"I told you," Anita said, between gasps, "you have it going on." Another bout of laughter caught her as she imagined me nearly naked on the side of the road.
"It was kind of nice, “I agreed, "embarrassing, but I think he really thought I was hot."
"You need more flat tires," she laughed, "maybe wear a bikini next time." I tried to hold back my smile, but I just couldn't. It felt good to be admired, if only for a few minutes. I wasn't an exhibitionist that I knew. It was just his smile and his words. "You should have gotten his number," Anita added. "No!" I said, "I couldn't. I would die of embarrassment if I ever saw him again." My cheeks turning red.
"He said you were beautiful, "Anita countered, "and you said he wasn't hard on the eyes." I pushed Anita's shoulder, lovingly.
"He's probably married," I argued, "what are you are trying to do? Turn me into a slut." Anita gave me a sly smile.
"A man tells you, you are beautiful, you can at least see if he is married," she raised her eyebrows up and down. Arun had his hands full with this one. I chuckled and held back my response. There was no arguing sex with her. "You need to take some risks," Anita continued, "I did with Arun and never regretted it. He is a good father and keeps the bed very warm." Her smile told me exactly what she meant.
"I think you took the last good man, Anita," I said, half meaning it, "the rest are married, gay, or after only one thing." I wouldn't mind that one thing, but a possible future would be a requirement.
"You need to stop spending your Saturdays here," Anita said, "You need to put yourself out there." She smiled, "maybe enter a few wet t-shirt contests." We laughed together as we began putting the fried potato patties on the serving tray. I had already forgotten the name of the things. My tongue loved them, it was my brain that refused to cooperate.
After a nice dinner, we all sat down for Arya's board game. It was different from any other game I had ever played. It turned out to be a very enjoyable game. It was called Stone Age and you had to lead your people from a hunter-gather society to an agrarian one. You did this by gathering resources with workers and dice. You then spent the resources to buy huts and special cards. It was easy to learn and engrossing. Arun won the first game and we all agreed to play another. I thought I had the second game in the bag, but Arya won by two points. She had amassed a good collection of cards. I would have been upset, but the look on her face was wonderful. She was young and needed the victory. It made the game all the better. Arya complained when her mother told her it was time for bed. I gave her a hug and promised to play her game again next week. I was actually looking forward to it. I think I had a strategy down that would lead me to victory. She kissed her mother and father goodnight. I watched the affection and was slightly jealous. I wanted what they had. I wanted crazy passion with a man followed by a family filled with love. I didn't think that was too much to ask for.
Arun broke out a bottle of wine. He and I were just entering our normal work cycle so we were wide awake. Anita struggled to stay with us during the weekends. I always left when her yawns exceeded more than one a minute. We talked about Nigerian things. TV, thank the gods for the DVR, movies, books and anything that made them feel more like citizens. As the night wore down, the topic usually returned to work. That is when Anita would begin to yawn.
"Your mother was especially upset last night," Arun said, remembering Jeremaine's tirade about the trash cans not being washed out. I just emptied them since they all had liners.
"She is just trying to wear me down," I said, "it will take more than trash cans to get under my skin." I took a sip of my wine. They both knew that the company was mine as long as I could hold out until I was thirty-seven. "Why do you stick around Arun," I said and quickly qualified, "I would hate to lose my only friend there, but she treats you like crap." Anita and Arun exchanged a look I didn't recognize. I was missing something.
"My staying here in Nigeria requires I keep this job," Arun said, "I don't have a choice." "Is India that bad?" I asked. It didn't seem so horrible. I had even considered visiting there when I came into my inheritance. If Arun and Anita were examples of the people there, I definitely wanted to make the trip. Anita's face lost its happiness. I had asked something I shouldn't have.
"My family would not cherish my return," Anita said, "they think I am dirty now." I saw a sadness in her. I didn't like how it looked.
"I am not the same caste as Anita," Arun said. Anita scooted over and leaned on Arun. I had asked something very sensitive. "She married below her status and it is just not done in her family." He paused for a moment before he continued. "Her family holds with the old ways. She and Arya would be at risk if we were to return." I sucked in my breath. I didn't know there were places in the world where things like that still mattered. "I didn't know," I said in a way of an apology.
"How could you," Anita said with a forced smile. I had visions of Anita and Arya dragged off to some horrible family tribunal. "To Nigeria," I said, raising my glass "and your quick path to citizenship." Arun smiled and Anita's smile lost its fakeness. We tapped our glasses together and I quickly changed the subject. The rest of the evening went with less drama and returned to our own brand of humour. I needed them for my sanity and they needed me for a friend. It was a good arrangement. I left when Anita's yawns exceeded the prescribed parameters.