After her outburst, the silence lengthened between them.
“Ifeoma!" Her mother's scolding voice cut through the charged atmosphere.
"Is that how to greet your mother's guest, ehn? With confrontation?” Letting out a loud hiss, Mama came to Chinedu’s aide, stopping what was about to turn into a train wreck.
“Don’t mind her, my son. How are you?”
If she was a meddling mother, he was gladly an enabler. At least, she came through for him. Guy! You fuck up. Why did you have to go telling Iphey you deleted her numbers? Dear God… Smiling sheepishly, he could have kicked himself for the nearly perfect impression of the awkward teenager he was putting on show. Cupid was surely having another laugh at him.
Highly irritated, Iphey cut Mama's bonding session with her perceived potential son-in-law short. “OK… I really don’t have time for this. I have to get back to work.” She stormed off, leaving Chinedu with Mama. At the door, she hurriedly mumbled some awkward but polite goodbyes and “nice to see you” to Ngozi and Otunba. In truth, she wasn’t totally thinking about her job after that last tidbit about deleting her details. She would have agreed to jump on to a bed of hot coals if it meant avoiding Chinedu.
The man might have been shaky with his words in the beginning, but he definitely wasn’t playing at the end. Even when caught off guard he exuded a natural confidence that couldn’t be taken away from him. He had just told her he had been ready to throw her over and here she was still salivating. The fact that he was just as gorgeous as the last time she saw him wasn’t helping either.
She looked up and Chinedu was in front of her. His eyes looked straight into hers unflinchingly. This was not the right time to be gazing into the eyes of an alluringly attractive man. Sanity had to be preserved. Brushing past him, Iphey dashed into her car.
Let him stew in it. Leaving him like this made her heart ache, but she was too proud. The high of their reconciliation had been dented by finding out that it had been so easy for him to forget her. And it seemed that the pride of her car had been dented as well, her engine spluttered and died when she turned it on. She couldn’t believe what was happening right when she needed to escape the most.
Again and again, the car refused to start. When she turned the ignition, the uncooperative engine made a sound that seemed to be laughing at her futile attempts to get it to work. Iphey felt herself on the verge of explosion. Surely, this much exasperation couldn’t be contained in one body… She was one second away from bursting into a torrential flood of tears when a deep soothing voice came through her window.
“I’ll take you.”
Iphey decided to play the hand fate had dealt her. Whatever her beef with him, the fuming Funmi still waited in the office. She didn't even want to fight him off any longer. She was in Chinedu’s car with all her stuff before she knew it. As they drove in silence, she noticed he was smiling. Out of amusement this time, not awkwardness.
“What is so funny?”
Chinedu let out a quiet laugh. It was that of a confident and mildly amused man. “So you sabi Ibo like that?” Iphey hadn’t realised she had been cursing in Ibo at her choppy day, her manager and her car. They both burst into laughter. The tension brewed by all the day’s previous events melted into oblivion. There was something about him that always put her at ease. It was the same calm she felt when he comforted her during Obi’s hospitalisation. Her mind drifted, envisioning being held in his arms, totally at peace without a care in the world.
“You always know exactly what to say or do. When you aren’t having strange women over or robbing people at gunpoint, of course.”
The laughter died at once. A feeling of intense stupidity enveloped Iphey. She had no idea why she had said that. Before she could take it back, Chinedu had veered off the road, stopping sharply by some roadside stalls. He was visibly angry.
“Who do you think you are? You no get secret? You no get past? The fact that you know mine does not give you the right to throw it in my face all the time."
He threw his hands up. "Women! You say you want honesty, then you run when you hear the truth. You say you are not interested in me, then you freak out at the sight of another woman. What the hell do you want from me?”
Iphey was dumbfounded. He was irate. She couldn’t bring herself to look at him, reverting to a childhood habit of playing with her fingers when nervous. She now looked down at them.
“Answer me! Answer me now!”
“A chance?” she whispered.
Chinedu thought he was hallucinating. He could feel everything inside him softening, turning to mush. “What?”
“I said...a chance. I’m sorry for joking about that. It sounded funny in my head.”
She laughed awkwardly in an attempt to minimise the gravity of what she was saying, and looked down at her fingers again. “I was scared. I still am. You know how they say, ‘Be careful what you wish for’? Well, I wished for someone who made me feel safe. And you do. The violence of your past scares me. But I could work through that. I just want a chance with you...”
Chinedu felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. In their place, an army of butterflies suffused his stomach. Gently, he lifted her chin so he could see her eyes. They were sincere. Afraid, but sincere.
“Iphey, I swear I’m not that person anymore. I promise you. The confusion that led me to that life is not part of me anymore. In fact, I am far from confused. I have never been as sure of anything as I am of us. So if you still want that chance, I can give it to you wholeheartedly. I am serious about you and I need you to understand that.”
Iphey finally found herself submerged in the eyes she had been trying to avoid. Relief and happiness overwhelmed her. Something else did as well. It was lust. She found herself wanting to be lost in more than his eyes. Before either of them could finish their train of thought, they were lost in an intense and passionate kiss. They didn’t even notice the petty traders outside the window until the knocking came.
“Oga, if u go use your enjoyment block customer for me, make you buy something now!”
Chinedu couldn‘t care less. He would buy the entire stall if he had to. Finally kissing Iphey had been bliss. He wanted to do kiss her again and keep doing it.
Iphey smiled widely. The kiss had felt so natural; so right. Chinedu was the man of her dreams. Literally. Those eyes...they smiled into each other's eyes and drew closer again.
Her phone beeped. "Oh no...Chinedu please, let's get to my office."
So that is it folks. No more love interest ish, Iphey and Chinedu are now proper lovebirds, lol. That kiss, hmmmm...sure made me go awwww....Now go over to the left sidebar and vote for who you want to read more of in the next chapter coming up on Thursday.
Our contributor is F, now I wonder what that stands for. She is one part of Half and Half. F is just beginning to tap into her writing talent and I think she is amazing. She has a shortlisted entry in the Naija Stories Contest (BTW, you can go over and vote for her) and a great write-up of a Bar scene on her blog.
Writing about her entry she said, "I've always had it in me to write so I reluctantly put in a few entries over there, and even entered one for the website launch contest which fortunately got shortlisted. Did I mention I was scared out of my mind and DID NOT want to do this? Writing is the easy part, showing it to people is TERRIFYING."