“So what do you say, kid?” Nathan wanted to know. “You are interested in a late lunch at Chop N’ Munch?”
They’d just finished the small lunch of yesterday’s leftover rice, when he’d broached the subject of them going out for a much more filling meal.
Toinette looked at him from across the eight-seating dark Mahogany table. “I wish I can dad. But I’ve got to meet Lara for our usual study hour.” She said quietly. Of course she was interested in going… it was an outing, which meant getting dressed and escaping house chores. But she also knew if she tarried, she could get something out of this. She planned to.
“You could just call her and offer some sort of excuse or something. Err… tell her you have a family emergency.”
“You want me to lie?”
The wide astonished eyes didn’t fool Nathan one bit. “Don’t play that card with me, young lady.” He growled but she merely widened her innocent look, Nathan hissed. “You do know that as your father I can simply order you to get dressed and get in the car?”
Toinette arched one brow, a habit she’d practiced hard to master. “You do know that as your daughter I can throw tantrums and make your lunch date a living hell?”
Nathan looked at her, gauging her. This was the negotiations table, and here you just play the best hand you’ve got with the hope you come out the winner. “You wouldn’t. You like Valerie and Kike too much for that.” He got up and started packing up his plates.
She gave a nonchalant lift of her shoulder, rising to her feet too. “I do. But that won’t stop me from acting up.” She followed her father into the kitchen with her own plates.
Aunty Sochi raised her head from the vegetables she was washing as they entered, a knowing smile on her lips as father and daughter matched to the sink silently scheming.
Nathan dropped his plates into the sink and rinsed his hands. “Fine.” He shrugged, wiping them with a paper napkin. “You go do your study hour with Lara. Dunc and I will just have to go alone.”
“Ah… I don’t really know how that will look, dad.” Toinette quipped loading up the dishwasher. “Two men inviting two ladies to lunch…” She shrugged. “Just looks a little too premeditated to me.” It was a word she enjoyed using lately, having just heard of it in a crime series she watched with Aunty Sochi.
“Preme…” He stared at her. “You are too young to be talking about men and women having lunch together, young lady.” He told her firmly.
“I was only pointing out that without me, your intentions might be misunderstood.”
Nathan stared at her open-mouthed.
Aunty Sochi chuckled.
Strolling over to the refrigerator to grab a bottle of water, Toinette smiled. “I tell you what, dad. You were right, this is a family emergency. So I’ll just call Lara and make up an excuse and help you out on this one.” She looked at him with a sunny smile.
He narrowed his eyes. “And?”
She put back the half-empty bottle of water, shut the refrigerator and turned slowly. “Nothing.” At her father’s angled head, she lifted her shoulders delicately. “My only worry really is what to wear.”
He knew it. She’d just been angling for something. “You have a closet full of clothes.”
“I meant shoes, dad.” She hurried on before her father could protest. “I know I have a couple of sandals but I’ve worn them way too frequently they are beginning to wear off. Not that that bothers me really… I mean I don’t really mind wearing worn out shoes.”
She sighed deeply. “Problem is girls… they see you wearing something looking like that and the next thing is – ‘I thought her father…”
“What shoes do you have in mind?” Nathan cut her off, defeated.
“The ankle cuff sandals.”
“Fine. We’ll pick them up on our way to the restaurant.”
“Really?” Toinette squealed, them recalling she shouldn’t look too exuberant, she added mildly. “Hope that won’t pose any delays?”
“Uh huh.” He shook his head.
She inclined her head. “If you are sure then. I’ll just go and put that call to Lara and explain things to her.”
Nathan watched her as she casually sauntered through the kitchen door, then winced when her triumphant whoopee nearly damaged his eardrum.
He sighed and turned to Aunty Sochi. “I’m a wuss of a father.” He moaned.
She gave a merry laugh.
The laugh kind off soothed Nathan. A fair complexioned comely looking woman in her late forties, Aunty Sochi was almost always serene and gentle in her ways. Except of course when she was out to discipline. She’d been with his mother since before he was born, so he kind of regarded her more like big sister than a housekeeper.
“Do you think I spoil her?” He asked now.
“Yes.” At his mournful groan, she laughed. “But that’s alright. She’s your daughter, your only child… for now… so it’s kind of expected.”
Nathan still looked worried.
“Besides, Toinette is a good girl and is well aware of her limits.” She started dicing the peeled onions. “Anyway if you overdo it, you’ve got a house full of people to knock her back in line.” She assured him.
“I haven’t seen you and mum or anyone else for that matter do much knocking back with her.” He grumbled. “And I do recall you guys were never hesitant to use the rod in my case years ago.”
“That’s because you were a real menace.”
“Heck no! I was literally a saint.”
Aunty Sochi snorted. “Get out of my kitchen, Saint, I got a meal to finish.”
Nathan grinned and walked over to give her a hug. “Why don’t you just toss all these in the freezer and put up your feet for the rest of the day. I’ll grab some takeaway packs on our way back.” He suggested.
Aunty Sochi looked up at him, loving this generous man she’d come to see as a younger brother. “You are really a wuss.” She told him with an affectionate pat on the cheek. “A wuss but also a great father.”
Some forty minutes later Duncan burst into Nathan’s en-suite bedroom. It was a man’s bedroom, a mixture of dark-brown mahogany furniture and black and white flooring and curtains.
Nathan raised his eyes from the book he had in his hands. He was lying diagonally on the immaculately laid sheer white cotton bed.
“You did take your time, didn’t you.” He commented dryly meticulously placing a page marker on the page he’d been reading for the last twenty minutes.
Duncan stared at him stupefied. “What is the emergency?” He asked. Nathan had called him a little over an hour and half ago about some emergency. And demanded he practically leave everything and rush down. He’d excused himself from the meeting at the office on the grounds of a family emergency and rushed through traffic to get to the house.
“Nice suit. You look great in it.” Nathan remarked appraising his three piece black suit. He got up from the bed, bending to straighten out the slight rumple.
“I just left a very important meeting to dash down here.” Duncan threw up his hands in exasperation. It had actually been a very boring meeting. “I drove through traffic like a mad man and all you can say is nice suit?”
“I did also say you look great in it.” He pointed out unruffled. He got out a can of Kaliber. “Want one?” He gestured with the can. And merely shrugged when Duncan swore and flung his Hugo Boss jacket on the bed.
“I have to say as a man with great respect for clothing generally and a particular respect for Hugo… you got to be careful with that.” He clicked open the can and took a sip.
“Nathan! What is the emergency?”
Nathan smiled leisurely, pointed to the black leather sofa. “Relax. Have a chilled drink. The heat is maddening, right?”
Duncan stared at him, mouth agape for a full moment. Then he shook his head, resigned. “Toss me a can, damn it.”
Taking out another can, he sauntered over and passed it to him.
He accepted the drink and deciding that sitting and enjoying the drink was not a bad idea, he walked over to the sofa. “The emergency, Nate?”
“How about a late lunch?”
“What about it?”
“I’d like to take you… well, and Toinette too, out on a late lunch or an early dinner, depending on how you look at it.”
“You’d like to take me out to a … an early dinner?” Duncan stared at Nathan like he’d lost his mind.
“And Toinette too.” He added complacently.
“You… dragged me out of the office on some fool emergency act so you can take me… and your daughter… out to lunch?”
Nathan inclined his head, totally unruffled. “I want to visit Chop N’ Munch.”
“Jesus, Nathan!” This is unbelievable. “A lot of us want many things. I want to visit the Caribbean and lie butt naked at the beach with a mermaid-looking bombshell fulfilling all my baser dreams.” He glared at him. “But you know what the bummer is? We don’t always get what we want.”
“You owe me.”
Duncan wondered if strangling your best friend who was slowly driving you out of your mind will be regarded as murder or man slaughter. “What the heck are you talking about?”
“Another?” Nathan asked gesturing to the empty can in his hand. He strolled to the refrigerator without waiting for a response and took out another, this time he tossed it.
Duncan neatly caught it. He corked it, took a long pull and stared brows arched at Nathan.
“I got three good big ones that you owe me.” Nathan stated with a wink.
Duncan took a deep, he needed patience. “Nathaniel…” he said the name slowly, “I know you are going out of your already demented mind over Miss sexy long legs… I don’t blame you. A girl like that can drive a sane man to insanity, let alone an already frenzied mind. So as much as I’d like to help you… go make seductive eyes at her, I …”
“Seventeen.” Nathan announced.
“Seventeen?” He repeated, certain now that his friend has gone right over the bend. “Interesting number. Do you still care to tell me what that means?”
“That’s how old we were when you had me jump over the fence into a yard with at least four vicious and mean-looking dogs, to give a letter to your newly-found love interest… Misan.” Duncan’s mouth dropped open. “They were Rottweilers.” Nathan added with a sage nod.
“Christ Almighty! That was eons ago.”
Nathan made a slight movement with his shoulders. “Fine. Nina then. Tittering-touchy extra-teeth Nina.”
Duncan stifled a laugh. He remembered extra-teeth Nina. Nathan had nicknamed her that because she smiled a lot and seemed to have way too much teeth. That had been almost seven years ago.
“You had begged me to endure that traumatic relationship for a little more than six weeks just so you can get close to her shy but nicer looking and less-touchy flatmate.” Nathan continued settling comfortably into the single sofa beside Duncan. “And dear Nina was not just all teeth, she was all hands too. And damn, she never kept those hands to herself.”
Duncan grinned. “That’s because you are such a great-looking man.”
“Ha, the bane of my life.” He sighed with a shake of the head. “That of course cannot compare to the sheer fiasco of the Jane/Jean twin folly.” He squinted his eyes. “It had been a real difficulty telling them apart, right? I mean one minute you were …”
“Fine you win.” Duncan growled. “You want to go lunch at Chop N’ Munch and make a play for Miss long legs, no qualms. Just never mention Jane and Jean in the same sentence to me again.” He shuddered.
Nathan grinned. “Since you are so amenable…” He shrugged rising to his feet.
“So what’s your MO?” Duncan wanted to know
“Nothing heavy. Just three hungry people having a meal at a restaurant, joined by two beautiful ladies.”
“Two… Kike is joining us?”
Nathan noted the spark of interest, interesting. “Yeah, matter-of-fact she’s expecting us. Loose the tie and let the shirt out of your pants.” He ordered making for the door. “This is a casual lunch not a business date.”
Duncan took off the silk tie, tossed it on the bed and followed him. “You want to tell me how you came to remember Misan’s name? Christ, it’s been almost two decades.”
To be continued…