Read Chapter 16 here.
“What’s the latest gist with you and Kwame?” AJ asked Jackie, putting the hair straightener on the dressing table. Their eyes met in the mirror.
“We’re good…” Jackie said flatly, hoping that dragging the last word would make up for the hollow feel in her words.
“Are you two official now?”
“Not yet,” Jackie said, taking her phone and breaking eye contact.
“Nothing…we’re just not there yet.”
“Why do I feel like you’re the one holding back? Why the hesitation, Naicy?”
“I don’t want to rush into another relationship right now. Rebounds aren’t my thing.”
“I thought you liked Kwame.”
“I did…I do. I just don’t feel…him that way now that Dante is out of the way. I did find him attractive when Dante and I were together but now…I don’t know…”
“I understand that Dante was everything to you and perhaps no other guy can match to him but if only you give him and yourself a chance, you could discover some charming qualities of Kwame as well.”
“I’m not ready.”
“Because you’re still holding on to Dante. You need to cut him off.”
“I can’t. He’s my best friend too. I just can’t cut him out. Seeing him last week…”
“What? You two are hanging out?” AJ asked, shocked.
“Not like that. You know that terrible day I had at work that I told you about, yeah, I went over to his apartment to be alone and coincidentally, he came over. He had also had a bad day.”
“Ugh ugh…you don’t expect me to believe this, Naicy. You two are making excuses to meet up at his old place?! Seriously, Naicy! Have you slept together now in the name of closure?”
“Wow…that doesn’t even sound definitive. You’re thinking it, aren’t you?” AJ asked in a rebuking voice.
“Lower your voice, AJ.”
“Lower my voice, that’s what you’re worried about?! Edem was so right! I can’t believe I almost jeopardized my relationship defending that dude.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t even want to talk about it. He’s just been selfish here, playing on your vulnerabilities whilst he gets the goodies from his sham of a marriage from Cece. That is why he got you the job and I stupidly went along with it! Stupid me!” AJ ranted.
“Hold up…what did you just say?” Naicy turned to face her friend.
“What do you mean he got me the job?”
“It was a slip of tongue…I didn’t mean to…”
“No, if you slipped, you might as well just spill it.“
AJ sighed, dropping her hand to hit her thigh. “His father-in-law had given him some contacts to some companies and he decided to hook you to one of the companies.”
“But I applied and got interviewed…”
“You had to. It’s protocol.”
“So I was hired though I might not have qualified?”
“Of course you were qualified, Naicy. You’re a smart girl.”
“Is that why that Julius brute tore me apart in his office, because he knew of how I was hired? Oh goodness! Why didn’t you tell me, AJ?”
“He said that you wouldn’t take it if you knew it was coming from him and I thought so too. Staying home unemployed was killing you and I wanted to help end it.”
“Wow.” After a moment of silence, Jackie asked, “And what exactly were you and Edem arguing about?”
“He felt that I was allowing Dante to use me to keep you close to him and that Dante and I were talking behind your back.”
“I’m sorry that Dante and I are becoming a bone of contempt in your relationship.”
“Please don’t apologize for Dante,” AJ said, brushing away Jackie’s words. She sat on the bed.
“I’m kinda hungry. Are you?” AJ asked, rubbing her tummy.
“I could eat.”
“Great. Let me go get us something and I hope by the time you leave here, I’d have succeeded in de-danteing your heart.” Jackie chuckled.
“All the best.”
“Will be right back,” AJ said and left the room. Jackie took her phone and scrolled down her contact list. She tapped on Edem AJ. She drummed her fingernails on the dressing table as she waited for him to pick up.
“Jackie hey, what’s up?”
“I’m good, Edem. How are you doing?”
“Hanging in there.”
“Great. I was just chatting with AJ and she mentioned you two had an argument over Dante and me.”
“Yeah, we did.”
“First, I want to apologize for that. I don’t want our complicated situation to affect your relationship in any way. Dante and I will sort ourselves out; we always do. So please, forget whatever AJ might have said and hold on to your girl, alright?”
“You sound like you and Dante are still together. Are you?”
“Nah…as I said, complicated. Are you near her place? Why don’t you pass by and make peace? She looks like she needs a hug. Not mine; one that only you can give.” She heard him chuckle.
“I’m at a friend’s. Will see if I can pass by.”
“Great. Hope to see you before I leave.”
“Sure; thanks for calling, Jackie.”
“You’re welcome. Take care. Bye.” She ended the call.
The door opened. AJ gave her a look seeing her holding her phone.
“I wasn’t speaking to Dante, jeez,” Jackie said, rolling her eyes and putting her phone down.
“Uh huh. Come and let’s eat.” Jackie got up and followed her.
They shared a plate of fried plantains and beans stew with boiled eggs and avocado as they watched an episode of Scandal. When they finished, Jackie took the tray to the kitchen.
The doorbell rang. AJ paused the show and walked to the door.
“Hey…what are you doing here?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
“You didn’t inform me you were coming. What if I wasn’t home?”
“I was told you were.”
“By who?” AJ asked, giving him way to enter. She closed the door behind him. Jackie entered the room. Her face broke into a smile when she saw Edem.
“You made it!”
“Hi Jackie.” They hugged.
“You called him?” AJ asked.
“Yes, I did. The fact that my relationship just went downhill doesn’t mean yours has to on my account. I don’t want to spread the misery. You’re not going anywhere the single status…not on my watch,” Jackie told AJ.
“So are you two going to hug it out?”
“We do other things when we make up,” Edem said teasingly.
“Oh then I must excuse myself! Thanks for having me here, sweetheart but it’s time for me to go…”
“Oh you don’t have to right now…” She wore her slippers, took her phone and handbag.
“I do because I’ve got some things to do. Thanks for the food, it was amazing and your company, always soothing.” They hugged and kissed each other on the cheek.
“Nice seeing you again, Edem. Have fun and make up…whatever you guys do,” Jackie said, heading for the door.
“Call me when you get home!” AJ said.
“Sure thing.” She closed the door behind her. AJ and Edem stared at each other.
“I missed you,” AJ confessed.
“Missed you more.” They hugged.
Dante was seated outside, facing the swimming pool with a bottle of Shandy in his hand. He drank absentmindedly. He looked up when he felt soft hands on his shoulders, gently massaging them. He saw Cece smiling down at him.
“Hey…” he said, holding her wrist. He attempted stopping her.
“You look stressed. Let me do this for you.” She was right. He needed a massage. He dropped his hand and his defenses. Cece smiled to herself as she rubbed his neck. He closed his eyes and groaned.
After massaging him for a while, she leaned down and wrapped her arms round him, their cheeks touching.
“Are you okay?” She asked, kissing his cheek.
“Is it work stressing you out?”
“Something like that.”
“What about my dad’s offer to manage his real estate company?”
“Why don’t you want to handle it?”
“I would but I don’t want to aggravate my condition with any work-related stress. And also, I believe you would be great at it. If you consider it, it would make me very happy.” They looked into each other’s eyes.
Dante searched her eyes to see if he could read any ulterior motive into her request but found none. Cece kissed him. Her heart leaped when she felt him respond to her kiss.
“Let’s go upstairs so I can give you a better massage, shall we?” She asked softly and held his hand. She pulled him up from his seat and led him into the house.
Jackie got out of her Uber and took out her phone. She looked around. Okay, she was at the right place. Kwame had invited her to a cousin’s garden dinner party. Her interest peaked when he mentioned that the chef was a guy she was following on Instagram. His food photos were always mouthwatering and she wasn’t one to pass on excellent display of culinary skills. She smiled and said hi to a lady passing by.
Her phone rang before she could unlock her phone screen.
“Yeah I see that. You look beautiful.”
“Thanks…where are you?”
“On your right.” She turned and saw him walking towards her. Her breath caught in her throat as she took in his appearance. Gosh, he looked fine! She bit her lower lip and smiled. She ended the call.
“Hello handsome.” They hugged.
“So glad you could make it,” he whispered and kissed her cheek.
“Thanks for inviting me.”
“Hey cuz, who is this lovely damsel?” Jackie turned. He gasped.
“Is this the lady you won’t stop talking about, Jackie?” He asked. He was the guy with Dante at the AM & PM place and had showed him the snap video of Jackie and Kwame together.
“Yep; the one and only.”
“So if she’s here, does it mean you two are an item now?”
“I’ll leave her to answer for us.”
Jackie smiled. “Hi, nice to meet you,” Jackie said, offering her hand. He took it and shook it.
“Nice to meet you too. Welcome to the family.” Jackie blinked. Kwame wrapped his arm around her.
“Don’t scare her away, buddy.” He laughed.
“Sorry. Make yourself comfortable. If you need anything at all, I’m sure he’ll be at your service.”
“Sure.” He excused himself. They glanced at each other and smiled.
“You look beautiful,” he said softly and planted a kiss on her forehead. Jackie inhaled deeply. Why was her heart beating so fast?
“Let’s go and sit down,” he said. He pulled a chair for her to sit down and sat next to her. He got drinks for both of them. They clinked their glasses and made small talk as the other guests settled down.
Though Jackie wasn’t one to easily fit in a crowd, she felt fairly comfortable with the people. She commented when she had to and laughed openly when someone said something funny. When they got to the buffet table, Jackie tried her best not to gawk at the well-garnished food.
“The meat balls are so good!”
“Yeah? Want mine?”
“You don’t like them?”
“I do but I’d prefer to see you eating them.”
“Well, if you insist…” Jackie said, sticking her fork into one of them and putting it in her mouth. He smiled at her, his eyes full of admiration. He touched her cheek lightly. She smiled back, her pretty eyes glistening. Gosh, she was beautiful. How Dante could pass on Jackie just like that, he could only wonder why. Ah well, Dante’s loss, his precious gain.
A young lady began singing a medley of songs when they were having their desserts. Jackie asked to go for a stroll as she was tired of sitting. Kwame held her hand throughout the stroll. Jackie noticed he kept squeezing it intermittently which made her chuckle.
“What is it?”
“Nothing. You’ve been holding my hand the whole evening.”
“I know…do you find it uncomfortable?” He gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Nah. I find it cute. I find you cute.”
“Oh my, is Miss Jackie Yankson hitting on me? I’m flattered.” Jackie laughed.
“I just feel so lucky right now to have you here with me and I hold your hand to assure me that this is real; that I’m not imagining it. Jackie…” he said huskily as he hooked the hair on her face behind an ear. He pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead and leaned his forehead on hers.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“What?” He looked at her.
“My answer is yes.” Kwame was lost for words for a moment. Jackie smiled as she held his hands on her cheeks.
“Are you sure?” She nodded.
“Oh gosh, you said yes!” He hugged her. Jackie giggled and rubbed his back.
“Let’s draw closer. Want to listen to the lady singing,” she said.
He stood behind her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. His eyes met his cousin’s who gave him a thumbs up. He reciprocated and smiled. He kissed her neck and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“You’re distracting me, mister,” Jackie said.
“You distract me always,” he replied with more kisses. She giggled.
When the dinner party ended, Kwame offered to drive Jackie home. In the car, Jackie felt at peace. She was finally moving on and it was painless.
“Why tonight?” Kwame’s voice broke into her thoughts. She looked at him.
“Why did you say yes tonight? Was it something I did or didn’t?”
“You want the honest truth? It was the food.”
“What?” Jackie laughed.
“Are you serious?” She nodded, still laughing hard.
“I’m a sucker for fine cuisine and I’m sure you figured it out after I cleared almost half of your plate. You must think I’m a foodie now.”
“No, I felt happy that you felt comfortable with me to be yourself.”
“Thank you. On a serious note, I didn’t come to see you with the thought of saying yes tonight. It just felt right to do so. I wanted a time when I was fully in charge of my emotions to make the decision and I believe the time was tonight.”
“I’m honoured.” His hands found hers and he held them like his life depended on it.
They arrived in front of the Yanksons’ residence and got out of the car.
“Thank you for a wonderful evening of good company and fine cuisine.”
“You’re welcome. Thank you for giving us a chance.” She hugged him. He kissed her cheek and pulled out of the hug.
“It’s kinda late. You should go inside.”
“Okay…so I’ll see you around.”
“Yeah. Can’t wait.”
© Josephine Amoako 2018
Read Chapter 18 here.