Her romance with Malik began on a perfectly harmless note. She was bored as she had foresaw and most of her friends in Abuja had day jobs. She wasn’t one to go office-hopping so she pulls out her phone, scrolls down in search of persons of interest.
“Aha!” she allows a smile flit across her face briefly
“Hello. My name is Lara. Am I speaking with Malik?” she says in a single breath like a news reporter
“Good morning Lara. I believe you are. How have you been finding your stay in our city?” She could feel his smile from across the space
“Borrrring! am bored outta my mind that’s why am calling you. I told you I may call if am bored”
He chuckles into her ear. A rich, pleasing sound
“I remember. Lucky for you, I had just one meeting today for 7am and it ended on a very positive note so am in good spirits. I’ll come pick you up for lunch. Where are you staying?”
“Errr I stay a bit far from town. It will be easier if I just met you halfway” she tells him
“Never mind that. I have the whole morning to drive to wherever you are” he insists
“Oh well then, I am staying in Kubwa with my friend. When you get to GT Bank, there’s a street just opposite it. and a gated house across the road. I stay in one of the flats. Just call me when you get into Kubwa or approaching GTB.” she explains
“That’s real easy. I stay around there too. It would make returning you home at night real easy.”
This makes her laugh excitedly.
“See you soon”
“Yea. See you soon”
True to his word, a 2012 Range Rover Jeep pulls up to the house after two hours honking while her phone began to ring simultaneously with the name Malik flashing on the screen in Bold letters. She picker her purse, sashays out of the bedroom, winks at her girlfriend who just smiles at her shaking her head and walks out of the door. This time Malik was unchaperoned. She sighed in relief. She wasn’t sure she wanted a chaperone with him or his undivided attention yet. She just knew she was bored and everyone knew that could be dangerous.
“Hey! Someone looks good”
“Hola! someone smells nice” she returns getting into the car and allowing her eyes adjust to the dim interior. He had shaded windows and her mind began analyzing
“shaded windows + dim interiors + lone guy = womanizer, cultist, bad boy?”
He looked at her face and laughed a full laugh
“I know what you are thinking but sorry to disappoint you, am neither a womanizer, a rapist nor a cult member. Was i right?” He glances at her as he puts the car into auto drive and pulls back onto the road
She smiles tensely “I apologize. didn’t realize my face was an open book. Not rapist tho, cultist” She smiles again
“I got into the car and immediately realized I knew nothing about you and I was putting myself in your hands for the next few hours plus you drive a dark nondescript car” she ended
He laughed again, clicked the doors to lock and began to race the car like a maniac as if he was really a cultist as she had presumed.
“Am I scaring you yet?” He glanced at her wickedly with a naughty grin
“Nearly” she replies
“Maybe I should do better” he teases
“No thank you” came her sharp retort
Easing his speed a little, he looks at her momentarily as if to determine how bad he was scaring her. He decided it was bad enough for him to pull into a public space and get a drink to calm her. This obviously was no brazen Abuja chic.
Sighing in relief, she silently thanked God Malik was sensitive.
“Just a coke please” she replied to the waiter’s unspoken query
“a bottle of water for me” he intones
“Why do waiters ask the woman what she wants first and not the man that is supposedly ‘paying?” he throws at her
“Hmmmmn don’t get me started on that subject Malik. Trust me, you don’t want me to get started”
“Because once I start, I could never stop. It’s my most favorite topic. I could never tire of it” She pauses with a smile at the waiter returning with her coke on ice.
“Thank you” she says to him as he places it on the mat in front of her
“You are so proper and polite, it’s hard to believe you grew up in Nigeria where girls are so rude and won’t even thank the waiter because they feel ‘it’s their job’. I think I like you” He told her
“Nice” she responds
“just Nice?” he queries and bursts into laughter. she looks at him a while puzzled then starts laughing too involuntarily.
“I like your kind of girl” he says again seeing that she was relaxing with him a bit
“I apologize for scaring you earlier. It wasn’t intentional”
“hmmmn now, I think I like your kind of guy. Sensitive to what a girl is feeling. Nice”
“Nice again? Is that the only expression you know?” Haha
Shaking her head, she was laughing so much she could not mouth the proper response
“Alright, let’s leave. I think you relaxed a bit. Ready?”
“Ready” standing up, she leaves her unfinished coke on the table as she follows him out into the midday sun.
They drive towards the city center as he engages her in idle conversation to “kill time”.
“What spots do you know in Abuja?” he asks her “This is the test your knowledge of the city time”
“Hmmmn I only know GTB Kubwa branch and Jeveniks because a friend took me for lunch there twice. Haha”
She pulls to the side, gives him a serious look “You can take me wherever you want tho. I believe I am in capable hands”
“or arms” he suggests
“No. just hands for now” she gives him the tongue out sign. He laughs again enjoying her company
Arriving at Jeveniks a while later, the place was packed for the lunch hour. Shaking her head as she steps out of the car and shading her eyes against the sudden onslaught of sunlight.
“What?” he enquires of her head shake
“All these lazy people that eat outside their homes everyday in Abuja” she proclaims
“Are we also lazy too. We are about to eat out too.” he teases
“No. Our is a different situation”
“Oh really? how is that?” he continues to tease her unknown to her
“well, because we are meeting on a sort of a….you know what I mean, we can’t go to your house since you can’t cook….oh! I don’t mean you can’t cook anything….I mean, given the situation, you can’t possibly cook for me as it is….oh well! I give up. You are right. They must also have good reasons to eat here” She hurriedly concludes. She wondered why her tongue felt like fudge cake and why she was so flustered around him. Usually, she was quite fluent in expressing her thoughts coherently. What was this strangeness she was feeling? Was she reacting to this man she just met just because he appeared to be sensitive to her and read her like a book! She resolved not to let her guards down anymore.
He was watching her every move and her face was just like a Windows 8 app with speech! She was so easy to read. He knew the precise moment she decided to be careful with him and he unconsciously decided to walk over all her defenses just to prove to himself he still could. He applauded himself on being able to read her. That was why he was a successful negotiator because he could read each party he was dealing with like an open book.
The waiter comes to take their order and turns to her first with his pen ready. Lara’s eyes meets Malik’s and they share a private smile.
“Pounded yam with Afam and fish with a bottled water. Do you have Eva water?” she says
“Yes ma” waiter replies
“I will have what she is having with a bottle of Eva water too” Malik says
“How come you keep ordering same thing I order” she asks as the waiter walks away “Don’t you want anything for yourself or is it just a wonderful coincidence you keep craving same thing as me?”
This earned her a deep bellied laugh and with twinkling eyes “perhaps I need a woman to pick the good foods for me and I happen to feel I can trust your judgement with food”
“hmmmmmn scope!” was her immediate retort
“ouch! that hurts!” was his rejoinder