Outside The Weston Hotel just below a huge footbridge that most pedestrians ignored, a woman stood talking into her phone. She was bearably pregnant and wore a plain white jumpsuit that impressively accommodated the lump. She seemed undeterred by the noise that evening traffic made on Lang’ata road as she spoke, her eyes on the passing cars and her left hand slightly bent to hook a big loose black handbag. She spoke into the phone for a little over thirty seconds and pushed it absently into her bag when she hung up. She was watching the cars going towards town more intently now, and her face relaxed when she saw a black Mercedes slow down and pull up beside her. It had gold rims and gold edges that breathed affluence into the black mass. She stepped back a little as the back door swung open and she got into the vehicle. It smelled of rich and new leather inside and there was almost a thick black taste to the air. A man in a black fitting suit and a white shirt sat next to her. He fingered a black tie absently in his left hand and was eagerly typing on the 5 inch phone in his right one. Scrolling through about a dozen football prediction sites. He did not immediately take notice of her so she had to nudge subtly against his side. He looked at her face and saw her staring at him with mild irritancy. He slipped the phone into the pocket of his coat and leaned in towards her, smiling with a half an apology. She hugged him back but broke the contact in less than three seconds.
“You kept me waiting. Again.”
She put her handbag on the space between them and leaned into the headrest, her right hand relaxing on her baby. She closed her eyes.
“Sorry love. The traffic was a nightmare.” He replied and added,
“How are you feeling?”
He supported his weight on his left hand on the seat as he turned his body towards her, letting her know that she had his full attention and then he placed his right hand softly on hers and smiled.
The touch of his warm fingers startled her for a second but she did not move. She allowed herself to feel them both and forgot that he had asked her a question. For a moment she forgot that she’d grown to detest him the more she loved the baby inside her. She remembered how simple love had been before all the money came. She remembered her greed and his ambitions. She opened her eyes and she said
“Tired and thirsty.”
She saw the expression change on his face and she added
“I’m joking. Jesus.”
“Are you really?”
She didn’t answer him. She didn’t know how to. She was a stranger to what she really wanted. She felt like was slipping away at the point when her body needed her mind the most. He was a stranger to her. He was speaking again but she didn’t quite come out her reverie in time to catch what he was saying. She wondered why they were still parked.
“Why aren’t we going home?”
“I…uh need to do something for minute.”
She knew what that meant but she was too tired to fight today. She just lay back to her comfort corner and heard him mumble some apologies. For the thousandth time he explained why she’d have to go home alone. To sit in their cold new house watching stupid shows on cable wondering what whore was sucking him off at that time. She sighed when he slipped out; to wash the anger and the pain away.
She felt the car come to life and join the traffic. She half hoped one of them would get knocked to the death by a quick crash.
Inside the hotel was warm and yellow and it smelled like plastic air. There was some sort of comfortable illusion of peace that made him forget all his troubles. He welcomed it as he crossed the marble floors and made his way through a sea of black suits to the back area where the open pool gleamed like a blue gem in the night skies. Around the pool about a dozen small and round tables were scattered. He proceeded to one in front of him where a woman in short black skirt sat sipping her drink seemingly without a care in the world. His pace decreased slightly as he approached her. He felt a little nervous. He hoped she wouldn’t smell it off him. She didn’t bother to stand as he reached her and opened his coat to slip into the seat next to her. For a minute all they exchanged were ambiguous stares before she spoke. With her glass half between her mouth and the table.
“You look stressed sweetheart. I don’t like you looking stressed.”
A waiter approached them with a glowing Ipad tucked in his bent left arm. He stood above them a few inches from intruding their personal space. He was going to ask something before she said,
“He’ll just have a glass of water.”
As the waiter walked back, he knew better than to get offended by her.
“You’re wearing me thin Daisy.”
“It’s not me. You know I’m just a collector.”
“You could get me more time.”
She chuckled. Amused at his desperate albeit makeshift innocence.
“It doesn’t work like that.”
She set her glass down and leaned on her elbows towards him, her voice now just above a whisper.
“You got rich off their odds and they noticed it. Hell, everyone did. You know the deal. You signed the damn contract yourself.”
He looked like he wanted to say something in his defence to protest but she was not done yet.
“Don’t get greedy now love. For both our sakes. Pay the goddamn money.”
She leaned back and took a long sip from her glass as the waiter approached. Hand out and all fake smiles with an expensively packaged bottle of water and a glass.
He watched her as the waiter set the bottle on the table and felt oddly conflicted. Something about her soft ruthlessness attracted him to her. And something about her smugness repulsed him. She had become the mascot of all his troubles just a few months after she’d been lady luck shining in the night.
He silently bemoaned his senselessness and hoped she wouldn’t ask more of him that night.
They were waiting for her that night when she got home. They were parked outside her gate in their very conspicuous red 504 Peugeot and they seemed to overflow in shadows out of the car. As the automatic gate pulled open and her driver entered the compound, she glanced out her window and got ready for her stomach to twist with the dread that they always came with. It did not. There was some kind of emptiness and resignation instead. Perhaps she was just tired. Either way, she was not going to fret figuring it out. She welcomed it as the gate closed silently in the security lights behind her.
The car pulled to a stop outside the front door and she picked up her handbag and opened the door to step out, slowly. The driver too got out and came around to help her out. He took her left hand gently and she felt his hard muscles beneath his black cotton shirt. He was tall and was built like a soldier. She found some little faith in the fact that once upon a time he had been in the army.
“Thanks.” She said as soon as she was on her feet. He nodded back as she passed him.
She stopped at her door and turned back.
“Only two of them can come in.”
He walked towards the gate as she unlocked the door and slipped into her living room. It was cold and dark, the only light sneaking in from the half moon outside in single rays through the half open drapes. She felt for a switch on the wall but changed her mind. There was some comfort in the shadows and she also did not wish to glance upon the misery that seeped from the walls of the house. She walked to the kitchen in slow strides, dropping her bag on the floor as she went and her left hand fingers brushing on a sofa softly. The open kitchen had a marble counter that faced the living room and she turned and settled her elbows on top of it, waiting, watching, and thinking. She glanced at the empty wine rack on her right and cursed him silently.
“You’re in no condition to be drinking.” He had said. And while she knew he was right, she felt more and more in need than she had ever felt before.
Her eyes now adjusted to the darkness, she saw a couple of shadows block the light on her front verandah. She saw them through the glass on her door and she yet again waited to feel her stomach to twist with dread. Again, it did not come. She raised herself up and walked to stand in front of the kitchen. She leaned on a wall and waited.