CALEB WAS ADJUSTING the collar of his shell-pink stripped long-sleeved shirt when the sharp, decisive knock came at the door. The door screeched open before he could say ‘come in’… he wasn’t going to either, Rukky usually forgot the knock-and-wait-to-be-invited-in rule.
He turned from the full-length dresser mirror. It had been Elo’s favourite furniture in their bedroom. He quickly nudged the thought aside and looked down at the small figure in front of him with squinted eyes and pursed lips.
“Hmm, your shirt is sneaking out of your shorts.” He observed with an arched brow at the elastic side of the shorts were the hem of his check-shirt was overlapping. “Want me to help you tuck it in or can you do the honours yourself?”
Rukky giggled shaking his head. “I can do it myself. I’m a big boy now.” He quickly laid the paper he had in hand on the bed and tucked his shirt in properly.
“So you are.” Caleb agreed eyeing the paper. It was the drawing Stella had given him just last night. It was a picture of a not-so-badly-drawn lady in a sky-blue pencil-coloured choir robe. “Want to give me your drawing?” He winked.
Rukky shook his head, picking up the paper. “No daddy. This one is for Miss Elizabeth. I just want to tell you that I want to give it to her today.”
“Aha!” Miss Elizabeth again. “So you will give Miss Elizabeth your picture but not your daddy, huh?” He asked with a teasing frown.
“Oh.” Rukky lowered his head and stared at the picture guiltily. He’d never thought to give any of his pictures to daddy, he always kept them himself. “Errm, I can give you another one… later. It’s just that this one reminds me of Miss Elizabeth because it’s an angel singing.”
Caleb almost chuckled at the imploring look. He hadn’t caught on that he’d been teasing and it wasn’t really a picture of a singing angel either. But that’s what he’d decided it was when Stella had given him the drawing.
“Hmm… okay, I can’t turn down a great deal like that.” He winked again. “But are you sure you want to give Miss Elizabeth that picture? Because we have to be sure before we part with something, so we don’t regret it later.”
“I am sure, daddy.” Rukky nodded enthusiastically. “I won’t regret it. Miss Elizabeth sings like an angel and this is the picture of an angel singing. I want her to have it and I am sure she’ll like it.”
Well, she’d better, Caleb thought feeling instinctive protective pride, his little boy was making a big sacrifice here.
“I’m sure she will.” He smiled, squatting to draw him closer for a hug. “And this is a generous thing to do.” He gave him a quick peck on the neck before pushing him back. “Okay, go grab your bag and lunch box and you and your sister head to the car. We are running behind schedule here, mister.”
Rukky giggled, glad that he’d gotten his father’s permission. “Okay daddy. Thank you.”
Caleb watched him run out of the room brimming with excitement, his forehead furrowed in a frown. He was becoming way too enamoured by Miss Elizabeth, wasn’t he? He usually treasured the pictures Stella drew for him and pasted them on the door of his side of the wardrobe or on his door of his book shelf. Now he was giving one to a new teacher?
He shook his head and grimaced, stop over-thinking things. He’s just a little boy who’s obviously impressed with his new teacher and her angelic voice. Besides kids gave odd gifts to their teachers all the time.
He whooshed out a breath and swung around to grab his briefcase from the wood-framed writing desk, then turning off the light, swung out of the room, calling out to the kids.
It was break time and most of the kids had gone out to play at the playground with the nannies and security personnel staff watching over them. Some preferred to eat their lunch in their classrooms though and others either read a book or talked with classmates and friends.
Rukky hadn’t gone out today. And he wasn’t eating his lunch of sandwich and milk drink. Neither was he talking with anyone. He was sitting on his seat, not bothering to join the three other children at the back of the classroom.
He was working up the courage to go give his gift to Miss Elizabeth… all off a sudden he was feeling shy and uncertain – what if she doesn’t like it? Grandma had told them that one must always appreciate the gifts they were given whether they liked it or not. So she could smile and say thank you and maybe not really like it.
He sighed and lifted his eyes to regard her from under his lashes. She was bent over her table, marking their books. She was wearing a black skirt with a shirt with long sleeves and has many colours – blue, pink, green, yellow, white and black. The shirt looked soft and the sleeves shook a little when she moved her hands. He liked the shirt. It looked like rainbow and she looked so pretty in it.
He took another deep breath. He was going to give it to her. And he was sure she’d like it. She’d liked the picture of a bird Nonye had given her on Monday and it hadn’t been half as pretty as this angel picture.
He got to his feet and walked towards her, picture in hand.
Elizabeth raised her head when a small figure stopped right in front of her desk. It was Rukky, looking a little nervous with a paper in his hands.
“Yes Rukky? Is there a problem?”
Rukky breathed in and stretched forward the paper. “No Miss Elizabeth. I just wanted to give you this.”
She took the paper and looked at it. It was a picture of a lady in a choir robe. It was quite a well-drawn picture too. Her mouth curved in a smile. “You drew this?”
“No I didn’t. Stella did.” He smiled, his nervousness slipping away at her smile. “But she gave it to me and… and I want to give it to you… as a gift.”
“You want to give it to me. But why? It was a gift from your sister.”
“I know. But it’s mine now. And I’d like you to have it. It reminds me of you because you sing like an angel.”
A small laugh escaped her at the sincere childlike compliment. “Oh no Rukky, angels have far lovelier voices than mine.”
Rukky doubted that but he only nodded. “Maybe Miss Elizabeth. But when you sing, it’s like an angel singing.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Well, thank you for the compliment.” She said eyes twinkling. “But still, I think you should keep this picture since it was a gift to you.”
“It’s okay Miss Elizabeth. I have other pictures from Stella.” When she began to shake her head, he quickly added. “My grandma says one must never refuse a gift, it is…” he searched his mind for another word, he can’t call his teacher rude, can he? “… it is not good.”
The smile on her lips widened. “Yes, your grandma was right. Refusing freely given gift is… rude.” At his shy giggle, she chuckled. “Thank you, Rukky. I’ll treasure this.” She smiled warmly at him.
“You are welcome, Miss Elizabeth.” Rukky beamed turning to walk back to his chair.
She’d liked it and she was going to treasure it. Daddy said that a treasure was a precious and important item. And Aunty Mabel had read from the Bible that where one’s treasure is that’s where their heart will be too. Miss Elizabeth’s heart will be on the picture and so, on him who gave it to her.
Hmmm. Sitting down, he drew out his lunch box and proceeded to eat his lunch. When he bit into the sandwich it tasted delicious… the best sandwich ever.
Elizabeth was back home. And she had changed from her charcoal-grey skirt and multicoloured silk blouse into a indigo-blue jeans skirt and a mauve round-neck T-shirt, had her late lunch, talked briefly with her mum and was now back in her room finishing up her lesson plan for next week.
She was almost rounding up when the door cracked open and Tonye poked his head in.
“Hiya Engineer.” She answered without turning. “Come right in and tell me how the aptitude test went.”
Tonye opened the door wider and strolled in. He still had his sky-blue shirt on, though tucked out now and lying over the black cotton trousers. He walked over to the plastic white chair beside her desk and dropped into it.
“Aptitude test was like the usual – somewhat confusing Grammar questions, even more confusing mathematical questions and mind-boggling current affairs questions.” He leaned back against the chair and sighed. “In all, I did my best and now… once again, I am hoping for the best.”
Elizabeth laid down her pen and turned sympathetic eyes on him. He’d been job-hunting since he rounded off his service year eight months ago. A whole lot of aptitude tests, about five interviews and still no luck. It could all be daunting, she knew.
“Hey, it’s going to happen soon. Sooner than you think. It hasn’t happened now because God is holding out for the best for you.”
Tonye listened to the booster-speech and accepted it. He’d heard it before – different words each time and thought they always helped, he just wasn’t feeling so optimistic today.
“Yeah, I guess it will. Just that I won’t mind Total being that best He’s holding out for me.”
“Hey c’mon, there are bigger and much more hideously-high-paying companies than Total.”
He laughed at the ‘hideously-high-paying’. “Maybe. But I wouldn’t mind starting off with their level of hideous-high-pay, ya know.”
“I know.” She held out her hand and he took it. “And you will. You will. I believe it. I believe in you. It may or may not be Total, but you most certainly will get a call one day and it will be this prissy-talking Personal Assistant…” he chuckled and she gave him a wink. “Or coolly-professional HR executive and she’d be inviting you over to their big Island-based Head office to come pick your appointment letter.” She squeezed his hand. “It’s going to happen. You wait and see.”
His phone started to ring in his trouser pocket.
“Yay! It’s already happening.” Elizabeth clapped her hands, grinning widely.
Tonye shook his head and slipped out the phone. Seeing the readout, he grimaced before lifting the phone to his ears.
“Good evening, Deacon.”
Elizabeth returned her eyes to her long, lesson-plan notebook, blocking off the sound of his voice as she quickly entered in the last topics and outlines before doing a quick proofread and certifying it ready for submission to Mrs Briggs.
She was just slipping the hardback-cover notebook into her handbag, when he ended his call and turned back to her.
“That was the deacon.”
She didn’t need to ask which deacon, she knew it was the Minister in charge of the youth ministry.
“Yeah, he wanted me to go see the people at Calel Graphics and Print Limited and find out how much it will be costing us to personalize this year’s Youth Congress Polo-shirts.”
“Calel?” She jerked around. “They want to use Calel? What happened to Amex? The church has been using them for years.”
“And they’ve messed up twice now… consecutively. With the firm’s proprietor dead, things haven’t exactly been working right.” He angled his head watching her curiously. “So you know Calel?”
She turned away way too quickly. Spiking his curiosity.
“I mean not really.”
He sat up in his chair. “Hmmm. So how do you not really know this firm?”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, sighing. She should have just minded her own business or just controlled her surprise. It wasn’t as if she really knew the firm.
“As I said, I don’t really know the firm.” She lifted her shoulders in a careless shrug, getting to her feet. “Just that I saw the same name- tag on Mr. Onofighe’s Polo-shirt and I just recalled it now, that’s all.”
Aha! A satisfied smile crossed his fair face. “Mr Onofighe, right. The very good-looking widowed father of two pretty and bright kids.”
“That would be an accurate narrow-minded description.” She said in a clipped sarcastic tone.
He chuckled, feeling suddenly cheerful. “So, he owns a Printing firm, very interesting.”
She ignored him. Just marched over to her wardrobe to see if her chosen dress for tomorrow was all set and looking right. Though the citron-yellow linen dress looked all pressed and straight, she still ran her hands over it, tweaking and adjusting.
Tonye grinned as he watched her fuss over the dress. She was nervous… even more interesting. Thinking of how best to needle her he swung his head to the right and zeroed in on the framed picture. It hadn’t been there that morning.
“This is not a bad drawing.” He commented. “One of your kids gave it to you?”
She turned to find him standing with the silver-and-gold frame in hand, staring at the picture Rukky had given her earlier today. Oh God! The teasing was just about to get worse.
“Yes.” She answered not elaborating. “Errm, what are we preparing for dinner?” Turning from the wardrobe and heading to the door.
He raised his head at the quick change of subject. “Wow! Must have meant so much for you to have it framed and kept here on your desk.” He observed.
She shrugged. “I usually keep my kids pictures when given personally to me, you know that.”
“Mmm hmm. But you usually paste them on your sticker board.” He pointed to the white board on the wall between her desk and the mirror. “Which makes me realise this must have meant more.”
“No, it didn’t.” She lied. At his arched brow, she capitulated. “Fine, you troublemaker, it was from Rukky. His sister – Stella – drew it and gave it to him and he brought it to school today to give to me as a gift. End of story. Now can we go to the kitchen and prepare dinner, please? It’s getting late.”
“Of course. I’m thinking of vegetable porridge yam.” He dropped the frame and followed her through the door. “She is quite a good artist, right? And that was really nice of him giving it to you.”
“It’s not the first picture gift I’ve received, Tonye, so give it up.”
“I’m just saying, it’s a pretty picture. Which is why I’m sure you framed it.”
“Hey, tonight is Scrabble night.” He stopped by the cabinets and bent to retrieve a pot as she headed to the attached store to grab a tuber of yam. “And I am feeling very lucky.”
“I bet you are.” Elizabeth muttered under her breath, coming out of the store and accepting the knife he passed to her with a wink.
She scowled as she thought of the Harcourt Scrabble rule One – The winner became the Boss for the period till the next game.
Why in God’s Holy Name had she allowed him to talk her into making these weird rules over the years? And Scrabble wasn’t her strongest forte not like Monopoly or even Chess.
**That’s our episode for today, as always leave your valued comments and use our share buttons… see you Thursday, cheers**