In three swift moves, Paul gave the bellhop a £5.00 note, all but pushed him out of the door and scooped Lera up in the rock hard bicep of his left arm. This is the way it was with Paul. He took whatever he wanted. It was a characteristic that Lera both hated and admired at once. After all, it had got him everything he had gotten in life so far… including her.
“Why don’t you get a shower?” Lerato suggested as he began to undress her. “I’m sure you’ve got to be knackered after your flight.”
“That’s a great idea. You’ll join me.”
It wasn’t a question.
Lera ran her tongue over her teeth and rubbed the back of her neck. If it weren’t for the fact that she truly was musty, she might have resisted. She needed a shower. Might as well have one with the man she was about to marry.
“You know how l like the water, baby. Not too hot, yeah?”
“Yeah, babes. I got it.”
Lera ran the water until it was the perfect lukewarm temperature. Even in London where the temperature was always a frigid 15 degrees he didn’t like the water hot. Good thing it was hot here in Ghana, where it was very hot. Where she was going to take a shower with the man she was about to marry.
When Paul strode into the bathroom he was stark naked. In the fluorescent lightening his skin looked like the color of raw spiced chai. He stepped into the stream of tepid water and pulled Lera in behind him. She should have been wild with desire for him. After all, Paul was everything a woman could want in a man… wasn’t he? Then why didn’t she get excited when he spun her around and cupped her breast? She moaned in mechanic response. Paul liked it when she made noises. She was suddenly grateful that he was penetrating her in the shower, where the flow of pipe water could compensate for the arid hollow space between her thighs.
This was all Khalid’s fault. If he had not burst back into her life, she could have been content with statuesque man who was growling and grinding into her and been wholly prepared to live life as his amenable wife. Paul’s voice disrupted her thoughts.
“Have you been on your pills, baby?”
He shuddered and released within her without another word. Lerato faked her climax and turned around to bury her face into Paul’s broad chest. She could better mask the rolling of her eyes from that position.
When they were lying in bed flipping through channels, Lerato finally asked what had brought him to Accra.
“I thought we might do a little bit of investigating,” Paul said, taking a sip of water from the glass by the bed. Just two mornings ago Khalid had brought her a drink in a similar glass. Lerato wondered what he was up to…
“Investigating into what?”
“You spend a lot of time in Ghana. You grew up here. I thought we might look into if your environment had anything to do with Nomsa’s condition.”
Lerato felt ice creep up her spine.
“Paul. Nomsa’s ‘condition’ is genetic. It has nothing to do with the environment.”
“But you see, I don’t believe that,” he said, hoisting his body onto his side. “I mean: look at you. Look at ME. We’re gorgeous, fit, intelligent people. How could we have a kid that…”
He couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“She has Down’s Syndrome, Paul. That’s all. She’s not a freak. She’s just not – “
“She’s not perfect. Go ahead and say it. You know you think about it too.”
“Of course I do! I’m her mother. I’d be concerned about her no matter what. But she’s here, and we’re going to have to do as best for her as we can; just like we would do any other children.”
“And that’s exactly my point. Before we have any other children, we need to get this thing sorted out. If you need to change your diet, or change your job, or spend less time in Africa to make sure our other kids come out normal, we need to investigate.”
She wanted to tell him that he sounded like a certifiable donkey, but Mister Tumbo would not take kindly to that.
“So what did you have in mind, Paul? Are we going to go over every meal I ate in boarding school, examine every mattress I’ve slept on since adolescence? What investigations did you have in mind?”
Paul didn’t care for her tone. He told her as much.
“I just want to know what you think you’re going to find!” she said, clearly exasperated.
“I don’t know,” Paul admitted. “Maybe I’m just grasping at straws. All I know is that the problem is not me.”
Lerato gazed at Paul with a look that was a cross between contempt and concern. She rubbed her palm over the back of her overgrown pixie haircut and closed her eyes.
“Paul… do you love Nomsa?”
“Yes. Of course I do,” he said absently. “And I love you, too. Hand me the remote, will you?”
Cecilia Adjei was bored. She had plenty of work to do at her job, but she was too hung over to go in. Ever since she had taken the position of deputy public relations officer for a local women’s advocacy group, she had spiraled deeper into depression; or whatever this old familiar feeling was. Every time a woman came into the stuffy offices of NOWA – New Order for Women in Africa – she felt those old pangs of despair that she had as a child. It was the same story every time.
My husband has beaten me and taken all my possessions.
My boyfriend has raped my son.
My parents have sacked me from the house for getting pregnant.
Cecilia had lived all of these lives in some form or another. Every week, her past life was re-incarnated through some hapless female who lived in the gutter or a glittering mansion… didn’t matter. NOWA would never be able to solve all of their problems. Not in her lifetime at least. She was a fool, a hopeful fool for thinking this organization or any other could snap their fingers and make her pain and the pain of all her sisters and mothers go away. Not a single day of work did anything to dull her agony.
And so she drank.
And she slept with men.
And sometimes other women, if she could find a willing partner.
And then she drank some more, just as she had been doing since she was sixteen. Old habits do not easily die.
However, at this very moment, she needed to get her hair done. Kofi had done quite a number on her tracks that morning. She was hardly fit to be seen in public! She picked up the phone and made a last minute appointment with her beautician. Thomasina never said no to Cecilia. She better not ever. That woman owed Cecilia her life, as far as she was concerned. She scanned her phone and dialed again. Two rings later, Lerato picked up.
“What are you doing, darling?”
“Laying here with Paul.”
“Eh? When did he get here? Why is he even here koraa?”
“Sweetie, I told you he arrived this morning when I left your hotel. Hold on a minute.”
Cecilia strained her ear to hear Lerato’s muffled explanation of who she was talking to. She sucked her teeth and waited for Lera to re-announce herself with a breathless ‘are you still there?’
“Herh! Tell that your foolish fiancé not to interrupt two women when they are talking eh?”
“Shhh! Don’t say that!”
“Stop giggling. Come with me to do my hair. I have an appointment in two hours.”
“Wena, mama. I’ll be there. Thomasina’s place neh?”
“Yes. And when will you stop these your bush South African things? Learn to speak like a proper Ghanaian. You’ve lived here all your life!”
Lerato snorted and told her she’d see her soon.
Cecilia stretched her long, dark chocolate mousse body over the crumpled sheets of the hotel bed and looked out of the window. She had 30 minutes to spare before she absolutely had to get a shower and get to salon on time. She stared blankly out of the window at the view of the city and ran her lithe fingers between her legs, stroking thoughtlessly at first, and then more aggressively. When she had brought herself to a full climax, she squeezed her thighs tight, cried for a moment, and then rushed into the shower to wash away the remains of yesterday.