Eleven years ago
Mofe now realised he probably shouldn’t have left Ezinne alone just to prove his point. He’d purposely gone out leaving her to sort herself in the kitchen thinking she would be flustered without him around to help.
Well she’d been more than flustered when he had returned. Judging by the way she’d run out of his apartment when he’d come in, he could tell she’d been hugely disturbed and it wasn’t just because of the cooking challenge, or could it? It was just cooking food, nothing that should get her all teary eyed and shaken.
His kitchen had been a huge mess. The gas stove had been the worst hit, where the spaghetti had boiled over drenching the burner and stove top in water. Ezinne had overfilled the pot with water, too much spaghetti sticks and then left it to overcook that it had all almost melted into a pap like consistency. The chopped chicken which was burnt into chaff lay on the floor in oil, the pan must have slipped and fallen at some point. Only the vegetables had been salvageable as she hadn’t gotten around to preparing that part before she gave up on it all.
He had cleaned up and gone ahead to prepare the meal himself. Packing hers in a food container, he had decided to call on her as he had to find out what had gone wrong to get her so upset. He didn’t believe it could be just because of the stupid challenge, she was tougher skinned than that, he hadn’t coined her as the ice princess for no reason.
Now he raised his hand and knocked at her gate, Aliyu promptly called.”Na who dey there?”
“Hey Aliyu, it’s Mofe.”
“Oga Mope?” he called, the tone of his voice changed. Mofe could hear the smile. It had been a while since he’d last seen the guy.
“Yes Aliyu.. How you dey?”
The other man began unlocking the gate “Oga Mope, I no see me for long time, where I dey since fa?”
“I dey busy, Aliyu, how your family?” Mofe asked stepping through the now opened gate.
“My pamily pine, gaskiya.”
Okay, all protocols observed he got down to his reason for being there. “I want to see Ezinne.”
“Madam?” Aliyu asked again
“Yes Madam. Tell someone to let her know I’m here, or you go get her for me please.”
Okay, Oga Mope, no froblem, I dey come, I go wait por here or I go wait por back?”
Mofe nodded deciding to wait at the back, in the gazebo ” I’ll be in the back. Thank you Aliyu.” he said making a mental note to drop a little change for the guy when he was leaving.
Just as he settled onto the bench, his phone began to ring, it was her.
“Hey…” he said
“What are you doing here, Mofe?”
She sounded stiff, she was probably still upset.
He needed to be cool here “Checking up on you…. the way you left, I need to know you are fine.”
“I’m fine.” She replied quietly.
“No you’re not.”
“You’re not fine, Ezinne and I want to.know happened. It couldn’t be just the cooking that got you so….” he searched for the word “frazzled.”
“Mofe, I really don’t feel like talking.”
“Well, I feel like talking and I’m not leaving here till you come down and talk to me, I can’t be settled until you explain to me what really happened back there. You’re giving me a guilty conscience like I pushed you too far or something but I know you are not so fragile to lose your composure just because of a cooking challenge.”
He heard her sigh on her end before speaking up “It wasn’t just the food, although that got to me but it wasn’t that.”
“Then please come down here and talk to me about it, besides I brought your food along?”
“My food? the food I prepared?”
“Hell no! Even dogs would curse me if I gave them that.”
She chuckled lightly and he felt his heart do a light flutter, he was breaking through the stiff mist. “I began all over and prepared the meal, and brought your share. Now can you come down here?”
“Why not come on up, instead, to my room?”
Mofe paused, not sure he had heard correctly “Your room?”
“Yeah, I really don’t feel like going down stairs, I’m quite depressed.”
“Okay then, I’ll be up there.”
Zinnie opened the door to see Mofe standing outside. All six foot seven of tall and dark ruggedness. His ever present stubble of beard needed a little trim, she noticed. He had on a grey polo shirt that accentuated his torso and arms and jeans. He quite resembled one of those calvin Klein models, the way he lounged lazily in her doorway. The guy was so comfortable in his skin.
She hadn’t meant to run out on him before but she’d had a choking need to leave his place and be by herself at the time. It had all become suddenly overwhelming, the food hadn’t been going as planned, it had looked much easier on YouTube. Then Ekene’s call had come in and she’d made the greatest mistake of picking it and it had been her undoing. She’d had to get away and incidentally Mofe had just returned.
She’d brushed past him without so much as a word, all she’d wanted was to get away that she hadn’t cared to think it would get him worried.
And now here he was in her doorway, looking like he always did, rugged, those deep set almond shaped eyes regarding her silently, a concerned crease between his brows.
“You don’t look depressed.” Were his first words.
“How did you expect me to look? Red tear drenched eyes, mascara running all over? Come in.” She stepped away from the door, giving him room to come in.
“Yeah…. The way you left got me really perplexed. I wanted to come right after you but something told me you needed some time to get yourself together. So I decided to prepare the meal myself, here’s your portion by the way.” He handed her the bag which she accepted.
“Nice room you have.” He commented on her white and lilac themed room looking over it briefly, “and great work you did in my kitchen by the way.” He added sarcastically as he sat down on the leather sofa. “You did awesome wonders in that kitchen, wonders I had never imagined possible.”
She had to chuckle lightly as she joined him on the sofa.
“But I guess I shouldn’t complain, I came up with the dumb idea to challenge you when I knew already that you couldn’t do it.”
“No, no, its all my fault.” She interjected putting her hand lightly on his to stop him, instantly aware of that tingly sensation, it wasn’t the first time when they touched but she always ignored it not knowing if he felt it also. She didn’t understand what it was but it happened when she touched him.
Aside from a brief glance at her hand she had placed on him he didn’t seem to notice anything.
She continued “I made a mess of everything, I should have just owned up to it , that I didn’t know the first thing about cooking but my pride wouldn’t let me. I am so sorry about your kitchen.”
“Pride? Its just food…”
” I know, I know but you….” She stopped herself from going on.
“What? I did what?” He urged.
He sat up, turning to face her squarely”Spill Ezinne.” He ordered and she averted her gaze. She couldn’t look him as she said this, it sounded quite stupid now that she thought about it.
“Well, to you I’m a spoilt rich brat, am I not? I just wanted you to think a little differently of me and so I thought I could impress you with my ‘nonexistent’ cooking skills.” She made air quotes as she said nonexistent, drawing a chuckle from him. “It was all a disaster that could and should have been averted, if I’d just agreed that I couldn’t do it, instead I thought YouTube would be of help,” she hissed thinking about all the time she had wasted on the blasted internet. “I learnt the hard way that watching and actually doing were entirely different things.”
“Ezinne, for someone with some cooking experience, they might have managed after watching YouTube but you have no experience at even bringing water to boil…..”
“Hey,” she cut him off “I think I can manage that.”
“Oh, I guess you want another challenge to prove that, don’t you?” He asked but she could see the smile tugging at the edge of his mouth, he was joking. ” There’s no shame in telling the truth, Zinnie. Okay so you can’t cook, own it! I guess when you’re married you’ll employ some Cordon Bleu chef who’ll prepare heure d’heures.”
“Great,” she rolled her eyes “poke fun at me Mofe.”
“Okay okay, I am sorry, I couldn’t help it….but there’s hope for you yet, cooking isn’t too hard and you could learn in no time… Not that I’m teaching anyway, from what I saw in my kitchen, I would gladly exclude myself and my kitchen from your learning experience.”
She couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up, she had messed up the place pretty badly, she agreed “I should have cleaned up but I’m also not too good at that either. The maids usually clean up after me.” She confessed guiltily looking away not knowing why she suddenly felt like the spoilt rich brat that he must see her as.
” Ezinne,” Mofe put a hand under her chin, raising it up to look her in the eye. “You don’t have anything to prove to me, I know already that you have everything done for you and I don’t blame you or think of you as a spoilt brat.”
“You don’t?” She was quite surprised. He took his hand off her chin and she wished he hadn’t, she liked his touch she realised.
“Well….. Not anymore anyway, not since I began to know the real you. Before, you were quite rude and bratty.”
She hissed “Seriously Mofe, just when I think you want to compliment me, you go ahead and spoil it.”
He shrug, smiling mischievously, “but I’m just being honest here or would you prefer I lied to you?”
She shook her head opening up the bag containing the meal that had been in her hand all along, giving her something else to do than keep looking at him, for some reason she was getting to like looking at his face too much and was afraid he would sense it if she kept looking. Bringing out the plastic disposable plate she admired his work, it was quite warm and looked really good and appetizing
“Looks really good, Mofe. Very good job.”
” Thanks….. I’m curious and I’ve just got to ask, how in the world did your spaghetti turn into mush?”
She cringed as she remembered the sight of it “well….first I wasn’t sure about the amount of water to pour in and so I think I poured quite a lot and then the water refused to dry up, so I had to wait a while.”
“But there was a collander there, didn’t you see it?”
She frowned, confused “colla-what?”
“Oh? It really didn’t occur to me, I thought the water had to dry up for it to be cooked, so I left you it for a while to take a call.” A call from that annoyance that was her ex boyfriend ” the call took a while, I got so caught up in it, I forgot the stuff on fire for a while and when I got back the chicken was all charred, I think the heat had been too high and the spaghetti had boiled over the pot. In my confusion I moved the frying pan with my bare hand forgetting to hold it by its handle. I got burnt and reflexively pushed it away and it ended up on the floor.
I just looked at it all, and as I was also unsettled by the call, I needed to preserve my sanity. Nothing was going my way at the time and I just felt a need for space to mull over my sorry life. That was the exact moment you returned, I didn’t know what to say, so I just ran out.”
He had been quiet all through and she looked up at him to be sure he was still awake, her eyes met his. He had that crease between his brows again, even worried he looked so alluring. Her gaze dropped to his mouth, pink lips set in that chiselled jaw with the rough stubble.
“Are you feeling better now?” He asked quietly, not noticing she had been checking him out.
She shrugged managing a wan smile as she looked away “Sure.” She’d been upset for a while but had talked herself out it. Ekene had wanted her upset and she would have been foolish to let him get to her.
“So what had it been about, the call?” He asked again.
She wanted to tell him but wasn’t sure, she really didn’t want to bombard him with her ex boyfriend and his issues. “If I said personal stuff, would you back off?”
“Nope, not after cleaning up all that mess you created, I deserve some answers, don’t you think?” He replied.
She laughed “I said I was sorry about that.”
” Well, maybe sorry isn’t enough.”
Her gaze was drawn to his mouth again as he spoke, hastily she looked up back at his eyes. Did He ever take no for an answer? “Mofe, I don’t want to involve you in my personal troubles.”
“I really don’t mind being involved.” He said “and considering I won the challenge, I get to ask anything from you remember?”
“Oh?” She laughed “So you are actually going to use that card?”
“Why not? It was a solid deal which you knowingly agreed to and solidly lost so why wouldn’t I use it?”
She closed her eyes still smiling as she wondered where to begin. He was right, she had to keep to her end of the deal, she had to spill.
Mofe couldn’t help the smile as he admired Ezinne, her eyes were closed as she gathered her thoughts. His fingers itched to brush back the hair carelessly falling over her face, half covering a side of it. He longed to caress her smooth creamy cheek and was disappointed that he couldn’t.
She had trusted him enough to invite him into her room, her personal space, he didn’t need to destroy that trust and creep her out.
“It was from Ekene.”
“Your douchebag idi.ot boyfriend,” He found himself saying “why am I not surprised?” he detested the guy and didn’t hide it.
“Well I won’t argue with you there, he is getting really annoying now. He is a liar and cheat and he just doesn’t want to let go. He is now either following me around or has people keeping tabs on my movement.
He called to ask why I now hang around your place, that he had people watching my movement and reporting to him.”
Mofe sat up “He is stalking you?”
“Yes, that’s what it seems like now, I asked him to leave me alone for the millionth time and he began calling me ugly names and saying my father would hear about my whoring activities, can you imagine?”
Mofe’s fist tightened reflexively and he suddenly had a strong urge to punch some sense into the idi.ot’s brain.
“It just got me so angry at the time, so angry and upset I couldn’t see straight that I had to leave…. later he began sending texts that he was sorry about his outburst, that he had been angry. He knew I was no whore and that he had called Dara my friend and she told him you were working on my final project and that was why we were together quite often.”
She spared him a glance then still speaking “she lied to him … I told her about the challenge yesterday and she knows we are done with the project. By the way, he’d already called my dad before calling her, to tell him his concocted bullshit story, that I had dumped him and was having an affair with you, can you imagine?”
“I placed a call to my dad immediately and boy was he pissed, he didn’t listen to a thing I had to say, told me he was in a meeting and would call me back. but he has obviously swallowed Kene’s version because he accused me of lying.” She looked pained as she said it “Can you imagine your father taking someone else’s word over yours?”
He shrugged, his heart wrenching at the look on her face. “My parents are both late, I’m an orphan so I really wouldn’t know.” He explained ” but I have an aunt who raised me and it would definitely hurt if she chose to believe someone else over me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear you are an orphan, I didn’t know.” She told him, looking up at him again… concern now on her face. He had noticed she didn’t like holding his gaze for too long. Preferring to focus on other things whenever they were together, why? She didn’t come across as shy but she preferred looking away, anyway he shouldn’t complain as it gave him a chance to shamelessly ogle her.
He shook his head, she didn’t need to be sorry for him .”Don’t worry about it, it happened years ago, I’ve gotten over it.”He brushed it aside easily.”Your ex is the real issue here. How did you meet such a wonderful creep by the way?”
She smiled wanly “I didn’t really meet him anywhere, we have known each other forever, our parents are good friends and somehow, we just progressed to dating and then just sort of knew we were going to get married. I suspected he was having affairs, he was so bad at covering his tracks but I never had proof until I caught him red handed a few weeks back.”
“And you are done with him for real? You don’t want him back at all?”
She sighed “To tell you the truth, I think I was sort of looking for a reason to leave him myself. The relationship had become sort of boring, at first it had been exciting to be with him but after years of being with him, it just got too predictable which wasn’t fun or challenging. Call me a hopeless romantic but I think I want to be madly attracted to the person I want to spend my life with. I want to feel something more powerful, or am I just being naive?”
He shrugged, taken unawares by her revelation.”I….um.. I don’t think you are naive.”
“You don’t sound convincing Mofe, haven’t you felt that raw passion for someone before? Or is it just in telemundo drama?”
He smiled slightly “Well, to be truthful, I have… ” He began careful not to reveal too much. “Of course it didn’t start out as strong at first, it sort of grew on me unknowingly. At first it was just an admiration but over time, it got deeper until it became quite strong. I’m not sure if it’s infatuation or whatever but its there, this strong feeling that I can’t shake off easily.”
She smiled at him “awww, I wish to feel something like that too.”
“Well, just make sure who ever you feel it for returns those feelings also….unrequited feelings aren’t fun.”
“What, she doesn’t feel same for you?” She was surprised.
He shrugged managing a wan smile, if only she knew.
“Well she’s missing out on a great guy.” She said taking his hand again, squeezing it and that familiar tingly sensation was there again, didn’t she feel it? It happened every time they touched, what was it about?
So she thought he was a great guy, great a enough to date, he wondered? Did she mean what she said or was she just saying it to make him feel better?
“Mofe….” she began uncertainly “So you were brought up by your aunt and husband?”
“No, just my aunt, Eric’s mother. She left Eric’s dad years ago and he has a new family now.”
He saw her raise a brow and felt a need to explain, she looked like she wanted to know more but didn’t know how to ask, so he helped her with more information.
” My..err, my parents died in an auto crash and my dad’s brother left me with my aunt, my mother’s twin. Eric was about three then while I was six, his dad and mom already had issues and my presence kind of compounded matters. In the end my aunt left him….story of my life,” he shrugged giving her the quick summary of it all and watching how she took it in.
“Wow…. that’s quite sad.”
“No, it’s not… considering that story hasn’t been completed yet, has it? I still have my whole life ahead of me, just because I had a rough start in life doesn’t mean I can’t make the most of what’s to come.”
“I know but still…. My mom died at childbirth and I know how it has been growing up under the general…he’s hardly ever around but atleast i have one parent alive, I’m trying to imagine what it would be like without both of them.”
“Well.. I really didn’t miss them much, my aunt did her best with us, she was everything we needed in a mom and dad.”
“Wow, she must be awesome.”
“She is…” he nodded. His aunt was one in a million
“And you’re something else yourself.”
He raised a brow amusedly “I am?”
“Yeah….. you are ….cool, selfless, so hardworking, optimistic and of course a computer whiz genius, I wonder why we weren’t friends all these years.”
“Yeah…” he replied swelling with pride at what she thought of him, ” it was because you were a stuck up ice princess snob.” He joked and she punched him on the arm, playful but quite hard.
“Ow!” He yelped, rubbing the spot on his arm, “what did you do that for?”
“You asked for it.” She pointed.
“Oh I did? And you think you’ll get away with it?”
she turned to him a little confused as to what he meant.
He was in a playful mood suddenly, “So you think you can punch me and get away with it?” He asked again, the mischief must have been in his eyes because she smiled.
“Yes, what are you gonna do about it?” She feigned defiance turning to face him.
“Is that a dare?” He asked closing up the space between them on the sofa. Their gazes were locked, she looked so pretty he wanted to kiss her. “By now you should know not to dare me, you’ll always lose.”
“You also should know by now that I don’t scare easily.” She retorted.
They were so close now, him looking down at her, her gaze dropping slightly to his lips before looking back up to meet his eyes. Was that an indication that she wanted him to kiss her? It had seemed like it but even though he wanted it, he didn’t want to cross that line when he wasn’t sure of her feelings for him.
“So what you gonna do, MJ?” She asked lightly.
“You really shouldn’t dare me, Zinnie…. you just might regret it.” He said giving into.instinct and brushing the hair off her face.
She did not rebuff him so he got bolder and cupped her chin in his palm, running his thumb lightly over her creamy smooth cheek, close to her lips. If only she knew the things he wanted to do to her.
“Regret what?” She asked quietly, it sounded a little seductive to him but he didn’t think she meant to seduce him. He must be imagining things.
“I don’t think you want to know.” He said. It would be so easy to kiss her right now. The mood was there, the tension, an invisible attracting force drawing him to her but it was probably just him feeling it because of his attraction to her.
“What if I do?” She asked again, this time biting her lower lip purposely. The action got him hard instantly and that was when he knew the game had gone far enough.
“Alright, I’m done! No more games.” He pulled away and made to sit back when she put her hands on the sides of.his face, pulling him back as she placed her lips on his.
For a second Mofe was frozen in shock but her soft lips against his were too tempting an invitation. Reflexively, he put his arm about her back and pulled her closer. Taking her bottom lip in his, he savored her taste. It was like taking a long awaited chill glass of drink after thirsting for so long. It felt refreshing.
She kissed him back softly, climbing up his thighs to sit astride him, her hands moving from his face to his hair, she ran her fingers over his head, through his hair lightly pressing her generously endowed burst to him.
Mofe wouldn’t rush this even though what he really wanted to do was ravage her whole body, he’d hungered for this for a long time, he was definitely going to make the best of it.
Running his tongue.lightly over her lip, he teased her mouth open, slipping his tongue in and finding hers. They touched briefly and he heard her slight moan just before he heard the loud horn of a car.
They broke apart, stunned and aroused as they stared at each other. Then they heard the gates open and wordlessly Ezinne got up and walked to the window.
“The General.” She whispered.
“Your dad’s back?” He asked stupidly, as if he didn’t know the general was her dad already. Well, he probably should be pardoned because he was still in shock. Shock from the kiss they had just shared.
“He cut his trip short?” She asked bewildered.
“I guess.he must have been worried about you, your ex must have been very convincing.” He got up to join her by the window. Looking out he saw the general step out of the car saying something to Aliyu the gateman just before looking up at her window.
Mofe didn’t know if the man saw him, but he met his gaze head on. A lesser person might have cowered away at the other man’s stare but Mofe wasn’t shaken. He wasn’t ashamed or.apologetic about who he was or what he felt for Ezinne.
He put his arm around her shoulder protectively, pulling her to himself but she stiffened and then held him off. He felt his heart shatter into a million shards as she rejected him.
“Mofe please…” she whispered not able to look at him.
“What is it, Ezinne?” He asked wondering what the problem was.
“I think it’s time you left.” she said stepping away, increasing the distance between them.
“Oh? It’s time I left? Just like that Ezinne, a few minutes back you were all over me and now it’s time I left?” He was stunned at her sudden coolness.
“I’m sorry about the kiss Mofe, I…. I’m not sure what came over me, it should never have happened. Please can you just leave without creating a scene? I’m already going to get it from my dad after he sees you here, I don’t need this from you also.”
“You are ashamed of me, arent you? Ashamed of being seen with me. Then why in the world did you kiss me like that if what you feel for me is shame, was it an experiment to you or what? I know I’m nothing but the help to you but know that I am human and I have feelings also. I’m not a toy or doll to be played around with.”
“Mofe, I don’t…I wasn’t…. it’s not like that, it’s just if my dad sees you he will believe everything that Ekene said about me.”
“If your dad knew you, he’d know you were nothing like that…. I will leave now but I won’t hide from your father..you might be ashamed of me but I know who I am and I am not ashamed of it. Good day.”
He turned and made for the door, resisting the urge to slam it as he closed it behind him. He would go downstairs and walk out proudly, in front of the General and even spare him a glance.
He was the help, he was paid to do odd jobs, it was an honest living and he wasn’t ashamed of it.