Iya tried to be surreptitious as she watched Mabel walking into the restaurant. Getting caught staring was not something she wished for. It was bad enough that she had called her and asked to meet, even worse that Mabel had agreed as though they were old friends meeting for lunch. To any one watching as the women smiled gently at each other, shook hands and as Mabel took a seat opposite Iya, they were the very picture of calm civility: two women at lunch. Two definitely well bred and successful women, going by their quietly expensive clothes and perfectly applied make up and quiet voices as they exchanged civilities.
It was hard not to stare at Mabel. Every single eye in the restaurant had shifted to her when she walked in. She was a beautiful woman. One of those women so beautiful it was just this side of uncomfortable to be around them. Her hair, twisted into locs and wrapped into an elaborate bun on the top of her head was what caught your attention but you quickly found yourself mesmerized by her smooth nut brown skin, almond shaped eyes with bright brown pupils and long thick lashes, her full lips which today she had painted a bold red. Your gaze would then flow down the column of her neck which looked like something out of a Keith Mallet painting; long and graceful surrounded by a necklace of what looked like chunks of jet. She wore a preplummed blouse of bright yellow orange and red ankara fabric, paired with exquisitely cut black pants which molded to her toned and curvy frame. On her feet, what looked like black Jimmy Choo flats. She held no purse. The one accessory that always seemed so necessary to complete any woman’s outfit was lacking but the unhindered grace with which Mabel moved, the swing of her hips, the utter confidence in her stride made one quickly realize that this was not a woman who needed accessories to feel comfortable.
“Thank you for coming.” Iya said after Mabel had settled into her chair, hoping her voice sounded steady. “I got tea. Would you like anything?”
“No.” Mabel said quickly, her eyes briefly meeting Iya’s and then shifting away. “Thank you, though.” she added after a brief silence. It struck Iya then that Mabel was uncomfortable and suddenly she felt better about the meeting. Her friends had thought she was crazy when she had told them that she had called Mabel and asked to talk to her in person. They had been outraged that Mabel had agreed to meet. Brazen, wicked and callous was what they had called her. Eposi had warned that Mabel might be planning to humiliate her in public. Joan had asked what the point of meeting was. Nothing good could possibly come out of this, she had said. Keep the woman out of it, deal with him directly.
But Iya had known better. Or Iya knew Max better. For all his faults, the man was consistent and extremely picky in his preferences, especially when it came to women. She had known without a doubt that he would not have chosen a woman without class, a woman who lacked substance, a woman incapable of being civilized. She had known that whoever she was, Mabel would be formidable and an adversary to reckon with – a woman worthy of Max’s attention. Meeting Dr. Mabel Mbemba in the flesh made her feel an odd sense of pride that he had not disappointed.
Iya needed to talk to Mabel. Desperately. She needed to understand the situation. Her business analyst mind needed all the pieces to the puzzle before she could make a move. She had already spoken with Likume, Max’s best friend and with Ndolo, his little sister who was the family member he confided in. Talking to Mabel was the last piece. If she had any hope of making things right, then Mabel’s cooperation would be essential. A part of her had known that Mabel would agree to meet, that Mabel would not balk. Max would never have chosen a woman who could not face her adversaries. Also, if she had come to know Max as well as Iya knew him, then she would be curious too about the wife he had walked into her arms from.