Samuel, the taxi driver, adjusted his flat grey cap before negotiating the corner and driving through Amara’s estate’s gate. Amara was disappointed their short journey had come to an end because he had regaled her with stories of his dubious ex-wife who ran away with all his belongings while he was away for his job as a long distance truck driver. Of how he came home to his apartment, only to find that it was rented out to new occupants. “Women are devils,” he had said. But then remembered he was talking to a woman so he added, “But not all of them, of course.” Amara pointed at her designated parking spot where he parked. She paid him and dragged her shopping bag up the stairs.
She opened the door, placed down her shopping bag and took a moment to admire her elegant living room, proud of her sense of style. The shades of red on her brown ragged carpet matched with her red striped pillows. Her 40-inch Smart TV mounted on the wall had two long speakers on its either side. It was still amazing to her just how much her life had turned around after only two months of working in radio. She now had an apartment of her own, could afford a car (even though she was yet to buy one) and everyone bowed in respect when she introduced herself. She was also glad she took Achika’s advice regarding her social media pages because they always flooded with Likes and Comments.
She was stocking up her fridge when Achika called. “My friend is celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary and I’ve been invited. Would you like to come?”
She would have loved to stay home, change into some baggy clothes, drag the duvet to the couch and watch a movie, but she couldn’t say no to Achika who, with too much time on her hands, had turned into a party animal.
“What time is the party?”
“Suzanne says it will start at 8:00 p.m. but due to her poor relationship with timing, I am sure it will start at 10:00 p.m.”
“Who is Suzanne?”
“The woman we are going to celebrate for managing to stay married for the whole freaking year. I will pick you up, okay?”
She cleaned up her kitchen, made herself a cup of coffee and lounged in the living room. After minutes of flipping through the TV channels, she set her alarm to 8:00 p.m. and slept on the couch. She was hardly asleep when the alarm went off and she had to subdue the urge to throw the phone against the wall. She dragged her feet to the bedroom, stripped and wrapped a towel around her upper body. Her phone rung on her way to the bathroom.
“I am beginning to suspect you enjoy nothing more than ruining my peace,” she said after answering her phone.
“I would have denied if it wasn’t true,” Achika said. “I have errands to run and I don’t think I will be able to pick you up on time as promised. However, I have called Hassan and he will be picking you up.”
“What do you mean Hassan will be picking me up? You didn’t even mention he will be attending the party in the first place!”
“Well, it’s a mutual friend’s anniversary so he was invited too. I didn’t even know until he called to ask if I will be attending.”
Amara shook her head. “I do not want any trouble, Achika, kindly tell Hassan not to bother. Send me the address to the party’s location and I will take a taxi.”
“What are you scared of? Hassan doesn’t bite!”
“Please, you are beginning to annoy me now.”
“Okay. Okay. I will let Hassan know we have a change of plans.”
“Thank you. And don’t forget the address.”
She showered and dressed in a short black sleeveless dress and black heels. The dress held her tightly and she was sure men were going to ogle. She imagined Masai seated on the edge of the bed, watching her, anxious to draw her into his arms and plant a series of kisses on her neck. He would beg her to ditch the party so they could stay indoors and make love like he like he did the last time he was around. He had said he was okay with her going out but changed his mind when he saw her in a short sexy dress, her long legs flowing like Twin Waterfalls in Meru.
Thankfully, she had saved Samuel’s number. She was going to call him, hopeful that he would have more stories for her. His phone had only rung once when she heard a knock. She was startled because she wasn’t expecting anyone. Besides, only Achika and Masai knew where she lived. She disconnected the call, straightened her dress and went to check. She found Hassan standing outside, leaning against the wall with his hand thrust in his pockets. It was either Achika had forgotten to call him, or she had, but he decided to come anyway.
Hassan said, “You look surprised.”
“I didn’t know you were coming.”
“How come? Achika asked me to pick you up.”
“I know, please forgive my manners.” She let him in and closed the door.
“Can I offer you something to drink?”
“I am fine, thanks.” he moved to the edge of the seat. “We are running late, we should be going.”
“Okay, let me pick my bag and jacket.”
When they arrived at the party, Achika pulled Amara to the side and apologised for not asking her first before giving Hassan her house address.
“But you were to call him and tell him not to pick me up, did you?”
“I did,” she lied.
“I know you are lying but we are here anyway, so no big deal.”
They found seats at the rear end of the tent pitched at the garden of Fanzuri Resort, but it wasn’t long before a skinny lady in ragged jeans came and asked to speak with Achika in private. Achika never returned, so Amara spent the better part of the night alone with her drink. She was lost in thought when she was interrupted by a light tap her on her shoulder. She opened her eyes to a plump brown lady in a one-shoulder dress. She had a tattoo on her collarbone.
“Amara, right? My name is Suzanne,” she said with a lovely smile that lit up her face.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Amara said. She wanted to ask her how she knew her name but she figured Achika must have told her. “Happy Anniversary.”
She stared at her tattoo and on noticing Suzanne was watching her, Amara said, “Austine is a nice name.”
“Some say it was a dumb idea to have a tattoo of his name.”
“Well, they aren’t the ones in love with Austin, are they?”
Suzanne smiled. “I have to go, hope to see you before the night ends.”
Amara resolved to discuss the tattoo issue on her show. She was sure it would make for an interesting topic for conversation. She looked around and saw Hassan standing outside the tent. He was on phone and, from his strained facial expression and animated hand gestures, Amara was sure he was having an argument. Was he arguing with his wife? She remembered how when driving to this place, he had avoided looking her in the eye. She felt terrible that seeing him hadn’t enthused her. She also felt ungrateful that even though he was the reason she and Achika met, she was yet to thank him for it. But there was also the unsolved mystery of who snitched on her. He had been her prime suspect but now she was having second thoughts. She waited till she was done with his call before walking to him.
“Is everything okay with you and your wife?” she asked with a wink.
“I was watching you and you looked like you were going to explode.”
He let out a short, skeptical laugh. “So you concluded it was my wife I was having an argument with?”
“Only a woman can make a man that furious. And she is the only woman in your life, isn’t she?”
“It was nothing serious.”
She let it go.
They stayed close to each other the whole night. The DJ, with everyone drunk and unable to sway to the slow blues rhythm, switched to pop and when Justin Bieber’s What Do You Mean played, everyone threw their hands in the air and sung along. Everyone became a teenager. Two drunken men passed by and openly ogled at Amara’s ass. To make them feel bad, she slid her hand into his and he tightened his grip.
“I wonder where Achika is. I want to go home,” she said.
“I can drive you.”
“Thanks, but you must be looking forward to going home to your wife, aren’t you?”
“Will I be a bad husband if I say I am not?”
“Yes,” she said with a stern voice that made him laugh. She saw him watching her as she fished out her phone to call Achika and it was like he was praying Achika doesn’t answer. His imaginary prayer was answered.
“Does your offer still stand?” she asked.
Hassan smiled, took her hand and led her to the car. This time they did not let silence reign in the car. He asked her about her job and how she was finding it so far.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “Would you ever get your wife’s name tattooed on any part of your body?”
“That would be ridiculous. What if things don’t work out?”
“That’s what most people will say, Hassan, where is your faith?”
“My faith, like Obama’s, is the kind that admits some doubt.”
She smiled. He was witty.
She invited him in when they got to her place. Sitting across from each other, they chatted for a while before she excused herself to go freshen up. When she showed up back in the living room, already in her nightgown, he had fallen asleep on the couch. She brought a duvet and covered him before turning off the lights and going to her room. Her phone, lying on the bed, blinked with a missed call notification. Masai had called. She returned his call but his phone was off. Without giving it too much thought, she put her phone aside and slid under the sheets for a much needed rest.
The next morning, she convinced Hassan to stay for breakfast. She noticed that he looked messy and she told him he could use her bathroom and room to freshen up if he wanted.
She was setting the table when she heard a knock on the door. She imagined it was Achika and was prepared to give her a dress down for inviting her to a party and then ditching her the whole night. She flung the door open with the words, “You idiot,” already flying out. But she almost sunk into depression when she saw it was Masai and not Achika standing outside. His eyes narrowed with confusion. She tried to smile but her lips refused to curve into any other shape but that of shock. She felt even more depressed when she turned to see Hassan wrapped in nothing but a towel.
If this was a dream, now would be the perfect time for her to wake up.
Editor Credits: Fawzia Salleh.