I blinked, absently scratching the scar on my elbow and dragging my sleeve down to hide it. His eyes never left my face. Did he just ask to kiss me? What in God’s name did he want me to say? Um…thing is I’m not the least bit attracted to you so keep your ‘lebe’ to yourself? Oh dear! My sweat glands were beginning to give away my discomfort. I swallowed.
“Uh…well,” I tried, “I…hmm. The thing is –“
A loud ripple of laughter coming from him startled me.
“You should see your face … oh my! I am too much. Gotcha!!”
My shock disappeared immediately and in spite of myself, I laughed. It was more out of relief than shared humor. We then talked about work and all the female attention he had been drawing from the new recruits.
“If only they knew what a clown you are, they wouldn’t wait to be told to run.”
“Oh, you don’t know that I’m Mr. Hard-to-get at work. No one could ever guess that I have a funny bone. Only a few people even know I dance as well.”
“So, you’re living a double life huh?” We had left his apartment and had just arrived in the school where he was meant to teach a dance class. “I wonder who I’d be if I was living a double life.”
I noticed he wasn’t listening as we got into the rehearsal hall. All the students were already present, waiting for ‘Mr. K’ as they fondly called him. I followed his gaze to a lady sitting in a corner of the hall. Aged anywhere between twenty-three and twenty-eight, her simple dress clung to her quite well accentuating her well rounded breasts. Looking the way she was while still seated, I wasn’t particularly excited about seeing her stand. Her eyes lit up on seeing Kelvin, then she stood. She was very … feminine. Looking at her, I was suddenly aware of how small I looked with breasts that vowed to remain the size of tomatoes, too subtle curves and a backside most would describe as ‘just ok’. Plus, I was dressed in my regular sleeves and skinny jeans. No wonder I had not wanted to see her stand. She was beautiful.
I stood at the entrance watching them exchange pleasantries. There was something strained about the exchange. After what seemed like forever, he led her towards me and introduced her as Esther. I smiled as she took my hands in her soft palms; did everything have to be perfect about Esther? Then it hit me – the way they looked at each other, the longing in their eyes, the nervous laughs; this was the girl who broke his heart.
Her niece was one of Kelvin’s students so she stuck around till the class was over and then walked up to him. I pretended to be busy with my phone while they talked in low tones. Then he walked towards me, whispered something in my ear, nodded at me and walked out the door with Esther. I stared after him in disbelief.
He had whispered that she invited him to lunch so they could ‘talk somewhere private’. I was not sure what upset me more, the fact that he was sure I’d be okay with it and didn’t even wait for my reply or the fact that this lady who was so painfully beautiful didn’t care that I came here with him. She didn’t care that I would have to go home alone. I got my things together and went outside to find a taxi. Who cared anyway?
I heard my name just as a taxi pulled up in front of me. I turned to see Kelvin half-running, half-walking towards me. He got into the cab and when I still hadn’t moved, barked my name again. I snapped out of it and joined him in the car.
“Jevinik, please,” I heard him say to the driver.
“Jevinik?” I turned to him. “Shouldn’t you be having lunch with Esther?”
“Yeah. But I figured you’d be hungry.”
He smiled at me. It was not the goofy smile I was used to, this one made my insides melt. I averted my gaze. I did not like this feeling.
I had almost forgotten about the whole episode with Esther as I ate the mountain of food he ordered – Jevinik always served the best. I was glad I hadn’t eaten anything that day, because it meant more room in my tummy for all the food.
“Aren’t you going to ask about Esther?” He still had a long way to go with his food. I felt slightly ashamed as I looked at my plate.
“Oh” was all I said.
“Well, do you want to hear about it?” I nodded vehemently. He went on to tell me about the relationship they had had, he and Esther, a relationship he had been sure would lead to marriage. She was his everything and thought he was her all … I wanted him to skip to the end. It was like the story in a novel I couldn’t wait to finish.
“She cheated on me.” He said finally. I said nothing in reply. My silence seemed to be enough for him because he nodded and smiled. I resisted the impulse to reach out and hold his hand.
“Why did you come back?” I realized I had asked the question out loud only after it came out.
He stared down at his plate while his fork toyed with the half-eaten food. Like a toddler caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He looked so cute like that I resisted the impulse again, this time to reach out and rub his head. Finally he looked up and fixed his morose eyes on me. “I was stupid for leaving in the first place,” he said.
Once again, I averted my gaze.
By Keren Happuch Odinenu
Words are work … and fun too!