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Nandi’s Ocean

Her thick lashes draped over her downcast eyes. He looked at her, trying to figure out what exactly was wrong.

Nandi’s lower lip quivered ever so slightly and she quickly caught it in between her teeth. Her shoulders seemed to droop even lower.  Nandi never cried. She always had it all together.

Not in front of him, anyway.

Denjei felt like wrapping his arms round her and holding her to his chest. But that would probably be awkward since he’d never as much as taken her hand even in a handshake. Not that he hadn’t wanted to. Several times. Especially when she wore that aqua blue dress with the lacey, plunging neckline. That seemed to be the only dress she had that wasn’t black, brown or grey. There was something about that shade of blue against her chocolatey brown skin that made him feel the air conditioning in the room had been shut down.

But, she was his boss. Thinking about her in this way was just…just…somehow.

Another awkward ten minutes passed before he spoke again.

“Maybe you should take the day off, ma’am. I’ll handle everything here and call you later to report….”

She raised her head and looked at him, her eyes wide with fear.

“He’s going to kill me.” No emotion and matter-of-factly.

What? Who? Where? Why? And half a dozen other questions tumbled over each other in his head, each one wanting to be the first to get out of his mouth.

“Who’s he?” It was more of an exclamation than a question.

I had no idea there was a ‘he’ in her life. She didn’t seem like a woman who needed anyone…any man. Heck, he was even scared of her most times.

In response to my question, she turned her back to me. I thought she was wringing her hands in front of her until with an almost imperceptible shrug; her black dress fell off her shoulders. I swallowed hard, anticipating seeing more of the skin that had been the object of my secret fantasies. I threw a quick glance at the office door, trying to remember if it was locked or not, hoping no one would come in and spoil the moment for me.

I turned back to look at her bare shoulders, totally unprepared for the sight that met me. Her back was riddled with long wounds in different stages of healing. One particularly long welt was still fresh, obviously administered the day before, judging from its redness.

A string of expletives left Denjei’s mouth in rapid succession.  She turned round to face him. The tears fell fast and free, disappearing the moment they landed on the front of her black dress.

“Take me home, Denjei.”

“I….I…I’m so sorry. I’ll call your driver immediately.”

“No!” She said firmly, grabbing his arm. “You drive. Take me to your house. Take me anywhere. Faraway from Sarema…and his father.

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Tea, music and etcetera

It was something about the angles of his jaw.

No,it was his eyes…well…not that I’ve really looked into them but he has long, curved eyelashes like a baby’s. Don’t ask me how I know.

He has two iPods. Yes, two! And when he wasn’t talking to any of the staff he always had his headphones on.

When I first started working here six months ago , I thought he was a bit weird. Headphones on, smiling to himself, sipping some tea. Pretty much kept out of everyone’s way, except when there was work to be done.

One day, I came into his office as he was bent over looking for some file. One drawer was open and I was shocked to see it was filled with an assortment of teas. I’m sure there were teas from every continent there! No wonder he was always drinking tea!

Last Friday, I was at my wits’ end, just seconds away from tearing out my hair. The television ad for the pensions company I had been working on for the past two weeks had been rejected the fourth time.

I was out of ideas. From nowhere, a fresh, fruity floral scent filled my nostrils. I realised something, or someone was standing behind me. At my left elbow sat the source of the scent – A freshly brewed cup of tea.

“Oh… I… it’s… thank you, sir. ” I stammered.

“Relax. It will come to you. The perfect one is in here. You’ll find it.” He smiled, pointing to the left side of his chest as he spoke. I managed a half nod.

“I hope you like it.” This time he pointed to the cup at my elbow. “One of my favourites, this is.”

I cradled the cup in both hands, closing my eyes briefly as it’s warmth seeped into my aching fingers. I filled my lungs again with the warm, sweet scent.

“Oh sure, thank you, sir.” I said, opening my eyes. But he was already gone.

I looked at the label at the end of the teabag string… in stylish cursive, the word ‘Evergreen’ was written there in some shade of leaf green. I closed my eyes and took a sip, swirling the warm tea in my mouth, letting my taste buds soak up the flavour. Almost immediately, my eyes flew open. I looked at the label again.

Evergreen. Yes! Yes! Yes!

I had gotten inspiration for the perfect ad for the pension company. I looked over at his desk to show my appreciation, but his desk was cleared. He’d probably gone home for the day.

I’ll thank him on Monday.

And then, I went on to finish my task and my tea.

**********************

I. Should. Start. Working. Out. Sometime. Soon.

I punctuated each step with a word as I trudged on the uphill road to the house I shared with Azuka and Amichi, my two very crazy girlfriends. Since Mike’s proposal to Amichi two months ago , the house had become even noisier with all the wedding plans and excitement.

To be honest, I was tired and just wanted some quiet. I was happy for her and wasn’t about to be a wet blanket by telling her this would be my 13th time as a maid of honor.

Sigh.

Thirteen times! This will definitely be my last! I can’t do this again.

And to think my childhood best friend, Dina was asking me to be on her bridal train in a few months… aargh!

Definitely not!

I said that out loud to no one in particular, as I picked up my pace, head bowed. I wasn’t looking where I was going and nearly walked head-on into some guy on his bicycle.

“Hey!” He exclaimed.

“I’m sorry.” I kept walking and didn’t see him stop and take off his helmet and dark glasses.

“Kemdi?” I stopped and turned and I was face to face with my tea-drinking, music-loving departmental head from work!

He wasn’t wearing his trademark plaid, cotton shirt and chinos trousers. Trendy sports footwear had replaced his custom brown boat shoes. My eyes travelled the length of his body. Firm muscles rippled underneath the navy blue and white biking suit he wore. He smiled, and my eyes rested on his angled jawline, noticing how it tapered to end under his chin. I almost wanted to reach out and run my fingers along it, lightly brushing the three-day old stubble that covered it.

“You live here?” His voice plucked me out of my daydream.

“Em, yes. Fifth Avenue. At the very end.”

“Oh wow. I don’t think I’ve been down that way. I live on the Thirteenth.”

Hmm! Thirteen is not so unlucky after all. I smiled to myself.

“Oh, sir, thank you. For Friday. The tea really did help.”

“It did?” He laughed. ” We’ll see it on Monday then.”

“Yes, sir.” “Meanwhile, have you noticed you’re the only one who calls me “sir”?” “I…um….”

“Chuka. Simply Chuka.”

“Okay, C-C-Chuka. That’ll need some getting used to, though.”

He laughed again, then suddenly he asked “Do you like jazz?”

Oh dear! He wants to talk about music. I bet it’s Arabian or Kenyan teas next!

“Jazz? Yeah. It’s okay.”

“Cool. I have two passes for the Open Air Jazz Hour tonight. Are you busy?

“No. I’d love to!”

Anything to get me away from the girls tonight, I thought.

” How does 7pm sound? ”

“I’ll be ready.”

************************

The notifications window on the screen of my laptop popped up again. He had sent another email. I clicked it open. It was another song. “This makes me think of the way you smile. Please, smile again. For me.” was the accompanying message. I put my headphones on. As the song came on, I smiled. I looked over to where he sat at his desk in his clear glass walled office. He smiled back.

Looking away, I closed my eyes and remembered how his smooth shaven jaw felt last night…..beneath my lips. Again, I smiled.