Her toenails dug into the stone riddled earth underneath her feet. The browning grass sat dry and thirsty in between her toes. She leaned back on her arms and watched a ray of sunlight tumble through the greying clouds. It bounced off the newly installed corrugated roofing on her neighbour, Fabrizio’s house. Ahwi sat beside her, facing her side, staring at the vein in her right temple.
“It’s always throbbing. That never used to happen. When did your vein start throbbing like that?”
She flattened her toes in response and pressed the soles of her feet into the warm, hard earth. Her classmates would be writing mock exams for the Cambridge IGCSEs in two hours. It was not even noon yet but her eyes and limbs felt heavy with a desire for sleep.
“Mnaama, your veins. Did you hear what I said?”
She craned her neck - left, right, left. She sniffed in a short breath and twisted her upper body to face him. She smiled. A small, tight, stop-fussing-you’re-talking-too-much smile.
He lifted and shifted his buttocks closer to hers, opening up more space between his legs for her to come into. His right hand inched towards her inner thigh. She winced at his cold touch, her eyes squinting slightly and her shoulders hunching forward. He pressed his left palm into her cheek, “Turning your head won’t hide the throbbing. I can still see it, even from the front.”
Her toes curled tightly into the earth again, staying clenched as Awhi’s thumb fingered the temple with the troubled vein.
“It’s so green. Like a stem. Or a lizard’s tail. Mnaama why are you ignoring this? Is it painful? It even looks like it is about to bust.”
She touched the threatening vein with long thin fingernails, tracing a line along the bulge. She shook her head, “No. Nothing hurts.”
Musa, the estate gate-man, sat on a make-shift bench four bungalows away, outside the guardhouse. He sucked lazily on a chewing stick; his eyes watching Ahwi’s hands on Madam’s daughter. He coughed — clearing his throat and downing a few sips of bagged pure water — every time Ahwi kissed her face.
Mnaama watched a trail of ants march steadily through the grass. Awhi’s hands probed through her clothes at her softest parts. He glanced back often at Musa, watching for when he would look away.
“Is because you are yellow. If you had colour now, nobody will see that vein. It will just be there. You sef, you no go notice am. Na your fault sha. You too dey inside your head sometimes.”
Mnaama hugged her knees into her chest and leaned into him. She closed her eyes and mouthed his pidgin back to him. Ahwi, distracted with the fullness of her pawpaw sized breasts, did not notice her mime. He looked past the pathway, at the veranda that led into her bedroom, “Do you want to go inside now?”
The ant march began to dwindle down. A few ants scrambled up and down the withering grass blades. Mnaama felt cold but her nape was damp with sweat. She looked up at the clouded sky and saw that the stream of sunlight had shifted. It was now hidden behind the darkening clouds, poking a few holes through, the way it usually behaved after heavy rainfall. She stood up and brushed the earth remnants off her lower back, buttocks and thighs. Awhi smiled.
Mnaama’s bedroom was small. Her full-sized bed planted firmly in the middle of the room was softened by a plain brown duvet. Her mahogany study desk, tucked away in the corner, lined with past IGCSE exams and tests, reminded her again of the time. Awhi took his shirt off.
“Lie down. It’s almost two o’clock. Your mother will be home in less than an hour. We have to be quick,” he said.
She lay down on the bed. Awhi grinned at her. He undid his belt, pulled his jeans down to his ankles and capsized into the bed on top of her. She closed her eyes. He pushed her dress away, first up her right thigh, then up her left. He kissed her, recklessly, on her collarbone. He pulled off his black briefs. Mnaama looked up at the roughly textured ceiling and shut her eyes again. Awhi lay on top of her and pushed his weight in between her legs. She clamped her lips together, placing a palm just below his waist, holding his thrust back. He sighed, shuddered and stopped. He looked down at her thighs. She continued to stare at the ceiling. Her hands hung, limp around her body, unsure of what to do.
Awhi pushed himself in again, “I’ll stop when there’s blood. I promise.”