When they were seated, he focused once more on Ekene.
“So, how is your business going?”
“Very well, thank you”
“Have I told you you remind me of my mother?”, he smiled over a glass of juice.
Turning to Regina, he elaborated. “My mom was about her height and shape. She was a formidable entrepreneur. My sister still runs the cold store business she set up. We lost her when I was 19. She had Hepatitis”
“That’s a shame. Sorry for your loss”
“Thanks. Partly why I studied Medicine. I still feel she didn’t receive the best of care”, he reached across the table and held Ekene’.s hand.
“Your patients are lucky to have such a motivated doctor”, Ekene mumbled, withdrawing her hand.
He laughed. Their orders arrived and they dug in. Ekene and Fred studied each other under veiled eyes. Regina did her best to be unobstrusive. She kept mentally comparing him to Dr. Awele.
“So, doc, what are your views on submission? “, Regina blurted suddenly.
Ekene was mortified. She glared at her furiously. Regina focused on Fred.
“Submission? What about it?”, he looked up.
“Do you think women should be submissive?”
“It is their choice and their loss if they don’t. My job is to love my wife silly. She should not even think twice about submitting. If she hesitates, then I am doing something wrong”
Regina nodded, impressed
“Why did you ask?”
“Yes, why did you ask?”, Ekene gave her a murderous look.
“I had a funny experience with one of your colleagues”
“O! So you assumed all doctors are like that?” he laughed. “Not this one”
“I realize that now”
“So, Ekene, do you like the food? Would you like me to order more, or a take away pack?”
“Hmmm, it seems I am not fat enough for you”, she murmured.
“I think your weight is great. You are fine as you are”
“Hmm”, she snorted in disbelief.
“For real. I don’t get this skinny obsession women have”
“I need to lose 10kg”
“To reach my target weight”
“Nonsense! “, he snorted.
Ekene was silent. Mentally, she reviewed the dates she had been on where her date had told her “You would be perfect if you lost a few kilogrammes”.
She could not believe her ears. And from a doctor, who should be finicky about weight. They hung on after their meal, chatting about everything. Though he acknowledged Regina, he made it obvious who had his attention. His gaze was fixed on her and he cocked his ear to hear her when she spoke in her soft voice. Ekene was flattered by the attention. When it was 10pm, Regina signaled Ekene.”I’m sorry, Fred, Regina has an early meeting” Ekene apologized.
“O, that’s fine. Do you mind if I drive behind you? Just to be sure you get home safely?”
“Is that a ploy to get my address?”she asked mischievously.
“It should be obvious by now that I am harmless”he protested
“It’s fine. We’ll take care of ourselves. I’ll call you”
They rose. Regina preceeded them to give them a few moments alone. Outside, Ekene and Fred stood by a tree talking. Ekene had unlocked her car for Regina to get in.
“I had a lovely time”Fred began
“So did I”
“What are you doing on Sunday?”
“Yeah. I’ll really like to see you again” She hesitated.
“Too soon?”She nodded.
“Okay, how about next weekend? We’ll go swimming. You like?”
Ekene visualized herself in a swim suit and shuddered.
“Sorry, are you cold?”
“No. Emmm, swimming is not my thing” she looked away.
“Okay. Do you like to bowl?”he persisted
“I never have”
“I’ll teach you”
Fred reached for a hug, ignoring the way she stiffened. “I really like you, Kene. Don’t think I will let you go”, he murmured against her hair. She was silent. He released her and walked her to her car. When she got in, he reached for her hand and caressed it, softly. She smiled.
“Call me once you’re home?”
“Regina, it was nice meeting you”
“Drive safe” He waved as Ekene pulled out of the lot.
Regina and Ekene discussed Fred on the way home.
“Why is such a handsome man still unmarried? How old is he, by the way?” Regina asked.
“Eh! And he’s single? You’re sure everything is alright? ”
“He’s a widower. His wife died in a plane crash 8 years ago. They had only been married 6 months and she was 2 months pregnant”
“Pity” Regina mulled over this information.
“That was partly why I hesitated to meet him. Do I really want to be a 2nd wife?” Ekene wondered.
“I get where you are coming from” Regina nodded.
“Had Ibe not disappointed me, would I still be single? After I put up with his idiotic sisters and his bad mouthing my shape”
“That guy was mean. Good riddance, I keep saying. I never liked the way he put you down publicly”
“But I do need to lose weight”
“To please who?”
Ekene was silent. She was navigating a tricky spot on the road to Regina’s house.
“Thanks for coming with me” she said as she pulled up before her gate.
“Hey, what are friends for?”
They hi- fived each other, as the gate was opened for their car to pass.
Regina was lying in bed, feeling sorry for herself. After service that Sunday, the head usher asked them to wait behind. A female usher 5 years her junior, was getting married. She wanted to officially invite them to her wedding.
“This girl joined the church 1 year ago. How come she is already getting married to a brother she met in church? ” she thought. “These brothers see us daily and despise us. So, they are waiting for spring chickens”
It didn’t help that she had the dream the previous night. Years after, she was still tormented by the memory of the abortion she had undergone. Each time it happened, she would wake up in a sweat, screaming and begging God for forgiveness. Despite the number of times she had privately gone to reputable men of God for deliverance, this seemed to be a cross she would bear for life. Her phone rang. It was Magnus.
“Good afternoon. I hope I’m not intruding?”
“No, you’re not. Good afternoon”, she mumbled, wiping her tears.
“I saw you in church but you left so suddenly. I wanted to introduce you to my family”
“I didn’t know. I would have waited”
“That’s fine. Some other time, then”
“Yeah”, her voice choked.
“Are you sure everything is fine”, he asked in concern.
“I’m fine. Just a cold, that’s all”, she sniffed.
“Have you taken medication? Is there anything I can do?”
“No. Please don’t worry”
“A cup of hot coffee usually helps me. You might wanna try it”, he advised.
“Are you also a doctor? ”
“No, I’m not. Frankly, I dislike doctors. Always giving big names to diseases to fleece people”
“I avoid them till I can’t help it” he went on.
“Talking about big names, why do lawyers use the most verbose terms, ever?”
“Do I?”, he smiled.
“Yes you do”, she accused.
“This is the first time we are chatting, privately”
“Yes, but, during meetings, your vocabulary is out of this world”, she settled in on her bed.
This man was interesting to talk to. She had nothing better to do. Ekene was out with Fred, Miriam would be with the Lebanese. She just needed someone to talk to. They ended up chatting for 1 hour. They added each other’s contacts on social networks and reluctantly ended the chat when Ijeoma came home. She had been out with the children at a birthday party for one of Jonah’s friends. Magnus did not attend because he hated such affairs. The screaming children usually left him with a headache. Besides, he had work to do.
TO BE CONTINUED