Kike stared through the wound down car window, across the almost empty Chop N’ Munch parking lot at Valerie and Nathan, standing together, holding hands whispering sweet nothings to each other.
She sighed wistfully adjusting in her seat, to be in love again.
Nathan raised Valerie’s hands, tenderly turned them upwards and kissed her palms. She saw Valerie’s lips widen in a radiant smile.
What sane-thinking girl wouldn’t smile so luminously when her palm was being kissed by Nate Phillips? Kike exhaled deeply leaning into the leather seat.
She turned at the beeping sound of her phone, flicking it open, she grimaced – it was a text from Lanre.
What in the world had possessed her to go out with him that weekend?
She tossed back the phone on the dashboard, turning back to the window just in time to see Nathan lean down, head a tad angled as he kissed Valerie on the lips.
“Hey lovebirds, Nigeria is still a conservative country, you know.” She called out to them in a teasing tone. “You could get arrested for such public display of affection.”
Nathan and Valerie laughed as they strolled, hand-in-hand, toward the red car.
He opened the door for her and she slipped in.
“So sorry we kept you waiting.” Nathan apologised with a smile leaning down against the car.
“No biggie, I understand the excitement of being in love.” Kike responded grinning naughtily. “The rioting passionate hormones it releases, hmm.” She rolled her eyes dramatically.
“Don’t Kike me in that I’m-shocked tone.” Kike waved her aside. “You were just kissing a man in the parking lot – I’m gonna tell on you.” She pouted.
Nathan laughed. “Ha, I see wicked step-sister has lost her power.”
“Power changed hands when wicked step-sister became Cinderella. Now I get to be wicked step-sister.” Kike told him.
“Cool. How about using you new-acquired power to drag Cinderella to the house next Friday, huh?”
“You mean the castle, right?”
Kike had been calling Nathan’s family house the castle since her one-time visit a month ago, having been totally-awed by the whole environment.
Nathan raised his hand laughing. “I stand corrected. The castle.”
“You two do know I’m right here, don’t you?” Valerie asked dryly.
“Not a word Cinderella, or else I’ll make you wash all the pots and pans when we get home.” Kike warned. “Not to worry, Prince Charming, I’ve got your back on this. You just set out the red carpet, we will definitely be there.”
“Kike, I say this with all affection and respect – you make the best wicked step-sister ever.” Nathan said laying his hand solemnly against his heart.
“I know.” Kike gushed, nodding haughtily.
Valerie shook her head at both of them. “You two are just hilarious.”
Poking his head into the car, Nathan took Valerie’s hands. “Hey Beautiful, I’ll be back first flight Monday. You have fun and take care of you.”
He bent and kissed her lightly on the lips. Straightening up, he patted the car. “You girls drive safe now.”
Kike started the car and gearing it up, drove through the restaurant’s huge gates.
With a wave, Nathan turned and walked back to his car. Getting in he drove out of the parking lot, heading in the opposite direction.
Kike cast Valerie a knowing look as she sped down the street-light lit highway. “Thinking how much you are going to miss spending a lovey-dovey weekend with tall, dark and handsome?”
“You were not thinking about how much you will miss locking lips with Mr. Hawt?”
Valerie sighed. “Kike, it’s becoming a little worrying that all your thoughts are centred on sex these days.”
“They’ve always been centred on sex, dearie.” Kike snickered. “You are only noticing now because you wish you were getting some.”
Valerie pulled the collar of her cream coloured shirt. “Believe me Kike, some of us can manage a couple of months with a man without tangling the sheets in wild passionate displays.” She retorted in a dignified stiff voice.
Kike threw her a roguish grin as she cut into their street. “Wild passionate displays… I just love it when you get so descriptive.” She sighed lustily.
Valerie shook her head and laughed.
Sighing she said in a quiet voice. “That is not what really worries me now though… much as I’d like to tangle the sheets with Nathan…” At Kike’s knowing wink, she chuckled.
“That is not what’s on my mind, meeting his mother next weekend seemed to have cooled all wild thoughts.”
Kike noticed the way she twisted her fingers. Hooting the horn, she said as she waited for the gateman to draw aside the gate. “Babe, chill, you are meeting his mother not facing the firing squad.”
“Well, I might as well be.” Valerie muttered. “And don’t sound like you don’t know how terrifying meeting the guy’s mother can be. What if she doesn’t like me? Or worse still, what if she thinks I’m after her son because of his money?”
“Ekalè Baba.” They both greeted the gateman in Yoruba as Kike drove into the compound.”
Getting into the house, Valerie headed straight for the refrigerator. She grabbed the medium sized bowl of vanilla ice cream and two spoons before joining Kike in the bedroom.
Kike was tugging down her diesel blue jeans but her brows shot up when she saw the bowl of ice cream. “Girl, you don’t need a bowl of ice cream to drown any fear or nervousness.”
She tossed the jeans on the bed. “Valerie, you really think a woman who worked so hard to bring up a man like Nathan and set up a business like Elegance, not to talk of run a warm happy home like the castle would hate you just because you are a hardworking young woman?”
Valerie grimaced staring down at the bowl of ice cream. “Well, no. But if she thinks I’m after her son’s money… now that’s a different ball game.”
Kike sat down beside her on the bed. “I think we blow this meeting the mother of the man thing out of proportion at times. She’s probably wondering right now what you will think of her too.”
At Valerie’s doubtful stare, she shrugged. “It’s possible. Either way, you need to stop worrying.”
She dipped a spoon into the bow, scooped the creamy ice cream into her mouth. “Unless of course it’s meeting the mother of the groom that’s got you worried… now that is a different kettle of fish.”
“Kike, for heaven’s sake we’ve only been dating a little over two months… hardly enough time to start talking marriage.”
“But long enough to start thinking it.” Kike winked outrageously.
Valerie pushed the bowl of ice cream into the snickering Kike’s hand. “Here, I think you need the ice cream more, to cool off that over-imaginative mind of yours.”
Toinette launched herself into Valerie’s arms for a bone-smashing hug and then hugged and pecked Kike on the cheek.
She was bursting with excitement and energy. This was going to be the best weekend ever… the best birthday ever.
Valerie’s tote handbag on one shoulder and Kike’s bright-red sleek handbag on the other, she chatted animatedly as she led the way to the house.
“I tell you all, this is going to the funnest weekend ever… for real.”
“Funnest?” Valerie repeated. “Is that a new word in the Antoinette Abayomi-Phillips Dictionary 2013?”
Toinette giggled. “You bet it is… and I should be given an award for inventing it too.”
“And so you should.” Kike agreed giving her a wink. “I love that word – funnest. Get this – I had the funnest day packing this travelling bag here… alone”
She tucked out her tongue at Valerie. “While Her Royal Majesty had fun doing her nails.”
“You asked me to do them.”
“But not to spend the whole day on them.”
Toinette looked from one to the other, enjoying the playful banter. This must be what having a sister feels like, she thought enviously.
Stopping at the door, Valerie turned to Toinette and asked. “By the way is your daddy not at home?”
Toinette shook her head, her pretty oval face still beaming with delight. “Oh no, he’s not. He and Uncle Dunc left a few minutes ago to run some errands for Nana in town.”
She looked up at Valerie, adding quickly when she noticed a slight frown creasing her beautiful face. “But Grandma and Nana are here… waiting to meet you both and Chidinma of course.”
Valerie felt a sick feeling of dread slam into her.
Damn it, she’d been counting on Nathan being here when she got introduced to his mum. And who the hell is going to do the introductions now? She wondered frantically.
Is she expected to just waltz in there and say – good afternoon madam, I’m… what exactly?
Toinette watched the worried look on her face with a little apprehension. “Aunty Val, are you okay? You look… a little funny, like you are sick or something.”
Kike gave Toinette a pat on the back. “Don’t worry yourself, Toinette. This is just Aunty Valerie’s meet the in-laws scary-pants look.”
Valerie smacked her on the bum.
“Ouch!” Kike cried, rubbing her backside.
Toinette giggled. “Don’t worry, Aunty Valerie, Grandma and Nana are the nicest and funniest people ever, they are always teasing and cracking jokes.” She said reassuringly, mulling over the meet-the-in-laws bit, were they really going to become her in-laws?
Really hoping so, she drew aside the slide door and went in.
Valerie squinted her eyes at the chortling Kike. “You do know I’m going to kill you once we leave here, don’t you?”
“Only if you survive the horror of the next two days.” Kike retorted sassily, sashaying into the house.
Valerie followed her inside, plastering a shaky smile on her face.
By the time Nathan and Duncan were back, the entire household were all out in the garden – giggling, chattering, eating and drinking, all at the same – under the protective cover of the gazebo.
Kike was saying something in that distinct smoky voice of hers, that seemed to be amusing everyone on the table.
But it was Valerie’s light throaty laugh floating in the cool evening air like a soft melody that struck Nathan. It sounded so warm, so free, so… seductive.
His heartbeat skidded to a halt at the sound and so did his feet. He stood there… just seeing her.
She was wearing a light-brown and dark-chocolate colour block pleated chiffon dress. Her signature dark chocolate-brown hair was clipped upwards, revealing a smooth glowing long neck. He saw the way her lips curved and her face crinkled as she laughed. She looked so beautiful, so… alive.
Duncan nudged him with an elbow. “Back to earth, Nathaniel, you have to live in it to enjoy the beautiful sights it provides us with.” He chuckled as he walked towards the group.
Nathan shook his head to clear it. Get a grip, Nathan, your mother and daughter are here for Christ’s sakes.
“Nathan, what are you doing over there?” Nana called. “Get over here and grab a plate because the spaghetti pot is fast emptying.”
“Welcome back, dearie.” Tonia greeted. Pointing to the seat directly opposite Valerie she instructed. “Sit right over there and dish yourself some spaghetti and vegetable sauce.”
Nathan nodded, taking his seat and started filling the plate Aunty Sochi passed him with Spaghetti.
Valerie watched him from the corner of her eyes. Damn, he looked so devastatingly handsome. The moment he’d walked into the garden, she had sensed him, even without seeing him, she’d sensed him. It was almost like her whole senses had come alive.
Nathan looked up as he sat down, their eye met and for the briefest second it was like time stood still.
“Pass Nathan the sauce.” Tonia instructed Chidinma, Uncle Udochi’s daughter in an amused voice. “Looks like he’s forgetting to take some.”
Nathan took the vegetable dish from the smiling pretty girl in jeans and black tank top. “So, I see you all got introduced.” He remarked setting down his plate and twisting a forkful of spaghetti.
“Oh yes, we’ve successfully gotten past the what-would-she-think-of-me and what-does she-look-like stage.” Tonia said giving Valerie a wink.
“And saved you the I-hope-they-both-like-each-other worry.” Nana added with a grin.
“And now we are in the giving-of-gifts-to-celebrants-family-tradition stage.” Toinette chipped in. “So this is where you all get out your packages and surprise Grandma and me.”
“And that means, I get to go first.” Chidinma said, bending to pick up a paper bag at her feet. “As the youngest non-celebrating member of the family.”
Giggling she drew out a pink and a light-blue wrapped box from a paper bag beside her seat.
To be continued…