Eric lay still on the bed, allowing his body to absorb the cool air steadily blowing from the air-conditioner. He enjoyed the calmness of the mood lighting in the room, and appreciated that it was currently the only source of light surrounding him. His mind raced back to his meeting with Carmen just a few hours ago.
He had arrived at Grande Maison hotel in Yaoundé at twelve noon. With less than ten hours of sleep over the past few days and the scorching sun radiating its heat with no mercy; he was tired, sweaty and ready to get the meetings he had come for over with. He was initially glad to have escaped the congestion of Lagos once he had landed, but his movement from the airport to the hotel made it apparent that Africa was united when it came to over populated cities.
While he was checking-in he noticed Carmen with a group of her friends. She smiled at him and he politely reciprocated the gesture. Once he’d collected his room key from the receptionist, he looked around to find her sitting on her own at the café beside the pool. He asked the porter to take his bags to his room, and decided to take a chance at making a new acquaintance. He approached her and asked if he could sit. She obliged him and after a minute of speaking English with the little French he knew and realising she only responded in French with a few English words here and there, he concluded that communication between then would be a bit difficult. Yet she intrigued him and he didn’t want to leave. From the little he could picked up, her parents had passed away when she was a teenager, and she had been fending for herself ever since.
It seemed she had managed to land on her feet, as she had become a property Lawyer in Douala with her uncle’s support. She was currently in Yaoundé visiting him and his family, and decided to spend the day at the hotel’s spa with some friends. He thought she might have mentioned returning back to Douala tomorrow.
They had talked and laughed like old friends for at least two hours, and had barely spoken the same language the entire time. One thing was certain though; they were definitely attracted to each other. He had explained, in the little French he believed he could speak, that he had to go and prepare for his meetings. He wasn’t sure she understood all the details of what he’d explained, but from her sad smile she’d gotten the message that he had to leave. He took out his wallet, brought out one of his business cards and a pen from his organiser and wrote his room number on the back. He handed it to her and asked her to feel free to look for him later on in the evening. He stood up, kissed her cheek and said goodbye. She politely smiled and waved before he left.
Despite the fact that he had to rush last minute preparations for his meetings he was glad he’d taken the time to get to know her. She had accepted his business card without offense, but he doubted she would come by. As his mind wondered to the path of unnecessary yet pleasing thoughts, he heard a gentle knock on the door. It was about time room service brought up the bottle of Jack he’d requested for. He was ready for a long, alcohol-induced sleep after the cold shower he’d just taken.
He got up to open the door.
“Bonjour Monsieur, the bottle of Jack Daniels you requested for, and some complementary hors d’oeuvres. When you arrived you mentioned to the receptionist that it was your first time visiting our beautiful country, we thought to welcome you with a blend of our local African flavour infused with a good dose of French influence. All created by our gifted Chef Austin. If you would like, I can briefly explain what is in each one to you?”
Eric was impressed by the staff’s attention to detail and their level of hospitality and so welcomed the waiter in. He placed the tray on the table and began to explain.
“The first dish is what we call Accra Banana. Sweet fried cassava dough and banana balls with a twist. The centre is filled with a sweet and smooth chocolate and peanut paste. The second dish is what we call Soya. Roasted meat pieces coated in our local hot savoury spices, and the third; baileys and hazelnut crème macaroons. ”
Eric liked how pleasant and happy the old man came across. He seemed to take pleasure in his work.
“Thank you, the first two are similar to snacks we have in Nigeria, and I look forward to trying the macaroons. Extend my thanks to the chef.”
The waiter made his way to the door. “If there’s anything else you need sir, please feel free to let me know, my name is Francis.”
“Thanks Francis…. Actually, if I could get an extra pillow, I’d be grateful.” Eric walked over to the door behind Francis. “Most certainly Sa, I’ll instruct a room keeper to bring it up immediately.” The waiter left, and just as he was about to close the door he noticed Carmen standing in the hallway, right outside his room.
“Bonjour Eric…. Erh.. J’ai pensé à toi…I.. Erh…come… to… see you.
J’espère que je ne vous dérange pas?”
Eric didn’t realise when he broke into a smile. He watched her for a few seconds and observed that she seemed nervous.
He slowly reached for her hand.
“Please do come in Carmen… Entrez… Je vous en prie.”
He gestured with a gentle tug. She smiled and held on to his hand as she walked into the room.
“Please do sit.”
He led her to the chair opposite the bed and she took a seat.
He reached for the bottle of Jack.
“Would you like some?”
She nodded with a smile.
“Ice?… Erh, glace?”
Eric filled a quarter of the glass with the beverage and dropped a few ice cubes into it.
He took a seat on the bed, being cautious to keep a little distance until she seemed relaxed.
“I didn’t think you would come.. Je… ne pas… Erh, que… vous… viendriez.”
Clearly his French needed more work, but hearing her subtle giggle made him less self-conscious.
She smiled again… She sipped a little from her glass and placed it on the table beside her.
“I like you too Carmen…”
Eric watched as she stood from the chair and approached him. She stopped in front of him and gently pulled him to his feet…. He took a look at her; she was such a beautiful woman. Her facial features were almost doll like and her skin chocolatey smooth. Her hair formed loose curls around her oval shaped face. She lightly tiptoed and kissed him softly on the cheek and her full lips curved into a knowing smile. Eric pulled her close to him. “You are so beautiful.”
She blushed and wrapped his hands around her waist. Eric lowered his head to hers and parted her lips with his. His grip on her waist grew tighter as he lowered her to the bed.
“Are you sure… Es..tu.. sur Carmen?”
She gently held his face and gave a reassuring nod.
He lowered his body unto hers and kissed her more aggressively this time. She responded with the same hunger. Their tongues played with each other and Eric allowed his hands to travel over her curves. She had worn a fitted dress making her slim yet shapely figure visible. He lifted his lips from hers and slowly trailed kisses from her cheek to her neck, then to the top of her breasts.
Just as he was about to unbutton the front of her dress, he heard a tap on the door. He remembered the pillow he’d requested for. He looked at Carmen and slowly rolled to the free space on the bed. Before he could get up, she held his arm.
“I… will… go.” She made her way to the door.
Before Eric could gather his thoughts Carmen was already turning the knob. Her scream froze him to the spot. In an instant she was back into the room. She dashed for the bathroom, crying hysterically. Eric watched as the young male housekeeper entered the room, dropped the pillow in his hand and stepped back; shock, fear and total disbelief on his face. The young man ran out of the room before Eric could question him. Eric barged through the locked bathroom door to find Carmen sitting on the floor, holding her knees to her chest and still sobbing fiercely. Eric knelt beside her, unsure of what to do.
“Carmen, what is the matter? What happened?”
Est-ce… qu’il t’a fait… quelque chose?”
Eric cupped her face and compassionately embraced her. She raised her head and began to mumble incoherently.
“Ma mère…et mon père…”
Eric took a moment to try to understand.
“Ma mère et mon père…”
Her words became clearer. She was saying something about her parents.
“Your parents… Your mum and papa?”
She looked at him troubled.
“Oui!… C’était lui!”
Eric didn’t understand.
“He knew your mum and dad?”
“C’était lui!… Il a assassiné ma mère et mon papa! ”
Eric wasn’t sure, but he believed she’d said something about an assassination. He dashed back to the room for his phone, and searched for Google translate.
“Repétez s’il vous plait Carmen.”
She did, and slowly this time.
Il!… a!… assassiné!…. Ma!…. mère et mon papa! ”
And as he feared; he was right about what he thought he’d heard.
Carmen had just come face to face with the man who’d murdered her parents.