I dug out my keys and dragged my feet to the gate. I had parked outside the previous day in the bid to preserve some space to be used at the party. I unbolted the pedestrian gate as quietly as I could and let myself out. The air was moist and chilly. I quickly got into my car and heaved a sigh of relief. It was a Sunday and I silently promised myself a marathon sleep. I ached all over and could not help resting my head on the steering will. My phone buzzed. It was Eddie. I wasn’t sure I had the grace in me to spend what energy I had left on a husband who was as absent as grey hair on my head. I silenced the ring and put down my roof mirror. I hope that’s what it’s called. Anyways, I took some wet wipes from my pigeonhole and wiped my face clean of all the makeup that had formed a horrid mess on my face. I still had a bottle of water from the previous day and I gulped half of it down. I still felt very groggy and needed to get home as soon as possible before I passed out on the wheels.
The traffic was light and I was so grateful. I don’t think I would have been able to handle Lagos traffic. Somehow my mind drifted to coffee. A friend of mine had mentioned this place in Victoria Island that had spectacular lattes. I couldn’t remember the name but she said it was somewhere around Kofo Abayomi so I set out to find it. I drove around for five more minutes before I spotted the shop, I hoped. I grabbed my purse and picked up a pair of flip-flops from the backseat. The aroma of hot pastries and the brew of coffee hit me hard in the face as soon as I got in; I almost staggered with pleasure. I don’t know if their stuff tastes as good as it smells but at that moment, I just wanted to stand and inhale. The décor was commendable; dark wood, upholstery of diverse textures, mirrors and beautiful bulb holders. It had a homely touch to it and it was surprisingly warm. Not so warm that you start to sweat but warm enough that I didn’t wanna go back outside. I realized I had been standing at the entrance for almost a minute. Thankfully, the place wasn’t buzzing with people so I didn’t get to feel embarrassed. I found a table set for two chairs and made myself at home. I was getting weaker by the second and reminded myself that I had to get going as soon as possible. I began to scan through the menu on the table when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and there was Amanze and his bright eyes looking down at me. My heart missed three beats and I think my intestines shrank or something. My pulse was definitely at 100km/h. I quickly remembered how much of a mess I looked like and wished to just vanish into the thin air. “I think you’re stalking me” I squeaked. His laughter was rich. “You look like a mess… a beautiful one though. I never noticed your eyes beneath all that eye shadow” he said still retaining his smile. He pulled out the other chair and sat opposite me. I immediately noticed the scar at the base of his neck. It looked like it had been stitched. He had what looked like two-day old stubbles and his hair was slightly tussled from sleep, I guessed. He was wearing a sleeveless cotton shirt and sweat pants. On his feet, he wore a pair of Nike sneakers and I could see the cables of his ear phones from peeking out of his right pocket. He smelled strongly of deodorant, perhaps, axe. He had sweat on his brows and biceps and back. I was still weak but I definitely had the energy to stare at a beautiful man on a Sunday morning. “You know what I said about your eyes, it was supposed to be a compliment.” “Thank you. So umm…you run every Sunday?” “As a matter of fact, yes. I attend the 4th service at my church so early morning runs or walks on Sundays have become a habit.” “Oh I see. I just dropped by to get coffee. I hear they have good stuff here” I said picking up my purse in the bid to leave. There was something about this man that made me feel uneasy in an exciting way. I hope you can understand that. “Come on now. You don’t have to leave. I can go if you’d rather be alone. Maybe give you a call later on” he said and grabbed my arm gently. I froze literally. The first and only time I had reacted this way to a man was when my husband kissed me for the first time. His countenance changed immediately; he must have sensed it. It looked like guilt, like when a person thinks he must have hurt another one. What was wrong with me? Whatever I was going through was none of his business and he didn’t deserve for me to act as though it was. “I’m sorry. I’m just a bit jumpy. I have had quite a night.” All of a sudden, fatigue hit me like a wave of strong currents and it suddenly wasn’t about last night or Edikan’s calls or even the fact that I had been losing it slowly for some time now. It was about everything. I knew it was coming; a great flood of tears so I put my hands in my face as soon as I sat down. As I anticipated, the tears came. I couldn’t control them but I made great effort not to make any noise. So I sat there silently and cried while this stranger sat opposite me, probably not knowing what to do with me, a woman who he barely knew. I heard him move away from the table and felt shame wash over me. I probably freaked the poor man out with my drama. I still couldn’t raise my head but I was done pouring tears. I thought about my kids and remembered that Nini had to be taken back to school today. I had forgotten to tell the driver to come get her. I had to make the phone call before it was too late.
I looked up just in time to see Amanze drop a latte and a thick layer of paper towels on the table. I quickly picked up a paper towel and dabbed my face with it. “I’m a strong woman. I don’t know what just happened here” I said quietly. “I’m not patronizing you when I say we all have those moments.” He said with a smile. This time the smile wasn’t smile. It was as though he was smiling just because he had too. He soon lost the smile and uncapped the latte carefully. “Here. This is the best you’ll ever have in Lagos. And it’s my recipe. I’m the only one who gets this here” he said as he handed me the cup. I took it cautiously, careful not to let our hands touch. I closed my eyes and brought the cup to my lips…then I paused and inhaled. The brew was heavenly and I just took it in for a few more seconds before I finally took a sip. By the time I opened my eyes, he was gazing at me with a kind of intensity I cannot quite explain. “So you’re a romantic. Not everyone knows how to or can even take coffee in this manner.” I smiled. “My father, I learnt it from him. He never takes coffee without inhaling. Some people might think it’s a rather weird or nasty habit but I find it as sweet as he was.” I was still smiling but he wasn’t. “Was?” He asked with slightly piqued interest. “He passed away last year. I try to hold unto what I can about him.” I looked out of the window, still smiling. I could never talk about my father and not smile no matter how bad things were. By the time I turned back to him, his arms were crossed across his chest and his eyes were still intensely fixed on me. Boy, this man is bold! I quickly looked at my left hand; I wasn’t wearing my ring. I had pulled it off the bid to keep it safe when I got really busy yesterday. Maybe that was why he was so comfortable looking at me this way; there was nothing visible to stop him. He didn’t strike me as a wild or loose person but for some reason, I always remember that I am married around him. It would have been nicer to actually feel married but… I changed the line of my thoughts. I didn’t have more tears to spare.
“I can tell you’re a really strong woman and that what went down here was a sea breaking through a wall of ice you’d built. You had to have been expecting that for some time now. I don’t mean to pry” he added and picked up his own latte. I couldn’t say anything to that so I just sat, sipping on the coffee he’d handed me a few minutes ago. He was right, this was the best latte I had had in my entire life. I was tasting something I couldn’t quite lay a finger on but I wasn’t in the mood to know what it was. So I inhaled and sipped and inhaled again. “So are you gonna tell me why you look like you just woke with a hangover…not that the sexy, messy look doesn’t work for me.” I gave him a look that said “you’ve got guts.” He quickly figured that out. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t quite think of any synonym for the word.” He looked really sincere and I found that funny. I laughed and he smiled. “Now we’re making progress.” I told him about Dami’s party and the role I played in it and about Nini’s health. He was so easy to talk to. He told me stories of from his childhood and how he’d left his job as a Senior Manager at an investment bank to own restaurants. Just like before, we talked about a lot of things. “You mentioned that Aniekan had to be taken back to school and that you needed someone to drop her off” he said veering off the current track of our conversation. “Umm… Yes. There’s this driver that I call to take them to school but I’m yet to call him and he’s on high demand. I even doubt that he’d be available since I haven’t called until now.” I said as I began to worry. “Relax. There’s always a way around these things.” He said, sipping on his latte. “Sadly, I can’t think of any at the moment. I should get going.” I braced myself to stand. “She goes to Corona at Ogun right?” I had to look surprised. Where was he going with this? “Yes. Why?” “I could offer but that’d probably freak you out. We are not there yet.” I considered the offer in my head. First of all, I didn’t really know this guy and with all the silent drama we had going on, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get my kids involved. Besides, you don’t just take a person’s Sunday away from him like that. On the other hand, I could really use his help. “Thanks for offering. Really. But I think I’ll try to reach that driver first before exploring other options. Thank you for coffee and pardoning my breakdown.” I said with a smile. He was still looking at me in that very intense way, like he was trying to figure out something on my face. “That’s okay but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll be just a phone call away.” he said rising to his feet. I have always had it for men just about his height. I even married one. I smiled at myself and turned towards the door. He was right behind me. When we got to the door, he held my arm to stop me and then opened it for me. Outside the building was slightly windy for some reason. I quickly caught a wisp of his scent and it was musky with a zing of sweat or I dunno… but he smelled good alright. Shit! I probably smelled like crap. I unlocked my car and got in. He leaned in over my window and smiled. “I hope you have a hard time finding someone else to go on this trip.” I nodded said thanks and shoved the gear into reverse mode.
Hello my lovelies, I hope this made a good read. I know it's high time we got to the end of this series. I will try to bring it to the table more promptly and consistently.
As usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how things are unfolding.
Stay in love,