When Lerato and Khalid emerged from the office, disheveled and glowing with delight, Paul was in the parking lot waiting for her…
Nah… That’s not what happened! Just kidding! This is what really happened next.
The world entirely too small a place for Nomsa. On a normal day Nomsa’s world consisted of six rooms: her grandmother’s kitchen, her grandmother’s living room, two bathrooms, her grandmother’s bedroom in the spare room were Nomsa had her nap. The world only got bigger when Mummy was home. Those days were few and far between though. Nomsa spent most of her time with her grandmother.
There were days when the world expanded just a little bit and those were days when grandmother let her watch the television. There were so many bright colors, pretty little girls, interesting places… Like the mall! Nomsa remembered a time when she went to a place to look like the mall. She imagined that she must be a very pretty little girl too just like the one she saw on TV. Everyone stared at her when Mummy pushed her in her stroller from store to store. Yes, she must be very pretty indeed.
But today, the world was still very small.
“Nomsa, it’s time for your nap,” said her grandmother. “Your Mummy and daddy will be here very soon.”
Nomsa giggled with delight. Grandmother had told her that into more sleeps Mummy would be back. Nomsa kicked off her shoes and obediently jumped into bed. If she went to sleep and woke up, and went to sleep and woke up again maybe Mummy would be back! She closed her eyes and dreamed of hugs, and nuzzles, and kisses and dreamed for her world to get bigger once again.
The Accra airport was teeming with people. Little brown girls with freshly braided cornrows and their harried mothers stood forlornly in long, snaking lines waiting to be called to the counter. Whenever there was an announcement blared over the loudspeaker everyone stops their frantic movement in order to listen and see if the all-important information applied to them. For those whom it did not concern there was an immediate return to standing, shuffling, sucking of teeth, and complaining about service levels. In the midst of all this humanity stood two women locked in a tight embrace. Cecilia was hugging Lerato tightly and giving Paul the side eye from a safe distance. He was at the British Airways counter sorting out their bags.
“I just don’t understand why you have to go so quickly,” she wailed. “It seems like you just got to Ghana and now you have to leave again. It’s all his fault I know it!”
Lerato returned her friends embrace whispered for her to lower her voice.
“I know it sucks that I have to leave,” she replied, “but I have to get back to my real life and I have to get back to Nomsa. I think I accomplished everything I needed to during this trip anyway…”
“I think you accomplished making a mess,” said Cecilia. “When you to do about Khalid?”
Lerato blew out a loud breath and rolled her eyes at ceiling.
“Girl, I honestly don’t know things just got really complicated really fast.”
Not long after she had gotten back to the hotel and washed away the scent of their lovemaking Lerato received a text from Khalid. He had broken up with Ivy.
I hope this proves to you how serious I am about us, his text said.
Lera had not responded immediately. What could she say? Somehow, she had created a fantasy where everyone can get what they want. She could stay with Paul and have Khalid, and Khalid could continue on with life with his girlfriend. She was perfectly happy with that arrangement, but it seems as though Khalid wanted to force her hand and make a true choice. Cecilia only grunted when Lerato told her about her dilemma.
“You know I’m always here for you; if you ever need me I’ll be right here,” said Cecilia.
“Thank you sweetie,” Lerato smiled in gratitude. “And I’m sorry I had to tarnish your reputation with Paul. I just didn’t know what else to do.”
“I couldn’t give a fuck what Paul thinks about me. As far as I’m concerned he’s a controlling self-centered bastard, but hey, at least he gives great gifts.” Cecilia motioned to the gilded pendant hanging from Lerato’s neck.
At that moment Paul walked up and interrupted the two women’s conversation. Not bothering to hide his contempt for Cecilia, whom he was sure was a negative influence on his fiancée, he returned her stare of condescension and grabbed Lerato by the hand, telling her it was time to go.
“Cecilia,” Paul said sardonically.
“Paul,” Cecilia replied disdainfully.
“I’ll call you when I get back to London, Cece,” said Lerato.
“Alright my dear. Travel safely.”
Cecilia, in her trademark move spun on her heel and walked away without looking back. This abrupt method of parting when first encountered seems rude, but it was a comfort to Lerato. She knew it was Cecilia’s defense mechanism and used to her minimize pain. It meant a great deal to Lerato to know the Cecilia was sad at her parting.
“They’ll calling our flight in a few minutes,” said Paul “Are you ready to head upstairs?”
Lerato felt her cell phone buzzing in her purse. It could be only one person calling. It was Khalid. She couldn’t risk telling him goodbye. The morning they had spent together and his office would have to suffice.
“Yes. I’m ready. Let’s go home.”
The flight back to London was as pleasant as Lerato could expect. Paul had upgraded her ticket from business class to first so that they could sit together, assuming that that’s what she would want. She sat rigidly in her seat while he made small talk with the petite stewardess. What color was her hair? It was hard to tell with all the lowlights and highlights and this artificial cabin light.
She didn’t feel much like talking to Paul, so she buried herself in the in-flight entertainment. She had already seen every Hollywood movie that was being offered, so she chose a Bollywood flick – hoping that it would be a mindless, predictable tale and allow her to soak in the thoughts of the three clandestine encounters she’d had with Khalid in just under two weeks.
The phantom sound of his melodic voice calling her name compelled her body to slacken its defensive posture. A little smile played about her lips as she half-stared at the screen through her lowered lashes.
You are Asase Yaa, to me, Lerato. A goddess…
“Lerato! Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?”
Paul frowned at her disapprovingly.
“About the proposed merger between Stein Corp. and the Hathaway Fund. I’ve been talking about it for almost five minutes!”
Lerato straightened up in her sit and took a sip of water from a fluted glass.
“I’m so sorry, my love,” she blubbered. “I was engrossed in this film…”
Paul chided her for her pretended indulgence.
“This is Punjabi crap. Watching this is only going to make you less intelligent by the minute.”
“I happen to like Bollywood films, Paul.”
“Whatever,” he said dismissively, turning off her entertainment unit and handing her a copy of Forbes. “Here. Read this. This is something we need to discuss. We should probably look into getting you on board with Hathaway if the merger goes through.”
Lerato knotted her brow and stared at Paul.
“I thought you didn’t want me to work? I thought you wanted me to stay at home with the kids?”
“Well, that was before I knew what quality of kids you’d end up producing,” he scoffed, settling into his seat. “I think your talents are much better suited for the corporate world than child bearing and rearing… at least for the moment. Read the article and tell me what you think in a few minutes.”
Lerato wordlessly flipped through the glosses pages of the financial periodical before she stopped and stared at the billowy clouds floating underneath her. She was restless.
Only five more hours until they landed.
“Nomsa, just sit down!” grandmother was pleading. “You’re not being a good girl at all!”
Nomsa laid on the floor, spread her body into a pentacle and began to wail anew. Why wasn’t Mummy here? She had gone to sleep twice and woken up. Why hadn’t a new day started? Where was her Mummy? Granny had promised that when she went to sleep and woke up, Mummy would be here!
Unable to articulate her frustrations, Nomsa picked up a plastic ball and threw it at the wall. That earned her a quick swat from her grandmother.
“No. That is unacceptable!” she scolded. “Go and lay down in your room.”
When Nomsa refused to go willingly, grandmother scooped her sweating, tear soaked body into her arms and set her in the bed herself.
“You will have to stay here until I call you back out,” she said unkindly.
The world had gotten even smaller again.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Nomsa heard familiar voices in the house.
“She’s in her room.”
“How was everything?”
“As well as it could be, I guess. I don’t know.”
“Did she misbehave?”
“She was fine until I told her you were coming home and then she went berserk today for no reason! I didn’t think she knew what that meant… I was just making idle chat with a toddler.”
“I’ll go get her…”
The sound of tiny feet – not big feet like Daddy’s – came down the wood floors. One-two… one-two.. Nomsa sat straight up in her bed and waited to hear the door to creek open.
“Hello? Is my baby in here?”
Nomsa let out a squeal of delight and dropped onto the floor.
“Maa! Maa!” she trilled at the shadowy figure that was her mother.
Lerato bent down to scoop up her child, kissing her tenderly.
“Come on. Let’s go say hi to Daddy.”
Nomsa buried her nose into her Mummy’s neck and took deep gulps of air. She loved the way Mummy smelled. It was like something sweet and yummy. A bigger figure stood by the door, jingling its keys. Daddy. He did not reach out to hug her and she did not reach for him.
“Her cataracts getting worse,” he said. “You’ll have to take her in to the specialist this week.”
“Yes… I know.”
Mummy sounded sad. Why? Grandmother spoke next.
“We will have to keep up our prayers that she doesn’t lose her sight completely… that she doesn’t go blind.”
Nomsa didn’t know what ‘blind’ meant, but it didn’t matter. Mummy was home, and the world was going to get bigger again.