Afosua and Gertrude wrapped up their proposal and recommendation to the Deutsch Tech group. Though the men didn’t say so, it was a resounding success, judging from the smiles and chatter that filled the board room. All that was left for the women to do was to get their findings back to Phillips & Boakye so that they could proceed.
Lucas Gottlieb approached Afosua from behind and cleared his throat. She stopped packing her briefcase and turned to face him.
“Excellent job, Ms. Gyemfi,” he said commending her. “I’m pleased to see your team was able to stay focused.”
“Yes,” she smiled patronizingly. “That was why we are here, after all.”
“I wonder…if I might take you to dinner? Maybe start our dealings on a more friendly note from here on out?”
Afosua glanced down at Lucas’ left hand and took note of his ring. There may have been many things she did, but going out unaccompanied with a married man was not one of them. She didn’t care if his intentions were pure or not.
“You know, I’d better not. We have an early flight back to Accra tomorrow and I really need to spend my evening typing up my notes.”
“Very astute, Ms. Gyemfi,” he nodded. “I believe I made the right choice with Phillips & Boakye. If everyone in your firm has this level of integrity, I’d say we’re in good shape.”
The subject of integrity caused Afosua to grimace. She thought of Harold Boakye. His integrity was certainly to be questioned.
She reached out to shake Lucas’ hand and bid him goodbye.
“Auf Wiedersehen, Herr Gottlieb.”
“Auf Wiedersehen, frauline Gyemfi.”
Gertrude and Afosua walked out to the shuttle that was waiting to take them back to the hotel. As soon as they sat, Afosua let her weight settle into the seat and sighed with relief.
“Thank God that’s over!”
The sun had begun to set over Dresden, and Gertrude looked wistfully outside of the window. Afosua stopped typing long enough to glace at her.
“Gertrude, do you want to explore the city?”
The younger woman brightened.
“Yes, actually, I do!”
“Better you than me,” said Afosua. “You’ll be right at home. You go on. I’m just finishing up these notes for Mark.”
Gertrude already had her purse and had her hand on the knob.
“I’ll call you if I need anything!” she yelled, halfway down the hall. She never knew when she’d have this opportunity to see this city again.
Once outside the double doors of the hotel, Gertrude looked around and decided to turn right. There was a small shop selling maps and snacks, and she figured she could use both for the evening. After she made her purchase, she saw a familiar figure approach her. It was Carsten.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” he said smiling impishly.
“No, no! Not at all,” Gertrude denied.
“Don’t lie, my dear. I’m in marketing and I can sniff insincerity immediately,” he teased. “You’ve scuttled off in every direction but towards mine since we had dinner that first night.”
“Yes…fine. It’s true. I came here for work, and I had to stay on course,” she admitted.
“And now that work is over?”
Gertrude paused and thought about it.
“Well I suppose I could have a bit of fun. Will you show me your city?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
Carsten and Gertrude strode leisurely through the streets of the old city. Gertrude could hardly contain her excitement, and commented often on the massive stone cathedrals, museums and lamp posts. Carsten found her girlish enthusiasm endearing. Feeling a little bolder, he took her by the waist and walked hip-to-hip with her. She did not rebuff his advances. She was intoxicated by his smell and the hypnotizing brogue with which he spoke. Everything about him made her feel safe, even though she hardly knew the man.
When it was dark, they found a bench and sat at the banks of the River Elbe.
“My father was an engineer,” said Carsten. “We’ve lived all over the world – Asia, Australia, anywhere you can think of in Europe. Finally when I went to university I decided that I would settle in Germany and try to plant some roots.”
“I can understand that…wanting to belong,” said Gertrude, folding her hands across her lap. Carsten moved closer and put his arm around her shoulder.
“You look cold. Do you want to go back to your hotel?”
She shook her head. There was nothing for her to do back there, and this was the most fun she’d had so far. Suddenly, a slight drizzle began to fall on both of them.
“Come on,” ordered Carsten. “I can’t send you back to Accra sick. I’d never forgive myself. We’ll catch a cab to my place. I don’t live too far from here.”
“Alright,” said Gertrude, trying to sound confident. She was unsure of what she would do if she were alone with this man, but her feet never gave her a chance to make that decision. Before she knew it, they were alone in Carsten’s apartment.
He gave her a quick tour before offering her a glass of wine.
“I’ll just have water.”
“Do you think I’m trying to take advantage of you?” he chuckled.
“I don’t know. Maybe…yes,” she stammered.
“Look, we don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, okay?”
His blue eyes looked at her kindly and sincerely. She felt relieved.
“Ok,” she said letting out a breath. “Can we just talk? Your life sounds so fascinating…so different from mine.”
“I’m sure your life is perfect,” he said kissing her softly on the cheek. “I think you’re perfect.”
She led him to the sofa and took off her shoes. He slowly began to stroke her hair and told her his life’s story. Before she knew it, she had fallen asleep with her head on his shoulder. It was the most intimate moment she’d ever shared with a man.
The next morning, Gertrude woke in a panic. She had to get to the airport and she had no idea where she was.
“Good morning!” said Carsten cheerfully.
“Morning, morning,” said Gertrude looking for her shoes. “I have to get back to the hotel quickly, or I’ll miss my flight.”
“You have a little time before you have to leave,” objected Carsten. “Sit. I made you a light breakfast.”
Gertrude picked up her knife and began to slice at her ham, cutting it into thin strips. Carsten watched her carefully as she ate.
“What is?” she asked, shoveling the food into her mouth as genteelly as possible.
“The way you cut your meat. Do many Ghanaians cut it that way?”
“I don’t know. What makes you ask?”
“It’s just that when I was a kid we lived in Ghana as well. Remember? I told you last night. You might have drifted to sleep my then. I hardly remember it though. I was only about five when we left.”
Gertrude stopped cutting her food and chewed her food pensively.
“Where abouts did you live in Ghana?”
“I don’t recall. But I do remember our housemaid. Lovely woman. Her name was Serena, Celia…”
“Yes! That’s it. She cut her food the same way you did. She called it “designing to food”. I always thought that was funny.”
Carsten chuckled as he recalled his childhood memory. Gertrude sat frozen, suddenly feeling sick to her stomach with a ghastly realization. She had just spent the entire night with her brother.
Afosua stood impatiently outside of the departure gate. The flight was being called when Gertrude ran up with her carry-on bag.
“Where have you been!” she scolded. “You almost missed the flight and – “
Stopped her tirade when she noticed how pallid Gertrude looked. She was trembling and pale.
“Are you alright Gertie? Did you get caught in the rain last night?”
Gertrude swallowed deeply.
“I’m fine. I’m fine. They’re calling our seats now. Let’s just get out of here.”
Afosua looked at her with concern and then decided to let it go. Whatever it was that troubling Gertrude, she figured that was mature enough to handle it. Nothing could have been further from the truth.