The cock crowed at 4 am. The shrill cry of this domesticated bird was one of the things that Afosua found endearing about being back home, but was an annoyance none-the-less. Generally she would be less than enthusiastic about Nature’s trumpet blower sounding his rousing alarm so early in the morning, but today she was grateful for it. She needed to get an early start to her day. In the pre-dawn light, she made out the shape of a man’s back rising and falling rhythmically as he slept. He was broad and muscular – a magnificent sight to behold – but he had to go all the same.
“Hey,” she said, shaking him gently at first. He slept on.
“Hey!” she said whispered louder.
“It’s time to get up.”
She was already belting her morning coat as she spoke the words. She switched on the water heater and went to her closet to pull out her suit for work. At 32, she was the youngest person at Phillips & Boakye, a start-up financial firm in Cantonments. The company was a niche in the financial field in Ghana, providing actuary services and data analysis to both government and private entities. It was work that required travel into both the hallowed halls of parliament and the most remote parts of Ghana. It was considered ‘man work’, not because of the complexity of it, but because of the boyishness of the major players in it. If Phillips & Boakye were considered an anomaly, Afosua Gyemfi was a being from a parallel universe. With so much money and information on the line, company could not afford to make any mistakes. Being the only woman in management left no room for error either.
As she considered her new job, she noted that the man in her bed had not yet woken up. She ripped the sheets off him and stood over him.
“Seriously. It’s time to get up. I have to go to work, and I presume you do too.”
This was always the hard part about picking up a guy. They never knew when they had work out their welcome.
“But the sun’s not even up yet!” he complained, reaching for the sheet to re-cover himself.
“I know. All the more reason for you to get a move on,” she said sweetly. “We wouldn’t want you to encounter my father, would we?”
That made the man sit up.
“Yes. Yes you’re right!”
He grabbed his trousers from the floor and went to wash his face. The gardener had begun sweeping the courtyard, and was humming the same rehearsed tune he did at daybreak every day. The house would be stirring with activity soon.
It pained her that she had to resort to evoking the name of her father to get this man’s attention – whatever his name was – but it seemed to be the only thing that the men she consorted with responded to. Her father had died 3 years ago, prompting her return and resettlement in Ghana. Mr. Stranger had nothing to fear of a dead man. Now her mother! That was an entirely different story. Whatever the case, a gentleman should leave when he was requested to, at the first request.
After Afosua emerged from the shower, she saw her bed guest waiting for her by the door.
“Could I get a lift into town?” he asked sheepishly.
“I can take you as far as the junction,” she promised.
‘Which way are you going?”
“Not the way you are, I can promise you that.”
The man seemed wounded by her cold response. She back tracked a little, not wanting to seem too hard.
“Come on. We’ll stop by the bakery and get a cinnamon roll on the way.”
The pair rode in virtual silence until they got to Auntie Aggie’s Bakery. This was the part about the morning after that she disliked most: that awkward silence shared with a perfect stranger that threatened to suffocate them both as they grasped for something meaningful to say. What was there to be said to someone who you were intimate with just hours before, but had no clue what his name was? Afosua was happy that Antie Aggie’s was close by. Breakfast not only created a diversion, but it also made her feel good. Afosua liked patronizing her but because she was a self-made woman. Auntie Aggie was an illiterate until she took the brave step of going to school at age 50. Despite not having an education she done well for herself thus far, surviving mostly on her wits. Afosua respected that.
“Eiii! Afos. Fine morning!” Auntie Aggie greeted her warmly. She eyed her companion.
“And who is this your friend?”
Afosua shifted uncomfortably. She couldn’t conjure up his name! Thankfully, Auntie Aggie suffered from a slight case of ADD and had moved on entirely.
“What do you want this morning? I have so many nice pastries!”
Mr. Stranger smiled at the large woman, waving her hands unreservedly over her wares. No doubt that this is how he liked to be greeted in the morning – with a smile and something hot placed in front of him. This was not something Afosua could provide, which is exactly why she brought all her dates to Aggie. The two made their purchases and returned to the vehicle.
“The junction is just over there,” said Afosua as she slid into the driver’s seat.
Mr. Stranger smiled wryly.
“I had a good time last night,” he said sincerely.
“So did I.”
“Maybe I’ll see you soon?” he asked hopefully.
She smiled and sparked her engine. The treatment she was giving this man was precisely why they came home with her and not the other way round. She’d learned from her past mistakes. A broken heart had taught her what experience had failed to do.
“Have a great day…”
“Tony. The name’s Tony. You have a good day too, Afosua.”
She looked at Tony from her rearview mirror as she drove off. Why would a man so sweet come home with her on a whim? The men she picked up were usually assholes who couldn’t be bothered to remember her name. All they wanted was a quick lay, and all she wanted was some easy, unattached dick.
She shook her head and wove her way through Accra traffic. It was going to be a hectic day at work.