REDEMPTION

‘Why do you have that goofy smile on your face?’ The mattress depressed as she lowered her frame onto it.

‘What smile?’ My voice was a croak, my throat dry and scratchy. I hacked, a long drawn out sound till I felt some phlegm come up into my mouth.

‘The bathroom is through the door on your right,’ she said as I rolled off the bed.

I stood for a moment with my hands braced on the sides of the sink as I watched the phlegm carried on swirling water disappear down the sink.

‘What the heck am I doing here? How did I end up here?’ I tried to concentrate, to pull up events from yesterday, but I drew a blank. ‘Did we do it? Did I… No, no, dear God no.’

‘How are you feeling?’ She asked me as I walked back into the bedroom.

‘You see how I look? Now take it and multiply it by ten. That’s just scratched the surface of how I feel.’ I stretched out on the mattress again.

We lapsed into an awkward silence that seemed to stretch and stretch. She sat with her feet tucked underneath her, fingers resting side by side on her laps. She looked at her hands as though fascinated by them.

I wanted to reach out and touch her, but I wasn’t sure how she’d react. Finally I cleared my throat and she jumped a bit.

‘You okay?’ I asked her.

‘Yea, I guess.’

‘When you came in you said you needed me to do you a favour…’

‘Oh that?’ she asked, ‘I’ve forgotten what seemed so important. You slept so peacefully, like a baby, and here I was, my mind on a million thoughts, most of them brought about by you. I guess I had to wake you up.’ She gave a small smile.

‘I have no recollection of how I got here,’ I started hesitantly, ‘perhaps you want to fill me in?’

Keme lifted her left hand from her laps and clenched it close to her face, admiring the nail polish. I recognised it as what she did when she was nervous, so I touched her left elbow. She jerked as if she’d been scalded.

‘You know you hurt me, right?’ she held up her left hand as though to stop any apologies I may wish to offer. ‘Bobo I loved you with all that I was, all that I had, and I wasn’t enough for you.’ She sighed, a shuddering sound that took my heart and shred it.

I sat up, resting my back against the wall.

‘At the reception, when it was time to dance, you walked up to me where I was helping Ronke pick money and said “Keme please dance with me.” I knew that wasn’t you talking because dancing isn’t your thing. I gave the money bag to the Maid of Honour and asked if you wanted to go for a walk instead – you were sweating. We were almost out the door when you said “I think I’m drunk.”

‘I wanted to be mad at you, to cuss you and hurt you, but just then all I could feel was pity. I felt sorry for you. During our walk you remembered Sophie, I take it she’s the girl who was sitting beside you at the table,’

I nodded.

‘We went back in but she was gone. I told Wale I was taking you home, and I brought you here.’ She shrugged.

‘Thank you.’

‘It was nothing.’

‘Ermm…’ I didn’t know how to ask the question that was top on my mind. ‘Um… Keme, did we ermm… did I, we, you and me…’

She sat there, a steely look on her face as I fumbled for the right set of words to express my question. Then her lips curved and the corners of her eyes crinkled in a smile.

‘No, we didn’t even sleep on the same bed. I slept on the couch in the living room, though I stripped you to your boxers. Yup, that was me.’

She got up and left the room then. I looked round and took in my surrounding in greater detail. It wasn’t such a strange place anymore. Her shoe rack was in the corner beside the wardrobe. The laundry basket was no longer beside the shoe rack, it was hidden behind the in-swinging bedroom door. My shirt was hanging from the wardrobe door, and my pants were neatly folded on the chair against the far wall.

The last time I was in this room, it was a sunflower yellow.

Keme walked back into the room, carrying a try with two mugs on it. The hazelnutty aroma of the coffee reached my nose and my stomach rumbled. She sat back on the mattress and offered me a mug.

‘Thank you.’ I held the mug under my nose, just enjoying the aroma.

‘You repainted the room,’ I said.

‘Uh-huh.’

We drank our coffee in silence. Done, I took a shower, dressed up, thanked her for her kindness and let her walk me to the car where I kissed her cheek before getting in and driving away.

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