Link to part 4: https://blackgirlinspore.com/2015/11/06/singapore-single-and-searching-the-holy-trinity-4/
The ocean twinkled, light spots bouncing off it’s surface. A deep sea green, it stretched as smooth and endless as a soft drape of silk, the richness of its dark colour glowing in the fading light.
Lillian hugged her knees in excitement, watching the beach-trimmed landing strip approach.
“Please sit up Ma’am”, a flight attendant scolded her on the way back to his seat. “We’re about to land”.
She mouthed an apology and put her legs down, tucking her little rucksack behind her feet. She couldn’t remember being so relaxed on a flight. She normally hated flying, especially landing. But nothing could puncture this good mood.
Except…she wrinkled her nose. The only thing making her a little nervous about the trip was the food. It wasn’t easy being on a gluten, dairy and meat-free diet. She had a stash of homemade snacks with her (kale chips, pumpkin cookies and zucchini bread), but the last thing she wanted to do was draw unwanted attention to herself, especially around Lanre.
This weekend, I will not be a loser, she decided. I will be the cool girl, the fun girl. I will try new things and by the end of it, he’ll be eating out of my hand.
She stepped under the small white columns, leaving the coolness and neon lighting of the arrivals hall behind her.
A small army of Balinese locals stood behind a metal railing, holding up laminated cards with passengers’ names. Lillian thought she spied her name, but with a missing ‘l’ and her surname misspelled she couldn’t be sure. The holder, dressed in khakis and a baseball cap, caught her eye and brightened.
He greeted her with a raised hand and beckoned her to follow.
Five minutes later and she was in the back of a small four seater, staring at billboard posters and telegraph poles while they sat in traffic.
“How far is the villa?”, she leaned forward.
He gave her a smile in his mirror and shrugged, one hand coming off the steering wheel. She wasn’t sure if that meant he didn’t know, he didn’t speak English or the villa was really close by so there was no need to worry.
She sat back. She had no wifi and no number for Kike and Bayo, just the address. The sun was beginning to set, drawing its orange light down a hole in the distance. There was nothing to do but close her eyes and wait.
When she woke up, the car was dark, hurtling ahead at full speed. She clutched the door, her heart racing in the few seconds it took her eyes to adjust. The narrow road was lit with headlights from oncoming motorbikes, and there was a constant flow of pedestrians on the roadside.
She switched her phone on. Fourty minutes had passed. They must be close to Seminyak. She wanted to ask the driver again but the fear of surprising him and causing an accident stopped her. It was best just to wait.
The car began to slow down and the streets grew quieter. The surface must have changed because the ride was suddenly smoother. They rolled to a stop. Their headlights beamed onto a bamboo style gate. Thick foliage grew over an overhead canopy.
As if by magic the gate rolled open, each half retreating into a wall. Her driver shifted gears and drove inside, parking outside a small hut. He stepped out and opened her door.
Later she would marvel at the lush tropical gardens, romantic in the early morning light, oppressive in the noon day heat. But at the moment, she couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of her. But for a few invisible crickets chirping, there was a calm and complete silence.
“Welcome to Two Trees!”, a soft voice travelled from above.
Six slabs of stone created a stairway up to the hut, in front of which a small lady in a white blouse and linen trousers stood smiling. The woman pressed her palms together and bowed her head.
“Hi, thank you!”, Lillian walked up the steps, relieved to be alive and safe.
The hostess moved to one side, and picking up a prong used it to lift a wet towel from a wooden bowl. She placed it in Lillian’s hands. It was cold and refreshing. Lillian dabbed it on her eyes, wiped her neck and dropped it back into the bowl.
“Tea?”, the hostess cupped a small stone cup in her palms.
The steam tickled her nostrils. It was sweet ginger. The hot liquid warmed and soothed her.
“My name is Kadek. Please, this way”, the woman lifted an arm towards the darkness. She spoke softly, her hands moving gently.
“Oh…”, Lillian turned round, remembering her luggage but the driver was already standing behind her, bag in hand. “Ok, great”.
They set off, curving behind the hut, Lillian sandwiched between the two. They stepped under a long verandah, little solar lamps glowing in the grass beside them.
“This the gymn”, Kadek pointed to a dark glass structure through which Lillian could just make out the outlines of treadmills. “Yoga teacher come in morning. Our car can drive you inside villa, but no drive in the night. Must walk”.
She said this because Lillian had bent down to scratch at her ankle, the beginnings of a mosquito bite rising into a hard hump under her nails.
“There are only two villas, right?”, she sprang back up. “I read on your website”
“Yes, very private. Mr Bayo very special guest”.
They made a sharp turn through an opening in a trestled wood frame.
“Villa A here.You stay Villa B”, Kadek stepped aside to reveal the most beautiful glass and stone home. It was a home, detailed in it’s luxury, a piece of sculpture.
They stood by the l-shaped pool, a large water feature running down one wall. Two deck chairs sat on the patio, facing the pool and behind them, a cream and brown kitchen and sofa lounge. A glass balcony ran above and a rooftop garden could be spied in the far right corner of the top floor.
“For massage”, Kedak pointed across the pool to a white, draped canopy with a stone slab and two dark mattresses. It was surrounded by lotus ponds and carefully trimmed trees, and beyond it, at the end of the compound, stood an even larger open air ‘house’ with a dining area, sofas and a grand piano. Stone paths connected each section, and an arrangement of stone buddhas and giant urns finished off the elysium of tranquility.
“It’s beautiful”, Lillian exhaled, her eyes drinking it in.
“Wine, tea, coffee, fruit”, Kadek led her into the kitchen and waved at the bowls of lychees, mangos and grapes.
The driver put Lillian’s bag down, gave a short bow and left.
“The door here”, Kadek touched a small button on the wall and a large sheet of glass came down, closing off the kitchen from the garden. She pressed the button again and it went back up.
“We serve breakfast in Villa A. We have private chef”.
“Great. What time?”
“Anytime”, Kadek smiled.
There was a small bedroom off the corner of the kitchen with a sliding door leading to the patio.
“Is that my room?”
“Oh no, that for -”, Kadek began to say but stopped to look behind Lillian.
Lillian turned to see a tall, Chinese woman striding through the living room towards them. Her black hair bounced in its blunt tomboy bob, her tanned skin caramel against her white Melissa Obadash kaftan. She carried a striped beach bag in the crook of her arm and a white towel over her shoulder.
For a moment, Lillian wondered if the woman was going to walk right through them.
“Hi, I’m Yvonne”, the vision in white ground to a halt, flashing a smile as sudden and surprising as it was fleeting. “I’m Kiks’s best friend”, she spoke in an American accent.
“Lillian”, they shook hands. “Nice to meet you”.
“Oh you’re a Yank!”, the vision looked mildly interested. “Where you from?”
“Cali-“, Lillian caught herself, remembering Lanre’s words. “I’m from Nigeria. I grew up in Cali”.
Lillian had never met a more intimidating beauty.Her eyes were brown with a fleck of green, and there were tiny little freckles on her nose and shoulders. She wasn’t slight or petite like so many girls in Singapore. Her jaw had a masculine quality, so she was part ancient classical beauty, part 1990s supermodel.
A heavy thud boomed overhead, followed by a sharp cry and loud crying. Lillian and Kadek looked up, startled, but Yvonne simply walked towards the fridge.
“Don’t worry about that, that’s just one of my girls being silly”, she took out a bottle of mineral water, flashed another quick smile and walked out to the pool.
Lillian followed Kadek upstairs, thinking it strange that she’d never met Kike’s supposed best friend before.
“There three room upstair, one downstair”, Kadek tried to speak over the din coming from a nearby room.
They stopped by the door. A little girl of about four thrashed on the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs. Kneeling beside her, a young Filipino girl held out her hands, trying to stop the child from hurting herself on a nearby ottoman. On one of the two single beds, another Filipino woman and an older girl sat together, the older lady plaiting her frizzy brown hair. The two helpers were dressed in matching uniforms, and the two girls, both of mixed descent, were in their pyjamas. Both had the square jaw of their mother downstairs but their skin was dark, a rich caramel.
Lillian suddenly realised who they were – the children of Bayo’s business partner, Folarin. She’d never met, he was constantly travelling but she remembered now that he’d married a Singaporean.
The little girl stopped screaming and stared at the two women in the doorway. A second later, she slammed her feet against the ottoman and began to howl again.
Kadek placed Lillian’s suitcase near one of the two single beds. The room was enormous, with a great view of the pool.
“I’m sharing with someone?”.
“Yes, Miss. There another guest”.
“Is there another guest with the family in Villa A too?”, Lillian did a quick calculation. Where was Dara staying?
“Yes, Mr Lanre”.
“Oh”, her heart skipped a beat.
“They go out for dinner but Mr Lanre still here. I take you?”
Fifteen minutes later and Lillian had showered, changed into a denim playsuit and refreshed her pineapple bun.
She decided against makeup, but on her way down to meet Kadek she changed her mind and ran back up for a quick coat of mascara and some blush. Unhappy with the result, she wiped it away and then had to wash her face all over again. Her hair got wet in the process and towelling her face and hairline in frustration, the overall effect of dewy simplicity was ruined.
Lanre sat under the white canopy, his laptop on his knees, frowning down at the screen. He wore a Rolling Stones t-shirt and dark, linen trousers.
She felt a sense of calm, of something slotting in its rightful place.
He looked up, as if sensing her presence and she waved.
“Hey”, he called. “You made it”.
“I just got here”, she walked over.
He cleared some of his papers away so she could sit down.
“Still in workmode?”.
“Just for tonight. It never ends. Have you had dinner?”, he handed her a brown book. “We could order something?”
“Sounds great”, she flipped it open, trying to hide her anxiety. Wheat, wheat, more wheat.
“You know I’ve been thinking of you…”
“Wondering if my spine’s ok?”, she giggled, her mouth dry.
“Yeah, I may have gone overboard with that”, he smiled. “No, I remembered you said how much you said you liked Esperenza Spalding, you know, in the taxi on the way to the barbecue. Now I don’t mind jazz, but there’s a concert next…oh! Amaka…”
Lillian jumped. Amaka?
“This is nice….”, came the unmistakable sound of Amaka’s voice, as irritating and grating as a bore drilling into the ground.
How did she get her visa???
Lillian turned around. Amaka was dressed to the nines – flowing dress, fresh weave, heels. She held her carry on luggage behind her. It was ridiculous that she’d gotten so dressed up to fly here. Ridiculous and obvious but it worked. From the look on Lanre’s face, it worked.
He looked like a diabetic with a one day pass.
More next week!