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Three other women sat on chairs around the dining table in Paloma’s house. They were all dressed in heavy jewellery and expensive clothes.
“Come on in,” said one of the women. “We’re starting the next game soon.”
Paloma handed her mobile to Safiya. “Please take our photo,” she said and went back to join her group. She stood behind one lady and placed her hands around her neck. “We’re all BFFs.”
Safiya obliged and clicked a photo of Paloma and her friends. She returned Paloma’s mobile to her. “I have work so I’ll leave.”
“Okay dear. Take care.” Paloma closed the door but the music continued to hammer Safiya’s ears. It was nine at night when the music stopped.
Then the next evening there was another party at Paloma’s house.
Frustrated at the loud music, Safiya walked to Paloma’s place and knocked on the door. She was surprised to see five women from her meditation group sitting on the two sofas with cards in their hands.
“Care to join?” asked Paloma with joy in her eyes.
Safiya shook her head and turned to go.
“Do you need anything?” asked Paloma.
“Nothing,” replied Safiya. “I forgot the reason why I came here.”
Paloma’s music felt like taunts. Safiya headed to the neighborhood park. She had been visiting here regularly until three months ago before she started the meditation class. The journey to the park was ten minutes long. Cars and bikes honked incessantly as they drove on the narrow road. There were hawkers on either side.
Safiya didn’t know why she was so upset and this caused more frustration. She entered the park and joined the other visitors as they walked a circular path that had trees on one side and a playground on the inner side. She walked fast, like she was running away from her thoughts.
She was on her third lap when the sight of the two-story-tall broad-leaved tree calmed her down.
The park wasn’t what it was three months ago. The benches had new paint. There were swings and slides on one corner. At the centre of the park a marble platform ran in a circle round a thick tree whose branches spread in all directions and provided shade to the platform below. Yellow and red blossoming flowers to the left of the platform pleased Safiya’s eyes. She continued walking. A signboard at the park entrance stated the new rules:
Safiya wondered how she had missed the sign when she entered the park. She sat on the marble platform under the foliage of the thick tree. Two men sat opposite her. The one on the left wore a blue T-shirt and black trousers while the other man displayed muscles through his grey vest. They each had a laptop and they connected the charging plugs to sockets at the base of the platform.
Safiya put her hand to her mouth to hide her wide smile. She decided to come here again tomorrow after the meditation class. She could bring her laptop and do any remaining work.
“See this is what I meant,” said the muscular guy in a gentle voice to his neighbor.
As soon as he caught Safiya staring at him, she got up and began jogging, with a consistent smile on her face.
She returned home, playing music in her mind. The guests at Paloma’s party were leaving her house.
“My party just ended,” said Paloma.
“Good for you,” said Safiya and entered her own home. She was about to close the door when she stopped midway and called to Paloma, “I wanted to thank you.”
“For what, my friend?” asked Paloma, her head bobbed to one side.
Safiya shrugged. “Nothing in particular. Just for being such a lively neighbor. You give us joy.”
Paloma nodded. “Well you’re not the only one to say that. I like to live each day to the fullest. We all should.”
“Exactly. Good night.”
Safiya’s attempts to sleep that night failed as her thoughts kept running to the muscular man in the park. She wondered if she’d ever have met him if Paloma hadn’t irritated her. But she dismissed that line of argument as, in her thoughts, the muscular man removed his T-shirt.