“Who was that woman we saw as we were coming into the station?” Sarika asked as we waited for the train. We were on their way to see a matinee show of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap in the West End.
I hadn’t expected to run into Rehema so it was quite a shock when I did. She was coming out of the station when we were going in. What was she doing in that area, I wondered. Was she on her way to meet someone? Who? A man? The thought made me extremely jealous. She looked at me first and said hello and then, she looked at Sarika who slipped her hand in mine. She looked at me again and our eyes locked.
I said hello but instead of stopping to introduce her to Sarika, I continued walking. We got the tickets and went down the escalator to the platform. We walked where the front of the train would be. I stood there with my hands in my pockets, acting nonchalant but my heart was still pounding. In my mind, I saw Rehema and the expression on her face when she saw me. The way her eyes shifted from me to Sarika and then, back to me. She knew about Sarika but she had never seen her until now. I wonder what she thought when she saw us together. Did it bother her? I hope it did just as her being with those other men bothered me.
It had been weeks since I went to her flat so when, I saw her, I couldn’t prevent my eyes from traveling eagerly over her petite frame. As we approached each other, our eyes met and I felt as if a bolt of electricity had struck me. In spite of everything, I wanted her, I ached for her. I shifted uneasily now because of my arousal.
“Who was the woman back there?” Sarika asked again, looking at me closely.
“That was Rehema. She’s Aunt Savitri friend and neighbor. They live on the same floor.”
“How come you’ve never mentioned her to me before?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Why didn’t you introduce us?”
“I didn’t want to miss the train and she was probably in a hurry anyway.” The truth was, I didn’t want to introduce them. I didn’t want to have any conversation with Rehema. I was still reeling from the sordid details of her past. And I wasn’t sure that I would have been able to hide my feelings for her from Sarika.
“She looks African.”
“She’s from Mombasa, Kenya.”
“How long has she been living here in London?”
“About a year.”
“How old is she?”
“I think she’s my age.”
“Is she married?”
“No.” Why must she always talk about marriage?
“Is she working?”
“Yes. She’s working as a Care Assistant in a nursing home.”
“How do you meet her?”
“I met her at my aunt’s flat. She was visiting.”
“Oh. Do you often see her when you visit your aunt?”
“No. She isn’t always there when I visit.”
“She reminded me a little of a South African woman who used to be a domestic when I was a child. I was very attached to her. She left when I was in my teens. I wonder what became of her.”
I had no idea that her family used to have a domestic. My parents never did. They didn’t like to idea of having someone waiting on them hand and foot. My mother was quite happy to do the cooking, washing and housekeeping herself. Besides, it always angered her to see how society, media and movies portrayed domestic help, especially those of color. “Didn’t it bother your family that you who are people of color would have another person of color as a domestic?”
She looked at me in surprise. “No,” she replied. “Why should it bother us? Besides, Bikita never complained. And why would she? We treated her like one of the family.”
I’m sure you did, I thought with derision. If Bikita had complained, what would have happened? They probably would have fired her or had her deported. So, she kept her peace because she needed the job. “I just don’t like the idea of people of color working for other people of color as domestics. It’s almost like Indians or other races having black slaves. People of color need to support each other–give each other a break not keep them down.”
“My family didn’t do anything wrong, Trishan. We’re not racists. We’re against slavery, racism, discrimination and inequality. If Bikita was unhappy, she would have said something.”
I didn’t answer. In any case the train was thundering into the station. We got on, found window seats and for the moment, we didn’t say anything. It was while we were walking to St. Martin’s Theatre that I said, “I didn’t mean to upset you by what I said about domestic help. I was just telling you how I feel about it.”
“Bikita was treated and paid very well so she had no reason to complain.”
I left it at that and changed the subject. “I was thinking that after the show we can have something to eat at The Alchemist. I went there once and had the Plant burger. It was very good. I think you’d like it or maybe you’d prefer the Yakitori Chili BBQ Chicken or the Crispy Buttermilk Chicken.”
“Is there anything going on between you and her?”
Her question startled me and I glanced down at her. “Who?” I asked, stalling.
“Why do you ask?”
“I saw the way she looked at you.”
“How did she look at me?”
“It was obvious to me that she’s attracted to you. Maybe you should let her know that you have a girlfriend.”
“She knows about you and even if she didn’t before, she does now.”
“So, she knows about me.”
“Yes, Aunt Savitri told her.”
“Oh. I thought you told her.”
“Does it really matter who told her?”
“Maybe not, but I would have preferred if it had been you instead of your aunt.”
I didn’t answer and was relieved when we arrived at the theatre. We went inside. Our seats were in the Stalls where the view of the stage was good. The play turned out to be very enjoyable with good twists which kept us guessing until the end. It was around 5:30 when we made our way to The Alchemist.
I had the Korean Fried Chicken burger with sweet potato fries and Sarika had the Katsu Curry. We talked about the play and how neither of us guessed who the killer was. For dessert, we had gelato, I had the Vanilla and she the Mango. Afterwards, we strolled through Leicester Square and spent some time in the park. We saw the four new statues and a fountain of William Shakespeare. Then, we headed for Leicester station.