Under the glittering night sky, they talked. They discussed the other high-profile guests in attendance, they touched on current affairs, flirted with politics, and talked more about wine. Michael threw out an anecdote about importing an entire case of much-hyped wine all the way from South Africa but it failed to live up to his ‘grape expectations.’ He had only opened one bottle and was wondering what to do with the rest of the case. He was afraid to give it away as a gift because the recipient might also be disappointed by those ‘grapes of wrath’ and accuse Michael of trying to poison him!
‘Just keep it,’ Maggie suggested. ‘Wine gets better with age: that case might be worth something when you’re, say, eighty!’
They both laughed and Michael could have sworn he felt her touch his elbow, but he couldn’t be sure if it was deliberate.
‘Generally shpeaking – speaking, oops, I’m already slurring my words – I prefer red wine to white. Generally. It’s sweeter. You get invited to these dos where there’s a bottle of chilled white wine standing proudly in the middle of the table but when you taste it, it’s like battery acid.’
‘Mhh,’ Maggie concurred, even though she knew nothing about battery acid since neither she nor her mother had ever owned a vehicle.
After a rather awkward pause, Maggie said:
‘How’s the fashion business these days?’
Michael looked almost embarrassed.
‘I see you already know who I am,’ he said.
‘Business is good,’ Michael said, preferring to answer the original question. ‘In fact we’re releasing a new line of clothes next month, for the on-coming hot season.’
Now in his element, Michael didn’t want for something to say. He introduced Maggie to the world of high fashion and as he talked, he moved closer and closer to her until they were standing toe to toe.
‘Tell me, honestly,’ Maggie said when Michael’s monologue ran aground. ‘Is what I’m wearing now, you know, fashionable?’
Michael regarded her – not just the clothes – and took mental stock of her physique. She was a slight shorter than he and on the slim side. Her hair, lengthened by synthetic add-ons, had been plaited into dark shiny strands which had then been nipped into a horsetail. Her eyes were wide ovals that gave the impression of burning. The ears were small and decorated with shiny sapphire earrings that hit back the light coming from the sitting room like tiny batsmen. The lips were soft red lines between which pure white teeth gleamed when she smiled, as she often did. Her sloping shoulders were smooth enough to match the contours of sandpapered carvings and her round, firm breasts swelled over the top of the sequined dress, creating a deep valley between them, like buttocks.
Michael had already seen her legs through the slit and now he had half her bosom exposed to him. If he wanted to see her naked – and he did – he was already halfway there.
‘The long, elegant dress with a front- or side-slit is a classic as far as evening social functions are concerned,’ Michael said professionally. ‘So let’s see if the, uh, dress stands on its own merits.’
He reached out and took the hem of her short sleeve between his thumb and two fingers. The back of his two fingers was nestled against Maggie’s soft, feminine, skin. He ran fabric of her dress back an forth between his fingers.’
‘Hmm,’ he concluded.
‘Fabric seems okay. Good quality.’
He let go of the sleeve and reached out towards the shoulder. He pinched and the fabric to expose the stitching between the pieces.
‘Finish is very important in our business,’ he explained.
After the examination, he gave his verdict:
‘Well, on a scale of one to ten, I’d give you a seven…or an eight. Let’s make it seven-point-five.’
‘Thanks,’ Maggie said and smiled generously. The champagne, which she wasn’t used to, was getting to her. ‘That’s quite high coming from an industry insider.’
She probably deserved only a six or a seven, but, being a young man with sex on his mind, Michael was perfectly willing to give her ten out of ten.
Maggie and Michael walked to the rim of the balcony and leaned on the thick wooden rail, looking down. They had a breathtaking view of Nairobi city. There were lights everywhere: office lights, street lamps, neon signs, headlamps on the vehicles that navigated the dark python that was the tarmac road. Above the skyline, a small shiny plane descended towards Wilson Airport with a low drone, its red taillight flashing.
Maggie got a charge from just being there, shoulder-to-shoulder with one of East Africa’s most eligible bachelors, the 20-year-old Michael Othaya, resplendent in his black tuxedo, sipping expensive champagne and watching the fascinating cityscape.
As any strategist will attest, for any plan to succeed timing is paramount. Margaret Njeri was not illiterate to this fact and her meeting with corporate heir Michael was as spontaneous as the mushroom cloud going up over Hiroshima was accidental. Just to be at the party had taken a lot of effort on Maggie’s side. She had finally gotten an invitation through ‘a friend of a friend’. Once at the party, surrounded by people way above her social league, she had played her cards well. She had kept Michael in her sight throughout. Watched him. Stalked him. She waited until he was tipsy (but not too long lest he be whisked away by some other beauty) and then positioned herself strategically by the glass doors (which were in his line of sight) and from there she was able to advance to the next step in her meticulous operation.
Maggie looked up at the belt of stars twinkling against an inky black expanse.
‘As they move through space and time, the stars exact a direct and profound effect on our lives – and loves,’ Ann, a fortune teller and friend of Maggie’s, had once told her. Ann had further explained that the reason this was so was because ‘at one point, everything you see around you – including your body – was once part of a star.’
Towards the north, Maggie could clearly see The Great Bear, a complex constellation consisting of bright stars, clusters (a cluster being a decided group of stars not unlike a bunch of grapes) and galaxies. Also clearly visible was Leo, another breathtaking series of galaxies and stars that collectively resembled a lion.
As she stared upwards, a shooting star streaked silently towards the earth. Shooting stars fascinated her nearly as much as the constellations and galaxies that populated outer space. The fact that they were nothing more than speeding rocks that flared up when they came into contact with the earth’s atmosphere of gases didn’t detract from their magical quality.