She was small. That was the first thing I noticed when she stepped into my sandwich shop, drenched to the bone from the torrential rain. Who goes out without an umbrella in Benin? That’s when I saw the carry-all clutched against her bosom. A traveler, maybe she just came into town, poor thing. Looking around the empty shop with wide eyes, she walked up to the counter where I was waiting for my manager to show up.
“If you want to order anything, sorry. The counter is closed.”
“Oh, I can’t even get a coffee?”
Margret, my manager, stepped out of the kitchen before I could answer.
“Hello, sorry we’re closed.”
“She just wants a coffee; from the look of things she needs it.”
Margret looks at me, then back at the tiny stranger. Walking up to the machine and pressing buttons and turning knobs to get it going, she asked, “What would you like?”
“As long as it’s hot, sweet and creamy, I really don’t mind. Surprise me.” The little lady had a slight accent, nice. I wonder where she comes from, where she’s coming from.
“On me?”, I added playfully.
She looks up at me with those wide eyes. Lord, she’s small, she’s standing a few feet away from me, but I’m sure she barely grazes the bottom of my pecs.
“Thank you, but I can pick up the bill.”
“I insist. The name is Brandon and you are?”
“Queen, I just came in from Lagos.”
“Bad weather to be travelling in.”
Looking somewhere between my second and third dress shirt button then looking back at Margaret, she replied me, “Something came up, I had to rush in.”
Margret, who had been working on her cup of something hot, sweet and creamy, drops the steaming cup in front of her.
“Would you like to sit down at one of the tables?”, Margaret asks.
Polite and the way her mouth pronounced the words, breathlessly, like she couldn’t wait to taste the coffee, she hadn’t spared me a glance since the mug was dropped in front of her, but she made no move to reach for it. She still had her hands around the carry-all strap.
“Let me get that for you?”
“Your bag, let me carry it for you, so you can hold the mug and start warming yourself up, She’ll help you get the cup to any table you want.”
Margret looked at me and raised a quizzical brow, since when did I care about a total stranger? I ignored her, stood up from the bar stool and walked up to Queen. I didn’t know it was possible but her eyes got even wider.
“I’m fine, I got it.”
Getting in her personal space, she edged back, stopped herself and looked up at me with a squint she probably thought looked defiant, but from my point of view was just absolutely cute. I had a good 2 feet on her and she was she was challenging me with her eyes. Shivering violently and sopping wet, it was a picture to behold.
“Again, I insist.”
I was worried, she hadn’t stopped shaking since she got into the shop and her grip was so tight on the bag, I imagined her fingers were turning blue.
“I’ll just drink it here by the counter.”
She tries to heft her bag on to the counter with some effort, she definitely didn’t pack for a short stay. Finally, she gives up and drops the carry-all on the floor. Eyeing the high bar stool with apprehension, another struggle began, Margret had gone back to the office, no doubt to close the books for the day, since I was obviously busy with our latest customer.
30 seconds later, I give up on her ever getting on the stool by herself, pick her up by her waist and plop her on the stool. “There, better now?”
I get a mumbled “thanks” and then she finally wraps her hands around the cup. I’m turning back to go sit down when she lets out this low sigh. That’s when it hits me, the sigh, her scent. The beast in me starts responds. It wants her.
To be continued…