He was excited and Jeth couldn’t help it. She was at last giving him a chance to come into her life. She didn’t have to say anything yet for him to know that if she’d accepted to go out with him, she was invariably accepting to let him into her life. And if she was accepting him into her life, she would someday let him into her heart.
He hoped so—and much sooner than later.
He pulled up beside the wrought iron fence and switched off the engine of his car. He felt nervous. It surprised Jeth that he was. He wasn’t usually the nervous type. And it wasn’t excitement breeding the nervousness. He was just nervous; nervous that he might disappoint her. Nervous that this evening might not meet her expectations of a first date. Many people, women especially, put a lot of score on how a relationship would turn out from their judgement of the first date.
Maybe he shouldn’t have picked seeing a movie for their first date. It was so clichéd and predictable, wasn’t it? Maybe dinner at some classy restaurant would have been better. That too was clichéd, but at least it sounded more mature and original.
Too late. He’d made the invitation and she’d accepted—which was the most important factor. Jeth forced himself to relax, stepped down from the car and aimed towards the black painted pedestrian gate.
He knocked on the bronze wood door a neighbour had pointed out.
She opened after about a minute and her easy friendly smile drove away whatever lingering nervousness he still held inside.
“Hello. You’re right on time. Punctuality is always an attractive trait.” Shiloh stepped back from the door. “Want to come in a minute before we get going?”
“I’d like that.” Jeth gladly accepted and followed her in. “Wow! This is an elegant room. It’s bold, bright and beautiful. I like it.”
“Three B’s, how lyrical. Thanks for the compliment. My mum is an interior decorator, so this is her handiwork. She’s not at home presently though.” Shiloh waved to the sofa. “Please, have a seat. May I offer you a drink?”
“No, thanks. I think I’ll hold off till after our movie.” He sat and regarded her with smiling admiration. “You look elegant too, subtly so. A simple dress, simple shoes and simple makeup and hairstyle. Yet, pure elegance. I like the look.”
“Thank you.” Shiloh kept her smile demure even though a trickle of pleasure rustled through her. “You look nice yourself. No three-piece suit today. That’s a relief.”
Jeth laughed. “Well, I can’t do three-piece suit on a simple Saturday outing. I’ll save that for out dinner date.”
“Dinner date? Let’s get through movie today before diving into that ship.” Shiloh picked her handbag from the leather club chair. “Since no drinks, I believe we are good to go.”
“Lead the way then, pretty lady.” Jeth made a gallant gesture as he rose.
“I have to lock the door, so it has to be you leading the way, kind sir.”
“Ha, a gallant move that didn’t quite work out.” Jeth grinned, stepped past her and towards the door. “Do I stand a chance of remedying this failed attempt at impressing you if I hold open the car door for you to enter?”
“Oh, you just might.” Shiloh kept her tone light and amused. “Although buying me a gigantic bucket of popcorn has a better chance of working since I simply love keeping my mouth busy while entertaining my eyes.”
“Gigantic bucket of popcorn? Done.” Jeth waited for her to go ahead before following her through the pedestrian gate. “Any other heads up?”
“Don’t stick your fingers into my gigantic bucket of popcorn.”
“No sticking my fingers into your gigantic bucket of popcorn. I think I can manage to curtail my crawling greedy fingers.” His grin broadened at her soft chuckle. “At what point do I get to break my account to get you something?”
Shiloh let out another soft chuckle as she got into the car. He did hold the door open for her. And she did find it impressive and also sweet. She also found his subtle masculine cologne… interesting. She shouldn’t be digging into deeper words.
“Break your account to get me something? Hmm, that would be when I finally make up my mind between the BMW X5 M and Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.” She rolled out a sigh. “Of course, the temptation to have the two lingers but… a girl’s got to be economical.”
“Economical—I like that in a woman. Particularly in a woman making her choices between a BMW and a Porsche. Well, your present indecision surely provides me the time to bounce up my account. Of course, I can’t decide now between robbing a bank or just selling off every single property left by my dear old late father.” Jeth cast her a side glance. “I like your sense of humour. It’s more witty than funny. And I also like your soft-toned laugh.”
“Why, thank you, kind sir. But I wasn’t joking about the BMW and the Porsche. Can’t make up my mind which a man should be getting me.”
Jeth grinned at her snotty tone and dramatic sigh. “And I wasn’t joking about breaking my account. A man is not man enough until he has proven himself capable of looking after his woman. So my old brother taught me.”
“He is right. And I’m not your woman.”
Torn between amusement and irritation at the confident rejoinder, Shiloh chose to switch the topic. “Talking about family, how’s your sister and her baby?”
“They are great.” He picked his phone from the console. “Go through the albums. My brother-in-law has been sending photos. They are both so cute; I can’t get enough of looking at them. They are just too perfect.” Jeth laughed. “That is excited Uncle-me talking, so bear with me.”
“It’s understandable given how long you’ve all been waiting for them. Besides, babies generally have a way of eliciting uncontainable excitement in people.” His easy gesture of handing her his phone surprised her but Shiloh kept the surprise off her face and tone. “So, when is excited Uncle Jeth planning on going over to see the new-borns?”
“Don’t know yet. But soon.” Jeth looked at her. “Want to come along?”
“Me?” Shiloh snapped up her head and stared at him. His eyes were back on the road but he was smiling. “Ah, well, I think this is a family thing and… uh, I won’t be due for a leave for a long while yet.”
“I accept the second excuse but the first is not valid. Babies are a universal thing and I think you sincerely share in our joy, so that sort of makes you a part of the celebrating family.” Jeth shot her a grin and it pleased him to see the concentrated frown creasing her forehead. “We’ll go see them when you can take that leave. She… they’d all love to meet you.”
“Ah…” Shiloh didn’t like the meaning beneath those words. “You go see them first. I’m sure she can’t wait to have you there with her. Oh, but look at this picture of them in their nature-made birthday suit! Gosh, I don’t know why babies look so adorable naked.”
She was letting him in. But only slowly. Jeth didn’t mind that. So long as she’d opened the door, he would make sure it stayed open and that he walked in through it.
HE let her choose the movie to see and she went with The Wedding Party, which turned out a really good choice as they both enjoyed the movie with its array of amazing actors and even more amazing scenes. He did buy her a gigantic bucket of popcorn, the biggest size Genesis Cinema offered and he did refrain from digging his crawling greedy fingers into her bucket of popcorn—even when she offered to share.
He was the perfect movie partner—Shiloh was seriously refraining from saying date. And that was because she didn’t want to start considering what they were doing dating… yet. She wasn’t entirely comfortable with the whole “boyfriend” moves he was making. She wasn’t ready yet to leap from friend to boyfriend. Not so soon. And not after one date… outing.
He suggested they stroll across the road to the new Sweet Tooth place and she acquiesced because she was curious to see the place and not because she was enjoying his company too much to end their outing. That was Shiloh told herself and she refused to let her head tell her differently.
“This place is amazing.” He observed as they sat down with their ice cream.
Shiloh nodded. “It is. I heard that the proprietor had everything brought down from overseas. Talk about having money and having it in big bucks.”
“Indeed.” Jeth agreed. “But then, it’s really all about investing and getting the right attention. And they are getting that “right” attention.”
“Yeah, just look at the number of people here. And the kids section is just brilliant.” Shiloh stared through the glass windows at the kids playing outside. “It’s funny how we’re all complaining of recession and a place like this is never empty of patrons.”
“Well, it’s a two-side thing. On one side, we have the people who aren’t part of the recession-complaining crew and so, can afford a place like this without blinking. On the other side, there is the we-are-part-of-the-recession-complaining-crew but we’d be darned if we don’t save our last buck to get into a place like this.” Jeth grinned. “Now, for that second side, being here is more than a status thing. It’s more of a definition that no matter how the nation turns out, they are survivors.”
“Wow, that is some analysis.” Shiloh said, a teasing smile shaping her smile. “So, to which crew do we belong?”
“The save-my-last-buck crew. After today, I’ll be drinking garri to recover from this ice cream expedition.” Jeth replied with a wink.
“I hear you.” Shiloh scoffed.
“Hi, Jeth.” A young lady, young like in her very early twenties and in colourful legging and a black long tank stopped by their table. “I thought that was you when I was getting my ice cream.” She gestured with the cup of ice cream in her hand. “How’ve you been? Been a while we saw, right?”
“It has and I’ve been great.” Jeth gave her a friendly smile. “How are you, Chinny?”
“Great too.” Chinny beamed and gestured again with her cup of ice cream. “I came with some friends, so I’ll just get back to them and allow you continue with your evening. Take care.” She sent Shiloh a friendly smile before striding away.
“Friend of yours?”
“Yes. Friend from church.”
Jeth smiled at the meaningful expression. “It wasn’t like that. I never walked up to her and said anything to her. She’s too young and not my type. Actually, I counselled a teen group last year and she was part of the teenagers who made my group.”
“Oh, so she’s a teenager. Figured her for early twenties.” Shiloh made a movement with her shoulders. “And I wasn’t suggesting anything. Just making an expression, that’s all.”
“I think she’ll be just twenty now.” Jeth said and then gave his head a slight shake. “And I know a knowing look when I see it. Anyway, maybe it’s expected given the way I came at you. But…” he imitated her earlier shoulders-lift movement. “I haven’t really done many relationships all my life. I’m something of a relationship recluse.”
“Really?” Shiloh watched him with interest. He was really good looking. In a calm and studious kind of way.
“Really.” Again, Jeth shifted his shoulders. “I’ve kind of had the luck of meeting ladies who wanted to taste the pudding before it was done and well…”
“You’re the kind of guy who believes in tasting the pudding after it is done.” Her smile was half teasing.
“That’s the only way it should be eaten.” Jeth was smiling too. “Not that I’ve always kept to that eating principle.”
“Ah, a repented un-done pudding eater. Interesting.”
Jeth liked her twinkling smile and her teasing tone. “It wasn’t all that interesting, that part of my once perverse life. In fact, it is quite boring a tale as it comes down to only two eating counts.”
“Two?” Shiloh’s brows slowly arched. “You are saying you have only dated two women all your adult life?”
“I’ve only had sex with two women all my adult life.” Jeth said plainly and shrugged. The first… well, she actually foisted herself on me. I’m not shifting blame here.” He hastily clarified. “But it was more of her idea than mine and it was her doing more of the work.”
“And the second?” Shiloh asked softly. “Was she your first love?”
“First love?” Jeth let out a soft laugh “I don’t think I believe in the first love notion. I think of it as some kind of emotional trap to keep people, ladies especially, hanging on to what is gone.”
She sounded like she did more than see. “Anyway, she wasn’t a first love or even a love. I wasn’t in love with her and she wasn’t with me. It was just sex. But like God was desperate to save me, same month our relationship started, I responded to an altar call and that became the end of her and me.”
“Hmm.” Shiloh scooped her melting ice cream into her mouth, swallowed and worked a faint smile. “God is always desperate to save us. It is us who take too much time responding to his beckoning.”
“That is true.” Somewhat embarrassed that he’d turned their first date into a boring sexual experience chronicle, Jeth switched the subject, asking gaily. “Tell me about your family? Is it just you and your mum? You only mentioned her back at your place.”
“No, it’s not just her and me.” Shiloh shook her head, widening the smile. “There’s also my brother. He’s presently in Ukraine studying though. I… we lost my father years ago.”
“I’m sorry.” Jeth said quickly.
“No, it’s all right. It was a long time ago, twelve years ago actually.” She sent him a smile. “But we’re a close-knit family, my mum, my brother and I.” And she focused, as much as she could, on telling him about them.
HER mum was home when he dropped her off, so she introduced them.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” Jeth courteously dipped his head. “And thank you for permitting your daughter to go out with me. It was an honour and a delight to have her spend this evening with me.”
“Permitting her?” Joy chuckled. “She is an adult and doesn’t quite need my permission in these things anymore. But I’m glad you found her sharing your company a delight. Won’t you sit down and maybe share dinner with us?”
“I implore that I take a rain-check on that gracious invitation, ma’am.” Jeth declined with an apologetic smile. “But I must join my older brother for dinner.”
“Then we will do it another time. Hopefully, there will be another time.”
“I sincerely hope so, ma’am.” Jeth dipped his head again and turned to Shiloh. “I’ll call you when I’m home, Shiloh. Thank you for a lovely evening.”
“Thank you too and drive safe.” Shiloh walked him to the door.
“I like him.” Joy declared after he was gone. “He is so courteous and quite handsome.”
“Yes and fun to be with too.” Shiloh lowered into the sofa. “He’s only been with two women all his life.”
“Ah, I see you two had an informative evening.” Joy’s eyes instantly turned scrutinizing. “There are men like that. Not overly into relationships. But why has that put a frown on your forehead? Are you thinking he might be after a virgin bride?”
“Let’s be honest, mum, most church brothers are after virgin brides.” Because she hated to judge herself by such standards, Shiloh made an impatient dismissive noise. “I am not clear what he is after, or what I might be wanting, but I don’t need the hassle of an almost-virgin man right now.”
“You are assuming there will be a hassle… as you put it.”
“Mum please, there’s always a hassle when a man is expecting one thing and he ends up not finding it.”
“But you are not certain what his expectations are, are you?” Joy smiled at her scornful roll of the eyes. “Why worry about what shoes to wear to cross the bridge when you have not gotten there, Shiloh?”
“Because the only shoes I have on now are very delicate and I don’t want them getting ruined.”
“I don’t think he is after breaking your heart, Shiloh. He looked more to me like a man after winning it.”
“I don’t know, mum.” Shiloh sighed after a moment’s silence.
“Want a suggestion?” Joy asked and gave it. “Take it one step at a time and enjoy every single step. No hurry, no hassle. Just be you and let him be him.”
“Well, I can’t be any other but me, can I?” Shiloh muttered.
“No, and that is good.” Joy retorted and grinned at her exaggerated sigh. “Now, since I made dinner while you were rolling around town with our dear brother Jethro, you will do the dishing and also the washing afterwards. And while at it, you can start filling me in properly on how the date went.”
“It wasn’t a date, mum. It was an outing.” Shiloh pushed off the sofa. “And I’ve been doing the washing alone since Jamie left.”
“Which is just as it should be.” Joy relaxed back and grinned. “And it was a date. An outing between a man and a woman with the prospects of building a relationship is a date.”
“Thanks for the definition, mum. But I prefer the safe term: outing.”
“I did too until your daddy ended up on one knee and I was walking down the aisle of a church.”
Shiloh half smiled at the teasing rejoinder, staring at her image in her half-length mirror. “I still miss him.”
“We all do.” Joy said from the living room.
Yes, they all did. They would always miss him, her father and her one-time best friend. He had left them too soon and sometimes, even now when things were getting better, she still wished he hadn’t left at all.
Her message alert beeped out and she jerked down the handbag still clinging to her shoulder. It was a message from Jeth.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in the land.
Shiloh’s mouth curved into a small smile. He was plainly telling her that their season has come and he was doing so with a verse from the Songs of Solomon.
“Is that a sign, Lord?” Shiloh whispered, and then with a sigh, set down her phone and handbag and started undressing.
Did I say it will end in Chapter 10? I don’t think so now. Let’s keep going and see *wink*. Na this Jethro fault… mtcheew!
Dedication: It’s your turn March celebrants and I wish you love and happiness.