By the time he was home, Saz was half-regretting the offer he made to Anya. Personally, he had no problem with her using it for as long as she needed to, or even forever. But the oven wasn’t his, and now that he realised he needed to ask permission to give it out, he wished he hadn’t made the offer.
For God’s sake, he had to speak with Ifeanyi now. Saz didn’t like to call her up. He couldn’t count the entire fingers on one hand how many times he’d ever done so. They’d only spoken once since he came here, and even that time he had been returning her missed call.
Now, he had to call her and ask her a favour. He hated to have to ask her, or any of them, for anything. But he couldn’t very well give out anything in the house without her knowledge, and consent. The house wasn’t his–even though Ifeanyi and the others liked to insist it was. The properties inside definitely weren’t his.
How did he even begin to beg…no, request her to loan out a kitchen appliance that probably hasn’t been used since after their father died?
Saz muttered an expletive as the words already hurt his throat. He strode from his bedroom down to the living room, and then into the kitchen, where he flipped on the light and stared at the single-deck oven.
Ifeanyi was the one who used to bake. She had started early, before she was in secondary school. Or, maybe it was the same year she’d started secondary school she’d baked her first cake. Saz couldn’t quite remember. But he recalled she’d learned from her mother’s sister, and their father, filled with pride, had bought her a gas cooker with a good oven.
This oven was relatively new, as he’d told Anya. Had their father bought it, or was it Ifeanyi herself who’d done so and brought it here even though she couldn’t have been living here at the time?
It didn’t matter who paid for the oven, Saz thought with a scowl, forcing his fingers to search out Ifeanyi’s contact details.
“This is a nice surprise,” she said. And it was clear from her tone that she was smiling.
It would be a soft and calm smile, like her nature. Because he didn’t like to think at all of her, or his other half-sibling, he said brusquely, “Sorry for interrupting your evening, but I have something to ask of you.”
“You are not interrupting my evening. I am glad to hear from you, as a matter of fact.”
He refused to let himself ponder if she was indeed glad. “Okay. Anyway, it’s about this oven… I mean, the one in the kitchen. I, uh…actually, a friend of mine needs it and I was thinking I could give it out on a loan as it’s just sitting here doing nothing for no one. That is, if you don’t mind. But if you don’t want anyone touching it…”
“I don’t mind at all. Give it out to whomever you think needs it. It will be the best thing for it, I’m sure, being used regularly again.”
“Ah…okay. Um, thanks.”
“No need for thanks. Whatever is inside the house is yours to do with as you see fit. I don’t have to keep reminding you the house is yours, Saz,” she said in her usual quiet tone.
She could remind him all she wanted, but he would never see the house, or its contents, as his.
He saved them both that pointless argument by saying, “Thank you, for the gas. Um, how’s the family?”
“We are well. And you, how are you? How’s the store? Or maybe I shouldn’t ask,” she added with a laugh. “Uncle Max told me when we spoke two days ago that it’s fully open once again. He says it’s back to being the number one store for building materials in town.”
“It’s doing okay.” And added, because he needed her to remember. “I’m hoping to get a buyer for it soon.”
There was a pause. Then she murmured, “Whatever you think is best for you, Saz.”
“Yes. Well, I’ll let you get back to your evening. Thank you again.”
He didn’t wait for her response before terminating the call. Then he scowled because talking to his sister shouldn’t make him feel so out of place and irritable.
Half-sister, he reminded himself and turned to the fridge to grab a bottle of drink. At least, he wouldn’t be embarrassed if Anya decided to accept his offer, as he could really hand the oven to her.
Once she was again in his thoughts, and with no problem to distract him, he found himself smiling as he strolled back up to his bedroom.
He wanted her accepting more than just the offer of the oven.
He had the temptation to lean in and kiss her when she opened the door to him. The navy-blue slim leg trousers was no surprise, but the sleeveless silk top with plunging neckline and her hair pulled up to offer no distractions from her body was both a surprise and a pleasure.
He wished the good manners, well taught by his grandmother, didn’t demand he went in to greet her mother. He wished he could drive her home, instead of to the restaurant he had in mind, and do his very best to rumple her elegant and sexy look.
“You’re always a pleasure to look at,” he said, lifting a finger to caress her cheek since he couldn’t kiss her. “I see you, and I can’t help but stare.”
Her pretty mouth curved with a smile, and sent her dimples blinking. “Thank you. I love how you pay compliments. You look nice yourself this evening. A little more dressy than usual.”
“I do believe our destination calls for dressy.” Tearing his gaze from her mouth, he let his finger drop. “May I say hello to your mum and sister before we go?”
Her eyes flickered with surprise, and then pleasure. “Of course. Come in,” she said, stepping away from the door to let him in.
If there was a wary look in the eyes of the woman who looked like a vintage version of Anya, Saz preferred not to notice it. He kept his smile pleasant instead as they made polite conversation.
“I am grateful the business is doing well,” he said, responding to her comment about the store. “That’s the hope of anyone who owns one.”
“Of course.” Her own smile was cautious. “So, are you back home for good?”
“The future is too far and wide to decide all at once what it will bring me. But I am here for now,” he said easily, and then applied that expert skill Anya said he had of changing subjects. “So, you are writing your WAEC, Ifedinma. How are the exams thus far?”
“So far, so good. And I’m really grateful for that, as Mama and Aunty Anya would have my head on a platter if I say otherwise.” Her eyes were alight with mischief and laughter. Almost like her sister’s, yet they did not entice him. “I have only two more papers to go, and then I’m done.”
“Well, I wish you good luck with those two papers, and overall best of luck to avoid having your head on a platter.”
Ifedinma chuckled. “Thank you, sir, for I need all the luck I can get.”
“What you need is to be sure you studied hard, and to continue doing so,” her sister put in before turning to their mother. “We will be on our way, Mama. See you guys later.”
“Have a good evening, and be safe.” Her mother replied, and gave Saz what he decided was a faint warning smile. “Take care.”
“I will,” he said. And only added when they were inside the car and on the road. “I got a feeling your mother doesn’t trust me with her daughter. Does she think I have questionable intentions towards you?”
Saz threw her a quick glance, and grinned at the fun and laughter twinkling in her eyes. “If wanting to thoroughly kiss you and make love with you all night long is questionable, then I guess I’m guilty.”
“Wow, you just increased the heat inside this car by several degrees. And it shouldn’t be with the AC on.” She let out a long, throaty sigh. “I like how you’re direct and straightforward about what you want. There are no hidden agenda with you. It shows an admirable quality of honesty.”
“I’m not always honest,” Saz said truthfully, feeling slightly guilty that he hasn’t been, and couldn’t be, entirely so with her. “But I do want you, and I see no reason to pretend about that.”
“And no reason to pretend you want more than a sexual relationship with me.”
“It’s not so basic. I did tell you I liked you, and I do, Anya.” He still wasn’t interested in exploring the depth and reasons for that feeling. “You’re the kind of woman any man can’t help but like.”
“That’s sort of a nice thing to say. Thank you.”
Her soft, raspy voice slid over his skin like nibbling kisses, making him wonder what it will actually feel like to have her mouth caress his body. Her hands too.
To distract himself from his lustful yearning, he shifted the topic to mundane stuff. “Have you made up your mind about the oven, or still thinking about it?” He tossed her a narrowed glance. “Or maybe you didn’t think about it at all.”
Anya laughed, enjoying the way he went from seductively teasing to calmly playful. “I didn’t intend to think about it, to be frank, as I was certain I’d already given you the answer I’d stick to. But I kind of talked it over with Nna-Oyibo…”
“My father-in-law. I mean, my late husband’s father. He’s very light skinned and got nicknamed Oyibo.”
“Hmm. So, you and he still relate well. You and the entire family are still close?”
“Not the entire family, but I get along well with Victor’s immediate family. I’ve always done so.” She studied his face, saw only curiosity, and relaxed. “But Nna-Oyibo and I are closest. He’s more of a father to me these days.”
“That’s good. I don’t know much about how the dynamics of a family work, but I think it’s a good thing to still relate well with your in-laws even after the death of the one connecting you to them.” He shot her another of his quick looks, and said, “It’s been years, and probably means nothing saying this now, but I’m sorry for you losing him.”
She hadn’t meant to bring Victor into their conversation, but the fact that he would show some form of kindness…well, not kindness, but more of understanding, touched her.
“Thank you,” she said, offering him a smile. “And it always means something receiving kind thoughts. “Anyway,” she continued in a lighter tone. “I kind of mentioned it to him and he didn’t see why I shouldn’t accept your kind offer.”
“I don’t see why you shouldn’t either. So, would you like me to bring it over on my way to the store tomorrow?”
“I would appreciate it if you can do that. But should you need it all at any given time…”
“Need it for what? I don’t bake. Like I told you, it’s just there, doing nothing. In any case, I doubt my half-sister, to whom it belongs, will ever need it again.”
“It belonged to your sister?”
“Half-sister. And before you ask, I asked her and she’s all right with someone putting it to use again.”
“That’s very kind of her, and of you too.” She would save the question on him insisting on half-sister for another time. “I didn’t ask, and probably don’t need to know, but I wondered if you were making a delivery yesterday. I recalled your father was one of the few who did that, offered delivery services.”
“Yeah, I was there to deliver some materials. But I don’t do it because he did it. I do, because it’s one of my policies.”
“A good business policy.” She would leave too the observation that he disliked to be compared to his father for another time. “It’s one of the reasons I got the motorcycle, to make it easier handling deliveries when I have private orders. Of course, a small car would have been better, if I could afford it.”
“Was that what you were doing this morning? I saw you drive by the church when I was pulling out of a compound close by.”
“You did? I didn’t notice. Must have had my mind on other things. Well, no, that wasn’t the kind of delivery I was handling this morning.”
The glance he aimed her was curious. “What kind of delivery was it then?”
Anya considered it and saw no reason to not be honest. “It wasn’t a delivery to take care of an order. I was on my way to deliver food–breakfast to an old man who lives right after the reservoir.”
“Oh. Is he a relative?”
“No. Just a old man with no one to take care of him.” Again, she considered, and then went with the truth. “There are old people who don’t have families around to take care of them. I bring them food mornings and evenings.”
“You feed them, out of your own pocket?”
“They are not much. Just thirteen of them. And they don’t eat much, or need much.” Because she noted the surprise and awe on his face, she added, “It’s nothing exceptional, and I don’t do it without support. My mother offers help, and so does Nna-Oyibo.”
“You give breakfast and dinner to a group of old people who otherwise would have none, so I think that’s exceptional.” This time it was a little hard to read the glance he tossed her. “You do it every day?”
Anya shrugged. “They have to eat every day.”
“How do you find out about these old people? I mean, how do you know which one needs help?”
“There are a few people who know I do this, and they come with the information if they can’t handle it alone.” She angled her body, so she could watch him as she spoke. And knew in her heart, it was because she liked looking at him.
“It’s not all of them I feed daily. Five of them, actually, have neighbours, or relatives who take care of them most days. It’s just that these are poor people too, and have their own responsibilities.”
“So on days they can’t handle it, you come in with food. How do you know which days to come?”
He wasn’t just curious. He was interested. “We kind of have a rotation. I know what days to handle, and what days they handle. When they are not able to though, they give me a call in the morning and I take care of it.”
“Does that happen often, them giving you a call?”
“Not often. But it does happen. Either way, it’s just doing what needs to be done.”
She said it in a way to echo her earlier words that it was nothing exceptional. But it was, and it touched a rare place inside of him. “I said my grandmother would have liked you, and I was right. You are the kind of woman she would have approved of.”
“Oh. Well. Thanks.”
Saz gave his head a shake, clearing off the fuzzy feelings he didn’t want to deal with. “I said that like I meant something. But I was only paying you a compliment. I was saying…I mean, I am saying that you’re a very likeable woman.”
“Thank you. And I still say, you’re an honest person.”
“Not as much as I would like to be. But there are some things you can be honest about.” He looked at her, craving again that need to kiss her. To have her. “Things like how much I want you. Like I like you, and don’t want to explain, or even want to think about why I do.”
She chuckled. And he grinned. “Like I wish we weren’t going to Asaba now, but back to my place where I can get you naked.”
She laughed now. “But we are going to Asaba, and not to your place where you can get me naked.”
“Yeah, we are doing that. But another day, we will do the other thing.”
“We definitely will.”
The quiet promise sprung a fresh hum of desire into him, and Saz allowed himself to savour it. “Can’t wait,” he murmured.