Reeya took Mali on a tour of her home. She could see that her young niece was looking less confident now, especially when she saw the bath tub on the verandah.
“No Miss Mali, don’t worry, you don’t have to bathe out here. There is a bathroom right beside your bedroom, flushing toilet and everything! This is my version of a hot tub. At the end of a long day the sun has warmed the water and I can soak my stress away. We may not have cable TV but we have running water. Come let me show you.”
Mali followed her aunt with a skeptical look on her face. It was one thing to experience country life, but this, this was looking rustic. And Mali don’t do rustic, thank you very much. But Mali had to admit that the inside of the house looked fairly normal. They stepped into the kitchen off the verandah. The kitchen had the usual though not necessarily the latest appliances, it wasn’t huge, but it opened onto the other side of the wrap around verandah. They walked on a well-polished but creaking wooden floor into the living-dining room, and as Reeya turned on the lamps Mali could see a wall lined with books from floor to ceiling. The couches looked comfortable with giant sized mustard colored cushions. The coffee table in the middle of the room was covered with magazines and huge books. Reeya was happy to see that Mali seemed to be drawn to the books,
“You like to read?” she asked her.
“Yes, I won a prize for reading the most books when I was in fourth grade.” Mali admitted the fact almost with embarrassment.
“Well I think we should establish a few ground rules here,” Reeya told her. “Your bedroom is off-limits to me, and mine is off-limits to you. I won’t be sneaking around trying to read your journal, and I better not catch you reading anything of mine unless I invite you to. I won’t pry into your private life, but if you ever want to tell me or ask me anything, I’ll be more than happy to listen. I have never had a daughter, so I may mess up, but my intentions are always good. I have promised your mother that you will have an authentic Jamaican good old-fashioned no technology vacation. And it may sound boring, but you’d be surprised how much fun you might have. And I don’t know if anyone has told you, but your face is pretty transparent, so you may have to develop a poker face. I do have a plan for you, but unfortunately I was sure you were coming tomorrow and my plans started on Sunday. But since tomorrow is Saturday, we should be pretty busy all day.
“This is your bedroom,” Reeya said as she opened the door into a moderate sized room which was dominated by a four-poster bed. “Don’t worry, it’s not an antique, it’s what we call repro. I can’t afford the real thing. When we go to Auntie Karla’s house, you’ll see the real thing. There’s a radio in the corner, more books, a wardrobe, sorry no walk in closet here, and a dresser. The drawers are mostly empty so you can unpack when you’re ready. I get up by five most mornings, but I don’t expect you to do the same.”
Reeya continued to show Mali the bathroom, small but modern enough, the study, and finally she let Mali have a peek into her bedroom. Reeya’s room could have been transplanted from India. The curtains looked as if they were made from saris, and her bed was almost on the ground. There was a huge wall hanging in rust and deep red colors with an intricate design. And there was a laptop on an intricately carved stool in the corner. Reeya saw what Mali had spotted and quickly said “No my dear, remember, I’m following strict instructions. No email, no internet, no tweeting for you unless your mother tells me otherwise. Don’t look so downhearted, the first days are the worst!”
When Mali was finally left on her own she got ready for bed and turned on the radio. Hopefully she would be able to pick up a station from Miami. Her mother told her that back in the day they would listen to rhythm and blues from America. With any luck she would at least be able to listen to Rihanna. But as she twisted the dial she heard a young girl talking, and lingered for a minute.
“So Mr. Maxwell. Is true say if when you and a young man have sex, if the girl don’t have an orgasm she can’t get pregnant?” Mali was baffled. What kind of radio show was this, and how ignorant was the girl? And how would this Mr. Maxwell handle the question? “Well that is a good question my dear, why are you asking this? Do you want to get pregnant?”
Mali twisted the dial, what kind of crazy response was that? This Mr. Maxwell did not sound equipped to handle the questions of an ignorant teen. How old was she? Why was she talking as if she wanted to get pregnant? But perhaps that explained all the young girls she had noticed earlier that were carrying babies on their hips. Mali tried to write a few more lines in her journal but she realized she was dead tired. As she drifted off to sleep she could have sworn she could hear someone stomping through the undergrowth below. Good thing her bed was pushed up against the door that she had noticed opened onto the verandah. But before she could think any more she had drifted off to sleep.
Across the house Reeya was giving Karla the rundown on the evening.
“I was babbling like a fool! I could not stop talking! And Mali is so quiet, just listening to me and looking at me like I’m crazy. Yes I know I am crazy, but she not supposed to know that! And then her eyes, they are exactly like Sammy’s eyes. Yes, my ex-husband. Yes I know he is her mother’s brother. I don’t know why I did not remember that she had his eyes. Those light brown eyes. So all I could do was talk!”
Reeya was quiet for a while as Karla calmly talked her down. “Yes I’m sure we’ll be ok. Dimple will cook breakfast for her in the morning whenever she gets up. She can come hang with Jasmine in the shop and babysit Kofi when it get busy. She says she loves to read so she can always just chill out up here if she want. I already plan for Ajamu to take her over the Great House on Sunday. No I not sending her to church. I never promised her mother, so as far as I am concerned, she can worship in the great outdoors.” Reeya suddenly heard a tapping on her window. “Karla, I’ll call you in the morning. If that fool Errol come by the house after mi warn him not to come through…Karla, later, love you!”
By now the tapping was more persistent. Reeya went to the back door and shouted in a whisper to the man who was showering her window with stones. “Errol, mi tell you say you cyan pass through tonight! Go home, I am not joking with you. Don’t let me call Marva,” this seemed to have the required effect, and Reeya went back inside.
To try to calm down and not overthink how she was going to make it through the next four weeks Reeya took herself through some yoga stretches, working to keep her mind empty. This was going to work. This was going to work. Like a mantra she kept repeating it. Errol would stay away. Mali would find a life with no internet, no cable TV and no cell phone to be a wonderful thing. This was going to work. Mind you if she had let Errol come inside she would have had no problem falling asleep. No, she nodded her head firmly, none of that for right now. The first nights would be the worst. Reeya gave up, lit some incense and tried to go to sleep.