Tickles was mumbling under her breath. It was a long list of expletives she’d learned from one of her relatives, a sailor who was always happy to unleash his acid tongue on just about everyone anytime he downed the better half of a whiskey bottle.
That vocabulary served her well as she jogged meters behind Thom. She should have been asleep or eating ice cream even though it was still early. She just would have preferred to be anywhere and doing anything else than to be jogging another day too.
Her initial plan had been to walk with him. Ask him a few questions about his place of work, a few personal ones to find out if he was in between girlfriends or was already dating but the way he smelled and looked when she joined him on the hallway this morning had thrown such intentions away. She’d nearly blurted how good he looked when she saw him. She felt silly for feeling uncomfortable telling him how he looked but she was sure he’d have seen the look in her eyes. It was both admiration and attraction so she’d asked to join him for a walk and possibly a run. He’d of course been happy to oblige her.
She could feel a stitch in her right ribs and felt a constriction in her throat area. She couldn’t inhale effectively. She stopped and tried to exhale with her mouth open but she couldn’t. She was in pain. Thankfully, Thom saw when she stopped and turned to check up on her. When he saw the look of pain on her face he quickly ran to her.
“Can’t breath?” he asked. She nodded.
“Where and where?”
She pointed at her chest, ribs and lower throat area.
“Okay. First of all, inhale deeply, keep it and count to 15. Release it slowly and inhale again. Do it slowly till we get that air pocket out.”
She tried it but after 3 tries could still feel pain when inhaling. She shook her head at him. He held her by the waist and said, “look at me. Now, just inhale, exhale as fast as you can.”
She did that and within a few seconds could breathe without feeling any constriction. She smiled but this quickly turned into alarm when she saw his eyes trained on her lips. He dipped his head slightly as if he wanted to taste them. She pulled away in panic. He looked at her puzzled.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I am,” wait. That came out like a squeak. She tried it again. “I am better now.” The voice sounded better.
“Good. But what kind of necklace are you wearing? I couldn’t see the symbols carved on it well. Can I take a look?”
She felt like an idiot. So he’d been looking at her favorite necklace all this while and not her lips?
“They are Adinkra symbols. My mum makes them.”
“Really? It’s lovely. Can she make one for me? A friend will be celebrating the birthday soon and I would love to give it as a gift.”
She didn’t understand why she felt a twinge of jealousy. This necklace was for girls. Her mother was a jeweler and for this set had created a tiny string of Adinkra symbols with gold. It was something you would buy for a loved one like a girlfriend or wife so, who was the girl Thom wanted to buy one for. She hit herself mentally. It wasn’t her right to feel jealous. If anything, Stella was the one who was supposed to feel that way. She inhaled deeply in the guise of needing to breathe in more air and smiled briefly.
“I’ll order one for you from my mum. I am not how much the price is but I’ll let you know.”
“The amount is not a problem. I know my friend will appreciate it. Now that you’re ok, do you mind I complete with my run? I’ll run back so that we walk the rest of the way.”
“No problem,” she said. She watched quietly as he run off, tried very hard not to start at how his taut butts looked under his jogging shorts.
AN HOUR LATER, Stella looked at her with no little disappointment.
“He must have a girlfriend then.”
“I said maybe. It might be for a good friend of his or maybe someone he really cares about without the person having to necessarily be his girlfriend,” she defended him.
“Listen to yourself. You told me he wanted to buy a similar necklace to what you’re wearing. That thing is not cheap and he wants to buy a 20k gold chain for a friend? Which friend would be so important as to be given that?”
“Well, I don’t know. Mind you, he never indicated if it was for a male or female friend.”
Stella glared at her.
“Is that necklace worn by any gender except for males?”
“Well, since we have 7 genders it could be any of them.” Her joke fell flat because Stella wasn’t smiling.
“Alright. Alright. I’ll admit that it’s highly unlikely that he’ll buy it for a male friend. Anyway, we wouldn’t know who exactly it is.”
“Why do you say so?” Stella asked.
“Well. that’s because this is not one of those necklaces where the person’s name is inscribed on it. I, therefore, can’t ask him the name or find out who exactly he’s giving it to.”
Stella’s heartbeats quickened in excitement. “Oh but you can,” she suggested. “Just tell him that your mother offers that for free and that you want to know which name she should engrave on the necklace. Who knows what info you might get after asking that question.”
Tickles stared at her for so long that she nearly squirmed. Something she hadn’t done since the time she stole meat from the okro soup her mother prepared and had had to pretend that she didn’t have a slice of steaming hot meat in her mouth when the woman entered the kitchen.
“Do we really have to do this?” her friend asked.
Stella paused. She really didn’t know why she needed this information but somehow she felt justified. She really liked him and wanted to make sure that weeks or months from now, she wouldn’t find out that he was just a sleazebag. If he was one, she wanted to find out now before getting deeper into him. She didn’t know what else to tell Tickles since she’d already said enough about her reason to test him. She merely nodded and waited for her friend to nod in return.
TO BE CONTINUED