She takes out her the earring on her left earlobe dropping it with a thud on her dressing table. Then, she takes out the one on the right and places it carefully beside it. Their reflection in the mirror glitters. She packs up her weave in a very loose bun and hides it under a silk scarf. She reaches for a bottle labelled ‘coconut oil’. She opens it and inhales. She pours some of the oil into a transparent ceramic bowl and dips a wad of cotton wool into it. She applies it to her face to get rid of her makeup. She starts with her eyebrows, moves to her forehead and stops at her eyes before she disposes the cotton wool. She takes another wad, dips it into the oil and attacks her cheekbones, her nose bridge, and her chin. Her left hand hovers over her puckered lips. Her tongue darts across her lips. She savours the taste of his stolen kiss – she aided and abetted the commission of the crime. She discards the used cotton wool and shrugs off her dress. She walks across the room and into the bathroom where her reflection stares right back at her from the full length mirror. She gets rid of her underwear and stands on tiptoes to reach her toothbrush and tooth paste in the drawer above.
Her eyes are drawn to her lips again. She touches them and every pore of her body tingles. She sees the goose bumps on her skin. Her lips seem to have a mind of their own. They feel different. They are alive, expectant. She presses her lips against the mirror. Her eyes widen in surprise as the coldness of the glass resonates in her core. Her nipples harden as they brush the mirror. She backs away from the mirror, shaking her head as she gets into the bath tub. She lets her limbs hang outside the tub as she regains composure. She gets out of the bath and dries herself with a towel. The phone begins to ring. She picks it up.
‘Hello Madam. Your Personal Assistant is here.’
‘Okay. Let him in.’ A little pause on the other end
‘I am very sorry.’
She sighs. ‘It is okay. Everything is going to be alright’.
She is wearily excited – a state of excited weariness. The speed of her heartbeat doubles with each passing second. She puts on a Kaftan. She takes a deep breath as she opens the door of her bedroom. She takes unsure steps towards the sitting room. He is there already. He remains standing until she takes her seat. He looks like a travelling box that has passed through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. He presents her with a brown envelope she had not noticed earlier. She takes it and brings out the content.
‘Look carefully at these pictures, Ma. Does anyone in them look familiar?’
She stares at the pictures, and she shakes her head. She hands it over to him. He reaches for the pictures and her hands, and he holds on to them. She clears her throat and breaks free. She moves to the other end of the sitting room as if to put some space between them.
‘You have been working too hard’, she says, ‘why don’t you take some time off?’
He shakes his head in defiance. She cuts him off before he can speak.
‘It is not a suggestion’. She recognises the look on his face. She softens her voice. ‘Please. Do it for me. I need some time.’
‘How long are we looking at?’
‘One month. Six weeks. Three months.’ She shrugs. ‘I don’t know’.
Somehow there is no space between them anymore. She holds her breath. ‘Yes?’
His eyes linger on her lips. ‘It wasn’t a mistake.’
She takes a few steps back.
‘That will be all for now. See you in six weeks.’