Hot yellow light sliced into us from nowhere.
It blinded me. I flinched. The asshole drew back. He turned towards the light. A look passed over him. Anger. In that split second, it seemed to me as if he was baring his teeth.
“Chielozona?” The silhouette behind the car headlights was a welcome relief. I walked quickly towards Cali, almost skipping in my haste to get to him. I threw myself in his arms.
“Cali…my car died and my phone died and…”
“It’s okay,” he said. He held me a little away from himself and scrutinised me. “I waited than I drove down here slow-slow to see if I would catch you on the way. Sorry I wasted time.”
“No, it’s not your fault,” I shook my head. It was just like Cali to apologise when he was the one helping me out.
The dizzy feeling had all but dissipated. I cleared my throat but Cali was no longer paying attention. His gaze was directed at asshole behind me who now slammed the passenger side door and came towards us with my things in tow.
“Here,” he said, thrusting his arm in my direction ungraciously. He bared his teeth again, not quite a smile but not a grimace either. I could not tell what it was supposed to mean but it made me uneasy. I looked at Cali. He was unmoved, casually brushing his jacket aside to slip his hand into his trouser pocket.
“Cali this is Mr…” I almost said ‘Mr Asshole’ but checked myself at the last minute. “He’s a customer. He was just going to give me a ride.”
“Tenk you,” said Cali. He held out his right hand.
“Later, stranger,” said the asshole ignoring the hand. He walked towards his car, started it up and drove away.
A frown creased Cali’s forehead. It disappeared when he turned, smiling to me. “Ngwa let’s go, mummy.”
On the drive home Cali was silent. I didn’t say much too. My brain buzzed like a hive of bees. Something had nearly happened or had happened but I couldn’t figure it out still and it bothered me. If Cali hadn’t come would I have…what would I have done? Would I have gone with him? I felt myself wanting to, in spite of myself. And what did the asshole mean by ‘unaffected by me’?
“Mummy? Are you okay?” asked Cali. I could tell he was searching my face in the lit spaces between the darkness.
I looped my hand around his neck and pulled his face towards mine. Cali pulled the car over.
My fears seemed unfounded the next morning. I felt like one of those women tied to train tracks in old black and white films, screaming ‘Help!’ and waiting to be rescued. In other words? I felt foolish. So when Cali offered to drive me to work, I refused.
“It’s cool, Cali. I can get to work by myself. There is nothing wrong with my legs,” I joked.
He tweaked my nose. “Did I say there was something wrong with your legs?” His eyes jumped about in his face. I could tell he was glad to see me. “I just want to take you, that’s all. You’re my darling wife.”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s like that the men in your village marry? No bride price? No palm wine on my head? You’ve tried.” I grabbed my bags.
“Okay, okay. Don’t be angly. You’re my wife-to-be?” Something in his tone made me turn around. Cali held out a box. My heart skipped a beat.
“Cali…what is that?”
“I was going to keep it until later but I think that now, you should take it. From me to you.”
“Okay, okay. You don’t have to open it now. Just…take it.”
The box was a bigger than your standard ring box when I looked closely and my heart descended from my throat. “Thank you,” I kissed him.
“I know you will like it….you don’t want to open it?”
My phone started ringing. I smiled at him, and raised a finger. “Hello?”
It was the bank manager. I handed the box back and raced for the front door.
“I swear I didn’t park my car in your spot, sir. I tried to get home yesterday and when it wouldn’t start, I just left it where I had parked it. By the wall.”
“I do not appreciate having to walk a long way through the car park with sensitive documents flying about because someone, a junior member of staff for that matter, takes it upon herself to displace the manager.”
I wondered what one had to do with the other but said nothing. I had not parked in his spot, but did he not have a briefcase for his documents?
“Mr Elendu sir, it won’t happen again,” said the floor manager, cutting eyes at me. I rearranged my face so that my thoughts would not show on them.
“See that it doesn’t,” said Mr Elendu. “It was very embarrassing.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll move it now.” I left quickly before the floor manager could run after me to breathe fire down my neck.
I slipped my keys in the ignition and turned it. My car roared to life.