Swapna snuggled into her bed comfortably, ruminating about how her life had changed after her husband, Prakash, landed a job in Dar-Es-Salaam. They had moved to the beautiful African city perched on the Indian Ocean. She recollected how her friend had joked, “When wives get Rajayoga in their horoscopes, husbands get jobs in Africa.”
Like all good jokes, it explained reality in a funny way. The wonderful Indian community of expatriates, the adventurous wildlife safaris, the partying, the picnics, the beaches, the temple activities: all were a boon. Add to that the availability of a car and driver for the family and a full-time African maid and you have heaven on the earth.
Swapna thought herself lucky to have got Maggie as her maid. When she moved to Africa, people had warned her about how the African maids would steal and kill for one piece of jewelry. Maggie was brought to her by their office driver. She was conscientious, neat, and punctual. Her work was meticulous. She took good care of their two-year-old, Vikas. But her friends warned her to be wary. They said that that’s how all the maids earned trust before stealing and killing for money.
She got up, bundled up her hair into a bun, and went into the kitchen. Prakash’s birthday was on the following day and she planned to bake a cake. Maggie had sieved the flour, powdered the sugar, kept the eggs and all other ingredients ready.
Swapna was baking a fondant cake for the first time and wished that it will turn out well and earn her the praise of her friends. She went about her job with Maggie helping her.
She gave a sideways glance at Maggie. She has been acting a little strange for the last few days. She had caught her looking surreptitiously into the cake ingredients yesterday. When questioned she did not answer.
As she wiped her hands on the towel and plonked herself into the deep sofa, she thought about the party she was hosting for Prakash. She had invited a few families. She planned to wear that gorgeous white sari with a mauve border. She would wear those stunning, deep violet, Tanzanite earrings Prakash had gifted her…
Suddenly she realized Maggie was in the room she had locked up the precious earrings in. She got up with a start and looked for her. Maggie stood looking out of the window pensively. Was she signaling for an accomplice to come in?
Maggie was looking out of the window, thinking about her 5-year-old son, Mathias. It was his birthday today. He had begged and begged her for a cake. The cakes were very expensive. She had wanted to ask ‘mamma’ if she would bake a cake for her son. But she did not know if it will make ‘mamma’ angry. She knew she would definitely get a piece, the next day after ‘papa’ cuts it.
But Mathias had wished deeply for a cake to eat on his birthday!
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