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Dear friends,

Just wanted to let you know that my book, BITTER KISS, has been published as an ebook at Smashwords. The book is about a critical encounter of a young, morally upright girl, Eva and a rich seducer, Denzel, where she’s impregnated and abandoned to raise twin babies. It’s a tale that winds through love-at-first-sight, deception, abortion, HIV, hardship, debauch, morality and self-denial. I hope you’ll take time to check it out at Smashwords, where you can sample the first 20% of the book for free.

Here’s the link to my Smashwords author profile:

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/kingsleykobo
Here’s the link to my book page, where you can sample or purchase the book:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/4244

Please help me spread the word. Won’t you take a moment to forward this email to everyone you know, and ask them to do the same?

Thank you so much for your support!

Sincerely,
Kingsley

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Kingsley Kobo
Kingsley Kobo

A transcribed radio interview

Radio FM Maya: You seem to be a newcomer, can you tell us about yourself?

Kingsley Kobo: Well, I’m son of the Nigerian author and novelist, Alfred Vhovhen. I started my career as a scriptwriter while studying Physics Education at Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria. I submitted my first movie script to a major studio at age 17. I later left the sciences to concentrate more on writing because I realised I was manipulating words better than figures.

How did your dad feel when he learnt you’d written a book?

Oh great! He was very, very elated. He called me and asked for a copy. He said I was making him proud and that he was short of words. 

You started your career as a scriptwriter. How does that differ from novel writing in the task of storytelling?

Personally, I love both. Scriptwriting is more practical and conversational. It gives you the grace and space to throw people (characters) in real verbal confrontation. You don’t need to explore and provide the internal conflicts of your characters unlike novel writing. But, novel writing somehow stands out and gives you some authority that scripting will never offer.

You’re Anglophone living in Cote D’Ivoire – a French-speaking country. How did you manage to make a tale out of this place in English?

First of all, in writing and storytelling, the language doesn’t matter. It is the tale that matters. A story can evolve from or be set anywhere. It’s just the job cut out for the writer that matters. I mean the job of conceiving a book-worthy idea and presenting it in an acceptable format – that’s all. Operating from a francophone and Francophile culture gives more richness to the English literature. And I’m just proud about it.

Your book “Bitter Kiss” talks more about a very contemporary Africa. Are you trying to portray Africa differently from the likes of Akpan Umen of “Say You’re One of Them”?

Good question! I’ve been waiting for this. Let me tell you something. Much of what is exported from Africa as literature is a pure and shameful caricature of the daily realities of the continent. The…

Are you saying Akpan Uwem is lying?

No, that’s not what I mean. But he’s not saying the whole truth about Africa. In fact he’s just said what the West thinks and wants to hear about Africa. In fact he said maybe 10 or 12 percent truth of the current situation of Africa. Look, how many 12-year-old prostitutes do you have in Africa catering for their families? I don’t know, I’ve never seen it and many Africans will tell you the same. How many African children huff glue to quench their hunger during Christmas? I’ll say once again none! I’ve never seen it and many Africans will tell you that. I travel around Africa too as a researcher and writer. I’ve seen some terrible things too but also some good things as well. In fact Akpan Uwem, as a writer is a real talent but his tales in “Say You’re One of Them” are just a deliberate exaggeration of a minute darkness over an immense light. And that’s what the West loves to hear about Africa.

But Oprah Winfrey chose Akpan’s book for her book club last September.

You’re getting the point. Oprah wouldn’t have chosen the book if it related stories about an African youth who earns a first class honours from an African or a Western university. Oprah wouldn’t have chosen it if it was about a free and fair election in an African country. Oprah wouldn’t have chosen it if it was about an African businessman buying multi-million dollar business assets in Europe against the whites. Look, I’m not against Akpan or Oprah as personalities. What I’m against is the distortion of contemporary realities in Africa. Don’t raise the evil more than the good. Don’t act as if people don’t eat, drink, dance, marry, school, etc in Africa. Do you know the world’s most expensive cathedral is in Africa – Yomoussoukro in Cote D’Ivoire? Do you know more than half a dozen evangelical pastors own privates jets in Lagos? Do you know every capital city in Africa has skyscrapers and five-star hotels? Do you know, from Gabon through Lagos across Abidjan to Bamako and up to Tamaraset, you see new Hummer jeeps and Toureg rolling on the streets? News is news, information is information. If a military coup happens somewhere in Africa, it should be reported. But when a peaceful election takes place, it should be reported as well, to balance the information. In conclusion, I would say Akpan’s book is not an exact representation of what is currently happening in Africa. Africans are living three time better that what that book is campaigning.

One of your main characters bears the name Denzel – a nickname he earned from his pals because of his sharp resemblance to actor Denzel Washington. Was it a strategy to get through to Denzel Washington’s fans?

No, no, not exactly! Denzel Washington is a very popular, and adored by many Africans. Using his first name for my character can be explained as a way of presenting something my target readers will love to have in the tale. That’s all.

Your heroine, Eva, who likes Mariah Carey, Phil Collins, the late Dalida and Alpha Blondy, is a devout Catholic and seemingly a disciplined girl unlike her two older sisters. Why would such a girl accept to go to bed with a man she’s meeting for the first time?

Everybody asks me that. But it does happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it…

What? You’ve gone to bed with a girl you met that same evening?

Yes, and many have done. I’m not saying it’s a wise decision for women, but it happens at times. Maybe the guy’s charm and rhetoric were just too much or the girl fell in love at first sight. But it’s not a safe thing to do and you see the consequences with Eva in the book.

Exactly. Your book tells us that the condom the guy uses on Eva gets broken and he ejaculates inside. He absconds and Eva gets pregnant. How many girls in Eva’s shoes would accept like she did, to keep such a pregnancy even though they’re religious?

I don’t know. But I think Eva defended her belief even after making that mistake. She’s pro-life and wouldn’t abort no matter what. In spite of what we think and see around us, there’re still some Evas left in the society.

Would you blame Eva’s sisters – Josiane and Beatrice for castigating Eva because she bore a child out of wedlock?

I wouldn’t.

Why?

Because Eva also did same to them when both bore their kids out of wedlock. But mind you, Eva wasn’t mocking them as such. She was regretting why her sisters failed to get married before bearing children.

A thing she later did herself.

Exactly. But Eva’s case is that she was deceived by her own strict and stingy ambition to be and remain a virtuous woman.

How would you interpret the role of Dr. Aka, the medical doctor who treated Eva when she fell sick in her third month of pregnancy and later started going out with her – a pregnant woman he didn’t impregnate?

I think it’s a bit funny but it does happen. I’ve seen it; people say they see it all the time. An abandoned and suffering pregnant woman offering herself to another man in order to survive. But Eva behaved exceptionally.

Exactly. She refuses to sleep with any man during her pregnancy despite her suffering.

It’s the right thing to do in Africa. Most cultures forbid a man lying on a woman he didn’t impregnate.

Eva attempts suicide in her ninth month by swallowing overdose of penicillin and she’s rushed to a hospital. With no money to pay bills, her mother decides to go and seek help from Dr. Aka whom Eva had jilted for wanting to have sex with her pregnant. Should her mother have done that?

I don’t see what other solution. Your pregnant daughter is dying, you need money for her treatment and the only person you believe can help is this doctor guy who wants to have sex with pregnant Eva because he has never slept with a pregnant woman before. If I were Eva’s mother I would do same to save my daughter. What ever comes later doesn’t matter.

Your story takes us through the delivery of Eva’s mixed twins and the comeback of her ex-lover, Adama, who had beaten and abandoned her because of the strange pregnancy. And then you cut us off to present Denzel, who’s now back from Spain to Abidjan where the whole story is taking place. To me Denzel shouldn’t be blamed because he’s completely oblivious of Eva’s situation.

Exactly. Denzel is a clever womaniser and his status as a French-born who speaks with a foreign accent and his physical charm, gives him cheap victories over girls here. So Eva is just one of the girls he’s used and dumped. He has no idea whether he had impregnated a girl somewhere who’s there suffering with his two children.

Denzel gets richer, and now wants to wed Chantal, a girl he met in Paris. Chantal says she’s a virgin even at 24. Is it common in Africa? A prospective bride telling you she’s still virgin and even beating her chest that she’ll prove it on your wedding night?

(Laugh) I don’t know if it’s common. But I’ve seen it, I’ve heard it, so it’s something my target audience can relate to.

Chantal is just another innocent and good girl but this time better than Eva because she could resist Denzel – her about-to-be husband from having sex with her, telling him to wait till their wedding night. Chantal should have been the heroine, why did you opt for Eva?

I was kind of thinking how to represent everybody in a typical modern African society. You have Eva’s sisters who are careless and spend most night out. You have Eva, the good girl maimed by her society. And then Chantal, the rare and adorable example.

Despite Eva’s little success in business and education, she remains unhappy because her pretty twins lack a father. She decides to embark on a search mission to find Denzel, who’s preparing for his marriage with Chantal. What other way could Eva have done that?

I don’t know, but I think I would have done the same thing. When you make a mistake the best thing to do is to try and fix it, and that’s what she intended by embarking on that lonely and risking detective mission.

Three days to Denzel’s wedding, Rose, his former secretary storms his office and says she’s seven months pregnant from him and threatens to disrupt his marriage ceremonies if he doesn’t acknowledge the pregnancy. Is Rose’s action a good one or a bad one?

A good one. I would do the same thing if I were a woman in her situation.

Unfortunately, Denzel never gets married to Chantal. Everything gets spoilt in the morning of the wedding. Is it nemesis for Denzel?

It’s a way of tying the loose end.

Let’s talk about you now. What marvels everybody about you is that you dated an HIV-infected girl for four good years and you did not contract the dreaded virus. Was it a miracle?

A complete miracle. I can’t still understand. I can’t still explain.

And worse, you only discovered the very week you both were getting married.

Yeah. She was sweet, cute and nice. She had no visible sign of one with the virus. And after these years, I decided to take her to the altar, but she said we ought to go for our AIDS test first – for formality in fact, because none of us suspected anything. Her wedding gown was set, my black suit was ready. Two days after the test, I was called on my cell phone by the lab’s attendant to come quick and alone. There and then, I began to shiver. What could be the problem…Oh my goodness! He gave me the two envelopes saying, “Mr. Kingsley, yours is good but I regret your fiancée’s”. I tore the envelopes and saw it for myself. I was HIV-negative, she was HIV-positive. I stood gazing at the attendant dumbly for more than an hour.

 So what happened to your wedding ceremonies?

I had to run. I couldn’t disclose it to her, she would have committed suicide. I lied to her that the machines at the laboratory were down and that they said we should come back to provide another blood sample. I absconded to another city and stayed there incommunicado for three months.

You ran just as Denzel did to Chantal in your book?

(Laugh) Mine was worse. I was scared of my own contamination. The attendant told me I should come back for subsequent tests that I might have the virus but maybe it’s yet to show. So I took four more tests within nine months, each time trembling to open the envelope. Eventually I was declared safe.

How’s your girl right now?

Well, I’ve seen her for long, but I hear she’s still alive and trying her hands on some business. But the news I heard was that her ex-lover, the guy she was dating before me, had died of AIDS.

Waohhhhhh!

Waohhhh, man!

And now you’re campaigning against the use of condoms. You say it “lures lovers into unwholesome liaison and abandons them high and dry.” How many people you think will listen to that?

I don’t know, but the question is, will condoms save you at the long run? A lot of people begin their relationship depending on condoms for security, but with time, love, trust and tenderness creep in and condom is neglected or becomes irregular, thereby exposing you to dangers. If it’s for a fling then you can say condom is needful, but in a stable relationship, I think both partners need to go for their HIV test before anything, and then choose how to behave thereafter. My girl and I began our love using condoms, after some months, even up to a year; we began getting so much fond of each other to the extent of saying bye to condoms. If we had been courageous and disciplined enough to take our test before anything, we would have known each other better and earlier.

What’s your message to people now?

Never, ever depend on condoms when you engage yourself in a sexual relationship. Condoms will fail you. I’ve heard of boys who complained of being unable to pull off to change their torn condom because the new sweetness was irresistible – that having it uncovered. Girls have told me during interviews that in the heat of the act (lovemaking) they’re sometimes unaware when the thing gets torn on their men. The wisest thing to do is to have a sense of responsibility. Love without conscientiousness is pure folly. Knowing your potential lover’s blood status is even a greater love and care than knowing him or her sexually. So get him or her with you to the laboratory and have your test before anything. And that’s not the end. If your result is good, stay clean henceforth or else you can contract it somehow too even after taking the first test.

You seem to have a very rich experience of the struggles of the modern African youth. In 1995, you stowed away on a ship headed for Northern Island and was captured in deep sea and was almost thrown to sharks. Can you explain this to us?

(Laugh) It happened in San Pedro, Ivory Coast. We were a group of 11 young boys determined to see the world. We all failed to obtain visas from several embassies in town. The group was comprised of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Gambians, Togolese, Mauritanians, Ivorians, Guineans, etc. For about three months we were roaming the San Pedro sea port, seeking an opportunity to jump on a free cargo ship. It finally came one early morning by four a.m. It was a Russian ship headed for Northern Island – information given to us by the seaport’s guards. We paddled three canoes to the side of the ship on target, threw a raffia rope over and climbed one after the other onto deck. We said a brief prayer together and dispersed into different parts of the ship, where we could hide. This was according to the training we had before hand. I was alone with my bag of biscuits and bottles of water. The ship sailed away and after about four hours, I began to hear horns blaring and noticed the ship had stopped. Then torch lights and “Hey you fucking black monkey, get your ass out from your hiding before we pump poisonous gas on you.” I came out hands up and they grabbed me. They stripped me naked and asked me to jump into the ocean or else they would cut my sides to bleed and throw me to sharks. I begged and begged until the captain shouted from above and asked the fiercely looking dockers (all whites) to bring me to him. He interviewed me; read my poem on Ken Saro Wiwa scribbled on a sheet of paper and said, “Boy, you’ve got talent, why risking your life on a ship. Europe cannot give you this thing you’ve got as a talent.” He radioed coastal patrol team who later came to evacuate me. I was arrested. It was then I realised that the other 10 boys had sensed danger and had withdrawn from the ship even before it sailed away. I was the only one left on it.

Again, you and some young men dared to cross the desert from Mali up to Morocco heading for Spain. But it was again aborted.

Another sad story of the struggle to “see Europe or die trying”. It was terrible, even worse than the ship adventure. Trekking hundreds of miles in the desert without food, water and clothes. Girls proposing sex to you in order to get a cup of water to drink. Young, hopeful African youths dying and burying themselves in hot sands. Confronting Touareg rebels hungry to have sex with not just women but men. It’s pity!

In the opening chapter of Bitter Kiss, Eva, speaking to Denzel who owns a European passport, said, “Today in Africa, a European visa is much more valued than a college degree.” And you, you tried to get your hands on one at the French embassy in Abidjan in 2000. You flew to Paris and was refused entry at Orly Sud airport because you had a Nigerian passport.

Exactly. Another painful experience. After trying the sea, the desert, I was on air now to finally see Europe, but they said “no” at port of entry because of what I can’t still really explain. A young black French policeman who was keeping me on guard whispered to me: “My young African brother, they’re keeping you because you’re using a Nigerian passport. You should have used another country’s passport. You know they’re suspicious of Nigerians every where because of some bad things some of your compatriots have done in the past.” After a week at the airport I was sent to Zurich Airport, Switzerland, where I spent another three weeks before they bundled me on handcuffs to board a flight destined for Abidjan. I was escorted by two Swiss police in plain clothes. Reaching Abidjan, they handed me to the airport police and I was again detained.

In Bitter Kiss, you related a current phenomenon in Africa where youths use the Internet to swindle white people – known as scam, but as for you, you used it wisely having obtained two writing certificates online from a South African writers institute and a Manchester-based writer’s college – The Writers Bureau.

At a point in time, I decided to cool it down and settle to really think out a deeper meaning for my existence. What am I really made of? What can I offer the world? What am I passionate about? And that’s writing. I enrolled and was studying online because I hadn’t the means to travel down. I had some articles published; a tourist guide published and began my career as a professional.

It’s being rumoured that your forthcoming novel is set in London but the title is shocking, “Never Kiss A Black Man.” Why shouldn’t he be kissed?

(Laugh) I think we should leave that for now. The Kiss right now is Bitter.

Sample or purchase Bitter Kiss at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/4244

Visit blog at: https://bitterkiss.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by: Liz Warder (Journalist, South Africa)

 Kingsley Kobo’s adeptness with dialogue imbues this tale of love and betrayal with an almost voyeuristic feeling.

Earthy and compelling, set in contemporary Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where ‘second’ wives, legalized mistresses and ‘comfort zones’ are acceptable.

We follow the plight of Eva, a religious and ambitious young girl, who, after saying goodnight to her boy-friend, Adama, is offered a lift by a handsome and plausible, wealthy stranger with whom she spends the night. She later finds she is pregnant with twins. Her own father is dead, her deeply religious mother, Meme, has no income. Her two sisters, Josiane and Béatrice, to cope with their life of poverty, have become, as Eva puts it, ‘wayward’. Eva, realizing she is now in the same boat, and, with the advice of her duplicitous and immoral Aunt, Mamoussé, struggles and juggles lovers to make sense of her life. But, through it all, she is determined to track down the ‘ghost’ who fathered her twins. This takes her on a strange stop-start journey as she tries to gather clues to his whereabouts before he marries his ‘virgin’ bride.

I was a captive audience right to the last page. Kingsley has used his writing skills to help highlight many social ills that he feels strongly about. Included in this book are concerns such as poverty, women in jeopardy, HIV-AIDS, abortion, immigration and tourism hassles.

Born in 1977 in Nigeria, Kingsley Kobo has the facility to write in an entertaining manner that makes you eager to read more. This is not surprising when one learns that he is the son of Nigerian novelist and playwright, Alfred Vhovhen.

Kingsley’s own life reads like an action packed adventure story. As a teenager he was nearly thrown to the sharks for being a stowaway aboard a Russian ship, but a poem he had written saved him. Later, when trying to get to Europe he endured a harrowing and eventually aborted trek through hundreds of miles of Mali desert where a person would do anything for a cup of water. He dated a girl for four years and week before his wedding discovered, while he is HIV-negative, she is HIV-positive. Talk about narrow escapes.

Kobo Kingsley is definitely an exciting new author with a distinctive and very readable style. I look forward to his next novel.

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Chapter 6 

            Béatrice woke at sunrise. She yawned, stretched and sat up on the couch. She smoothed down her rumpled and sweat-drenched blouse, and looked left and right for Mémé; for anyone, around the well lit reception. There was nobody, she could only hear whirring sounds of the ineffective air-conditioner and ceiling fans. She flopped back on the couch supine, yawned again and glanced at her wristwatch: 5:48 a.m. Exhausted but sleepless, her dry eyes began to gaze at the white ceiling.

            Where was everybody? Mémé was probably in Eva’s room, unless something terrible had occurred, but what about the clinic’s staff? Did something terrible happen to Eva and all had dispersed? What about Dr. Aka? Surely he had gone home, but what if Eva had died? Surely he couldn’t be at home this hour lying beside his wife.

            Or, had they taken Eva’s body to the morgue, and Dr. Aka was now supervising the extraction of the foetus since it was forbidden to bury a pregnant woman pregnant? If this was the case, then where would Mémé be, killed herself or about to? God, Eva dead? It would be doom for the entire family. Why then did Dr. Aka bring her here from the university hospital if he was going to surrender without fighting for Eva’s soul?

            Eva, Eva, oh! What a life, what an end? Eva was badly recompensed by nature. She ought not to go like this. A girl, although born into a debauched-ridded society, was able to repulse every lure of adolescent spree with her spiritual and moral disciplines taught her by the church and our strict father before his death.

            Eva had had an opportunity to pursue her destiny in the U.S. but death interfered. Her cheeriest dream of getting married as a virgin was aborted at age 18 by a deceitful saintly devil. Her secondary education was halted by papa’s death. And finally, finally, Denzel who appeared to her as an angel sent from heaven, impregnating her and disappearing into the sunset. My little sister didn’t really deserve all these events. If somebody in the family deserved such sufferings, herself or Josiane should be the victims, and not Eva. She wasn’t as rotten as them.

            A car revved to a halt outside. Béatrice leapt across the hall to the glass window. Standing on her toes, she twitched the brocade curtains and craned her neck to see who was in the car: a couple, an illegal one seemingly because the lady appeared far younger than her companion. Béatrice’s intuition defined her to be the man’s mistress, or a girlfriend. She watched them advance towards the passage leading to the staircase of the four-storey clinic building. A married man whose wife had probably travelled far, was here about to relish this fresh sweetie, hm-m, men! Béatrice thought shaking her head as she walked back to sit on the couch.

            Béatrice remained quiet with her thoughts and was about to go to the Patients Room to see for herself what had happened but suddenly remembered her 10:00 a.m. date with the Italian. She needed to vacate this place and its uncertainties soon before other things entangled her here.

            She took two steps towards the door that led to the Patients Room. Lifting a third step, she dropped it, stationed herself and stared vaguely at the floor. She returned to the couch to pursue deeper thinking. This was seemingly the best hour to sneak out. She had seen nobody and nobody had seen her. She had not been informed about anything. Therefore, she presumed nothing had happened, and so was free to act as an innocent.

            Béatrice considered that her strongest argument as to her absence would be that she had been abandoned. A 26-year-old girl was mature enough to be informed of any eventuality. She snapped her fingers and smiled to herself as she sat up. But the smile soon shaded into a sharp frown. Another thought had struck her. If Mémé wasn’t here, she might have run home to announce the bad news; and by now Josiane would be wailing wildly and might have sent someone down to the clinic to pick her. Goodness! But why would Mémé not have told her before leaving the clinic? So many questions, but if it was true that Mémé was at home seeking her, then it would be a great handicap if she was found and told the news. No excuse under heaven would pave a way to Yamoussoukro with her white man.

            Still sitting on the couch, she edged forward worriedly to occupy a slim space on the edge. She folded her arms tightly across her abdomen and raised her head to gaze at the wall clock. Each second that clicked by corresponded with her heartbeat. Time was running, her soul was burning. She needed a solution fast before she was held down or pulled away inescapably.

            She held her breath, looked at the ceiling and stood up. Her eyes roved around the reception for some seconds, then she snapped her fingers again, this time louder, and started towards the exit. She turned the key and pulled the heavy red-wood door open to her destiny.

            Outside, she waved down a lone taxi and leapt inside; and without asking her destination, the taxi driver accelerated punching the start button on the counter. This was an attitude of trust Abidjan taxi drivers reserved only for white-skinned passengers. They believed every white passenger was always rich enough to pay whatever fare the counter read. So no need hurrying to ask for destination; they would indicate it once they were comfortably seated.

            In his rear-view mirror, the taxi driver glimpsed his passenger’s pretty face darkened with apprehension, and before he could finish asking “where is your destination?” she interrupted in a peppery tone, “Speed faster, I’m getting late. Just keep straight.”

            Five minutes later, Beatrice told the driver to park alongside a dry-cleaner’s shop and wait. She hastened into the shop looking stealthily to her left and right. In a jiffy, she emerged with a big plastic bag bloated with pressed clothes. The driver reversed and faced where they had just come from, an eye on his counter.

            Now in front of a beauty salon, Béatrice paid her fare and scuttled inside to be pampered. She confided to the chief aesthetician, who was also the owner of the salon, that she was readying herself for a date with her first white man and wanted to be shown how best to appear. Her hair was the most important feature, to be dealt with first.

            Under a hairdryer, Béatrice was simultaneously manicured by two of the salon’s apprentices. She checked the time: 9:15 a.m., only 45 more minutes to prepare to make a seal with a bright destiny. She enjoyed the warmth that was pouring upon her body. She was being charged nicely for her mission.

            The difference between valiant winners and effete cowards is that both prepare before battle day but only the former try to execute; the latter dread execution. Béatrice reminded herself mentally almost pounding her chest. Sure, she wouldn’t be a coward. She was planning right now and she would surely, surely, execute as well.

            “I’ve chosen what you’re going to wear from the clothes you’ve brought in,” the aesthetician, who’d introduced herself simply as Sali, said in a raised voice, in order for Béatrice to hear her from under the dryer.

            Béatrice watched the 30-something Sali mince pass into her little office after speaking. Her perfume smelt of money; her skin was exquisitely brown – so much care and cash must have been invested in it. She was tall; near six feet – a woman’s height most suitors are afraid of. Her oval face had a small pointed nose. Her eyelashes were smoothly dark and naturally pencilled. Her legs were lovely straight in her blue stretch jeans. Her arms were long, slim and looked fleshy. Béatrice admitted mentally that the lady who had just spoken to her was beautiful – a thing she hardly ever admitted about others.

            Béatrice never saw any woman as more beautiful than herself. Even a Miss World wasn’t more beautiful. She loved this attitude as much as she hated it. Assuming herself to be the most beautiful woman on earth gave her a certain internal strength to combat every twinge of an inferiority complex. But it also ignited an empty jealousy in her against any girl she was convinced would beat her in beauty.

            But a jealous spirit for this beautician would do her no good now. She needed her service and nothing more. Beatrice judged her age more precisely to be between 33 and 35 and wondered how her boobs were still strong and firm in her red sweater like that of a sweet sixteen. She wished they were on her chest.

            Béatrice had wanted her boobs to remain as the Creator had created them, but her precocious sexual activities, childbearing and men’s constant manipulation; had made her once pointed pears fallen and badly depreciated in value. But thanks to luck that her date was with a white man. She had heard that white men don’t mind how firm or weak be your breasts, unlike black men who could x-ray the size, strength, succulence, a half mile away and judge whether you would be presentable in the bedroom or not.

            With 20 minutes to go, Béatrice’s hair, fingernails, toenails and face had all been thoroughly touched and she was now in Sali’s office dressing up under her supervision.

            “You’re perfectly okay like this. See girl, white men are simple and easily pleased. I believe he’ll appreciate you this way,” she said as Béatrice preened herself before a full-length mirror. She was satisfied with her smooth face; her hair – long bouncy curls falling beyond nape; and her nails – beautifully manicured with a silver varnish. But the casual clothes imposed by Sali made her wary.

            Sali had suggested she appeared as simple as possible: a pair of blue jeans, black high-heeled sandals and a black button-down silk blouse with flared sleeves; to be accessorized with a set of gold-plated ear-rings and necklace. No wristwatch.

            Béatrice had wanted to be gorgeous and elegant being a first date, but this beauty veteran was imposing ultimate simplicity.

            “Girl, you’re okay like this for a white man. He’ll appreciate you, believe me. Don’t worry,” assured Sali. “And as I said, don’t wear perfume. Simply use antiperspirant. White men love to smell you natural. It arouses them more than perfumes. Look, I’ve gone out with 11 white men, so I know what I’m telling you girl…They like being touched and stroked. Just be spontaneous and he’ll fall for you. Okay, hurry up now, you’ve got less than ten minutes. White men hate lateness.”

            After paying for the service, Béatrice scooped her bag, spun on her feet to face the exit and started away. At the doorway, Sali stopped her, “Wait girl! There’s one more thing for you.” Béatrice turned, walked back and offered her ears.

            “Before you go to bed with him, drink several glasses of cold water,” her whisper made Béatrice frown worriedly. Noticing, she continued, “Just do what I said and you’ll see how effective your body will be during, well…Good luck.” She opened her arms for a hug and Béatrice ran into them, and then released herself.

            When Béatrice alighted from the taxi that brought her to Hotel Ibis along Boulevard Giscard d’Estaing, she oozed confidence, there was 5 minutes left, so she looked around the entrance to check if her man was earlier than scheduled, but he was not there. She sought a spot and stood out singly. Impulsively, she glanced at her wrist for an indication of time but soon realised her wristwatch was deeply hidden in her bag. Once again she began to puzzle over why Sali banned her from putting on a watch. Was it to make the white man sympathize with her as a poor girl? Or to appear timeless, meaning totally at his mercy? Or, what?

            A car horn blared and she saw the conspicuous white face of the European in the back seat of a Mitsubishi Pajero. He was smiling impressively at her. Béatrice reckoned he was smiling because of her look and her punctuality.

            The driver, cutely dressed in a formal red tie across a well-tucked white long-sleeved shirt, descended from the high vehicle to carry Béatrice’s weightless plastic bag as she tried elegantly to enter the car to join her man.

            “You look lovely Béatrice, and you’re punctual,” the white man commended as he took her left hand to admire her fingers.

            “Thank you, sir!” Béatrice said smiling and leaning towards him for a kiss. He kissed her oily lips which Sali had plumped with a colourless lipstick. He leaned back and began to lick his lips. The driver zoomed off.

            Although excited but hungry, Béatrice wasn’t going to show a sign of either. She nodded slowly to the jazz music playing on the car stereo. As they sped away, she noticed how her man was peeking at her intermittently, but she shammed innocence to the anticipation.

            He flipped over to a middle page of the news magazine he had pretended to be reading and seemed to be concentrating on an article about politics on the Black Continent. He became so absorbed in his reading that he almost forgot the woman by his side, until he realised she had yawned.

            “Are you hungry?” the half-bald Italian with a droopy moustache asked in a husky baritone.

            “No, not really; I’m tired and a bit sleepy,” Béatrice said, with a less candid smile.

            “What hindered you from resting?”

            “I was in a clinic all night. A female friend of mine was hospitalised,” she lied calmly.

            “A friend of yours?…What was her problem?…She had abortion?”

            “No-o, not that; she’s pregnant and…”

            “Wanted to get rid of the unwanted child, right?”

            The driver grinned within limits. Béatrice forced a sheepish smile at her man who continued reading.

            “That your sick friend, she’s married?” he asked, his eyes still reading.

            “No.”

            “Then who pumped her stomach?”

            The driver soothed a chuckle; Béatrice frowned at her host confusedly and then took some time before responding.

            “I don’t know, it’s her problem.”

            “Then she’s not your friend and you shouldn’t have given up a whole night for her.”

            Béatrice dropped her head in embarrassment. “She’s a childhood friend. We’ve parted ways for long. I don’t know how she leads her life now with men.”

            “But you knew where and when she broke her virginity being a childhood friend,” he said turning over another page.

            She scowled at him silently and said turning away, “I’m not supposed to know that even if we were born on the same day.”

            “I see…But don’t tell me you never met one or two of her ex-boyfriends and she yours.”

            “We’re friends, just friends.” The lie was easier than the truth.

            “Just no good friends…Did you attend same primary school, had a common bath, exchanged pants?” he queried, closing his magazine and turning to Béatrice.

            She looked up, closed her eyes lightly and said, “We were friends, just friends, mister,” coldness in her voice.

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