They were at a restaurant, one not afar off the Marble House building. Kome had a feeling he wanted to remain at a close proximity to their offices as was possible. She understood that. His position was sensitive enough that he might be needed at any time. But that he’d chosen somewhere else, anywhere else, and not the cafeteria for their lunch was a pleasure.
She didn’t mind the place. She never cared much about places or things, just about moments. And she had this moment with Theodore. A moment he had initiated. That was what made it special. It wasn’t the place, or the time, or the food they were eating—it was having to be with him, because he wanted to be with her.
“You have a look in your eyes.”
Kome surfaced from her thoughts and smiled slowly at him. “I do? What kind of look?”
“Dreamy.” He smiled too. And his dark brown eyes warmed. “Wishful. Here with me, yet someplace else.”
“I am, or was, in my dreamland. It’s a world go to when I have many secret wishes.” She picked her glass of water and drank. Then she set it down and studied him. “You’re very observant, aren’t you? You notice things. You pay attention to details. Like the fact that I wear shades of white at least twice every week to work. Like hearing me say chocolate is my favourite. And now, noticing my look and reading it right. I think it’s an impressive quality being a man who is aware and sees things.”
“Being detailed is essential for an accountant, else he will get in trouble not noting those things that might contain loopholes.” He paused, his eyes steady on hers. “But maybe I notice these things about you because—I want to.”
“You want to?” Her heart did a jump in her chest. “You want to notice things about me—why?”
He stared at her for a moment. Then he moved his shoulders ever so casually. “You’re the kind of woman a man notices.”
“Oh.” She smiled faintly, picked her fork, poked it into her fish. “Most men, and people generally, don’t notice me. I mean, don’t notice people like me. Not really. They have us pegged. They have this ingrained idea about who we are. Daughter of a millionaire, has everything she wants, never has to work for anything. Can snap her fingers and the world is hers. Never has to know lack, pain, disappointment, heartbreak—practically has the perfect life. Hmm.” She gave her head a shake, cut the fish into her mouth and started chewing.
“But that is not you.” Theodore said after a moment of silence. “That is not who you are. And you’re sad that people don’t separate you from the generalities, and just see you.”
She stopped chewing, swallowed, and nodded. “Yes. That’s just it.” Her eyes narrowed in thoughtfulness. “You really are observant. Or maybe you know me better than most people do. At least, most people outside my family.”
“When you are enamoured by something, you usually look at it longer than you would necessarily do anything else.” He responded with a quiet smile.
“Are you enamoured by me, Theodore?”
He did not respond, not immediately. Then when he did, it was with a question of his own. “What is one thing about you that people don’t generally see?”
“One thing?” She pondered it. Not because it was hard to come up with an answer. But there were so many things, it was somewhat difficult picking just one. “That I am not just Collins A. Douglas’s daughter. That I am me—Kome Douglas. An individual. Just a woman.”
“So what is one thing Kome Douglas wants?”
“One thing Kome Douglas wants?” She laughed. “O, there are so many, but one thing?” She inhaled and then looked around. “Like being here, or any other place, for lunch or dinner, or for any kind of meal.” She shrugged. “If I were in my dreamland, where I make wishes and they come true.” She winked.
And he smiled. Ever so gently.
Oh, how she wanted to touch his face. Just caress the utter smoothness. “In my dreamland,” she went on, talking in soft tones, “when I am dining with a man, we are not at a restaurant, not one of any kind. We are two people alone somewhere, hidden away from the prying eyes of the world. We are on a balcony, a porch—a table is set, the sky is bright with stars, a candle on the table, two places set. Just for me and him. A simple dinner for two, no audiences. Just us.”
For the longest moment, he did not speak after she stopped talking. Just stared into her eyes, like he was lifting something out of her very soul.
Then. “Kome, will you have dinner with me?” He asked.
Her heart melted. “Yes.” She smiled. “When?”
“Tomorrow. I will pick you up. Seven-thirty p.m. all right?”
“All right.” She nodded, picked her glass of water and raised it to him. “Cheers, Theodore.”
He picked his own glass and chuckled before drinking.
She had a hard time deciding on what to wear. Kome had never looked on herself as the type to suffer what she liked to term: wardrobe confusion. But at the end, after two hours forty-five minutes of leaving the office early and going through more than half the dresses in her closet, she settled for a Jovani water-coloured striped fit and flare dress, accessorizing with simple jewelleries and a three-inch high Asos sandals.
She didn’t know where he was taking her, but she sort of had an idea though. He was a man who listened and who noticed details, so she was fairly certain her idea would be the correct one. And she was excited. Deliriously so.
“I am going on my first official date with Theodore, Ted.” She confided in her Teddy bear. “Isn’t it marvellous?”
Old Ted stared, eyes unblinking, back at her.
“I think it is too.” Kome beamed. Then sighed wistfully. “We had lunch together yesterday. It was my best spent lunch hour ever. We didn’t see today though. He sent a message with apologies that he was in a meeting. So sweet with his apologies like we had prior plans to lunch together. It was so sweet.”
Kome clasped her hands together and stared dreamily at her image in the mirror. “It was like that very first time we met. Him saying sorry over and over again and brushing aside all of mine. Telling me he was the one at fault. So sweet.” She sighed and looked at Ted. “His hand briefly touched mine that day and I felt something. I felt it, something I can’t quite yet define. Maybe tonight our hands will touch again—maybe. Then I will know.”
She looked at the mirror image again. “I want him to look at me and to see me. To see me, to want me—to love me.” A giggle floated out of her mouth, and her eyes twinkled. “Oh yes, Ted, I am thinking love. Have been thinking love a while now.” She winked at her image, turned and strolled to the bed. She picked her purse and bent to give old Ted an affectionate kiss. “Don’t go to sleep without me, Ted. I’m sure to have tantalizing news when I return, okay?”
Chuckling, she put out the lights and walked out of the room. The knock at the front door came just as she entered the living room.
“A man who’s always on time.” Kome gave him a slow smile when she opened the door. He had on a pair of simple black cotton trousers and a short-sleeved shirt. And looked so good. “You’re beginning to charm me, Theodore.”
He smiled, shyly at first, and then it dazzled. “I am honoured that you would find me charming, Kome.” He raised his right hand. There was a single rose strand on it. “For you. You are always beautiful. More beautiful than this rose.”
A ripple of so many feeling shattered inside of her. “Thank you.” She breathed in the rose. “Beautiful. You’re such a sweet man, Theodore. And believe me when I say that it is amazing quality in a man.”
“You leave me speechless, Kome. And before I start stuttering and ruin the gallant image you have of me, I suggest that we be on our way.” He crooked his right hand and held it forward. “Will you permit me to escort you, Miss Douglas?”
“I’d be delighted to be escorted by you, Mr Malik.” She slipped her hand through his and stepped out.
The door secured, they walked to his car and he very gallantly opened the door for her and shut it after she entered.
“You’re a careful driver.” She commented as they cruised towards the Lekki Phase 1 estate.
“When one is bearing a treasure, one must be careful with how they move.” He cast her a glance and smiled. “That would be me trying for a charming response, but the truth is that I am somewhat over watchful when on highways, or expressways. My immediate elder sister says I drive like a half-blind old woman.”
Kome laughed. “I don’t think it’s that bad. Or bad, at all. Still, I, um, do recall that my grandmother used to drive just as carefully before she passed on.” She added, tongue pushed against her cheek.
“Ouch! Why, thank you.” He shook his head at her with a mock glare. “Now, don’t get too comfortable on that seat, I can go from grandma-careful to fast and furious real fast. There’s a Michael Schumacher hidden somewhere in this big guy, I warn ya.”
Kome threw her head back in laughter. “Oh, I’m warned. But shouldn’t it be Vin Diesel or maybe Paul Walker hidden somewhere in you?” She teased.
“Uh-uh. It’s the real deal Michael going fast and furious on real tracks. That’s the kind of hidden talent I got inside of me.” He honked his horn and overtook a blue Kia hatchback. “See that? Uh-huh, that’s one of my secret moves.”
“Oh my, I was so nearly blown away back there. You can go that fast? Holy smock! I literally heard the whistle of the breeze.” Kome doubled over in her, clutching her stomach.
“Aha, I see what you’re doing here, Miss Douglas. I see it all right. Laugh it up.”
“Oh God, that got me in stitches.” Kome struggled to hitch back her laughter. “You’re so hilarious, Theodore, who knew?”
“And who knew you had such a beautiful laugh.” His eyes momentarily on her were quietly intense. “You have a big roaring laugh for one so slender built.”
“They tease me at home that it is the only big thing about me.” Kome said, feeling her heart flutter. “I don’t think it sounds very unladylike though.”
“I like it. It is natural, it is real, it is free.”
Something caught in her chest. “Thank you, Theodore.”
“Thanks are never needed when one only speaks the truth.” He turned his head, smiled at her before he punched on his horn. “We’re here. Top flat is mine.” He nodded to the one storey building.
“Right. Place looks nice.” She managed to move her eyes and to study the stone and brick layered building. “Your street doesn’t seem to have suffered the flooding.”
“We’ve been lucky. Better drainages possibly why.” He stopped the car at the side of the building and turned to her. “Ready?”
“Impatient.” She responded.
He chuckled. “You’re a woman who says your mind, aren’t you?”
“If it doesn’t hurt.” She smiled, reached for the door handle.
“I like it.” But he touched his hand on hers lightly to stop her. “Let me do it, Miss Douglas.”
And he got down, went around to her side of the car and pulled open the door. “Welcome to my humble abode, Kome.”
Still feeling that light touch, Kome curved her mouth in a demure smile. “Thank you, Theodore.”
He led her up the stairs. And the first thing Kome noted when they walked into the balcony was the table set with an unlit candle at the centre of it and a vase of the most gorgeous flowers.
Kome felt everything inside of her melt into tender softness.
“Oh, Theodore.” She turned to him. “This is so beautiful.”
“The candle is not lit yet.” He said softly. “Come get the match box with me and our dinner?”
She nodded, beamed. “Yes.”
His living room was amazingly elegant and Kome said so. “Oh, this is elegant. So contemporary and comfortable looking. Hired a decorator for it?”
“Nope.” He shook his head. “Did it myself.”
“Hmm, another hidden talent like the Michael Schumacher thing, I see.” She teased. “What other hidden talents should I be expecting, Theodore?”
“How about we discover them over dinner?” He passed her a match box. “Hold this for me. No striking a match.” He warned.
Uh-uh.” She shook her head, grinning as she followed him out again.
With the candle light, the table glowed with a romantic ambiance.
“I so love this. It is like I am in my dreamland.” Kome whispered, her eyes on his.
“I cannot offer you the stars, for the skies are without them tonight.” He said, his voice low and droning. “But I hope you will be enchanted by the food and wine.”
“I am enchanted by you.” Kome’s eyes rounded in instant horror. “Oh God! Did I say that aloud?”
He stared at her. And then he reached for her hand. “Kome, this might be the craziest thing you ever heard on a first date, but—” he moistened his lips. “I like you. I like you, like a whole lot. Like really, really, do more-than-like-you like you. How inappropriate do you find that statement?”
“Sweetest statement I ever heard.” She curled her fingers around his. “I knew that if we held hands I will know. I told Ted I will know.”
Kome laughed. “My teddy bear and biggest confidant.”
“Oh.” He smiled. Then angled his head. “You call him Ted? That’s kind of short for Theodore, you know.”
Her cheeks heated and Kome let out an embarrassed laugh. “It’s a general name for teddy bears. You know, teddy… ted, like that, goes with the name…” she expelled a breath. “I’ll ‘fess up. I bought the teddy the day we—I walked into you at the Marble House. I was resuming work the first time and was all nervous and mostly panicked, I walked straight into you and you were so kind, so sweet about the whole thing. Congratulating myself on my first successful day at work, I stopped at a store on my way home and bought the teddy bear and…” she lifted her shoulders. “It kind of suited to call him Ted. But I’ll never call you Ted. I so love the full name: Theodore.”
“And I so love hearing it on your lips.” His hand caressed her own.
“I like you too, Theodore. I like you, a whole lot.”
“Oh God, I must be the luckiest man on earth.” He raised her hand to his lips, kissed it tenderly. “Not lucky—blessed.”
And he leaned across the table and kissed her lips. Just one tender kiss.
“I knew your lips would feel this good. Told Ted that too.”
He chuckled. “You’re so perfect. So perfect for me.”
And he kissed her again.