“Miss Chiz,” said Kendrick getting up from the table to greet her. He kissed her on both cheeks and pulled out her seat for her. Chiz smiled at the waiter who had led her to her table and took the seat that was offered. “You look delicious. Nice dress.” Chis was wearing the yellow dress with red butterflies on it. Her hair was freshly washed and gleamed darkly against her skin, the curls defined. She wore a red hibiscus tucked behind one ear. She had dumped the rings and necklaces but kept the bracelets which tinkled as she moved her arms. The overall effect was one of clean, natural beauty. Chiz crossed her legs gathering the material of the maxi dress between her thighs. “Beautiful sandals too. So flat. For a moment I thought you came in bare feet.”
“I thought about doing that,” Chiz raised an eyebrow. But the place I am staying…the woman would have had a fit.” She looked uncomfortable. “You don’t look so bad yourself.” Kendrick had clearly made an effort, but in his scrubbed jeans and rolled up shirt, the difference between them was as night and day. She was Earth Mother to his cowboy and he knew it.
“What? This old thing?” asked Kendrick. Chiz laughed her special laugh. Her curls bounced and swished as if through water. Kendrick knew his eyes were crinkling in pleasure.
“I can’t remember the last time I was so pleased with myself. You’ve made an old man very happy. I hope you don’t mind but I took the liberty of ordering you some water. One cannot go wrong with that – at least with most women.”
“Poor little Kendrick, dating women who throw a strop over water,” Chiz joked.
Kendrick shrugged. “I’m glad you decided to come out.” He paused. “Why did you decide to come out? I kinda thought you were not interested as work friends or otherwise.”
Chiz flashed her eyes at him, still smiling. “There is no otherwise. And as for coming out, why not? You were nice enough to invite me.”
“I’m really looking forward to this evening you know. No talk of shows and general office politics, no Lucy wanting to kill you for taking her slots…”
“I didn’t take anything. Oh God. She really hates me doesn’t she?” Chiz covered her face with her hands.
“Can you blame her? You’re gorgeous and kind and everything she’s not. If I were Lucy I’d want to kill you too.”
“But you’re not.”
“But I’m not,” conceded Kendrick. “So I’d like to date you instead.” He looked suddenly serious.
“But, we’re colleagues etcetera etcetera, I know what you’re going to say already so I’ll just stop you there. I’m willing to wait and if it happens, it happens. If not, we’re still cool. I definitely like you, You’re a cool chick.”
“Errr…thanks. And you, likewise.”
“Wow.” Kendrick looked surprised. “If I had known I was going to get that out of you I might have gone for more. Maybe a ‘spend the night at mine and I’ll make you breakfast’ Ow! Be nice.” He rubbed his arm. “For such a skinny thing you’re…Ow! OK, I’ll stop. Where did you learn to punch like that?”
“You don’t want to know. And I’m not skinny.”
“I want to know everything or I wouldn’t ask you. And yes, you kinda are.”
“You first. What’s with the accent?”
“My folks moved around a lot. They were visiting lecturers of sorts. What’s with your accent?”
“My parents didn’t move around enough.” The waiter approached their table and set down a menu. They both took him in but made no move to reach for their menus. Kendrick motioned the waiter back.
“What drink would you like to have?” he asked Chiz.
“I had that Gordon Sparks thing the other day. It wasn’t bad. May I have that?”
“You may have anything. I’ll have a Heineken please.” He turned back to Chiz. “What is that lovely smell? I think it’s coming from you. It smells like…like…gimme your hand.” Chiz stretched out her hand, slowly, waiting for a trick. Kendrick sniffed it, turned the palm downwards and sniffed again. He sniffed all the way up her arm, rolling her sleeve backwards with his nose. Chiz felt goose pimples pop on her skin and pulled her arm away. “Is it your hair? Lemme smell.” Kendric sniffed. “Mmmm. Lovely. What is that?”
“Jasmine vanilla shampoo. You like? I can get you some if you like.”
“I like it on you. Suits the whole look you’re working today.”
“Did you invite me to flatter me to death?” Chiz asked.
“Is it working? Because I can go even harder if it’s not. Stop laughing I’m not playing. OK, seriously, I just want to get to know you. Like how are you finding it at Sunshine FM so far, apart from all the drama?”
“It’s not a bad place to do an internship of sorts.”
“What is this internship you’re doing ayway? What will the report say? Who is it for?”
“All in good time my friend.” Chiz ‘boinged’ a strand of her hair between her fingers.
“Ah. A mystery,” said Kendrick leaning forward. “Do tell. I like mysteries.”
“Mysteries are meant to be solved. I can’t just give you all the answers just like that now can I? I’m not saying that there is a mystery, I just think you should work harder at unraveling one if you think it exists.” Chiz paused, looking faintly cross-eyed. “I think I may have just confused myself. Did I make sense? Stop laughing. Did you understand what I just said or did that make sense only to me?” Kendrick was laughing deep in his throat, one could barely hear the sound. It was just his shoulders shaking that drew attention to his state of mirth.
“OK, fine. Don’t tell me then, jeez! I can’t believe I ask one simple question and get that answer. You know what? Since you won’t tell me, I’ll just make something up. Let’s see,” Kendrick fingered the hair on his chin, squinting into the light behind Chiz’s head. He pretended not to see her even when she playfully began tap-tapping on the table to show her impatience with his thought process. “Yes, I’ve got it,” he said eventually. “You’re a spy. You’re a spy from a rival radio station, sent down to try and get the secret of why we are so good at what we do – yes, because we are just that good. No? OK, I’ll try again. You’re a spy sent by my mother to bewitch me into marriage, only she needn’t have bothered. I’d marry you right now in the time it takes our waiter to come back with our drinks. No? Am I even close?” Chiz shook her head unable to speak for laughing. Her curls tossed and bounced about on her head as she howled. She looked like her neck was about to snap under the weight of her hair.
“You look amazing when you laugh,” said Kendrick.
“Are you always so forthcoming with your thoughts?” asked Chiz, sobering up instantly. It was as if someone had emptied a bucket of ice cubes down her dress. She looked away from him into the direction of the bar, trying to catch the waiter’s attention, holding very still and staring in an effort to make him uncomfortable enough to look at her. He appeared indifferent to her, scuttling about with a tray in his hands. Chiz broke her gaze and focused instead on her hands. She looked up when she sensed she couldn’t shake Kendrick’s gaze, grinning maniacally in the process.
“You give up yet?” he asked.
“You can’t blame a girl for trying.” Chiz shrugged.
“You know, you’re a bit of an enigma. You get visibly uncomfortable when I pay you compliments and yet you’re a very beautiful girl, yellow girl.”
“I’m not a Simpson.”
“A beautiful yellow, tall girl with hair similar in function to a peacock’s feathers, who wears skintight clothes and rides a noisy-ass motorcy…Ow! Stop punching me or I’ll punch you back. But surely you see what I mean?”
“No, I do not. I am just me. All those things are just genetics, they have nothing to do with who I am.”
“Wait…you were born astride a motorcycle?” Kendick teased her. His eyes danced about her face.
“That too,” she laughed. “But seriously, what I mean is that the first few things you said are just contributions from parents. I had no part in them. The other stuff…well, you need to be a bit streamlined when you ride hence the formfitting…I prefer that term, by the way – clothes that I wear. They aren’t really that tight. And the motorcycle, I like.”
“What? What’s that look you have on your face. You’re hiding something. What is it?”
“My dad and I restored a 1965 Harley Davidson Electra when I was barely a teenager.”
“No way. Your father owned one of those? Get out.” Chiz
“Owns. Well, it’s kinda mine now since the old man doesn’t ride anymore.”
“And you waited till not to tell me this, why?”Chiz stood, slinging her across body bag. “Come on then, let’s go. I want to see it.”
“Calm down. It’s not here with me in this mad town. Have you seen the potholes in this place? Someone could break a neck if they rode around town. I don’t mean you,” he quickly amended. “It’s safe and sound under a dust cloth in my parents’ garage across the river. Maybe I’ll take you sometime. If you’re good to me.” He grinned. “Otherwise, you can just forget about ever clapping your eyes on the only Panhead Electra Glide ever made by Harley. I can tell you, we spared no expense too. We had to live on garri and baked beans for a long time so my father could get the parts we needed. His students suffered. But you know, Americans like that kind of passion so he was never fired.”
“This was in America?” Kendrick nodded. “Your poor mother,” said Chiz shaking her head. The waiter arrived with their drinks, setting Chiz’s small green bottle down in front of her with the reverence reserved for the Host. He produced a clean glass with a flourish and a bowl with some ice cubes and a withered slice of lemon. “Oh, no ice please. I forgot to say.” The waiter looked mortified and fumbled to correct his mistake. Chiz caught his eye and smiled. “It’s fine just leave it. Cheers.” He set Kendrick’s drink down with a little less flair and exited, bowing slightly from the waist.
“Don’t ‘Your poor mother’ her. Who do you think rode it the most out of all of us?”
“I like the sound of her already.” Chiz took a sip of her drink and rolled her shoulders, reveling in the warmth spreading through her veins. She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.
“You remind me of her a little bit,” said Kendrick. Chiz’s eyes snapped open.
“OK, I’m not sure I wanted to know that. Certain parts of this evening now seem a little bit creepy.”
“Oh ha ha. I don’t mean all of you. I mean the grease monkey part. My mother also had dirt under her nails from fiddling about with the bike, just like you do.”
“Where?” said Chiz inspecting her nails.
“Gotcha. That’s what you get for mocking me.”
“So you like women who remind you of your mother then?”
“Very subtle. Why? Are you applying?”
“I’m curious. And don’t say…”
“I like you,” Kendrick finished for her. “And to answer your earlier question, I didn’t tell you about my motorcycle because I didn’t want you to be interested in me because of it. I’m not saying you are now,” he raised a hand to silence her outrage “But I wanted you to be interested in me for me.”
“Wow. You’re not full of yourself at all.”
“No, just miffed.”
“That’s hardly fair though is it? I mean, see the way you reacted when I told you about the bike, eh, eh?”” Chiz smiled, a slow smile which spread from one corner of her face to the next. Her eyes lit up and she shook her head as if she was dazed.
“Fair enough. I apologise for…”
“Giving me attitude? You’re welcome.”
“So, tell me then. Do you do this often with work colleagues?”
“What? Go out for drinks with them? Maybe dinner?” Kendrick shook his head, raising his glass to his lips and taking a sip of beer. “Maybe date a few of them?” Kendrick set his glass down and looked her in the face.
“You know. About me and Lucy?” Chiz nodded. “Huh. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear you were asking me to be less then a gentleman; to kiss and tell.”
“There was kissing? Ooh. Juicy. Tell me more.” Chiz leaned into the table with her elbow, supporting her chin on her hand.
“Why are you so interested in Lucy all of a sudden?”
“You know. I’m just curious to know what she is like. She hates me and I could really do without that kind of negativity while I’m here. My mother always said you could catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I’d like to know how to get on her good side, that is all.”
“Uh huh. Then why don’t you ask her?”
“Would you approach Lucy the way she is right now? She could do some serious damage with those crutches. And something tells me she wants to.”
“Yeah. Lucy does get pretty mad when Lucy doesn’t get what Lucy wants.” Chiz raised an eyebrow. “When you hear her talking about herself in the third person, you best stay out of her way. That means she is mad-mad. Like homicidal mad. I’m serious, stop laughing. I’m trying to save your life here and it’s only because I like you.”
Chiz tossed her hair and the smell of vanilla filled the space between them. “Oh, thanks for that. Of what else do I need to be aware?”
“Lucy loves being centre of attention. She will take the spotlight in anything. Anyone who tries to take that away from her…actually, you’re best not trying to be her friend. In the end that was what did for us. Lucy wanted everything and didn’t want to share anything. I was becoming too big a personality on air, I guess.” Kendrick scratched behind his ear. “Look all this is common knowledge but I kinda feel mean talking behind her back so I’m going to stop now. She’s a pretty sweet girl, just a little spoiled. But I suppose we all have our faults right? I’d like to see anyone of us behave any differently if our fathers had a gazillion dollars in the bank and gave us everything we ever wanted.” Kendrick paused to look around. “I’m sorry I brought you here, they are a bit slow today. So,” he concentrated on Chiz, “How about you? What does daddy do? What was it like growing up?”
Chiz stood. “Actually Kendrick, I think I’ll head off now. I’m a bit knackered and it’s my first show tomorrow. I haven’t been on air in a while and I need to prepare. I have a whole routine that I have to get through which, sadly, starts with eight hours sleep.”
“Wha…?” Kendrick got to his feet. “I thought we were having a good time.”
“We are. It’s just all this talk about the station has got me thinking about tomorrow. It’s not helping that that Gordon Sparks has given me a huge headache. Can I take a rain check? We’ll do this again, I promise.” Chiz kissed him on the cheek and started walking away. Then she came back and kissed him again on the cheek, this time covering the tiniest corner of his lip. She gazed into his eyes as she pulled away. “I’m really sorry.”
Chiz slung her bag across her body and was gone with a swish of her skirts, leaving behind a scent of jasmine and vanilla in the air.