“The Love Nest” by Linda Asante.

The street was empty of the screaming children and flustered mothers. The stalls had all been packed up and put away to the side of the road. The market woman had covered them with bamboo leaves to protect from the sand. It was a vain effort because the dust in the air after the market day settled everywhere, but they did it nonetheless. Consequently the leaves and everything in sight wore gleaming brown coats.

Ebo took long lazy strides, dragging his feet along in the dirt on the street.  His worn out loafers were open in the front showing his dirt clogged nails. He had rolled up his black trousers to expose his extremely hairy legs, and tucked into them his black shirt.  It was stained with blotches of paint from his last job but it was his finest so he had donned it anyway.  Of course, he had undone the first few buttons of the shirt to show off the hairs on his chest. Ebo took out the stick he’d been chewing from his mouth and spat on the floor.  He was getting close. He cupped his hands and rubbed them across his face.  The hair bristles on his face were short and spiky. He hadn’t shaved in days, but the look suited him.  He took a look at his grubby hands, and then hid them in his pockets. He probably should have washed his hands.  No time for that now, he was closer. And she was waiting. He was sure.

He could spot the place up ahead; where they were to meet. It was slightly off the side of the road where a tree stood among the bushes. This tree was special. It was an old one, extremely long and barrelling up to the sky, and yet its leaves fell really low like a rich velvet curtain.  Behind the tree, two thick branches came down and crossed each other creating a hammock-like nest, a love nest.
He saw her waiting for him. There was excitement in her eyes as she sat in the nest, her bare feet barely touching the floor and swinging above the fallen leaves. She was beautiful. Ebo walked faster with anticipation.
He slowed down when he came to the tree, and crept towards it. He would surprise her and catch her off guard. Then they would laugh and roll around in the leaves.

But when Ebo jumped around the tree to where the hammock was, she was not there. He almost laughed out loud. His imagination was very active. Ebo shook his head and sat in the hammock.  He couldn’t believe he had fooled himself to believe she would really come. The corners of her mouth had upturned in ridicule, not excitement, when he had asked her out. How dare he, a painter express interest in his Massa’s daughter? She was only mocking him. He had hoped too much.
Well, all he had to do now was imagine he didn’t really care. And as Ebo pushed off the ground and swung himself back and forth, he could feel himself caring less and less. But he still couldn’t shake off and imagine away that feeling of disappointment.

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