her and held the back of her neck. “Are you sure about this?”
“But I will still belong to Masai. For now, let’s do something we will regret later.” She said ‘regret’ casually because she did not want to spoil the mood.
“How about you belong to Masai and me?”
“You mean I become bisexual?”
“I don’t know what I mean,” he breathing was uneven now. They looked each other in the eye in a brief moment of silent and they both closed their eyes when their lips touched. A gentle breeze swayed the long swanky curtains running down the window and also brushed through their naked bodies. Amara gasped when Achika broke from the kiss and kissed her neck. She knew things would never be the same again. And she didn’t care because she didn’t want them to remain the same.