THE LEKKI BEACH was buoying with its usual weekend life, teeming with a wild range of fun-seekers. Cate was lying under the canopy umbrella they’d brought along, blocking out the mild sun and beautiful, crowded landscape with the massive sunglasses shading her eyes.
Since she’d invited Calvin—which had been a spur-on-the-moment act—they’d decided to come together in his car. Actually, he’d insisted he pick her up and they come together. And since she was feeling in desperate need of rest after the long night she’d put in to meet customers’ demands for today, she’d gratefully given in and slid into his car to be chauffeur-driven to the beach.
It had been a fun drive down as Calvin had kept her entertained with witty conversations and rib-cracking tales. Right now, she felt all loose and limber after a relaxing hour by the Oceanside. They’d quickly feasted on the pastries she’d brought and the fruity bottles of wine Calvin had supplied, before settling back to enjoy the scenery.
Calvin was telling another tale of his first experience as a Police officer and with her eyes closed behind her sunglasses, his deep droning tone tantalizing her eardrum, she found herself drifting off.
But unfortunately the highly-craved rest was not to be as Bukola chose that moment to call out to her.
“Hey Cate, why don’t we go arrange some barbecued chicken and some more drinks? I am feeling hungry again.”
“Oh, then we should all go together.” Kunle said.
“Nope.” Calvin disagreed. “I think the ladies should maintain their relaxed positions while we men go take care of the food.”
Cate silently blessed Calvin for his wisdom. She just wasn’t ready to rouse from her position.
“But we ladies would know better what to order for us all.” Bukola protested, nudging Cate by the leg. “C’mon, lazy ass, let’s go serve our men.”
“You just tell us what you need and we’ll be back with them ASAP.” Calvin was already shuffling up from the beach mat they were both sharing. “You fine ladies just take a load off kitchen duties today and let the men folk do the serving.”
“Yeah, a little role reversal.” Kunle agreed, getting to his feet too.
“I could do with a role reversal more often, I swear.” Cate drawled lazily. “You gentlemen just grab me some nice ribs along with good chunks of liver and I am good.”
Bukola called out her own preference and the men marched off. Sighing in deep satisfaction, Cate settled more into the mat, deciding she might as well catch a short nap before they returned.
But once again Bukola would not allow it. “Cate?” She tugged her leg.
“Hmm?” She refused to open her eyes or even budge.
“What’s up with you and the detective?” Bukola asked in a loud whisper.
Cate sighed and forced her eyes open. She should have known there was a reason behind her insistence to go get the food, nosy brat!
“What do you mean what’s up with me and the detective?” She retorted, wiping off her sunglasses.
Her stony glare and tone didn’t deter Bukola though. Instead she crawled from the mat she shared with her husband onto theirs. “So, he is the temporal boyfriend you came along with.” She winked.
Cate swore under her breath and heaved up. No need to keep lying down when she wouldn’t be getting any rest anyway. “He’s not a boyfriend—temporal or otherwise.” She snapped. “You asked me to bring along someone and with the limited time and choices, I asked him and he accepted. End of story.”
“Wow! Who could have thought it?” Bukola’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Cate and Detective Calvin. How romantic!”
“Oh God!” Cate groaned. “Don’t please go air-head on me, I beg you. There’s nothing to think or imagine here because there’s nothing going on.”
Exasperated, she snapped up her floral print bag, pulled out a clip and viciously clipped back her breeze-blown hair.
“Do you like him?” Bukola asked, crossing her legs so she sat Indian-style. All ready for a good gossip.
“Jesus Christ!” Cate rolled her eyes. “Like him? Well, let’s see. He’s obviously an upstanding Police officer, he’s friendly, nice and quite a good conversationalist… so, yeah, I like him. I like nice, not-too-nosy people.”
Bukola smacked her on the arm. “Best friends can’t be too nosy. Besides, I meant do you like him?” She raised her brows meaningfully.
Cate scowled. Of course she’d known that was how she meant it, the like that wasn’t just about being nice and friendly. And since she knew Bukola won’t let go off the issue unless she played gossip girl with her, she crossed her own legs and tossed a casual glance to where Calvin and Kunle were standing by a barbecue stall.
“Jeez Bukky, I just met the guy. Not literally but you get my meaning I’m sure.”
Bukola snorted. “Length of time has nothing to do with my question.”
“Of course it does.” She refuted. “I know you like to believe in one-look-at-him-and-my-heart-went-pitter-patter,” she chuckled at another derisive snort. “Thing is, girl, that kind of telenovela romantic fairytale don’t just exist.”
“Of course it does.” Bukola rejoined, repeating her earlier words. “And whether you care to admit it or not your obvious prevarication means something.”
Since she didn’t quite care to admit that she was indeed prevaricating as rightly accused, she let out a scornful laugh. “Can’t expect reason and logic from a googly-eyed bride still in her honeymoon phase.”
“Well, I don’t care what you say, one thing is certain, he likes you.” Bukola declared smugly. “And that is so clear because he just can’t keep his eyes off you.”
Cate turned towards the barbecue stall and indeed Calvin had his eyes in their direction and precisely on her. She raised a hand and gave him a wave before turning back to her smarty-pants best friend.
“Bukky love, a lot of men look and more than half the time, it don’t mean nothing, hmm.” She leaned over and tweaked her slightly pointed nose.
Bukola slapped off her hand. “Yeah right, you just keep telling yourself that.”
Cate didn’t respond, instead her eyes crept back towards the stall. They were leaving it now and moving towards a store with drinks. She wasn’t just telling herself anything, she was telling the fact. She didn’t think Calvin’s looks meant anything and even if they did, she wasn’t even interested.
“Well, he’s a Police officer too.” Bukola broke the momentary silence.
Cate turned to her with stupefied eyes. “And what has that got to do with anything?”
Bukola shrugged. “Well, you know, you tell someone you are going to join the Police Force and they go—oh no, not the Police. God forbid! People don’t respect the profession or trust the officers in it.” Again she gesticulated with a lift of her shoulders. “And with their not so trustworthy reputation, you just can’t blame anyone.”
Cate was silent for a moment, reflecting on the out-of-the-blue opinion. “Calvin is a good Police officer, Bukky.” She said quietly, a mild frown on her forehead. “He’s not crooked or easily influenced like many others. Even her royal majesty did admit, grudgingly of course, that she’d been highly impressed by him. Not every Police officer in the Force is corrupt, you know.” She finished, wondering why she felt so heated to defend Calvin and his profession.
“I’m not saying he’s corrupt or that there is anything wrong with being a Police officer.” Bukola clarified. “I am just asking if you are comfortable with what he does.”
Cate gaped at her. “What has what he does got to do with me?” She spluttered out a laugh. “Listen babe, I know you’ve got love-hearts dimming your eyesight but believe me when I say that between the good detective and I, there is nothing but a budding friendship.”
Bukola opened her mouth to speak but she cut her off. “And besides, I am right now too focused on my pastry business to think about men and relationships, capiche? Now shut up, they are on their way back and I don’t want them thinking we are plotting a coup.”
“It is your love-life that needs focus not your business.” Bukola muttered with a pout, getting up to return to her own mat.
Cate ignored her, only flashed a bright smile when the men got under the umbrella. “Welcome back, fellas. We were just about to send out the search party.”
Kunle chuckled. “It’s the barbecue that took so long.” He squatted and spread out the steamy hot, foil wrapped assorted combo. “Hope you ladies have got huge appetites because it appears to me like we ordered more than we should.”
“I see you guys went all out.” Cate plucked a well-peppered diced liver and chunked it into her mouth. “Ooh, spicy.”
Calvin laughed. “And we’ve got really chilled drinks for that hot flavour.” He dropped the bucket of drinks and lifted out a malt drink and passed it to her. “Come on, Lady Bukky, dig in and let’s do justice to this.”
They all dug in and amidst easy conversations and laughs, they wiped clean the foil and emptied the bucket of drinks. Thereafter, a game of card was suggested to help digest their overfed tummies and then a walk along the beach to cool off.
It was another two and half hours before they started heading home.
“Well, take a look at that.” Calvin jerked his head to the opposite side of the road. “Looks like this is the season of love and commitment.”
Cate craned her neck backward as he drove past. A man in jeans and a T-shirt was kneeling on the pedestrian lane, a ring box held open to the screeching and jumping girl in front of him. Passerby were staring, some clapping.
“You were right, some women do love drama.” Calvin commented, smiling. “I’m guessing you wouldn’t welcome such an ostentatious display, right?”
Cate returned her gaze to the slowly moving traffic. “Since I’m not the showy kind, I guess not.”
“So, you don’t approve of PDA?”
“PDA?” She gave him a sideways glance.
“Public display of affection.”
“I see your slang acronyms are improving, Detective.” She teased.
“I learn fast.” Calvin grinned. “So?” He prompted, not forgetting his question.
She’d been hoping to evade the somewhat personal question. “I’m not adverse to public display of affection per se.” She shrugged. “I guess it all depends on how I feel and who I am feeling for.”
“Hmm.” He nodded. Said nothing more, just simply focused on his driving.
Cate angled her head and studied his calm, thoughtful expression. He had this round, somewhat chubby face despite his lean frame. The slight chubbiness gave him a boyish look and kind of made him more handsome.
She wasn’t big on relationships and hadn’t been a success in any she’d been involved in in the past. But failing repeatedly in something didn’t mean you have to completely give up, did it?
“Have I got leftover crumbs on my face or a smudge I didn’t properly wipe off?” Calvin still had his eyes on the road but there was an amused gleam in them.
She’d been staring and hadn’t even been consciously aware of it. “No, but it’s you big nose that’s got me gawking.” She said lightly, trying to cover her embarrassment at getting caught ogling. “I suppose you had to grow into it. Although it’s still a landmark feature on your face, I suppose it’s less conspicuous as when you were younger.”
“You are making fun of my nose?” He touched a finger to his fleshy, nostril-flared nose and cast her a baleful glare. “You dare to cast aspersion on a true Vaikosen birthright feature?”
She chuckled. “I am sorry. Didn’t know it was a family birthmark. Are the fox ears a family trait too?”
“I haven’t got fox ears.” He tossed her another glare. “My ears are just the perfect side for my head… as is my nose.” He sniffed snootily. “I see what Bukky meant by you having a mean streak… insulting my nose and ears. Humph.”
Cate threw back her head in laughter. “Oh, you shouldn’t be so put out, Calvin, since it makes you look like Princess Fiona’s Prince Charming.”
Calvin shook his head, as he pulled up beside her building. “I am guessing you don’t mean the real Prince Charming but the Prince Charming dear Princess Fiona chose and ended up with, right?”
“Aren’t you just so brilliant, Shrek… oops! I meant Calvin.” She pushed open her door and raced out, laughing as she made for her apartment door.
“You are so going to pay for all these slurs on my person and my family heritage.” Calvin glowered, coming to up behind her with the empty food container she’d used for the pastries. “And don’t bother with apologies and all off that begging stuff, a Vaikosen only accepts worthy recompense for crimes committed.”
She grinned wickedly. “And what would a worthy recompense be?”
“Dinner with me not later than next weekend.” He declared with a feigned glower.
“Ouch! That is a big punishment for such a teeny-weeny crime.” She batted her lashes. “How about lunch? Here, next week Sunday. I’ll be doling out real delicious recipes.”
“Hmm.” He eyed her with dark considering eyes. “I suppose lunch will have to do… to begin with.”
She spluttered. “What? You are demanding more than one recompense?”
“A Vaikosen is never so easily compensated.” He told her glibly passing her the silverware container. “Thank you for a wonderful picnic and for another invitation to a second date.” He flashed a cheeky grin.
But he was already sauntering off, giving her a cheerful wave as he got back into his car.
Cate gaped after him a full thirty seconds before she finally managed to shut her mouth, shook her head and turned to open her door. No, of course this wasn’t a date. It hadn’t been. Just a picnic with friends. And that damned lunch she’d been cornered into inviting him to wasn’t a date either. Uh huh. The man just had a bizarre sense of humour. That was it.
She marched inside and dumped the container on the centre table. Oh, she has to be very, very careful with the sneaky Detective Calvin Vaikosen.
Oh yes, she has to be.