Yolanda looked at herself in the full length mirror, the only luxury she and her father had allowed her. Her green floor-length dress was faded in the way clothes get when they have been washed too many times in the briny sea water. It was unadorned and unfashionable. She added a bright yellow apron on the dress and suddenly, her appearance didn’t look as shabby as before.

She carefully arranged her hair on her head to reflect the style of the upper-class women who wouldn’t be found dead in The Sharabi. With infinite care, she removed a few wisps from her knot and arranged them to frame her square face. It did not suddenly transform her into a woman of beauty but it did soften her harsh face and drab outfit.

She picked up the yellow flower from a tray kept on the table next to the mirror and placed it behind her right ear. Her silent scrutiny of her appearance was abruptly interrupted when a loud bang sounded on her bedroom door. Yolonda removed the flower and threw it on the floor. She put her hands on her hips and looked at her reflection defiantly. “There are enough men to take you to bed hon’ and don’t you forget that,” she said to herself sternly. She picked up the tray and went downstairs.

It was 8 and The Sharabi was already teeming with loud, crude, rude sailors, travellers, natives and lecherous old men – those were the categories as they existed in Yolonda’s mind. Her father – the owner and bartender of The Sharabi – didn’t care for her categories. As long as the customer had gold, was willing to spend and didn’t create an unnecessary ruckus, anyone was welcome.

Yolonda surveyed the field from the top of the staircase. She didn’t see a single woman. She smiled gleefully. No competition for her; just as she liked it.

“Girl, get dow’ to business wil ya? Those tables ain’t goin’ to clean itself,” called out her father.

Yolonda made a face but descended as gracefully as she could from the staircase. She ignored the tables that obviously needed cleaning and the numerous calls of thirsty customers. She made a beeline for the bar where Prisk was sitting, a happy-silly grin on his face.

“Heya Prisky,” she said, lightly caressing his shoulder.

“Hiya darlin’,” said Prisk, snaking his hand around her waist and pulling her closer. “How bout you get me a drink and I’s can tell yous bout me scar,” he said patting his thigh and winking.

She smirked. “Simple down Prisky before you burn yeself. Yous know I is preserving meself for Xander.”

Prisk turned Yolonda to her side and whispered in her ear, “Aye that mays be but I’s determined to have you. I’s a good lover Yoli. I’s take care of thee.”

“Ooo where did yous learn such big words Prisky?”

Yolonda’s flirting was interrupted, this time by a loud bang of a glass. When she turned, she saw the red face of her father and immediately put some distance between Prisk and herself. “You need something da?” she asked innocently.

Since her father was a man of few words and used them sparingly, he motioned to the empty glass in his hand and then to the old man with a wooden leg sitting at the far side of the bar – as far away as could be from Prisk.

“Beer,” he said succinctly.

“I’ll be back Prisky,” said she. Then added a quick peck to his lips when she saw her father otherwise occupied.

Prisk looked at the retreating back of Yolonda and said to no one in particular, “How she goin’ to find a man if yous always around?”

The man turned to face Prisk, right eye flickering – a sign Prisk had either overstepped and was going to get a few choice abuses or he would be unceremoniously dumped outside The Sharabi. To his surprise, neither happened.

“Yous all says so much. None of yous can takes care of her like me,” he said, thumping his chest to emphasize his point. “Alls you wan’ is to get under her skirt. She’s no Esu’s whore!” he exclaimed banging the bar with a closed fist.

“Daddy you scaring poor Prisky away,” said Yolonda soothingly, trying to break her father’s agitation. She had not missed the exchange even though she had been away and couldn’t have been able to hear anything over the babble of the crowd. But this was a skill she had developed working at The Sharabi. She could follow conversations across the bar.

Yolonda’s father grunted in response, wiped his hands on his apron and turned away.

When she turned to Prisk, she saw his head on the bar, his hand still lovingly curled around his beer glass. Yolonda snorted. But before she could expend any more emotions on Prisk passing out on their flirtation, she saw the man of her nightly dreams walk into the bar. Everything faded to nothingness as she laid eyes on Xander Fisher.

Yolonda found herself unconsciously licking her lips. Sure Xander had rejected her more times than she could count on her ten fingers; but the night was still young and as Prisk had said – she was determined. She smoothed her apron, squeezing her breasts softly at the sight of those bulging muscles and crooked grin. She walked up to Xander, a gleam in her eyes and a smile on her face.

Maybe today would be her day?


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