‘You want to put your money where your mouth is?’
She walked into the room with a slight frown on her brows, shortening the distance between them. The room was buzzing quietly with activity as people moved leisurely from one side of it to the other – garbed up in all sorts of attires that did or did not befit the occasion.
Music, low and soft, emanated from an electronic device barely visible. It was complimented by the human voices that were hardly above the sound. All of this she noticed in one slow turn of her head as she walked further into the room.
A waiter bearing a tray appeared at her elbow and a slight shake of her head answered his unspoken question. He hovered around hoping she’d change her mind but she calmly walked away and positioned herself at the bar, leaning an arm against it.
She looked around again, as though in search of someone, and wondered what she was doing here. She hardly knew any of the smiling faces in the crowd except her friend,Ese, who had invited her – and she was nowhere in sight. She had come with the intention of spending just a few minutes, making certain Ese was aware of her presence, and leaving to return home. Home! That cold, three –bedroom apartment of hers that had lost all its warmth, security and happiness a week ago. That which had all the memories of a once beautiful relationship gone sour. That domain she had holed herself in for the past week, continually filling up her cup of sorrows. Home! No, she couldn’t go back there just now! She’d spend the rest of the evening somewhere else before returning late enough to sleep off immediately.
Ese had had good intentions towards her when she had extended the invitation to her – no one had liked the recluse sort of life she had been living for the past week. But she hadn’t been able to help it at the time. At the back of her mind, she barely registered the sound of a baritone voice singing unaccompanied. So the tempo of the music had changed, she thought fleetingly before continuing her destructive introspection. And time being the great healer it was had begun its healing process – it had begun to make her stronger. Strong enough to attempt into a crowded room alone. The voice singing cut again into her thoughts, this time sharply.
She looked up. Moving determinedly towards her was a hunk – an unfamiliar one but pleasantly so. The crowd of people seemed to part for him as he made towards her. Broad shoulders and a solid wall of a chest bulged from beneath the short-sleeved chequered shirt he had on tucked into a pair of fitting blue jeans. A six – footer and a body to go with it, he looked down at her. Good-looking, without being devastating, he smiled and raised his voice as he drew nearer. A slim flute of wine was held in one brown sinewy hand.
At first she looked around to see if she was not mistaken, but there was no one at her side. Training her gaze on him again, she wondered what he was up to. Where was Ese? She didn’t need this. No, not now! Not here! She couldn’t stand the attention he was attracting to both of them. No, please! She tried to deepen her frown but failed miserably. His smile was getting bigger by the minute as though sensing her discomfort and enjoying it. And that smile! Was it something else!
He was almost directly in front of her when her features dissolved slowly but surely into a smile – lighting up her captivating eyes, completely transforming her to something totally different and desirable.
He handed her the glass as three other men crowded them from out of the blue, laughing and talking at the same time. One of them thumped him on the back while another pushed a can of beer into his hand.
‘You did it, man!’ the third exclaimed. ‘You did it!’
What! Jennifer thought, as her eyes widened fractionally, the glass halting halfway to her mouth.
He met her eyes as he lifted his drink in a silent toast to her- the smile still in place.
At the far end of the room, cleverly hidden by a group of people, Ese smiled too. Jennifer was going to be all right, she thought, as she observed the quartet with Rasheed, the baritone singer, effecting introductions. He had carried out his part excellently; just like she had predicted to his friends. To their loss though, she had won the bet; they had all bet against him save for her. Not to his knowledge, of course. And she had just become a little richer.
She looked at the four of them again. The men had joined Jennifer at the bar with Rasheed at her side, doing most of the talking. A small smile now playing on her small, luscious lips, she gave him her attention.
Ese smiled again. Her friend was going to be all right after all. With that, she allowed herself be drawn into the conversation of the group directly in front of her.
And he did!