Triumph came with uttering those words. The feeling stayed with me for days after that. Nothing beat a positive outlook any day. It revived my strength to stand Prisca and her excess baggage.
On that, she didn’t hold back any. She kept it pouring—every fantasy she’d entertained, every liaison she’d ever imagined, every situation she’d dreamed. The actors were different, the actions varied, but the result was the same: pounding limbs, sweating bodies, moans of satisfaction. Myriad scenes came and went. Only Prisca remained a constant fixture.
We tugged at each other. Each revelation, shocking as it was, opened wounds deep in her soul, wounds she’d tried to salve by physically exhausting herself between the sheets. Finding a new form of exertion was difficult. She already acted like an addict suffering withdrawal. Hours during she had to stop herself thinking thoughts so torrid they would make many cringe in public were like walking a tight rope. Every minute she was on the edge of a cliff. Simple pleasures like reading or watching television—reading or watching anything from her personal collection, that is—threatened to shove her over
Each day disclosed what length she’d gone to soothe the aches of her body as a vehicle to soothe her mind. Each disclosure was a trip into the world of eroticism she constantly lived in. Each second drove me insane.
I took refuge in sublimation. If it worked for her, I trusted it could work for me. Random thoughts of sexual abandon with Prisca—Holy Moses, where did that thought come from!—were inevitable. Only a eunuch could not get turned on.
I wasn’t one, but I deadened my body every moment she spent in my office, every moment I thought of a case called Ms Braithwaite. Keeping the reins was a struggle, which embarrassed me, because I didn’t think it should be difficult. I’d never worked hard to keep from thinking about any woman. So much for all those years when I didn’t give any the time of day. I seemed to be giving this one the second of day.
I wrested back control by seeing her only when necessary and avoiding her when there was no reason to be with her. It may have been my imagination, but she seemed to be everywhere and managed to invade every personal memory, even when Jemima was around.
The last was a shamefaced admission I was forced to make during a traditional lunch with Jemima. She’d secured us a table at her new favourite haunt, the Lakeside, which was inexplicably packed for the time of day. It was past five, the only time I was able to get away from the office. The “lunch” could have come earlier, but Jemima had eaten the proper lunch at one, alone, and was determined to wait till after her classes at the end of the day to see me, even if it meant over “lunch”.
The menu card at Lakeside was a revelation—the place actually had food you could mould into balls and swallow, soups you could commit to memory! In the few times Jemima had dragged me into what I concluded was exquisite torture of my taste buds, I’d never noticed! I ordered from a section listed under “African Cuisine”. Jemima ate ridiculously expensive chips and bits of broiled chicken on which someone had dumped half a bottle of MaggiMix. She didn’t miss out the vanilla ice cream ritual.
She couldn’t be hurried while ooohhing and aahhing her way through spoonfuls of the whitish stuff. My meal polished off, I leaned back in my seat to watch the vanilla game and saw Prisca push through the door held open by a liveried guard who functioned as the commissionaire.
Her favourite Giorgio Armanis hid her eyes; her blouse didn’t leave her arms and belly bare; her skirt rode only mid-thigh. She displayed less skin than the first time I’d ever envisaged her along with apples. But there was something about her carriage that made a simple entrance dazzling. The manipulative wench, she must have calculated her movement to catch gazes, and damn if heads didn’t turn. Time slowed to a crawl as she made a beeline for our table.
“Doctor. Late lunch?” She smiled as she approached, but the wrinkles faded when she saw my companion. She removed her glasses. “Jemima Otti,” she said coldly.
“Prisca Braithwaite,” Jemima returned frostily.
They called each other by their full names, the weirdest greeting I ever heard from two women. The temperature inside Lakeside dropped but both women locked sparkling gazes.
“Good you know each other,” I said, forcing the most ridiculous introduction.
“I just came in for a late lunch or maybe an early dinner,” Prisca said. “Spent so much time doing stuff and forgot how fast time was flying.”
“Doing stuff?” I said to her. My mind went through possibilities secreted in the darkest places, where only the erotic fantasies and times of Prisca Braithwaite existed. What “stuff” had she been up to when I was going through enough hell sublimating her sexual desires for both of us?
“Class assignment,” she said.
Yes, class assignment. After leaving my office.
But Prisca didn’t mention that, and Jemima didn’t comment. Both women seemed reluctant to let on they knew about one another: who was the counsellor’s case and who was the counsellor’s girlfriend.
Prisca hadn’t lapsed. My mind calmed for the moment. “Hope you found what you were looking for.” I had to say something to stave off uncomfortable silence until she left us in peace or before Jemima exploded trying to conceal her rage.
“I spent hours in the library just reading the dictionary.”
“Must have opened your eyes.” A dictionary was safe reading, better than Megaboobs. Sublimation was working.
Prisca sounded elated. She was either showing off her achievement or acting out a script. “I had no idea how many rules regulated the little words I commonly took for granted. I didn’t even know ‘opportuned’ was not a word, until I opened the dictionary. It’s filled with all kinds of words—big words, little words, abbreviations, common phrases, rules of usage.”
Jemima said acidly, “It’s a dictionary. Those are what it has.”
“A lot more about the English language,” Prisca went on.
“What did you expect?”
Prisca had wormed closer to the empty seat beside us and at the moment she would have politely asked May I, she was abruptly cut off. Her mouth was even moving to form the words when Jemima, with a sweet smile, said disarmingly, “I would have invited you to join us, Prisca, but we’ve just finished a late lunch. Didn’t you want to buy dinner?”
Prisca matched the sweetness and light. “I wouldn’t dream of disturbing you. But it isn’t every day we see people like Doctor Mala in a place like this.”
“And why not?” I asked.
My companion silenced me with a fierce look. If eyes were daggers, Prisca would be slashed in a thousand places before she hit the ground.
“Oh, just things we students think about lecturers, that’s all! I’ll be on my way. Have a good time.”
She left our table but remained under Jemima’s surveillance the entire time she spent picking up two meal packages at the counter.
“Dictionary, my foot!” Jemima cursed. “Too bad she didn’t look up the meaning of common sense in there.”
“Women,” I muttered. “You didn’t have to be antagonistic toward each other. I just don’t understand your species sometimes.”
“Then open your eyes,” she commanded hotly. “You are slipping, Stanley. When was the last time any student ever had the guts to walk up to Doctor Mala in a public place and chat on and on like old acquaintances?”
“She isn’t just a student, Jemima,” I said tightly. “She is a case.”
“Evidently, a special one.”
I sighed. “We already talked about this.”
“Then what gives this case the guts to walk up to Doctor Mala in a public place and carry on like old acquaintances, even in my presence?”
“There is nothing of the sort,” I assured her. “I don’t encourage people I work with to depend on me, but I try to make them feel safe and trust me. Otherwise I’d never succeed with them. That’s the work I do, Jemima. What I do with myself is different. You sound as though I can’t keep my professional and personal lives apart.”
“Your expertise at that is legendary,” she commented.
“So why should it be different now?”
“I don’t know, Stanley, I just don’t know. I don’t doubt you can remain detached. I simply don’t like that girl.”
“She is just a case,” I repeated, this time a retort. “Besides, you have no business with her. It’s bad enough she knows the counsellor’s girlfriend. I don’t want to have to deal with a conflict of interest.”
She silently considered my words for a moment before saying, “Would it get that far?”
“It could, if I don’t keep you two off each other.” Then I added, “And yes, you don’t have to like her!”