Author’s note: I inject humour into my work, and readers seem to appreciate the effort. In the chapter where Doris meets Andrew for a date, she originally shared a scene with Juliet who helped her prepare for the evening, and here we see a lighthearted side of the no-nonsense lawyer who never fails to speak her mind. Doris’ brother Fred also appears. I had a ball writing the conversation between the two friends, but in the end decided the scene didn’t work. Characters require individual personalities, and at this point they all started to sound alike. While Juliet does have a fun side, she’s probably too serious to tease Doris in that manner. And don’t get me started on the passive voice…
You might notice Doris wears an ankara dress to the hotel (Why is this fabric a recurring theme in my work?), but her outfit is changed to a black trouser suit in the final publication. I wanted Doris’ style choice to symbolise her dark mood (We see her wear a dark one-piece swimsuit at Splish Splash), and bright colours wouldn’t have envoked the right image.
Here is the deleted part.
Andrew presented his reservation card to the maître d’ who promptly showed us to our table and presented us with our menus as Afrobeat rhythms droned through the ceiling speakers. I briefly looked around, noticing a young love-struck couple feeding each other burgers in the bright glare of the crystal ornaments. How pretentious – burgers in a posh restaurant, whoever came up with that idea? To be fair, I was a tad hungry after waiting ages for my date to appear, but a trip to Mr. Biggs or Tantalizers would have been perfect. Actually, was Tantalizers still open at that time of the night? I glanced through the menu again, sweeping away the tendrils in my eyes. My three-month braids were beginning to appear frayed, and I’d begged Juliet to transform them into spirals, but my nerves had got the better of me as she set to work, much to my friend’s annoyance.
“Come on Dee, hold still, or do you want to accessorise that gown with a matching burn on the back of your neck?” Juliet moaned as she waved her curling iron in the air. She had already spent the greater part of the hour skilfully wrapping my copper red braids around the heated device, but my constant fidgeting was beginning to get on her wick. What could I do though? When was the last time I’d actually been out on a date?
“Sorry Jules, but I really can’t relax right now. For starters, that hot iron is making me nervous…”
Why did you insist on curly braids, then?”
“Because I wanted to look my best,” I replied, raising my eyebrows as I watched Juliet’s reflection in the vanity mirror stifle a chuckle. “What’s so funny?”
“I’m laughing at you, what else? I thought you couldn’t stand him, and now you’re going all out for this guy? Must be love,” she emphasised, and I rolled my eyes.
“No, you can hardly call this love, and he’s apologised for the way he spoke to me at Anna’s bridal weekend. He’s asked me out for drinks, and I’ve agreed to go out with him for the evening just to prove there are no hard feelings, and here’s praying he’ll leave me alone after that.” I folded my arms and grinned mischievously. “You’re one to talk, you and Fred were always at each other’s throats when we were all kids, and now you’re wearing his ring.”
“Yep, and I’m proud to have it on my finger.” Juliet stretched out her hand to wriggle her fingers, the finely-cut diamond reflecting light from the bulb above. “But meeting him for dinner in the evening, ulterior motive much?”
“For the last time Juliet Anyanwu, it’s drinks, drinks,” I repeated. “I’m meeting him there by cab, he’s not picking me up in his car, I know where the place is, and if he tries anything, I’ll bash his skull…”
“Hey, what’s going on here?” Fred poked his head through my bedroom door and stared for a moment, studying the ankara dress laid out on the bed, and the make-up I’d carefully applied earlier now beginning to melt off in beads of sweat thanks to perspiration brought on by my hyper fidgeting. “Who is he?”
“There is no ‘he’, Freddie,” I replied. “Seriously, can’t a girl go on a platonic outing without everybody assuming they hear wedding bells?”
“Doris is going out for ‘drinks’ with that rude man I told you about,” Juliet emphasised again, this time with air quotes, and I brought my hands to my face to hide my embarrassment, quickly dropping them to avoid smudging what was left of my make-up.
“Really?” Fred was now all ears, and I feared he would go into an over-protective mode. Some things never change, as I was about to find out. “Where is he taking you?”
“Casa Grande Hotel, and he’s not taking me there, I’m meeting him.”
“Casa Grande Hotel? You’re going all the way to Ikoyi to meet a man at this time of the night?” Fred gasped.
“It’s the new branch they opened in Ikeja a few months ago, and it’s only 7-ish, so you can both close your mouths now before you catch flies.”
“Hilarious, sis. You insist it’s a casual meeting, but you’re getting all dolled up to meet this dude? Interesting.”
“Yeah.” Juliet placed the curling iron on the vanity table and grinned mischievously. “You practically begged me to use my curling tongs on those braids the very minute you walked in from work.”
“Must be loooooove!” They both finished, and I rolled my eyes at them.
“Be quiet you two, because you don’t want to know where exactly I want to shove this.” I waved the iron in the air and pouted at them. Anna may have moved out of our flat, but my brother and sister-in-law-to-be combined were just as annoying, and I was tired of convincing them I still couldn’t stand the man, especially Juliet. She had witnessed Andrew’s patronising attitude that day, did she really think I would ever go out with such a moody guy? Okay, so far that side of him had remained hidden, but for how long? I’d arrived as promised, and all that remained was a drink – oops, dinner! – and then home, no doubt to face Fred and Juliet’s barrage of questions.
“You okay?” Andrew peeked from over his menu, immediately bringing me back to earth.
“Oh, I’m okay, just had a thought,” I replied, which wasn’t far from the truth.
“Really? About what, work?”
“You could say that,” I lied, and my face fell in embarrassment, giving me a chance to change the subject. “Oh, silly me, I should have asked. How’s your son Jasper doing?”
“Jasper?” He dropped his menu on top of the cutlery and exhaled deeply. “Jasper’s fine now, and once again thanks for what you did that day at the club. He said you were really nice to him, and he said he’d like to see you again, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen now…”