CALVIN SLOGGED up the stairs. He was bone tired. So tired, he just wanted to fall flat on his face and blank out. He didn’t even think he had the strength to eat. He couldn’t even work up the appetite to do so. He just so needed to rest.
The call back to the Station had been about Kabiru and his gang. It looked like he’d left his hide-out and was back in the game. They weren’t entirely sure yet. The robbery attack hadn’t been his usual neighbourhood, door-to-door heist, but it had had his MO written all over it. Coshing victims over the head and leaving them half-conscious, right after demanding all they had and draining their bank accounts as much as he can via their ATM cards.
What was puzzling though was why he chose a hospital now? Why go somewhere he wouldn’t get much? Maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe it was a different gang with same method of operation.
He inhaled deeply and pushed open the door, plodded inside and dropped into the seat nearest to the door.
“What’s that?” Isaiah asked curiously, pointing to the brown paper bag he still clutched in his hand.
He sighed. “Galette. A pastry. Cate gave it to me.”
The thought of her lifted his spirits, washed away some of the fatigue. It had been simply amazing seeing what she’d done in the three months since they last saw. Had even been more so, listening to her talk so excitedly and proudly about it all.
“Ah, rushed over to her store, did you?” Isaiah teased. “Couldn’t wait to see her, huh?”
Calvin ignored him. Just shut his eyes and willed his body to relax.
“Let me help you with that since you are obviously too fagged out.” Isaiah slipped the bag from his hand. Sniffed it and moaned noisily. “Dang! Ah, you want some rice? I made some.” He was shuffling towards the kitchen. “Well, I didn’t make it, Rose did. She was here for quite a while. Wanted to see you, but couldn’t wait.”
He came back into the living room and dropped back into his chair. “We found a place. Here, I got you a drink.” He nudged him by the arm.
Calvin managed to pry his eyes open. “You did?” He cracked a weary smile. “Well, congratulations.”
Isaiah and Rose were getting married in less than three months and that meant he needed his own place. Their own place.
“Ketu. Two bedroom apartment. Water, accessible road, close to the bus-stop… not bad altogether.” He dropped the can of malt since Calvin was taking it.
“Great. Really great. Rose liked it?”
Isaiah grinned. “She chose it.” He split the galette into two and bit into one part. “Oh my God! This is awesome.” He took another bite and moaned as he munched. “What did you say it was again?”
“Galette. And I think it tastes better if you shut your mouth as you chew.” Calvin said dryly.
“A couple of hours in the company of a lady and he is Mister Etiquette.” Isaiah teased, leaning back into his seat to enjoy the snack.
And because he truly seemed to be having a rare experience, Calvin opted to leave him the other half of the pastry, picking up the can of malt and corking it instead.
“So, how’s she—our Cate with a C?” Isaiah asked, flashing a wink.
“She’s not our Cate. She’s my Cate.” Calvin shot him a glare.
“She’s not your Cate if you don’t make a move, pal.” Isaiah refuted amicably.
“What do you think my visit to her store today was, know-it-all?” Calvin snapped.
“A friendly visit.” Isaiah winked. “You been hearing of this friend-zone talks?”
“What has that got to do with anything?.”
“Just that if you don’t let a lady know your intentions right away, that would be your zone in her life—the friend zone.” Isaiah gestured to the remaining galette, when he shook his head, he grabbed it. “And you my friend are in danger of being tossed into that zone being such a slowpoke.”
“Jesus Izzy, I just came back in town.” Calvin exclaimed, wondering why he hadn’t gone straight into his bedroom instead of stopping to be nagged by this clown. “Just saw her for the first time today after three months and you think announcing I am uncontrollably attracted to her out of the blue would have been a brilliant idea?”
“Beating about the bush and procrastinating aren’t, that I know.” Isaiah said with a pointed stare.
Isaiah grinned. “You’ve been attracted to her almost from the very first… you told me so.”
“Which I now sorely regret.” Calvin glared.
Isaiah chuckled. “What are you afraid of? That she’d think you always do this with female suspects you investigate?”
And because he was so right, Calvin hissed and drained the canned drink. “First off, she wasn’t really a suspect. Secondly, I don’t usually go after ladies I am investigating.”
“And I’m sure she’ll know that, once you explain it all to her.” Isaiah smiled cheerfully. “Stop being a coward and playing Mister Friend. It can be a dangerous path… has broken many hearts, ya know.”
Calvin scowled at his wise nod and got up. Good thing he was getting married and moving out soon. He’d be getting a willing chat partner he can talk his ears off. And he’d get some deserved peace and quiet.
“Isaiah, I am not going to rush into this like some infatuated teenager. We are going to take it easy and slow. Get to know one another and then go from there.”
“Alright.” Isaiah shrugged. “Just don’t forget the friend-zone. You become too friendly, she begins to see you as nothing but a friend. Be careful, my friend.”
“Thank you, Mister Relationship Counsellor.” Calvin sneered. Friend-zone his ass. He started in the direction of his room.
A knock came at the door and stopped him. “You expecting someone?” He asked, eyeing the door suspiciously.
“No, I’m not. But I’m sure it’s not some armed criminal trying to cater away our prized possessions.” Isaiah teased, striding to the door.
He unlocked and pulled it open. “Nike!” He exclaimed. “What a surprise.”
Calvin groaned wearily. What the heck was she doing here and at this time of the night? He glared at the woman filling the doorway across.
Nike was about five-seven, stick slim and with a startlingly fair complexion that earned her the nickname ‘yellow’ among colleagues, friends and family alike. She wasn’t exactly what you’d call pretty, at least not in that easy-on-the-eye, delicate, appealing manner. But she had an angular bone structure that was remarkable enough it made you look at her twice. It had made him take another look. Had made him succumb to the demands of that second look.
“Good evening, Isaiah.” She greeted in her deep husky voice. Her eyes were pinned on him though.
“What are you doing here?” He demanded before Isaiah could respond.
“Err, come in, I guess.” Isaiah said, gesturing widely. “And excuse me both of you. I’ll just go… read in my room.” He walked out without waiting for a reply.
“Evening, Cal. May I sit down?” Nike came to stand beside him.
She was wearing a pair of black jeans just like he was, only slim fit. But her dark grey Henley shirt hung loosely over her body. She had the sleeves folded up to her elbow. No makeup, just a lip-gloss and her hair held back in a ponytail. Nike never was one for looking fashionable or even feminine. Neither stopped her from being a great sex partner though.
Pushing away the recollection of his stupidest mistake, he inclined his head. “Yeah, why not? Do have a seat, please.”
She flashed him a bright smile even when he knew she caught his sarcastic tone. “Thank you.” She said, marching to the sofa and dropping into it. “Are you not going to offer me a drink?” Her smile turned wry. “At least for old times sake.”
“No, I’m not going to offer you anything.” Calvin stared stonily at her. “You came here without invitation or prior notice, I want to know why. Speak, because it is late and I want to go to bed.”
“Is that an invitation?” She flashed him a sultry grin and pushed up from the seat. “Are you inviting me to bed… with you?”
He sidestepped her. Evaded her tilting body. “Why are you here, Nike? It’s over between us and you know it. Has been over for months now. So, I’d like to know what you are doing here at this time of the night.”
“But it’s not over for me, Cal.” Nike smiled coolly. Slipped her hands into the pockets of her jeans and leaned against the chair behind her. “You think you can just use and dump me like some piece of trash, Calvin?”
“I didn’t use you. What the heck are you talking about?” Calvin threw up his hands. He was so exhausted, even more so now that he had to deal with this… drama. “All we had was a sexual relationship. It was nothing more and we never pretended otherwise. I never did.”
“So, you thought it was just sex for me?” Nike bit out, her cool eyes now furious. “You think this was just about us fucking each other?”
Calvin scowled. She never cared for tact or refinement.
“You think I go around fucking every Police officer in the command?”
“I surely wasn’t the first.” Calvin tossed out, regretting the callousness of it almost as soon as it was out of his mouth.
Nike recoiled. Her cheeks tinged, but only briefly as her eyes hardened. “No, you weren’t. And I don’t owe you or anybody else explanations or apologies for that.” She drew up her body, straightened to her full length. “But it wasn’t just sex with you. I liked you. I really like you.”
He stared at her. There was an emotional gleam in her eyes he hadn’t seen before. Maybe because he hadn’t wanted to see it. Maybe she hadn’t shown it. He didn’t know. But still he felt the quick spurt of pity. Yet, pity or not, this was over for him. It shouldn’t have started in the first place.
“I’m sorry, Nike. I really am sorry that it didn’t mean more for me. You are a nice woman. Young, pretty…”
“Don’t patronise me, Calvin.” She hissed. “Don’t treat me like some silly, little girl who’s confused about her feelings and needs reassurance.” She let out a mocking laugh. “Men don’t find me pretty. They don’t. You don’t, never did.”
Calvin had the grace to feel ashamed and to look it.
“You think I’m hard. Maybe even cheap.” She let out another scornful laugh. “I slept with you without demanding any commitment and I’ve done it before. That makes me cheap, right? An easy lay?”
“I’m not judging you, Nike.” Calvin said softly. “I don’t have a right to.”
“No, you don’t.” She nodded brusquely. “And you don’t have a right to break my heart and treat me as if I am nothing.”
“Nike…” He drew in breath, expelled it haltingly. “I’m sorry but this is over. It shouldn’t have even started at all. I don’t think you are easy… you are not.” He looked into her eyes. “It’s just that what we had meant more to you than it did to me. I know that now and for that, I am sorry. But it’s over and you have got to accept it. Please?”
“No.” She said the single syllable word quietly and precisely holding his gaze. Ï don’t accept it.” She turned and stalked out the door.
Calvin stared for a while, then trudged to the door and locked it.
“I never figured her for the clingy type, being all hardy and independent-like.” Isaiah mused from behind him.
“Me neither.” Calvin said quietly.
“What are you going to do?”
“Nothing. It’s over. Has been over and going to stay over.” He said grimly. Because the fatigue was now weighing more forcefully, he inhaled deeply, pressing a hand to his eyes. “I’m off to bathe and hit the sack. Goodnight, man.” He swept past him into his bedroom.
He was yanking off his clothes when the message alert beep of his phone went off. Swearing under his breath, he retrieved the phone and tapped the screen—‘See me tomorrow’—the message said. It was from his father.
“Great! Just what I need to make this week even more dramatic.”
Tossing down the phone, he dragged off his jeans and headed into the bathroom, cursing the ill luck which had managed to ruin his perfect day.
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