A welcoming woman
by James Overton
"Come, come, the woman beckoned. Jim removed his shoes and entered her house. "Have tea, she gestured toward the kettle boiling on a low stove in the corner.
"I speak a little English she said. "Hotel, cleaning, reception, restaurant¦ She was tall and of uncertain age with neatly arranged hair and gypsy earrings. She wore a skirt, high heels and sheer tights. She smiled and gestured for Jim and Bahadur to sit down. Somehow Jim sensed that his companion was uncomfortable to be in her house. It was noticeably poorer than Bahadur's family home nearby. Plastic sheeting fell over the veranda panels where glass should have been. The woman gestured again for them to sit and set out a glass bowl of Russian sweets as she talked for a while in Azeri. A steaming kettle stood on a on old wood stove.
An old woman in a headscarf entered silently and took up a position by a wall. She stood immobile for several minutes, her hands joined together, looking at her daughter, as if entering on a stage instruction to take up a non-speaking role in a play. She wore a cashmere paisley headscarf and a brocade tunic. As if on cue in the script she moved and sat on a low stool, looking at her daughter who was setting out glasses and lemon for the tea. The old lady sat without moving at all, her thin face and pointed nose showing in profile against the bare wall behind.
Jim would have been interested to see what her next move might be, but during the past few minutes Bahadur had been becoming impatient and started muttering excuses. He got up and beckoning Jim to follow, led the way down the steps out of the house. "We go home now he said.
Later that night, when lying in bed with a head reeling from vodka, Jim felt a woman's hand on his naked shoulder. In the dim light he saw it was the neighbour he had met earlier. She kneeled beside Jim's bed and whispered "I want man please. I come your bed Surprised Jim did nothing as the woman pulled her nightdress over her head and got into bed with him. He moved aside to give her space as she tentatively moved his right arm under her hair to hold her. He saw gold teeth glint in twilight when she smiled. She smelt of rosewater scent. Jim smiled back and gently pressed her closer. She was thin and he could feel her ribs as she moved nearer, until their legs touched. His blood started to throb. It was daylight . Jim opened his eyes to find that he was alone in a narrow bed. Nearby on another bed, Bahadur lay snoring, heavy black stubble growing on his chin. Jim's hand moved down to his groin. No, nothing happened, he realized, not even in a dream.
"Jim I listen you. I listen your experience. What you think of my business? Bahadur asked over breakfast of tea, warm flat bread, cheese and cherry jam with stones in it. "OK but let me ask you some questions Jim replied, adding some of the jam to a glass of hot milk. "How many people will come to your restaurant, how much revenue will it make? He gestured to explain: "how much money will people pay?
"Not restaurant. First cottage, good cottage, very western style replied Bahadur.
"But how many people do you expect? How much would they pay?
"Many people coming. Rich peoples, expats, good business, good! exclaimed his host with a light in his eye. Bahadur's younger brother entered with a plate of omelettes. "Eat, eat!he said, attacking the pile of eggs.
"Jim tried again: "Well how much will it cost to build these cottages? If you really want them to be up to western standards, they will be very expensive. Jim looked around dubiously at the kitchen with its ancient wood stove and lack of running water, and thought of the primitive outside toilet. "What about the building cost, the drainage, electricity, plumbing, furniture, equipment? Bahadur ate his eggs.
"When do you want to build these cottages, how soon? Jim insisted. Bahadur turned and looking into Jim's eyes: "I need credit , Jim. Cottages one, one and half hundred thousand dollars. Where I find credit? Probably it would cost far more than that, thought Jim.
"Well how will you pay back the loan? It would take a long time wouldn't it? Anyway you need to show all this in a business plan he suggested.
Bahadur replied in Azeri. Jim recognized the word Yok! Which means no .