Talking to her step-mum most often brought her clarity and Kome figured she needed some in the matter of her feelings for Theodore. She usually tried to be independent where her personal life was; but sometimes, like in this case, a neutral-standing person might see what you are not seeing.
Or at least, they might tell you a truth you are not willing to tell yourself.
Her father’s home was in the Ikoyi part of Lagos. She still spent odd weekends there when her alone state became too boring. Her youngest sister, half-sister, still lived fully at home. The rest of them came and went as they pleased, except for her eldest sister who was married with her family and no longer based in Nigeria.
“How are you, Muna?” She smiled at the young housekeeper. “Mum in?”
“Yes, aunty Kome.” Muna secured the solid wood door. “She’s in the greenhouse.”
Her step-mum was a florist. She raised and sold her own flowers and ornamental plants. The greenhouse at the back of the house was her at-home project where she raised special plants that needed the most care. Kome found her in the large greenhouse, in her garden work clothes and on her knees tending a row of orchids.
“Evening, mum.” A smile played about her mouth as she entered the greenhouse.
“Well, look who’s turned up this weekend.” Mena Douglas cast a glance over one shoulder and beamed a smile. “You’re looking good. Fuchsia always suits you.”
“And you make gardening look like a job created for royal ladies.” Kome grinned. She was a beautiful woman, with a body she worked hard to maintain. “Ono out for the evening?”
“You know it.” She clipped off a stalk, set it in her basket and shifted to a different row of plants. “Wanted to see her?”
“Nope.” Kome shook her head. “Just visiting generally. That’s a pretty set.”
“They are.” Her step-mum agreed. “They are a new species of geranium I am propagating. Mrs Olusakin already wants them for her new office complex.”
“She would.” Kome chuckled, settled into the cushioned bench.
“I know that look.”
Kome smiled at the narrowed eyes. “What look?”
“The one where your eyes appear focused but your mind is wandering.” Mena retorted and turned back to her work.
“There’s a look for that?” Kome teased.
Mena chuckled, smoothed a hand over the flwoering geraniums and turned to look at her. “What’s on your mind?”
“I think I like someone. A he someone.”
“You think?” She arched her eyebrows.
“I know.” Kome amended, and then grimaced. “What I don’t quite know is if he likes me.”
“Who is he?” Mena picked her watering can and started showering the roots of the plants.
“Theodore Malik. He’s an accountant. Chartered. He works as the Financial Comptroller for Loanan.”
“Loanan, not bad.” Mena commented. “A career accountant. Seems to be doing well.”
“He doesn’t come from money, and doesn’t have much of his own.”
“Well, look at you. You’ve become a snob.”
Kome laughed. “That’s what people will say.”
“Are you asking what I will say, Kome?”
Her step-mum was always direct. Kome nodded. “I guess I am.”
Mena dropped the watering can, slipped off her gardening gloves and came over to sit beside her. “I have always believed, and you should know that, that a person’s character and integrity matters more than their bank balance.” She gave a winking smile. “But then, money never hurts anyone, so it’s good to be on the hunt for it. And it looks to me that a man, who I’m thinking must be in his thirties, is well on his way as a good hunter if he’s already the Financial Comptroller of a company like Loanan.”
“Is that what daddy will think too?”
“Come on, you know your father.” Mena’s tone was chiding. “He rose from the bottom himself and believes more in hard work than anything else.” She pursed her lips to the side and studied her. “What are you really worried about, Kome?”
“Definitely not about his bank balance. Or that you or daddy will object.” Kome admitted. “Or even about what people will think, or say. I think my position and wealth scares him. I feel like he likes me too—that might be wishful thinking, so beware.” She added on a laugh.
Kome sighed. “If he is scared away by who I am, then I don’t stand a chance of ever getting close to him.”
“Then you will have to reassure him that he has nothing to be scared of.” Mena said.
“Reassure him—how?” Kome frowned. “Because I’m always friendly to him.”
“Tsk.” Mena made the dismissive sound with a wave of her right hand. “Friendly makes him think you’re just being nice. Make a move.”
“Make a move?”
“Don’t look so flabbergasted.” Mena chided, and laughed. “Women have been doing it—and in generations past too. They just weren’t this bold and outright as your generation tends to be, that’s all. Make an invitation. It’s like leaving a door ajar and waiting for him to nudge it wider open and enter.”
“Make an invitation.” Why hadn’t she thought of that? “Of course, invite him somewhere—but where?”
Mena chuckled and gave her a rub on the hand. “That, I’m sure, you can figure out.”
“Well… yes. Of course.” She will figure it out. Kome beamed at her step-mum. “See why you’re my go-to woman?”
“What are mothers for?” Mena grinned.
“You’re certainly one of the best in the team.” Kome gave her a quick hug and then angled her head. “You didn’t ask me what he looks like.”
“Tall, dark, big.”
Kome laughed. “You know me so well.” She got up. “Got to run. I’m meeting Linda at Rosellas.”
“How you put with that shallow girl, I can’t fathom.” Mena sniffed, getting up too.
Kome shrugged. “Oh, with Lauren now permanently in the States, it gets lonely without a friend.”
“Then make new friends.” Mena robustly recommended.
“Guess I’ll have to work up the time and effort to do that.” Kome smiled and hugged her. “See you next weekend—if I am bored.” She winked.
“Maybe if you make your move, you won’t be bored.” Mena winked back.
“Maybe.” Kome agreed and turned to walk out of the greenhouse.
“God, this place’s fast becoming a jungle.” Linda hissed out the words and beat off an invisible fly with her wide-brim hat. “Look at the hoard of people everywhere.”
“They are here to enjoy the ambiance and serenity same as you are.” She had learned to ignore Linda’s whines and nose-in-the-air attitudes.
“I am not enjoying anything. And there is nothing serene about a throng of children, and uncontrollable adults, screeching at the top of their voices.” Linda grumbled, and whacked the air with her hat again. “The heat is so unbearable. I don’t know why you choose such stuffy, tawdry places for your leisure outings.”
“It is not tawdry and I love the free earthiness of it.” She loved being among people, and kids best of all. “As for the heat, it’s everywhere and that can’t be helped.”
“It won’t be in a well air-conditioned room.” Linda muttered. “I need an ice-cream. My throat is parched and I feel like I’m in the desert, except that it is overcrowded. Want one?”
“I won’t mind. But I mind having to go all the way back to get it.”
“Then stay here. I’ll be back.” She marched off in a huff, swiping around her hat as she went.
Kome chuckled and turned, and zeroed in on Theodore. He was in somewhat loose denims and a free-flow Polo shirt, and heading in her direction—with his eyes down.
Kome quickly patted her hair down and wished she had done better than leggings and a lose top. If only she could swipe out her mirror to check her face. She’d eaten some peanuts, hope none was hanging to her teeth?
Oh drat it! Here he comes. She wiped out her big smile and called out. “Hey, Theodore.”
He stumbled. Literally did, and then gaped at her. “Oh… Kome.” His surprise shifted into a smile. “Hey, imagine running into you here.”
“Imagine that.” She covered the distance between them and tried not to sniff him in… too much. He smelled so nice. So fresh. So male. “You were going to sleep in all day to get over your fatigue, wasn’t that the plan?”
“It was. And I did.” He smiled.
And his dimples winked—and made a mush of her heart.
“You look nice. Relaxed.” He complimented.
Kome laughed. “I am surely feeling relaxed, and so do you. I mean, you look nice and relaxed too.” She made a show of looking around. “Here with someone? People?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I’m alone. I’m not much of a social animal.”
“Me too.” Gosh, they had that in common. “I don’t socialise often. My weekends are most often spent alone… unless I head to my parents or my girlfriend has a free time.”
“So no gentlemen lining up to take you out weekends?”
His voice was as teasing as his smile. “None.” Kome said, smiled. “None that I’m interested in accepting their invitation, that is.”
“Oh.” He slid his hands into his pockets and shifted on his feet. “Ah… Kome, I was…”
“Kome!” Linda’s shout broke him off. “What are you doing over there?”
Darn it! Kome silently cursed. “Ah, you were saying something?” She’d be damned if she was going to allow another moment to be ruined.
“I was… ah.” He cast a glance over her shoulder and then shook his head. “Think I was just going to wish you a fun weekend.”
No, darn it, you weren’t! “I am. I mean, I’m already having a fun weekend.” She was making that invitation and leaving ajar that door. “I’m, in fact, having a get together tomorrow at my place. I’d like you to come.”
His surprise was quick. “You want me to come—to your place?”
“Yes.” Kome nodded, smiled. “I’ll send you a PM with the address.” Then she turned the smile at a darkly frowning Linda. “Aw, you got me chocolate, my favourite.” She slipped the ice cream cone off Linda’s hand. “And oh, this is Theodore Malik. Theodore, my girlfriend, Linda Okeze.”
“Nice to meet you.” Theodore dipped his head and then turned to her with a smile. “I… ah, I’ll see you tomorrow then. Continue to enjoy your evening.”
“Yes, see you tomorrow.” Kome stared after him and wished she was walking beside him—and holding his big hand.
“Stop looking at him like he’s a walking Denzel Washington.” Linda chided with a snooty hiss.
“I wouldn’t look at Denzel Washington that way.” Kome said and took a lick of her ice cream. “Denzel Washington is so not my type.”
“And Fat Joe is?” Linda taunted.
“His name is Theodore, and yes, he’s so my type.” She aimed in the direction of a bench and lowered into it. “I like him.”
“Really?” Linda gaped at her. “Why? Whose son is he? Don’t think I know any Malik.”
“I don’t know who his parents are. I like him for him.” She smiled her triumphant smile at the move, and progress, she’d made. “I invited him over tomorrow.”
“Christ, Kome, why would you do that? He’s not your class.” Linda made a clucking noise with her tongue. “He’s not anything you should be looking at, let alone associate with. I bet he’s a gold digger type who feeds off wealthy women.”
No, he’s not.” Kome countered, chuckling. “He can’t even work up the courage to ask me out—that is if he’s interested to do so.”
“Of course he’s interested in asking you out.” Linda retorted impatiently. “And pretending he’s scared to talk to you is his ace game to get you to fall for him.”
“Theodore isn’t the game type.” Of that, she was certain. “I wonder what his favourite food is.”
“Anything heavy on carbs and sugar.” Linda said with a derisive snort.
Kome ignored her. Linda would always be the snobbish type who never saw beyond their nose. She would go with fried rice and chicken. It was one of her best meals and you can never go wrong with rice on a Sunday Not in Nigeria.
“Invited me over to her place.” Theodore repeated and tried to sound believable. He still found it unbelievable. “Said she’s having a get together.”
“Get together? And she wanted you there?”
Theodore nodded. “Seems so. Said she’ll send me a PM on her address.”
“Aha! So she didn’t give you her address, huh?” Declan dipped his head in a sage nod. “Don’t wait for it. It’s never coming. She was just being polite and she will have a polite excuse for why she forgot to PM you next time you run into her.”
“You ought to have your foot in your mouth.” Theodore opened the private message that just blinked into his Twitter account he’s been running through since their encounter. “She sent the address with a note on the time. Said informal dressing.”
Theodore swiped his head up and gaped at Declan. “What?”
“Don’t go.” He repeated. “In the evening tomorrow, send her a PM apologising for not making it and give her some excuse about family emergency.”
“And why would I want to do that?”
“It’s best for you, Theo. She won’t ever be interested in you… not like that.”
“I am going. And no, I don’t need you giving me your pessimistic opinion.” Theodore shook his head at whatever he was going to say next. “I am in love with this woman…”
“Well, I am.” Theodore insisted. “I am more likely to fall deeper in love with her than out of love with her. So I’m gonna take this chance… don’t know if it’s a chance or…” He lifted his shoulders. “She invited me to a get together and I am going. If nothing else, I’ll have her close to me for the first time on a Sunday afternoon.”
“You’re leaving your heart open to be squashed, man.”
“It will be squashed either way.” Theodore shrugged. “At least this way, I would have had some kind of special moments with her.”
“Lord!” Declan muttered.
He shouldn’t go empty handed, Theodore was already thinking of the next day. He should act the courteous guest and take a gift along. And it doesn’t have to be just one gift. His mind started to work on what might fit into a hamper.
It wasn’t too early for a hamper.
Dedication: For all September celebrants. Wishing you love and all happiness.