Read From Pasta to Pigfoot Online

Authors: Frances Mensah Williams

From Pasta to Pigfoot

BOOK: From Pasta to Pigfoot
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

From Pasta
to Pigfoot

Frances Mensah Williams

First published in this edition in Great Britain 2015 by
Jacaranda Books Art Music Ltd
5 Achilles Road
West Hampstead
London NW6 1DZ

Copyright © 2015 Frances Mensah Williams

The right of Frances Mensah Williams to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, dead or alive, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner and the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 987 1 90976 220 6
eISBN 978 1 90976 221 3

Typeset by Head & Heart Publishing Services

Printed and bound in Great Britain
by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

Daddy, this one's for you

Part One


When two cultures collide is the only time when true suffering exists

Hermann Hesse


Cultural Collisions

‘For Christ's sake, Faye
! Give it a rest, will you? How many times are you going to play that bloody record?'

Six feet and a half-inch of highly irritated black man stood in the doorway of his sister's bedroom, rubbing his receding hairline and taking in the mess in the room.

Faye reluctantly turned down the volume, nearly knocking her iPod off the dock on her crowded dressing table in the process, and glared back at her irate brother.

‘It's not a “bloody record”,' she retorted crossly. ‘
Natural Mystic
is a classic, I'll have you know! You should listen to it instead of yelling at me.'

She turned back to her bed and resumed her task of sifting frantically through the pile of clothes strewn across the rumpled duvet. ‘Michael says it resonates with the essence of the Rastafari message,' she added.

‘Well, all it's doing is resonating against the essence of my hangover. Look, I don't care how much of a genius you think Bob Marley is – just keep it down, okay?'

William sighed and shook his head as he watched his
sister trying to smooth the creases out of a black cardigan covered with bits of white fluff. ‘Why can't you hang your clothes on hangers like the rest of civilisation? And please don't tell me you're wearing that top out?'

Faye struggled into the offending piece of clothing without comment, buttoned it quickly and brushed at the front with impatient hands.

‘William, I don't have time for a lecture,' she said firmly. ‘I'm meeting Michael in Brixton in thirty minutes and I haven't even done my face yet.'

‘Well, it looks like you're going to be late – as usual.' William sighed, but this time with a smile. ‘Faye, you really
the limit.'

He watched in amusement as his younger sister tried frantically to brush some life back into her hair, all the while muttering curses against the South London hairdresser Michael had recommended. Unfortunately,
Sharice of Streatham
had managed to turn her usually silky straightened hair into a mass of tight curls.

‘I look like I stuck my finger into an electrical socket,' she said, gazing into the mirror in despair.

The mournful mocha-coloured face looking back at her was strikingly like William's, although its oval shape softened the chiselled profile that worked to such devastating effect on her brother. Her high cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes, with their long sweeping lashes, looked almost Asian, and rather at odds with her full African mouth.

‘I wouldn't worry about it,' William said dryly, glancing down at Faye's long limbs and high round bottom emphasised by her tight black jeans. ‘I don't think Michael's going to be
looking at your hair much anyway.' He laughed and ducked as Faye threw her hairbrush in his direction. With her lean build and slightly awkward walk, his sister's legs looked like those of a young colt learning to take its first steps. Facing the full-length mirror, she turned sideways and sighed as her silhouette came into view.

‘Michael says my bum is the only part of me with ethnic integrity,' she said musingly. William looked blank.

‘You know, a real African bottom,' she explained.

William snorted contemptuously. ‘Michael is, as usual, completely full of it! The guy went to an English public school, for crying out loud. What does he know about ethnic anything? And how on earth you have the time to listen to the pseudo-intellectual garbage he's always spouting is beyond me!'

Faye picked up her hairbrush from the carpet and prudently changed the subject before her brother could launch full steam into yet another of his periodic rants against her boyfriend.

‘Never mind my backside. How come you have a hangover at 8 o'clock in the
?' she asked curiously.

Her brother gave a soft groan and pushed the clothes on Faye's unmade bed aside before throwing himself across it. Although he was only three years older than Faye, William was usually so confident and self-assured that people assumed that he was much older. It was not like her usually super self-controlled brother to be the victim of anything, Faye thought, much less a hangover.

William yawned widely and rubbed his head again. ‘I know, mad isn't it? You know Lucinda and I went to a legal
seminar this afternoon? You're usually lucky to get a glass of cheap plonk afterwards but these guys really pushed the boat out. Nice canapés and waiters walking round with trays of champagne. One of them must have seriously fancied Lucinda because he just kept hanging around. In the end, we had to empty his tray to get rid of him.'

‘Well, I can't say I'm surprised,' Faye replied absently, back to brushing furiously at the tight curls on her head. Lucinda was William's girlfriend and was also a lawyer. She was also stunning, with model looks that led her opponents in court to frequently underestimate her ruthlessness in defending her clients, an advantage she exploited shamelessly. When they were out together, the contrast between William's dark good looks and Lucinda's blonde beauty never failed to turn heads.

Giving up on Sharice's handiwork with a sigh of exasperation, Faye grabbed a hair band and pulled her hair back into a short ponytail. Grimacing at the thought of the lecture Michael was going to give her when she finally made it to Brixton, she grabbed her faded leather jacket and the pink satin bag she had discovered at the local craft market and headed for the door.

‘Will, I've got to run! Make sure you shut that door behind you; I could do without a lecture from Dad on the state of my room,' she babbled breathlessly. ‘Don't forget – when he gets back, tell him I've gone out and that I won't be back too late, okay?
Don't forget
, Will – you know what he can be like.'

Ignoring the pained expression on his face as he stood up and tripped over another pile of her clothes, she ran
down the stairs and out of the door, sliding quickly into her car and starting the engine. Though the windscreen was misty and she could barely see the road in front of her, she was too worried about being late to wait for the heater to do its work. With a frustrated glance at her watch, she frantically wiped an old tissue that had been shoved into the glove compartment across the foggy screen and was rewarded with streaks of damp tissue fluff across the stubbornly opaque glass. Sighing impatiently, she turned the heater up full blast and crossed her fingers before pulling out into the road.

Driving through the dark streets of Hampstead, she sang loudly along with Coldplay as they belted out ‘Paradise' through the one speaker in her car that still worked.
I wonder what message this song resonates with
, she thought flippantly, making a mental note to hide the CD, and its obvious lack of ethnic integrity, from Michael before she got to Brixton. One rant was more than enough for one evening, she decided, and listening to Coldplay was more than likely to send Michael over the edge. She pushed the engine of her little Fiesta as hard as she could, and sent up a silent prayer of thanks for the unusually light traffic on a Saturday night. Keeping a nervous eye on her rear-view mirror for any flashing lights as she dashed through Swiss Cottage and headed down through St John's Wood, she sped up and slowed down expertly, grateful for her familiarity with the road and the speed cameras on her route.

She heaved a sigh of relief at the surprisingly light traffic in central London and sped around the tangle of
streets through Victoria, screeching up to the traffic lights at Vauxhall Bridge in fifth gear. Taking her chances, she dashed through the amber light and onto the bridge, for once managing to stay in the right lane for Brixton.

It was quarter to nine by the time Faye pulled up in front of the tube station where Michael had instructed her to pick him up. She pulled in to the side of the road and switched on her hazard lights, ignoring the irritated toots of the cars now forced to drive around her. Concentrating on removing the offending Coldplay CD, she jumped when Michael rapped impatiently on the window of the passenger seat, gesturing vigorously for her to unlock the door.

‘Oh, sorry Michael, I didn't see you!' she said, rolling down the window on his side before releasing the lock. She watched him slide his solid legs into the suddenly small space of her car, smiling brightly at him as she furtively pulled the sleeve of her sweater over her watch. It didn't work.

‘Faye, you're late again. I've been waiting for ages, girl!' Michael sucked his teeth in annoyance before reluctantly leaning across to give her a brief kiss on the cheek. Sitting back, he rubbed his cold hands together, then pulled down the sun visor to check his neatly corn-rowed hair in the mirror before turning his attention back to her.

‘I'm really sorry,' she said hastily, trying to placate him before he could get started. ‘Honestly, you wouldn't believe the traffic on the roads – and literally
the lights were against me.' She avoided his disbelieving eyes by leaning out of her window and making a show of checking for oncoming traffic before pulling back out into the busy road.

‘Which way should I go?' she added quickly, hoping to stem yet another lecture on her punctuality, or rather the lack of it.

Michael didn't answer immediately. Gripping onto his seatbelt as Faye narrowly avoided a collision with a transit van that had appeared as if from nowhere just as she'd pulled out into the road, he had to take a couple of deep breaths before he could speak.

‘Just keep going straight – there's a left turn coming up soon. Yes, that's it! Turn in here and take the second road on the right.'

Faye followed his directions and eventually turned into a narrow street of terraced houses. None of the homes seemed to have curtains or, if they did, the occupants didn't seem to feel the need to draw them. In the darkness, the lights shining through the windows seemed to glower at her like the eyes of a pack of unfriendly dogs. At Michael's instruction, she pulled into a parking space halfway down the street and switched off the car engine. The faint strains of reggae filtered into the now silent car and she reached behind to grab her bag from the back seat. She glanced across at Michael who was once again staring into the mirror, frowning in concentration as he tilted his head from side to side.

Nothing changes
, she thought, mentally shaking her head as she watched him give his hair a final pat. In the first flush of their relationship, Faye had found Michael's near obsession with his appearance sweet. But after almost two years together, dealing with his vanity was less about endearing than enduring.

Swallowing an irritated sigh, she quickly reminded herself how lucky she was to have a boyfriend and how, in spite of his sometimes annoying qualities, Michael was still around. Life ‘BM' (before Michael), as she labelled it, had been a series of mostly one-off dates, followed by insincere promises of ‘I'll call you' or vague excuses about hectic work schedules. Living in an area like Hampstead didn't offer many dating options other than the privately educated posh boys who occasionally asked her out, often seeing a date with her as being as close as they were going to get to being considered a rebel. After a few dates, and with their foray into the exotic satisfied, they were usually ready to return to the familiar comforts of the Chloes, Pippas and Amandas they had grown up with. Far too unsure of herself to try online dating, and fed up with the well-meaning attempts of her friends to fix her up with the same kind of men that they had all grown up with, Faye had watched from the sidelines while her old school friends settled down and moved in with their partners, one or two of them already starting families. Just as she had given up hope of ever having a decent relationship with any man, let alone one of African ancestry, she had met Michael at William's public school reunion dinner; the last place she would have expected to find Mr Right. Lucinda had been down with flu, and to keep William quiet, as well as break the monotony of yet another evening watching EastEnders with Lottie their housekeeper, Faye had agreed to go with her brother.

When they arrived – late, thanks to the two hours Faye had spent getting ready – dinner was about to be
served and they were quickly ushered towards the dining tables. The large banqueting hall where the dinner was being held was dark and cavernous, with faded portraits of Lansdowne School's celebrated alumni decorating the walls. Over two hundred Old Lansdonians, along with an assortment of wives and girlfriends, had been crammed onto narrow tables. Following William to their table, Faye slipped into the remaining empty seat. She found herself sandwiched between a wolfish-looking dark-haired man who looked as if he'd already made inroads into more than one bottle that night, and Michael, who was one of the few black faces she had spotted as she walked across the room. Seemingly oblivious to the din of loud aristocratic accents filling the air, Michael sat silently, his smoky brown eyes thoughtfully observing his former classmates. Under his well-cut black suit, Faye could see a waistcoat made from a brilliantly blue
fabric, while his glossy natural hair was twisted into short locks, framing a square jaw.

Immediately drawn to his brooding good looks, Faye mumbled a greeting and tried not to stare. But, as if Faye's shy but obvious interest had animated him, Michael more than made up for his earlier silence by talking endlessly throughout the meal. Faye had pushed the dry roast chicken and watery vegetables around her plate in silence and let Michael dominate the conversation, most of which centred on his devastation at being dumped by his girlfriend after almost two years together.

Ignoring William's exasperated eye-rolling from across the table, Faye had picked her way through the increasingly inedible four course dinner, listening sympathetically to
Michael's unstoppable analysis of his failed relationship. Forced to remove the hand of the man seated on her left from her bare thigh every few minutes, she edged ever closer to Michael, hoping her chair wouldn't tip her over into his lap. After the waiters had cleared away the remains of the tasteless meal and the attempted speeches had been sabotaged by drunken heckling, Michael led Faye away from their table and pinned her against the wall at the far end of the room. Taking her through every painful aspect of his recent break-up, he continued to bare his soul, ignoring his former school mates bouncing around raucously on the dance floor.

BOOK: From Pasta to Pigfoot
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

WHITE MARS by Brian Aldiss, Roger Penrose
Streetwise by Roberta Kray
The Devil Has Dimples by Phillips, Pepper
Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik
The New York by Bill Branger
Cold Shot to the Heart by Wallace Stroby
The Return by Victoria Hislop
Private Dicks by Samantha M. Derr