Babs wasn’t afraid on the first day at her job at the film company. If anything, she felt excitement. She wasn’t afraid ten years ago, when Kay told her she was going to abort her baby, so she could go back to school. When she had to sit at the hospital lobby and wait out the procedure. They had told no one about the pregnancy. Having scraped up just enough money, only Babs and Kate knew how frightening the ordeal had been. Kate could hardly keep herself together. It took Babs strong grip that calmed her. Babs was like that. She possessed a silent strength that emitted calm to those around her.
Her theory about life “If it made a good story, you should live it to tell it.”
But there was nothing exciting about this.
Neither was it even guilt. This was a raw fear. She was desperately holding on to what was familiar about Kay and what 20 years of sisterly love meant at this very moment. She could the essence of it all crumbling around her. It was too fast to stop it.
Her heart was pounding and she was sweating in her armpits even though two air conditioners were on. She kept tucking her hair behind ear while wrestled for calm breath. Her temples throbbed. Nauseating waves spread over her tall frame with force.
You have to get a grip. She told herself, with shaky hands, poured out two glasses of wine at the kitchen counter. You need to calm down. She clenched her teeth hard.
When she walked back into the living room, she saw Kay staring at one of the paintings Kwame had bought to fit the room. They had seen it while they headed back to her apartment from the office, one evening. The street hawker who sold it swore it was an original painting from “a very very correct artist”.
Kwame thought the young woman in the painting had perky breasts like Babs. He had called it Barbara. “Your lack of imagination shocks me sometimes. You are a filmmaker, correct me if I am wrong”. He was a hopeless romantic, Kwame was. Although she always mocked him, she completely adored the allusion.
The girl in the painting stop by a shore, at sunset. She raised her dark brown hand over her forehead. She wore only a wrapper around her slender waist. Her shapely calf was lifted as her feet made round sandy circles on the beach. She seemed to be in search of someone or something across . Her breasts were bare, round and of course, perky. Aside their shameless lewd jokes, Kwame didn’t know that Babs felt as wistful and lost as the girl in the painting.
For that reason alone, they laughed and paid the hawker two times the price for the art.
Back in the present her heart was pounding so loud she was afraid Kay would hear it. It was loud in her small ears. She felt stripped bare, her betrayal uncovered as she watched Kay gaze at the painting.
She had an overwhelming urge to pull it down. It was a mockery. It was a devious taunt that threatened to expose the fraud she was. A quiet witness to the wild love sessions that had taken place, countless nights with Kwame.
Kay turned around when she heard Babs’ quiet steps behind her. She smiled and said, “So, care to explain why you’ve been playing hide and seek with me lately, Madame? We have two cancelled lunch dates and zero communication?
Because I am fucking your husband and I can’t bear to look at you in the face. I am in love with him and I want you to leave him. Babs had to shake herself out of the stupor she had inflicted on her self!
She plastered a strained smile on her face and said,“Kay forgive me, darling. It’s been busy couple of months at the office.”
“Yes, Kwame’s been pretty off the grid lately as well… I understand this new documentary is going to take longer than expected?”
“Exactly, it seems we are pulling it along beyond the budget scope and there’s been hold ups with people at the top. Call it a difference in directional conflict. We can’t say for sure we are going to meet our deadlines… Kwame’s seems pretty confident regardless.”
“How is he? Kwame.” Kay asked pointedly.
“Kwame?” Babs looked up sharply at Kay “Uh…”, She reached for her wine glass that was set on the table and shrugged. I have to get this pounding to stop. “He’s fine i guess, you know how your man is.” She gave a little chuckle.. It was nervous
“Yea.. he’s been a little distance lately at home too. I mean i guess with all that’s going on in the office, it is to be expected. Babs.. sometimes i feel like he’s just.. not there there, you know. I know what’s like to be thrown in to work and be completely oblivious to his needs. But.. I guess we need to both work on that. I’ve been thinking…” Her voice drifted off.
Kay seemed lost in thought as she stared blankly at her wine glass set on the table.
Babs knew her friend was trying to confide in her, a rarity for Kay these days. Battling the post-trauma of the child loss many years ago, Babs knew Kay dealt with pain discreetly. So something was on her mind. But today was not the day.
“Barbara,” Kay said in a strained whisper. When Babs turned, she saw a pair of wistful sad eyes looking back at her. “If he was…you know… seeing someone…you’d tell me, wouldn’t you?
Her throat could not get any drier.
SHE is a collection of short fictional narratives that represent different (love) experiences of Ghanaian women