“Tell you what?” Ada stammered, wondering if she had heard him right. There was no way he could have come all the way to her apartment just to ask about her personal feelings towards him!
He sighed. “I’m intruding, I know, and I’m sorry.” He paused as if waiting for her to say something to the contrary, perhaps that he wasn’t intruding. She stayed quiet.
“Look, I need to know.” He continued. “For some reason, even though I have never done anything bad to you that I know of, you dislike me.” There was an accusing note in his voice. Have I hurt his feelings, Ada wondered, or his pride?
“It’s not just that you said it today.” He stated accusingly. “It’s always been obvious.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” Ada said. If she had known that just that statement would affect him so much, she would have kept her mouth shut. There goes my desire to collapse on the bed and fall asleep, she thought.
“Come on!” He exclaimed. “At least you can’t deny that you admitted it today.”
She really should have kept her big mouth shut. “That was the wine talking.” She told him, it was half-true anyway.
“One glass.” He pointed out, shaking his head in disbelief. “Admit it. You don’t like me.” He gave her a challenging look. When she didn’t say anything, he continued. “Well for some reason, I find that I like you.” He paused, as Ada’s face drew into an expression of puzzlement. “Yes. I like you, a lot actually. So what I’d like to know is why our opinions of each other are so unfortunately out of balance.”
Had he just said he liked her?
What did it even mean to be liked by Eddie Bakare? And what exactly did ‘like’ mean? Did he like ‘like’ her, or did he just like her? She sighed and stepped away from the door. “Come inside.” She said, in the light of his pronouncement, – whatever it meant – it seemed somewhat rude to leave him standing there.
He stalked past her into the living room. His eyes fell on her camera bag and her shoes, which she had only discarded a few moments before he rang the doorbell.
“You just got home?” He observed.
“Yes.” She replied.
He looked apologetic. “You must be tired.”
She folded her arms over her chest, suppressing the urge to smirk. How did you guess? She wanted to ask him, was it the fact that you saw me stand for hours today? “Actually, I am.” She said instead.
He chuckled at the expression on her face. “Okay, I get it, I am being a nuisance.” He didn’t look too disturbed by his own observation. “But just answer my question and I’ll be gone before you know it.”
Before I know it? Ada almost smiled. It’s a little too late for that.
“Did I do something?” He continued, his expression serious. “Was I ever an Ass to you? Or am I just so hateful that you can’t bear to be nice to me?”
There was something in the way he asked that made her suddenly feel gentle towards him. She shook her head. “No, you’re not.” She said softly. It’s just that you are too handsome, too charming, and too easy to love, She added silently, You’ve got heartbreaker written all over you, and I don’t want to get my heart broken.
“So what is it?” He prompted, oblivious to her thoughts.
Ada decided to change the subject.
“Do you want a drink?” She asked.
He laughed. “A drink is not the answer to my question, Ada.”
“Well I am going to get drinks.” Ada stated, ignoring him and escaping into the kitchen. What did he want her to say? There was no sensible way to answer his question. Okay so she was prejudiced against him because he was rich and handsome, and had everything handed to him on a silver platter, but she couldn’t tell him that, could she? Why was he so intent on knowing anyway? Surely, she couldn’t be the first girl not to have fallen for the Bakare charm.
She returned to the living room with two cans of malt. She would let him drink his malt, tell him how tired she was, and usher him out of her apartment. She had a plan for her life, things she needed to do and achieve. She didn’t need Eddie’s attention, his interest, or his questions in her life.
He had moved from where they had been standing, close to the door, to the little side table by the window. She realized now that she hadn’t offered him a seat. How rude of me, she thought.
He was bent over the side table looking at something, his back to her. He really was well built. She thought, admiring his broad shoulders and slim waist. All guys should look like this. She decided.
She was already halfway to him before she realized what it was he was looking at.
“What are you doing?” She squeaked in panic.
He turned to look at her, his face innocent, and serious. “These are astounding!” He said earnestly.
She resisted the urge to rush forward, to grab the book from his hands and clutch it to her chest. Her book, that was what he had been looking at, the only printed copy of her blood and sweat, a whole year spent walking the city of Lagos, taking pictures. Only about two people had seen it, it was her most protected asset, and yet here was Eddie, flipping through it as if he had every right to do so.
She willed herself to remain calm, not to succumb to that condition that every artist suffers, she willed herself to conquer that hesitance to let people see her work, that instinct to protect it as if it were a child, born from her soul.
“I hope you don’t mind.” He continued. He hadn’t missed her reaction, and she could see the worry in his face, the question he was silently asking, had he overstepped a boundary? “I saw the cover, it was very intriguing, and I decided to take a look.”
She looked at the page that he had open, ‘The blind beggar’. It was one of her personal favorites. The beggar was an old man, squatting on a paved sidewalk, wearing a dirty white caftan. He had a bowl, held out in his thin hands, as his filmy eyes looked unseeingly into the camera with an expression of silent appeal. Behind him, as a backdrop, one of the Eyo masquerades stood, a wireframe topped with a wide-brimmed, white hat and draped with flowing white robes that billowed in the wind, bringing it to life.
“This is powerful.” Eddie said. Was that awe in his voice? Ada wondered. “I feel compelled to keep looking.” He added. He was looking at her with a mixture of admiration and respect. It was heady. The nice things he was saying were making her forget her reluctance to let anyone look at her work.
She took a deep breath and handed him the can of malt. “It was very windy the day I took that picture.” She told him. Let him look, she told herself, what harm can it do? “I was rushing home from work, but when I saw that man sitting there, I just l knew it was a picture I had to take.”
He smiled. “So you don’t mind that I looked?” He asked gently. There was relief in his voice, how could she disappoint him?
“No.” She replied. “I’m glad you like them.”
“How could I not?” He exclaimed. “They are extraordinary.” He paused to turn another page. “Are you published?” He asked. “Commercially?”
“Not yet.” Ada replied.
“Why not?” He asked. “This looks ready to go.”
Could she tell him about some of the publishers who required that you put up a hundred per cent of the cost of publishing a book such as hers? She was saving the money to publish her work, but that was not his concern.
He flipped through some more pages. “Don’t you want to sit?” She asked him. He couldn’t be very comfortable standing over the side table. A minute ago, you wanted him to leave, a warning voice in her head reminded her, now you’re inviting him to sit.
She didn’t listen, she followed as he carried the book – it was a large book – to the couch and even sat beside him. She watched as he went through all the pictures, telling him the story behind each one, “I wanted to make ugly things look beautiful and powerful.” She said finally, as he closed the book on the last picture, an old woman with a cane, being led by the hand by a barefoot boy of about twelve years old.
“Well, you succeeded.” He said and smiled at her. “I feel like applauding.”
Ada laughed. “That would be awkward.” She observed.
He looked at her for a long moment. “I believe that’s the first time you’ve ever laughed at anything I’ve said.” He said, with a note of teasing in his voice. “I like it.”
Their eyes held over the closed book. Ada didn’t feel tired anymore. The intimacy of the moment had her blood pounding. He was so close she could see the real color of his eyes, they were not dark brown, like almost everybody else’s, they were a beautiful hazel, she could see his lashes, and even the small hairs on his chin.
He was studying her face intently too. Maybe I am still drunk, Ada thought, but I want him to kiss me.
He must have heard her thoughts because at that moment he leaned down and captured her lips with his.
She was kissing Eddie Bakare.
The thought bounced wildly in her head.
She was kissing Eddie Bakare!
And she was liking it.
Her heart fluttered sweetly in her chest as his lips moved over hers. So this was what it felt like to be really kissed! A wave of pure pleasure washed down over her, from her hair to her toes.
She heard someone moan, no, not someone, her. Her hand found his shoulder and held on to him, he responded by pulling her closer, deepening the kiss. Ada felt what must have been a star of pleasure burst in her head.
Don’t ever stop, she begged silently, don’t ever, ever stop.
She tried to open her eyes to ask him why but her lids felt too heavy, when she finally got them to open, her eyes fell on his lips, still so close to her own.
How could she never have noticed how insanely kissable those lips were?
She dragged her eyes up to his, he was also looking at her lips, when he looked up, his eyes were smoky, and he was breathing very heavily.
Now she felt shy. This was Eddie, for God’s sake! He had no business kissing her, or her him. He belonged to the countless other girls who deserved him, not her, she had no use for a guy like him.
“Go out with me.” He said, his voice sounded strange, urgent, and insistent. This was not the cool, calm, and funny Eddie she knew, Ada thought. This was passionate Eddie. Was it her? Could she really be having such an effect on him?
“Go out with you?” She echoed lamely.
He nodded. His hands were still wrapped around her arms, warm and sweet. Kiss me again, her inner voice urged. “I can’t go out with you.” She said instead.
“Why not?” He asked. He leaned closer, his lips mere inches from hers, if she just leaned a little forward….
“I don’t even like you.” She told him.
He chuckled. “That’s the second time you’re saying that in one day.” He said reproachfully.
“I’m sorry.” She said contritely. “But I can’t.”
“Just a date.” He urged. “One.” He thought for a moment. “Pretend we just met, maybe at the bank, at the movies, or at your office, and I asked you to dinner. Give me a chance to prove that if you get to know me better, you might actually like me.”
I don’t want to like you, she thought, and it’s too late to pretend we just met, not when my lips are still tingling from kissing you. She sighed. “One date?”
His smile was full of triumph. “Yes.” He said. “One date.”
She nodded. What could it hurt? “Okay. Just one date.”
His smile widened, and she was rewarded with the sight of two beautiful dimples. “I can’t wait.” He said, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. He got up. “I should let you rest. I will call you tomorrow.”
She sighed. What have I gotten myself into? She wondered as she watched him walk to the door. What in heaven’s name, have I gotten myself into?