The next day I came to work early, hoping to have a word with Nina. She came in a few minutes after I did, dropped her stuff on her desk, took one glance at me and headed into the boss’s office where she stayed for almost an hour. I watched and waited until she finally came out. As soon as she saw me approaching, she meandered into the secretary’s office. I was like, what? Weren’t we going to talk about this? I went back to my seat and waited. She came out soon after and seeing that the coast was clear, went to her desk. I decided to leave it till lunchtime. I just couldn’t keep my mind off her though. I had been in relationships in the past but this was different. She intruiged me. She was like a case I wanted to solve and didn’t mind spending the rest of my life doing it. I knew I was in love with her and had to find out if she had the same feelings for me. I had seen other people before with blackened wings, broken wings, bat-like wings even, but she…I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I knew if I could see my own manifestation in a mirror it would be me bursting into flames whenever she came around me.
1pm. Lunch time.
I had avoided making eye contact with her the whole time. Still, I had been watching her every once in a while from a reflecting teapot. She hadn’t left her seat and seemed totally engrossed in her work. Probably had forgotten all about me. . , , !
The lunch bell sounded and she got up along with everyone else and went to the cafeteria. I followed behind her. I watched as she took a helping of spaghetti and salad with chicken and moved to a corner of the table. I asked for rice and pepper stew and was about going to join her when she received a call. As she answered it I was hit with a wave of visuals so stunning I almost fell. A dark cloud appeared around her and her gold chains tightened painfully around her wings, so tight in fact, I thought I saw them bleed. Whoever was on the other side of the phone was responsible for my nina’s misery. As the conversation continued it was as if something dark was being absorbed from the phone into her ears and head and I watched as her entire demeanor became dull and miserable. I was still looking at all of this when a co-worker bumper into me from behind. I apologised and walked straight up to Nina who had finished her mysterious conversation. She looked up at me and tried to smile. I ignored the gesture.
“Who was that?” I asked sitting beside her.
“Who was who?” She replied.
“The caller on the phone?”
“Wow. That was quick. You’re not the jealous type are you? I can’t stand having a jealous boyfriend.” She said with a smile.
“Whoever that was, was very important to you, and obviously causes you a lot of misery. I can help.”
“No you can’t” she sighed and looked down at her plate.It was obvious she had lost her appetite. “No one can help me.”
“Maybe I can, if you’ll just tell me.” I pleaded.
“You go first. You had something you wanted to say in your apartment earlier. Before the assignment. Before we..kissed.” She looked back down at her plate shyly.
“Oh, come-on, not that again. You know it has nothing to do with…wait. Did you call me “boyfriend” just now?”
“Jealous boyfriend” she said, making a face.
“Then what’s the problem?” I asked. She became quiet again. I took a deep breath and went for it.
“Nina, you know how I feel about you. I know you do. I don’t like beating about the bush, so I would like to know, are you married?”
“No I’m not.” She said.
Oh. So there was someone. It was my turn to lose my appetite. Then again, this person wasn’t really her fiancé. Isn’t that what she meant by her statement just now? I looked at her and she met my eyes.
“Come back to my place, we will be able to talk more freely there. I promise to be the perfect gentleman.” I had decided to tell her everything. If she called me crazy and ran, so be it. But I would do my best to help her if she let me.
She smiled again. I never got tired of that smile. It started at the centre of her lips and parted to show small white well shaped teeth. I longed for that smile like a kid longed for candy.
“You have been too much of a gentleman already, ” she said. “Ok. Your place. But tomorrow. Tonight I’m going to be kind of…busy.”
“Busy doing what?” I said alarmed.
“Hey, you are the jealous type aren’t you?”
“Who wouldn’t be jealous over you?” I said. “That person would have to be blind.”
“Or overly confident” she finished with a faraway look in her eyes. I frowned but she didn’t explain further. She held my hands and squeezed them tight. “Thanks for being so concerned about me. You are a good friend.”
That was definitely what I was trying to avoid being to her. I wanted more than friendship. Much more. But I smiled back and said nothing. All I could think about now was how to help her with whatever problem she had.