“I want you in my life,” he told her as soon as her eyes fluttered open. She gazed into his eyes and remembered why she came close to ripping his shirt off him last night. His kisses and the ways his fingers traced her chin had kept her awake till nearly dawn. It was her last shred of willpower that she gathered like armaments in her palms to push him away.
“I’m sorry about last night,” Kanyin said looking away from his naked chest and hoping that his opening statement was not a fantasy planted by her own subconscious – a result of her anxieties about another looming birthday as an unmarried woman. He was propped on his
elbow beside her on the bed, a grin spread across his face. The sky-blue khakis clothing his legs were missing the black stitched leather belt she had thought of unbuckling last night.
“No, babe. I should be the one apologising.” Leke’s grin thinned. “I should have been here on time. It is not every day a beautiful girl drops everything to spend a weekend with me. The miles between Manchester and London no be small thing.”
He apologised about his lateness as if the polite one yesterday hadn’t sufficed. A business emergency he had to attend to and then the busy traffic from Central London. Kanyin understood, smiling through it all. His politeness happened to be one of the reasons she gave him her direct email address when they met on the set of the history documentary, Kevin Sutton, her boss was producing.
To cater to the black Scottish presenter’s request to have her hair done by her London-based hairdresser, Lekky, she’d booked the hairdresser’s services via email. And on the first day of the shoot, when a burly Nigerian man with a chiselled, moisturized face called Leke turned up instead of a lady in heels, she’d expected his ideal partner would be the tiny-waist male models plastered on the pages of GQ magazine. She pulled the duvet cover closer to her neck, even though she loved the way his dark-brown eyes wouldn’t let go of hers, but knowing how flimsy her nightie was made her whine about the time. His face fell but the glint in his eyes didn’t wane completely. It was as if she had him in her palms, able to tease at will and soothe with the stroke of her thumb.
“I’m mad about you,” he drawled. “You shouldn’t play games with me Kanyinsola.” “I know.” “Is it because I have a child? I didn’t think my having a child would be a problem for you.” He sat up and rested his back on the headboard, his face wearing a scowl that she was unfamiliar with. “I like Becky.”
Becky happened to be one of those step-daughters that most step-mums-to-be would want to marry their father. Living miles away in Nigeria with her aunt and at an age where Kanyin was sure by the time she’d started popping out little Leke lookalikes, the girl would be too busy finding her Mr Right to squabble with her.
She explained to him that they needed more time. Yes, they’d had a few dates; short ones they forced to fit in with their manic schedules and the distance between their cities of residence. But there were still things they didn’t know about each other. The small forgettable things that shouldn’t matter but yet like big things, can have significant impact on marriages forged on the purest of love and naivetés. “Get to know me, hun. What I like and what I dislike.”
He moved towards her. “I know one thing you like, apart from chocolates and cappuccinos…I know you like me.” With that, he bent his head to hers and kissed her, erasing the tiniest doubt she had left. This time when he pulled away, it wasn’t because she wanted him to.
They had croissants and coffee together at the quaint café, which was just a five-minute walk from her cousin’s flat. Kanyin loved that they walked hand-in-hand and she didn’t hide her contentment when her cousin called. He spoke with her, too, to thank her for letting Kanyin stay in her flat.
They arranged an evening date to take place in the cosiness of his Essex home. He told her he would be doing the cooking, something she’d doubted long before he mentioned he patronised the Nigerian and Caribbean take-away joints in his area. Their kiss, when he said, “See you later,” was brief but passionate.
It was as if he knew she had started to miss him when a delivery man dropped off red roses wrapped in patterned cellophane. To my girl- the note read.
She knew he would still be at the salon and decided to go there first to show him her interest in him was parallel to his. Donning her Lipsy dress, her hand shook so much that a crease or two appeared at the base of her dress. Her hand kept smoothing the crinkling in the taxi. She’d only been inside Afro Head once – in the quiet latter of a Saturday dawn – on one of those rare days she’d combined visiting her cousin and her man. But this time she felt a new sort of elation as a younger woman ushered her upstairs to the manager’s desk in the women’s section.
Perhaps it was because the woman at the desk looked a decade older that she suddenly felt silly in her red dress and Louboutin platforms. She should have called Leke to tell him she was on her way. She asked about their boss, claiming he did her hair last time she was in London. The lady at the desk volunteered to do her hair, saying that Leke wouldn’t be in that day. Kanyin decided she could fit in a conditioning treatment to tend her natural curls before her departure on Monday afternoon. The older woman’s smile was too warm. She couldn’t turn down her offer, knowing it was a chance to find out all the different layers to her man.
It was when Kanyin told her her name that the lady looked at her as if she’d just announced she’d come from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs department. It was that look that made Kanyin flag down a taxi – after leaving the salon – to take her to his flat in Essex, not caring if she ended up at his, a couple of hours earlier than planned.
Spices wafted in from the kitchen as he let her in and he took the ruddy pashmina draped around her arms. The sight of him with rolled up shirt sleeves and wet hands tugged at heart, battling with the theories assembling in her head in rapid precision.
“What is going on, Leke?” she asked. “I went to your salon. The woman at the desk was weird with me. Please tell me you are not one of those bosses who sleep with their employees.” His eyes moved from her to the bottle of red on the glass table in the centre of the room. “Shall I get you a glass, babe?” She recognised something in his eyes, something that made her ask her question again, her voice refusing to hide her hysterics this time. The yell pushed him out of his quietness. “She is my wife,” he announced. “And she knows about you.”
***Editor’s Note: Don’t worry we won’t leave you hanging here. Make sure you keep BN Prose bookmarked because we’re bringing the second part of this piece next week.