Part 8 – On Love, Waiting & Realization
There was no spark, no wave to wash over the heart like magic.
Love at first sight, he scoffed. Yeah right.
He’d never subscribed to that piece of lunacy. All he knew was that love came when you least expected it. In the form of realization, and not struck down like an idiot holding a lighting rod.
He shook his head, his gaze on Nalia who’d spent the past five minutes lighting a jiko. She was coughing now, the smoke rising from the lighting charcoal all but choking her. She wiped a hand over her brow, and left a smudge of charcoal on her forehead. Her weave was covered with an old scarf, and the green apron she wore had definitely seen better days.
Nalia scowled at the rising smoke and stepped back from the jiko. She entered her bakery, using the back door and returned with a plastic lid. Nicholas sat back in his seat, watching her fan the jiko like her life depended on it. She had a cake order due in the afternoon. Her charcoal oven was unlit, and it was almost eleven o’clock. He’d asked her countless times if he could buy an electric oven for her, but she refused. Preferring the charcoal oven to the whopping electric bill…the woman was strict when it came to expenses. Her bakery was doing well. She was the baking primary school teacher now, instead of the divorced primary school teacher.
She’d worked a year to get rid of that title.
One whole year, he sighed. One year of watching and waiting for the right moment. One year for the realization of love to come, take root and take over his life.
Nicholas visited Nalia when he could. He sat here in the small yard outside her bakery and rental house watching her work to build a new life out of the ashes Malik had left her. She never complained, even when her orders overwhelmed her at times. Or when she ordered sacks of flour and her supplier refused to bring it over, making her get it from the shop. Nicolas chastised her constantly when she chose not to call him for help and instead struggled with public transport.
Stubborn woman…Miss Independent…he sighed.
Yet her tenacity made her appealing. Hell, he’d probably started falling for her when she’d jumped in front of his car one rainy night. Those days, he’d not been ready to imagine he could allow a woman close to his heart.
A painful poke on his shoulder brought him back from his thoughts, and he blinked when he realized Nalia stood a few feet away.
“Your phone is driving me crazy,” she said. “Answer it.”
The ring tone penetrated his thoughts, and he grinned. Reaching for the gadget, he watched Nalia walk back to her jiko. Thankfully, there was progress and the charcoal was lit.
“Hello,” he answered his call.
“Did you find the courage yet?” Eli asked in greeting.
Nicholas sighed staring at Nalia as she carried the jiko to her charcoal oven.
“I’m afraid to talk about that right now, she’s on a tight deadline…
“Chicken,” Eli teased. “If you don’t tell her, I’ll call her and break the news to her.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Nicholas said, afraid Eli might carry out his threat.
Eli and Nalia had formed a fast friendship. He’d been jealous at first, but now he liked that Nalia had Eli to rely on too. AFter learning the truth about her submissive life with that Malik, he wanted her to have people to call on, people to trust.
“Your pitiful stalking is getting to a critical stage.” Eli sighed on the other end. “You’ve even kept the villa, Nick. Is it for her?”
“She liked that house,” Nicholas said with a sigh. “The books in the library…Oh stop rushing me, I’ll do this on my own time.”
Eli laughed. “Fine, you coward, if she calls me at all, I’m going to drop a huge hint.”
Eli ended the call before he could protest, and Nicholas got to his feet.
“Do you have to leave?” Nalia asked her hands at her hip as she turned to look at him.
“No,” he said.
“Oh good, make yourself useful.” Nalia frowned, her gaze taking him in. “You might want to roll up your sleeves. Don’t want to ruin your handsome shirt.”
Nicholas put his cell phone into his pocket and did as asked. He neatly folded his shirtsleeves to his to his elbows.
He glanced at Nalia, and almost balked when she pointed at a sack of charcoal leaning against the wall.
“Will you put that in for me?”
Nicholas shuddered glancing at his pristine pale blue shirt. He had come straight from his office, hoping to catch Nalia and ask her out. Instead, here he was…he gave an inward groan and bravely walked to the sack of charcoal. Thanking his gym time, he carried the bag into the bakery and placed it at the spot she designated. Dumping the bag on the stand, he stepped back quickly and caught a snicker from Nalia.
Turning to look at her, he frowned when she laughed.
“I didn’t think you’d do it,” she said in between chuckles. “Nick…
“Woman,” he said inspecting his shirt. There was a smudge on his stomach, he wiped at it with his hands and frowned when he added to the stain.
“Stop,” she said, swiping his hands away. “You’ll only make it worse. Come on, wash your hands, and take the shirt off, I’ll clean that spot for you.”
“Why would you make carry the charcoal then?” Nicholas asked as she led him to the sink and handed him soap.
Nalia leaned on the counter with a smile.
Damn that smile, the golden smile he saw in his dreams.
Nicholas stopped washing his hands and turned to her.
“I came to ask you if you’d go see the villa with me.”
Nalia met his gaze in surprise. “Are you selling it?”
Nicholas winced. “I was going to, when we first met.”
“Oh,” Nalia sighed. “I guess the new owners will have asked you to gut it and—
“I changed my mind,” he said then.
“Selling the villa,” he said, taking in a deep breath. “I kept the house.”
“Kept it?” Nalia stared at him. “As in you’re going to live there? Here I thought you were a simple man…what do you need all that space for—
“I was going to ask you to move in with me.”
Nalia gaped, her eyes going wide. “What?”
“I—,” Nicholas broke off and he reached out to wipe the smudge of charcoal on Nalia’s forehead. “I love you.”
“I have thought about this for months, and—
“Months?” Nalia sighed. “When were you going to let me in on your thoughts?”
Nicholas shrugged. “When I was sure?”
Nalia stared at him and for a moment he thought he’d misread her.
“I’ve known for a while, you know. No man will agree to carry charcoal when dressed like you are right now.”
“I should have known you knew,” he said then, staring at the smudge on her face.
“No woman will stay with charcoal smudges on her face in front of a man she likes, without assurance,” he said.
“Oh you,” she pushed at his chest and he caught her arms with a laugh, pulling her into his arms as he’d wanted to for a year.
He kissed her then, and smiled when she wrapped her arms around him. It was like coming home.
“I promise to protect you,” Nicholas said when they broke apart and he hugged her. “I won’t break your trust, Nalia.”
Nalia sighed and held on tighter.
“You gave me strength when I didn’t have any. If I hadn’t met you, I’d still be married to Malik. I’d have gone back to him, thinking that I’d keep surviving. But meeting you saved me from that.”
“I’m glad that you’ve waited this long for me,” Nalia leaned up to kiss his left jaw.
“So what is your answer, girl with a golden smile?” Nicholas asked needing a clear way forward.
Nalia kissed his right jaw, and said, “Yes.”
Nicholas let out a happy sigh and wrapped her in his arms, whirling about in the middle of her bakery.
“I have a cake to bake,” she said when he held on.
“You’re spoiling the moment,” Nicholas complained.
“And I have a business to run,” Nalia said extracting herself from his arms. “You’d better go inside and get that shirt off. I have t-shirts in there…
Nicholas smiled as she moved him aside to wash her hands.
His woman, he thought as she went to whip up a cake recipe…he couldn’t wait to see what the future held for them.
Thank you for reading.
Other EA Friday Feature Stories