Pam stared at her reflection in her bedroom mirror, feeling uneasy and out of place.
What was she doing trying to compete with an illiterate 22 year old? Her mind was like a blank canvas, all rational thought fleeting.
Her dress was midnight blue lace, an expensive bit of gossamer she’d bought on impulse at an Ankara sale months before at the pesky Jane’s insistence, and never worn. It had thin straps and a short, above the knee skirt. Sterling silver hoops swayed from her earlobes; a silver chain glinted against the soft, rising curve of her breasts. Adorning her feet were slender-heeled silver sandals.
She looked as if she were dressed for a special date with a special somebody. Her throat closed. In truth, she was dressed for a charade.
It’s just a dinner, she chided herself. She is going to be in my kids life…need to make nice…
She was nothing if not pragmatic. At least she knew the truth
She thought back to what had transpired that afternoon at her friend’s Juliet’s. Not one, but two of her close friends had been proposed to. While she maintained a good face, it served to remind her of her own perceived shortcomings. A single mother aged 30 with two adorable babies with different daddies wasn’t exactly what she had set out to achieve in her life goals for herself. What was that they said, life is what happens when you are busy making plans.
Now reduced to a soon to be divorcee because she couldn’t birth boys for her husband. She had society’s misogynistic culture and his intrusive ragged family to thank bitterly for that.
She had deliberately misled her girl pals who assumed that she maintained a healthy dose of dating. The truth was harder to spell out. She could only imagine the horror of their reactions if she were to lay bare her Pandora’s box.
The doorbell sounded and her heart gave a fluttering beat, waking her from her reverie.
Was it really time already? It was going to be one hell of a night, if anything.
This would be the first time she would be seeing them together. Lawd have mercy!
Be polite, she reminded herself, be chillingly polite, he is still your baby daddy, and she flung the door open like a royal queen greeting her subjects. In this case, regal and put together perception would serve much better than her scorned reality.
‘Good evening,’ she said, ‘you are right on-‘
The words died on her lips. He was wearing a black dinner suit that had surely been custom tailored to make the most of his height, his powerful shoulders, his hard lean body. The white ruffled shirt beneath the jacket set off his tanned angular face, the softness of the ruffles somehow enhancing the overall aura of masculinity that surrounded him. Time had been much kinder to him.
Behind him appeared the treacherous Jezebel, as Pam liked to call her during her regular rants in the privacy of her head. The wicked witch from the far east. The philandering help. Goddammit! Had she always looked this good? She had definitely filled up more. And was she pregnant already? Good God!
‘Pammie,’ Felix, her once beloved husband muttered when she seemed to be at a loss for words. The sheer nerve. ‘May we come in?’
She ushered them in. ‘Of course’. If only looks could kill..
‘Mama Pendo..amosi?’ the Jezebel stuttered her pathetic how do you do in her thickly accented Luo-Swahili, with drooping eyelids as she skittered in after him.
Nyasaye help! Pam’s heart was thudding and she could feel her elevated pulse. You don’t need to go to jail..not today. she kept retelling herself. Thank God the kids were at their grandma’s. Seeing their mother act a fool was not an astute part of child development.
How was she supposed to host the man who she once deemed the love of her life and his new found wife, a mere child that she had brought from the rural upcountry to work for her? A girl who she had once thought her confidante, almost small sister. So much for household management
Now beloved step-mommy to her girls. The bile that boiled in her at the dawning realization was secondary only to an erupting volcano. All those Afro cinemas her maid had been watching had clearly paid off for her in more ways than one. Pam was about to scrap off all those Naija channels in her TV selection.
They went ahead and made themselves comfortable at her expense. A long awkward silence followed.
‘Let’s get to the point of this meeting,’ Felix started off.
How disgustingly formal, Pam huffed in silence.
The Jezebel whispered something in his ears and got up to excuse herself. ‘Abiroduogo‘ was her whisper as she made her way to the toilet.
‘Mos min,’ the ever so ‘gentlemanly’ Felix called to her. Tsk tsk. ‘She has bouts of nausea with her condition, maybe you could serve her some water Pammie?’
Pam did not dare move an inch. Hell would have to freeze over before she would serve the Jezebel anything.
‘So she is pregnant already,’ she confirmed her earlier suspicions. ‘Hopefully it’s a boy,’ she scoffed.
‘Don’t do that,’ he admonished in his voice of steel.
‘Okay, lets get on with it then.’ She was in a hurry to get them off her couch. If only she could kick them out of her life permanently.
‘I will be having my traditional wedding with nyadendi next week and I want my girls there’
‘You mean my girls-‘
He ignored her jab. ‘And I expect full custody of them thereafter. My mother says-‘
‘To hell with your mother!’. It felt so good to finally say that out loud to his face. The astounding gall that he was able to summon infuriated her, especially after scorning and humiliating her. ‘No! No! No! You can have full custody of the kids you sire with the help. You walked out on us, remember?’
‘No, I walked out on you,’ was his silent stern reply.
Well damn! That momentarily shut her up.
The ajuoga, wicked witch, proceeded to appear like a church mouse. ‘Nyachira…’ she started.
‘I am no one’s co-wife!’ The heifer really tried it.
‘I expect to have the girls half the time. They will get to know their new-‘
Pam cut him off. ‘Don’t even dare say it. They have only me for their mother. I will ask them if they want to come. The decision is up to them.’ And she really meant that too. ‘But you can forget about split custody.’
‘You know I can take you to court for them. Don’t make this nasty,’ he was clearly reigning his anger. The Jezebel was strictly hushed when she tried to speak up and could only shiver beside him.
‘Then lets continue this in court,’ Pam was now standing decisively having had enough of the charade, motioning them to be on their way. She would deal with the aftermath later in the privacy of her own thoughts.
‘You don’t have the money for lawyers Pammie. This is not gonna end well for you.’ Felix sneered. He was now threatening, his control slipping.
‘Be wary of issuing threats. You will not deny me my children,’ she bellowed as she opened the door, less of shoving them out. ‘One last thing, I have proof of your ‘business transactions’ with Maina. Pillow talk was good for something.’ Now that was a threat!
His brow was raised. She shut the door to his appalled face and her blissfully ignorant face. That felt oddly satisfying. The gloves were off.