Sarah Amuah and Wes tore up the dance floor. People were taking pictures of Wes as he matched her step for step, in perfect rhythm. Belinda tipped the contents of her shot glass into her mouth and slammed it down on the table, face down. I counted. It was her fifth.
“Just who does she think she is anyway?” She tossed her choppy bob when its too-long fringe grazed against her fake eyelashes.
“She’s Sarah Amuah. She told you,” I said looking around for Greg. He kept disappearing from our table. I caught a flash of him throwing his arms around a skimpily-clad woman and lifting her in the air. Her mouth was open and even though I couldn’t hear her above the music, I knew she was squealing in delight. Watching Greg reminded me of the force of his personality; men were tugging on his shirt and clapping him on the back in greeting and the last time he came back to the table, he had eight different shades of lipstick on his person. I would know. I counted them as I wiped them off with a serviette.
“What are you doing?” he asked as I wet it with my saliva and applied it to his cheek.
“I’m wiping your face, what does it look like I am doing?” I replied.
“No, Otito.” He held my wrists looking me in the eye. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Coming here, dressed like that….”
“It’s a night spot. How am I supposed to dress?”
“You know what I mean. And I am not saying that you don’t look good…God, you look amazing but you saw what it did to him.” He looked towards Wes trying to coax Belinda up from her seat.
“So, I am not allowed to look good because of what it might do to one person? Do you think I dressed for any of you?” I asked, echoing Sarah Amuah’s sentiments from our earlier conversation. In my head I thought how ironic it was that I has said the same thing to someone else jokingly and was surprised when she took offence. “I have a right to dress how I want to dress and to feel good about how I look for once in my life. And to celebrate fitting into this damn corset after months of skipping meals. I have a right to be happy, Greg.”
“Nobody said you do not…”
“Why should I be responsible for my behaviour and someone else’s? You look good, and so does he but you don’t see me mounting you and stripping off your clothes do you?”
Greg sat back and nodded, once, twice. “You’re right. I am sorry. I am not saying what you think I am saying…I mean, I thought you were using your body as a weapon in this particular case, not in general.”
I looked away. “Well, maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do,” I said, knowing it was a l=half-truth. Yes, I had done all those things I said for the reasons I said them, but there was a part of me which, knowing that Wes was going to be there, wanted to make sure that his eyes popped. With Belinda I was always losing and a little part of me, a tiny minuscule part just wanted to win something for once. Was that so bad?
“I am not saying that whenever a woman wears…never mind,” Greg rubbed his head. “Save me a dance, will you?”
“Where are you going again?” I asked. “You should be here.”
“I’m in the middle of something.” He knuckled his chin. “But I did promise to stay with you, if that’s what you still want?” He started pulling up his chair but I waved him away.
“I am a big girl. I can take care of myself. Go.” I looked up then and Wes was watching me over the top of Belinda’s head, bobbing to the music. “Go,” I repeated. Greg followed my eyes and grunted when Wes looked away. He hadn’t returned to the table since.
After that, Sarah Amuah got tired of dancing on the fringes and dragged Wes into the pool of light that formed the main area with the fountain’s lights changing colour behind them. Belinda had to relinquish him or look churlish and Wes seemed oh-so-happy to finally be dancing. He was covered in sweat and his black shirt had an even darker splodge at the back where it was plastered to his skin. The live band went from one tune smoothly into the next and Belinda made a face.
“Do they have to be so loud?” She raised her voice to be heard, did another shot and slammed the empty glass down. Sarah Amuah had other partners clamouring for her attention when the novelty of Wes’ gaff-free dancing was over. He made his way back to the table, accepting cheers and claps from strangers on other tables.
“Stop, you’re all sweaty,” said Belinda when Wes bent down to kiss her. “You’re getting me sweaty too!”
“You’ve never complained before,” Wes shouted. “You’re letting an Italian out dance you in your own country, B.”
“Your mother isn’t Italian,” said Belinda, pouting.
“My mother isn’t here. You should be seizing the opportunity of having me all to yourself.” Wes kissed her head. He avoided looking at me. “And you should be happy I’m burning off all that delicious puff.”
“Whatever. You get fat, you get dumped. I didn’t work my ass off looking like this just to be saddled with Dumbo the elephant,” said Belinda.
“You whine too much,” said Wes pinching her nose shut. She smiled and lifted her head for another kiss.
Sarah Amuah came up behind him.“Hey partner, are you dancing or are you talking?” she took a swig from one of the bottles of water in the table, opened another bottle of beer and drank it all down in one go. She burped and her laughter tinkled all over the place. “Excuse me, I didn’t mean to do that.” She was unabashed.
Wes held a hand over his heart. “Sarah, will you marry me …”
“Hey!” said Belinda.
“And be my bro, through thick and thin?” Wes finished.
“I will!” Sarah raised her empty beer bottle and Wes his glass of brandy. The linked hands at the elbow and Wes downed his glass.
“Wes, honey,” said Belinda sitting up straight. Her bosom was directly under her chin. “Could you get me another drink?”
“B, are you sure you should be doing all those shots? You always say it’s empty calories and you don’t want to mess us the cut of your dress…I think you look amazing but I don’t want you to hate yourself tomorrow.” He kissed her head again. I shifted in the shadows, not wanting to draw attention to myself.
“Wes, honey.” Belinda’s eyes held a warning. Wes raised his hands.
“Fine, fine. I’ll be right back.” Wes sauntered towards the bar.
“I’ll meet you on the floor,” Sarah Amuah shouted at his back. Wes raised a hand in acknowledgement. “Your man can move, eh?” Sarah turned to Belinda who was taking her last shot.
“Yeah, my man can.”
Sarah Amuah looked amused. “Otito, are you coming? It will be such a shame to waste your segziness on the side where nothing is happening.” She shimmied, her tiny shorts picked up the light and scattered it like a disco ball. She didn’t look at Belinda when she said it but I had a feeling that ‘Nothing happening’ was meant to include her. Belinda must have thought so too. She eyes narrowed underneath her fringe.
“Some of us take the happening with us wherever we go don’t we, Otito? We don’t need to be the centre of attention,” she said.
“Hey don’t ask me. I am fat and unfashionable, remember?” I countered.
“I’ll see you guys there,” said Sarah Amuah, heading back to the dance floor. Belinda eyed her for a moment and bounded over the chairs to me.
“You have to go out there and dance,” she poked me in the arm.
“Fuck off, Belinda.” I was tired. My back was hurting from sitting up straight so that the bones of my corset could stop cutting into my upper thigh. My eyes swam from deflecting glances and checking for glances. I had come to the joint to forget, to lose myself and I had the ultimate weapon in Sarah Amuah and yet I was not having a good time.
“Well, that’s nice Otito, very classy. What a lady you’ve turned out to be,” the sharpness was coming back into her eyes and just like that it was gone again. “I need a favour, okay,” she said quickly. “You have to go out there and dance with Wes. I don’t trust your bitchy friend.”
“Are you mad?!” I raised my voice louder than I intended and got some looks from neighbouring tables for my trouble. The music swelled louder and the lead singer’s shirt dripped sweat in a circle around his feet. “What am I, your slave?”
“Keep your voice down,” she looked towards the bar, checking for Wes. “You have to go with him.”
“Why can’t you go? He’s asked you to dance and he is your fiancé for crying out loud,” I was getting irritated. It was as if the universe was out to annoy and frustrate me. I knew what I wanted and I knew that I also didn’t want to do it. The fates however were intent on throwing us together and for what? To test me? I brushed Belinda’s hand off. My hands shook.
“What are you getting so worked up about?” She looked genuinely surprised. It was as if I had just called her ‘Fat’ – her worst nightmare. “Why is it that you never want to help me? You’re my cousin…”
“My God Belinda, why are you so paranoid? Sarah isn’t interested in your man. Wes on the other hand is interested in you. Just dance with him stop being a dick.”
“You’re the dick. You’re always the dick. You know I can’t dance…”
“I don’t think he needs you to dance, Belinda. Just go and be with him.” I wanted to spit. My stomach tied itself in knots because I knew Belinda didn’t know what she was asking me. And I was angry at her for not knowing, for putting me in a situation where to refuse would itself look suspicious.
“…Besides, I didn’t dress the way just to get sweated on my strange me or have my shoes destroyed.”
My irritation vanished. “You are so stupid,” I said. “Why would you come here then if you didn’t want to dance and be merry?”
“Wes wanted to. God, I miss New York. I can’t wait to get back,” she swatted at the air angrily. I pushed my chair back and stood up. “Where are you going?” asked Belinda. She looked around her, realising she was going to be alone. “Don’t leave me by myself.”
“Then come on! Look, Sarah…you have nothing to hate her for.” An idea struck me. “You know, I used to think you were the coolest chick out there, but I guess Sarah has you licked.”
Belinda eyed Sarah Amuah’s gyrating figure and stood up. “Please. She has got nothing on me.” She stalked off towards the dance floor, mini skirt swishing. Her legs flashed. She looked bad and mad. I shook my head. Typical Belinda.
Belinda tossed her hair and flung her arms out and the crowd went wild. I suspected that most of the cheers were from the men who got the best view whenever the underside of her bum appeared. Sarah Amuah turned around when the cheers grew and saw that Belinda was battling it out with her. She changed her moves, to battle position. The lead singer seeing what was happening, changed the song, moving from the dias to just the edge of the dance floor. Belinda was like a person possessed. I recognised the set of her mouth as the one she wore when we were children and she just had to have her way.
“Wow, what changed her mind?” I had been so lost in the two women and their supporters that I didn’t notice when Wes appeared, bearing the drinks himself. He set them down.
“Oh, you know Belinda,” I said. Gooseflesh prickled up my arms again.
“I do.” Wes looked at me in that way he did, taking a sip from the glass that was meant for him. He passed me another. “I got you another gin.”
“Thanks. I was drinking vodka,” I said.
“Oh, sorry,” Wes said but he didn’t seem to be listening to himself. He looked down the length of my body slowly then up again. “God Abby, you look sensational.” His Adam’s apple moved up and down.
“We should go dance,” I said making a move towards the floor. Wes put down his drink quickly and grabbed my hands.
“Stop running away. We have to stay here and hold our table or someone might take it,” Wes said. My hands stopped shaking as his heat travelled up them.
“Only one of us need stay,” I said. “Wes.”
“Abby don’t say my name. It makes me think of you…”
“I know what you think,” I cut him off. “I’m a bit restless; I need to work off my excess energy.”
“Oh so you know what it feels like? What do you think I was doing out there?” Wes smiled and started dancing again.
“You really are good,” I said. He ignored me, making punching motions with his hands. “Where did you learn that?”
“Some dude was doing it just now,” he said, doing some more azonto.
“No wonder Belinda is nervous about dancing with you, if you pick up things that easily.” Wes ignored me, pushing the chairs away from around me until there was space to dance around. I laughed when his intent became apparent. Wes raised his feet one after another in time to the music.
“What about you,” he whispered when he was near enough to my ear. “Are you nervous to dance with me, Abby?” Wes was behind me now and to anyone who was watching he was dancing at a respectable distance. We looked just like a normal friendly couple dancing. But I was aware of Wes’ belt buckle catching pocket of my jeans more than a few times.
“Wes, we should stop,” I said, still moving to his rhythm.
“Say the word then. Tell me to stop,” Wes said. I couldn’t. Each time he spoke, the warm breath from his mouth washed over me, carrying the fragrance of the whiskey he had been drinking.
“I can’t,” I said. I took a deep breath and turned around. “I can’t Wes, because I really want to fuck you.”
Wes had stopped dancing once I said the F-word. I had his full attention. His eyes bored into me, igniting sparks in my underpants. I felt my nipples, like twin points of pain fighting to stand against the restraints of my corset.
“God damn it to hell, Abby,” he said. “I really want to fuck you too.”