Short Stories

The Conquistador’s Woman
August 27, 2020
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Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

Last week on The Hooting Owl

The city lies quiet, clenched with worry. The night is empty, still. Even the wind is reluctant to move about. In the suburbs, through the backroads past some shrubbery, a few of us are trying to make something of it. It’s illicit, but sweeter because of it. The days have melded together so it doesn’t matter that it’s a Monday night. Earlier the 7 PM curfew was pushed to 9 PM and that feels like as good a reason as any to pop that lockdown liquor.

I almost didn’t come but a thing happened over the weekend with my mama that left me feeling surly and thirsty for booze. I’ll only say it once and then we’ll never speak of it again. We were chilling at her diggs listening to her music on the tube, right? She was doing her nails, going on about some work beef. Trouble with the boss or something. I was only half listening because I was replying to a work email on her laptop. That might’ve been what set off her work rant now that I think about it. At some point, I drifted to Google to check out what football games were slated to come back. While I was doing this, I realized that I was jamming to some Nas hits from back in the day – had been jamming – this was like the third song.

We realized it at the same time. It might even have gone right over my head, were it not for how she scrambled to change it. It was one of those mixes YouTube pieces together based on what you’ve been listening to lately. Someone had been listening to this Nas album back to back. And, the reason I’d drifted to football in the first place was all the betting ads Google was hitting me with. Hip-hop? Football? This mama? I did the math and it added up to you-best-be-stepping-my-man.

So I stepped, right into the present moment. Into one of these house parties giving Uncle Kagwe sleepless nights. That’s where I meet her. Lina. She is almost easy to miss, like a half-moon in the daytime. She’s not the kind of woman you glance at. She is a work of art that demands to be studied. Now that I’ve seen her, it is almost painful to tear my eyes away. I have to steal away from a conversation I’m having to find a place to be alone, where I can drink her in unabashedly.

“Puff break,” I say heading out. Leaning on a pillar outside, I take out a pack of cigs and tap it. The chosen one rises above the rest and I pull it out, break the flavour capsule – chocolate – and stick it between my lips. I don’t smoke anymore but I still carry a pack around. I like how it blends with the smell of cashmere or leather and my cologne. It gives me an edge. Occasionally I crave lighting one up, more so when it’s accompanied by whiskey. It makes it go down easier and the high hits all the right spots. Consequently, I don’t drink whiskey anymore. I’ve settled for the old gin and tonic.

Inside they’re playing Amapiano which is pouring out through the balcony. I can see right through to where she’s sitting from here. When she gets up to go and rinse her glass in the kitchen I watch her. Alright. I ogle her. She’s wearing one of those hugging sweater dresses. I have half a mind to go circle her waist from the back and pull her flush against me. She doesn’t look like she’d flow with it though. Besides, those are mad fisi vibes bana. I’m trying to get her attention, not get dismissed.

I light up the cigarette and follow her under the pretext of getting a glass of water. I reach over her at the sink and nonchalantly offer her a puff.

“It’s chocolate flavoured,” I say. Her hair smells like coconut. When she turns to face me, I catch a whiff of something full-bodied. Cologne, not perfume. She’s one of those mamas who wear bold colours and men’s scents.

“I don’t smoke.”

“First time for everything.”

“It wouldn’t be my first time.”

“Well, it’s a prime night for a relapse.”

“Is that right?”

“For sure.”

“I will if you will,” she says. I bring the cigarette to her lips. She inhales, turns up to me, takes my chin and exhales slowly into my mouth. Her breath smells fruity, tastes like pennies. Then just like that, she walks away and leaves me there thinking Goddamn! It is so on!

Now I have a bead on her. She’s a tad bit bad and she’s here for a good time. Of course, she’s not alone. A hot mami like this is never alone. What’s more, she’s always with the wrong dude. The guy who fancies himself a conquistador. Thinks of her as a notch on his belt. Beyond the initial flashy charm of luring her in, he has nothing more to offer her. She is a prop for his braggadocio. The culprit in question brings chiles around all the time. Twice he tries to take credit for her looks, implying he has something to do with her charisma. Interceding every compliment she gets because he brought her around to feed off of her attention.

I can tell she doesn’t like to be contrarian but she sets him straight graciously. It’s a simple matter of him overstepping and her enforcing a boundary. But a guy like this has such a fragile ego that he perceives the slight public embarrassment as total annihilation. Consequently, he’s going to punish her. He’s going to spend all night ignoring her. She doesn’t fuss or make a show of being bored and bring down the collective mood of the party. She doesn’t ask for the keys to go sit out in the car or ask to leave early. She just sits there good-naturedly.

I can’t fathom why she’s even stuck around for this guy. She is wasted on him. He doesn’t deserve her. But hey, I’m not complaining. She’s here, I’m here. To hell with him. I’ll swipe her from right under him.

I follow her back to where she’s about to pour orange juice into her glass. I take it away and set it aside.

“Mimosas are for brunch. Let me get you a real drink.”

She starts to protest. Mr Conquistador went to the trouble of getting her a bottle of champagne. The obscure kind, it’s not even one of the good ones. I’m guessing she’s gone for orange juice to offset the sharpness. Which means she may be open to drinking something else. Also, this will go down a lot easier if she’s not beholden to the other guy over a cheap bottle of vinegar.

“You’re going to need something stronger for this,” I tell her.

“For what?”

“Come I show you,” I beckon towards my car outside. She smiles apprehensively. Glances over at her date who is giving me the eye on the sly. I don’t care. I want her not to care. I have an overpowering need to stick it to someone today and I’ve chosen this guy.

“It’s in the back seat of my car,” I say. “The drink, not the other thing, you kinky devil you.”

Say yes. Say yes. “Leave your coat here, we’ll be right back.” I take her hand and make the decision for her.

Outside, the door light of my car lights up to reveal a bottle of Tanqueray gin and cans of tonic water that I didn’t feel like sharing with the group.

“You can have yours with pineapple juice and lemon if you like,” I say pouring generously into a plastic tumbler. “I think I saw some lemon squeezes where the fish is.”

I understand now why she’s with that narcissist in there. She wants someone who’ll make decisions for her.

“I’m Danny by the way, but you can call me Daddy.”

“Hi Danny. By the way, I’m taken.”

“Oh you like games, do you?” She laughs. “You’re going to regret that. I’m telling you now. Get it all out of your system coz later you won’t be talking all shit. Mmhmm. Yeah.”

*

Back in the house, I start to make my moves. They’re cheap and not very original but no one has to know that but me. I have to get her tipsy, frisky and make her laugh. The problem is, I’m not a funny guy. My jokes are not laugh-out-loud funny so I’m going for the next best thing. I’m going to toy with her emotions. I’m making a play for earnestness.

“Speaking of prime nights to relapse,” I say. “It’s a pleasure to meet you again.”

“Have we met before?” She is genuinely confused. Oh, this is going to be so much fun.

“Of course. You don’t believe this is the first time we’re meeting, do you?”

“I don’t remember meeting you.”

“Of course not, but we’re old friends. As old as time. That means as old as infinity. We’ve met many times in the lifetimes before this one. It’s a pact you and I have to travel across galaxies until we find each other. Thank you for finding me.”

She rolls her eyes at me like all the mamas I spew this BS to.

“Which movie is that from?”

I clutch my chest in mock pain. “You wound me.”

She laughs.

“You meet a finite number of people in your life, most of whom are not even memorable. Think of all the people you’ll never meet. Seven billion people in the world and you’re sitting here next to me? It’s divine alignment. I mean, do what you will with it. I think it’s pretty awesome. I’m glad you’re here. And I know you know what I’m talking about.”

“I don’t.”

“But you can feel it. That burning? It’s stardust calling for stardust.”

“It’s…booze and lust.”

“I like where your mind is at.”

“It’s a night like any other.”

“Then you don’t need to talk yourself out of it.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’m not.”

“But you are. Listen, we’ll never have this night again. We can have many others like this but this first, we won’t get a do-over. It’s up to us to make it memorable.”

“Do you really believe that?” She asks. She’s considering it.

She looks at me. I look at her.

“Do you?”

She waves me away. We both laugh. She’s in. That’s a hole in one ladies and gentlemen. Hole in one.

***

This is a work of fiction. Stay home, stay safe.

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About author

Wanjiru Ndung'u

Wanjiru Ndung'u writes fiction. She is an irretrievable night owl. Loves tea and cats. Devours stories and knits cozy scarves

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