Patchet Alvero was a good looking man. Five foot seven, with a head thick with curls and marble grey eyes. His skin was milky brown despite the sun that he worked under most days of the month. He was an oil man, working on the offshore rigs dotting the coast of Trinidad. He had met Kelly when they were both fifteen and she was going to school in Fyzabad. He was popular and athletic and loud whilst Kelly spent her time with her head buried behind a book. Maybe that is why he noticed her. Whilst most of the girls in their year swooned whenever he was around, Kelly never took much notice of him. But he did and he could not bring himself to talk to her. Then one day, six years after she had left Fyzabad as suddenly as she had entered it, he saw her walking down Frederick Street. Her body was fuller, her hips and breasts rounder with womanhood but her face had not changed. That smooth dark chocolate skin and narrow brown eyes still made his stomach clench up. She was beautiful and there was no way he was not going to talk to her this time. It had taken a few months before she confessed that she too had liked him during their high school days but she had thought him inaccessible and not interested in the ‘quiet darkie’ with all the beautiful girls who surrounded them. He had shook his head at that, amazed and sad at all the time they had wasted. He was not a religious man but he knew that seeing her again that day was a clear sign that she had to be his woman.
Now five years later Patchet was still trying to figure out how to make Kelly completely his because even after all this time she still kept a part of herself closed off to him. Even at their happiest moments he felt that wall she still constructed between them. It was invisible to anyone observing them but for him who had studied her every nuance for all these years he knew it was there. He couldn’t blame her. Her mother was the queen of bad relationships and in turn Kelly knew nothing about trust and love and forever. Whilst Patchet had grown up in the same house with parents who had been married since they were nineteen. He believed in family and in love. He wanted to marry her and fill her with his children but she resisted. She said she had more to do before marriage and children. She liked that they had separate homes and thought their relationship was fine the way it was.
She was afraid. And they both knew it.
Coming back home today he sensed a different kind of fear. This one lingered on her skin like bad perfume and seeped through even as she smiled and hugged him and nonchalantly told him about the events of the last few days. He felt her tiredness and the emotions she was trying to kept hidden. Despite the troubled relationship she had with Annette her disappearance scared her. She loved her Mother regardless of their past. He knew from experience that saying all of these things would just push her into silence so he kissed her instead and gently led her towards her bedroom. She didn’t protest just kissed him deeper and ran her hands over his face and head while he unbuttoned her dress. Sex was the only time she let the wall down so he always made sure it was a long sweet release. Afterwards he watched her sleep and felt all the torrents of emotions she stirred up in him. He loved her yes but things could not stay the way they were.
Less than an hour later they had changed positions. Patchet was now fast asleep, sprawled on his back on the small bed, and Kelly was the one pondering their relationship. She was regretting what had happened especially as she had decided a few weeks ago that sleeping with him just made the situation more difficult. But she had been vulnerable today. Despite her head protesting the entire time, her body craved the intimacy. The fleeting feeling of being held and not having to feel anything but……but it didn’t change the outcome. She still went back to wanting to tell Patchet goodbye but not knowing how to. Last night after Tony had dropped her home and they had lingered in the car talking idly, she had made up her mind. She admitted to herself that Tony was the one who made her feel happy. Even during this strange time of her mother disappearance, his presence gave her comfort and she yearned to be around him. Period.
Patchet was part of a different time in her life. Kelly still remembered the surprise and giddiness she had felt when he had approached her on Frederick Street that day. She knew who he was straight away though she let him introduce himself and ramble on about Fyzabad Comp. How could she forget someone as gorgeous as he and whose name was so unusual? She was flattered that he liked her, more than flattered. As far as she was concerned women like her did not attract men like Patchet. After years of feeling like she was the ugly duckling, never appreciating her figure or her short hair or dark skin; having him want her so much made her feel special. More special than she had ever felt in her life. He looked at her like she was made of porcelain and that is what she wanted to be. Not the quiet girl who never knew where she fit in. It didn’t matter then that they did not like the same things or saw the future in different ways. But it did matter after five years. She wanted to study and travel and be more than she was supposed to be. Patchet wanted marriage and children and a life cocooned in South Trinidad just like his parents had created.
Kelly got dressed and went into the kitchen to cook. Maybe cook a meal of chicken and carrot rice like he loved. She would feed him and convince him to go back to Fyzabad tomorrow because she knew that now was not the time to tell him how she felt. She was afraid yes, because he would be hurt. She did not want to do that but letting him think that she loved him so was even worse. Thoughts of how to disentangle herself occupied her thoughts and was enough, at least for today, to stop her wondering where Annette had disappeared to.
When Tony strolled into Brewster and Aboud, he had not expected Kelly to be there. She was standing next to her desk in a grey shift dress and low heels, sifting through the pile of papers that had grown in the last three days. She was chewing on a pen cover and he smiled. He knew she did not realize how much she did that when she was thinking. She looked at him in time to see the smile crease his lips.
“Morning.” She tried to sound upbeat but it was a dismal attempt.
“What you doing back?” he asked
“I wasn’t doing nothing at home so I figured it was time to get back to work.”
He didn’t bother to ask her if she had heard from her mother because he knew she would have told him so already.
“Well I have a meeting with Rajack this morning so you come back just in time.”
“What happen? You didn’t want Joy Ann to go wit you?”
“Come on now, you know I loveee to spend time with Joy Ann!”
She laughed even more at his sarcasm. Joy Ann Ladoo one of the other legal secretaries, had been doggedly pursuing him for the last few months. She was determined to be a lawyer’s wife and Anthony Brewster was the latest one in her sights. Kelly could not understand why she had not succeeded yet in finding a husband. With her tiny waist and brown curls that trailed all the way down her back she left most of the men in the office particularly wetting themselves. But Tony had told her that Joy Ann was too transparent and that no man liked a woman that desperate.
Tony and Kelly grinned at each other, lost in their private joke and happy to see each other again. He had be missing her and found himself wondering what she and Patchet had been up to.
“Well I will go because I have to and because I know you going to buy me some Coconut water and a chicken roti.” She told him.
“Kels what you think this is? I go get you a doubles instead.”
It was almost one o’clock when they parked off the savannah and each began to devour their rotis. They could have found somewhere to eat but having lunch in his jeep had become their routine. They would sit there eating and people watching for an hour or so then head back to the office.
“I think I may have to let Candice live with me.” Kelly had finished and was now watching Tony finish his second roti. For a slender man he had an unending appetite.
“Why she can’t stay by your grandmother?”
“Granny is older now, she really don’t have the energy for Candy. The child is busy. She don’t sit still. Besides I want her to go to good schools and the best are up here.”
“What is your mother going to say?”
“I doh care what she have to say. She abandoned her. That’s my baby and I have to look after her.”
Tony understood why but he knew she could not afford it.
“I will get a second job then. Use my savings. I will have to get a new place…”
“What about UWI and the teacher’s course? Patchet ok with this?”
She got quiet then. She did not know how to tell him that she was abandoning both. She looked at her hands for a bit then said,
“I…I’m going to finish with Patchet.” She looked across at him but his expression did not change.
“What about UWI?”
Tony had caught he off guard and she has to think for a second. She had just admitted that she was about to be a free woman and he had chosen to ignore the declaration.
“I will have to forget that for now.”
He started the car,
“No way. Look how long you been saving? You have to go in September or it will never happen.”
“Tony I know what you saying but I can’t afford it. Not with Candice.”
“Why not? The plan stays the same. You work part time with B & A and you go to school. Just put her in nursery and we will figure out a babysitter for your evening classes. How much longer you going to put off your dream?
His last words made her feel bad. He was right, He knew more than anyone else how badly she wanted to teach but she could not see how she could afford it.
Tony reached out and squeezed her knee
“I will help you.” She was going to answer but he cut her off “We not discussing it. I not going to let give up on what you want. Let me work on the new place thing. I know plenty people that will give me a good price.”
She wanted to say no. Not for her pride, though that was a little part of it, because she did not want there to be any money issues between them. Kelly was afraid he would wake up one day and think she had been using him for his money and that would never be the case.
“You know what they say about friends and money.” It was her last argument. Tony took his eyes off the road to look at her as he spoke.
“Listen dat don’t pertain to us. We deeper than that and now you need my help more than ever. Call it what you like but I making sure you starting that course.”
Granny said that Candice had started to act more like her old self again. Not as loud as usual but Granny didn’t mind that. Kelly spoke to her for a while and satisfied herself that she was ok. Candy had spent big chunks of her life in Moruga so she had friends there and felt safe. For Kelly that was enough for now. When she hung up the phone rang almost immediately after.
She got very still then, her heart beginning to race.
“Yes is me. Where Candice?”
Kelly had never gotten angry so quickly in her life. A week of worrying and Annette was calling like she had only been gone an hour.
“You serious? You really serious? Where the hell are you?”
“Yes! That is why you send her by me right? You know I will look after her. Where are you Annette?”
She sighed heavily on the other end.
“You not going to tell me?!?”
“Well stop shouting at me.”
She was right. Kelly was shouting but she was so angry she was almost trembling. A week of being so afraid Annette was dead and now she was acting like it had never happened.
“What do you want Annette?”
“To check on Candy.”
“You should have done that on Friday when you sent her to me.”
“I….I…Kelly doh be mad. Please.”
“Why?! Why did you leave?”
“I had to go. I wish I can say but I had to….”
“Annette?” the phone line sounded like it was covered. “Ma? Ma?”
When Annette came back on her voice was almost a whisper.
“I still in Arima.” Then the line went dead.
Tony smiled when he saw her number. When they had parted that afternoon he knew that she would calling. She was confused as to why he had ignored her revelation about Patchet. As much as he had wanted to break into the largest smile at her words he had decided to leave it alone. She had not done it yet so there was always the possibility that she would change her mind. He did not truly believe that though. It was the first time Kelly had talked about breaking up with Patchet. Ever. So for her to tell him must mean that she was serious. But what greeted him instead when he answered her call was a different story all together.
“It was so, so strange Tony. I mean the whole conversation and the way she was whispering at the end. I don’t know what to think.”
Tony was at a loss at well. Was Annette somewhere she didn’t want to be? And where in Arima?
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Can you come over?” she said it before she thought about it
“Yeah Im leaving now.”