Every time Alana looked at pineapples she would never forget that moment. She slid off her chair feeling weary with time. She was ready to take her final test that would change her life for the better. She headed to class as memories sped through her mind like winding speed boats bloating out the present into inaudible timeless murmurs.
His words could pierce any woman’s heart out.
“Turn a bit to the right.”
“Lift your chin higher.” He pushed his chin higher in demonstration.
“I like the hair. Let it fall freely on your cheek a bit.”
He stood up with the paint brush still in his hands and parted the locks of black silky hair from her shoulders which stirred like still waters at the feel of skin against skin.
“This is the woman I want, who is as free as a bird and SOPHISTICATED.”
“Your breasts are beautiful; they are like peeled ripe pineapples ready to be tested. They are spilling of so much juice…hmmm.” His breath became a murmur in his throat as his gaze dwelt on her spilling breasts before him.
“After this… you know I wish to be allowed to test them.”
His calm expression drew Alana into oblivion. His bleak adoration and tact mesmerized her further though his voice seemed to echo to her from a far distance. She felt herself drifting apart into this world of his where her body was at the altar of his pastels and brushes ready to be praised by an alien crowd far beyond her. She pretended to smile at this. It was too intimate. It was obvious this situation could get out of hand even if she had agreed to pose for him. He had promised to pay her one thousand dollars in a contract which she had signed with him. He had assured her that his paintings were headed for Milan, Rome, Florence and other cities outside Uganda. Nobody who knew her would ever see the paintings. It was the only comfort she had in this obscene situation she had evidently created due to lack of money. Poverty would have killed her, so the better if she could try to run away from it.
Her mom could no longer handle their bills since their father died two years back. Everything they had once had dwindled into nothingness like their father’s ghost. They had an empty land they could not sell because they would then become homeless beggars. Mom would not let that happen. At least they still had a house and a garden to survive the bitter days and years ahead of them. She had finished her ‘A’ level school at a prestigious private school though she would have to live on a hair dressing certificate from one of Kampala’s budding vocational institutes. She was lucky to have this too without becoming a slave in her own country. One thousand dollars was enough to clear up all her final semester fees and even have some balance that she could use for rent and upkeep. It was a small price to pay for all of her bleeding bills that seemed to cry out to her like babies in need of breast milk and diaper change.
It was hard to do what she was doing and who was she kidding, when the situation could potentially get out of hand. Tony had managed to make her strip naked for his paint job though she was becoming more anxious by the ticking hour that he could read her mind as well. She watched the movements of his body and managed to cringe without his notice.
“Your body looks so beautiful like the classical Venus.” His words made her feel numb.
“This painting is going to be at the Uffizi museumbecause I think it deserves to be there and I will make sure it earns it there. It is a place for large collections of Italian art in Tuscany.”
“My dear I wish you could come to Florence with me. It would be marvelous!”
Alana pretends to smile again at his extravagant statements. She could feel like a star if she wanted but she couldn’t.
“I want this painting to look like the Nude moja by Francisco Goya or the Danae, oh yes, yes, the Danae by Guster Klimt. A great, beautiful painting of the princess being visited by Zeus.”
“By Zeus?” She asked unable to stay quite anymore.
“Oh yes, Zeus visits the princess in a shimmer of gold. I told you that you look almost like her right now.”
“But in my Studio in Milan, I will put copies of this painting there forever, never to be forgotten, definitely.”
Tony had big dreams about his art at the Uffizi in Florence or GNAM in Rome and also in Milan at the Triennale di milano located in Milan’s Parco Semprone in Lombardy. Although he owned his own private art studio, Tony had bigger dreams of his art being appreciated so that he could join the leagues of great artists like Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Amedeo Clement Modiglians and Michael Angelo. They had created great art that he admired and wished to uphold especially of the human form in nude. The female nude was of great interest and admiration to him and he had decided to explore the African woman’s body after an inspirational visit to the ancient tombs in Egypt. He had read about the beautiful Cleopatra that had ruled Egypt during the Hellenistic period. He would tell the stories of the African woman through a Ugandan woman of his choice in her naked body. Ugandan women did not undress so willingly like European women. He had noted Alana’s discomfort from the very beginning and he was trying to do everything he could to make her relax but to very little avail.
“Your body looks so beautiful princess.”
“You are as fine as gold, and so brilliant!”
“Forgive me when I sound so unprofessional but it’s your fault for having a masterpiece for a body.”
Alana remained silent because she was afraid to betray her emotions as Tony was acting so flirtatiously sweet. She pretended to smile again. She was only twenty five years old while he was fifty two. She felt afraid of him. She looked at him as an accomplished Italian artist ravishing her body with his paint brush while she was a naïve young African girl stripped naked in a hotel where its occupants had no knowledge of what they were doing.
Alana could see his beautiful biceps and muscled chest through the white t-shirt that clang to his body selfishly. He seemed not to age like everybody else because he worked out and exercised. The gym was a few meters away from his private suite in which he acquired his youthful looks. She was now huddled like a caged bird in his VIP apartment which was a world on its own. She was defiantly transported into artistry realms and suspended into an emotional space where she couldn’t give in to her true feelings. She would not allow herself to be manipulated because she imagined what he must think of her; a naïve unprivileged African girl.
“Alana this is a masterpiece.” Tony drew her out of her very skin at that moment. At least he appreciated it but he wouldn’t use her as well. She would not allow it to happen.
“Everyone in Italy will love this bellissimo”
“They will?” she asked feeling a bit puzzled by his statement.
“Of course they will. I will call you bellisimo because it simply means beautiful. The problem is you are too shy; otherwise I would take you to the exhibition. You would be the star.” Tony gushed out to her own amazement.
“I really can’t Tony; please find somebody else” This time her voice betrayed her warring emotional turmoil.
“Oh my dear, dear shy princess, but I want you only.” Tony was breathless. He could not offer her more than he had already to make her do anything he wanted. She had one thousand dollars to this one portrait already. If she could pose for another scene,then maybe. He wanted something explicit of a free African woman in her bold nakedness. It would do him good if it could qualify for full exhibition at the Uffizi gallery in Tuscany,Florence. He knew it would. Uffizi was one of the most important Italian museums and the largest best known in the world with collections of priceless works especially from the period of the Italian Renaissance. It was also among the first modern museums since the sixteenth century in 1765 when it officially opened to the public. Tony wished to analyze every bone and nerve on this woman’s body. He adored her skin and loved it with his paint brush. He wanted it to be a three dimensional painting where his fans could feel the emotions and texture of the painting coming out at them using his delicate colors.
“My dear bellissimo, I wish I knew how to convince you to do another portrait for me. It would be very easy but you are so adamant! I don’t know what I will do with you.”
“It’s against my culture to do this.” She said sternly with hope that he would feel ashamed or even embarrassed by his requests.
“Oh my dear, this is culture, absolutely, we are going to celebrate your body in the world of arts and culture. Take no harm at all”
“But Venus was a Greek goddess, you said so yourself. I am just a human being selling my body for a little money, I think.”
“Your body is valuable, no doubt about it but remember that true women will represent others too. You are amazing for being that woman! No more arguments about it.”
Alana could barely believe her ears and instinctively looked at the clock above her head. It was hours since he had started and maybe he was done, that’s why he kept talking. She wanted to leave soon and never return to such a scene again. He would give her money to spend on whatever she liked.
“Its 2:00PM in the afternoon. I think I need to have lunch now. Have you finished?”
“I will order lunch for you bellissimo. We are almost done here.”
Tony carefully made the final brush strokes on the painting as he looked at the woman before him and the picture at the same time to make sure he could feel the textures and the backgrounds come alive. His favorite part was her breasts which he brushed up instinctively to make sure they were vivid and clear. He felt a burning sensation in his body and cursed the weaknesses of the body that had made him want to capture this little bird forever. He felt guilty at her noting the time because they had started over six hours ago. He was a professional who had gotten his picture already but still in love with the object. He ought to let her go or he would be violating his own work ethics.
Tony cleared his voice loudly after a few minutes and told Alana that she was free to go.
“I am ordering for room service, stay please.”
“Thanks, but I will have it outside now.”
“The bill is on me, don’t worry bellisimo, I insist.”
Alana picked up her clothes and effortlessly buttoned up her brown dress with a big belt she had tossed aside. She couldn’t wait to get into her clothes as soon as Tony said he was done. She couldn’t stay in the same room with him for lunch. It would be so unfair to think Tony could really make a use of her. She had enough boys calling on her for dates. Those in her league whom she could keep.
“I will tell Rachael to convince you of my offer again.”
“I said no, so please don’t waste too much time about it. Her friend Rachael who had connected her to Tony was an art student at Makerere University. She had a large body with too much belly fat that could not qualify her for a portrait.
Rachael knew about her money problems, so she had excitedly told her about a visiting artist, looking for a model to paint. Like herself, she had been over her head with excitement not knowing Tony could ask her to pose naked privately at his hotel suite.
He had not told Rachael that he needed the model to pose naked. He had only prescribed his requirements that he needed a slender beautiful African girl. All girls would look incredible. He had said. But he really needed someone not too bony and not too fat either.
Rachael had called Alana immediately to tell her about it. She had studied with Rachael at St. Lawrence High School, London College. They had been best friends till university. She knew Alana had settled for a simple hair dressing course due to lack of money. She wished she could help her. Rachael was lucky to have wealthy parents, but she could only help Alana with her upkeep allowances sometimes. She could giver her all the clothes she had and buy her a meal once in a while but she couldn’t educate her friend. The university fees at Makerere were so high; a poor student could easily give up on higher educational learning. Alana could not even afford any of the other private university institutions either. She barely survived in her rented place that needed rent allowances too. One day Alana vowed she would make it too. She felt proud of her gorgeous good looks that could one day rescue her from the bitter hands of poverty. So many rich sugar daddies wanted to bed her but Alana easily pushed them away because she believed they only brought more trouble like the spread of HIV and unwanted pregnancies from an adulterous relationship. Rachael agreed with her views and vowed to never abandon her friend. Rachael’s parents loved her too, they welcomed Alana into their home in the holidays. She could stay at their house for a few days and return to her rented room later. Her mom stayed in the house their father built before he died in Mbale district.
Tony gave up on Alana’s insistence as he realized he couldn’t make her do anything that she wasn’t willing to do. He could tell she was eager to leave the hotel like something could soon snatch up her freedom. Whatever she held in her heart, Tony was sure; it was so much more precious than he could ever know judging by the expression on her beautiful face. He respected her freedom too and wished he could tell her that but couldn’t. He was divorced last year from Aurora but her lies and hatred had taught him a lot in the past few months. The only precious thing worth remembering now was his two little children, Greta and Piero. He was blessed with a girl and a boy. Piero was the oldest and the only one who understood that his two parents could no longer stay together. Tony was very proud of him. He would grow up to be just like his father. He admired his art so much more than Aurora had ever appreciated anything in their relationship. Aurora had cheated on him too. He pushed the image of Aurora out of his mind and pulled out the envelop of money which he handed over to Alana whom he hoped wasn’t feeling too agitated.
“Thank you for posing for me bellisimo.”
“Your portrait is marvelous, but I can’t convince you for another. If you change your mind, please just call me. I am still around, besides this is just the beginning of our relationship my dear.”
“That is okay. I am sorry but I have to go now. I have something to do today.”
“Indeed I am very sorry, but I am glad I have your email so we shall keep communicating.”
“Its great, of course, goodbye Tony.” She said abruptly and left the suite as Tony looked on with amazement and a little secret smile on his face. This was Africa which he was learning little by little.
The afternoon sun brightened up Alana’s face as soon as she stepped out onto the terrace of Sheraton Kampala hotel. She felt delirious under the warm quite atmosphere that warmed her skin before stepping onto the busy street and out of Tony’s artistry realm of nudity and desire of the forbidden passions. She held up the envelop of money Tony gave her nervously and opened to see the one thousand dollars he had agreed to give her. She looked through the twenty dollar bills excitedly that amounted to a total of one thousand dollars. She would stride up Jinja road from city square which she knew was aligned with banks and foreign exchange bureaus. She would rush to school and clear up her semester fees that day without any further delays. She would also prep herself for some good shopping. Life was indeed full of some good surprises. Alana mused with a little smile creeping up her face.
The afternoon traffic was dizzying at that hour as she stood at the side walk splashed by vendors and pedestrians straining to watch the cars that lazily crowded the road on which one needed to cross to the other side. She remembered that she had not even eaten lunch yet as her stomach tightened up in the muscles. A lady on the right pushed her slightly as she tried to run into the road to go across. She was shocked at the woman’s clumsiness and followed her mindlessly. Alana prepared to rush through the road too; she felt her envelope of money slip through her fingers. She turned to see a man in a black T-Shirt behind her run off into the thick crowd with her money.
“My money! My money!” She ran screaming towards the man who somehow acquired an invisible cloth that made him dissolve into the thick mass of bodies. Alana realized she could barely hear herself with the air so loud with beeping horns, sirens, and cars in motion. She began to run faster while screaming before a few people could take notice.
“My sister, what has happened?” A woman held her hand sympathetically noticing Alana’s wild expression of fear and anger.
“They grabbed my money! He has taken it!”
“Who? Is it a thief? These city robbers!”
“Someone get him! Catch him! He has taken my school fees!”
“Oh my dear daughter, how much is it? We can’t find him now it’s too late. Another vendor at the street seemed to muse.
“Let’s call the police. Alana said tearfully. Where will I get money to pay fees again?”
“Please, please I want my money back!”
Her ears felt like burning coals on fire as the sounds on the street suddenly became unbearable with the rush of fear going through her wrecking nerves. Nobody could see the man who had taken Alana’s money and run off. She felt her heart wretched from its place in her chest and thrust away into nothingness. She blindly accepted her defeat with hot stingy tears that drowned her eye balls so much she didn’t know whether she could make it to the nearest police station on Jinja road. She left a small crowd of people behind her shaking their heads like a great tragedy had befallen but in such a way that it made her wonder why it was impossible to get the thief and avert this horrible nightmare she was now experiencing.
The police attendants took her statement briskly in their highly guarded station at Central Police Station on Jinja road.
“How much money was it lady?”
“It was one thousand dollars.”
“Oh my God!” The police superintendent could not quite believe his ears because he asked Alana the same question again to her annoyance.
“I was going to the forex bureau to change it, then go to the bank and pay my fees. She narrated, hoping to get a bit more sympathy from the stalking police man.
“So you are a student? Are you a Ugandan?”
“Yes I am a Ugandan.”
“Okay, so your parents had given you this money? Did you inform them of this theft?”
“No sir, this money was my money which I got paid after working with an Italian artist. He just gave it to me a few hours ago.”
“I understand, I see.” He said thoughtfully.
“You could have been followed. Did anyone else know about this payment?”
“No except my best friend.”
“Someone saw you get this money and perhaps planned to steal it from you.”
“I can’t imagine who but I was holding it in my hands because I was excited I had just finished counting it too.”
“Random thieves are hard to catch at this point. The police will be on your case immediately.”
“Thank you sir, I will be so grateful if you can catch that thief.”
“We shall try our best.”
He took the statement sheet from Alana and observed it for its accuracy before filing it in a file on his desk. Alana was shocked at this. She knew it was a waste of time because there were thousands of pick pockets and robbers in the city who lived on innocent people’s money. They got away with it all the time. It was fruitless. Her body felt cold suddenly as she turned to leave the station. Her wrecked emotions bubbled up her blood into a hot boiling pot that cracked and fell on the floor of the police station.
Alana felt strong arms close around her as a voice issued out an inaudible command in Swahili she couldn’t hear well. She wondered whether she was indeed dead or alive as a light darkness enveloped her drifting mind in space. She wanted to open her eyes but she couldn’t. She heard voices in the distance like in a distant dream.
“She lost her fees.”
“She fainted at the police station.” Alana couldn’t tell the time anymore. For how long had she been in that state? Just a few minutes? It felt like an eternity. She couldn’t tell the time anymore. She felt herself being lifted onto a bed by firm hands that later put her on a drip of water and nudged her to be awake.
“How are you my dear?”
“Where am I?”
“In the hospital, the police brought you here.” She lifted her heavy hand to her brow feeling the temples on her forehead. It was plastered with tubes of water hanging above her head.
“I was at the station, my money was stolen….oh oh oh.” She said bitterly with tears swelling into her eyes again. Her body felt drained from the emotions that shook her slim body like a leaf in the wind.
“We want to contact your family members.” The doctor held Alana’s handbag from a bed stand.
“My phone is inside there. I can call Rachael. My mom lives in Mbale, so she can’t make it.” The doctor took out the phone and gave it to Alana who got Rachael’s number and showed it to the doctor.
“Okay, let me just give this to the police officer who requested for this and I will be back shortly.”
The doctor came back moments later with a smile of assurance on her face for Alana.
“Have you fainted before?”
“No, not ever.”
“So you must be in a lot of shock to faint like that. You need to relax and have some bed rest. You will be okay.”
“Thank you doctor.” Alana briefly closed her eyes to ease the tension in her body. She felt disappointed in herself. She couldn’t let this happen again.
“Alana! Alana!” Rachael’s voice cut through her warring thoughts. She opened her eyes to behold her friend’s distressed face.
“Oh please, don’t look so worried, am okay.”
“The police called to tell me what had happened and I couldn’t believe it. I came here immediately.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“You look so horrible.”She placed her hand on Alana’s forehead as if checking for the temperature.
“I called Tony and told him about your accident.”
“You did what? Alana was shocked.
“He needs to know about it because you can take another portrait.”
‘I don’t know Rachael. I just don’t know anything right now.”
“Hush, my dear, relax.”
“Don’t worry too much about money issues, instead thank God for your life.”
“I feel so terrible, am so negligent, I don’t deserve anything.”
“Hush now, I say. Tony is coming to see you. He is kinder than you think.”
“I should have been more careful.”
“I know, I know my dear, am just glad you are fine.”
Alana held back the tears that threatened to spill from her distressed face.
“Am taking you home because we can’t let you be alone like this in your room.”
“Where are we by the way?”
“A clinic in wandegeya. I think the police have paid for the bill.”
‘Is he still around? I need to thank him.”
“He said he would be back shortly to check on you. He had a call for duty at his station.”
Alana suddenly felt uncomfortable. She couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital. It made her feel like an invalid. Rachael’s phone rang in that moment and Alana watched her turn to answer it. It was Tony asking for directions.
“Stand in front of Stanbic bank and cross the road from there. I will come and get you because we are close.”
Tony said something Alana couldn’t hear. She guessed it was an affirmative yes to Rachael’s directions.
“You can see the sign for the clinic, the only clinic here I didn’t get the name properly too. Rachael left the room briefly and returned a few minutes later with Tony in tow.
He had worry lines across his face as his eyes sought out Alana’s body on the patients bed. She lay hoisted with a drip pinned into her right hand.
“Are you okay bellisimo? What happened?”
“I fainted, but am okay.”
“You worry too much and have stressed your body too. You can’t do this to yourself.” Tony held her hand in his and rubbed it a bit as if feeling for a pulse. He told Rachael how she had adamantly refused to eat lunch before leaving the hotel.
“It’s amazing the things you do.” Rachael said sternly to her friend who had succumbed to a body weakness.
“Style up young lady, do you want to die?’
“I am so sorry, so truly sorry. Please Rachael don’t be mad at me.”
don’t want to lose my friend, Alana. That’s why am telling you like this.”
“You are like a sister to me and I can’t let anything bad happen to you.”
“Rachael is right bellisimo. The people who care about you, are really worried right now, think about it.”
“Oh Tony, am so sorry, I lost all the money you gave me.”
“Now be calm my dear, your life is more important to us right now, and I feel so proud of you.”
“The moment you are fine my bellissimo, we take another great painting of you. It will be marvelous, so marvelous. He said thickly.
“Thanks Tony, though I don’t deserve another chance, I just lost it.”
Tony put his two fingers on her lips to stay silent.
“Don’t beat yourself about anything.”
“I know I imposed on you my culture and lifestyle, because even in Italy it will take me ages to convince a lady to take for me a nude picture like that.”
“You are so brave Alana, am also proud of you.” Rachael said.
‘The doctor said I could be discharged, I think am fine.”
“I think she will discharge you soon, let me get her.” Rachael turned to get out of the room but was surprised to find the doctor at the entrance coming in at the same time.
“I was coming to talk to you doctor, about discharging Alana.”
“Alana is quite fine.” She said brightly.
“She needs to eat and drink a lot. She shouldn’t work herself up for at least a week so that she can regain her full energy well.”
“I need her to reduce her stress levels by getting a lot of bed rest and she will be fine.”
“Thank you doctor, I will make sure she drinks, eats and rests. I won’t let her do anything at all because am going to keep an eye on her. Thank you very much to you and the police superintendent.”
“He is not back yet but you can call him perhaps and give him your thanks.”
“Oh yes doctor.”
Alana smiled and said she wouldn’t have done otherwise but Rachael insisted she would supervise her best friend more keenly to make sure she got well. The doctor pulled out the needles inserted in Alana’s right hand and bandaged it well with a slight flinch from Alana since she could feel the needle pain though not for long.
Tony held her off the bed while Rachael gathered her hand bag and shoes which she placed on Alana’s feet. She wondered what she would have done without Rachael. She now had the burden of looking after her for a week. She wished she could repay her back one day. She made a resolve to get all the money Tony could offer her for any portraits. She was after all in her final semester. Putting up a personal saloon would be easy with Tony’s money in a cheap area.
Rachael took care of Alana for a week. During that time, Rachael urged her to eat and drink all the time. Their kitchen was full of fresh fruits like pineapples, watermelons, apples, pears that she could eat at any time. They had a maid who served Alana and waited on her every need. Rachael’s mom was more than happy to help her through the sickness. She was a second mother for Alana who shared her dreams and aspirations with her freely. She thought Alana’s idea of a saloon was great. She would help her get a free space in a building in town that was a big attraction for rich city girls who were willing to pay a lot for a hairstyle. Alana was excited and couldn’t wait to go shopping for the saloon equipments. She felt better in two days like she had never been sick at all. She couldn’t get out though because no one would let her. So she decided to enjoy her stay with watching movies on Dstv while eating lots of fruits from the fridge. It was a time of rejuvenation, meditation and bonding for her with Rachael and her family. She felt stronger and more confident with her decisions. She was lucky to have met such a nice Italian artist who would help her resolve all her financial problems. At the end of the week, Alana felt healthier. Rachael’s mom excited her with the promise to pay her first rent for the saloon. She said she loved hard working girls like her. She had always known Alana as a good natured serious girl who would succeed in life. She would be honored to pay her first three months rent.
What more could she need in life? Alana thought. She needed a stable boyfriend who could share her life with her. She had managed to stave off older rich sugar daddies who were only interested in having short adulterous relationships with her. The only boy who gave her interest was her classmate Simon. He had called her to ask why she had missed her lectures for the week. She liked Simon a lot because he was also the funniest boy in her class. He already owned a saloon in Bweyogerere which Alana had used to make her beautiful silky hair at a discount. He had insisted on giving her the most expensive hairstyle since in his opinion she was such a beauty who deserved it. They were so close but not lovers yet. Alana was not yet sure whether he was a responsible enough man for her. He could have done her hair for free but she would not hear of it. Simon liked flirting with her though he had not been given a fair chance of a real date with Alana. He would definitely ask Alana to marry him. She was the perfect girl for him so he was willing to wait for Alana to make her decision one day.
Tony made an appointment with her early Saturday morning for another painting. He said he would give her another amount of one thousand dollars. He would also take her to a trip in Entebbe botanical gardens in order to capture her portrait in the wild shrubby woods. Alana was more excited about it. He said the second would give her an extra five hundred dollars. She was okay with it because she didn’t need to undress. She wore Rachael’s tightest dress that simply fell loose on her more slender body. She arrived at Sheraton hotel for the painting early Saturday morning. She tried to keep time as she knew about whites and their time. Coming late was called African time thus her vow to arrive early. Indeed at exactly 8:00Am she was at Tony’s door knocking for him to open up. Tony stood in front of her shirtless in blue Adidas boxer shorts that took the wind out of her throat as she only stared and lost her voice. Alana was electrified by his presence though she could only smile and reply to his gruff good morning greeting and inquiry of her health to which she replied to with an accusatory expression of ‘why aren’t you dressed up?’
have come on time, I am grateful for that. Have you taken any breakfast?”
“Oh yeah, I did with a lot of supervision.” She tried to smile and ease the tension building up in her throat. How was this going to be easier than the last time? She felt anxious already. When he turned around, Alana was shocked to see a large tattoo covering his backside. A large dragon creature splayed magically in black ink with its tongue out and with little hearts and stars surrounding it on the sides. Alana had seen such dragons before on designer t-shirts and on the internet.
“Your tattoo is amazing!”
“Do you like it?”
“It looks interesting, what does it mean?”
“Its cultural, it’s for power and wealth.”
“Oh yes.” Tony plucked on his t-shirt and motioned Alana to enter the bedroom. It was covered in whites and pink silk pillows as before. The double decked bed studded with four poles at each corner smelt even from afar of Tony’s male perfume and its neatness warmed her heart. She could imagine herself sleeping in this bed for days and not wanting to wakeup from it.
“Make yourself at home, relax and before we start I have something for you to eat before we start and you can’t say no. coffee, tea or wine?”
“Oh right, if you can give me a glass of wine. Alana felt she needed the wine to calm herself a bit and if need be she could soon forget all the discomfort she was already going through.
“Are you sure about that? You want to feel drunk?”
“I think the wine will make you sleep since I am going to make you look like sleeping beauty.”
“That is a great idea then.”
“Oh no! I need you to pretend to be asleep with your eyes closed but do not actually sleep because you might get out of position.”
“Am sorry my dear, I will give you a coffee.”
“That will be okay then. Her body could relax a bit and let nature take its toll. She was on her way to earning one thousand five hundred dollars. She felt like an intruder in this apartment of his. She felt like the foreigner while tony was the citizen and owner of all this luxury. Life could be so unfair. She had never been to Entebbe botanical beach garden before. Going there with Tony would be stupefying a little but also an awakening. He would lead and guide her through the whole process like she was the foreign visitor in such an exquisite environment. Such places were littered with European tourists who stayed and lived there too. Tony handed her a cup of steaming coffee which she took gratefully, loving the strong aroma.
“Some cake?” It looked delicious and chocolate was her favorite.
“I love chocolate, I will eat some.”
Tony handed her the delicate moist chocolate banana cake that he loved most in the mornings and more than anything for breakfast. He opened his palette of colors to make sure they were still fresh and bright as he needed them. He also got the canvas on which he was going to paint Alana in sleeping beauty and placed it on a small wooden portable easel he had brought from his art school. It had fond memories for him at college when he would go out in the woods to paint nature in its beauty. He would capture flowers, birds and the dawn sometimes. His teachers had encouraged him to never give up on his passion which had given him more boldness than all the money his father could have ever left him. Money and fortunes meant little to him without accomplishing his art skill in school. He learnt a lot at the art institute of Bari with so many dreams nourished into his mind for great success one day. Tony had carried one of his paintings from school which was a replica of the last supper by Leonardo da vinci. He went into his case of paintings and brought it out excitedly.
“Alana, I have something for you.” Tony’s urgent voice made her look up widely as she gulped down her last bits of coffee and cake. He had seen her eat quickly. He was glad her condition of nervousness had at least waned down a little.
“What is it?”
“It’s a painting I made in school of the last supper.” He handed it to her.
“Thank you, you are too much Tony. I think I have seen such a painting before.”
“Oh yeah it’s a
very famous painting of Jesus at the last supper.”
“Oh yes, it’s beautiful. I will hang this in my room and will never forget it. Alana was thrilled about the painting which had his name in the corner clearly written Anthony Ventura.
“Good I don’t expect you to.”
“Before I understood this painting, I always mistook it for a paradise dinner in heaven! It is so true.”
“Oh my dear I can understand, interpreting art is an art itself.” He watched her with an amused look on his face as Alana held her painting in fits of giggles.”
“Am ready for the painting.”
“I am ready too.” Tony said and picked up the three little brushes and packet of pencils to his side. Alana was intrigued by Tony’s earlier statement that she was to be the sleeping beauty.
“How is sleeping beauty going to be?”
“It’s very easy my dear. All you have to do is close your eyes a bit and pretend to be asleep though you are going to be nude again.” Alana shook her head in agreement. She wished her senses were not so alerted and so awakened. She couldn’t sleep off and wake up when it was done. She took off her clothes at the foot of the bed and lay there calmly. Tony stood in front of her and held her hands instantly. His touch was soft and warm as he guided her head onto the pillows and rested her head on the right side of her elbow with the left hand resting on her thigh and slightly covering her private area.
“Relax your body and mind right now bellisimo I want to see you relax. Alana shrugged instantly under his stare that never left her body which was all tensed up in the moment. She watched him gather his pencils and canvas to start the sketch through half closed eyelids. It was a relief to her that she could at least sleep a bit. Tony was glad to see Alana relax with her eyes closed more than he had seen her before. It made him envision the sketch on the canvas before him of the beautiful African beauty in moments of after passion with her lover in the bathroom or out already. His sleeping beauty was surrounded by warmth and love. It was the kind of love that ignited freedom for every woman no matter the race or color. She was in her sanctuary of love where everything was all about her. She is her own goddess of her empire or world. Tony was amazed at his own concept of this woman. He knew how Alana struggled with her finances but he was glad she was a fighter. Right now he was glad she could give him the picture of the woman he wanted to portray on his canvas. He loved the curves of her body and wished he was in another setting for passion’s sake though passion and sex usually tasted like eating ice cream for lunch and never being fully satisfied because it wasn’t what you really needed to eat. She had a deep chocolate brown skin that any man would fancy in his dreams to worship and adore. It took Tony a few hours to paint his picture on the canvas of his sleeping beauty. He looked forward to making Alana famous in all the famous museums in Italy.
He finished the painting when Alana was almost asleep on the bed though not altogether asleep because he needed her there on the bed.
“Sleeping beauty you can open your eyes now.”
Alana’s reaction was of shock at his words. She seemed to be pulled out of a day dream. She reached for her clothes and wore them quickly before looking at tony who was still engrossed with the painting before him.
“If you want to sleep my dear, please just make yourself comfortable. I know you have been drowsy.” She yawned and agreed with Tony’s idea. She could go back to sleep and wake up later.
“Am ordering lunch. What do you want to eat?”
“Anything you will eat I think I want too.”
“Oh really? I am
having a sandwich only.”
“Alana was amazed at his choice of food.
“I will have chips and chicken.”
Tony smiled wickedly and nodded. He picked up his phone and called the in house restaurant to place their orders before engrossing himself back to the electrifying image of Alana in ‘sleeping beauty’.
Alana was grateful for his silence as she pressed her body to inhale the clear white bed sheets that smelt of fabric softener and the lingering male perfume of Tony. She felt guilty about it knowing that he was such an attractive man in his early fifties though he looked way younger than that in his lean well built body that any woman on any planet would yearn for.
“When do you return to Italy?”
“Not yet bellisimo I am going to Egypt before I return home.”
“Egypt? What are you going to do there?”
“I have some research I want to collect on ancient African beauty Queens. I will spend there only a week before I return to Italy. I have to organize for the great exhibition of the paintings.”
“So when do you leave for Egypt?”
“Next week my dear. It will be so sad for me to leave this beautiful country, the pearl of Africa. He looked thoughtfully at Alana as he emphasized pearl of Africa. His experience with the pearl of Africa would forever be etched in his heart and mind.
“What time are we going to Entebbe botanical gardens tomorrow?”
“First thing in the morning. I hope you can make it here by 7:00Pm.”
“I will try.”
“I hope we can travel and paint the picture but also have a fun outing. I have something special in mind for our last time together. We can picnic there and take some pictures together too, it will be fun.”
Alana was happy about Tony’s final plans because she did not have to strip naked there and she would still be paid five hundred dollars for it. Tony was such a good friend to her that she felt she didn’t deserve it. She couldn’t wait to start up her plans for the saloon. It would be exciting.
Tony’s phone stuttered Alana out of her day dream in soft white bed sheets and fluffy soft pillows. She wondered who could be calling Tony. She woke up and trained her ears up to his conversation on the phone.
“I told you where I was.” Tony said irritably into the phone. He didn’t understand why Aurora was seamlessly trying to find an indiscreet way of tracking him down wherever he was.
“You haven’t visited your children in a while, Anthony Ventura what do you expect from me?”
“Are you running out?” His ex wife’s voice pierced through the mouth piece like a sharp irritating but painful needle in Italian.”
“I love my children very much so do not insult me Aurora. I told you am on a tour and will be back after two months.”
“Right, right, right that’s what you keep saying but remember it takes two to tangle. These are your children too. You better send us more money for upkeep.”
“Listen to me Aurora. I am not going to finance your irresponsible life if that’s what you are asking for. Am not going to let you waste my money which I ought to be saving for our children’s futures. End of story.” He snapped and switched off the phone though it started ringing a few seconds later but Tony ignored it.
Alana stood up from her bed and looked timidly at Tony.
“What’s happening?” She asked.
“Nothing, my ex wife just on the phone. I don’t want to talk to her anymore.”
“She is the one ringing again and you won’t pick up?”
“Yes, you are right let me switch off the phone now. Tony picked up the phone and hastily switched off the irritating ring of the phone much to Alana’s relief. She had never seen Tony’s face creased in anger before. He was always happy and now she truly believed he was her hero for saving her life. He had practically saved her from the pits of burning hell. She would adore Tony secretly until the day she died because he had changed her destiny.
The waitress from the hotel restaurant brought in their lunch much to Alana’s relief which she ate with eagerness and relish. Tony promised to give her all the money he had promised after the trip to Botanical gardens. He said he would even help her bank it as he couldn’t bare the thought of her losing her money again which she obliged fearing the same thing. She dreaded the thought of having a curse that didn’t want her to acquire her money which she had suffered emotionally to acquire though not so painfully.
After lunch Alana went back to her hostel room in Wandegeya. It was not bright and fresh as before. She got her perfume and sprayed it a bit before opening the windows to bring in the sunlight which made her feel better. Rachael expected her back but she did not want to abandon her personal life. She could move into a better place soon with a self contained bathroom and toilet inside. She could also buy a large TV and watch home theatre movies. She felt rich already.
Her mobile phone rung and when she picked it up, it was her mom on the other end of the line.
“Alana! My dear are you okay?” She asked hastily with concern in every syllable that came from her mouth.
“I am fine thanks mummy, I am so much better now.”
“I just sent you 30,000 on your mobile money number. Have you seen it?”
“I haven’t seen it yet but am going to check. Thank you very much but there is no need to send me money anymore. I told you that I had a modeling job with an Italian painter. He is going to pay me tomorrow a lot of money.”
“Alana, Alana I want you to take care of yourself she intoned. I know we have been struggling but you are about to finish your course so things will be okay soon.”
“I know I know mum.” Her mom did not know exactly what kind of model she was with the artist. She had eliminated the part of her being naked. Her mom would undoubtedly faint and die if she ever knew about it. She was glad the painting would be stowed away in Italy where no one would point her out from a crowd. She shivered at the possibility of such an embarrassment ever happening to her.
“I have decided to open up my own saloon. Rachael’s mom has promised to help with the rent for the first three months, I am so excited.” She said breathlessly.
“That’s good news Alana, congratulations.” Tell Rachael’s mother that am very grateful to them for taking good care of you. I am planning on coming to visit her soon.”
“Okay I will tell her.”
“Take care my dear and be careful. We don’t want to lose you.”
“I will be fine. Am so excited I feel like a millionaire.”
“How much is he going to give you?”
“One thousand five hundred dollars!”
“Are you sure?”
“That’s a lot of money; it’s like five million Uganda shillings.”
yes mummy, it’s about that amount of money when turned into Uganda shillings.”
“I am happy for you Alana. Your sisters should look up to you.”
“I think so.” She laughed.
“Okay bye for now. You will call me later. I am going for a meeting with some women in the community.
“Okay bye, I will send you some money too soon.”
“Is it enough for the saloon?”
“I think it will be enough.”
“Bye mummy, thank you for calling.”
“Take care of yourself dear.”
Her mom did not know the extent to which she had gone to earn the money. She was astonished at her own conversation. She had managed to successfully cover it up for the sake of her mother. Alana decided she would buy a few personal things for the next day’s picnic painting with Tony. She decided that she might need a pair of sunglasses, a hat and scarf for such an adventure. She did not normally wear sun glasses but since her mom had sent her a little extra cash she might as well use it. It would be gratifying to buy those things for tomorrow. She did not know where she could get a great hat but since there was a more established craft shop at the National theatre she decided it was more convenient to get something there before going back to Rachael’s house.
Rachael held Alana’s crafty brown hat up to her head admiring its quality and creativeness.
“This looks so beautiful and expensive.”
“oh not very expensive thanks, a gentleman sold it to me.”
“How much? I bet he really liked you.”
“I think so, may
be. She said doubtfully in-between girlish giggles.”
“It was only twenty thousand shillings.”
“It must be more expensive than that. I will wear it too you know.”
“Of course you can! I am wearing it only tomorrow for the picnic. I don’t know when I will ever wear it again, you know!”
“I have lots of places in mind. We shall go to the beach one of these days. Girls only, it will be fun.”
“Of course I would love it. She said breathlessly and slumped down on the bed Rachael had given to her in her bedroom. It was late at night, they had finished eating supper and Alana could not wait for tomorrow enough. She wanted to sleep early. They had decided to skip any late night movies in order to give Alana enough time to wake up and prepare
“How was class today?”
“Nothing much, except my lecturer asked me out for a date. Imagine!”
“What? Asked you out for a date, seriously? What did you say?”
“He is such a loser you know, he thinks I need any favors to pass my exams.”
“What will you do?”
“I will tell him to back off or I will report him to the vice chancellor. He is such a prick womanizer, heaven forbid.”
“Oh yeah, let him do that again and we shall go together to the vice chancellor.”
“Thanks dear, I would appreciate it. Rachael let out a sigh of relief and shook her head in disbelief.
The next morning Alana was at Tony’s hotel room door, thirty minutes late. She checked on her watch and she knew try as she might have last night to sleep early Rachael had engaged her in so much gossip from campus. She had hardly slept.
“Goodmorning bellisimo” Tony’s heavy Italian accent swept her mind back into the present so swiftly she was reminded that she had been posing naked for this man although today she was eager to finish and accomplish her dreams. Alana felt clumsy and nervous but Tony’s sweet reassuring smile managed to help her come to grips with her emotions so that she could relax and return her smile without looking stupid.
“We are good to
go though a bit late.”
“Am sorry I know am a bit late.”
“Oh yes, just thirty minutes but right now am sure we can go. Am all packed.”
“Tony picked up her bags and handed her some to carry for him as they went out to the parking lot for Tony’s rented car, a four wheeled mini van with only two sitters in the back. She opened the passenger door and placed the bags in the seats including the ones Tony carried containing his portable palette and canvases for the portraits. He had several plastic bottles of soda and mineral water which he pointed out for Alana to take as they settled into the warm minivan for Entebbe botanical gardens.
“What kind of music do you like Alana?” she looked up in surprise at Tony’s question as they easily glided out of midtown which had no traffic at all at this time.
“I think I like lots of pop music, the kind that everybody loves.”
“What do you mean by that?” He changed channels on the car radio and stopped at capital Fm which soon played an old classic song called ‘Frankie.’
“Is this okay?”
“I don’t mind. You can play whatever you like.” Alana said distractedly. She had a complicated taste in music. It was difficult to tell if she really had a specific genre of music that she loved most or preferred. Sometimes music had a lot to do with the personality behind it or the story that the singer is trying to tell the audience makes it so much more interesting. She enjoyed urban pop music a lot like most people her age did obviously.
The ride to Entebbe was shorter than she had expected because she realized Tony was a fast driver and a great time keeper. He knew they would get there on time if they avoided the mid morning traffic on such a busy Monday morning. They were at the gardens before she knew it. The gardens are really beautiful. It was her first time there. One was reminded of the Biblical Garden of Eden except that this one had no waterfall though the atmosphere was tranquil and filled with exotic plants and paths to walk down to after going through the reception and paying the entry fees at the gate. It’s enough to make you feel in paradise surrounded by wild flowers and plants. Tony looked awed like a kid opening up all his Christmas presents and finding so many more toys than anticipated.
He took out his camera and snapped away to his hearts content. He said they would go birding too. They were led into the gardens to watch birds and take pictures of the different types of birds like eagles, sparrows and doves flying in midair so beautifully. They loved every moment of it. He couldn’t believe his luck here. He was told that the gardens were over a hundred years old and were established at the turn of the 20th century in 1898. They could find monkeys, flower plants and thick trees in this place. They found a stone path through the gardens at which point Tony decided he would take Alana’s portrait. He instructed her to sit on the steps and let the air blow around her hair.
“I think this is the spot that will get my picture of you right; it’s lovely! Sit over there.” Alana quickly sat on the steeps steps. She was told to relax, smile and look vividly happy at Tony so he could capture her wild happy face. Tony even plucked a white sunflower which he immediately snuggled into her long shiny hair extension.
“It’s perfect now; I want you to look a bit fairy, like a fairy black princess.”
“Have you heard about fairies bellisimo?”
“Oh yeah, from story books.”
“This portrait, we shall call it the ‘black fairy’. It made Alana smile and giggle more.
“Oh, oh now you are laughing more. It’s exactly what I want you to do. Give me that wildest biggest smile ever baby right now and keep smiling, okay?”
Alana was breathless from all the grinning and smiling that Tony wanted from her but at least he made it easier by calling her names and making funny jokes and sounds as he painted away on his canvas in the early morning sun.
“It was such a pleasure painting you my dear; we can go for the picnic now!” Alana was so relaxed around Tony; she jumped up from her sea and chatted throughout their delicious lunch picnic prepared by the hotel that hosted the place.
“I will make you come to Italy one day.”
“I hope so; I would love to see you again. I am grateful for everything you have done for me.” She said soberly with the realization that she really needed to cry because Tony was going away possible forever. He was the man who had changed her whole life and given her hope to live a better life.
“Oh no, I must plan to come back some time though in the future, I noticed you don’t have a smart phone. I want to leave you with mine so you can use WhatsApp and message me anytime.
“Oh Tony, am so grateful.” She wished she could kiss him on the lips for that but knew it was a moment’s silly wishful impulse. She found herself flaying her arms around Tony’s neck and thanking him more for everything. Tony seemed shocked than amazed which made her laugh hysterically as they both realized they had not even come that close in body contact before.
“Alana you are such a naughty creature.”
“Why is that?”
“You know what I mean, with the ‘keep Tony at a bay like a monster?’ Am really hurt.”
very unfair. It’s not true.”
“Okay, you had never hugged me like that before. I will get you again.” Tony actually took out his second smart phone and handed it to Alana. He had planned it all along, she could tell. It had the app already installed she could simply put her sim card and upload her contacts and numbers there.
“Thank you very much.”
“You are much welcome. Let me show you how to use it.”
He got her old Nokia phone and removed one sim card from it of Mtn and put it in the smart phone. She looked at him in amazement. She felt so lucky that on top of her one thousand five hundred dollars she was going to get he had given her a smart phone as well. Tony felt obliged to make sure he never lost contact with his most favorite model of the century. It would be outrageous if he did not try to stay in contact with her in spite of her stubbornness. He was willing to do everything he could to make her realize that she was valuable to the world of art as life itself was art. If the world had only been black or white, what sort of a world would that have been? Tony had learnt to enjoy the sight beautiful brown skin of an African lady and marvel at its enchanting luster and smoothness. It made him want to write a book about it though he was just a painter. He decided he would write a journal about it and include a poem too. He was sure Alana would love that. He knew and understood her need to keep her dignity and respect as a young lady in the twenty first century. It was easy to understand that culture had grown into a more diverse thing than the word itself. He wished to make her proud and honored when he left.
So when he was leaving he informed her about it at the airport as he sat at the waiting room for his flight to Cairo. He texted her message via WhatsApp which she replied promptly. He was also amazed by her quick adjustment to the new way of communication. She was always online when he texted. Even now he got her quick reply which was;
“That sounds amazing Tony. Am glad you can say more about our culture and please do send me a copy of the journal when it’s done.”
“Oh yeah, may be before the end of the year it will be ready, we are still in may.”