The grace with which she held her cup was magical to him; her glowing skin brought to life by the sunlight that pierced through the window made her look like an otherworldly goddess, one who he had hoped to woo for years on end. Could this be his chance?
“It’s really good to see you, Emma,” he said, smiling broadly.
“It’s good to see you too.”
“I’ve missed you.”
“Awww, how sweet. But it hasn’t been that long, has it? We talk all the time.”
“If you count commenting on your photos a conversation, then by all means, we are quite talkative,” he said. She laughed a bit, curling her hair behind her ear as she did.
“I’d missed that witty banter of yours. Always had a way with words, didn’t you?”
“No, seriously. You did. All the times you talked to me when I needed you can confirm it. I bet you thought I didn’t listen, right?”
“Ha! I was sure you didn’t listen!” he quipped as they shared a laugh together.
“And I bet you thought you were wasting your time with me, right?”
“Well, I don’t really call it…”
“Just say it. I know it’s true.”
“Come on, Emma. It wasn’t that bad. You needed a friend, and I was there.”
“Hmm, you were there, weren’t you?” she spoke, eyeing him with admiration.
“If I hadn’t said it before, I’ll do so now: I really appreciate you being there for me.”
“Ohh, don’t mention it.”
“No, I – I have to. I know I wasn’t the easiest person to deal with, but you got through to me, somehow. And for that, you’ll always be my number one,” she praised, watching him swoon in delight.
“I – I try,” he squeaked, cheeks boiling red.
“Still modest, I see.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She couldn’t stop smiling every time he spoke, and only imagined if…
“If only,” she started.
“If only I met you instead of – it would have been a lot different.”
“Well, we were younger then. The decisions we made seemed wise at the time.”
“Mine especially, but I’m glad I did them – those things. Um, made those decisions. It was like a school in life.”
“Hear hear,” he said, raising his cup to her.
“Plus, like Aunty said, the future is way better than the past.”
“Well,” he started with a high pitched voice, slightly shaking his head.
“You don’t agree with her?”
“I do. It’s just that – um, isn’t full transparency important in any relationship?”
“I – I guess so.”
“Imagine if you realized that I was a psychopath or something. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be too happy, would you”
“No, no I wouldn’t. but you’re not a psycho. Not as far as I can tell.”
‘Exactly. You know how I am. Then isn’t it fair to let your better half know who you were before you met them?” he asked her, folds forming on her forehead.
“Why – why is that important, Damian?”
“I wouldn’t want any surprises in future.”
“So, you think you’ll find surprises with me?”
“No, I’m not saying that. I mean – should I be worried?”
“I don’t know; should you be?” she scoffed.
“I – I’m just saying – thinking out loud. Forget it,” he stuttered, looking away from her in guilt.
“Hey,” she spoke, “we’re just talking here.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Don’t sweat over such. Besides, I’ll be sure to make you so happy you’ll forget about stress.”
“Famous last words, as read in my eulogy,” he joked, watching her spit out coffee as she burst out laughing.
“Oh gosh, how do you even think of that?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll get more outdoor hobbies.”
“Yeah. Like I said, I kind of want to start over, and I wouldn’t mind doing so with…” she trailed off, smiling at him.
“Wow, you did hear me after all!” he said while looking up, thoroughly amusing her.
“Now I can call this our official first date?”
“Of course you can.”
“After so many attempts, she finally came through,” he commented, piquing her interest.
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t remember? I asked you out in the first year of college.”
“You did?” she asked, puzzled.
“Yeah. I helped you set up your computer, gave you all the notes you needed, then after fumbling a lot, I asked if you wanted to get some supper.”
“I – I don’t remember that,” she said weakly.
“Well, you said next time, so I waited a few weeks then asked you again.”
“You – you asked me out twice?”
“I did. That time I wasn’t as successful either, and you were kind of rude.”
“Wha – what did I say to you, Damian?”
“Mmm, the details are a bit murky, but it had something to do with being on earth. For some reason, I can’t remember exactly what you said. And you know me; I’m a details kinda guy.”
“Oh,” was all she could say.
“Let me try and remember, it’s been bothering me.”
“Why is something I said years ago bothering you, Damian?” she asked again, worried about his surprisingly good memory.
“Because I can’t remember that exact phrase! Why can’t I do so?”
“Does it matter?”
“When something flies past me, I have to chase it down until I get it. That just happens to be one of them. Let’s see – I wouldn’t do something if I was on earth – go out?”
As she watched him try recalling the event, the exact phrase hit her like a stone to the head:
“I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last man on earth,” she murmured. Her heart rate rose at the thought of it, more so at what he’d do if he did remember.
“Let’s talk about something else. Don’t hurt yourself trying to recall things you shouldn’t.”
“Hmm, you’re probably right. When you try remembering something is when it disappears,” he said, nodding in agreement with himself.
“Speaking of the past, do you remember this place?” he asked her, raising his hands as he looked around.
“Um, no, not really. Should I?”
“You don’t remember your favorite ice cream shop?” he asked. She suddenly gasped in delight.
“Oh! This was it?”
“Indeed, it was.”
“Oh, they had the best stuff ever! And they were open all night too!” she squealed.
“Yeah. Shame they had to close down.”
“Oh my gosh, I remember this being our place after we’d go out. We come here, eat one tub after the other then struggle to get home before our parents woke up.”
“Huh, you don’t say?”
“Oh yes. We’d go to town, club hopping on Boulevard, then just before sunrise we’d be here, stuffing our faces with ice cream. Many times I don’t even know how I paid for it!” she chuckled as Damian looked at her, keenly hanging on to every word she spoke.
“Sounds like you had fun,” he said.
“Oh, you have no idea. Boulevard was THE place to be, man. Fun parties, awesome music and the people – oh, the people were just – man. I remember how we’d dance, eat, drink and dance some more, then if we wanted to have fun, or we were just bored, Patricia would make us call D…”
She suddenly stopped when she realized who she was talking to, more so when she noticed how intently he was following her story.
“Call who?” he asked, leaning across the table.
“Um – who was it?” she pretended, worried that he might find out.
“Was it Carl?”
“Yes! Yeah it was him!” she lied, “gosh, the things I used to do.”
“I can only imagine,” Damian spoke, arms crossed and eyes fixed on her.
“Anyway, that was a long time ago. I’ve lived, learnt and grown from it. After all, I had you, my sweet Damian, to talk me out of it.”
“Hmm,” he went, sipping his now cold coffee.
“Hey, why don’t you tell me about your…” she started before her phone buzzed. He watched her eyes pop as she looked at the screen.
“Something’s come up. I’m sorry, I have to rush,” she said while standing.
“Oh, okay then,” he said.
“Um – can I call you later?”
“Sure. No worries.”
“Before she left, she looked at him for a few seconds then said.
“Can I get a hug?”
“Sure,” he replied, beaming as he stood up to hug her. She then whispered in his ears:
“Next time, you’re asking me out.”
“Of course I will,” he whispered back, watching her walk out to the parking lot and into her white Toyota Harrier. He paid the bill then walked out of the shop and into the paved courtyard for some air, looking to the clear skies, smiling at his maker for finally making his dream come true. Then, he felt a weight heaved onto his back, wrapping her arms around his neck and legs around his waist.
“Hiii!!” she greeted in a high pitched shrill.
“Hi, Patricia,” he groaned, turning towards her widespread arms and leaning in for her trademark hugs; warm and full of love.
“This is how you came to church?” he asked, scrutinizing her black jumper, equally dark figure-hugging denim jeans and shoes.
“Ei, my dress my choice,” she said, nose raised in the air.
“You look like a modern day exorcist.”
“You look like a modern day exorcist,” she childishly mimicked him as he chuckled.
“It’s what you learn that matters. Isn’t that what you always tell me?” she asked him, her eyes comically magnified by her glasses.
“Anyway, how was the service?”
“Weren’t you in it?”
“I was. I just want to know what you thought of it.”
“Um – it was okay – ish. I mean, I don’t really agree…”
“You don’t agree?” she asked, inching closer to him.
“No, I do – just feel like it’s a bit off,” he went on, his voice trailing away as he disappeared into his thoughts, something she picked up on.
“What’s up?” she asked him, slightly shaking his shoulders.
“I’m just thinking of something.”
“Coffee for your thoughts?” she asked, wrapping her arm around his as she pulled him back to the shop.
“Oh, I already…” he started, but stopped when he realized what he was about to say. Sure enough, hand covering her mouth, eyes wide in shock and betrayal, she asked.
“I didn’t hear that…”
“No, no, no. I meant…”
“You went to coffee without me?!”
“It was just one cup!”
“It’s OUR cup!” she said, feigning collapsing in his arms as she went on, “oh, Lord why? Why have I been betrayed like this?” he held on to her as people looked on, amused by her antics.
“Patricia, come on. Guys are looking!”
“I come to his church, and he does me like this? Oh, my heart,” she went on. He couldn’t help laughing, but he couldn’t deal with the stares, so he said:
“I’ll drop you.” She immediately got up and straightened herself.
“I don’t like you,” she said in an infantile voice.
“Relax. It was just one cup, and it was with Emma…”
“Emma?” she asked him, surprised, “wait, the Emma I know?”
“Yeah. She came to church today. Imagine that.”
“Hmm, why don’t we sit down and you tell me everything that she said?” she asked, pulling him further into the shop.
“Actually, I kind of wanted to…”
“Oh, my heart! The betrayal!” she loudly interrupted, hand on her head as if she would faint again.
“One cup then!” he conceded, watching her clap her hands in victory as they sat at the same table by the window.
“So, what did she say?”
“Mmm, a lot of things – ah, it’s even good that you’re here! Didn’t you guys used to be friends?”
“We were, but after college we just drifted apart. And to be honest, we weren’t really as close as many thought we were.”
“Is that so?” he asked her, “but you guys used to go everywhere together. You mean enemies do that?”
“No, it’s not that. I mean, she wasn’t exactly the best company to keep. I thought she was a bit shallow, rude and just unpleasant to be around. For some reason, we only got along when we were at Boulevard.”
“I have got to go to this Boulevard you guys keep talking about!” he declared, tapping the table as he did.
“I – I don’t think you’d like it much, Damian.”
“Really? The way you used to talk about it, the way Emma talked about it; I want that!” he said.
“You won’t like it. It’s not your thing,” she said, stretching her hands across the table to his.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Okay. It’s loud, has a lot of people. Sound good?”
“No, absolutely not. I like peace and quiet.”
“See? Not your thing.”
“But I’d like to try…”
“It’s not something you’d enjoy, Damian,” she went on, “many bad decisions are made there, and lots of regret hangs around those who frequent it. Like we used to be told: ‘Just one step from Boulevard -”
“And it’s Bliss Street for you,” he finished the phrase.
“Yeah. I don’t want it for you. Anyone else, just not you,” she went on, squeezing his hand while smiling at him.
“Look how much you care, Patricia.”
“Of course I care. In fact, I care so much that I’d like to know what Emma said to you. I don’t want her poisoning my bestie,” she said.
“Um, she thanked me for being there for her, then we talked about how much I would ask her out and how she’d turn me down. In fact, there was something she said to me once, but I can’t remember the specifics, just that it wasn’t pleasant to hear. Then she told me about the fun you guys had together. That’s why I can’t figure why you say you weren’t friends.”
“Not as close – what about us did she say?”
“Just how awesome your nights were. Why do you ask?”
“I – I just wanted to know, that’s it,” she lied.
“Why? You jealous?”
“Of course I am. I don’t want no other woman near my Damian!” she stated as he chuckled.
“Well, too late for that. This right here is a certified chick magnet,” he bragged, straightening his collars.
“Of course. My women always come through for me,” he went on, Patricia trying to contain her laughter.
“You know, it’s cute that you think Emma is one of your women.”
“You don’t think she’s one of them? You doubt my abilities, do you?”
“I’d never do that. After all, you roped me in, didn’t you?”
“Yes I did.”
“And if you play your cards right, you might just get lucky,” she said, watching him miss it completely.
“Anyway, I wanted to ask you something,” he said.
“When you guys used to go out, how was your night? Just a typical girls’ night out?”
“Hmm,” she sighed, “we’d first go get some shots at the first shop in Boulevard. Then we’d go club hoping for hours on end, dancing and having a good time. Then we’d come here, eat ice cream and talk about boys till morning.”
“Ah, okay then. But it was fun, wasn’t it?”
“The hangovers weren’t something to look forward to, plus sleeping the whole weekend…”
“Yeah, but at the moment, it was fun, wasn’t it?” he asked again, leaning across the table. She recognized that look on his face, and hoped to God that she would never have to.
“Yes, yes it was.”
“That’s all I needed to know,” he said, nodding in victory.
“You know, if you want me to take you out, all you have to do is ask,” she said, attempting to change the subject.
“Really? You’d do that for me?”
“Of course I would! But just know, that after the partying, I’ll want to do some…”
“Okay, that’s enough of that,” he interrupted.
“Bible study, Damian. To cleanse my soul. Get your mind out of the gutter!” she said as she burst out laughing, and he couldn’t help but join her. Then she held both his hands and said in an almost somber tone:
“It gets old. I’ve lived, learnt and grown from it, and I can tell you with certainty: it isn’t worth it. I’d rather spend time with my sweet Damian than hunched over a toilet, puking my guts out. But, if you did want to have fun, I promise to show you a good time, okay?”
“Hmm, okay,” he said as they smiled at each other. Yet, the whole time she talked, all he could think was:
“Someone is lying to me.”