BITTER FRUIT
. He searched around the house for them, but Lillian and Samuel were gone.

BITTER FRUIT

By Seeb Durazi

Daniel Mwendwa sat pensively, in a secluded corner in the restaurant, peering anxiously from behind the lush, large leaves of the potted plant that partially concealed the table.  He cursed her silently for having chosen this place, it was so near to his office, and many of his colleagues liked to pop in here for lunch.  Not that being seen here with her couldn’t be explained, he could always say that she was a business associate.  Cleo was, one hell of a looker.

Daniel sipped a little water, fidgeted with his watch and loosened his tie slightly.  The mid-February heat was unbearable, and he realized that he was sweating profusely despite the air-conditioned interior of the restaurant.   Even the bouquet of a dozen red roses that he’d bought just half an hour ago seemed to be wilting already.  Then, he looked up and saw her.   She’d spotted him and glided towards him with feline grace.  He was aware that all the men in the room were staring at her.  He found himself mesmerized too, and fumbling for words, like a silly schoolboy.

“Hi, sorry I’m late,” she said, “I was just winding things up at the office, being a Saturday, you know…”

He nodded understandingly, “Don’t worry, I haven’t been waiting that long.”

Then she put her hand on his, and caressed it, sending sweet shivers up his arm and right to his chest, “It’s so good to see you darling.  But you never have enough time for me,” she pouted and smiled at the same time, fluttering her eye-lashes.  They looked at one another, eyes melting, and flesh yearning to mold together.

 The waiter arrived with their drinks

He gave her the roses and then, drew out a small box wrapped in gold paper, with a bright red bow on top, “Just for you, my sweet heart”, he lied.

He’d bought two identical sets at a bargain price from Secrets, the lingerie shop in Village market, and had presented a similar box to his wife a few days ago, on her birthday.  He gloated a bit, about being such a smooth operator.  The whole situation was like, having your cake and eating it too, he thought smugly.

“Oh! Thank you, I’ll open it later, when I give you your present,” she said meaningfully, squeezing his hand.  His trousers felt very tight all of a sudden, and he hoped he’d get through lunch without any embarrassment.

The waiter arrived with their drinks, and hovered beside her as they browsed through the menu.  Daniel seethed silently as he noticed the man staring down Cleo’s cleavage, an ample one for a woman who was so slim and tall.  She was wearing a sleeveless red dress, with a plunging neckline, and a hemline that stopped just short of her knee, so that a good measure of her thighs was exposed when she sat.  The red lipstick suited her smooth, deep caramel complexion, and he could see that she’s had her hair done specially for the occasion.

They ordered their meal and Daniel snapped the menu card shut.  “Would you like to order dessert?” he asked carefully, not wanting to appear miserly.

“No, we’ll save that for later”, she said silkily.  The insinuation was unmistakable, by now the pressure in Daniel’s crotch was unbearable, and he shifted uncomfortably.  She smiled, she knew what she was doing to him, and was very pleased with herself.

     “Is this the place…?” she asked, a little hesitantly

They ate their lunch, amid easy conversation.  Daniel noticed that she stopped eating when her plate was still more than half-full. He paid the bill, and tipped the waiter grudgingly, but he was relieved that he had spent less than he’d budgeted for.  He asked her to go ahead and wait in his car.  He didn’t want to be spotted leaving with her, as he could see a few familiar faces around.

Daniel was completely oblivious to the owner of the pair of eyes that had followed his every move from the moment he had entered the restaurant to the time he left, concealed behind the wooden façade near the restrooms.

He weaved his way around the Saturday afternoon city center traffic, then turned into a Motel driveway.   His heart was thumping so hard that he could have sworn she could hear it.

“Is this the place…?” she asked, a little hesitantly, her smooth, penciled brow slightly creased and her full lips pouting.  Her disappointment was apparent to Daniel and annoying at the same time.  What was she expecting? The Intercontinental? So that they’d bump into one of his wife’s bitchy friends and be torn to shreds? With great difficulty, he refrained from verbalizing his thoughts.

He concealed his anger with a wide smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, revealing even white teeth, “The place is very comfortable, and quite clean too. Besides, it’s very discreet.”

Seeming a little placated, Cleo walked beside him, putting her arm through his, so that her hip was snuggled against his thigh.  Among other things, Daniel’s anticipation grew rapidly.

The clerks at the reception desk sniggered as the attractive young couple turned away with the room keys.  ‘Mr. and Mrs. Mwendwa’, the man had said.  If they were married, why did they have to come and do their business in a hotel? And that too, in the afternoon.  They’d seen countless such cases; another married man courting a gold-digger.  Why, just a while ago, a well-dressed woman had come in with a man old enough to be her father.  This is what the world was coming to.  They sighed and went about their chores.

Daniel showered quickly, it was almost six o’clock

Daniel and the woman in red scarcely made it into the room, before they were groping each other, their hunger unabated.  He was attracted to her, not only because she was a sensual and svelte creature, but also because he knew that she was the educated, self-sufficient executive type whose liberal outlook favoured no-strings-attached relationships.  And for her, a financially stable, attractive man who didn’t need a steady relationship was irresistible.

It was late afternoon, when the Cleo reached for her purse and pulled out a box of expensive cigarettes and a gold lighter, she looked Daniel over as he lay asleep on his stomach, his athletic body gleaming in the sunlight that filtered through the shutters.  Not bad, she thought to herself, he was better than her boyfriend.  Thinking of whom, she went to the bathroom and washed up, she looked at her face in the mirror and decided that she looked tired. She needed to get home and liven up before her dinner date.  Going over to the bed, she woke Daniel and gently resisted his attempts to get her back into bed again.

Daniel showered quickly, it was almost six o’clock, and he knew he ought to be getting home.  He slung his jacket over his right shoulder and held the woman with the left arm, then opened the room door, and was stunned when his eyes locked with a pair of narrowed ones directly in front of him.   His hand froze on the handle, his mouth suddenly dry.  Daniel’s mind raced, but looked behind, he saw Cleo slowly buttoning the red dress over her bosom.  He was caught and there was no denying it.

The plumpish well-dressed woman was breathing really hard, but said nothing.  She stared hard at her husband and the taloned creature in red.

“Lillian!” Daniel was the first to break the silence, his voice so small, he couldn’t even hear himself.

At last, the motel’s security team arrived

“So, what are you doing here?” asked Lillian, eyeing the woman in red, “I thought you said that you had a ‘business’ lunch, followed by a soccer game at the club?”  Cleo cowered behind Daniel, sensing danger.

“Where did you pick this slut?”

“How dare you call me a slut, you fat pig!” screamed Cleo indignantly.  With that, they were each other’s throats, pulling hair, slapping and kicking.  Daniel desperately tried to restrain his wife.  A small crowd had gathered around them, viewing the entertaining scene with amused looks.

At last, the motel’s security team arrived and put a stop to the commotion.  The woman in red slipped away unnoticed as the married couple carried on with their domestic squabble.  A guard escorted Daniel and Lillian to the car park.  Lillian got into her car and sped away, leaving a bewildered Daniel beside his.

“I wonder who she left Samuel with?” he growled as the car swerved onto the highway.  All of a sudden he was worried about his two-year old son.

Lillian drove home, wiping off the tears from her cheeks as she stopped at a junction.  She had suspected that Daniel had been cheating on her for a while now, but before today, she hadn’t wanted to believe it.  Lillian was a successful teacher before she gave up her job to become a full-time mum.  That Saturday, she had planned to link up with her best friend Ann for lunch after a long time because Daniel had said that he wouldn’t be home for lunch.  Coincidentally, she had entered the restaurant just after Cleo, and had seen her heading straight to where Daniel was seated.  Despite the emotional turmoil that assailed her, she quietly decided to see what was happening before she pounced on her husband.  The lady might be a business associate, she thought to herself.  Then, she had followed them to the motel, unnoticed.

 Neither Daniel nor Lillian laughed at the joke

Daniel drove home, silently cursing his luck, immersed in his guilt and shame.  When he got home, he saw Lillian’s car in the driveway and felt relieved.  Both Lillian and Dan pretended that all was well for his mother’s sake.  She had just finished feeding her grandson his porridge in the kitchen, and smiled upon seeing them coming in.

“There you are, it’s late.  I was beginning to wonder how you’ll manage to get ready for your night out at this rate”, she said.

“We’re not going out, mum”, said Lillian, lowering herself into a chair. She looked meaningfully at Daniel.

“Why not?” she asked, she was disappointed, she’d been looking forward to having her grandson to herself for the whole evening.

“I’m not feeling so well,” said Lillian, “this heat gets to me you know, I’ve a terrible headache”.

“And I’ve had a tough day at work,” lied Daniel, “so we’ll just relax at home”.

“Well in that case, I’d better get going,” said his mother, standing up.  “I’ll surprise your father, who knows, I might even catch him with a ndogondogo, red-handed!” she chuckled.

Neither Daniel nor Lillian laughed at the joke.  The older woman sensed some tension, but thought it wise to leave them alone.

Daniel retreated to the sitting room after his mother left.  He was restless, even soccer couldn’t hold his attention.  The events of that afternoon replayed in his mind over and over again, he felt a disturbing mixture of fear, anger, shame and remorse for the loss of trust between him and his wife.  He couldn’t think of how to explain his actions. He had cheated on his wife several times before, without any guilt at all.  He didn’t know how to face Lillian. She would raise hell – rightly so. What would happen to Samuel if they were to part?  He decided it was better to talk things out now, and get on with their normal lives.

  “You’ve cheated on me several times before!”

As she bathed Samuel and got him ready for bed, Lillian’s thoughts were similar.  She cooked an omelet for Daniel and left it on the dinner table, and then she bathed and went to lie in bed.

Lillian was still awake when her husband came to bed.  He lay beside her, not touching her, just listening to her breathing in the dark.

“Lilly, I’m sorry,” he began, trying to choose his words, “What happened this afternoon was shameful, please forgive me, it will never happen again…”

“You’ve cheated on me several times before!” she rasped, cutting him short.

“I could see the signs.   I wish I had questioned you then.  It would have spared us both the humiliation today,” she sobbed, tears trickling down the sides of her face, into her ears and wetting the pillow.

“Please give me another chance, for the sake of what we share as man and wife. For our son”, he beseeched.

“I can never trust you again,” she said, turning away from him in the dark, and closing her eyes.

On Sunday, Daniel awoke to the peeling of bells from the nearby Church.  He searched around the house for them, but Lillian and Samuel were gone. He was on his own as he sank to the floor and sobbed away for what could never be undone.His

 

END

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