Eleven years ago
Mofe jumped to the sound of Ezinne’s voice at the door. Turning on the bed, still quite groggy from sleep, he wasn’t exactly sure he had heard right. Could it be a dream, one of the occasional dreams he usually had about her? But the insistent raps came up on the door again and he realised it was no dream, she was indeed at the door.
“Open up Mofe, I know you are in there.”
“Yeah, gimme a minute.” He called at her quite surprised and wondering what she could be doing here, not that he minded seeing that pretty face for a few minutes but he hoped there was no problem. Had Dr. Franca refused her term paper after she had returned? He doubted it, the lecturer had given the impression that she would accept it especially as she had asked her to look after her kid. Except Ezinne had said or done something to annoy the woman again, he hoped she hadn’t dropped the baby on her head.
He got up to pull on a shirt over his basketball shorts. He’d meant to go for the game but had chosen to rest instead as he hardly had the time to rest much and it had been a good opportunity. He would probably have been benched through the game for being late anyway because of his detour to help Zinnie. He didn’t regret his decision to help Ezinne instead of going for the game. What was bball compared to Zinnie and besides, he’d had two good hours worth of sleep.
He opened the door to see her standing out there, looking as beautiful as usual, her brown eyes even lighter in colour as the sun reflected against them. She didn’t look troubled, in fact she was smiling brightly, perfect white dentition in full view.
“Hi?” He started, his baritone voice deeper than usual as he was just waking up.
“Did I wake you up? I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you were asleep, I thought you were pretending not to be in.” She started, apologising in earnest.
Mofe frowned in sudden confusion, “and why in the world would I do that?” He wondered aloud.
She shrugged, the smile somewhat dimming “How would I know with your attitude that fluctuates more than that of a hormonal woman, one can never be sure what mood one would meet you in.”
Had she just compared him to a hormonal woman? “I don’t know if it’s cause I’m still groggy and not quite awake yet but I’m quite sure you just sort of insulted me just now?”
Her eyes widened in mock amazement “Did I?”
He shook his head at her, seeing the amusement in her eyes, ” You are lucky I’m not thinking straight at the moment or I would have found the perfect reply for you.”
“Yeah whatever, anyway I brought lunch, not sure if you’ve had any. If you have, you could eat it for dinner. Kind of a thank you gesture for your help today.”
He raised a brow noticing the plastic bag in her hand as she raised it up. This was a pleasant surprise, he took the bag she handed him. Well, guess the thing with Dr. Franca had gone well after all.
“You want to come in for a while,” he invited not wanting this meeting to end already “I haven’t had lunch yet, you could join me.”
He saw uncertainty cross her eyes for a second. “I should probably let you get on with your sleep.”
“Come on,” He persuaded “let’s enjoy this wonderful meal you didn’t cook together, sleep can wait.”
That got her attention, her eyebrows peaked”and what makes you think I didn’t cook it?” She asked stepping into the room.
He scoffed”Please! I have been in and out of your house for almost four years now and have never for once seen you in the kitchen.”
“Oh? So because you come in once a while and have not seen me in the kitchen now means I can’t cook?” She asked casually dropping on the couch in the room.
“Yes. You don’t cook, that’s the reason your dad hired the cook, duh?” He said going into the kitchen to get dishes.
“Just cause we have a cook doesn’t mean I can’t cook.” She countered
“Yeah, right,” he muttered bringing in the dishes from the kitchen and laying it on the desk that acted as his reading table and right now dinning table. Proceeding to dish the meal, he marvelled at the aroma that assaulted his nostrils, the meal consisted beans, fried plantain with grilled fish. “You really want me to believe you cooked this? When did your babysitting job end that you came up with all this.”
“I didn’t say I prepared this, I only said that you were wrong to assume I couldn’t cook.”
He paused for a while turning to hold her eyes, he knew how to catch her”Okay then, prove me wrong. Cooking challenge tomorrow, make us a meal, how’s that?”
She raised her brows, pausing for a second as she came up with a reply “Just come out and say you are looking for a free meal, Mofe.”
He couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped him “Okay, yeah who wouldn’t like a free meal but it would also be a chance to prove you can cook, very win-win don’t you think?”
“Hmmmm,” she seemed to be considering it “and how would you be sure I prepared it myself?”
“Because my dear,you will be preparing it here, in my kitchen. My kitchen might not be as fancy as yours but it’s not all bad, it’s got the basics, a sink with running water, gas stove even with an oven and grill, if you’d like to use that. You can manage well and I will be on hand to help with anything you need except the cooking part.”
“Hmmm…..and what will I be cooking?” She asked and it seemed to him that she might actually take him up on it.
“Anything you are comfortable with.” He said trying to pity her a bit, he didn’t want to be picky, even if it was noodles she chose to prepare, he was fine with it.
“I am comfortable with anything you want me to prepare.” She stated.
Mofe smiled slowly, he had to give her points for bravery here, she held her own even though he knew very well she didn’t know the first thing about cooking anything. “Okay then, I would like you to prepare…. Spaghetti with Chicken stir fry.” I will provide all the ingredients and help you with chopping it up but I won’t cook it. Deal?”
He told himself she would back out but was quite surprised when she extended her hand to him, “Deal!”
He took her hand in a handshake but didn’t release it just yet “If you prove me wrong that you can indeed cook, you can ask for anything from me and I will have to comply regardless of what it is, the same if you lose. I will ask anything of you and you will have to comply.”
She frowned , distrust showing up in her beautiful eyes ” No sexually related request will be involved I hope?”
“Oh please!” He scoffed. “Of course not!”
He wasn’t sure what he’d done or said that got her laughing but he liked the sound of her chuckles “Okay then, deal!”
He released her slender and delicate hand finally, already missing the feel of it in his. She would back out from the deal before tomorrow, he was sure.
Giving in to his desire to savour the meal he took a spoon full from his plate, it was divine. Sweet and very different from the regular taste of beans. It must have showed on his face because she smiled.
“Beans cooked in coconut milk, it’s a specialty of the cook’s, you like it?”
“It tastes awesome.” He handed her the plate containing hers.
“How come you are home, anyway? You said you had somewhere to be.” She asked as she accepted it from him.
“Yeah,” he pulled out the chair behind the desk to sit opposite her. I changed my mind and decided to grab some shut eye instead. How did the babysitting go?”
“Not bad at all, Isabel slept not long after you had left and Dr, Franca came back to meet her still asleep. I can safely say that I am sure I will be getting a good score on that term paper.”
Mofe chuckled, “You see, not so difficult after all, how did you get her to fall asleep?”
She smiled knowingly then “I did as you suggested, I sang to her.”
He shook his head, still smiling “Zinnie, you definitely owe me.”
“But I am cooking for you tomorrow.” She protested
“That’s different.” He shook his head. “That’s a challenge.”
“Hmmm, so what do I owe you now?”
“Something, I’m not sure at the moment but soon, I’ll let you know.”
“Wow, Don Corleone, so you are just going to hold it over my head like the sword of Damocles?”
He chuckled at her reference if him as the godfather “Don’t worry, I’m a simple guy, I don’t demand much.”
“I surely hope so.”
He smiled at her as he took a spoon of the meal, he couldn’t believe his luck today. She was here and they were having a meal together. Dumping his cousin and the bball game had been the best decision he’d made even though he knew he wouldn’t hear the last of it from his cousin that evening.
He’d saved some beans for him, that might help pacify him somewhat, Eric didn’t play with his stomach and he would be hungry after the game.
“By the way, there would be a penalty if you back out of our agreement tomorrow, you know that?”
She burst into laughter ” Mofe,” she called looking him dead in the eye “be assured, I am not backing out! Where are you even coming up with these rules from? It’s just a cooking challenge, not the Olympics.”
He shook his head ” I take all challenges seriously, Zinnie because I like to win and I usually do.”
“Okay well,too bad because you aren’t winning this one.”
“Oh really?” See her making mouth as if she had some ace up her sleeve that he didn’t know about. He knew very well that she was bluffing.
“You can bluff all you want now Ezinne but tomorrow, be ready to put your food where your mouth is.” He said drily drawing laughter from her. The sound intoxicated him, he still couldn’t believe she was here in his little self contain apartment. He was enjoying this day immensely.