So you’re probably wondering how it all started, how we met, who said what first, if there was a date, if it was all traditional or just loud sex all the way. Well, it was one too many things. A little bit of everything, really. Not too much, not less either. It was exciting and boring, thrilling and frustrating, perfect and imperfect. All at the same time. And I loved every bit of it. Okay, maybe not all. I hated some parts.
So here’s how it started.
The heat that afternoon was at its peak. It was like the air conditioner wasn’t doing its job. The door to my office – which I shared with two other colleagues – squeaked, which meant someone had just let himself in. I didn’t really pay attention to whoever had entered (In hindsight, it could have been a serial killer o, hmm). Instead, I remained focused on the fashion footage on my laptop. I needed to write an analysis on the various designers that had showcased their pieces at a fashion event and publish it on my firm’s website.
“Uhm, hello…” a brusque voice called. “I have an appointment with a Mr. Ajayi, am I in the right office?”
“Nope! You’ll go back out, sir. Two doors down, take the right turn, three rooms to your right, blue padded double doors. You can’t miss it. You’re welcome.” I said all these without peeling my eyes off my laptop screen.
I heard the shuffle of feet and the door squeaked open and shut again.
As soon as the door closed, a wonderful scent assaulted my nose. I knew that scent. I had tried it on at store and the income I was earning as an intern didn’t give me the luxury of knowing what people thought about how good I smelled. I had quietly put the perfume bottle back on the shelf. I can’t come and die biko.
“Hmm, nice choice,” I muttered to my audience of no one.
Two seconds or so later, the door squeaked again. Ugh! The sound was really annoying. Ah!
“Uhm, excuse me?” Same voice, changed tone. It was now deeper, softer. “I’m sorry to bother you again. But could you do me a favour? Could you help me watch my son for a little…”
What?! Whatever he was saying faded out at the words “help me watch my son…” What did I look like – a nun from an orphanage? My swift turn to deny his request had him reeling back slightly. And my voice, which had never failed me before, was suddenly gone, just dried out of existence as my eyes settled on the young man standing before me.
Christ on a bike! Where had he come from – Zeus’ loins? And that scent again. It assaulted me with potent force this time as he was standing close to my work station. My heart commenced on an instant game of hopscotch as I drank in the sight of him.
“Uh, ah…I don’t…I’m sorry…” I’d found my voice, but it was refusing to cooperate.
“Please, just for a short while,” the man said.
And then he did the unthinkable. He pulled up the oldest trick in the bag – the puppy dog eyes act. Kai! My heart melted within the cavity of my chest. My throat went dry. The saliva I even tried to force down did nothing, absolutely nothing at all, to wet my throat.
I released a tremulous breath. “Uh…okay…” I said slowly. What?! You expect me to say no to Zeus’s offspring? Like any of you would say ‘No’ to Uti Nwachukwu (snickers). But don’t worry, I didn’t fall hand entirely, as I quickly added, “It’s because you need help o.”
He smirked, as though he knew the real reason why I’d caved.
I felt my face grow warm with chagrin in response.
“It’s just for a little while, I’m sure,” he said, offering a grateful smile, which predictably enhanced the attractiveness of his countenance.
My God! I took in a slow inhalation. Then I glanced around him for the said son but couldn’t find him. “Um…where’s he – your son?”
“I’m here,” the little boy answered before his father could from behind his father’s legs. Peeping as if to be certain there wasn’t danger lurking. “Hello. I’m Khalil.”
Even then, I could sense that the boy was something special. I flashed him a smile as I replied, “Hi, there, I’m Moe.”
He took a step from behind his father’s limbs. “My dad said I can stay with you till he’s done with his meeting,” he said as if to confirm my initial agreement to look after him.
“Yes, Khalil. You certainly can.” I said, still smiling. My eyes caught his father’s shoes. Aldo, hmm. I looked up to find the man intently looking at me.
“Thank you, Mr. Moe. I’m Aliu Adegbenro.”
He offered his hand and I took it. Firm and hard. I tried not to squeak as I felt my bones shift and resisted the urge to shake my hand to reset the bones when he released it.
“Thank you again. I won’t be long.” Turning to his son, he said, “Be good, okay? We’ll grab lunch as soon as I’m done. I love you.” He held out his fist, Khalil offered his and they bumped them together.
“I love you too,” the little boy said.
As his father turned to go, his scent tingled my nose again.
“Acqua di Gio,” I blurted.
He stopped in his tracks, turned and said, “Sorry?”
“Oh! Don’t…Don’t mind me.” I hadn’t even realized I’d said the words out loud.
He smiled. I was suddenly struck by our nice his dentition was then. Why hadn’t I noticed it before?
“Well?” he prodded, obviously wanting to know what I’d said earlier.
Suddenly feeling a bit self conscious, I gave a small chuckle. “I was referring to the perfume you’re wearing. Acqua di Gio.”
“Oh! Yes. That’s what I’m wearing. How’d you know?”
For a second there, forgotten was his meeting. Forgotten was my analysis. Forgotten was Khalil. We stared at each other, our gazes locked in the manner that hinted at the momentous realization that our paths had been orchestrated to cross by Fate, or something like that.
Then I cleared my throat before saying, “I wanted to buy it for myself few weeks ago. I couldn’t afford it. I’ve decided to get it next month. Good choice though.”
“Why, thank you.” He stood there as if he wanted to say more.
“Erm, your meeting?” I prompted.
“Yes… Right… Thank you. I’ll be back soon. Thank you again.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him,” I told him when he hesitated at the door.
He probably had suddenly realized that I wasn’t capable of the task of babysitting.
With a small lift of his lips, he nodded and rushed out, the squeaking door announcing his departure.
“What are you doing?” Khalil asked.
The question jerked me out of my concentration. “Uh…I’m working on this analysis. It’s about various designers who followed the theme of the event. You see these models here? The pieces they have on is named after…”
My voice trailed out when I glanced at the boy who had his right thumb stuck in his mouth. The bland look he gave me told me he didn’t understand what I’d just been explaining.
“Uhm…Okay.” I paused, and then tried again, “Alright. My boss gave me an assignment. I have to turn it in tomorrow.” There. That was good.
His eyes suddenly lit up like he’d just remembered something. “I have my assignment in my bag. Do you want to see it?” He didn’t even wait for me to answer. He just opened his bag and fished out a colouring book and his box of crayons.
“Erm…Okay…?” I said, unsure why his assignment should matter to me.
And then, he clarified me when he said, “Can we do it together?”
Say what?! Dude, I don’t know you like that.
He was looking at me, his expression eager while he bobbed slightly up and down on his feet. Then he added, “Please, please, please! Eez just dah my daddy is a terrible awteest.”
That left my mouth open. Way to go snitch. LOL!
“Alright. Let’s see what you’ve got there,” I said, drawing the colouring book closer.
And so we coloured and laughed and coloured some more. His choice of colours had me laughing. I mean, for someone who said his dad is a bad artist, it simply showed that the apple didn’t really fall far from the tree. Soon, we were done with his assignment.
“Do you know when my dad will come back?” he asked as he put his things away.
“Not too long from now. Why?”
“It’s just that I’m hungry,” he said, turning his mouth into a moue of misery.
Uh-oh, this isn’t good.
“What would you like to eat?”
“I usually have pancakes and milk at noon.”
Pan-gini? This boy eh, you will tay o. Who send me Samaritan work sef? Oh right, it was my stupid heart. I was certain the cafeteria didn’t sell pancakes but they had pastries.
“Do you like pie?” I ventured.
“Yes, I do.”
“Let’s go get you some pie and ice cream then.”
“My dad said I shouldn’t take food from strangers.”
Be running your mouth, shogbo. Hunger never catch you.
Aloud, I said, “How about we buy you some and you wait for your dad to come get you and give the okay before eating?”
“Alright then.” I logged off my laptop, fetched my wallet and stood up. “All set, let’s go.”
On our way back from the cafeteria, Khalil kept peppering me with questions like some inquisitor. I answered him as best as I could. I’d quickly learned that ignoring him wouldn’t do me any good. He’d just bounce back with another question. I didn’t stand a chance at all. We’d just entered my office when, at the sound of someone clearing his throat, we looked up to see him straightening from my desk. He’d obviously been standing around, waiting, and looking at my laptop’s screensaver. It was a picture of me.
“I’ve been looking for you two,” he said as his eyes lit up on his son.
“Daddy!” And just like that, my little friend for the past hour or so pulled his hand away from mine and ran into his father’s arms. Somehow, I felt suddenly alone.
“Hey, boy. How are you? Did you behave yourself while I was gone?” Aliu said as he lifted his son into his arms.
“Yes, I did. How was your meeting?”
“Good. Went well.”
Aliu moved toward me, his son in his arms. I turned on a shy smile.
“Moe, right?” he said. “Thank you so much. You saved my ass – sorry, me. You saved me from having to worry.”
“Daddy, you can say ass. We’re all guys here,” Khalil piped up.
The two of us burst out into mild laughter at that.
When we sobered up, I said to Aliu, “It’s not a problem. It was my pleasure, really. Great kid you’ve got there.”
“He got me lunch,” Khalil said, holding up the pack containing the grub I bought him. “Can I eat it?”
Aliu looked at me with this hesitant look; it went just as fast as it came. “Thank you, you didn’t have to.”
“Na. It’s okay.” My face was started to heat up with my self-consciousness at the intensity of his gaze on me. I looked down at my feet.
“I hope you aren’t full yet,” he began, “I mean, if you’re not doing anything at the moment, I’d like to…” His voice petered out when my head snapped up to face him. “God, that came out wrong. Sounded like I was going to ask you out.”
I shoved my hands in my pocket and grinned nervously.
“What I was going to say,” he said, putting Khalil down, “is that I, uh…I’m heading out lunch myself. Would you like to join me?”
But isn’t that um…like a date? I wondered with a small inward smile. Out loud, I said, “Uh, thank you. I’ve actually had lunch.”
Khalil tilted his head. “Really? When? You didn’t buy anything for yourself when we were there.”
“Um…” I gave another nervous laughter. “I had something before you came in with your dad, Khalil.”
Aliu smirked like he knew it was a lie.
I averted my gaze. The bobo made me somehow nervous, and truth be told, my paranoia was beginning to rear its head.
“Hmm, too bad you can’t come.” He looked at me and flushed as he hastened to add, “Right now, I mean.”
I chuckled. No pun intended, eh? Issokay.
“I owe you lunch though,” he continued. “Well it doesn’t have to be lunch. You know, we could go out and have fun?”
“What kind of fun?”
“I don’t know – lunch, dinner somewhere, or maybe go to a movie or something.”
Well now, it’s starting to sound a lot more like a date, I thought. Was this gorgeous stranger asking me out? Without a word, I walked past him toward my desk, hands in my pocket. Then I stopped to look back at him and was momentarily thrown by what I saw. His eyes held something…something that had me saying, “Sure.”
He opened the door and held it for his son to go through. The boy was starting for the open doorway when his father said, “Khalil? Won’t you say goodbye?”
“Goodbye, Mr. Moe.” He waved his chubby hand at me. “Thank you for helping with my assignment.”
I smiled. “You’re welcome.”
He turned and was gone.
“Bye, Moe,” Aliu said to me. He stood there for another second, winked at me and left.
I stood there for a moment, stunned by the second that had just passed. Had he just winked at me?
He did! HE FRIGGIN’ DID! My tummy started dancing. That walking piece of man-truffle friggin’ winked at me!
Suddenly, in the heels of my elation, doubt kicked in. No joor, he was just being friendly. After all, you can be rather naïve.
And poof! My insides did a quick reset!
And somewhere in the background of my consciousness, I could still hear the resonant squeak of the door announcing his departure.
Written by Vhar