There are three things that make a woman feel like the luckiest woman alive when she wakes up on a Saturday morning. One is having spent the night in Benny’s arms. Two is having Benny in your kitchen making you breakfast, after having made you dinner the night before. And the third is spreading out the clothes Benny loaded into your medium-sized washing machine while you were still sleeping.
Nora ticked off the list as she spread out her machine-wrung clothes. Gosh, she loved this man. Benny—Bennett Kachi-Williams—wasn’t the typical African man, not by a long shot. He operated from a different plane from any man she knew, including her brothers, many male cousins and even her father. He didn’t believe in house chores being just for the woman and he didn’t consider the cooking, a woman’s art alone. He enjoyed cooking and he cooked better than most women she knew, herself inclusive. But that was a secret she never openly admitted. He cared nothing about running errands for her, if she needed him to, and never considered any sacrifice too much for him to make for her, or for anyone he loved.
He was the best there was. Every single day—and night—with him proved that over and over. He loved her, cherished her and if it didn’t sound blasphemous, she’d brag that he worshipped the ground she walked on. Nora let out a trickle of laughter as she pinned with a peg the last cloth inside the basin, before picking it up and walking back to her apartment. He loved and gave freely and the only thing he asked in return was to be loved in return.
She dumped the basin on the back veranda and strolled into the kitchen where the tempting aroma of fried tomato-eggs and plantain was sizzling up the air. She’d woken up to find him already busy in the kitchen, multi-tasking with cleaning up and setting up the preparations for breakfast. He was an early riser and unless she woke up with him and lured him into sleeping-in, he rushed out of bed and got busy with the chores of the day.
“Chai, it’s no wonder my hips are getting bigger and rounder by the day. Benny, if I end up looking like Yokozuna before our wedding day, you must marry me o.”
Benny angled his head to laugh into her face. With her in his life, he would want for nothing else, was the thought that struck him as he took in her average-height, curvaceous frame, his eyes lingering on the well-rounded hips she was moaning about. Darn, she made him want to do things that was yet illicit as far as their unmarried status was concerned. It was illicit, forbidden, a sin, yet he could never resist her, no matter how often he told himself that maybe they should wait until their wedding night.
“Uh-uh, I see that look in your eyes and whatever you’re thinking, you’re in it alone.” Nora thrilled at the desire that darkened his eyes despite her protest. “My little mermaid is still smarting from your assault last night and you’re not coming anywhere near it for the next one week.”
“Damn! What manner of wild man assaulted the little mermaid?” Benny widened his eyes in mock horror. “Men! Uncontrollably insatiable when they see a beautiful damsel like the mermaid.” He shook his head. “Anyway, good thing Dr Benny is here, and along with his doctoring-tools too. I am almost done here, so you just go into my examining room, take off your clothes and spread apart your legs for the doctor’s unobstructed perusal, okay?”
Nora snorted. “Na only Dr Benny, call me Dr Kachi-Williams too.”
“He’s always along, Miss Ezenyere. We are a team and don’t go anywhere without each other.”
Nora cackled at his solemn tone. “Clown! You just keep Benny-Mac and Dr Kachi-William’s doctoring tools far, far away from me and my little mermaid. We’re in what is called ‘recovery isolation’ for the next couple of days.”
“I never heard that term in medical school. Must be a recent invention. I’ll have to research on it.” He finished dishing out their food and arched his brows at her. “Eating in the living room like civilised folks or bushmen-style on the bedroom floor?”
“Bushmen-style.” She twinkled, never one for table etiquettes when they were alone.
“Run along and spread out the mat then, Chef Benny coming, fast and direct, with a scrumptious breakfast and a dessert of love.”
“Stuff the dessert of love, Chef Benny, I’m watching my weight.” She called out cheekily as she marched off to her bedroom.
She pulled out the mini Persian rug and spread it just a few feet from the bed, then she dragged over her handbag to unpack it. She was going for walnut-brown for the first three days of next week. She was just pulling out the last of its bits-and-pieces when Benny walked through the door with a large tray containing their foods and huge mugs of hot chocolate drinks.
“Bag-switching?” He expertly crunched to his knees before setting down the tray. “I don’t know how you women survive with all this drama, a man has got only one bag, and that is his wallet. And he never switches it, whatever the day of the week.”
“You be grateful, Benny, that your wife-to-be only believes in switching bags twice weekly, unlike the fashionistas out there who do so on a daily basis.” She nudged aside the stuff at her feet and reached for her own mug. “Gosh, I love the way you make chocolate drink. Rich, dark and creamy—like someone else I know.”
His body reacted at her deep moan and sultry tone but Benny only grinned. “My goal in life is to make sure you keep liking my style.”
Nora took a slow sip of the hot chocolate. “I love your style, even when they leave the little mermaid bruised and battered.”
Benny put on his solemn face again. “You must allow Dr Benny take a look at the little mermaid. I think I have just the right balm for her ailment.”
The only response he got was a loud snort as she grabbed her fork and stabbed a plantain slice and some egg sauce. Grinning to himself, he started to bend his head to do the same when he caught sight of the plastic-like Ocean-blue business card on top the stack of diaries and all-what-nots.
“Fancy-looking card. Does one’s business card actually indicate one’s business sense and success rate?”
Nora angled her head to the left and frowned when she saw the business card Tim had passed her yesterday before leaving the bank. Darn it! She planned on getting rid of it and not displaying it like a gold-mine treasure. Damn thing must have clung to her little diary.
“I guess they must make some kind of difference if people take the time to create them.” She kept her tone light and casual as she squashed the temptation to pick up the card now and shred it with her bare hands. No need sending Benny a-wondering. “Over enthusiastic customer left it on my desk yesterday. I think he has a vision of bank staff and other customers patronising his business.”
“Then he should have flyers made and not fancy business cards.” Benny lifted his fork and started eating. “Maybe I should make a fancy card like this one. I’ll go for chilli-red though—Dr Bennett Kachi-Williams, Obstetrician and specialist in little mermaid balm-application and reconstruction. What do you think?”
“Reconstruction, huh?” Nora felt relaxation slither through fibre of her being. “I’ve got my eyes on you, Dr Bennett. I’ve got my eyes centre-fixated on you.”
“My dream come true.”
The trickle of laughter tittered out of her lips at the sheer mischievous gleam in his eyes.
Since Dr Benny was also a hot-hand when it came to the lifespan of mobile devices, in Nora’s opinion, after breakfast and dessert time saw them driving down to the Konwea Shopping Plaza to purchase a new phone. Whilst he perused the BlackBerry shelf of the store they were in though, she kept herself entertained with the tempting display of super-sleek Samsung phones, debating intermittently if she should talk him into getting one instead of his usual BlackBerry or just buy herself one… after all, one can’t have too many phones these days.
“I’m an Apple-believer myself these days, but Samsung is not a bad choice.”
Nora managed to stop the shriek at a stifled squeak as she whirled around. It was Tim. Standing too close behind her and looking handsome and cocky in baggy shorts, long-sleeved t-shirt and trainers. “Creeping up on people, Tim?” She gritted, casting a quick glance at Benny. He was busy studying the manual of a Blackberry while nodding to whatever the sales-rep was telling him.
“I didn’t creep. I saw you and simply walked over.” Tim’s eyes gleamed with amusement as he looked her over. “You are looking great. Love the bob punk-styled weave. You were always on braids before… the change looks good on you. But love the way you fill out those leggings and long top more.”
Nora compressed her lips and squelched every part of her that wanted to thrill at his compliment. “Would that be you trying to flirt with me, Tim? Please don’t be annoyingly predictable.” Nora had the pleasure of seeing the cocky grin dim. Jerk! “If you will excuse…”
“I wasn’t flirting with you.” He had been. Tim knew it but wouldn’t admit it now she was bouncing off the cold shoulder. “I was just being friendly.”
“We are not friends.” Nora hated him. “We were never friends. We were once in a relationship that you abruptly ended. Now, there is nothing between us.”
“I’m sorry I…”
“I did not ask for an apology.” She tossed another glance in Benny’s direction. He was still preoccupied. “I don’t need it. I just want you to back off of me and to let me be.”
“You must hate me so much now.”
Nora’s eyes flickered. “I don’t hate you.” She did. She hated him with every fibre of her being. She hated him for how carelessly he’d treated her and how viciously he’d broken her heart. “I am completely indifferent to you.”
“Indifferent?” Tim angled his head. “Indifference would spell complete lack of interest, your eyes possess a different light in them. Fiery flickers of anger and maybe even hate… but indifference? I don’t think so, Nora.”
“I don’t care what you think or do not…”
“Baby, I’ve been looking for you.”
The soft spoken words with a lilt of worry cut off Nora’s low-toned tirade and she had to force herself to literally take a step back and then inwardly do a step-back as she met the faintly-frowning assessing gaze of the slim, long-legged lady in black floral dress.
Tim stifled his scowl as he turned to face Sharon. “Since you were busy with your hair extensions selections, I figured I might look at some phones.”
“Oh. Okay.” Sharon gave him a smile but her eyes drifted back to the pretty, curvy lady who was slowly turning back to the phone display shelf behind her. “Hello. I’m sorry if I interrupted your conversation with Tim. I just got worried when I turned in one of the stores below and he was gone.” She let out a laugh. “I’m Sharon. Tim’s fiancée.”
Nora took the outstretched hand. “I’m Nora. Pleased to meet you.”
“Hey, sweets, what do you think—should I do the Leap again or go for the Priv?” Benny asked as he walked over, head bent as he continued to study the two phones in his hand.
“And that is my fiancé.” Nora shot the lady a camaraderie roll-of-the-eye before turning to Benny. “Since your hot-hands just smothered the life out of a BB Leap, I think you should go for Priv. Then again, you could try other brands. BlackBerry is no longer the alpha and omega of smartphones’ world, you know.”
“BlackBerry rules in my world.” Benny sent her a wink and then turned to the man and woman beside her. “Hello. I’m Benny Kachi-Williams. The luckiest man on Planet Earth for having this bundle of hotness as my soon-to-be-wife.”
Even though he quickly sheltered it, Nora had the pleasure of seeing Tim’s instant peeved look and to deepen the displeasure, she laughed up into Benny’s face and slipped her hand around his back, leaning into him. “I think I am the lucky one. Good men are so rare.” She crooned.
“We are all lucky, I guess.” Tim flashed an easy smile. “I am Timothy Kalio. Tim to friends and family. And the sweet lady beside me is, Sharon Agbai, my fiancée. Which is why I say, we are all lucky.”
“Indeed we are.” Benny passed the phones to one hand and shook Tim’s hand first and then Sharon’s. “Pleased to meet you guys. Anyone shopping for phones as I am? Nora calls me the hot hands that smoothers phones—as I’m sure you heard earlier—so, I’m getting anew one.”
“Was just browsing and my lady here only came in to find her man.” Tim said with a light laugh. “We’ll leave you guys to making your choice between Leap or Priv. But if I were to make a recommendation, I’ll say go all the way with an iPhone. No better experience.”
Benny pursed his lips. “Ah! Maybe. But I’m a loyalist. BlackBerry shot me into the world of Smartphones, as long as they are still in business, I’m their biggest fan and customer.”
“The choice is yours, man.” Tim nodded and turned to Nora with an affable smile. “Nice seeing you again, Nora. You all have a good day now.”
“Have fun with your shopping.” Sharon beamed at them, taking the hand Tim extended to her.
“I think iPhone laddies and ladies are a tad too pretentious.” Benny narrowed his eyes at the departing couple. “All of a sudden, there’s nothing better than it… how come?”
“Because the people at the Apple tower performed some magic?” Nora nudged him forward. “If you are going to remain a die-hard BB user, then let’s go pay for the Priv. But just so you’re warned, dragging me in here has set off the craving for a new handset.”
Benny snorted. “Stop casting blame and admit the truth. You’re just jealous I’m going to be displaying a new device while you six-month old Samsung has already lost its shine.”
Nora pouted. “It’s actually seven and half months old and that is like mid-fifties in phone-years. Benny-Mac’s woman wants something new and sleek.”
“Maybe if Benny-Mac gets treated real good tonight he just might hear the pleas of his lady-love.” Benny winked before turning to the attendant. “I’m going with the Priv. So please, have the Leap replaced on the shelf.”
“All right, sir.” The young man took the phones and turned to write out a receipt.
“By the way, who was he?”
Nora swept her gaze back at Benny. “Who was who?”
“iPhone Tim.” Benny jerked his head in the direction of the door. “You two were talking before his fiancée came over.”
So he had noticed? “Oh. Nobody important. Just an old friend. Knew him way, way back before he left Asaba to travel outside the country. I believe he just got back.”
“Ah, Jando.” Benny inclined his head. And for him that was the end of Timothy Kalio. “You really serious about wanting a new phone?”
“Right now? No.” Nora shook her head, smiled up at him. “But in the near future? Possibly. I’m upping my treat-Benny-Mac-good game, so the next time I mention it, there won’t even be the merest hesitation.”
“I love a girl with a full-proof plan.” Benny grinned, his body already quivery in anticipation of another sure to be passionate night.
Though Nora was, at all appearances, at ease and carefree, she was anything but. Twice now, she’d prevaricated and kept the truth from Benny. She didn’t even understand why. She and Benny had met three months after Tim had brutally broken up with her and she was still hurting badly. She’d told him about her ex but she hadn’t mentioned names. He had become her friend, comfort and rock. But it had taken her a long time to really fall in love with him. A fact she knew that Benny had sensed, and had sensed that it was because of the ex she couldn’t forget for nearly a year of their being friends.
Nora didn’t feel anything for Tim anymore—except hate—but she didn’t want anything ruining her perfect happiness or making the man she loved now worried. Asaba might be a small town but she was certain she won’t be meeting Timothy ever again.
Fate cannot be that cruel.