The house-girl continued to focus on the matted patch in the seaweed coloured carpet as her lips burned, wondering, incredulously, whether to respond to her Madame or not. A gathering of tears raced towards the margin of her eyelid, blurring her vision. She refused for tears to trickle past, forcefully shutting her eyes; swift and tight.
“Madame,” she whimpered with steadily swelling lips. “Why you call me am?”
Beatrice dashed a furtive look at the girl, her bountiful chest heaved in quick successions, her nostrils flared. The insolence of the girl, she thought, in speaking directly to her. Her, Beatrice Maame Sewah Danquah, the whole her from head to toe, apex to root, magnificence and glory, her. Like a pillar of steel she stood, her blood bubbled rage and disgust, clogging up her throat – how much more was she to take?
“Richard, come and remove this u-useless prostitute from my sight!” Beatrice flapped her arms and clapped erratically. Plaintive cries from Beatrice’s palms thundered bolts down the house-girl’s spine, her saccadic eyes fixed on the same hands that smacked her lips only moments ago.
“Beatrice, honey,” Richard’s heartbeat reverberated in his throat as he wearily inched closer to his wife. “Please,” his throat throbbing, “calm down.”
The clapping stopped and so did his heart. He stared at her elbows, ruffled and akimbo, the suspended palms, the sleeves on her Ankara dress now erect. The swelling veins in her eyes, the taut corners of her lips.
Richard took one step back and the house-girl, shuddering, continued to focus on the seaweed carpet – how long had the matted patch been there? She sucked in her breath and held it, not knowing what to expect.
Beatrice Maame Sewah Danquah was a short voluptuous woman and proud. She was referred to by many as the mother hen without children; the self-made woman with a useless husband; the aunty who demanded your respect even if you were not related. Richard Nii Danquah-Osei, Beatrice’s husband, was, on the other hand, the lean and coy sort. His perfectly squared yellowish buck teeth and 1970s wiry aviation spectacles made him the unattractive type. So the two — Beatrice stout, Richard lanky — made an unsightly pairing. Richard’s fear of Beatrice was cosmic; more than anyone in their immediate circle realised – besides the house-girl whom Beatrice and Richard simply called ‘girl’.
Once again, as saliva stuttered down his sore throat, Richard approached Beatrice.
Sweat gathered at the very edge of his hairline threatening to overspill. His entire face quivered as he fought back the tears. A burning feeling roamed inside, but his limbs trembled at the sight of Beatrice’s terror. He tried to mask his shame by throwing his shoulders back, imagining himself as one of his childhood comic heroes, but they simply fell back to their usual docile form. His 1970s wiry aviation spectacles began to slide down his round nose, his earthen brown skin quaked and the subtle quivers of his face convulsed. Surfing sweat broke through the retreating hairline and avalanched down his forehead, past his temples, eyes, bulb-nose and thick lips until the spectacles slid off completely, crashing into the seaweed-coloured carpet. A muffled thud.
Looking down he saw his eyeglasses lying accusingly in-between his feet, in-between his favourite pair of black woven leather loafers.
“I knew this thing would happen. I knew you would betray me, and after everything this, this,” Beatrice’s voice squeaked as she turned to face the house-girl, “is my reward?” She snorts. “You ungrateful bastard!”
Thoughts of slapping Richard played in her mind like a montage, her nerves were riled up, her whole body shook. Her throat was clogged by anger, her breathing seethed hot air. Her chest was heavy. Behind her burning gaze laid an indecipherable fear of loss. Richard, with sweat pouring down his face, looked up from his spectacles and leather woven loafers. His eyes locked with Beatrice’s and he saw, almost instinctively, the anger and fear in her eyes. Immediately he fell to his knees, tightly gripping the hem of her Ankara dress. He sobbed bitterly and audibly like a sniffling child that has been caught.
He pleads, “Beatrice, please, Beatrice…please.”
Still concentrating on the matted patch in the seaweed coloured carpet, brooding on its origins, the house-girl winced from Richard’s sob. Gurgled sounds of spit comingled with tears and cries caused her heart to shrink. Tears lingering by her eyelid margin began to fall reluctantly, and she sniffed, pressed her hands together until his sobs were drowned in the frantic beating of her shrinking heart.
Marcelle Mateki Akita (@matekiwrites) is a writer, reader, researcher and co-founder of Afrikult. She publishes 100 word stories, personal essays and reflective quotes on matekiwrites (www.matekiwrites.com).
Her work has appeared in National Theatre’s News Views, University of Hull’s CultureNet: Writer of the Moment, Adinkra Magazine, Ain’t I a Woman Collective, AFREADA and Aké Review. This story is an adapted excerpt from her recently published eBook, Lizard & Other Stories, which is available to purchase on Amazon.
Related country: Ghana