Almost an hour after Julian left the house, I am in the kitchen getting my breakfast ready when a door slams upstairs. At first I think it is the wind but then I hear someone coming down the steps. I can’t move. I can barely breathe. The kitchen fills with the sweet smell of jasmine, and I brace my hands on the counter behind me, expecting the pain, waiting for it to hammer me. Then she comes in. A woman, her hair and skin as pale as milk, her eyes as blue as the Caribbean sky. She opens her mouth and I scream as the pain hits me between the eyes. She fades, and the smell with her, like incense dispersed by the wind. My keys shake in my hand as I bring them to my mouth. I feel like screaming but there’s nothing to rage against in the empty kitchen; there’s just me and the guiltless sunlight blasting through the glass windows.
Outside, I can hear the faraway thwack–thwack that indicates Alphanus is hard at work, clearing more of the land behind the house. I know it is him and not my imagination because his shoes are on the steps by the kitchen. He walks barefoot around the yard because “me like feel the earth.” That was what he told me when I suggested he keep his shoes on to protect his feet from whatever dangers lurk in the soil. The shoes, he says, are for when he is “pon the road.”
The house phone rings. I contemplate not answering it but if it’s Julian he’ll only worry.
“Grace, are you ready to come back yet?” The rumbling voice belongs to Carlton Spence, my former boss back in Philly. I’m absurdly glad to hear him.
“Not quite but, if you could rush me down one of Max’s cheesesteaks, I’d be grateful.” Max’s was where everyone from the station hung out Friday evenings. “How’s everything, Carlton? Are Benjamin and Kendra getting along?” The two are the stereotypically warring co–anchors for the evening news. There really are good reasons for not sleeping with your colleagues. “Is Lisa doing a good job?” My replacement. Deep down I hope she’s messing up, reminding them every day of my own perfection.
Carlton laughs as I pump him for information. I tell him about the Prime Minister’s party we’ve been invited to, about how it will mark my coming out, so to speak. Carlton tells me I’ll be fine, that they’ll love me but I’m not convinced. We talk for more than thirty minutes. I do not mention the woman or my headaches. Before he rings off I tell him to keep my seat warm and he warns me not to spend too much time lolling under the coconut trees. Carlton was like a father to me at the station. Hearing from him lifts my spirits.
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