CHAPTER ONE

 

LOVE is out there. Be bold. Be adventurous.’

That was what she was doing, being bold, being adventurous and going after love—which was, at present, right in front of her now. Only instead of being cuddled in his arms, sprawled out on his bed, he was sitting across of her in a restaurant, looking dissatisfied. And instead of the declarations of love she’d anticipated—well, longed for really—his tone was outright serious and a trifle annoyed. While her suitcase, which should be in his bedroom, was sitting cold in her boot with no hope of being taken down. Not by him, at least.

“You know you should have called me before coming down.”

He had said that before. It was the first thing he’d said when she walked into his office. “I thought a surprise would be nice.” Zinny smiled, bright and upbeat. Which wasn’t how she was feeling at all. “We haven’t seen each other in two months. I missed you.”

“I have been busy.” Kene dodged the hand she was inching towards his and picked his drink. “You shouldn’t have taken the day off work just so you can drive down.”

“I wanted the full weekend with you. At least today and tomorrow.” She looked at him, an attractive man who knew he was attractive, and Zinny tried a soft-spoken tone. “I thought we could spend some time together. I really did miss you, Kene.”

Kene looked away from her eyes. He would not allow his conscience prick him.

“Still, you shouldn’t have just turned up without first letting me know.” He complained. “What if I wasn’t around? What if I’d gone on an official trip? Or had a family emergency?”

Excuses. Excuses he’d been making and she’d been afraid to listen to. “But you’re here, and so am I.” Because her heart was sinking faster than a water-logged ship, Zinny picked her own glass, but twirled instead of sipping. “Haven’t you missed me at all, Kene?=”text-align: justify;”>“I…” Kene lifted his shoulders. “I’ve been busy, Zinny. My new position means bigger responsibilities. So much depends on me. I can’t just be…” he shrugged again and his words trailed off.

Her heart pummelled to the bottom of the sea—where her stomach was churning and her hope was being snuffed out. “We haven’t had much time together since you left. The distance is taking its toll on us… on our relationship.”

“It’s not the distance affecting us, Zinny.” Kene wasn’t evading her eyes now. “We’re just not working out.”

“We are not?”

“No. We are too different. We think different. We want different things.” He made a gesture with his hand. It was almost apologetic. “You are too static.”

“Static?”

He made the vague gesture again. “You know, too humdrum. Unadventurous.”

“Unadventurous?” She’d gotten into her car, driven all the way from Benin to Awka at the prompting of a zodiac prediction—and she was unadventurous?

“I just find our relationship too monotonous.” Kene continued. “Boring.”

“You find me boring.” That was what he meant. That was what he was avoiding to say.

“I… I find you different from what I want.” The apologetic expression turned defensive. “I want something different. Something more stimulating. Interesting. Someone more audacious.”

“More audacious?” She’d crossed two states, one of them having a bridge that had given her a bad moment, just to come see him. “Kene…” Zinny breathed. Her tone was too pleading. She regulated it and started again. “All right, we can work at it. I can work on myself—if that’s what is needed. I can improve and be more… stimulating.”

“We can’t change our basic nature, Zinny. We are who we are.”

He didn’t want her, or them, trying. “What are you saying, Kene?”

“We need different people in our lives.” He took her hand. A quick touch and then let it go. “You need a different kind of a man and I need a different kind of a woman.”

“Do you already have that different kind of a woman?”

“Zinny…” Kene sat back and picked his drink, sipping quickly and shrugging at same time. “That’s not what’s important. I just think we need to… take a break.”

Take a break. Another term for breakup. “Right. I, ah—I should go.” She reached for her handbag. God, she’d bought the darned David Jones leather tote because he liked trendy stuff. “Have a… an interesting life with your kind of woman.”

“Zinny.” He took her hand. Held it this time. “You can’t go now. The sun’s gone down. You can’t drive all the way back to Benin today. Stay the night.”

“With you?”

“I… ah, if you like.” His quick smile showed the dimple on his side-mouth that often made her heart flutter. “I’ve got a spare bedroom.”

The one last sex thing. “No, thanks. I will go.” She tugged off her hand. “Goodbye, Kene.”

“Zinny…” Then he shrugged and rose. Stuck his hand into the pockets of his D & A fitted suit trousers. “Okay. Have a safe trip back.”

Safe trip. That was what he wished her—a safe trip to where she’d come from. Zinny slammed her car door shut and pulled the Avalon back into the highway. She’d driven a hundred and eighty kilometres to hear that she was static and a humdrum.

A humdrum?

God, he considered her boring and unadventurous and she’d thought she was being adventurous driving all the way down east to claim the love that was out there.

Love is out there her ass!

Zinny muttered a curse and stopped the sting behind her eyes from watering. She wasn’t going to cry. Darn it! She was too angry to cry. He’d been ignoring her, not picking her calls, barely responding to her messages and had been reluctant to come see her since he left Benin—and yet she had refused to read the signs for what they were.

No, she had read them. Read them for what they were but had refused to comprehend their meaning. Because she was afraid of winding up alone again. Because she was afraid of another ephemeral relationship. Because she had an unknown astrologer—or whatever she, or he, was—giving her true love readings that were likely as ambiguous as the forecasting of a fortune teller.

The prediction of a turning point experience was why she’d quickly said yes to Kene when they’d met at the airport where she was seeing off Ella five months ago. Another prediction that taking chances would uncover new things was why she’d jumped into his bed barely a week later, tossing aside her decision to stay sex-free until marriage after her last relationship had ended disastrously. And now on the promise of a love out there, she’d gotten into her car and driven all the way from Benin, only to hear him tell her that she was a humdrum.

God, she was such a tin-head. That was what she was. A tin-head that never learned because it was empty. He didn’t think she wasn’t stimulating. Uh-uh, he just didn’t think her stimulating anymore after the multiple ways she’d allowed him jump her before his exiting Benin. Mmm-hmm, her mother always said it, and she was so right, a man will never linger and pay for what he has gotten for free. But did she listen to her mother?

No ma’am, she never listened to real people’s words of wisdom. She preferred to listen to the conjectures of a mysterious astrologer. Fool! That was what she was, a tin-head fool. Zinny punched hard on her horn, muttered another curse and obstructed the Honda City priming to overtake her.

She was done being a fool though. Oh yes, she was. And heck no, this wasn’t one of her after-breakup-venting decisions. She meant it this time. The cookie-jar is shut. Oh yes, she was shutting it. Shutting it until she gets a ring on her finger—a wedding band ring on her finger.

“Welcome to the sex-free new era, Zinny. Embrace it and get used to it.”

She blinked, bit her lower lip and heroically repressed the tears. Another relationship has ended, she wasn’t going to cry. It was a new chance. A fresh opportunity. She would do better—darn it, she would do better! And Kene be damned to hell!

 

SHE was cursing him again when she drove into Asaba. Asshole was right, she couldn’t drive all the way back to Benin this night. It wasn’t that much of a distance but she didn’t drive well at night, light beams glowing into her eyes truncated her driving.

What was she going to do now?

Zinny flicked a glance at her wristwatch and grimaced at the time. Twenty-something minutes past seven. Best thing was a hotel. A cheap one. She’d wasted enough good money on this trip. She pulled off the highway to inquire which direction she should head for a hotel with cheap-rate rooms. Settling for the direction with rooms ranging from three thousand naira, she got back on the road and headed towards the north end of the small state capital.

The hotel wasn’t bad. It was nothing grand but it was clean and averagely decorated. So was the room she got on the first floor of the traditional straight-up three-storey building. Zinny bathed, was going to change into the nightwear she’d brought along, but the sight of it restored the annoyance she’s managed to shelf.

It was a new one. A satin strap-sleeved mini number she’d bought specifically for the night she’d be spending in Kene’s arms. And the darned thing had been pricey too.

“And to what end?” Zinny snarled. To be told that she was a humdrum? “Waste!” She hissed, flung the gown on the bed and yanked her suitcase closer to grab something else.

Furious, restless, and tearful afresh, she yanked on a pair of denims and a Polo top. She needed a walk—to clear her system and to get her head back in better working order.

She marched out of the hotel. Followed the security guard’s counsel to head right if she wanted to see a little of the city. She wasn’t interested in seeing the city. She wanted to purge her system of all thought of Kene, and of men in general. Jesus! She couldn’t believe she drove all this way just to see a man who had not been communicating with her for weeks. Like what had she hoped for? That one look at her will remind him how things used to be between them?

Oh yeah, she’d hoped for that all right. Zinny let out a mocking curse and shifted out of the way of a honking bike-rider. She was beginning to act desperate. It shamed her even to think about it. God, her mother had taught her to have some pride for heaven’s sake. Why the heck couldn’t she ever remember all her mother’s teachings and adhere to them, eh?

She halted at the increasing sound of loud dancehall beats and frowned at the opposite side of the road where it was coming from. It was a lodge—Regal Crown Lodge, the fluorescent-lit sign hanging above the gates said. The gates themselves were open, and people, young people mostly in their twenties and clad in jeans and denims, were going in and coming out as they pleased.

Zinny considered the front concrete brick bungalow-like building with narrowed eyes another moment, then made up her mind. Waiting for two vehicles to sweep by, she crossed the road to the opposite side and walked through the open gates. There was some kind of bonfire party going on with an actual bonfire lit on the side of the bungalow building and frenetic dancing young people wriggling around it and screeching at the top of their voices along with the pounding music. REGAL CROWN IS 10 hung across the bonfire in glowing neon lights.

Hmm, an open party to celebrate their tenth anniversary. Proprietor must be generous, Zinny mused, strolled further in, gliding through the crowd, avoiding bumping bodies and generally checking out the place. A gigantic drum stood at the east-end from the bonfire and a Regal Crown labelled T-shirt clad young man was cheerfully handing out drinks to anyone who came by. No one was sliding out money to hand him in exchange, Zinny noted and veered in that direction.

“Drink?” Another of the Lodge’s T-shirt clad young man passing with a tray demanded.

“Hmm?” Zinny stopped and stared at him.

“Drink.” He repeated, picked one of the plastic cups from his tray and passed it, grinning as he pivoted past her and got lost in the crowd.

Ah, tiny cups of wine were also free. Interesting. Zinny raised the cup to her mouth, tasted, decided she liked the wine with its tang of alcohol and emptied it. Someone beside her tossed their plastic cup in the direction of the bonfire and earned the cheer of his group of friends. Zinny tucked up her shoulders, raised her hand and flung her cup—and she got a cheer too. Grinning, she turned in the opposite direction, swiped another plastic cup off a tray and grimaced when she felt the vibrations of her cell-phone.

Swaying a little to the loud beats, she slid out her cell-phone and then ground her teeth. “Oh, it is you, Mr Astrologer, huh?” She’d decided, on the spot, that whoever was behind the love readings short-code messages had to be male. Men were generally sadist. Sadists and assholes. Didn’t this one just ruin the mood she’d managed to get back to happy-mode?

She read the new reading and muttered a foul curse under her breath. “You are full of predictions, aren’t you?” She grunted, snatched another plastic cup off another tray, ignored the narrowed glance the waitress aimed at her and downed the drink. “Steal a kiss under a moonlight sky and win a beau?” She re-read the reading and sneered at it. “Yeah right. You think me gullible, don’t you, Mr Astrologer? Well, I must be since I pay a weekly subscription just to get your crappy readings. Love readings my ass!”

She bared her teeth at her phone’s screen, glared at the belly-button flashing girls who stared weirdly at her as they jiggled past. If they thought she was nuts muttering to herself, she didn’t give a mini-second damn.

“I know all about your readings, Mr Astrologer. I should, shouldn’t I?”

Broiled and furious energy bouncing through her, she pilfered another sweeping-by tray, took a generous gulp and then grimaced. It was some kind of beer.

“Where the heck is the wine?” Zinny muttered, then directed her dissatisfaction at Mr Astrologer. “A turning point experience and I jumped into a relationship with him. Take a chance and you had me diving into his bed. Be bold and adventurous—I get into my car and head east. And what did I get for believing in all your crappy predictions? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. And now, you say steal a kiss and win a beau?”

Like it was a damn lottery. She hissed, then shook her head at a couple smooching where the generating plant was droning like an overfed bullfrog.

“Why the heck not? This is one prediction that will cost me nothing. There are a bunch of guys swaggering around the place anyway, in all shapes and sizes.” She pursed her lips at a group of really young men who should probably be in their beds, or somewhere close to it at this time.

“Nothing works in this world as it should anymore.” She grunted and cast her eyes skyward. “Oh there, we have a moon up there. Damn, I don’t know how you do it—are you a witch doctor or something?” She tucked away her phone and glumly stared at the hyper-mood crowd. “A kiss, huh? That will cost me nothing. I mean, what’s one more whack prediction to end a whack day, right?”

Scanning for her lucky victim, she swung around, bumped forward and right into a guy with a tray. Zinny grabbed onto him.

“Hi. Listen…”

She blinked repeatedly to try to make out his face under the hazy lights. Well, that didn’t matter. She focused instead on the mouth level. That was where the action was going to take place after all. Ample, lush lips. Not bad.

“Hi.” She greeted again, aimed a big smile.

“Ah… hi.” He was staring down doubtfully at her.

Probably wondering if she was going to solicit him. Well, she was, in a way. Zinny bit back a chuckle and focused—on the lush lips.

“I need to steal a kiss.” She announced.

“What?” He peered at her. “Are you drunk, lady?”

Gosh, what a voice. She could kiss the voice too, if that were possible.

“Not yet. But I might be later.” She probably was well on her way there. She was sort of feeling lightheaded. “I’m going to kiss you. It’s not something I do all the time… or at all.” She giggled and bit her lower lip. “But a girl’s got to be adventurous, right?”

“Uh… are you with someone?”

He really thought her nuts. Better. He’d forget the nuts lady who kissed him out of the blue quickly.

“No, not with someone. Here alone. I think I should kiss you now.”

Since he was a head taller than she was, she had to tilt to her toes. And since she didn’t want him resisting, she had to grab his T-shirt and yank him down.

“Hey, lady…”

But the rest of whatever he was trying to blurt out was swallowed by her lips as she captured his mouth and held on to it.

Hmm. Damn. Lush lips were really nice. And tasted good. He had a mouth meant for kissing, Zinny thought and kissed him longer than was probably necessary.

Finally, she let him go and stumbled backward. She moistened her own lips and blinked, twice.

“Ah, well, thank you… I guess.” Her head felt fuzzy. She took another stumbling step back. He was staring astonishingly down at her. “Um… goodbye.”

She turned and started towards the gates she’d entered in from. That surely drew the curtain on her whack eventful day. She was going to plummet into her hotel room bed and forget today ever existed in the 2016 calendar.

***

KISS BY MOONLIGHT… *Coming SOON*

***

I am sorry, folks, that LSDL haven’t been posted. I stayed awake all through last night (seriously did), trying to work on a design. I am obsessive like that… if I can’t find what I’m looking for, I don’t rest. Today, I am exhausted. No one can cheat nature. I need to calmly, sanely and orderly write the 2nd episode of LSDL. So, guys, be patient with me and give me until tomorrow.

While waiting, have a sneak-peek at one of the Novellas coming out SOON. Trust me, it is SOON. And Kiss By Moonlight promises to be an interesting love story. A heart review period for the heroine: Zinny. And a chance at true love for the hero: Tasie.

Enjoy the glimpse.

Cheers.

*New eBook: *OPERATION STOP THE WEDDING!*