As they sat enjoying their midday meal, her phone rings.
She picks it up, glances at the screen, drops it again with an apologetic smile at Malik. He was wearing a blank face which in her experience doesn’t begin to translate into ‘i don’t care who is calling you’.
Smiling at him again, she decides she din’t owe him an explanation. They continue with their food. She finishes first.
“Ta-da!” she pronounces sticking her tongue out at him
Scrunching up his face, “I wasn’t aware we were racing. I would have put in my best” he teases back as he swallows the last morsel on his plate.
“Shall we?” She says already standing to her feet
raising an eyebrow in surprise “What’s the rush?” he inquires “won’t you allow our food to digest or you just want to discharge me so you can pick your calls?”
“Aha! there it was finally” she says to herself. Men just didn’t know when to ignore. Deciding to torment him, she selectively responds.
“My food takes forever to digest. Are we going to sit here forever then?”
Malik realizes what was happening but unable to stop himself
“You know very well that part isn’t important. Why are you avoiding the real question?”
“Because it is not soup talk” came her reply
She watched his brows climb further as his face came together in the semblance of a frown. She could not help thinking if those brows climbed any higher or his face scrunched any tighter, one of them may start crying from the effort. On second thoughts, it was good his face was so flexible she told herself.
“It is nothing serious to discuss. Just a friend that saw my status on BBM and is calling to confirm. You know those sort of people that never call you unless there’s gossip…..?” she explains
“sooka!” he says
“Japanese for ‘I see”
“haha are you even sure there’s anything like that…?” she teases, stopping at his hurt look.
“Are you always this sensitive or is this just your ‘puppy look’ for women?”
He makes another puppy face at her and she couldn’t help laughing and shaking her finger at him.
“You are incorrigible. Shall we?” Lara asks him again
He sighs and gets to his feet grabbing the car keys off the table simultaneously. It was as they walked to the door she realized he neatly sidestepped her question and she still didn’t know the answer to it nor could she stop wondering about it. She didn’t even know the basest things about him yet!
‘what did he like to eat or drink?’ he seemed to have no preferences thus far. Some men would have used to opportunity to eat like they were starving. She wondered if they imagined that was an impressive feat a woman would admire.
‘Is he married?’ she began to wonder then stopped and firmly told herself it was none of her business. She was simply passing time in the city and he was being a wonderful escort.
The sound of the doors unlocking alerted her to the fact that they had arrived at the car.
“welcome back” he said seeing her startled face
“oh thank you” sarcastically
The doors click shut again as he pulls out of the parking lot. He turns to her barring all his teeth in a scary grin.
“I got you under lock and key now”
“HElPpppp HelllPPPp he is taking me where I do not know!” she pretends to yell in a hoarse voice
They both laugh.
“What now?” she asks him all fired up for whatever adventures he had planned for her
Looking at her eager face, Malik decides to spend more of his busy time with her so he could keep watching her face light up.
“What do you wanna do next? Any place you want to visit?”
“Me?” incredulously “Where do I know in your city!”
“Alright then. I’ll just take you to one of my favorite places”
“Where? Tell me. pleaseeeee” as he stubbornly shakes his head “please now. please. pretty please” she pleads batting her non-existent lashes at him
He finds himself laughing and gave in.
“It is supposed to be a ta-da surprise but since you insist on unwrapping your present before Xmas…….”
“Oh! just tell me already!” she pounces again
He laughs again “The place is called Art and that’s all am going to say”
“pleaseeeee pweety pleaseeee. Tell me what they do there. What are we going to see there? please”
“What do you think you will see there? It is the Art Place. Art! What else do you imagine would be there? Monkeys? Although that’s a possibility too”
“Monkeys! Noooooooo they jump at girls. I don’t wanna go to the monkey place” came her response
They were still laughing when his phone rings and after three curt monologues, he turns the car back towards the direction they had been coming from. His facial muscles had all tightened up and he had a distant blank look on his face.
She was still processing the sudden change and didn’t know how to inquire.
“What’s the matter?” finally
“Am sorry we will have to go to the Art Place some other time. I’ll call you tomorrow if am free again” neatly sidestepping her question
“What part of town are you headed now?”
“Nice. Just drop me at the junction. I can take a taxi from there”
“I hope you don’t mind? Am so sorry. Would have taken you back home but something came up” he wouldn’t say more
“of course something came up. An idiot could figure that out already duhhhh!” she thinks in her head
“It’s no problem at all” was what came out instead
He pulls up to the junction, she steps out of the car and he hurries off in a cloud of dust not even waiting to return her wave.
“how rude!” she thinks again “what even came up sef? maybe his wife is in labor and they called him from the hospital…..maybe his wife fell from the staircase and had a miscarriage….maybe…. oh whatever! it is not even my business so I wonder why am in his business!”
Bringing out her phone, she dials the number at the top of her call log.
“Hey sugar!” she croons into the phone
“Hello” came the deep sulk at the other end “I just called you about 20 mins back and you didn’t pick my call. I know you saw it and just didn’t pick it.”
“Nope. If i saw it, why won’t i pick? I was in the bathroom. I came out and saw your missed call”
“I explained when you called in the morning complaining of boredom that I was headed for a meeting and would try and get out of it as soon as I could. Is that why you didn’t want to pick my call?” He persists
“I told you already I was in the bath when you called. Am I not calling you back now?” beginning to get irritated
“ok. ok. Where are you now?”
“Somewhere in Maitama” came her reply
“What are you doing in Maitama?” automatically
Rolling her eyes, she takes a deep breath to calm the auto-response ‘Go fuck yasef’ instead this came out
“I came to the MTN office. I have been having issues loading recharge cards lately. Remember that was why I asked you to do a VTU for me two days ago” she says smoothly
“Yea ok. Should I come pick you there?”
“If you can. Are you still at work?”
“Where else would I be at this time of the day? It’s not even 3pm yet”
“Alright. I will be waiting at that eatery we ate the last time. Please don’t be long. You know how I hate to wait…”
“Especially for men” he completes the sentence and smiles
Smiling, she disconnects the call pleased with herself. Walking to the intersection, she waits for the light to change. After waiting 2 minutes, she looks at the red light again and decides it was probably dysfunctional. She was just arriving at the door of the eatery when a horn blares from behind her.
‘That can’t be him already eh? I have not even had time to check my face in the bathroom and cool down with the AC indoors. Oh shit! Oh well! Here we go’ composing herself, she turns around feigning pleasure and surprise as she recognizes the Nissan Altima pulling up to the entrance.
Getting into the car, “Hey sweets!” she says as he appraises openly
“Good enough for your office?” she asks scooting closer to hug him briefly
“Yep” he replies admiring her waist high navy blue tailored cutoffs, pale pink short sleeve blouse, light jacket and proper shoes – his idea of proper shoes was something comfortably covering the feet, combining moderate heels with a buckle.
He smiles in approval “That’s my girl. You know what I like”
“Yea. I wore them for you” leading him on, she smiles tightly through her teeth
His office was not too far and she knew where they would go afterwards.