By George Ojema
He’s standing in her living room. He wants to whistle but knows better than to do that. The modest room seems so imposing but he has no idea why. So he slides his hands into his pockets and looks around. It’s tidy…not spick and span but tidy.
There’s a book on the table. ‘She’s a reader’, he thinks as he bends down to examine the book. He picks it up. “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” he muses as he reads the cover. He turns it over in his hand to see the back cover. He can already tell it’s been well read from the browning pages and the evident dog ears. There is an evident crease down the middle of the cover, more evidence it’s been read in some disastrous situations.
“All set,” she declares as she walks back in. The low cut purple silk top now hidden under a black zip up jumper. His eyes first dart to her chest then her face. He wishes they didn’t but he’s only human and at least he looked away.
Could this be a consolation to his good manners or an excuse to remain decent?
He’s still holding onto the book, eyes fixed on her amazing form. Try as they might the jumper and baggy sweatpants can’t hide her features. Her hips, proud and round, can be traced lightly from the loose fitting material, jutting out defiantly, asking to be noticed. Her humble shoulders contain her beautifully, insisting on her delicate beauty, betraying the strength between them as they hold her neck above them, that gracious neck and that beautiful face, crowned by that beautifully unruly hair now pointing wildly in all directions.
Somehow, just somehow, she looked beautiful. Not that she didn’t look beautiful at church but there was a strange attraction she held now. She was raw…nearly, no. She was…
“You’ve read it before?”
He looks down at the book and it hits him, she’s talking about it.
“Nah, but I’ve heard about it. By Baroness…”
“Don’t bother. No one knows how to say that name.”
“But I hear it’s a good book…”
“I don’t know. I just started reading it.”
“Could I borrow it when you’re through?”
She sits on the arm of a nearby chair and gives him an apprehensive look. “I don’t know. I was told it’s a bit mushy-mushy.”
Mushy-mushy? She clearly had no idea who she was talking to. Even in secret men enjoy a little mushy-mushy. He sets the book on the table and squares up. “Ready?” She nods and they walk out, pausing for her to switch off the lights and lock the door.
The night is warm, the sky is clear and the usual October wind doesn’t blow with its usual gusto. He’s taken walks at night before but tonight is different. He can feel his pulse down in his fingers; he can feel the warm air flow into his lungs, feel them expand and then out again. His cheeks feel rounder, and though he knows it’s impossible, he still allows the though play in his head. He looks up at the night sky and is instantly ambushed by fond memories.
When he was younger, many years ago when the prospect of facial hair truly excited him, he had fallen for a young beauty and even the confines of a school uniform would not keep him from being a true romantic. On a walk such as this he had gestured at the night sky and claimed a star for her. He later learnt that ‘star’ was the planet Venus but this did not dissuade him. It was her star, he’d claimed it for her. Where was this beauty now? He couldn’t be sure, time had seen them part ways, age had forced him to let go of her.
“What’s on your mind?”
“Huh?” He’d drifted off, regrettable since she was right by him. “Just remembered something”
“It’s nothing. Just something stupid I used to do”
“Just tell me.”
“You’ll think it’s stupid…”
“Just tell me”
He looks at her, those eyes dancing an intoxicating dance, asking him to talk to her. Dancing their way past psychological walls he’s put up to guard himself. He knew this dance, she’s done it before, and it worked. But this time it was different, the stakes were higher. She’s asking him to tell her something personal and she doesn’t even know it.
“I think we’re here”
“Yes, really. Are you sure you won’t eat anything?”
“Maybe I’ll have a milkshake”
He ushers her around the corner and into the restaurant. It’s quiet and half empty, a nice place to talk. They walk to the counter and he orders chips and chicken, she sticks her guns and orders a vanilla milkshake. They pick the food and head to a corner of the restaurant.
“It has too much…mafuta”
“It’s fried chicken, it’s supposed to be like that”
“Ok, it’s your funeral”
She smiles, and immediately takes the sting off her own comments. He smiles back and shakes his head. Toothpick in hand he begins his assault on his dinner, because that’s how classy restaurants make their mark, with toothpicks and free vinegar.
“So, what did you want to talk about?”
“You don’t waste time do you?”
“What?! We’ve taken enough time walking here.”
“I thought you were going to say something”
“Me? You’re the one who wanted to talk”
“That’s true…” and for the first time he doesn’t know what to say. She’s straight forward and he likes that. It means she’s strong, independent, allowing him to make the first move but not allowing him to control the pace of the game.
But he knows a thing or two about this game too.
He stares back at her, even in her impatience there’s something attractive about her, those eyes; no longer patient and soft but agitated…almost angry. Her shoulders are no longer laid back but level, a clear sign that she’s not enjoying this moment of his apparent confusion. One raised eye brow enforces the thought.
Time to drop the bomb-shell.
“Grace told me about your fight with Anne…in the washrooms”
He’s waiting for a response; it will tell him whether or not he should confess.