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Read all previous episodes of Love on the 25th by Uneñ Ameji. Please share and comment.
The move-in was swift; the sun breaking out of the clear blue skies immediately the last raindrop touched the windows. It was 11:21am by the time we checked out of the hotel and had Abdul drive us to the house in less than five minutes. Vince was seen with arms crossed leisurely as he leaned on the tall white columns in front of the terrace duplex as we drove into the compound, obviously waiting for us. I studied his expression briefly remembering last night and the look in his eyes when he had come in unannounced, bending over me with dark eyes and hot breath fanning my face.
“One would have thought you would be helping your neighbors move in” it was Sandra as we got down, giving him a hug. I simply acknowledged him with a nod and went straight to the man who looked like he was in-charge of the move. He was and he was happy to have the help in taking the items to the rooms designated.
“I was helping, just came out to welcome my new neighbors” he replied coyly as I turned to look at him. He threw daggers with his eyes as they followed behind and I redirected my eyes to the men bringing in my collections.
“Right this way” I gestured as we got to the first floor.
“I am glad you know your room” Sandra said going up the stairs to the second floor. I wasn’t one for height and I knew she was going to take the second floor.
“Yeye” I said after in a laugh and got engrossed in having my furniture and paintings exactly where I wanted them; totaling ignoring Vince and his eyes.
The move was complete at 2pm and we were left to rearrange pieces and unpack boxes and bags. The house had its own decors already lining the walls and it felt as if I was over dressing the space with my favorite pieces but at the same time, I wanted familiar pieces and personal items in the rooms on my floor. I gave up after 2 more hours of hanging, removing and shifting new pieces that either congested the large walls or looked like I was forcing the walls to take more than their share. Vincent was helping Sandra put up her vanity mirror and wall shoe rack in her room on the second floor and every minute I was rewarded with laughter traveling down the walls.
I was still irritated that he had barged in on me in my backless camisole but briefly wondered if he had seen my scar or what I would have done if he had kissed me. Did he want to kiss me too? I banished the impure thought and focused on setting up my workspace, failing terribly. The thought of his lips touching mine was on a constant replay in my head and his voice resounding in delicious laughter filtered into my ears from the room above.
Frustrated, I dropped my old copy of ‘How They Succeeded’ by Orison Morgan on the book stand and walked to the kitchen to get scoops of ice cream from the bucket Sandra had insisted on. Resting my head on the fridge, I analyzed my reaction to him in annoyance. I was past having these reactions and it irritated me that he was evoking these inexcusable feelings. I actually wanted to have his arms around me and the stupid warmth spreading at the thought of having his strong long fingers tweaking my nubs was absolutely immature. One would think that after 16 years, Oestrogen hormones flooding my sexual organs would have dried up and I’d be free from having these betraying reactions.
“Tired are we?” his voice startling me, the ice cream bowl I held fell to the floor as I turned to face him, startled. I watched him approach and found myself studying his frame, the rippling muscles under his T-shirt. I comported myself and looked around for a mop.
“Hungry and indecisive” I answered lightly. My voice shrill and foreign while I cleaned up the spilled ice with a wipe.
“Are you always this jittery?” he asked coming to stand before me. I looked at him as I washed the towel; his strong pleasant smell seemed to be sipping from his muscled body underneath the black body hug he was wearing. I couldn’t breathe and found myself hurrying to scoop another plate and rushing out of the kitchen.
“It is not polite. Sneaking up on people” I answered as I walked past him in quick steps. He followed and I took a spoon to stop myself from groaning in exasperation. ‘Broda! Go Sandra side na!’ I shouted in Pidgin in my head.
“Where is Sandra?” I asked as he followed me to my room and turned to face him, his eyes boring into mine. I wondered what was going on in his head and I took another heavy scoop to keep me from talking. ‘Really Debbie, get a grip. Na you be senior’ the conversation still playing in my head.
“She should be in her room” he answered and continued to stare.
“I am waiting for you to stop staring and tell me what you want” I blurted out, irritated at his calmness.
“Depends. Will you give it to me?” he asked as he approached and I found my legs heading to Sandra’s room. He must have laughed at my sudden escape because I heard a low chuckle as I raced up the stairs. It was silly really but I just couldn’t take chances with this man. I had to make sure Sandra took him off my hands and soon too. I regretted the day I walked up to him in Secilles and blamed my girls for putting me in this position. ‘You sure say na dey only tin be dat?’ the loud mouth fool in my brain whispered and I sternly rebuked it.
“I think that little man hangs perfectly in that space” he said indicating that I hang the large painting I bought from Sandra’s last exhibition on the empty wall leading to Sandra’s floor. I nodded as I reached the landing.
“Miss!” I called.
“Inside” she replied and I followed her voice.
“Cool!” I exclaimed as I saw what Sandra had done with her shoes. She had turned her library space into her shoe room and had mounted the racks on the wall. Shoes in their corresponding heights lined the racks from top to bottom in their different colors. It was a work of art and I laughed as she danced excitedly in front of her handiwork.
“You like?” she asked and I nodded, sweet scoop of ice cream melting in my mouth. I noticed his eyes on me and I felt like I was being scrutinized. I hated his stares but decided on ignoring him for the rest of the day. Of course I couldn’t bring out my claws to shove him off seeing that he and Sandra had history and may even have some sort of romance sizzling between them. It would be wrong of me to think him interested in me.
“Thanks to Vince, I finally have my dream shoe palace” she said, taking him in a hug. I smiled openly then, it was decided. Sandra and Vince.
Just then, the doorbell rang.
“Are we expecting anyone?” I asked, wondering why we were already having visitors.
“I ordered lunch” Vince replied, going downstairs. I was hungry and decided to get my plate and head back to arranging my library. I followed him downstairs.
He had just opened the door when I stopped in my tracks and ran back upstairs, my heart beating frantically as I reached my room and ran to the window to see the delivery man reach his scooter before driving off.
Could this be Caleb? I wondered as I watched him disappear out of the gate.
“Hey, are you ok?” his voice startling me yet again as I was peeping outside the window and my plate of ice cream fell to the floor. I lost it.
“Oh! For Christ sakes! Stop sneaking up on people” I shouted on top of my voice, shaken and angry. I must have flamed up because when I looked at him, he knew what he had to do. Dropping a plate on the closest surface which was a box of unpacked shoes, he backed out. I matched to my door and slammed it firmly, muttering a curse under my breath as I went back to stand behind the window; looking at the gate where the man who had disappeared without a trace from my life had passed through. He looked so much like him – his walk, the slight slant of his shoulders and the distinctive missing hand.
It was Caleb, Caleb Hontal, my husband.
I waited around the house in pretense of helping out and catching up but I was waiting for Debbie to come out. Her reaction to the delivery man was strange and if I were inclined to digging deep, I’d be asking Harold for Caleb’s profile but I wasn’t. Perhaps she was affected by the fact that he was handicapped, although that was unlikely.
“You can go and knock on her door, you know” Sandra said after I had given up on the pretense and continuously asked if Debbie was coming out soon.
“Her number is switched off, think she is ok?” I said, ignoring the look Sandra was giving me. Just then, her phone rang.
“Hey Mr. Fatasho! Yes, of course. It is a lovely apartment. Really? Now? Sure, Yes. I’d love to. I will be ready. Thanks” she was all smiles.
“And you are going out” I said, rolling my eyes and she laughed going to a suitcase.
“Dinner with your Dad. He was trying to get to Debbie but seeing she is not available, I am going to have good expensive dinner. Hope you don’t mind” she said with a devious smile as she disappeared into the bathroom with a black gown she rescued from the box.
Sandra was ready in no time and father was already waiting in front of the house in less than 10 minutes. A long time ago, I would have thrown plates up in the air when Dad took young beautiful women to dinner but I had long come to understand he was never going to replace mother. Moreover, I was more interested in the woman downstairs and right now Dad was helping me out unless he had designs on her. I wasn’t going to allow that.
The look in her eyes when Sandra had hugged me meant she saw Sandra and I as an item. This was a perfect arrangement to make sure she didn’t have the wrong idea. I was pursuing her.
The house was quiet afterwards as I walked around the flat studying the new art pieces that hung on the corridors and rooms on her floor. I didn’t hear her door open but her small footsteps announced her as she approached the kitchen.
“What are you doing here? I mean still” she said going to drop the plate of food untouched. Her nose a little read and hair packed in a loose bun.
“Waiting for you” I said following her to the kitchen and stood behind her. She bumped into me as she turned. She avoided looking at me and was going back to her bedroom.
“Debbie, Debbie!” I called taking her elbow.
“You should go home. We can continue this to tomorrow”. She dismissed, removing her hand from my grip.
“You have not eaten. I am taking you out” I said calmly as she turned to look at me in long jeans and black T-shirt. Perhaps an assessment?
“I am not asking. Get dressed” I commanded as she looked at me, puzzled.
She disappeared into her room. Minutes later, she was out and I slowly released my breath. Until she came out, I wasn’t sure she had not locked herself in.
“Make it worth the effort” she said as a small smile appeared on her nude lips.
“I will” I said as she led the way, the gentle sway of full hips in loose white cotton trousers impressing me.
The drive to Doms&Mikes was quiet and I studied her stiff posture as she looked out of the car.
“Doesn’t feel like a good place for my mood. I heard of a suya place with excellent grills. Yasuha I think” she said refusing to look at me.
“Hmmm, I didn’t put you as a suya-eater and it’s Yahuza” I stressed and she smiled, finally looking at me.
The open fire grill produced sweet smelling aroma as we found a slot and parked in the garden. The Yahuza spot in the CBD was filled and had to wait after placing our order. She dug in immediately the Hausa man handed her the polythene bag and laughed at the horrid look on my face when she caught me looking at her. I looked around to find stares and finally got caught up in the moment, reeling in laughter.
“What did you do that for?” I asked as we got into the car.
“I was hungry” she laughed again as we drove off, my car now smelling grilled chicken and onions.
“You should eat yours” she encouraged, chewing seductively – the only thought was covering her mouth with mine. She saw the look in my eyes and chewed some more. Was she responding?
“So, what’s the deal with First Homes?” she asked as we drove past a developing estate.
“Projected sales per quarter is not meeting target. The company cannot afford to make second installment unless the marketing firm raises the figure” I answered her as I decided on a whim to take her sightseeing. The Residential Estate sitting on 2 hectares in the heart of Abuja, few kilometers to the White House and accessible through the Kubwa-Asokoro highway had her eagerly pumping the chicken in her forever moving mouth as we gave the Estate a tour.
A closer inspection of one of the completed prototype had her yawning and I knew she was tired after the attack on the chicken and the drive.
“Let’s take you home” I suggested and she nodded.
“I am so going to regret this” she said tapping her stomach as we drove back to the house.
“Sleep it off” I said and we laughed, the car growing quiet.
“So this new Davido, who is he?” she asked, making a conversation.
“How should I know?” I teased her and she laughed, her small sounds getting me excited.
“You should” she insisted as we drove into the compound and to her parking spot.
“Well, I don’t” I replied getting down from the car.
“Somehow I think you know” and she walked up the few steps to open the front door.
“Still sleepy?” I asked, wanting the evening to continue.
“Not really” she said as she unlocked her door.
“Can I come in?” I said and she turned to face me at the request. I was close to her now and towered above her.
“Sure” she replied, eyes staring into mine. I could see a little hesitation in her eyes, a little fear maybe?
“I am going to kiss you now” I voiced, looking at her eyes. I saw her blink.
“We are colleagues Vince” she said, trying to side step me but I moved in front of her.
“I know” and with that, I held her eyes as I placed a gentle kiss on her lips. She froze on contact with my lips, holding her breath and raising her shoulders rise up. I deepened the kiss when she opened her mouth to take in air and was rewarded with a small sigh as her hands came to rest on my shoulders in what felt like a little invitation before she pushed me back, her lips bearing my mark. She tasted of grilled chicken and something else. Fear? Regret? And why was she suddenly stiff?
“Goodnight Vince. Thanks for a wonderful evening” and with that she turned and escaped into the house. I chuckled at myself, her quivering lips still tingling on lips. If there was anything I wanted more was her lips and I was sure going to make them bear my mark for a long time.
Love on the 25th is written by Uneñ Ameji, the author of Memoirs of a Justified Gold Digger. She is @UnenAmeji on twitter.
Have a good “economic” break.