BOOK EXCERPT: Chilling and intriguing, Joy Watson’s debut novel, The Other Me

Sedick got his way and Carnita moved into our flat at the beginning of February. From the minute she arrived on our doorstep with her suitcase, she was always trying to monopolise him. Needing his advice, wanting to talk to him. They would sit on the couch for hours ‘talking things through’. It felt as though I was the guest in our home. Sometimes they watched stupid TV shows until late at night. I would lie in bed, alone, the married woman whose husband was busy entertaining his sister. I remembered how he told me on our first date that Carnita was his number one priority and probably always would be. Not under my watch. There was no way on God’s earth that I was putting up with her. She couldn’t stay in the flat. But she had to be the one to make the decision to move out, with, of course, a little help from me. 

On the day Carnita moved in, I cooked a crayfish curry for dinner. Precious soul that she was, Carnita was allergic to shellfish. Knowing that she was a sucker for old-fashioned dining rituals, I wanted to set the dining table with a white tablecloth, but decided not to. Sedick had chosen a tempered glass dining table for the flat, mounted on two triangular stilts also made from glass. He was insistent that we not use tablecloths. Instead, I lit the candles mounted on the wall behind the table, each set in a metal circle. Popping a bottle of champagne, I poured three glasses and handed Carnita’s to her on a little tray. 

‘Is it non-alcoholic champagne?’ she said. 

‘God no. What would be the point?’ 

‘I don’t drink any alcohol.’

That’s the thing about Carnita. She always does exactly as she’s told. No mind of her own. As if God cared, one little glass of bubbly was not going to end the world. 

‘No worries,’ I said, ‘I’ll get you a glass of juice.’

After taking the rice off the stove, I called to Sedick and Carnita that they should take their places at the table. It was hard getting them to hear me; they were so busy laughing at some stupid story about an aunt who had gone to the movies and watched a film wearing her sunglasses, thinking they were 3D glasses.

When they eventually sat down at the table, I put the curry down, saying, ‘Here we go, I hope you’re going to like it. I know crayfish curry is your favourite, Carnita.’

Sedick looked aghast, ‘Oh no, Lolly! Carnita is allergic to shellfish. I told you. Why didn’t you make mutton curry?’

‘Really?’ I said. ‘I don’t remember that. I’m so sorry Carnita. I wanted to make something special for your first night with us. Now I’ve gone and ruined it.’

Carnita eyed the curry, the disappointment on her face evident. 

‘No, it’s totally okay. Please don’t worry about it, Lolly. Shellfish makes me break out in a rash. I can make myself a sandwich.’

I sat down, pulling my plate towards me, ‘Are you sure? There’s some cheese in the fridge.’ 

The smell of coriander and garlic was making me hungry. I spooned some curry onto my plate, added a roti and settled down to eat. The crayfish was soft in my mouth. Sedick was staring at me as if he had lost something in my face. I hummed along to the sound of Celine Dion playing in the background.

‘Don’t you think we should wait for our guest to finish making her sandwich?’ Sedick asked. 

Breaking off a piece of roti and dipping it into the curry sauce, I said, ‘She’s not a guest. She lives here now.’  

Continue reading: Daily Maverick Life

The Other Me by Joy Watson

Read also Joy’s article about the forthcoming Open Book Festival: Countdown to the Open Book Festival – A learning powerhouse that adds colour to our cognitive deficits

And book your tickets for Joy’s events at the Open Book Festival: Karavan Press authors at the Open Book Festival 2022

Johannesburg Review of Books features an excerpt from “The House on the Corner” by Lester Walbrugh, one of the stories of LET IT FALL WHERE IT WILL

The House on the Corner

Like his mother, Emile Oliphant has always collected men. His mother called them her lovers. Emile calls them his life.

— Meet now?

— Do you have a place?

— No. Any ideas? I’m open.

— Bloubergstrand. The parking lot there?

— Give me twenty minutes. I’m in a blue Opel.

— White Golf.

— OK.

They met at the crepuscular beachfront. The stranger’s hand fell on his shoulder, and the frisson drew a gasp from Emile.

Continue reading: Johannesburg Review of Books