The Milk of Paradise
A little warning: Africa is a dangerous place for a stripper with visions of upgrading her life style. That's all I'll say.
The Milk of Paradise
As they drove through the business district, Obafemi gave Vanessa a new name. “I’m going to call you Lubabah. It means ‘the innermost essence.’” He kissed her on the forehead, and she knew she’d done the right thing. Just an hour before, as her plane was descending into Lagos, Nigeria, Vanessa thought about her little boy. She’d cried, knowing what a terrible mother she was. Damon had been sleeping when she left him on her mother’s couch in South Central Los Angeles. Vanessa hadn’t even said goodbye. She’d taken a taxi to LAX and left the United States forever. But as she looked at Obafemi—his powerful eyes, his gold watch, his tailored suit—she felt happy, and magically peaceful.
She examined her wrist again. The diamonds on the bracelet sparkled like a thousand pieces of a broken mirror. “This is too much. It’s. . . .”
“Don’t you like it, Lubabah?” His voice was deep, like some ancient, African instrument.
“I love it!”
She nestled into Obafemi’s arms in the back of his limousine. His dark hands rested on her chocolate skin. Men had given her gifts before, but those gifts had been cheap and meaningless. That was when she was a stripper named Mystic and shook her ass in a strip joint in the City of Industry. She wasn’t that person anymore. She never would be again.
Charlotte, Vanessa’s sister, invited Vanessa to an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority dinner. Why she went, she still wasn’t sure. Maybe she’d wanted to feel normal. Maybe she wanted to see what those black society bitches were like. With freshly manicured nails, new hair extensions, and borrowed shoes, she looked just like a black debutante. And that’s exactly what Obafemi took her for. He’d flown to the United States to exchange ideas with black leaders from coast to coast, and he was the guest speaker at the Alpha Kappa Alpha dinner. After dinner, he approached her, told her he’d noticed her.
They’d spent a week together in Los Angeles, and that’s all it took. He said he wanted to make her a princess.
Now here she was, in paradise.
People in the street wore harsh faces, and their eyes were downcast. She was above their misery, and it made her feel special.
“See that?” said Obefami.
Vanessa followed his finger to a tall building that blocked out the sun. “Yes.”
“I built it last year.”
She felt as if she were in a dream. And the life she’d left had been a nightmare.
Obefami checked his watch. “Mukailah will drop you off at your apartment. You can rest for a couple of hours. At one, he’ll pick you up so you can join me and we’ll have a nice lunch. I took the liberty of buying you some clothes. Put on the green dress. I’d really like to see you in it, if you don’t mind.”
“Anything you want.” But then her face clouded. “What’d you mean when you said, ‘your apartment’? I thought we were going to your village to meet your family?”
“No,” said Obafemi. “I’m having a late breakfast with my wife.”
“Your wife?” Vanessa stammered. “You never said you were married.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Bandits!” cried Mukailah. He slammed on the brakes. Up ahead, there were hundreds of cars.
“Out.” Obafemi pushed open his door.
Vanessa’s eyes narrowed. “Out?”
The air smelled like hot rubber. Mukailah was already running back the way they had come. Obafemi held a hand out to Vanessa. “This is no place to be,” he said.
Armed bandits had blocked the road. They were going to car to car. Vanessa looked at Obafemi. “So why did you fly me here?”
“We must go, Lubabah.”
“Don’t call me Lubabah!”
“Stay, then,” Obafemi growled
He ran from the limousine.
Vanessa pulled the sparkling bracelet off her wrist. She got out of the car, her cherry red sundress brilliant in the African sun.
She walked toward the bandits. As she neared them, she yelled: “Here, take this!” She tossed the bracelet at the nearest bandit.
He shot her in the chest.
As she fell to the hot pavement, she thought: Fuck paradise.