On Saturday afternoon I’m lounging in my house re-watching Bridget Jones Diary when my phone rings.
“Melisandre,” Harry says. “How are you?”
“I’m good, how are you?”
“Great. Great. What are you wearing right now?”
“Eer… my priestess costume.”
“Would you say it is…bewitching?”
I laugh aloud. “How long have you been holding onto that one?”
“From the moment you told me your name,” he chuckles. “On the real though, put on your best sundress and come out. Also wear shoes you can walk in. And a sun hat.”
“Are you done?”
“No actually. Wear sunscreen, it’s hot out. I’m at Muthaiga. Call me when you fika.”
“Okay, so your plan is hinged entirely on me being completely idle on a Saturday afternoon?”
“Are you busy?”
“I could be. You don’t know.”
“All right. Stop what you’re doing, I’m coming to get you. Where are you?”
This is how I come to be in Harry’s car once again headed to Muthaiga for an afternoon of ‘chilling and catching a bit of golf’ as he put it. But first I call my sister Nina and tell her I think I just got asked out.
“Is it a date?”
“I’m not sure.”
“The guy from two weeks ago.”
“Lift guy? The old lawyer guy?”
“He’s not – ah! I called because he wants me to wear a sundress. Would you help me?”
“He told you what to wear?”
“Yes, which is either really considerate in which case aww, or he’s a control freak and I’ll totally bail early. We’ll find out.”
“Okay… Have you tried the blue one?”
“The off-shoulder one?” I suck on my teeth. “You know I can’t pull that off.”
“Have you seen my boobs?”
“Si you wear the strapless –”
“No… It makes them look loafy. I’m not wearing that.”
This goes on long after Harry says he’ll be at my place in twenty minutes. I don’t mean to make him wait but maybe next time he’ll consider calling earlier. When I finally go downstairs, I find him drumming his fingers on the car door. I have the mind to apologize for keeping him waiting but I’m not going to, not while he’s drumming his fingers at me. I gather my peach dress and let myself in. The Kenya Forestry Service is five minutes away from my house, which is where we park. He comes round to my side to get the door this time, so I guess he’s thawed out now. Tsk.
“You look fantastic,” he says coming in for a hug. “Smell good too.”
I can’t help but blush. He’s taller than I remember. In the sun, his skin is luminescent. Now he looks lighter than darker in complexion. I catch the whiff of an aftershave that makes me want to sink my teeth into his neck. We grab a shuttle to the golf course, which is a lovely expanse of greenery. There are children running around, men in pink polo shirts and women with different colored nails and matte lipstick. The weather is agreeable. The sun feels amazing on my skin. The lizards have come out to bask on rocks. Butterflies are hopping from flower to flower. A dove flaps its wings from a powerline to a towering tree. Sigh. It’s a beautiful day to be out on the course.
We watch the action at a few holes where he tries to explain to me what’s going on and I nod a lot. When we’re not walking briskly to the next hole there’s a ‘Silence please’ sign up that makes you want to talk even more. So eventually we break away and sit on a couch in the hospitality area where he orders a couple of beers and a bottle of wine for me. He tells me he came in early to schmooze clients and when his afternoon freed up he thought, I know a girl who lives around here.
He calls me ‘girl’ which reminds me of the old men at the corporate events I shoot who call me ‘young ngel’ right before offering me a weekend getaway at Enashipai or some other Maasai camp somewhere.
“Jethro is here somewhere,” he says looking around. “You remember him right?”
“Sure. Who is he?”
“My partner – in business, not in life,” he laughs. “Well, he is also a friend.”
I crinkle my nose subconsciously, but he notices.
“Oh no, you don’t like him?”
I don’t. He came off as dismissive and talks too much for my liking. I already know I’ll always find him exhausting, but I’m not going to tell Harry that.
“He’s all right,” I say.
“He’s an acquired taste, you can be honest,” he pokes my arm jokingly. “He’s okay once you get to know him. Nothing to worry about there.”
Midway through our conversation he excuses himself and weaves through the tables to a woman standing with her back to me. She’s wearing a ridiculously wide hat and when she turns, I see that half her face is under animal print sunglasses. She’s in a bright orange jumpsuit with chunky, black heels so she’s not here for the golf. Maybe it’s her narrow shoulders or her long, bony fingers; she has this stuck up vibe about her.
He hugs her so quickly I almost miss it. Two kids rolling around in the grass get up, run up to him and hug his legs. He rubs their heads and strokes their hair, held in pigtails. Then he squats to talk to them as the woman looks on. When he finishes, he sends them back to spin around in the shade, hugs the woman and heads back to where I’m sitting.
“Where were we?” he asks plumping himself down next to me. He stretches his arm on the length of the couch behind me and crosses his legs at the ankle.
“Eer, you were about to tell me who that was.”
He pulls his arm back and rubs his beard with the back of his fingers. “Ex-wife. Yes, the girls are mine too.”
He nods. “They just turned six. Tanya and Tamara. That’s the mother’s choice of names, not mine.”
I want to ask what’s up with the disclaimer but I’m more concerned about how easy that was. I thought I’d have to join the dots myself but there it is, all laid out on the table. His frankness is dumbfounding. Confusing even. It’s like coming up for air when you didn’t even know you were drowning.
“Ah see now you’re quiet. Have I scared you away little bird?”
“Little bird?” I smile and raise my eyebrows at him. He nods back at me. He’s being easy in his words but something has changed in his eyes and I can feel the weight he has placed on my response. He’s asking me if it’s a deal breaker.
“Do you know which is which?” I ask, trying to defuse the moment. He bursts out laughing. “I’ll take that as a no. Are they even identical or are you just that bad.”
“Hey, they’re both mine. That’s all there is to it,” he says, palms open on his chest.
As he tops up my glass, I ask him, “Why ex-wife?”
He shrugs and takes a sip of his beer. “Because we’re divorced.”
“Ugh!” I roll my eyes at him. “Obviously! You know what I mean.”
He brings his index finger to my chin and says, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
“Uuh. And we were doing so well.”
“In time,” he says. “I’ll tell you this much though. I’ve done it other people’s way, chasing their idea of perfection and it hasn’t worked. Now I’m doing it my way.”
In the evening, the yellow of the sun fades and it gets nippy. Since I didn’t think we’d be here long, I didn’t bring a coat. Harry leaves me watching a show of golf tricks and goes to the car to pick up his leather jacket. He’s wearing it when he comes back. It’s long, about hip-length, brown with a flat collar, big square pockets and nothing else in way of embellishments. I want to ask him if he’s discovered time travel because he’s a bad moustache and a shirt with a gigantic collar away from the 70s. But I sense that he might not appreciate it. When he gives it to me it’s warm. It smells like him and I feel so swell that I don’t want to make fun of him anymore.
Outside the club house, traditional dancers are shaking their shoulders to a Luhya folk song. One of the dancers has pulled a spectating white couple from the crowd and they’re now moving to the beat of the drum. It’s hard to watch, but this is the scene unfolding before us when he takes my hand and says, “I’d like to try this.”
“Dancing?” I ask incredulously. “In front of people?”
“Not dancing, I mean this,” he says, waving his palm between us.
Oh. A quick tally of his baggage share in the relationship adds up to baby mama drama, two daughters (that are adorable now but who will be monsters when they’re teenagers), and a friend I don’t care for. That’s a lot of baggage.
“Don’t overthink it,” he says. “I can see your little hamster racing.”
“It’s something I have to think about, seeing as we just met?” And your ex-wife seems snooty, and I’m not cut out to be anybody’s step mom…
“We can figure it out as we go along. Don’t complicate it. You’re allowed to change your mind, it’s not set in stone.”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“Good. It’s settled then.”
He squeezes my hand with a smile on his face. I’m not sure what I’ve just agreed to, but I’m pretty sure he has employed some lawyerly tactics on me.
Huh. So this is how he wins cases. All right then.