Shade sipped coke from a tall glass, leaned against the railings in a corner of the balcony and watched the city below her buzz with life. Car lights, neon signs and flashy party outfits all played colourfully against the background of the dark moonless night. A gentle breeze wafted about her, gently lifting her thin dress, cooling her exterior but leaving her hot inside.
Bumping into Jimmy after a long while stunned her into silence. More surprising was the fact that her heart still jumped at the sight of him. Except for a streak of greying strands across his temple, he was just as breath-taking.
She sucked in air suffused with perfumes and night dew and wondered if Tinu wasn’t right after all about her needing to have a life, a Jimmy-less life. That was Tinu’s advice five years ago. But how could she when seeing Jimmy tonight shot her nerves up a notch. She thought she was over her crush, but clearly nothing had changed.
The evening had been going so well. The Christmas dinner party hosted by Tinu’s boss, the music, the gaiety of the atmosphere was pretty much as Tinu had predicted. They found a place at the bar and sampled the cocktails as Tinu filled her in and made facetious remarks about her colleagues.
“Jimmy dear.” Tinu called out exuberantly when Jimmy walked out of the elevator into the hall. Shade’s heart skipped a beat as Jimmy turned at the familiar voice and smiled a deep rich smile in their direction.
“How have you been? I didn’t know you were back in town.” Tinu opened her arms and Jimmy walked into them, kissing her soundly on the cheeks while patting her on the back.
“Actually, I got back just last night. You look good, Sis.” He held her at arm’s length.
“Aawww, thanks. You’re going to make my head swell.” Tinu giggled. She had a knack for being girlish and womanish at the same time. A quality that endeared her to a lot of men, a quality Shade wished she had. “You remember my friend Shade?” She almost shoved Shade forward.
“Of course I remember. How are you, Shade?” Jimmy extended his hand smiling, scanning her from head to toe.
“I’m fine thanks.” Shade took his warm firm hands and felt his gaze like a ball of fire aimed at her, to melt her.
“So what are you doing here? Don’t tell me you’re a friend of Old man Walker’s?” Tinu’s question was a life-saver. Jimmy let go her hand and hoisted himself up on a bar stool on Tinu’s other side.
“Not really. Your boss is a client.” He laughed. A deep yet gentle laugh that made Shade wish he laughed with her or at something she said. His presence even a few feet away was disturbing.
“Excuse me, I need some fresh air.” She slid off the stool.
“Are you okay dear?” Tinu asked concern mixed with a questioning look.
“I’m fine.” She lied. “Maybe I’ve had too much to drink. I’ll be back shortly.”
She waltzed through the throng of people and made her way to the balcony, picking up a glass of coke from a passing waiter as she headed out.
She couldn’t remember what she looked like and wondered if she ought to visit the ladies room before going back in. In all honesty, she hadn’t taken that much care in dressing up for the occasion. But now she was eager to make an impression on Jimmy even if he didn’t care much for her.
“Mind if I join you?” Startled by the deep sensuous voice behind her, Shade turned and stared wide-eyed at Jimmy. His presence sent waves of confusion through her mind.
“I…, sure.” He stood next to her. His cologne threatened her sanity.
“It’s a nice night out here.” Jim thrust his hands in his pocket and sucked in a deep breath.
“Yes…, it is.” She tried to sound confident but her voice came out a little hoarse.
“But not as nice as you. You look lovely.” She felt heat on the back of her neck. Her stomach quivered and her heart did a double flip.
“Thank you.” She smiled shyly, tucked a straying strand from her forehead and turned away from him, hoping the shadows could hide her face. “So what brings you to Lagos, business trip or holiday?”
“I can hardly call coming to Lagos a holiday,” He shrugged, “but I’m here for both business and pleasure.”
“Sounds like an ideal get-away.” She remarked.
He chuckled. Shade liked the sound of his voice and how it drowned every other voice around her.
“What about you? Are you holidaying as well? I heard you moved to Abuja.”
“Yes, I did two years ago. News sure travels fast.”
He loosened his tie a little and backed the railings, facing her. “Was Lagos getting too hot for you? He asked.
From the corner of her eyes she could feel him staring at her. She folded her arms around her, not because it was cold but from the sheer feeling of helpless exposure.
“I guess I needed a change of scenery.”
“So how’s life treating you these days?”
“I can’t complain, really. Abuja is nice and peaceful.”
“So should I be looking over my shoulder for an angry husband or boyfriend?”
“No, I… I’m not involved.” Shade bit her lower lip, frowning. It wasn’t for lack of proposals. It was because she senselessly compared every guy she met with Jimmy.
“Oh, I would have thought…, never mind” Was all he said.
Shade was eager to shift the topic back to him. She was done feeling sorry for herself. “What about you Jimmy? I heard you married Dupe David.” The beautifully captivating Dupe every girl wanted to be like.
He rubbed the back of his neck, turned away from her, rested his elbows on the railings and paused for a while. “Dupe and I are no longer an item.” He said no more.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” And she meant it. They seemed so well suited for each other even if she wished she were in Dupe’s shoes. Since her move to Abuja, she’d lost touch with her sleuthing. She could tell from the tone of his voice that it was a sore topic. She rested her elbows on the railings as he did and stared far out into the night enjoying the comfortable silence between them.
Shade turned sideways to find Jimmy staring at her. Her throat went dry. For some reason, Jimmy never really spoke with her, never really called her name until now. He took a step closer and looked down at her. Her pulse quickened. The sound of her beating heart matched that of the music tempo from inside the hall. He shrugged his jacket off and wrapped them around her.
“Do you mind? You look like you might catch a cold.” She nodded and sucked in a sharp breath as his hands lingered on her shoulder adjusting the collar around them. He tucked his hands in his pocket and leaned back.
“Thank you.” She let out a shallow breath and chided herself for thinking the absurd.
“You know, I’ve always wondered about you.”
“Really?” She blinked.
He chuckled. Laughter lines creased the corner of his eyes. “You know, at school, you always seemed so… so distant. Like all you cared about were your books.”
Shade remembered her frequent library trips, burying her nose in books when other girls went shopping, parties or just chatted about boys. She never imagined she’d be a match for Jimmy’s stunning girlfriends so why bother. She wasn’t witty or fun-loving; didn’t have the figure, charisma or indulged in the latest fashion. All she had were her brains, but most guys didn’t fall for that.
“That’s not altogether true. I cared about a lot of things and people too. Besides, how would you know? You were too busy with the bimbos around.” She remarked.
He gave out a throaty laugh. “So you noticed.”
Shade rolled her eyes. “Aw come on. Every girl on campus noticed. Every girl wanted to hang out with you, Jimmy.”
“Every girl, except one.” Shade looked down at her toes avoiding the smile in his eyes wondering it meant. “Didn’t you ever want to hang out with me?”
She shook her head. “Not if I had to fight off those sharks. Besides, you are not my type.”
Jimmy laughed out loud. His good humour and positive attitude endeared him to a lot of people.
“And how could you have known I wasn’t your type if we never hung out together?”
He took a step forward. She could feel his hot breath as face inched closer to hers. Her heart thumped wildly and the jacket suddenly felt claustrophobic.
Jimmy lowered his head and his lips brushed hers slightly then he pulled away and smiled down at her. She closed her eyes to capture the moment. A sweet feeling lingered on her lips. At the same time she could feel a biological function working towards over-drive.
Shade tried to compose herself, hiding her desire for his kiss, wondering why he pulled away. She searched his eyes, to understand why he looked at her the way he did. Jimmy sighed and stroked her cheeks with the back of his hand.
“Shade, I’ve always wanted to get to know you. I just didn’t….you didn’t…,” He paused, searching her eyes, “You cold shouldered me on too many occasions.”
“I didn’t…” Words stuck in her throat. She couldn’t find right words to express her shock at his words, his closeness, their kiss.
“You didn’t like me?”
She closed her eyes as he lowered his head again. His lips warm and teasing on hers. Heat travelled from the base of her neck down her spine as he gently parted her lips with his. He kissed her deeply and firmly and she responded, yielding up her mouth in total surrender as her hand went up around his neck.
Every part of her body screamed yes, but her bladder screamed no. At first she thought it was the ecstasy she was feeling but the pressure built up at an alarming rate. She had to pee. She pulled back slightly feeling the pressure build up even faster. Damn those drinks! She swore in her mind.
“What’s wrong?” He murmured.
“Nothing” She whispered.
“You did like me, didn’t you?”
No words were necessary at this time as Jimmy pulled her closer, wrapped his arms around her waist and claimed her lips again. She could feel his warm strong body against hers, his male cologne assaulting her senses. After all these years, she finally had Jimmy kissing her and she had to go? The kiss, the Pee, everything was yelling, screaming in her brain. She wanted to go on, and yet wanted to go.
Shade pulled away from Jimmy as her bladder almost won. She pulled up her dress and ran for the ladies as her heels click-clacked on the tiled floor.
“So why are you running away again?” Jimmy yelled after her.