They’d All Felt Sorry For Her
by Judith Amanthis
They’d all felt sorry for her. She snickered into her tissue with which she then scooped a pool of UltraFair 100 from the crevice outside her right nostril, where blackheads once grew like aloes thrusting their roots into the smallest rock aperture they could find. She caressed the empty crevice with a corner of tissue. There was a tiny tickling sensation, at which she giggled, delighted, and she blessed her next best possessions after her tube of foundation. She thanked the Lord, especially because she wasn’t a believer, for her tablet and phone. Never could she have imagined such gifts when she married. She was well into her twenties when press pictures of room sized mainframes said to contain coded government secrets appeared, upon which 9 track tapes over a foot in diameter spun too slowly for the naked eye to detect, the captions said. She kissed the reflection of her lips in the gilt framed kitchen mirror.
Turning back to wipe the glass clean of the still perfectly bow-shaped smudge, she flicked a thread of dust off the top of the gilt frame, and stretched her arm sideways, with the grace of a ballerina he’d said, so that she could run her forefinger once and back along the smooth silver horizontal rod, the handle of the upper oven door that gloried in its grease free and velvety heat resistance. She knew how to satisfy.
She knew what he was going to do before he did, every time. To the day she predicted when he’d tell her, because she’d seen the pity in everyone’s eyes, the smiles in the mall that didn’t match the hair freshly compacted, big hair, small hair, the younger hair teased up, throwing her jovially back to her teens when girls knew how to back comb a beehive and keep it there, unlike these ones, half-hearted, tottering. She could deal with the younger women. She’d seen the pity for a month and she’d raised her eyes to the mall’s echoes darting like stars from vault to vault above the fourth floor cineplex. Her own hair she kept short, a drift of fringe well above the eyebrows to avoid unflattering shadow, a touch of perm to add flirt. Being a natural blonde she carried whites better than most.
At the confession, for which she prepared a champagne and chicken chasseur dinner with shop fresh pink rose buds in the glass flute to match the champagne flutes, she easily extracted information about the woman’s age, her marital status, none, and her fertility, large, four children, the youngest seventeen so she’d started exceptionally early, of course. She lived in a council flat. Naturally.
He’d spruced up for the occasion, his maroon polka dot bow tie, his 100% cotton peach jacket sliding off his left shoulder, his tan brogues. The tan was the biggest mistake. Without her aid he couldn’t put an outfit together. He’d shaved nearly to the bone. There was silence while he slid his knife into the chicken breast, silence after he swallowed and dabbed the side of his mouth with the serviette, there was the clearing of his throat, the question about Sam, if she’d heard from him this week, the blood receding from his usually terracotta coloured forehead down his cheeks and jaw and thence to his collar where it disappeared between the two grey hairs he’d fluffed out between pearly shirt buttons.
For sweet they had lemon torte and a line of cocaine. They took deep breaths with their mouths closed. Before he even entered the confessional, she knew how to relieve him of guilt. Thus she asked him if he could take a peek at the dishwasher door hinge which did seem a tiny bit arthritic poor old thing, but she was sure he could fix it, darling, she said, her hand on his shoulder when he crouched in front of the perfectly white machine. There was not a speck on her life. But she needed him, how she needed him. Stick her head inside the dishwasher? Impossible. Sam, she said to the back of his neck, had rung this morning and said he was saving on transatlantic calls. She was to tell him sorry he’d been out of touch.
Saving on transatlantic calls? his voice boomed from inside the dishwasher. What sort of phone deal did their geek of a son have for god’s sake. Not even a text. Nerd in English, she said. He backed out of the machine and stood up. He just needed a screw driver, he said, quite simple, don’t worry. There was something they had to talk about.
Her heart didn’t speed up. Her colour remained steady, her left thigh lying across her right, her appropriately stacked heel dangling from the tapered ankle of her olive green pleated trousers, her instep arched. When they were courting, he’d held her foot in his hand and kissed it. It didn’t tickle. Black women had flat feet, she’d read after googling, presciently, black feet. She laid her right hand on her left thigh and her left hand on her right. She looked down at her engagement and wedding rings, worth at today’s prices six grand. Google had said that black calves tapered to the ankle, beneath which were small rounded heels, of a mustard colour.
She said, OK. His jaw dropped. She asked him what the matter was.
In a rush he told her nearly everything she needed to know, and looked at her with a puzzled expression. Then he said that damn it if she had nothing to say he was going out, and no wonder, living with a cold fish like her. But instead of going out, he strode round and round the eating area table, shooting out an arm now and again to stab the rose buds with his finger. He was waiting, she knew, for her to burst into tears and scream, at which point he’d take her in his arms and tell her it’d be alright, sweetie, don’t worry, he’d work something out. She continued sitting in silence, noting the he working it out, the absence of a they. After ten table circuits he flounced out of the front door, throwing a for fuck’s sake over his shoulder. He didn’t, however, slam the door because he didn’t believe in letting everyone else into their affairs.
The woman was a photographer he’d met at the office. She photographed babies, christenings, graduations if she could get them, weddings, that kind of thing, he said.
She didn’t doubt that the woman was talented and beautiful, and indeed, when she googled her, she examined her high cheekbones, her large eyes slanting towards her temples, her full mouth, of course, inside which her teeth were probably perfectly white. Her braids swirled round her long neck and from each ear hung, nearly to her shoulders, four drops of gentian blue, not sapphires, of course not.
In imagination she erased alpine blue gentians from the shop’s orders. They’d been her idea. Flora wouldn’t notice. It wasn’t as though customers were asking for the perfect blue she craved for her eating area table. Flora’s Flowers opened onto the mall just inside the east entrance so there weren’t many regulars apart from her one or two girl friends, just opportunist drops ins mainly, and of those, guilty husbands the most frequent, whom she satisfied by asking quietly what his wife’s favourite colour was or if her preference was for long or short stalks, enabling the husband immediately to answer, his shoulders dropping dramatically, his right hand falling away from its grip on his wedding band, authorised to display his tender quotidian marital knowledge. She remembered with a little shiver of anger that a second pot of blue gentians had been destined for the work top which lay in front of the gilt mirror, how the perfect colour that flowers, delphiniums and plumbago aside, had such difficulty achieving, would be reflected not only in the mirror but in the mottled cream marble she polished on Thursdays or Fridays, her days off work, using MB11 like the pros but without having to pay the pros. After polishing the marble she usually did a moderate line of coke, and then ran upstairs to masturbate on the white marital bed, thinking about the priest she helped into his vestments when she was a girl with breasts but startlingly ignorant of the way of penises, placing at his request his gold fringed stole round his neck in the pink room off the school chapel. When she met her husband he had the disheveled look of that priest because he worked in publishing, tasteful, she’d thought, gentlemanly, possessed of an elevated mind and fingers quick, if not to caress her to orgasm, then to mend her appliances and, latterly, to defrost her laptop, none of which she could live without. She didn’t mind about the orgasms. She was good at D.I.Y, a fact she of course didn’t let on, but on no account would she lose him to age or a woman or a stroke, although really she couldn’t be responsible for his health along with everything else.
The weeks after the confession she plied him with lashings of what he wanted. Her laptop was deep frozen, the washing machine’s drum belt was worn through, the bedroom rad stuck at max however much she strained to turn the valve to min, but he knew her, she didn’t have the strongest wrists in the world. The kitchen tap leaked and the problem with a mixer tap, however convenient and economical, was that there was no relief from that drip drip drip battering her nerves. He jumped to with a will and a grateful kiss on the lips. Unfortunately, his lips remained closed when they met hers and his regime of at least two late nights a week continued, as did his immediate disappearance into the shower on his return home.
Cleaning the shower on Thursdays or Fridays became an effort. To her surprise the grease on the white tiles, and also on the occasional randomly positioned gentian blue one, became repulsive. It was both his grease and the woman’s grease. She looked at the shammy leather after she’d wiped the tiles. Was the grease darker than usual? Of course not. She found herself sitting on the shower step with her pink-gloved hands hanging clammily over her knees. She owed him so much. He’d opened her mind, she always told him, and he, laughing and twirling a lock of her golden hair around his finger, said it wasn’t her fault she was brought up by bigots in deepest Cheshire where you didn’t see a foreign face from one year to the next except behind the bar or on the end of a hoover, let alone a black one. Brown? she’d said. Weren’t they brown really? When you looked at them?
But when it came to the question of a cleaner she’d banged her mind shut. That was one door he wasn’t going to unlock. They could afford it, he’d said, cleaners didn’t cost much, she had Sam on her hands and a job. How many of her friends did their own cleaning? He didn’t know how many friends, apart from her Facebook friends and her mall friends, she lacked, and that the idea, especially after Sam left home, of Thursdays and Fridays without cleaning to do horrified her. So what she said was that she didn’t want a stranger in their house. She couldn’t stand the idea of a stranger picking through her underwear drawer, she said, thinking of her lace pinks and slippery nudes. And the family’s dirty washing. He guffawed. Dirty washing? This family? he said. They were so clean they didn’t need to wipe their bottoms. Sweetie, he said. She was just like her mum, she didn’t feel quite comfortable in the middle class. She didn’t change colour, although she felt her heart thump, as though it was hitting both her and him. She said, no strangers in their house. Not even an English stranger? he said. She smiled because she had him cornered. When, she said, did he last see an English cleaner? Please yourself, he said. He pushed his hair out of his eyes, put his hand on her shoulder, and pressed down. Imperceptibly, he would have said. Darling, he said. The next day he slid a newly unwrapped tablet onto the worktop. Its reflection in the marble appeared to pulse gently. Her laptop was as over the hill as him, he drawled, as if he believed she believed him, and when would she start using her phone for the purposes for which it was designed?
It was when Sam left home that the internet had come into her life. He fixed her up, his leaving prez to his mum, he said. She cried for three days, but then her cleaning accelerated, as though Sam’s departure had inserted oil into her joints and petrol into her muscles. Although cooking was still as arduous, it was easier cleaning for two, and she browsed products on the net – flash, spish, plash, verve, zish, gleem, loving the names – while eating her lunch and before doing her coke and cunt. Each Thursday and Friday evening she pointed out to her husband the sparkling violet toilet seat, or the gleaming brass bed legs, or the gilt mirror frame shining like a heist movie. Each time she pointed to the results of her work, he winced, laughed, tugged his bow tie loose, and asked for a drink. And handed her the small zipped up plastic bag he’d acquired, from whom she never asked. Each time a satisfaction deeper than the three second orgasms her mother never bothered telling her about and no wonder, what was all the fuss about, swerved up her spine. She could feel the satisfaction rise from deep within her privates, and once it got to her ribs, it spread its branches. It was the satisfaction, she realised, of revenge.
The hair in the shower escalated events. It lay a centimetre short of the drain hole. A more careful man would have sluiced it away. She didn’t tell him what she was in fact screaming about and why she yanked all the kitchen drawers off their runners and heaved each one upside down onto the floor. She wasn’t going to lose her dignity over one small pubic hair, especially a very black tightly curled one. Both she and him were losing hair colour down there. And anyway, the perfect circle of it. Instead she screamed at him over and over, hanging onto the lower oven door handle, after all these years, after all these years, after all these years and everything she’d done for him. The truth of her accusation bleached her heart clean for that moment, and elevated her mind above his. He said, leaning the small of his back against the sink and crossing his legs at the ankles, everything she’d done for him? She then began to laugh although it sounded like sobs. Yes, she said, he was right. Everything he’d done for her. She couldn’t do without him. She couldn’t, she gasped, burying her furious laughter disguised as sobbing in her pink tissue. He pushed himself upright, was by her side in one stride, and lifted her up. Darling, he said, everything’d be alright. She’d see. Age had made his arms slightly squashy. Her mind was indeed superior to his.
It wrenched his wrong doings one by one from their years of marriage, over which they dangled, their edges curling up. His imperfectly wiped arse, his crooked bow tie, his reluctance to visit the barber or the dentist, his oblivion to nappies and bottles, and later to fish fingers and bibs, homework and parents’ evenings. The circles of dried urine on the toilet seat, his socks that didn’t quite reach the laundry basket, the ten minutes it took him to release a pink pearl of chilli con carne from the right hand edge of his mouth. It was a glorious and infinite game of which she didn’t tire, and from which she drew strength, the tree of revenge extending branches into her body’s deepest crevices and thrusting a single strong tap root into her foundations that she now knew to be rock. In front of her dressing table mirror, pink silkeen table lamps flattering her reflection, she raised the lid of her blusher and took up the brush, leaning her cheek into the rounded advanced synthetic hairs which were softer and less cruel than animal products. Animal products. Cruel to whom? To her alone? To the woman as well? How many women had he already tossed at the laundry basket without quite reaching it? How many more would he toss? She turned off one of the table lamps, leaving a single muted pink glow. She stared at the outline of her beauty in the mirror. She would continue to lie to him, but no longer to herself, at whom she smiled.
The internet came into its own. What she wanted was the woman’s Facebook page. She typed all possible name combinations into the search box, but in vain. Then she found her business Facebook page and her website. Her meetings, her movements, her links, her associates, her working hours, her itineraries, all were out there. But it was her family life that she sought. She was no avenging angel, she didn’t want to destroy her business, which would have been easy as pie if she’d posed as a potential customer and let the rumour machine she concluded Facebook was do the rest. No, what she was after was the woman’s family. It took her some time to track down her children. While doing so, she sent little queries from a new email account to the address on the woman’s website. Had she acquainted herself with his bunion yet? Woken him up before he’d had time to pop a polo in his mouth? At the same time, she texted him three, sometimes four times a day how much she loved him, needed him, how life without him was unthinkable. Did the woman, she texted, know he was a coke head? That the most vociferous voices in the anti-drugs lobby were black? Did he know that her next exhibition was on the fourth of next month? Did he have it in his dairy? Oh she enjoyed her hours on the internet. She upped her coke consumption to two moderate lines each Thursday and Friday in order to fit the same amount of cleaning into the fewer hours she now had available.
He was furious. When would she learn to behave herself? he shouted, and respect other people’s lives? He moved out of their white bedroom and into the spare room, themed olive green with cerise flashes. She was thrilled.
Eventually she found two of the four children’s Facebook pages, the two younger girls. The boy, she presumed, was too busy swinging knife blades at policemen to bother with Facebook and was likely to be illiterate. The girls were keen on pop stars called Lauryn Hill and Luke James and posted lol to their friends, each other, their brother, their older sister and their mother every other day. She felt such a surge of anger in her stomach that she nearly threw her tablet at the kitchen mirror, but her more urgent need was for the toilet in order to evacuate her bowel. Sitting on the toilet, she understood that her body had outsmarted her tablet. It was to be her phone she’d use from now on. It wasn’t called a mobile, and smart, for nothing.
She opened a new Facebook account as a twenty something Lauryn Hill fan, to flatter the teenage girls. They immediately accepted her invitation to be friends. She left them messages that their mother was a whore. Which meant prostitute in English, she wrote. She thought longingly of Twitter, but decided she’d lose focus if she dissipated her energy.
She communicated with the Department of Work and Pensions concerning the pension she was due when she turned 60 the following quarter. She was delighted to discover that it wasn’t much less than the earnings related supplement he’d doled into her bank account for the last twenty nine years, index linked of course, and the government, bless them, was bent on protecting seniors from the economic crisis which had become a misnomer since crises were meant to be short lived. In any event, her pension was ring fenced, and her investments untouched. Handymen were two a penny what with high unemployment putting sense into wages, and the council offered a free minor jobs service to the over-50s. Why, she could have dispensed with him years ago. Her tablet and phone? Sam would find her a local techie.
The evening before he moved out, he broke two glass vases and threw a knife, albeit a desert knife, at her head. She ducked, slightly bruising her left hip on the eating area table. She was sick, he yelled, she was to stop stalking her children now or else. Did she have any idea what or else meant? It meant the police, he growled as though he was pretending to be a police dog. But before or else happened, he snarled, he was exiting this mad house which contained not one speck of dirt, not one drop of human kindness, and not one, not one, he was stuttering, a tiny globule of spittle arching from his lips onto the white place mat on the table, where the spittle settled and its bubbles melted. Not one, one, one cushion dented by a human arse. Inhuman, he roared. As opposed to an animal’s arse? she said.
The flat he rented was at least in a pleasant terraced street overhung by plane trees, rather than a council estate. The postcode was passable. She knew he wouldn’t risk moving to the woman’s postcode, both for his reputation and for the imagined effect on her. As she predicted, as soon as he’d installed his bow ties, irritating jackets and his tool set in his new pad, he became once more the gentleman she’d decided to marry, on her mother’s advice. Marry a gentleman, chuck, was the counsel when her breasts appeared, which she interpreted as not to marry her father. It was just as well no other advice was forthcoming.
He came round to their house every Sunday afternoon with flowers which infuriated her because he’d therefore forgotten so quickly, a squirt of anger pushing against her front teeth, that she worked in a florist, peach carnations for god’s sake and Flora’s dealer was £5 a gram cheaper, 10% for god’s sake. But his enquiries about Sam were gratifyingly anxious and he phoned her every day, she noted on her iDiary, to ask if there was anything she needed, he pleaded in fact, how was the dishwasher, he said, so she really didn’t need to walk up his street more than once, and besides the pavement was rather too strewn with dog faeces, although one young girl, staring at a tiny dog the size and shape of a white spider extruding a pointed black turd, did fold a plastic bag over her hand in preparation. She assumed, having googled the postcode boundaries, that the red brick blocks five streets and six corners away were the woman’s estate. She wondered how long he’d survive the dogs on the street, the majority of them triangular headed bull terriers panting against grubby spiked collars, all apparently related to each other, he living on his own.
So she ceased her internet stalking. The next stage would be both financial and physical, she mused, with a dash of familial. His absence was like the rose oil they sold in the shop, sweet smelling, a wafter of imagined turquoise waves plopping onto her arches. His absence existed three evenings a week. His Sunday afternoon visits curtailed it. She wished for more. The morning absences of his stink were like the smell of jasmine oil, sticky, thick, almost choking her with pleasure. Every morning, after her bare feet had sunk into the cream sheepskin rug by the bed, she rose onto her toes, without wobbling. Her arches stretched so that they became crescent moons in some hot foreign sky, her heels were suspended, she felt but couldn’t look, directly above her vertical toes. Her elasticity was undamaged by his years, his years, not hers.
Their financial adviser was sympathetic. Had she talked to him, he emailed, about the mortgage payments? He wasn’t an unreasonable man, and. There their financial adviser stopped, not wanting, she thought, to dwell on methods of clocking up brownie points for the financial settlement. She was glad of the financial adviser’s tact. The word divorce was ugly. It sounded like the absence of his throat whose vibration she’d lay a finger on, as light as dust, when he expelled his spunk into her, groaning. The word sounded like her newly acquired vaginal farts when he’d eased his penis out of her.
She began to sing, loudly, holding whatever note came out of her mouth, and her voice, after some practice, stopped wobbling. She did hope he was right, she emailed their financial adviser in a carefully querulous tone, adding a typo to indicate the imbalance of her mind.
One month’s unpaid mortgage was enough. The attic was, at its mid point, high enough for her to stand up in because the roof was acute-angled. Her father had told her to look for an acute-angled roof, look for the ones that gave the sky a good poke. The further south you went, he’d said, the flatter the roofs, the softer the brains and the weaker the rain. Down there you might as well piss in a pot as catch a downpour strong enough to jig the drains. She’d felt her father’s down there referred to the dirty parts of her. She was at home up here, in the roof. With her rubber-gloved forefinger, she poked the lagging. It felt like brillo pad, only easier to pierce and not clogged with pink soap. Her finger stopped short of the rafter. The fillet knife lay on a joist at her feet, as did the architect’s drawing which they’d kept after deciding a roof conversion was as much a waste of money as a little brother or sister for Sam.
Who had decided about the baby? Her? Him? But now she was light, slim and sharp, the knife gliding into the lagging, sliding between rafters, piercing the bitumen lining, halting. She’d come to the tile. She couldn’t dislodge it. A hammer, a screw driver. She flew to the square hole from which the attic ladder hung, and down. Her personal tool jar she kept in the toilet roll cupboard under the second floor stairs because he never renewed the toilet roll. A wiggle of the screwdriver in the aperture that the knife had pioneered, a brisk bang with the hammer. The tile tore itself from the polyurethane with which it adhered to its neighbor. Another bang. There. She heard the tile clop down the roof, not sliding as befitted slate, but cartwheeling on its four corners, she was certain. She waited. The lagging closed silently over the aperture made by the screw driver. More silence. Perhaps the drain had caught the tile.
She found it in the lawn, approximately one and a half metres from the side of the house, standing perfectly upright on one of its corners. The lawn was undamaged. The slate had slid into the cold turf like a fillet knife. She applauded it. She sang on one note. Her voice disconnected itself from her throat and visited her from elsewhere.
The next day, Friday, she called him. If he didn’t come round tomorrow and mend the roof and inform the lender he’d pay off the debt, she didn’t know what she’d do. Make no mistake, she said, she meant it. She really didn’t know what she’d do. At that moment she was telling the truth. From her eyes a downpour tipped which the southern sky was unworthy of. Clutching her phone, she fell back onto their white sofa, raised her face to the ceiling, and howled. From inside her fist, she heard his voice emanating. He couldn’t come round tomorrow, his voice was saying, it was Saturday. He’d come on Sunday. Couldn’t it wait till Sunday? Sam, she said, her voice dropping from howl to rasp in one swoop. What about him? he said. She said nothing. She heard his breathing clogged with mucous. Sam, she said. And then touched off.
She was genuine alright, despite the fact she’d googled how many a mature slim build female could swallow without losing consciousness. She had her phone by her side, a sachet of coke, her fillet knife and her debit card to ensure her finger did in fact press 999, although she only just managed to tell the lady their address before she had to close her mouth on a wave of vomit as high as their roof. Or was that a dream, the huge beige wave that didn’t move and couldn’t be pierced and couldn’t be escaped however hard her legs pushed against what? A northern slope? Were her legs too weak or the slope up which she was trying to run too steep?
Sam was by her hospital bed. She held his hand and told him no flowers. He said the ward didn’t allow flowers because of the germs and Flora sent her love.
After Sam took her home in a taxi, she was glad to feel as weak as she did because by this time, after a transfer to a private hospital and another four days, she felt clarified, as though she were the virgin olive oil that cookery websites told her to buy, whose purity you could tell by its cloudiness when you put it in the fridge and by its golden clarity when you returned it to its native warm atmosphere, such as your kitchen work top. Her husband didn’t visit her in hospital, irritatingly. It was his medical insurance that was paying for it, so he might at least have had a look at the product. Sam didn’t mention his father but crept around the house and gave her soft-boiled eggs with the tops already tapped. Was that what they did in New York, she whispered, half opened the eggs?
On her second day at home, he texted. Darling, I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I need you, she texted back, smiling. Tomorrow, he texted. She didn’t reply. She deleted her in-box and sent-box, just in case. She hardly knew Sam anymore.
He came. Not the following day, but the day after. He came into their bedroom, dropped his bag on the floor, slung his toolbox onto her dressing table stool, and fell to his knees, mid sheepskin rug, by their bed. He took her hand, laid his forehead next to her arm lying on the duvet, and heaved. His sobs were monstrous. They shook the bed. Forgive him forgive him forgive him, he said. He’d made the most terrible mistake. The woman was a witch not a woman. Oh? she said, her hand, she was sure, maintaining its 15 degree temperature and moving not at all, not a twitch. A witch? she said. She didn’t need a man, he said into the duvet. A lesbian then? she said, AC/DC wasn’t that what they called it? A groan emanated from the duvet followed by a rapid sideways movement of his head, the crown of which held three flakes of skin in its thin thrall. It was over, he said. He was back. Forgive him forgive him forgive him. She laid her palm on the crown of his head.
Sam told her the next day that afterwards his father had drunk a third of a litre of gin and confessed all. She was slightly envious that it hadn’t been her residing over the confession. The woman had refused to let him live with her. She didn’t need him that much. He should have known. Black women didn’t need anything except sex and children as far as he could see. He’d met some of her friends and they were all the same, all those bitches. Love? He’d got to be joking, Sam said he said.
But what clinched it was that he didn’t ask her. He just dumped his toolbox, filthy thing, on her dressing table stool and said he was back.
She imagined him walking back up the terraced street, pulling his peach jacket round his chest, yelping when a triangular head ploughed towards him, and then another, tottering sideways with a hand over his mouth and nose to avoid a pointed black turd, glancing over his shoulder for the woman who was stalking him because he’d laid his hand with slightly too much pressure on her youngest daughter’s shoulder. She walked over to the gilt framed kitchen mirror and shook out a pink tissue. Next time he’d be voting UKIP then, was the last thing she’d told him.
About the Author:
Judith Amanthis lives in London. Her short fiction has been published in a number of UK literary magazines and in Duckworth’s Valentine’s Day anthology. An early draft of her novel Dirt Clean, which she’s currently working on, was long listed for the Mslexia novel prize 2012. Her journalism has been published in Ghana, South Africa and the UK, and she worked for ten years on the African political magazine Kilombo. She has also worked as a driver, a lexicographer, a teacher and a receptionist.