Two hours later and Babine was still at work. Allen had this intent look on his face as he watched her worked.
“Are you always this serious when you work?” He blurted and she started at the question, then laughed. She knew she transformed into a different person when she worked; a more absorbed version of herself as she tried to interpret the task before her.
“I’m just trying to get it right”, she replied, mixing some paints together.
“Good to see, but I prefer you more relaxed. You are much more beautiful that way.”
Babine smiled. “Do you always flirt with women who work for you?” She looked up briefly from her easel to take in some details.
Allen shrugged. “Only if they are pretty like you”, he replied.
“Hmmm”, Babine added some more strokes to her easel, deciding to take his words lightly.
“So when are we taking a break?” Allen changed the subject so suddenly she blinked. “My side is going sore from lying on it for so long.”
Babine looked up. “Didn’t know you were tired. You should have spoken sooner. We can take a break now so we both relax and freshen up.” She began covering up her work while Allen sat up then stretched. He turned his head to the side and she heard a kink. Hmmm, he must have been really stiff in that position but kept it in.
She got up herself and stretched. She was tired too and her back felt stiff. It took a well and a few well-timed twists to get the crinks out herself.
“So…..are you ready to have something to eat now?”
“Yea”, she replied. “I’m kind of hungry and I think this break is well deserved.”
“Ok. I took the liberty of preparing something before you came. Will just toss it in the microwave to heat up. How does yam and egg sauce sound to you?”
Babine’s brows shot up slightly in surprise. “You made it yourself?” She asked and he nodded. “Hmmmm, a man who can cook. Nice.”
“Yea…..well..I grew up amongst girls so I learnt to cook”, he replied modestly. “I’m the only boy among four girls so some things just came natural to me.”
Babine found herself nodding unconsciously in approval. “Its good when men are a bit domestic, makes you kinda self-reliant. I’m sure you didn’t have any problems with meals in school.”
“Nope. If anything, my room became a haven for the other guys to have their meals. When I discovered I was spending way more than necessary on foodstuff I had to device a means and asked the other guys for weekly contributions. We pooled resources, I made the dishes and we all split. Along the line I stopped contributing as the other guys brought more than enough and had no idea the price of foodstuff. I felt I did my fair share by doing the cooking.”
Babine burst into laughter at that. It sounded funny, but it also seemed fair enough that he didn’t contribute cash-wise to the meal preparation but did so through another means. “That was clever of you”, she replied. “But I doubt if any of the guys would have had the same opinion if they’d found out.”
“Well, we’ll never know because they never did.” He grinned.” If anything, they felt I was doing them a huge favour saving them from having to spend so much eating in canteens or buka.”
“I can imagine!”
“I’ll get the food started”, he said and was gone.
The air soon filled with the aroma of food and Babine began to salivate. He really wasn’t joking when he said he could cook.
She saw a stack of architectural guide magazine on the floor beside her and picked one up. Going through, she realized she didn’t understand a lot of what was inside. It wasn’t her usual thing and contained a lot of jargon that was indigenous to the profession but she continued to flip through, at least that kept her busy.
This particular magazine edition was done on glass as a sustainable design option in building and development. There were a lot of glass house designs that appealed to the artist in her.
“Lunch is served”, Allen announced, carrying a tray towards her which he placed on a stool in front of her.
Babine glanced at the food and pursed her lips in surprise. “Nice”, she stared at the yam and egg sauce before her and her stomach growled. “You would hold your own in a cooking competition.”
Allen gave a low bow and she laughed. “I’m happy my lady likes it”, he replied. “So what would you like to drink; there’s wine and then there’s spirit. Pick your choice.”
“Nothing heavy for me, I’m afraid”, Babine replied. “I try not to drink on the job. Something light would be nice.”
“Juice, then”, he replied, getting a jar of coconut and pineapple juice and two glass cups then sat beside her with his tray of food.
He glanced over at her easel, seeing some strokes and shades. “Is that me?” he frowned. “Looks more like a stick man.”
Babine laughed. “That’s the framework. I’ll fill it up later as we go.”
“Guess its a lot like architecture and building then; you lay the framework and foundation, then take it from there.”
“Yea, I was just thinking the same thing a while ago going through this magazine.”
Conversation with Allen seemed to flow easily; he was quite easy to talk to and she noticed a more laid back, playful side of him as he teased her mercilessly. She found herself laughing at his jokes and banter and giving suitable comebacks while he feigned physical injury, like she just shot an arrow at him.
She was relaxed and her guards were so down with him. She was thinking pleasant thoughts, which shouldn’t be. This guy was a stranger to her, even if they’d been acquainted for a few months. She wasn’t comfortable with how she was relating with him; the feelings of happiness and contentment that was flowing with her.
He was a client and a friend – if she could call him that in such a short time – so why were her thoughts running away with her?
Allen watched as the girl before him slowly changed to become somewhat pensive. She had an expressive face and he saw the emotions run through it. Had he done something wrong; said something she didn’t like to effect this change? “Is something wrong? Did I say something”
She shook her head, giving a slight smile as she spooned the last morsel of food into her mouth. “No, no, of course not. What made you ask that?”
Allen shrugged. “You just seemed to become sober all of a sudden.”
“Oh, really? I guess I’m more tired than I realized.”
“Should we call it a day then and continue tomorrow?”
Babine cocked her head to the side as she contemplated his suggestion. “Actually that wouldn’t be a bad idea and its even later than I thought”, she added her eyes going to the wall clock on the wall. “Didn’t realize the day was far gone.”
“This was a nice meal”, she said. “I’ve not had a first day on the job this good in a long time. Thanks.”
“My pleasure, Babine. Glad you liked it. Let me get these cleared away so I can drop you off.”
“Oh no, you don’t have to. I can take a cab or job a public bus.”
Allen shook his head. “Actually, I insist. Its the least I can do after you came all the way here. Besides, I’m an old-fashioned guy and would like to see you safely to your door.”
“Alright, then”, Babine smiled, although she was amused and couldn’t help wondering what danger could be lurking in the short distance between Ikeja and Maryland.