Calestous wormed his way in.
I’m still not sure how it happened. I will say though, that the one thing I like about him is that he is a sharp dresser. It doesn’t make me shallow to appreciate a man that takes care of himself. In his Versace and Armani and Tom Ford suits, he fit right into my workplace when he came to pick me up from work, twice a week as had become custom. Even his casual clothes are the business. None of that drop-trouser nonsense. He was trim and fit and it made me want to look after myself too.
Whenever I saw him coming, my heart wanted to leap up and fly into his arms. His elegance made me want to sing – that is, as long as you did not make the mistake of asking him who he was wearing. ‘Versanchi’ might make you wonder what bush meat had to do with it. Nevertheless, I thought Calestous the most well-dressed trader I had ever seen. He had to be. It was his job. He owned four menswear shops ; two in Onitsha, one in Enugu and one in Awka. Well, boutiques really.
“They are shops,” Cali would say firmly. “Not boutique.”
“A boutique is a shop, darling. It’s just more sophisticated.”
“If a boutique is a shop, why not just say ‘shop’?” he would pinch my nose. “You like performing guy.” And he would kiss me lightly on the lips, holding my chin as if it could shatter in his hand.
The other thing I like about Calestous? His good heart. He just never had a bad word to say about anyone. Not even my manager who had it in for me and wanted me to leave so he would hire one of the small-small university girls that made him feel like a man on a regular basis. He had tried it on in the early days and I told him no and ever since then, he’d had it in for me. I told Cali how he kept stressing me, nagging, making me check and cross-check my figures even when they were correct and the next thing I knew, my manager strolled into work, looking like something from a magazine.
“You guy na correct guy,” he said. And that was the end to his wahala.
I stopped eating my cabin biscuits and milk combo. Not that Cali made me, or even hinted at it. Nothing like that. He had been on the phone and I had snuck into the kitchen to have a quick one. I was just shoving the heaped milk into my mouth when I noticed him by the door. I started, spilling the powder all over my chest. Cali came over and started cleaning it up, sucking in air through his mouth.
“I’ll buy you another top,” he said, winking. I smacked him. He took the broken cabin biscuit from my hand and popped it into his mouth. Just like that, my appetite for it died.
I looked forward to showing Cali off to my parents. But I was nervous too. My mother especially, had a bad habit of running off boyfriends but even she had started hinting at grandchildren so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, I thought.
A couple of months ago, she had cracked my sister’s Facebook password and seen a few photos of Cali and I. The phone calls had become more probing, persistent. She called at all hours of the day especially early in the morning, hoping I would be groggy enough to divulge what she wanted to know or perhaps to hear Cali in the background so that she would have something to hold over me. She started threatening to come and visit so I promised her that we would come to them instead. Not for the first time, I wished I lived and worked more than one hour away. Cali thought I was overreacting.
“Look, I will behave myself. I won’t use my spoon to drink my tea. And I will call tea ‘tea’ and Milo ‘hot chocolate’. I promise,” he said.
He was joking but I could tell he wasn’t joking fully. He was worried that I was ashamed of him and I wanted to cry because the last thing I wanted was for him to feel bad. It was not his fault my mother was a snob. It was not his fault he had not had the start in life I had. I was here to teach him. And when the time was right, I would get him a private tutor and persuade him to do some exams. Maybe GCSE. No person with Cali’s aptitude for numbers and head for business could be a dumbass. He could apply for a business undergrad, do an MBA…my head swam with possibilities.
“Are you ledy mummy?” asked Calestous. I didn’t even hear it any more.
“Yes. Yes I am.”