June 19, 1998
Ikenegbu Layout, Owerri.
Kathryn walked with careful steps along the lonely dark bushy path. Her feet moved, one after the other, in swift strides; her thoughts maintained an equal pace too. Kathryn’s thoughts alternated between the possible dangers, she’d heard, that lurked in those paths; memoirs of the evening—well spent; and the stern faces she was sure would greet her when she got home. Kathryn prayed her parents would be considerate knowing this was the first time she would return home after her curfew. It only worried her that the curfew had elapsed by more than an hour.
The movie Titanic she had gone to watch had started later than its scheduled time. As Kathryn walked, she wondered if an army would have found it an easy task to excuse her from her seat before the tape rolled its last.
Kathryn smiled as she remembered a line. “Draw me like one of your French girls.” Rose had said to Jack. Her smile broadened as she remembered the sweaty hand against the window while Jack made love to Rose.
Still, Kathryn knew the thrills and romance in the movie had not totally kept her fixed to her seat. The heavily perfumed shirt Simeon wore that evening had numbed her senses. She smiled as she recalled the look of importance on Simeon’s face when he mentioned that the perfume was a gift from an aunt who had returned from The States.
“It just might be impossible to find another bottle of it in Nigeria.” Simeon had told her.
Kathryn had told him the perfume fitted him well. Though she did not tell him that it lent a cool appeal to his rather brawny personality.
The rustling of weeds close by pulled the brakes to her thoughts. Kathryn thought she heard the squeak of rats. And she hoped the rustling sound was nothing more than a large rodent in pursuit of a mate.
The thought of mating rodents made her young mind drift back to Simeon. Only days before, she had, for the first time, felt Simeon’s erect penis momentarily with her hands before it broke through her fleshy walls.
While they sat watching, awaiting the climax of the movie that evening, Kathryn had slipped her hand under Simeon’s belt to feel his turgid member.
Kathryn assured herself that whatever scare she would have to face as she journeyed home or the beating she guessed her father would unleash would not measure to the joy she had sitting close to Simeon, taking in the smell of his perfume. Nor the strong musky pubic scent that still lingered on her fingers.
Maybe not, she mused. She was sure she heard another sound. This time it was not a rustling sound. Kathryn was sure she had heard footsteps. She turned slightly, and she saw them behind her: three briskly walking figures. She was certain they were not friendly and they were all male. Her feet broke into a run and the boys followed after. It took only seconds for a hand to grab at her shoulder and a second more for a slap to send her crashing to the ground. Though her back hurt so bad, Kathryn cared more for the hand that was pulling her skirt down.
Kathryn fought hard. But she knew she was no match for the trio, nor for the one who had her straightened on the ground. Yet she knew she had the strength to engage something else in a fight—her thoughts. There was something about the boy on top of her that made her tizzy. The perfume he wore could not be mistaken. It was same as Simeon’s.
The perfume Simeon had called—Illusion.
* * * *
November 22, 2013
Ambrose Giwa Holdings, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Kathryn lifted her gaze from the table and the array of files that lay on it, most of them yet to be filled. Her eyes fell on the only clock that graced her office wall. She gazed fixedly on the slow movement of the seconds hand as it made its revolution on the dials. Its tick-tock sound momentarily providing an escape from the thoughts in her head.
Her mobile phone on the table rang. Kathryn was grateful for the further distraction.
“James,” she said after she pressed the green button on her phone.
“Hi, Kathryn,” James’ high-pitched, near-feminine, voice rang in her ears. “I was unable to complete the transaction at Planet 10. The bitch whom you warned me about lived true to her reputation.” James lamented. Kathryn smiled as James narrated his ordeal with Agnes. It puzzled her how she had been able to bear Agnes’ madness for the past eight years. It puzzled her more that Planet 10 would keep a quick-tempered secretary for that long. “I’ll come for the others tomorrow morning, first thing in the morning.” James said, giving the conversation a finer direction. “I’m sorry about—“
“No need to be sorry. I know Agnes and her infamous ways of delaying ones work.” Kathryn said as she returned her gaze to the table, and the waiting files. She beamed. Kathryn was grateful that James was not coming for the files that evening. Most of them were yet to be filled. Kathryn chuckled before she said, “Moreover, the files, the way they are, won’t be of any use to you.” Kathryn whispered when she continued, “I’ve hardly touched them, except one or two.”
Kathryn chuckled again. “Don’t worry, they should be ready for you to collect by tomorrow morning.”
“I hope you don’t want to be another Agnes, do you?”
“You never know.”
“Don’t dare. It won’t fit you.”
“Oh, thanks James. That’s a compliment.” Kathryn said. She could imagine James smiling from ear to ear, more like a little girl would.
Kathryn smiled as she dropped her phone on the table. James Salako, a junior colleague, and one she would gladly call a friend. James had been there when she struggled with the pains of losing her mother. James had been there when she had been sick and away from work. He had brought a heap of files, on her request, to her house and they had worked late into the night. James had spent the night at her home. He had slept on the couch in the sitting room. James seemed to have been out of his elements when Kathryn jokingly suggested he shared same bed with her. In the years she had known him, James had never mentioned dating a lady. Neither did he seem interested in the ladies that swarmed about him. Kathryn could swear that James was gay.
Kathryn pushed the files on her table aside and made a fast arrangement of the other items on the table—work was done for the day.
As she glanced at the clock, the thoughts that had waned for a while laid siege again.
Time to get this over and done with, she mused as she raised a mirror to her face and dabbed on a bright red lipstick.
Kathryn stood from her chair, picked up her handbag and walked towards the door. She planned to make a brief stop at her house before heading to Claire’s restaurant. She was meeting with Simeon for the first time after that night at the cinema fifteen years ago. Kathryn chose not to call it a date. Simeon was now married.
As she closed the door behind her, Kathryn wondered if fifteen years had not been too long a time to wait.