The next morning when I woke up, there was a fresh new energy that rushed through my bones. I felt brand new. The window curtains were pulled up and the early morning sun lite up my spirit. Too many things had been running through my head as I tried sleeping last night. I had to plan my next move. I couldn’t stay with Daniella forever even when I had started to like the environment I found myself in. I thought about going back to the company I once worked for to see if there would be any job openings. I wanted to run to my father immediately and tell him that I was wrong and he was right but I still had my pride. I made up my mind that I would stay as far away from Cynthia as I possibly could even if all my money and assets were with her. For now, I needed a way to make another kind of money and get myself back on track.
Just as I was about putting my shirt back on that I had taken off last night due to heat, she walked in. I didn’t expect her to stare; there was nothing to look at. My once 6 packed stomach had been reduced to nothing after 5 years in jail. She made me uncomfortable. Last night, I had seen almost every bare part of her and here I was, hiding away like a teenage boy.
“Don’t you think you’re being a little bit selfish, considering that last night I practically put on a show for you?” she asked, dropping the tray of food she held on the floor. I disregarded her comment and went straight for the tray, hoping that the content inside was for me.
“Should I go ahead?” I asked, before opening the first plate.
“Yes please.” She stepped away from the tray. I opened the first plate and the pungent scent of Egusi soup hits me. I looked up at her surprised before opening the second plate which had eba inside. She gave me a go ahead look and I didn’t think it twice. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a well-cooked home meal. In my attempt to slow down and not get indigestion, my hands said otherwise. I ate as if I had been starved for years. She watched me eat and couldn’t stop laughing. She constantly reminded me to slow down and go for a water break.
“My mother will like to meet you.” She said, as I was about swallowing the last bite of eba. My mouth immediately curved into an “Oh” sound.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I picked up the bowl on my left that contained water for washing.
“Victor come on, you’re not going to come into her house, eat her food and not at least say hello to her.” Yes, what she said was right but I didn’t feel worthy enough to meet her. I just wanted to finish the meal, thank Daniella for her help and then forget everything.
“Do you know how hard it was for me to convince her that you are a good man who helped my last night, and so it’s only wise for us to return the favor? My parents aren’t too fond of visitors you know, especially strangers.”
She left me with no other choice. I helped her clear the floor where I had ate and followed behind her as we marched to meet her mother.
“Mama, this is victor… the man I told you about.” She moved to her mother’s side. Both of them were now staring at me.
“Hope you enjoyed the food my son?”
I nodded. I couldn’t stop staring at the family photo that was on the wall in their living room. Daniella hadn’t told me she had siblings. The family I saw in the photo looked really happy and satisfied with the little they had. But what was my business with Daniella? Why should I care if she had siblings or not? Why was it that the happy faces I saw in the picture made me sad? I came back to my senses to pay more attention to what the elderly woman was saying.
“When I heard a lot of noise coming from the kitchen this morning, I woke up to find Daniella cooking. She explained to me that you helped her last night when some group of boys tried to beat her up. Thank you so much my son. I have told her to stop moving around late at night but she is a wild child.” Daniella giggled and patted her mother’s left shoulder.
I was confused. The story her mother was relating to me wasn’t what happened. Daniella, who stood by her mother, kept giving out signals for me to play along. I wanted to tell the mom that her daughter was the one who saved me and not the other way around.
“Mama…” I began but Daniella quickly rushed to my side and cover my mouth. She began to cough.
“Mama, he will be leaving now.” She pinched me, and it was my queue to speak.
“Madam, thank you for accepting me into your home, I will be taking my leave now.” Her mother bided her sincere goodbye.
“What was that all about?” I asked angrily once Daniella and I were outside, away from her mother’s view.
“What do you mean?” she looked clueless. “I just saved both of our asses back there, so you Mr.… should be the one thanking me.” She poked my chest. She stood in front of me, a full woman although much younger. Daniella was the definition of beauty. Her brown skin shone when the sun came upon her. She stood tall and bold, as if no man on this earth could bring her down. The way she looked at me posed a challenge that I wasn’t ready for. I shook my head, quenching the fire that was growing in my loin.
“I have to go now, thank you for everything.” I watched her once bright face take another form.
“When will I be seeing you again?”
“I don’t think we will ever meet again, Lord knows it’s better that way.” I sighed. She was making this much harder than I had planned it to be. I refused to believe that I was beginning to grow an attachment to a girl I had just met a night before. That was the same shit that had gotten me involved with Cynthia and Vivian. I would be damned if I was to make the same mistake twice.
“I’m not like the others.” She boldly called out.
Like who? Vivian or Cynthia? You couldn’t come close. I thought to myself as I walked away, hoping it was for the best.