Choosing Me: Part 2

Read Part 1 here

One Year Earlier…

She watched him from across the crowded room, the food in her plate forgotten. Around her, loud conversations swirled against a backdrop of afro beats music and laughter. The sounds were typical of any Cameroonian party. The baby shower was in full swing now that all the cutesy games and gift giving was over. It was time to eat, drink and talk, the three things Cameroonians excelled at.  She might as well not have been there, however, so engrossed was she in watching him. Not that she would have had anything to say to anyone. The hosts were friends of Jude’s, francophones he grew up with in Yaounde. The majority of the guests were people she didn’t know. There were a couple of familiar faces, but no one she knew beyond the acquaintance level. Attending a baby shower had not been part of her plan when she’d impulsively bought a plane ticket to go visit him in Virginia, but he had insisted on going, stating matter-of-factly that he  made the plans before she told him she was coming.  After introducing her to Amandine the mother-to-be and her husband Yves, he  escorted her to the food table where she made plates for both of them. He’d then proceeded to grab a drink for himself and migrate over to where his friends were, leaving her to her own devices. So here she sat, watching him and thinking.

It was a common occurrence these days, this habit of mulling thoughts over in her head completely oblivious to her surroundings. The thoughts were usually about him… or them. About what was happening to them. About what was going to happen to them. They annoyed her, these thoughts, drained her of energy. Her friends said she was fretting over nothing but her gut had never failed her. She knew she had reason to worry. The challenge was figuring out what was triggering her warning system. On the surface things were as good as they could be at this point. They talked often – or as often as his work schedule would allow.  Not as much as she would prefer but they were both working adults living in different states. They couldn’t constantly be in touch, could they? Each time they talked, she felt she got to know the kind of person he was a little better. Or did she? Her mind threw the question back at her almost immediately and she paused. How well did she know him? And more importantly how well did he know her? Was he even paying attention? Or was he seeing just what he wanted to see? He had been distant recently and a lot of the effort to drive their communication seemed to be coming from her end.

A passerby ran into her leg almost upending her plate. A ball of puff-puff rolled off and thumped to the floor.

“Oh, I am so sorry!” The girl’s distinctly francophone Cameroonian accent seeped through her Americanized English. “Would you like me to get you another one?”

“No… That’s OK.” Nadia bent over and picked up the pastry, absentmindedly putting it back into her plate of barely touched food. The girl gave her a weird look, clearly thinking she still intended to eat the sullied food. “I’m done eating anyway” Nadia said quickly. It didn’t help. The girl’s eyes drifted to her still packed plate, and her brows furrowed with disapproval.

“Is there something wrong with the food?”

Nadia looked up at the girl, taken aback by her confrontational attitude. Her face was familiar. Smooth dark skin, high forehead and full lips with a pink tinge. Why did she seem familiar? And then it dawned on her. She was related to the mother-to-be. A sister perhaps. They looked alike enough  for that to be true. She had more than likely participated in the cooking.

“Uuuhh… No. No. The food is fine. I just lost my appetite. I’m sorry. My eyes were bigger than my stomach, I suppose.”

The girl narrowed her eyes at Nadia, obviously still not pleased with the answer. She looked like she might say something else but instead walked away, muttering something in French. Nadia heaved a sigh of relief. It was bad enough being at a party where she didn’t really know anyone, surrounded by Jude’s friends. The last thing she wanted was to get into a confrontation of any sort. Speaking of Jude, her eyes shifted to where he last was standing. He was still there and he was looking in her direction. The moment their eyes met, his slid away, barely acknowledging her. A frisson of discomfort ran through Nadia.

Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

“Oh my god, Vanessa! You made it, girl! I’m so happy to see you!”

A lull in the buzz of conversation and a pause between two songs made the mother-to-be’s exclamation louder and more noticeable than it would have been over the party’s din. All eyes shifted to the door where a group of girls had just walked in, among them, a strikingly pretty dark-haired white girl holding a brightly colored gift bag.  She exchanged hugs with the mother-to-be, a happy smile on her face. They obviously were good friends. Talking animatedly, they walked to the decorated table where all the gifts were so Vanessa could set down her bag and then turned to survey the party which had returned to normal with music and conversation. For some reason, Nadia watched Vanessa with great curiosity. She lacked the self-consciousness that most white people had when surrounded by black people. She was relaxed, even reaching over to pluck a piece of dodo from Amandine’s plate to eat, joy spreading over her face as she chewed. She leaned close to Amandine and asked a question. Amandine’s brow furrowed as she looked around the room. Her eyes settled on a spot and she gestured with her chin. Vanessa’s gaze followed the direction of the gesture and then softened as she found who she’d obviously been asking about. She smiled warmly, intimately and waved.

Nadia looked in the direction of their attention and felt a jolt when she saw whose gaze Vanessa’s was locked with. Jude looked ecstatic, his handsome face suffused with the glow which comes with the pleasure of getting a much desired wish.  It was a far cry from the annoyed almost hostile look he had given her when he picked her up from the airport the night before. Nadia’s eyes shifted back to Vanessa but it wasn’t Vanessa who caught her attention. It was Amandine. Amandine who was staring at her. Amandine, who looked away guiltily when their eyes met.

Nadia’s heart sank.

Choosing Me : Part 1

Before she even realized what she was doing, Nadia brought up her Facebook account on her laptop. She had sat down at her computer intending to work. Smiling ruefully and shaking her head she scrolled down her timeline, liking pictures and browsing through comments.  She wasn’t sure at what point it had happened but Facebook had been programmed as the default website her brain pushed her fingers to log into whenever she sat at her computer. It was  quite alright – the social networking site was a source of constant entertainment for her. Glancing over the conversations, the pictures, the memes, some inane, some important, had become a part of her daily routine. It connected her with her friends both in and out of the Cameroonian community, which was important to her.  She depended on it for her “social” life. It was after all “social” media right? Eugene, Oregon wasn’t exactly a hub for Cameroonians or any Africans and being relatively new to her job and the city, meant she hardly did anything other than work and exercise.

This lack of an active social life had been one of her major concerns before moving there. In Houston, Texas where she had attended college and grad school, there was a good-sized Cameroonian and other African community and she’d formed solid roots there. But the money Molecular Probes, the Eugene based biotechnology firm had offered her to work for them had made the move worth it.

She clicked on a video a friend had posted, of a little girl dancing azonto and chuckled delightfully at the look of concentration on the child’s face, her tongue sticking out as she bobbed and stepped to the music. She liked the video and moved down her timeline. Marianne was at travelling to Aruba? Nice! She made a mental note to call her childhood friend as soon as she could. It had been a while since they talked. Oh… It was Aban’s birthday? She typed a quick “Happy Birthday, big bro!” He was a friend of her brother’s. Ang, her college roommate who had recently moved back to her native Cambodia to work as doctor for Doctors Without Borders, had shared a link calling for donations to their small free clinic. She clicked on the link and bookmarked it, making a mental note to donate later. She scrolled further down. Bessem was ranting yet again about feminism. She rolled her eyes. That girl really needed to get a life…or a man…or both. She agreed with a lot of what the girl posted about, but goodness, wasn’t there other stuff she could talk about?

Someone doing the bible verse challenge

New York Times article about the futility of breast cancer screening. She bookmarked that too. Her mother had dealt with a bout of the disease and she read up on everything she could about it compulsively.

Another bible verse challenge participant.

Funmi’s baby shower. Oh no!  She’d forgotten to send a gift. She clicked through the pictures, her guilt warring with delight as she saw the look of joy on her friend’s face. The pictures went on and on and on and she knew if she continued clicking, it would become an inescapable  rabbit hole. She clicked out of the album.

I really should get work done…

But she kept scrolling.

Maggie had posted song from Daphne Njie. She liked Daphne. “Ndolo” She’d never heard that one. She clicked on the link to the song and Daphne’s smooth voice filled her room. She immediately liked the swinging zouk-like undertone the song had.

She returned to her timeline as it played, humming along.

I no go ever ever ever let you down…

Bible verse challenge.

Amaka was feeling happy.

You are so beautiful ….. Ah Ndolo….

Gwen had posted pictures from her latest event, in an effort to promote her decoration service. She liked the album.

Bible verse challenge.

Jude Abang is engaged.

Her heart missed a beat.

Jude was engaged?

Ah Ndolo….

She stared at the status update, in confusion and shock. How had this ended up on her timeline? Since their break up, she had unfollowed him and didn’t check his profile.

Mercy Angwafor commented on Jude Abang’s life event.

That explained it.

Jude was engaged?

Ah Ndolo….

To who? When did this happen? She checked the date and time. It had been posted the day before. Sunday. He had gotten engaged yesterday?

She clicked on his name to go to his profile, her curiosity overriding  the hollow pain in her chest. Sure enough there was a picture of Jude, smiling broadly with a girl she didn’t know, her slim hand outstretched to showcase the ring he’d just given her. The pain in Nadia’s chest grew in magnitude, sinking down to her stomach. Her heart beat accelerated till it thumped loudly in her ears as the reality of what she was looking at sank in.

Jude was engaged.

Frustrated Woman Using Laptop

Ndolo Ndolo Ndolo Ndolo

Ndolo Ndolo Ndolo Ndolo

Ndolo Ndolo Ndolo Ndolo

Ah Ndolo….Everybody thinks about you…

You are so beautiful

Ah Ndolo….

Easy

“You live in a fantasy world. One you created for yourself. One where things go according to rules that make sense only to you and you behave accordingly. To us here in the real world, your behavior makes you look crazy. Desperate. Cheap. Easy.”

Easy.

Easy.

The word ran through her mind over and over again. A condemnation. An accusation.

It was really strange as people tend to want things to be easy. No one would willingly chose a more difficult path if an easier path was available offering the exact same reward. Presented with an easy and difficult exam, job, task, with the same outcome, everything being equal, most normal thinking people would choose the easy one. Even the laws of nature are biased towards easy. Atoms, after all, always seek to achieve the lowest energy state possible and will do whatever needs to be done to get there…high entropy, low energy, perfect disorder.

It really should, and could, be easy.

It certainly had been easy that afternoon. She’d come back from work, tired, Tired but wired with what she knew was unspent sexual energy. She’d stripped out of her clothes and lay spread eagle on her bed in nothing but her bra and panties, letting the cool breeze from her open window wash over her skin. It was hot outside, but she didn’t turn on the air conditioning. She liked the humidity – liked how it lay on her skin almost like a lover’s carelessly thrown arm. A warm weight, no less sensual for its innocuousness. Her eyes drifted shut and instead of indulging in one of her fantasies which inevitably would have led to orgasm, her mind conjured up his face. Almost instinctively, her lips curved into a smile. She couldn’t help it. The things she felt for him had come easily. And she’d let them come. Even now, the swelling in her chest, the hesitant hope, so different from the cynicism that was her hallmark had come easily, despite herself. The moistening in her loins came the same way too. Easy. She chuckled.

Her phone had buzzed, the sound loud in her quiet room. It was an email from work. She scanned it quickly and after determining it was nothing that needed her immediate attention, she flagged it for review later. She swiped out of her email and did her customary social media check. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Nothing new. Double click, swipe up. She closed app after app which she’d left open on her phone, apps which ran down her battery. It was an old iPhone which barely could hold juice for two hours without dying. The last app was the camera. She couldn’t remember why she’d opened it but instead of swiping up to close, she clicked on it to open.

Send me a picture. His demand from the night before echoed in her head. She’d declined then as she had the first time he’d asked. And the next. And the next. As she’d always done.  The thought of that kind of picture of her in the hands of another person was too unsettling to contemplate. She’d told him that and he’d stopped asking eventually. But things had progressed…or so she thought. Now she wanted him to see. She wanted to share. She lifted the phone up and snapped. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then checked. She shifted position to get a better angle, then snapped again. She repeated the process till she got a catalog. Different poses. Different views. All communicating the same thing. All showing her just as she’d imagined they would. As she had feared they would.  Open. Vulnerable.

Beautiful.

7

She sent them.

It had been that easy.

The next time he’d asked, she had acquiesced. Easily.

4

As time had passed and things had become more intimate…or so she thought, the ease had grown.

1 3

“You shouldn’t have made it so easy. No man wants easy. You should have made him work for it. Made him feel like what he was getting is of high value. That is just how men from our side are. If they think it’s easy they’ll treat it as such. Easily gotten. Easily disposable.”

This line of thinking had always puzzled her. Why the need to make a man see her value, if he didn’t have eyes to see that value for himself in the way she lived her life? And if he didn’t feel like what he would be getting was of value, why would he pursue? Was she or any other woman valuable because they created the impression of being valuable? Or because of desirable intrinsic qualities whose value was not contingent on accessibility?  What was the real attraction? The unique qualities both good and bad, that made her who she was? Or the idea that she was not easy to get? Which really was a mistaken assumption. She was easy, laughably so. But to the right person – or who she believed to be.

What then if the aura of unavailability hid emptiness, boredom, vapidity, shallowness? Was the high value maintained because it was presented as valuable and hard to get?

And if that value had to be created and maintained with carefully chosen words and actions, at what point would it be fine to relax and be messy old self, without the risk of losing value? Where then, did the idea come from that love, the ultimate expression of the value you place on another, meant acceptance of that other, for who they are…not for who the make you believe they are?

And what about when, after the acquisition of the valuable was complete, and then the opportunity to pursue something else valuable – as defined as hard to get – presented itself?

What ultimately was held in high value? The creation which may not reflect reality? Or the reality, which like mother nature herself, simply might just want the lowest possible energy state?

And why treat people like objects? Possessions?

“I say these things to you because I care about you, but you will not listen to me. You are my friend and you have stuck with me through my own rough times. No one will tell you the truth about guys like I will, because I am a guy like them. I don’t want you hurt. But the path you have chosen, the way you want to live your life, the way you give yourself when you like a guy, will result in you being hurt over and over again, because most guys will just not get it. They will not get you. The society we live in will not get you and you will get hurt because of that. You will end up with the reputation of being easy and cheap even though we both know you are not.”

She heaved a heavy sigh. Resigned.

She gave freely. Always had. Probably always would, with the enduring hope, that the chosen the receiver would not only see the fancifully wrapped gift, or get lost in notions of value,  but would see the heart of the giver. Her intentions. Simple. Uncomplicated. Easy

Because she was.

Easy.

And that was OK.

Because things should be. If they could be.

8

Photo Credit: bebeautifulla.tumblr.com

Hairy Situations

“Yaya, are you coming?”

Bisi’s voice, deep and husky carried clear across the room, causing Yaya to look up from the storyboard she was working on. Bisi stood next to the hallway leading to the elevators, her jacket on, portfolio in hand.

“Girl…?” She widened her eyes and inclined her head. “It’s time for the meeting, come on! ”

The other occupants of the room, mostly other junior and mid-level  account managers looked expectantly at Yaya. Yaya and Bisi, everyone at Meacham and Pettigrew knew, were attached at the hip. They were the small advertising company’s  rising star account managers and it was their big day. Both women had coordinated to nab the attention of  Nadine  a major cosmetic company and today they presented their campaign to both Nadine and M&P’s executive. Success meant a huge contract for the company and definite promotions for both women. While they had worked as a team, everyone knew that it was Yaya’s persistence and attention to detail that would ultimately make the deal. Bisi saw big picture situations and had a feel for what was right. Yaya’s ability to solidify the concepts and communicate them effectively to graphic artists, copy editors and other people who worked to bring the campaign to life, and then review their work with almost manic meticulousness was what made their products top-notch. It was the expectation that Nadine would accept the campaign and Yaya would be point person working directly  with Nadine, while Bisi held down fort at M&P.

“I’m coming, Bisi, give me a second.” Yaya murmured, returning her attention to the story board she’d just received. It was for another campaign she was working on. Something was off but she could not put her finger on it. As was the case when she was thinking, she rubbed one of her chin length dreadlocks between her thumb and forefinger.

dreadswoman

“Meeting starts in fifteen. That story board can wait.” Bisi walked towards the corner where Yaya sat, her heels clicking on the floor. “We gotta make a good impression today, woman. Let’s go!”

“I know… but something is…”

“Off, I know. We can look at it after the meeting and your big promotion. Right guys?” She looked around the room.

There were murmurs of “Yes!” and “Go, Yaya, go!”

Everyone knew how important this account was. Their paychecks probably depended on it.

“Alright alright,” Yaya chuckled and locked her computer. She stood up and ran her hands through her hair. “How do I look?”

“Like the next account manager for the M&P, Nadine account. But we gotta go to make that happen, luv. Chop chop.”

Bisi spun around and made for the elevators. Yaya shook her head and grabbed her portfolio.

“Goodluck Yaya!”

“You got this girl!”

“Go get’em!”

The calls of support and encouragement came from around the room. Yaya smiled and nodded as she walked past her colleagues.

I sure hope so, she thought to herself.

In the elevator, Bisi tapped her foot impatiently as they rode to the executive conference room.

“You are so impatient…” Yaya chuckled to her friend.

“I’m ready to make that money, girl.”

“I know right! Let’s hope they think it is as good as we think.”

“Oh they better. We worked our butts off. You worked your butt off. I bet they give you a fancy new office at Nadine’s HQ to sweeten the deal.”

“You know if they do, you’ll probably end up using it more than I do.”

“This is true.” Bisi flipped her hair over her shoulder.

“It is still so weird to see you without your dreads. That was a pretty sudden decision to get rid of them.”

Bisi’s nervous movements slowed a little.

“I know…” She seemed a little more subdued, her voice a little quieter. “I was ready for a change. I’d had dreads for so long.”

” Yup. We got them together what, summer before we started college? That was like 7 years ago. That was a long enough time. Aiyana did a good job with this weave though, you got that Naomi Campbell thing going on.”

“For what I pay her, I better be Naomi’s double.” Bisi grumbled good-naturedly and both women laughed. “Besides, it’s just hair right?”

naomi_campbell41

Two hours later….

“What the hell just happened in there, Tom?”

Yaya faced Tom Cranfield, her manager across his desk, her fists clenched in fury, hot tears burning behind her eyes.

“Yaya, I am so sorry, you have to understand. We need this account but the folks at Nadine were adamant that they wanted Bisi and not you as their account manager.”

“But why? I basically put that campaign together single-handedly. You know it. They know it. Bisi knows it. You let them cut me out completely.”

“We made the decision that was best for M&P, Yaya. I know it screwed you over but we had to. Nadine was too big for us to let something as trivial as your hair get in the way of us getting them.”

Excuse me?”

Tom’s eyes widened as he realized what he had just said. A red flush crept up his face.

“Look. Nadine was reluctant to have either of you ladies as their account manager, seeing as you would have to work with their stakeholders. Something about you not exactly being the image their company wanted to project.” his eyes darted to her deadlocked hair.  “But they really liked the campaign you put together. Somehow Bisi must have found out. Why didn’t she tell you?”

Photo Credit: africancurls.com, starpowerrent.com

The Lunch Date Pt. 8 (Final Installation)

Read Part 1 here   Read Part 2 here   Read Part 5 here
Read Part 3 here   Read Part 4 here   Read Part 6 here
Read Part 7.1 here Read Part 7.2 here  
Read Part 7.3 here Read Part 7.4 here
Read Part 7.5 here Read Part 7.6 here
Read Part 7.7 here Read Part 7.8 here
Read Part 7.9 here



“Hello, you’ve reached Mabel Mbemba. Sorry I can’t answer your call right now but if you leave me your name and number, I’ll give you a call back as soon as I can.”




“Hmmmm… Sister May, you di cam back from that Barbados wey you go na when? Enjoyment oh! I’ve been trying to reach you for the last couple of days. Ase-eh, no that Dr. Max Litumbe di work na for that hospital we you be dey dey? Wandaful thing oh! So his wife got killed in a hit and run accident near their house, last week. Hit and run in broad daylight with people around, oh! They said maybe someone killed her because eyewitnesses saw the person driving the car that hit her step out and pick up some of her things from the road before driving away. But no one was really sure what the motive was. And then yesterday, the news broke that her husband was going after the Secretary of State’s son who is running for Congress in New York for her murder and get this, his story is being corroborated by another man  whose family owns the company the woman used to work for, some money people for wuna Chicago dey. This is a guy she who allegedly she had an affair with. I say eh! Dirty laundry is spilling. All man don confuse. The story is developing but all the major news networks have picked up on it, I sure sey e go reach international news small time. Na big scandal for here. Also, a while ago there were rumors that the Max Litumbe himself was cheating on his wife. Do you know anything about that?”



THE END




So this has been a pretty long journey. Thank you all for sticking through to the end. I know it didn’t end with your favorites riding off into the sunset in bliss with the promise of  a life full of joy and babies. But then, life is messy and we have to deal. I hope the story entertained you. But I also hope it made you think about the themes it featured. 2015 will feature more from me and we’ll delve deeper into our often untold stories.



The Lunch Date Pt. 7.9

Read Part 1 here   Read Part 2 here   Read Part 5 here
Read Part 3 here   Read Part 4 here   Read Part 6 here
Read Part 7.1 here Read Part 7.2 here  
Read Part 7.3 here Read Part 7.4 here
Read Part 7.5 here Read Part 7.6 here
Read Part 7.7 here Read Part 7.8 here

Iya watched the shifting emotions on Max’s face so she knew exactly the moment he decided he was walking away from her. First ,there had been the revulsion at the thought of what the envelope she held out contained: pictures, written accounts, lab results which recounted her defilement in gory detail. Then there had been shame, because he realized what happened to her was not something she had asked for. Then there had been a flash of anger as he thought about the fact that she had hidden all of this from him, choosing instead to confide in another man. The anger festered into resentment as he thought about the consequences of her decision. His resentment was tinged with uncertainty however, because she knew he still couldn’t answer with certainty what his reaction would have been had she confided in him. She knew he couldn’t say for certain he would have understood and sympathized then. The uncertainty grew as he thought about Mabel and the fact that his first recourse had been to jump into the arms of another woman.
 
For a couple of seconds, Iya wished she could talk to Mabel again. Aside from Sebastian Mabel was the only other person who seemed to actually understand where she was coming from and the precariousness of her situation. After their lunch meeting, at the end of which Mabel had gently encouraged her to seek therapy before even talking to Max about what had happened, nothing had been said about the affair with Max.
 
The growing uncertainty on Max’s face, however, soon recaptured her attention. He was likely thinking about the magnitude of the scandal her going to the police would cause, and how that could affect him and his career. The Hammonds were a very, very rich and even more powerful family. Finally, he thought about the fact that for all his trouble, he could still be losing her to Sebastian.
 
“I’m sorry, Iya. I don’t care when you file your charges, just keep me out of it going forward. I can’t do this anymore.
 
She’d been expecting the words but they wounded her nonetheless. A small part of her had hoped that this could be their chance to start all over again. While she’d sat waiting in the examination room of the hospital Sebastian had taken her too and then on her flight home, she’d wondered if staying with Sebastian was a good choice given the revelations she was about to make and how he and his family were involved. She’d found herself thinking again about the day he had told her he was marrying Kate. How she had cried and begged him not to. His stony silence, then and how he’d walked out of her apartment, leaving her curled into fetal position on the floor crying like a baby. She’d thought too about how he’d simply walked away from his marriage to Kate when he was no longer willing to be in a relationship with her. Then she’d wondered if Sebastian Roth even had it in him to be loyal, to stay the course. What direction he would be walking in when things got rough with the case as it definitely would get, given that his family and their business which they had built over four generations would be taking direct hits?

That was when the thought had popped in her head to stay with Max and try to mend things with him. Max who, until he found out about her deception, had never given her cause to doubt him. Max who according to Mabel, still loved her. Max who just seconds ago had made it clear he wanted no more to do with her. There had been deceptions and betrayals between them but with both of them being willing, they could work through it all and perhaps come out stronger. All of that had hinged of course on if he would be willing to stay with her despite what was  about to be a very public, nasty career destroying and quite possibly dangerous legal battle. She was not some sort of prize he would win for sticking with her. It would be incredibly presumptuous and manipulative of her to act like that. If he wanted to stay by her side through the trial, better it be from his own goodwill. She certainly did not hold it against him that he chose to walk away.

Yet a small part of her had hoped.A familiar helplessness crept over Iya. A helplessness borne of having survived a traumatizing experience but being unable to fully process, heal and move on from it. It was, she thought, like being paralyzed from the heck down but being fully conscious of the fact that you had legs and arms that used to move. The helplessness was accompanied by loneliness.

“I can’t do this anymore.” Max repeated.

“It’s fine… I understand.” Her voice, previously strong was now raspy and weak. She picked up the envelope from where it lay on the bed between them, still untouched.

“I’ll catch a cab back into the city. You should hear from whatever lawyer Lorie can find for me tomorrow.” 

He made no response.

Even though there were no cabs in the quiet residential Glenview neighborhood  their house was located in, Iya grabbed her bag and walked out. It wasn’t until she was a block away from her home that she realized the streets were empty of anything but private cars. Dusk was falling and the streetlights  were just starting to come on. A few people walked their dogs and up ahead she could see a lone jogger. She pulled out her phone and pulled up the number for the cab service she patronized through Morrison and Roth. She could not use her company credit card but they certainly would send someone over to pick her up. The automatic response system informed her that all operators were busy but someone would be with her shortly. She listened absentmindedly to the saxophone music they  played as she walked down the street. She knew there was a Starbucks at the intersection down the street . She could wait there for them. Probably start looking up divorce lawyers too. She looked up and down the road to make sure she could quickly cross to the side the coffee shop was on. The road was empty except for a beat up Honda Civic, making its way slowly towards the intersection. If she walked fast, she could cross the road before it got close. A cheery female voice thanked her for calling Chicago Premier Chauffeur services and asked for her phone number as she stepped off the side walk into the street, increasing her speed. She started to give the woman her information but was distracted by the sound of an engine revving and tires screeching. She turned just in time to see the once slow moving car bearing down on her, accelerating as it closed the short distance between them.

Why can’t I see the driver?

This was the last thought she had before the car hit her full force, sending her sailing in the air to land twenty feet away, her skull hitting the pavement with a sickening cracking thud.

Even as people began running towards her prone form, the car stopped and the driver jumped out long enough to grab her purse and document satchel which lay in the street and then speed away.

Read part 8.0 (Final Installation) here

The Lunch Date Pt. 7.8

Read Part 1 here   Read Part 2 here   Read Part 5 here
Read Part 3 here   Read Part 4 here   Read Part 6 here
Read Part 7.1 here Read Part 7.2 here  
Read Part 7.3 here Read Part 7.4 here
Read Part 7.5 here Read Part 7.6 here
Read Part 7.7 here






The quietness of the neighborhood, once one the things he liked the most about the location of the house, now weighed on Max’s spirit. It was 4pm and he had just finished a twelve hour shift. Bloomfeld-Hyman Pediatric Surgical Center  where he worked was located in Chicago’s downtown area. This meant that there was always noise, if not from the busy hospital, then from the bustling city in which it was located. He was never alone with his thoughts when he was at work, which was good, because his thoughts were not the best company these days. When he returned home, however, it was an exercise in creativity to avoid them. He had worked out; pounding out miles on the treadmill in the basement until he was weak with exhaustion, and then lifted weights to further seal the deal. After a warm shower, he’d lain down, hoping to fall asleep. But the silence of the house and its surroundings, instead of providing peace, hung like an ominous cloud which would rain down unwanted thoughts and reflections. The silence was almost  passive aggressive, like the religious fanatic aunt who obviously disapproved of some aspect of your lifestyle but instead of talking to you about it, gave you the silent treatment, accompanied by baleful looks which eventually pushed you to confront her, after which she spoke non stop, quoting the bible copiously. 

 
Max chuckled at that image, rolling over to press his face into the pillow. Anything to keep his thoughts at bay. They overwhelmed him and made him feel out of control. It was not a feeling he enjoyed. He made himself think about the scripture this imaginary aunt would quote if she was present to comment on his predicament. Would she advocate a divorce? Sexual immorality was the only reason provided in the New Testament to justify a divorce and there had been enough of that between him and Iya. Perhaps she would encourage them to work things out, just as his mother had. Max cringed as he thought about the conversation he’d had with his parents the day before. When he’d come out of surgery and seen the missed call from his mother, he had known with absolute certainty that the news of his alleged activities had reached her ears. 
 
As it turned out, some enterprising soul had posted pictures of the recent scholarship award ceremony he and Iya had attended, to Fako Nation, the Facebook group maintained by Bakweri people at home and in the diaspora. Underneath a picture of him, a member had made an innocuous comment about the need to show respect for the trailblazers in the community, referencing Joan’s behavior at the ceremony and the subsequent rumors she’d started with her claims. That had devolved into a heated debate with people siding with Joan and others with him. A cousin of his in Limbe had been showing his mother the pictures on his phone and they had wondered why there were so many comments underneath that particular picture. 
 
When he had called her back, his mother, never one to beat around the bush had asked him directly if he had cheated on Iya. He had confessed, unable to lie to her.
 
“Max,” she had said, her voice stern with censure  “I know the son I raised and I know that I raised an honorable man. So, please explain to me why I feel like I am talking to a stranger right now. I have you on speakerphone and your father is here. “
 
Seated in his car, in the parking lot of the hospital, he had told his parents the whole story, starting with what had happened to Iya at Cornell, up until his last conversation with Mabel. When he finished their stunned silence had reverberated across the thousands of miles. The silence had continued for a couple of minutes then he’d heard sniffling and his mother’s muffled voice. They had obviously taken him off speaker phone. His father murmured something in return causing his mother to snap something at him. Then his father’s voice, clearer than what speaker phone would allow, gentle with concern.
 
“Are you OK, son?”
 
“I’ll be lying if I said I am fine, daddy.”
 
“I understand.”
 
Silence.
 
“Your…er.. your mother says she will talk to you later.”
 
“OK”
 
Another awkward silence ensued.
 
“Is Iya alright?”
 
“I honestly don’t know, daddy. We mostly avoid each other these days when she is in town. She’s been travelling for work and spends more time in New York.”
 
“With him,” his father stated.
 
Max sighed.
 
“Yes. With him”
 
More silence. In the background, Max could hear the opening jingle for Luncheon Date, the afternoon news program broadcast on Cameroon’s national radio network. His father listened to it religiously. He could picture him now, seated in their modestly furnished living room, waiting for his lunch.
 
“So, what are you planning to do?”
 
“I honestly do not know, daddy.”
 
“Do you still want to be married to her?”
 
“She’s my wife.  The only woman I have ever loved in my life. My best friend.”
 
“Is she or was she?”
 
His father’s question had hung unanswered between them. When his father had realized no answer was forthcoming, he had pressed on.
 
“And this other woman, your colleague. What do you plan to do about her?”
 
Max sighed again.
 
“I don’t know…”
 
“Maxwell, everyone makes mistakes in life. Allowing those mistakes to perpetuate, is another matter. Do not let you and Iya’s problems turn you into a man you will not be proud of becoming.”
 
“Daddy, it’s complicated.”
 
“It certainly sounds complicated and it will only get more complicated the longer you allow this to continue.”
 
Silence stretched between them again.
 
“Things were once…complicated between your mother and I.”
 
His father’s quietly spoken words had stunned Max.
 
“You must have been around 3 years old. It was during the time I worked in Yaounde. Being away from your mother was hard… I was young and stupid. Which really is no excuse but it really is the only reason.”  Godfrey Litumbe heaved a deep sigh of his own. “For the two years I was there,” he continued “I had someone. One of the secretaries at the Ministry. I tried to be discreet about it but your mother eventually found out. By that time the girl was pregnant. She thought I would leave your mother for her, since she was pregnant. I may have led her to believe that too. I was that selfish. But in the end I couldn’t. I told her she could have the baby and I would take care of it and her, but that I would not leave my wife and family. She was about six months pregnant by then. She tried to commit an abortion and bled to death. The baby didn’t make it either.”
“Oh my God…daddy…” Max muttered, his heart pounding in his chest. His father had always been his hero. A role model he felt he could always count on to do the right thing. This was the very last thing he expected to hear. 
 
“Knowing the way pregnant and unmarried women are treated and still telling that woman that I was not going to leave my wife and marry her, was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But I did it because it was the right thing to do. Your mother deserved better. You deserved better. After that episode, your mother and I almost divorced, anyway. She felt betrayed and rightly so. But we decided to work on it. We communicated better, our marriage got better.”
 
There was another pause. Then his father continued.
 
“I don’t know what the right thing to do is in your case. I wish I did, but I don’t. I’d love for you and Iya to work on things but you best  know what is and isn’t possible. What I do know is that this current state of confusion is not the right one. You and Iya are adults. You answer to no one but yourselves and your consciences, ultimately.”
 
His mother had called him a couple of hours later.
 
“You spoke with your father?” Her voice had sounded strained.
 
“I did, mum.”
 
“Good.” 
 
Silence.
 
“I didn’t want him after that mad girl killed that poor baby.” She continued. “His hands were stained by the most innocent of blood. I wanted to take you and just go back to my parents. But I had to remember that underneath that ugly stranger, there was the man I had married. The Godfrey Litumbe who had made me the happiest girl in Limbe when he asked me to marry him. Just as I have to remember that underneath the ugly story you just told me, is the innocent and brilliant girl I know to be Iya Malafa. The girl you married with my blessing. I have to remember also, that the man who took a woman to his bed, a woman he had no intention of staying with, a woman who became a convenience, I have to remember that this man is my own son.”
 
“Mummy…” Max had begun to speak but she had cut him off.
 
“You sit quiet and listen to me, Maxwell. My heart is broken. Broken for Iya, broken for you. But broken things can be fixed if the person who breaks them wants them to be fixed. Whatever your decision, please remember that broken things can be fixed.”
 
That had ended that conversation.
 
He had known he had to talk to Mabel. He had to come clean, tell her he could not give her any of the things she wanted, not because he was going back to Iya, but because he didn’t love her enough. She had been ignoring his calls and texts so he’d made his way over to her floor after his shift ended. Marcia had given him an odd look when he entered the suite.
 
“Don’t tell me you miss me so much you plan to keep coming around here to bless us with your good looking behind.” There was a mocking note in her thick southern accent.
 
Max had  smiled as charmingly as he could manage.
 
“Marcia, you know you are and have always been the only reason I come around these parts.”
 
“Mmm hmmm.” she’d huffed with a neck and eye roll. “Well, your other reason is on vacation now, but she ain’t returnin’. Word is she didn’t renew her contract when it came up for review last week. I’d have thought you would know, y’all being from the same country and all. I thought you was all close.”
 
Max had only stared at her in shock. She’d stared back at him unfazed, then given a pointed look at the wedding ring he still wore. With a raised eyebrow, she’d lifted the mug of tea she always had available, sipped from it and turned her gaze to her computer screen. Seconds later, she was tapping away.
 
He’d been dismissed.
 
Mabel was gone and Marcia, the only person who could have told him where to find her, was angry.
 
A soft footstep interrupted his thoughts. He looked up from the bed and Iya stood in the doorway of their bedroom.  He’d been so lost in his thoughts he hadn’t heard her enter the house. Her overnight bag lay at her feet and she clutched a big envelope in a grip so tight, he could see the tendons in her hand from where he lay. She looked pale and tired. She was supposed to be in New York for the next couple of days for a meeting. At least that is what her calendar which she had synchronized with his, so they both knew what the other was doing, had said. What was she doing back so early?
 
“I left Morrison and Roth.” 
 
She blurted the statement out, as if to answer his question.
 
“I’m going to press charges against Kyle Hammond.” She walked towards him and held out the envelope. “These are the results from my rape kit. Kyle’s mother tried to destroy them but Sebastian got them before she could.” He didn’t take the envelop so she stood there holding it between them. “I thought you should know before I contact the police and a private investigator. Kyle admitted to raping other women but none of them have come forward. I’m going to try to find them and see if I can convince them to testify.”
 
He still had not taken the envelope so she placed it on the bed.
 
“I’m willing to wait if you want to get  divorce and dissociate yourself from me before things get nasty. But I am doing this.”