Amaka unfurled her limbs from the goose feather pillow. The smell of bacon sizzling in a hot pan roused her. She stretched, star-shaped, luxuriating in the large bed before flinging herself back on the pillow. She muffled her schoolgirl laugh. This was her favourite way to wake, last night’s green curry and the stale aftertaste of red wine still lingering in her mouth, a gentle headache pressing against her temples, and a woozy lightheadness that always accompanied a great night. And of course, the memory of a little indiscretion not far behind.
She could hear the clatter of dishware being laid down, the pitter patter of early morning greetings, the scrape of a chair, the low firmness of a child being called, sat down, told off. The sounds drifted into her room from across the pool, muffled only by the dark curtains sheathing her glass walls.
She’d been put in the maid’s room by the kitchen, Kike and Bayo’s helper having already settled into the third upstairs bedroom. She didn’t mind at all. The room, though still in darkness, was large and comfortable.
The voices grew louder, base tones joining treble, and she knew that Bayo, Lanre or both had joined the table. It was time to put in an appearance. Of course they’d be talking about her, growing desperate by the second to figure out how she, a Nigerian citizen, had somehow managed to wangle herself an Indonesian visa.
Little shits, she threw off the covers with a flourish and knelt onto the carpet beside her suitcase. Never underestimate the Big Mak.
She took out her toiletries bag and switched on the bathroom light. It was difficult to brush her teeth while grinning so widely, and the more she stared at herself in the mirror the wider it got. The expression on Lillian’s face and the American’s Herculean efforts to conceal her sulk when she realised her rival would be staying in the same villa as Lanre almost caused Amaka to spit the foam out of her mouth. Eventually, Lillian had gone back to her villa, and without the third wheel the carriage had taken a much smoother path.
She couldn’t get this song out of her head, some electro-pop – hip hop number she could never remember the name of. It would forever remain the theme song of this trip, reminding her of the night she and Lanre had sat up till two in the morning, polishing off a bottle of Merlot while watching videos of his all-guy trips: Croatia, Venezuela, Mozambique. Who knew he was such a dare devil? Sky diving, jumping off yachts, abseiling, all with a camera in hand and an addictive beat thumping in the background.
During a particularly long video though, she’d found herself drifting off and no matter how hard she fought to stay awake, her eyelids kept inching closer together, like two stubborn magnets. She’d felt a gentle nudge and snapping her head, realised she’d fallen asleep.
“Alright, someone needs their beauty sleep”, Lanre had chuckled, closing his laptop.
“No, I’m cool”, she protested, struggling to finish her words without a yawn escaping.
“Come on”, he took her by the elbow and pulled her up.
It was strange. She hated the sensation of being pulled or tugged at. Normally, she’d have drawn back, irritated. But last night, she let him pick her up, put her pashmina round her shoulders, and hand her her phone like a six year old being handed the correct spoon.
They walked down the garden path back to the house, and in soft, half-embarassed whispers said their goodnights. It was sweet, romantic even. They’d been hanging out like buddies, bantering and teasing each other. Then suddenly, they weren’t. Without warning, there were no words or cheeky jokes or flippant asides. Just an awkward space, filled with the knowledge that the attraction was real, a question waiting to be asked that would demand an answer. Amaka slipped into her bedroom door, her heart racing ahead, her confidence restored only when safely on the other side of the door.
She stopped brushing, the memory of those feelings wiping her smile away.
“Look who it is!”, Bayo heralded her, his arms outstretched as he rose from his seat. He sat at one end of the long, crammed table, his greeting briefly quietening the racket.
“It’s like a zoo out here!”, Amaka breezed towards him, accepting his warm hug.
It really was. Bayo’s two boys, three-year-old Tops and five-year-old Toks chased each other round the table, yelling, crashing down to the floor and picking themselves back up. Whenever one of them paused to catch his breath, their helper would spring forward to shove a piece of their breakfast in their mouth.
The adults were more civilized, but between the nine of them; Bayo, Lanre, Kike, Dara, Lillian, Yvonne and the three helpers; slurping coffee, tea, milkshakes and smoothies, munching on the remains of pancakes, french toast, scrambled, poached and fried eggs, pork sausages, hash browns and wafers of prosciutto and smoked salmon coated in a film of butter and cream cheese, the table looked like the remains of a natural disaster.
“This looks amazing!”, Amaka moved round the table, taking turns to air kiss Kike then Dara.
“Hey”, Lanre nodded at her, polishing off his breakfast.
“Hey”, she slapped his shoulder, mirroring his smile. Bayo and Kike exchanged a look. Dara and Lillian avoided each other’s eyes.
“Hi Yvonne, it’s been ages!”, she bent down to greet the Singaporean, pretending not to register their reactions.
“Mmm!”, the long limbed Singaporean took her time to finish her sip of coffee. “Good to see you”.
It clearly wasn’t but Amaka wasn’t surprised. Yvonne had once overheard Amaka make a few bitchy comments about her husband Folarin and the suspicious nature of some of his business dealings. Ever since then her natural coolness had turned ice cold.
Next to Yvonne, her eldest daughter Ingrid watched a propped up ipad, her long limbs wrapped around her knees and at the far end of the table, her youngest, Ariana, an identical miniature, tapped on her own tablet, shaking her head at the forks of sausage her helper tried to feed her.
Still spoiled brats I see, Amaka breezed over to the empty chair next to Lillian and opposite Dara.
Interesting how they seated me as far away from Lanre as possible.
“Good morning, Miss A-maka”, a gentle voice coaxed over her shoulder.
Kadek, the tiny woman who had greeted her the previous night, bowed and held out the breakfast menu. “Whatever you like, we are happy to do for you”.
She stepped back.
“Damn, Kiks, you guys know how to enjoy sha…”, Amaka shook her head. She ticked her menu options and handed it back to Kadek.
“I know, it’s amazing. We found it on our honeymoon and we just fell in love with Bali”.
“You guys came here for your honeymoon?”, Lillian perked up. “How romantic”.
“We did the whole region”, Bayo traced an imaginary map with his finger. “We did Tokyo, Kyoto, a couple islands in Korea, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and then Bali. It was amazing. Singapore, ironically, was the one place we didn’t do”.
“It was exhausting”, Kike rolled her eyes. “I was so ready to go back to Lagos. But then we got to Bali and it was so worth it”.
“She did nothing but complain the whole trip. “Why couldn’t we just go to Paris like everyone else?”,” Bayo mimicked her. “Then see her face when we got here, she was in heaven!”.
“I think honeymoons are overrated”, Amaka smirked. “Such a waste of money”.
“Yeah, less money to spend on shoes”, Dara taunted.
“Exactly.”, Amaka jibed back.
“Let me tell you, after the stress of the wedding, you really, really need to get away”, Kike assured her.
“Only if you’re a bridezilla, which I wouldn’t be”.
A collective roar erupted from the table.
“What?!”, Amaka protested.
“Are you kidding me?”, Dara exclaimed. “You have to have everything your own way, you’re the classic bridezilla!”.
“Never. I don’t even know if I want to get married. But that’s for another day”, Amaka gulped down the frozen lychee drink Kadek had placed in front of her.
“That’s what you say”, Kike teased.
“No seriously”, Amaka looked her straight in the eye, nodding.
“What about kids?”, Lillian frowned.
“You don’t have to be married to have kids”, Amaka snorted. Were they still having this conversation in the 21st century? Typical Nigerians.
“Don’t mind her, she just likes to shock”, Dara waved her hand.
“Ok, watch me”.
“You really don’t want to get married?”, Lanre leaned forward so he could see her more clearly.
“Nope. I mean if it happens, it happens, but nope. I don’t really mind”.
“Would you be saying that if…never mind”, Bayo turned away, a knowing smile tugging the side of his mouth.
“If what? Talk, talk, my friend!”, Amaka clicked her fingers.
“You’re only saying that because there are no guys! I mean there are guys…”
Amaka forced herself not to break eye contact, but like all the other girls squirming with embarassment, she felt it too.
“But there aren’t enough guys, if you know what I mean”, Bayo looked sheepish and kept his eyes away from Kike’s glare.
“First of all, there are guys everywhere. What you mean is there are more Nigerian guys than girls-”
“Much more”, Bayo couldn’t help himself.
“And it’s probably hard for you Nigerian guys to wrap your heads around, as pompous and puffed up as you are, but there are other men out there. It’s not by force that we must marry Nigerians. So that’s for one. Secondly, marriage is not the be all and end all. It might sound incredible, but a woman can actually enjoy her life outside of marriage. From what I can see marriage is nothing but sacrifice, sacrifice and more sacrifice. I mean, how exciting. Except it’s the woman who does all the sacrificing. She leaves her job, moves across the continent, she’s supposed to ‘keep herself busy’ with a couple of kids and make do with whatever job she can get her hands on, if she’s lucky. Everyone knows there’s a biological clock, so if she dares get on the wrong side of thirty, every guy she meets thinks she must be desperate. And to top it off, fewer and fewer black guys even like black women! I mean, we’re the one race that doesn’t predominantly marry it’s own, which any idiot can tell is like, the fastest way to extinction but never mind, cos every guy thinks it’s just their ‘natural’ choice. There’s no brainwashing, no conditioning, no pattern. It just keeps happening. Now…”, she sucked noisily at the bottom of her glass. “with all that in mind, of course, the only reason I’m not interested in marriage is that there are no guys. Of course.”
“Thank you”, she sat back as Kadek placed a stack of cinammon and maple pancakes on the table and a napkin on her lap.
As she started to eat, she realised she’d probably managed to offend nearly everyone at the table with her little speech.
The waves tumbled down, white froths of foam murmuring on the powdered sand. Hundreds of surfers bobbed in the green ocean, paddling in the soapy water. The hush of the tide faded into the blend of sounds; families walking by, barefoot in the sand, their children carried on their backs, the swoop and rustle of suspended gliders colouring the sky, the tingle of a distant bell shaking against the flank of tourist-bearing horse, background music from the waterfront restaurants swallowing up snippets of conversation.
Amaka lifted her right arm and touched Kike’s head with her own. They pointed their noses down, angled their faces sideways and peekd up at Amaka’s phone.
“I love that one!”.
They leaned back on the deck chair, flicking through the shots.
“So give me the goss”, Kike lowered her voice. Dara and Lillian read magazines beside them, and Bayo and Lanre chatted in the chairs in front.
“You married people”, Amaka tutted. “Stop trying to live through me”.
“But you two have been getting close right?”, Kike wouldn’t give up. “I’ve seen the little sneaky looks, don’t think I haven’t”.
Amaka pretended to lock her lips and throw away the key.
“Well, you better let your chums know. Friends first, and all that”.
Which kind friends first….?
“Wait””, Kike remembered. “So how did you get your visa?”.
“Oh…you remember my friend Rohit, the Indian guy I work with. Well – Thai”.
“”Thai or Indian?”, Kike frowned.
“Indian but he grew up in Thailand. His family do a lot of business in Jakarta, and he got me a business visa”, she smirked. “Even that was so long winded, it literally just came through yesterday morning”.
“Is that the guy you brought to my birthday last year? That guy totally fancies you!”, Kike smacked her arm.
“What are you talking about? What rubbish”.
“I’m serious, the guy likes you”.
“Kike, just – you have no idea. Like, seriously”, Amaka could only laugh.
Kike shrugged but she had a playful look, as if to say ‘you’ll see’.
Amaka watched Yvonne stroll out of the water and walk towards the pine covered sand where the children were building sandcastles. She watched her take a towel from one of her two helpers and wrap it under her arms. Neither of her two daughters looked up at her, and after a short exchange with the Filipino women, Yvonne sat on her deckchair.
“There’s something off about this your friend”, Amaka murmured.
“Leave her alone. She’s had a tough few months”.
“Why, what happened?”, Amaka’s interest was piqued.
“Folarin”, a dark look entered Kike’s eyes. “Don’t get me started. He’s Bayo’s best friend, he makes us a lot of money but…the guy’s turned cheating into an Olympic sport. I’ve told her she needs to start protecting herself”.
“What – financially?”
“No”, Kike looked amused. “She’ll get half no matter what, Singapore courts are always on the woman’s side. No, I mean, sexually. It’s like sleeping with a dustbin, who knows where’s he been. Between his Port Harcourt trips, and the easy lays throwing themselves at him in Singapore, she needs to be careful”.
Amaka made a horrified expression and shook her head in disbelief but secretly she was wondering why Kike was so knowledgeable about Singapore divorce law.
“He gets back from his trips and he literally blows thousands of dollars buying them over. You should have seen Ariana’s fifth birthday. They gave away monogrammed Hermes clutches, it was insane.”
“So that’s why she’s so miserable all the time”, Amaka stared at the back of Yvonne’s head.
“What’s she going to do? She can’t move with him to Lagos, she doesn’t know anyone there.”
“Err, she could work like the rest of us”.
“Not all of us are corporate girls, Amaka. Not everyone was academic at school. You’re lucky, you’re smart”. Kike gave a little, dry laugh but it was forced. “My parents really didn’t care if I did well or not. As long as I married well, then they could relax”.
“Hi!”, a voice interrupted.
The two women looked up at a skinny, barechested man in a straw hat. He stood with his hands on his hips, smiling broadly at the group.
“Anyone want some water games?”, he spoke in a funny American accent, as if he’d learned it locally.
“What’s this?”, Bayo turned round to listen.
“Water sports”, Kike answered. “What can we do?”
“Awesome!”, the guy slapped his hands together. “We have water boarding, surfing, hang gliding and jetskiiing”.
“I wouldn’t mind some water boarding. Good for the abs”, Bayo slapped his stomach.
“Yeah me too”, Kike said. “Who else is up for it? Dara?”
“No way. I’m not spending the rest of the day blowdrying my hair”, Dara turned back to her magazine.
“I’ll try it”, Lillian spoke up.
“Really?”, Kike couldn’t hide her surprise.
“Yeah, I want to try it”.
“I’ll jet ski”, Amaka leaned down into her beachbag for her wallet.
“You can do one person or two person”, the guy offered.
“Lanre?”, Amaka proposed, catching his eye.
Ten minutes later, her arms were wrapped around his waist, their legs clenching the hard seat. They bumped over the waves, the warm engine growling beneath them, the metallic smell of gasoline burning behind them.
“Ok, my turn! My turn!”, she shouted in his ear.
He braked and turned the jetski round to avoid the white rope separating them from the surfers.
“Careful…”, he brought his arm behind her as she crouched up.
“Oh my God…”, she wobbled, her weight tipping the jetski to one side.
“I’ve got you”, he gripped the handle bar and slid his weight onto the opposite end. Working as a counterbalance, he moved to the back and she to the front.
“Thank God”, she exhaled. “I’m not ready to be fish food!”
“The sharks aren’t ready for you either”, he held onto the waist. “They need to fast for like a week to really enjoy you”.
“Shut up!”, she elbowed him. “Are you ready?!”.
“I’m ready! Wait, Amaka – !”
She squeezed the handles and the jet ski shot forward, jerking then zooming across the water. She turned sharply, away from the beach out toward the open sea. His shouts turned to laughter, deep, unbridled and free, igniting her own glee. She bounced over the waves, her fear at the shaking engine turning to euphoria, the visceral confirmation of her total indepedence electrifying every part of her body.
Unfortunately, this will be the last installment of SSS! I’m currently working on the full novel and I can’t publish the whole story online or no one will buy it! 🙂 I hope to have publishing news soon so thank you very reading and I hope you enjoyed it! Check the blog out for more posts on fashion, lifestyle and Singapore news.