You see — as soon as I saw you approaching the house carrying all your load on your back like a tortoise, I knew that you had disgraced us in your husband’s house. Did I not train you to be an acceptable wife? The fire under plantains should not be too high, as it will turn black like charcoal. This is how to cook Moi Moi. This is how to put the pureed black-eyed peas into leaves and fold them into a pot so the steam can cook them into fluffy cakes.
He didn’t want people to think he was anything like his father.
He sighed again. The sound swallowed up by his inner emptiness.
He must be getting introspective in his old age. Thinking about Tanisha and what an idiot he had been. Thinking about his relationship with the old man.
He thought of Tanisha again. He kept seeing her face and her tears the last time he had been with her.
He had gone to see her and was hoping her parents would be in. That way he could keep to his earlier script i.e. – a nice clean parting. No tears. No recrimations and the temptation being kept to a bare minimum but nothing in life is ever that easy.
It was a hot day and she was wearing shorts and a strappy top and he felt his good intentions melting away faster than the fizzy pop she had offered him at his arrival.
“You still going then?” It was a statement.
He nodded and saw her eyes fill up with unshed tears.
“I don’t want you to go.”
He kept silent and tried to keep his eyes on her face and not anywhere under her neck. The top she was wearing wasn’t particularly helping him, urging his imagination into forbidden places.
“When are you coming back?”
He shrugged. “I can’t say. Maybe Christmas. Depends what happens at college.”
“You’re going to go away to college and meet other girls and forget all about me.”
He smiled. “I couldn’t forget about you. I care about you.”
She put out a hand and touched his face. “I care about you. I just want to be with you. “Her big eyes promised the world as she let her body rest against his.” They are out for a few hours.”
Heat flowed through him and despite his good intentions he drew her into his arms. She shook her head and took him by the hand and without saying a word, they went upstairs.
He had never been in her room. There was pink and white everywhere. Flowers as well. He felt out of place amongst the checked gingham curtains and flowery wallpaper. A picture of Tanisha aged about 8 stared up at him from the photograph. Sweetness. Beauty. Innocence- and he felt out of place.
His body urged him on but his head and his heart were rebelling. It was a battle, one that he was losing by the second the more she kept looking at him with her big eyes.
He muttered under his breath and they collapsed on the bed, kissing as if it was their last few minutes on earth. He held her in his arms and his heart raced. This was it, the moment he had been anticipating all summer.
Then she said it and his heart was turned to stone.
“I love you Kevin.”