Whether it was a date, or it wasn’t one, when she got to go out with a man she was very much attracted to, Anya figured it was in her best interest to make sure she looked her very best.
So, although she’d had a bath before going to church, and it was only five and half hours later, she had another bath, and used a scented bath gel this time. For clothing, she picked out her maroon coloured tapered slacks, because she felt most comfortable in trousers and the key to looking one’s best began with being comfortable.
But instead of a dark coloured blouse to offset the bright colour of the slacks, she went bold with mustard draped top, loving the snug feel of it as she clipped a leopard skin belt to her waist. Then she strapped on her feet four-inch wedge sandals the colour of champagne, and finished the entire look with a silver chain purse.
When she appraised herself in the mirror, she gave a nodding approval and then strode to the living room to wait for him.
Of course, he was the kind of man who was punctual, as his van pulled into their front yard at twenty-five minutes past twelve.
Watching him push his long and broad length out of the vehicle, Anya decided he didn’t disappoint in the black denims, long-sleeved T-shirt with half the sleeves folded up, and a pair of Loafers instead of his usual palm sandals. The man had shoulders that made it evident he spent good time working on his muscles.
And the way those muscles strained against that light fabric of his T-shirt… Oh yes, they would definitely have sex. Someday pretty soon.
“Hey, Saz.” Her smile ready and friendly, she sauntered through the front door. “You’re right on time.”
“I try to be when I’m taking a beautiful woman out.” He stopped on the first of the three marble-tiled stairs and surveyed her. “You look beautiful. I like that you left your hair to fall down your back today. It always suits you, pulled up in a knot, but swept down around your face, it makes you look girly and sexy.”
The jolt of quick pleasure widened her smile. “I wondered if you will be the kind of man who knows how to compliment a woman. Again, I’m not disappointed.”
“Your look and punctuality didn’t disappoint me.”
“My look?” Saz grinned. He wanted to walk up to her, draw her into his arms and kiss her. Just to have a taste of her. “So, you like how I look?”
Her mouth curved in. “I like a man who knows how to look casual and hot at the same time.”
“I like a woman who’s definite about what she likes.” He took a step up, and another, stopped himself from reaching for her. “And is not afraid to say it. Hello, Anya.”
The way her eyes twinkled with that laughing light and mysterious gleam shot an aching want into Saz.
Edging off the desire to take her in his arms, he said with a loose smile, “Ready for our date?”
“It’s a date then. I wasn’t sure if I should call it one.”
“When a man and woman go out with the intention to enjoy each other and see what’s next, often it’s called a date.”
“That is true. And so, I’m ready for our date. Let me just secure the door.”
“Are you home alone then?”
“Ah, yes. Why do you ask?”
“I thought your mother and sister would be home, so I could offer my greetings.”
That he would find out she lived with her mother and sister didn’t surprise her. But him wanting to meet and greet them did. It was the kind of polite thing you didn’t often expect on a first date. Or from a casual relationship.
“They’re not home. They went from church to visit a family member. But I’ll be sure to let them know you offered your greetings.” She locked the door and gate, and turned. “Are we good to go?”
“We are now.” He took her hand and walked her down the stairs. “I like your fragrance. It’s very feminine, but it’s not the usual you wear.”
“You’re full of nice surprises, Saz. I didn’t think you would notice I switched up on my perfume.” She slid into the Sienna van, waited until he joined her inside. “I thought to indulge in something sexy and elegant today as I wanted to charm you.”
“I am charmed, by your scent, by your look, by your direct manner. You don’t act coy. I like it.”
“I guess don’t know to act coy. I’m most comfortable saying things as I feel them. Not all the time,” Anya added with a soft chuckle. “But most of the time.”
“It’s a rare and good quality. I think it’s what got me intrigued me the first time we met. The way you rode over and talked to me like we just had a conversation hours earlier.”
Anya grinned. “You didn’t think: who is this nosy woman on a motorcycle?”
“No. I thought: who is this intriguing woman smiling so prettily at me. And when you drove off on your bike, I thought looked sexy on it.”
“You thought I was intriguing and looked sexy on my bike that evening?”
“I think either one or both things every time we meet.”
Because he was watching her like he wanted to snatch her into his arms and feast on her as Nkechi had said, and she wanted desperately to be feasted on, Anya gave her head a jerk. “Not ready to get on the road?”
“In a minute. Did I just make you nervous?”
It took her several seconds to relax her body before she smiled. “You’re direct too, and I like it. To answer your question, a little. But it’s more of what I’m feeling that’s making me nervous.”
“What are you feeling?”
“A hot bout of lust I’m not ready to do anything about yet.”
The hot bout of lust shivered through Saz and lodged in his groin. He wanted to do something about it, right there and for the next long hour. But he preferred when a woman was ready and certain about what she wanted.
“We will wait until you’re ready then.” He lifted a finger to her face, trailed it along her cheek. “Hopefully, it will be sooner than later, because I have a major hot lust playing havoc with my senses.”
He felt her slight quiver and dropped his hand. Slid the key into the ignition and started the van. “You know something I don’t like about this town? It’s people blatantly staring at you and all set to nose in your affair.”
“You mean curious and nosy people aren’t in Benin?”
“Yes, they are. But it’s so much more here.” Saz threw a glance at her amused expression. “It’s happened twice now. I make a comment about this town and you counter with a question about Benin. It does look like I’m complaining too much about this place, doesn’t it?”
“Only a little?”
She chuckled. “Twice is a little.”
“I guess it is. But I’m going to watch my need to grouse from now on.” He allowed a short pause, then admitted, “I resent this town.”
Automatically decelerating to allow a couple of kids cross the street, he shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I resent everything that was part of my old life. I wish I didn’t, but I do.”
“If you don’t want to, then just stop. No place is perfect, and no people are perfect. Most things that happen to us is just life. We can resent them and grumble, or accept they happened, let go and live.”
“I suppose you always choose to let go and live.”
“Most of the time.”
Saz supposed it would be easy for her given her almost-always happy disposition. “I envy you your personality. But we’re not all cheerful spirits.”
“No. There are grumpy spirits too.”
He chuckled at the wry retort. “I don’t think I’m grumpy. Just less cheerful. Anyway, didn’t you go to church with your mother and sister?”
The man was an expert in smoothly changing the subject, Anya thought, noting that he’d taken the route heading into Azagba-Ogwashi. “I did. I usually attend the six a.m. Mass, so I can be home by ten latest and have the rest of the day to myself.”
“I also prefer the first Mass.”
“Oh, you’re a Catholic too.”
Nice common ground. Not that they required this particular common ground. “And did you go to church?”
He moved those wide shoulders. “I don’t always. Not since my grandmother passed away.”
Anya thought about that answer. “You were unprepared for her death.”
He tossed her a quick glance. And she saw her observation surprised him. “Are we ever prepared for death?”
“Sometimes, when it’s almost certain it will come.” A clench of pain struggled to the fore, but it wasn’t as poignant as it used to be. “Was she sick?”
“She had a number old age illnesses–arthritis, hypertension, cataracts. Then one day, she took ill, her blood pressure shot up, she got hospitalised and didn’t make it. She was only seventy-four.”
“You two were very close.”
“She was my family.”
Anya thought she understood that response, and because she did, her heart ached for him. “You’re not happy with God for taking her too soon.”
“That’s an odd way to put it. People usually say that you are blaming God.”
“But you’re not blaming Him, are you? You’re just displeased with Him.”
Saz looked at her. Then returned his gaze on the highway. Her ability to understand his feelings kind of unnerved him. “I prayed, more than I’ve ever done before. I made promises. I fulfilled a number of them to prove my faith. I know our life is His to do with as He pleases, but He could have spared her. I needed her here with me more than He needed her anywhere else.”
“I am sorry.” She reached over and took his hand. “I am sorry you lost her.”
No preaching. No wise counsels. No inspiring profound words. Just an offer of genuine sympathy. Saz felt soothed for the first time in the three years he’d lost her.
“Thank you.” He hesitated only a moment before he curled his fingers around hers. “But let’s not talk about sad things anymore. Tell me how you came to start A Slice Of Heaven. And the name, how did you pick it?”
“Unique, right?” She gave a laugh. “I found it online. It’s the name of an eatery located abroad, and I think somewhere here in Nigeria too. Anyway, I liked the sound of it and decided to steal it.”
“It suits your business. Your delicious pastries can be likened to one having a taste of heaven.”
“How lovely of you to say that. And it’s totally what I thought when I went with the name.” She gave his fingers a warm squeeze. “I always think the name of a thing should depict what you will find inside.”
“It should.” Not comfortable with the cosy way her fingers now made him feel, he disengaged his hand and put it back on the steering wheel. “Aren’t you curious about where we are going?”
“I am. But I like surprises, so I’m going to wait and see.”
“Okay.” Relaxed again, he commented as they drove past the polytechnic campus. “It was a major surprise coming back months back and finding this. Of course, I’d heard there was a campus here, but I didn’t know the government had taken the time to do something worthwhile about the structure.”
“I consider it a work in progress, because they should do more. More academic and administrative structures, and student hostels too.”
“Yeah, but that will take time given the way the system works here.”
“It will. But it should happen. A higher institution should have a certain look. But look aside, it should be equipped to handle the kind of learning it is meant for.”
“Hmm.” He had no idea what kind of learning was expected in a higher institution, so shifted his thoughts away from it as he slowed down to cut into the Asaba-Benin expressway. “Sorry, I distracted you. You were telling me how A Slice Of Heaven came to be. Do go on, please.”
Anya threw back her head and laughed.
“You have a nice laugh, but mind telling me why you’re laughing?”
Thoroughly amused, she turned twinkling eyes on him. “I was thinking earlier you’re an expert subject-changer, and I was right.”
“Is that right?” He shrugged, smiled. “I guess it’s a skill. So, go on, why a baker with a pastry shop and not something else?”
“Well, why not?” she countered, smiling.
And absently wondering if he was driving them to Benin, she started to tell him why she chose business instead of the teaching career she’d been trained for.