(I’m so sorry this is late guys. Me and Abby had …issues and then I found I couldn’t log on! I hope you enjoy it and sorry again.)
“Hey, Jackie,” I said without turning around. Putting my key in the lock, I opened the door and left it open. I knew Jackie would follow.
“So,” she said, closing the door behind her. “Who was the hunka-hunka burning love I saw leaving here early this morning? Cos I would love to eat him with my morning grapefruit, yes siree.”
“Jackie, you’re too woman for him.” I set down the bag full of pastries and busied myself spooning coffee into the coffee maker.
“After what I witnessed last night, he looked like he could hold his own,” she said. “Mmmmm, that smells divine,” Jackie’s bracelets tinkled. She was wafting the smell from the pastries into her nostrils.
“Oh God,” I buried my face in my hands. “Oh God. Oh God. You saw us?”
“Of course I saw you! The whole world saw you. You were in front of the window.”
I turned around then, breathing slowly. “Did anyone else see?”
“If you cared about that, you shouldn’t have stood in the window like a shameless hussy.”
“I am a shameless hussy.”
“No, you’re not. You just like to think you’re a shameless hussy. A shameless hussy would not care if anyone saw or didn’t see. A shameless hussy would just do it, Nike style.”
“You can have a pastry if you want, you know,” I said opening the bag. Jackie’s eyes widened.
“No love! I’m on a diet. I’m doing Diana Ross in three weeks. Do you know the amount of sequins my dress has? Very unforgiving, sequins. I’d look like a turd covered in glitter if I’m not careful.”
“Oh you won’t, stop exaggerating and have a bite,” I held out a chocolate croissant to her.
“No, and you shouldn’t be eating that stuff neither. Your arse is getting fat.”
“You’re just jealous that I’m black and can have a fat arse and you can’t.”
“That’s true,” Jackie rubbed her behind. “But just because you can have a fat arse doesn’t mean you should.”
“Of course it does!”
“No it doesn’t. You’re ruining your body by stuffing your face like that. You don’t know lucky you are to have Beyonce curves. I’d kill to have that figure and I’d take care of it better than you are.” I paused in my chewing. “Sorry. Sorry,” said Jackie waving her arms.
“How’s the fund raising coming?” I asked chewing quietly.
“It’s coming,” said Jackie examining her nails. She clacked them together, saying nothing else.
“Jackie,” I put the croissant down, brushing the crumbs off my lips. I covered the distance between us and took her hands in mine. “You have more woman in one little finger than I have in my whole body. This will happen for you, you know it will.”
“I know, I know,” she tossed her head, sending her hair flying over her shoulders and down her back. “It’s just a bit annoying that I have to go private is all. I don’t have the money for it and the NHS is clueless. Having to fight tooth and nail for everything, letters, referrals, hormones…it just gets me…down sometimes.” I put my arms around her, enfolding her into my bosom. She sniffed, once, twice. “Girlfriend, you stink.”
“I’ve been out running! Can’t you see how I’m dressed?”
“How is that different to how you dress every weekend? Look at me and look at you.” Jackie tossed her head again. I took in long red nails, her fur-trimmed satin robe.
“God, Jackie. It’s not even eleven o’clock yet. How do you have impeccable make-up?”
Jackie fluttered her full set of eyelashes. “By being an impeccable human being,” She eyed the croissant lying on the kitchen counter. Before I could move she had grabbed it and tossed it in the bin. “There. Now you won’t undo the run, Aretha.” Jackie crossed herself. “Forgive me, Ms Franklin.”
“Blasphemy! I thought you said I was Beyonce?” I asked pouting. “Why are you being mean to me today?”
“The world is mean to me every day, girlie. I’m trying to make you tough, like my stepfather made me,” she spread her arms. “Sticks and stones, baby. Look at me, I can take anything.” Jackie shook her head. “I am in a dark place today.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” she settled herself on the stool by my breakfast bar. “But if you fancy a chinwag, I could do with hearing about Mr Hung-like-a-horse.”
I shook my head. “I keep forgetting how well you can see.”
“What’s so funny?” asked Jackie.
“He’s Italian,” I said.
“Italian Stallion?” Jackie shrieked. “You could not make this up.”
My phone was ringing when I got out of the shower. “Mummy?”
My face scrunched up. “Yes, mummy? Good afternoon.”
“When are you going to give me grandchildren?”
“Ah-ahn, mummy. Answer my greeting now.”
“Eh-he. So when are you going to give me grandchildren?”
“When I am ready, when I meet the right man, when I have time.”
“When you have time, eh? I am the only one in my age group who still has nobody to carry in my arms. So in that your big-big job, there is nobody you have seen to marry?”
“I don’t go to work to look for a husband.”
“I know, but can’t you just scope the land and see if there is someone you can marry when you are not working?”
“Mum…”I took off my shower cap and shook it out, turning my face away from the spray. “What has brought this on? Why are you harassing me all of a sudden?” My mother clapped and I knew I suddenly didn’t want to hear her reason.
“It’s your cousin.”
“Which cousin?” I bunched up the bit of plastic in my hand, feeling my heart speed up.
“Your cousin, Belinda. Our darling Belinda is getting married!” I made a face, thankful that my mother could not see me.
“Oh great for her, congratulations. When is the wedding?”
“December. You see this is why you have to get married soon. I never had another child and you and Belinda are like sisters…”
“We’re not like sisters.”
“…It would be good if you have your children together.” My mother was not listening.
“Mummy, don’t do this to yourself.”
“Do what? What am I doing?”
“You know what you’re doing. Belinda is not me and I am not Belinda. We’re not the same person.”
“I know, I know. It would have been nice. It’s just my fantasy. You know Belinda is the new face of Hollywood…”
“She told you that?” I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t talk to me like that. You think I am a stupid woman who doesn’t know where Hollywood is. Belinda sent me all the newspaper pages. She had even acted on the big stage in New York.”
“Broadway?” I untied my towel drying behind my ears. “Well, she’s had enough practice acting her whole life. That should be a piece of cake for her.” My mother was silent. “Mummy?”
“Why you have never liked her is beyond me. She has been nothing but kind to you your whole life…”
“Yes, just like her mother. They have both been kind.” I shook my head. “I never said I hated her.”
“You don’t need to say anything. I did not raise you to be a jealous child, Abuotito. We have always been content with what we have.”
“Yes, well sometimes we need to stop feeling content so that we can go out and get more by ourselves.” My mother said nothing. “How’s the building? I sent you money last week. Check your account.”
“I got it, thank you. I sent you an email on Tuesday when I went to the cafe.”
“Mum, I’ve told you to get an internet package on your phone. These sorts of conversations about money are best left out of where eyes can see them. Did you log off properly?”
“I am not an idiot, Abuotito.”
“I didn’t say you were, mummy. But you can’t trust those internet operators to not snoop through your things. You have to learn to do it yourself. It’s easy.”
“I cannot be worrying about that one right now, I am too busy.”
“Mum, the phone I sent you is set up for internet and everything. You don’t need to do anything else just connect it. If you’re still confused, I’ll do it when I come home for Christmas.”
“Eh hen, that reminds me. Could you buy me a wedding hat? I’ll need matching shoes and bag. And an outfit. My daughter might not be getting married but she has a big job too. No need not to look presentable.”
“Don’t worry, mummy. I’ll take care of it. I’ll get you the best outfit they’ve ever seen.”
“Don’t make it too fine o, at least not finer than your aunty Mabel’s.” She lowered her voice. “We don’t want her to be angry. She is the bride’s mother after all.”
After I put down the phone, my stomach grumbled. I eyed the bag of pastries sitting on the kitchen counter. Closing my eyes, I swept the lot into the bin. I picked up my phone again.
“Hello.” The voice on the other end made my stomach clench.
“I need a workout,” I said. The voice chuckled, sending shivers down my arms.
“Ten minutes.” The phone went dead.