A·rous′al (əˈraʊzl) noun
the action or fact of arousing or being aroused
Once again, I’m faced with the horribly difficult decision of what to wear. I’m done with the house chores which I never seem to be able to escape on Saturday mornings, no matter how long I sleep in or what lies I create to tell my mum. Speaking of which, I need to figure out the one for today. I’ll probably just tell her I’m going to see a friend. At least it won’t be a lie, just half a truth.
I settle for a pair of white linen trousers and a slightly fitted black, embroidered calf-length Caftan. My obsession with hiding my curves is a reality that I have stared in the face every time I find myself in a clothes store and my wardrobe is bursting with all kinds of ‘unflattering’ outfits. I’m particularly pleased with today’s selection because it seems like what an urban northern woman would wear. For good measure, I find a red chiffon scarf which I intend to wrap around my head and shoulders once I’m out of the vicinity of my parents’ house. No point raising my mother’s suspicions. I can’t deal with having to figure out that explanation.
Dressed and ready, I head downstairs and outside. Sh*t! Daddy is outside. I never like to run into him when I’m leaving the house. He just makes me very uncomfortable. I usually can feel his disapproval from miles away. Suck it up young lady. You’re a graduate, not a baby. He should respect that.
“Ah, you’re going out?” he asks as I approach my car.
“Yes daddy. I’m going to see my friend.” Please don’t ask which one.
“Is that not too far?”
I roll my inner eyes. My French school is in Ikoyi for goodness sake and I make that trip every morning. “No, it’s not too far.”
“Ok o. Come back in time.”
“I will.” And I finally escape. I bet the man is probably wishing that he hadn’t bought me a car. Tough luck. There’s not much he can do about that now.
My drive to Lekki is smooth and uninterrupted, except for the several traffic lights along the stretch from Ozumba Mbadiwe to the toll plaza. At one of the lights, I take the opportunity to wrap my scarf around my head. I check myself out in the rear view mirror. Not bad, especially in combination with my sunglasses. I think I’ve been able to pull off northern chic and none of the things I’m wearing is suggestive. Oops! We’re moving again.
I finally make it past the toll and then drive into Lekki Phase One. I bring out the little sheet on which I had written the directions he gave me and look for the landmarks. Finding his apartment building isn’t difficult at all. I pull up to the gate and honk, just as he had told me to. A security guard pokes his head out, then walks up to my car and gestures for me to lower my window.
“I’m here to see Danladi” I say before he says anything.
“Ok ma.” And he goes to open the gate. I look at the time. It’s noon. Is it too early for lunch? Well I didn’t have breakfast so it’s not early. I drive into the compound and then a big, tight knot forms in my stomach. What exactly am I doing here? Should I be here? Well, you’re here now, the voice in my head mocks me. I pick up the bottle of wine and the bag of apples I have brought with me. I’ve made the trip here, so I might as well get out of the car and get it over with.
As I approach his apartment door, it opens and he’s standing in the doorway, with a huge grin on his face.
“You made it huh? I could have sworn you didn’t really want to come.”
“Well, I said I’d come so here I am.” I hand over the wine and apples “I brought these. We can have some of it after lunch.”
“Perfect. Come in.”
I enter his apartment. It’s quite nice. Very Spartan in appearance, but then I’m not surprised. It’s a guy’s house. There doesn’t seem to be any feminine touch or presence in the house, or so I think until a woman walks into the living room just as I start to lower myself into the couch. I jump back up, startled at the presence of another human and more so because it’s female.
“Sir, everything is ready now. You only need to stir-fry the vegetables whenever you’re ready to eat.”
“Thank you very much Gladys. You can pick up the keys from Sule when you come in on Monday.”
“Good bye sir”
As Gladys leaves, I realize that I have been holding my breath. She’s just the housekeeper. Phew! And then it dawns on me that she just referred to a meal, the meal Danladi was supposed to cook.
“I thought you said you’d cook?”
“Yes. I did. And I will.” He says as he locks the door behind Gladys
“Stir fry the vegetables, right?”
“It is a form of cooking, isn’t it?” He puts his hands in the pockets of his jeans and walks towards me.
“You gave me the impression that you’d cook everything that we would be eating.” I counter, folding my arms across my chest.
“It was an impression. Not a fact.” He responds with a smirk and stops in front of me. “Come here.” And he pulls on a folded arm drawing me flush against him. His palms circle my waist and he stares at my face for what seems like ages, his gaze touching my lips and then looking up into my eyes.
“How are you?” he asks in a low tone.
“Hungry…” I say. And he bursts out laughing.
“You make me laugh. A lot. And I really like that.” He lets go of me and walks into the door that Gladys had first come out from. Must be the kitchen.
“What would you like to drink?” he calls over his shoulder. “Water is not an option at this point.”
I’m not quite sure what to say to that. My waist is still burning in the places that he held me. My pulse is still racing. For a moment there, I thought he was going to kiss me. So I said the first thing that came to mind. Now, I wish I had eaten breakfast. I probably would have said something more intelligent than ‘hungry’. And I’m really thirsty. Some water would do me a whole lot of good right now. Poured over my head that is.
He comes back with a tall glass of what looks like orange juice and hands it to me. I take a long, thirsty sip. It’s actually pineapple juice with a slight alcoholic taste.
“What’s in this?” I ask.
“Relax. It’s pineapple juice with a splash of Vodka. I figured it would help you relax a little, seeing as you seem a bit frazzled.”
“I’m not frazzled.” I lie.
“Really?” There’s that amused, lopsided smile again. “Then why haven’t you sat down since you came in? My couch doesn’t bite.”
I sit down quickly.
“Or you could come watch me in the kitchen, while I whip up the stir fry. I don’t want to keep you hungry.”
I stand back up. This is getting really unnerving for me. I need to find my feet, yeah the ones he’s swept off from under me. I follow him into the kitchen, drink in hand. His kitchen is well appointed, and while there’s no woman in the house, I am certain that a woman definitely set this part of the house up. Reminder of the fact that he’s married. I watch him get to work slicing vegetables – peppers, onions, carrots, green beans – he’s actually quite skillful with the knife. I wonder what else he’s skillful with. Now where did that thought pop out from?
I study him in profile, seeing more of his back than his face. His t-shirt is sleeveless, so it’s the first time I’ve seen his arms bare. I watch his muscles work as he de-bones and slices chicken into strips. And then he reaches up into a cupboard to bring out a frying pan. And his shirt tightens across his butt. I don’t know why I haven’t noticed his buttocks before. Taut and well-defined, and actually there! Not flat like for a lot of guys. He has a nice ass. He’s…
“How spicy do you want your stir-fry?”
“Hot.” He’s hot…
“How hot?” he turns around to look at me
I didn’t realize I had spoken out. “Err, not too spicy.” Damn! He caught me staring. I need to get away.
“Where’s the bathroom?”
“Out the kitchen, to your right, first door on your left. Don’t stay too long in there. Lunch is almost ready.”
“Thanks.” I find the bathroom, lock myself in and stare at myself in the mirror. I still have the scarf on my head. He didn’t even remark about my elaborate get up. What am I even playing at? Trying to pretend to be somebody I’m not? Okay girl. You’re going to go out there, cool, calm, collected. You’re going to make intelligent conversation. You’re going to eat what’s placed in front of you and you are going to keep your cool until it’s time to leave! Never mind the heat that’s slowly building between your legs and the rock that seems to have lodged itself in your lower belly.