Teaser 207: Phone Calls From Lost Anglos

I chatted on the phone quite a bit. I talked with Kitana every day and often with her father. Monsieur Farabé had assumed the lead on most things, especially the discussions with the government and other groups concerning security. Most of the time I simply agreed with their proposals, but all were anxious to have my presence in Mali. “Late Monday. Please ask Nassira to be available when we drive out to the Garden Tuesday so we can begin laying out the buildings and digging out the planting area.”

“Are you enjoying yourself while we're doing all the work?” Kitana asked, facetiously.

“Did I not say when we first met, Kitana, this must primarily be an African endeavor?”

“You did. I'm only teasing you, Gregory. Can't you take it?”

“You're becoming more Westernized in my absence, Kitana. I have to get there soon or I won't be able to recognize you.”

I called Lena frequently. She was content to wait for my call and I didn't make her wait long. Most calls ended because she had to go to bed to get some sleep. We talked about any and everything, the other women, too. I told her about Serena's deviation during our parcheesi skirmish and Lena laughed. “I'll bet she thinks twice about modified house rules next time.”

“I don't know, Lena. She's Mexican, and she's not a parcheesi aficionado because of it. She may be indulging me.”

“None of us would ever do that, Gregory. You'd see right through it, wouldn't you, little boy?”

“I cannot tolerate indulgence on my part. It's true.”

Serena sat beside me during the entire conversation. Lena knew it. I told her. Since neither had ever spoken to the other, I invited Lena to talk through the speaker so we could all converse and to her enormous credit, Lena agreed. The two times we did it, I listened to both take off with each other. I had my reasons which I never shared. I wanted Serena and Lena to at least be comfortable with each other in case the worst happened. Despite their distances apart I thought it better they should be familiar with each other since they shared one aspect of their lives in common. It also gave me an opportunity to judge where their individual sentiments lay. Naturally I smiled often when the conversation took a turn to speaking disparagingly about me. Yes, you two do share more than one thing in common.

I walked outside once to the outdoor pool to call Tanya. It was a brief conversation, very late at night in Los Angeles but early morning in Munich, as she sat in her office. “This is a pleasant surprise, Gregory. I honestly didn't think I would hear from you.”

“I've been trying to find the time, Tanya. I see you, hear you, frequently in my mind. You're in there and I can't get you out if I tried.”

“So you're making room for me?”

“In my head, yes. I have a suite reserved for you in there. How would you like the furnishings and decor appointed?” It did please me greatly to hear her deep and full laugh again.

“The bare minimum will do, Gregory. What I would want in that suite is someone to share it with me, but not just anyone.”

“Well, it is my head. I don't let just anyone in there.”

Tanya laughed again. “I already miss you, miss you making me smile and laugh so easily. I don't get it often, you can imagine.”

“You have a lot on your plate, Tanya. What I imagine is you keep getting pulled in every direction and you have to constantly evaluate which way you let yourself get pulled and which way you resist. I wouldn't want that. I think it would start to affect my humor. Then I'd be like everybody else but still with a small appendage. I would have no appeal to anyone!”

More laughter. “You were wise to say 'appendage,' Gregory. We record these calls.”

“I figured. I wouldn't want to trigger something for your security people to start investigating. 'He said what?' Then they'd ask you embarrassing questions. Can't have that, Fraulein.”

“It wouldn't be embarrassing. I would tell them everything, even suggest I could tell them exactly how you look, from head to toe. It would be easy because I know it.”

“I can see you doing your best Sharon Stone impersonation. You might skip the uncrossing your legs bit, but there you are in some dark room with about a half-dozen men, all trying to keep from drooling as you tell them everything, calmly, persuasively, and leaving nothing out. That's Tanya.”

“And once you heard it, Gregory, you'd have nothing but appreciation. I've heard you say, more than once, 'The truth is all you'll get from me.' No?”

“True, but I'm still not going to say the other word.”

“You don't have to say it. We both know what you meant...When will you be in Africa, Gregory?”

“Late Monday, your time, maybe even early Tuesday. I suppose you'll be watching the news and official reports?”

“I always do. It's my job. I'll be studying them for a certain name after Monday, yes.”

“I'll stay in touch with you when I can, Tanya. I enjoy hearing your voice, too, especially your laugh. I adore your laugh.”

“You're only saying that, Herr Hess.”

“No, it's true, Tanya. You have the husky, German-accented voice which sounds so commanding, so authoritative, but when I hear it, I always see your teasing smile behind those lips...There have been times when you were with me I could feel my heart racing like I was a teenager again in the presence of the one with whom I am infatuated. It's not anything I can control but gratefully it does subside so I can begin to function. I can't function with my heart racing constantly.”

Very softly, Tanya responded, “I don't really do that to you, do I? Because...you do that to me at times.”

“I'm going to see you again in person, Tanya. I cannot rest if I don't.”

- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-SixAn African Experiment Begins” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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