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Wild Women

The first night back from the circuit, I was stiff as a brick. After trying various remedies over the years, I had found that hot lavender tea baths did the most to soothe my muscles. Lavender was easy enough to grow in my front yard. When it was ready, I dried, ground and stored it in mason jars. Then whenever I needed a soak, I steeped them in hot water and added it to the bath.

As the bathtub filled up, I sat on its edge assaulting my muscles with a massage gun. I concentrated on working the kinks out whilst watching myself in the mirror. There were dark circles around my eyes from not sleeping well, and the laugh lines around my mouth had etched themselves deeper. I wondered idly whether it was time to give in and start a retinol based skin routine.

My friends Jill and Noni swore by it. They had started theirs preemptively when we all turned twenty eight four years ago, but I had argued against it fervently. I’d told them that we should just age gracefully and that resisting the natural order of things was the start of a slippery slope. At the time, I was following a lot of body positivity accounts on Instagram whose content had since covertly shifted into weight loss journey accounts. So much for body positivity.

I was also following several wild women accounts, the naturalist types who didn’t shave their legs and couldn’t tell you the first thing about contouring with makeup. Still they looked gorgeous, radiant even, like sages or magi or some other mystical order of ageless witches. I felt this aligned well with the lifestyle I was aiming for, mainly because I had twisted my hair into dreadlocks and sworn off synthetic hair styles. 

For a time, I considered changing my wardrobe to variations of the same saffron gown. I practised telling people that it was a wardrobe choice, like Steve Jobs and his black turtleneck, but even in my imaginary conversations someone always asked if I’d joined a cult. 

I took another long look at my body, trying to see it as Nazir would see it. The loose skin under my arms, the stretch marks around my waist from a growth spurt I’d had in high school, the ever-present flab around my belly… 

Though I could still turn heads, I caved and sent a text to my group chat with Jill & Noni telling them I would start on the retinol. Maybe even switch out the six pack of fizzy caffeine drinks I took to stay sharp on the road for juices and smoothies. When the bathtub filled up, I poured in the lavender tea and dipped in. It was almost scalding, just the way I like it. I know I’ve done it right when the air gets so thick with steam that the bathroom mirror fogs up. I had a thought about getting sauna stones for my bathroom and picked up my phone.

Google: do sauna stones work in regular bathrooms?

I spent a few good minutes learning the ins and outs of converting a regular shower into a steam shower before a message from Naz came in. He’d been awake for almost twenty four hours, had to extend his night shift to rescue a distressed hartebeest from a snare, then track the trappers till dusk.

Anyway this week I’m back on day shift so I am about to crash. Will ping you earliest possible, his message read.

My heart sank. Our evening calls had become an escape rivalled only by dark chocolate and/or a good bottle of wine. I wasn’t sure how it would work now that I had returned home. Neither of us had attempted to define what we were doing, nor did I want to. We were still in a tidy, little bubble floating off on a clear, sunny day. I wasn’t ready for it to get murky just yet. Was this perhaps his way of avoiding that conversation?

While I mulled over it, the warm water lulled me to sleep. I woke up with a chill forty minutes later after the bath had ran cold. Panic seized me when I thought for a moment that I’d dropped my phone in. I sloshed around trying to fish it out but it turned out that I hadn’t. It had fallen on the rubber mat next to the tub. By then I’d left it too long to reply to Naz’s message, and thought I might wake him if I did. I decided to leave it be.

My fingers looked like almonds after being in the water too long. I threw on my comfort clothes – baggy sweats and an oversized jumper – and ambled back into the kitchen, fatigue setting in. Mundia was making dinner, pork, by the smell of it. My stomach growled and I realised then that I was starving, which gave me the grace to say that it smelled great.

“What were you drinking anyway?” I asked in an even tone. I wanted wine but I was also curious. He pointed me to a bottle on the counter with barely a glass left in it. A sparkling Moscato. I couldn’t even imagine him picking this out in a wine shop, let alone drinking it by himself.

I poured a sip to taste but let it dribble back into the cup as soon as I did.

“Ugh, that’s gone flat,” I said, wiping it from my lips.

“Should I dump it?” he asked, eager to help. He wasn’t sure whether his story had sailed or if this was the calm before the storm. I could feel him moving carefully around me, bracing himself.

“No, no. You could use it to cook or marinate or something,” I said, feeling subdued. 

 Without Nazir to keep me company, I fell back on my usual boxed sangria in a stemless glass so big it could’ve been a fish bowl.

“Were you bored while I was away?” I half-asked, half-wondered aloud.

“It was fine,” he said.

“What did you do?”

“Just the usual. Work. Jethro’s case with the bank finally came through.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised. Jethro is an old lawyer who worked with Mundia’s Dad before his passing. He was a friend of the family and continues to send business to Mundia’s auction house when it comes along.

The case with the bank was a workplace injury lawsuit that Jethro had been pursuing. A cleaner working at a bank had been wiping a fire extinguisher when it came loose, fell on her foot and broke her metatarsals. While she could still work, she lived in chronic pain and couldn’t walk right anymore. She had sued the bank for compensation, but since the cleaning company had been outsourced, the bank argued that they were not her employer and were thus not liable to pay. 

The cleaning company on the other hand argued that the injury had occurred on bank premises and that the loose fire extinguisher showed negligence on the part of the bank. This went on for seven years, but in the end, the court found that the bank had failed to maintain a safe working environment and was liable to pay. Rather than pay, they sued the cleaning company instead, hoping to delay their obligation by holding the case up in court for years to come. This prompted Jethro to return to court and get an order to auction the bank’s assets.

“The order came through on Friday, so we landed there first thing on Monday morning.”

“How did it go? Did they give you the run-around?”

“They wrote the cheque.”

“Just like that?”

“You know how these people are. You have to back them into a corner just to get them to do the right thing.”

“How does that work, if you don’t actually auction anything?”

“Well, I executed the order. Sometimes even just the threat of auction is enough. So, I still get my cut.”

My mood soured worse than the ruined Moscato. I hadn’t told him about the car trouble. He hadn’t told me about his win at work. We weren’t doing life together anymore and I felt powerless to stop the distance from growing. I was going to ask if he’d bought the wine to celebrate. Perhaps it was a gift from the client, which would make a lot more sense, but why hadn’t he said so?

“A funny thing happened while we were waiting for the bosses to sign the cheque.”

“What’s that?”

“They offered to throw me some work here and there, settling up with defaulters and such.”


 “It could be a steady stream of business,” he said. “Steady income. But working with banks can be…”

“Predatory? Unethical? Cruel?”

“All of the above.” 

I forget that he is a good person sometimes, then I am reminded of it and feel guilty. I met Mundia at USIU where I was taking Tourism Management and he was studying Criminal Justice. I didn’t know then that every good guy needs a villain to aid in his hero’s journey. That by stepping into his orbit, I was signing up for a role in his theatre. That as far as he was concerned, it was me he needed to triumph over to reach his crowning moment.


To be continued…