“Awwwwww! She is such a cute baby!” Rita exclaimed as she handed the picture back to Esther, who was beaming like a child who had been given a slice of their favourite cake. Lisa watched as the ladies around the table cooed and awwwwed at the photos Esther passed around the table. Esther’s daughter had just had her first daughter, making her a grandma at the age of 50. And she had to let everybody know. Everyone who was willing to listen. Or had the time to look at the photos she carried everywhere in her handbag. Who even prints photos anymore? With smartphones and all, who still prints actual photos?
Lisa looked round the table at her friends. These were more than just her friends. These were her sisters. These were her chosen tribe. These women had seen her through her first heartbreak with that silly boy back in high school. They had partied with her through her crazy twenties. All of them had been by her side when she walked down the aisle and when she signed her divorce papers. They had held her son during his baptism and prayed over the same son when he sat for his national exams. They cooked, and hosted and prayed when her own mother passed away. These women knew where her spare house keys were and which solicitor to call the day the Lord called her home. She loved them dearly. Only now she did not know how much longer she could gush over another picture of her friend’s grandchild. All she wanted was to go back home, kick off her shoes, take off her bra and bum on the couch. Maybe later she could call Tyrone.
Esther couldn’t help but smile as she layered the pictures together. Feeling that bubble of warmth rise from deep within her belly . Feel it rise up to her chest and settle at the back of her throat. She couldn’t help it She loved that baby from the moment her daughter announced she was pregnant. Her daughter! That girl made her a proud mama. She was such a good girl. Graduated top of her class with first class honors, married her high school sweetheart, landed a good job in the city and two years after the wedding gave her her first grandchild. And she named her after Esther’s mother! Could it get any better? Esther made it her mission to ensure her daughter had the smoothest pregnancy. Hired her the best help, took her to Dubai and Turkey to buy baby clothes. Only the best for her granddaughter! Besides, what was she going to do with all her pension money? Definitely not let her drunk of a husband drink it all! Esther lived for moments like this. Surrounded by her friends. The only other place that filled her with such joy was when she was in church, surrounded by her church ladies.
Rita was excited for Esther. She genuinely was happy for her friend. She did not understand it but that did not take away from feeling good for her friend. Rita had chosen not to have kids. She knew from an early age that she would not be having children. Rita grew up in a large family. She had eleven siblings. Yap, her momma gave birth twelve times. As the second born, Rita does not have a childhood memory in which her mother was not pregnant. Or carrying a baby on her hip. Or running around trying to feed or dress a screaming toddler. By the time Rita was in high school she was eager to go to boarding school. Anything to escape the chaos at home. And as much as she was in a boarding school with other girls, she was grateful to not have to share her bed, or clothes, or snacks. Basically not have to share anything with anyone because her mother had said so. Besides, she was surrounded by a bevy of beautiful girls! How bad could it be? Speaking of beautiful girls, her mind drifted to her wife. Waiting for her back at home. Home, where she couldn’t wait to be in the next couple of hours.
Sarah could have gone by unnoticed. As usual, she sat in silence watching her friends. She loved these women. More than she had ever loved another human being. Except for her late husband, God rest his soul. She watched Esther beam in delight over her new grandbaby, but even then she could see the tinge of sadness beneath it. She silently wondered why Esther would not speak to them about the pain she was masking. They all knew how unhappy she was in her marriage. How hard she worked to support their lifestyle. How Esther made her daughter the centre of her life and now that energy will all be transferred to her new grandchild. Sarah could not imagine how much pressure Esther’s daughter has to live with under her mothers expectation. Lisa, Lisa, Lisa! Lisa kept them all young. At heart. Lisa had always been the life of the party. Always guaranteed them a good time. Lisa was also the one you could rely on. Your car broke down in the middle of the night, call Lisa. What spices to add to your curry, ask Lisa. where to buy a goat, call Lisa. Need to fight your boss, call Lisa! But right about now Lisa looked like she was ready to bolt from that table. Bet she can’t wait to get home to Tyrone, Sarah thought. Sarah and Rita locked eyes across the table and exchanged knowing looks. They exchanged smiles. This is how their meetups had recently been. Their conversations had evolved over the years. From gossiping about university lecturers, drinking till they passed out, exchanging clothes, shoes and accessories. To baby weaning foods and the best high schools for their children, to what companies to work for. And here they were now, celebrating the first grandchild born to the group.
Rita hailed for the waiter and asked for the bill.
The water glistened as it dripped down his back. Gliding seamlessly. Effortlessly down his arms, his back all the way down to the seam of his swimming trunks through the crack peeking at the top of his butt. Lisa watched him get out of her pool. Her eyes never left his body as he walked towards her. She took another sip from her glass of wine.Tyrone walked over to the pool bed next to her and wiped himself down. He knew better than to get her wet. That would upset her. Lisa had a pool but she had never really swam in it. She preferred to lounge by it. Water was not her thing. The pool came with the house and she loved the house so the pool stayed. Besides, the realtor could not stop talking about how the pool was great for hosting parties yada yada yada. He was right though. It was a beautiful pool and always made for a great conversation piece whenever she had guests. And right about now it gave her the opportunity to admire this beautiful man seated next to her. She stared at Tyrone. Drank up his body with lust in her eyes. She never thought in her fifties, she would be dating a man who treated her like a lady. Who cared for her needs. Who was thoughtful and attentive. Who cooked for her and opened doors and brought in the groceries. A man in his thirties.
His loud snoring was the only sound she heard walking into her house. And boy was it loud! Sounded like a grunting pig. A pig with a flu and a sore throat! The shoes thrown carelessly across the foyer, the jacket on the floor of the corridor, car keys right next to it. He was sprawled on his back on the couch. Mouth open, shirt unbuttoned. A wet patch on the crotch of his trousers. The tv was on. Esther stared at her husband. He had most likely stumbled in this morning, no doubt drunk. She never knew where he went or who he was with. Like clockwork, every Saturday, he would leave the house in the afternoon and show up drunk Sunday morning. Black out on the couch. This was now happening on other days too. Just not over the weekend. Esther looked around her living room. Her beautiful living room. With everything in its place. She looked at the trinkets she had collected from her travels from around the world. Esther loved to travel. For work and more recently for leisure. She looked at the pictures framed around the room. Of her daughter. Of her husband. Of them together. From happier times. Esther took a mental note to have her granddaughters pictures framed and put up too. The smell of urine emanating from the pound of flesh on her couch jolted her back to reality. She gave her husband one last look and walked away. She had a meeting at church later that afternoon and had to get ready for it. She could not be late.
“Honey, I’m home!”, Rita announced as she hung up her coat and removed her shoes
“In the kitchen love.”, her wife responded
Rita did not need to be told. She knew she would find her in the kitchen. If the smell of cooking spices did not give it away, the music would have. Rita made her way to the kitchen and couldn’t help but stare. Her wife was stirring something over the stove. It smelt good! Dressed in a vest and shorts, barefoot ,hair up in a bun. Rita was mesmerized by her. She was lucky to have her. Never in a million years would she have imagined that this would be her life. Rita had kept her sexuality hidden all through high school and campus. Then she moved abroad for a few years. There she had the freedom to live as she wanted. Had been unlucky in finding love till her forties when she met her then girlfriend now wife. They got married in the States. When her job required her to move back home and set up a new regional office she had been filled with fear. How was this going to work? She knew back home the law could not protect her. Her family had been tolerant because of the distance but now she would be back home, how would they deal? They took the plunge anyway. And Rita had never been happier. Her wife had been by her side through it all. And now as she watched her cook and dance in their kitchen, she looked up to the ceiling and whispered a little thank you to God.
Sarah sat on the edge of her bed. For how long, she doesn’t know. She turned to look on the side of the bed her husband used to sleep on. No one had slept on that side for over eighteen years. Not since he had died. She missed him. More and more with each passing day. He had died so young. So new in their marriage. Their boys still babies when he died. Liam was three and Sean had just turned one. It was sudden and oh so cruel. Funny how your life can change courtesy of a simple headache. Sarah’s husband had been complaining of a headache for a few days. It got so bad he had to take himself to hospital. That was the last day Sarah saw him alive. He left for work, called her mid morning saying he was taking himself to the doctors. Same day, two hours later she received a call from an unknown number asking her to make her way to the hospital. Her husband had died a few minutes just before she got there. Her life changed forever. She buried her husband of only five years. She was now a single mother of two boys. Sarah did everything in her power to raise her kids. She never really dated after that. Even after her boys moved to Europe for school. Even after her friends tried to get her to date. Even after her family tried to pawn her off to eligible bachelors. Sarah couldn’t do it. Her heart belonged to her late husband. And all these years, she still missed him, still loved him. Her boys rarely came home now. They were busy with school and part time jobs and girls. Basically doing things boys in their twenties do. The phone calls nowadays were far apart and didn’t last that long. She had no no siblings to speak of and both her parents were dead. She was alone and lonely.