There is an aching
There’s a hole in my chest
That the crown of a king doesn’t change me
Jon Bellion (Fashion)
Tori rubbed the sleepiness off her face. She sat up reclining on the wall placing the pillow on her stretched out legs. The rays of light that flooded the room through the window made her saw how beautiful the room actually was. It’s not like she didn’t see it yesterday but it was late, dark and she was tired too.
The supposed guest room was rather too spacious compared to what she was expecting. A cubicle-like room would have been okay. She wasn’t really in a situation where she could possibly choose.
Tori rolled the duvet off her while she sat on the bed as she slipped on a pair of flip-flops by the bedside, yawning. It was a few minutes past six and it surprised her it was this bright already. The house was silent which made it seem like nobody had woken up just yet. She took a trip to the bathroom to clean up then tiptoed down the corridor her legs barely touching the ground to the kitchen. She didn’t want to wake anybody up while she was at it. If she was going to stay here, she should as well earn it.
The kitchen was neat and items there were neatly arranged. It was like no cooking hazard occurred there just yesterday. Tobi’s mum might not be a genie when it comes to cooking but she sure knows how to clean things up. She wondered what his mum would say if she happens to see her in their home this morning. There is a possibility she might just kick her out considering the fact that Tobi didn’t sought her approval before bringing her home. She was sleeping when they got back and Tobi had said they would be talking about it the next morning. So nobody knows she was there except him.
Is it even a good idea she was in the kitchen? Trying to gain approval by warming her way into their hearts through the kitchen?
Does that even make sense?
But it would be pretty rude too if she sat back in the guest room and do nothing.
It’s just for a while. It’s just until she makes enough to get her own place. Tori silently consoled herself biting her lips until they turned pink in determination. She moved to the end of the kitchen that has a piece of paper pasted on the tiled walls. She smiled as she traced the outline of the paper with her fingers at the poorly sketched handwritten food timetable.
‘What are you doing?’ The voice scared her and her heart rose to her chest. She had turned before she realised it was Tobi’s voice. How she dreaded hearing another person’s voice aside his. He was leaning on the wall beside the door. An unreadable expression on his face.
‘I’m just huh…er…’ Her words got caught up in her throat. It seems like she hasn’t recovered from the shock just yet. Realising her fingers still lingered on the paper, she instantly withdraw her finger like she just got shocked.
He walked to her gracefully and Tori seemed more scared. She felt caught.
Caught doing what exactly?
She was acting rather too jumpy if you’d ask me. Her jumpiness was actually due to fact she hadn’t gotten over being embarrassed before him. She never imagined he was going to see the helpless side of her. Shrugging off the obvious shame she felt in an instance, her face lit up and she smiled at him
‘Good morning.’ She greeted beaming, trying to be cheerful
‘You were going through this…’
‘Yeah. Your mum told me you made it. I saw it yesterday and I was curious so she told me.’
‘You were in the kitchen yesterday?’
Did her big mouth just let the cat out of the bag. She bit her lip slowly. She wished she could smack senses into herself.
‘No…not exactly though…’
‘You don’t need to lie about it. I know you cooked yesterday. There is no miracle worker that could change mum’s cooking skill that much. So you can just go ahead and tell the truth.’ He said placing his hands on the kitchen counter.
‘What were you doing in the kitchen this early? If you were hungry you can just grab some cereals or make oath for now…’ He stopped to look at her like he just got a grip of the obvious. ‘Or were you trying to make breakfast for everyone?’ He pronounced the words like he has never heard anything as unvelievable as that before
Tori shrugged then nodded her reply.
‘You took me in. You don’t expect me to sit back and do nothing to show my appreciation? Your mum doesn’t even know I’m staying here…’
‘No one asked you to do anything. I told you I’d do the talking myself. You are not going to cook for the family just because I asked you to stay here. I didn’t ask you to stay here because I need a cook. If you must know, we have a cook who comes everyday except weekends. You would have met her yesterday but she was with her sick son in the hospitsl so she she would be here today possibly. Why the hell would you even think that?’ He seemed so angry Tori felt like shrinking. He noticed that too. He wiped his face with his palm in order to calm himself.
‘Go and sit down.’ He said relaxing his nerves. Tori obeyed and went to sit on the mini dinning table in the kitchen. The dining table was made of two chairs placed around a round table. She sat down and placed her hand upon each other on the table like an obedient student.
He was making coffee. Tori surveyed his physique. He has quite a build which she guessed he owed to several hours in the gym. He had this haircut which made him look like one of this cute African American Hollywood star. His bicep stood out when he picked up two ceramics cups from the cupboard. He is quite handsome if she must say. There were times she just look at him in the face while they talk to see his well carved and well shaven face. There were times she had been lost looking at those thin, pink lip of his. There were times she was lost checking out how handsome he was.
Why was she seeing all those now? Tori shrugged off the thought going through her mind and looked away from staring at his back.
Was she probably so pitifull she was seeing him as nice just because he took her in?
She can’t be that stewpid, can she?
‘Here.’ He placed a cup of coffee before her and another cup before the empty chair then he sat down. Tori took a sip from the coffee which was laced with milk. She took so much time sipping in order to bury her eyes and stop them from looking at those abs that were quite visible under the tight black singlet he was putting on.
‘Are you done?’ He asked when her sipping took like forever. It was then Tori knew she had made a slurping sound while sipping. She placed the coffee on the table.
‘Yeah.’ She said slowly. Letting her fingers curl up around the cup still. That way she could hide her fidgetiness.
‘I don’t know why you are acting like this. While I spoke to you on phone, you seemed like someone who clearly knows what she wants. But getting to know you now, it’s like you have inferiority complex or something. I’m asking you to stay here and I’m expecting no payment in return. No payment in any form.’
‘Can you atleast let me do this. That’s the least I can do…’
‘You doing this, have you considered how mum would feel about it? It’s like you are using are inability to cook as your own weapon to stay here… ‘
‘No… You know that’s not what I’m doing.’
‘Well, that’s what it seems like. If you’d be staying here, the family tradition won’t change. It would be as it has always been.’
Tori felt awkward about what he said. It was quite alright he was trying to be an hospitable host but putting her in a difficult situation is not really what she expected.
‘So, what you are saying is, I should sit back and do nothing?’ She asked spreading her hands in mid-air and giving him the ‘is that it?’ look.
‘Yep.’ He replied popping the p. ‘Well, you are free to do anything you like. Anything you feel like doing around here. If you want to help around the house, then fine. As long you have it at the back of your mind that you are not doing it because you are staying here.’
Tori nodded. Things would have been pretty boring around here if what she was thinking were to be the case. She took the cup before her back to her lips, while sipping she could see Tobi smirking at her when she brought the cup down from her face.
‘Why are you giving me that look?’
‘Nothing.’ He replied ‘You just look like some funny character out of an animation.’
Was he being cocky again?
Tori gave him the tight lipped look of annoyance.
‘You are annoying you know.’
‘Well actually, you are not the first person to tell me that. Isn’t that great?’
Why does he make every insult hurled at him a compliment.
‘Well, you used to be a pretty bright child while you were very young though. Your writing and spellings back then says it all.’ Tori poured pure sarcasm inside her voice b
as she smirked her words up at him pointing at the food time-table on the wall.’
‘Actually, I would be glad to inform you, my writing hasn’t changed much from the one you’ve seen. I was only six then and I might as well say I am proud of myself. Some people can’t even write their own names at that age nor could they control how they take coffee as adults. They always end up having their whole nose stained with milk in the process.’ He replied shoving an hankie he took out of his short’s pocket at her.
Tori gently cleaned her nose with it. Feeling a bit defeated in their little battle of words.
‘So much for being arrogant, your hankie smells of maggi and palm oil. You don’t even cook, where did they come from?’ She squinted her face in disgust even though all she could perceive was a faint smell of cologne.
She knew she wasn’t winning this battle this time.
She drank everything in the cup before her in one gulp. Making sure she didn’t stain her nose this time of course.
‘Well, you don’t have to make things up when you are getting wordly-roasted. It makes you sound lame and quite desperate.’
Not like she gets pissed off easily by anybody. But this dude right here…
Well, he’s got an A+ in pissing her off.
‘Did your mum drop you off a cliff at birth or you just loose a few screws every single day?’ Living with him might be quite a task.
‘Neither.’ It was his mum. She was at the door. It looked as though she had been standing there for a while. She walked inside the kitchen and straight to the dispenser where she poured herself a cup of water.
Tori could tell the fear was back judging by the rate her heart thumped.
Tobi could see she was scared again. Her eyes says it all, those eyes that looks so much like Jo’s. Why do she remind him Johanna so badly. She’s like miniature version of her.
But she doesn’t have Jo’s confidence.
One look at her and you can tell she is all shaky inside. Why does she have insecurity problems and so little confidence.
She is not someone who sticks to her own words, is she?
‘Where he gets all that from quite amaze me as well’ His mum added as she fiddled with the glass cup in her hands.
‘The cook won’t be coming Today. She has to be in the hospital with her sick child again.’ She announced and Tobi knew it was meant for him.
‘Alright. So, are you going to make breakfast?’
‘You want me to make breakfast?’ She asked completely stunned by what he said.
‘Yeah. Dinner was great and knowing how much I love homemade foods, I’d be having breakfast at home this morning.
She hesitated before answering. ‘Alright then.’ She glanced at Tori and he could tell she was trying to communicate with her countenance.
That girl was all frozen on her seat.
‘Right. Mum’ He started calmly ‘She would be staying here for now until she gets her own place. I wanted to tell you yesternight but you were sleeping when we got back.’
‘Her landlord evicted her without notice. She knows nobody in Lagos and has no place to stay.’
‘Awwwn. That’s so unfortunate. You are welcome here dear. Thanks for yesterday and for returning the phone. I am grateful.’
Even if he weren’t suspicious at first, ‘thanks for yesterday and the for returning the phone’ is a statement worth investigating. He could see Tori’s face lit up and she thanked her earnestly, going as far as kneeling.
‘So mum, what did you say about breakfast?’ Tobi asked
‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll surely make it.’ She seemed so sure of herself.
Tobi wished he could shout ‘not today’ at her.
‘You should follow the timetable. We are having Yam and egg since today is Friday.’
‘Did you have the table memorised already?’
‘I went through it this morning.’
‘Shouldn’t you go and prepare for work now?’
‘I’m not going to work. I just got back from a business trip. If uncle Soji needs anything, he’d come get it at home.’ Tobi knew his mum was trying to get rid of him.
‘Well, you should go and shower and rest. While you are gone, we’d be having a heart to heart talk.’ His mum said gesticulating towards Tori.
By heart to heart talk, he knows what she meant.
‘Not to worry. I want to show Tori around the neighborhood. Whatever you guys want to discuss can wait until you are done cooking. You can’t be talking while I’m hungry. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we have a street to walk.’ With that statement, he pulledTori by the wrist and dragging her outside.
‘What did you do that for? You put your mum in a very bad position you know.’ Tori said yanking her hand off his
‘Right, maybe next time she’ll learn not to lie to her kids and not ask a stranger to cook the family’s food.’
‘She knows she’s not a great cook that’s why she’s putting so much effort into trying. She almost burnt the house down yesterday.’
Tobi couldn’t help smiling.
‘You don’t know my mum like I do. She even asked you to help her cook the first time you met her! That’s more than outrageous! If she was making efforts, she would have asked you to guide her, not do it for her.’
‘She did asked me to guide her but it was taking quite long and you’d be home any minute.’
‘My mum doesn’t try cooking. If it weren’t for what she wanted to say to me yesterday, she wouldn’t have cooked. I know her so much. That’s why I don’t want you cooking. If you do, she wouldn’t step inside the kitchen ever again if you do. I want her to learn the hard way.’
Tori reasoned with him and didn’t want to argue with him.
‘So, where are we going exactly? Or we are just going to roam the whole street aimlessly?’
‘We are going to eat? Whatever she is making won’t be digestible. And you won’t want to be hungry for the rest of the day.’
‘But I can’t go like this.’ She added saying the ‘this’ as she pointed at her outfit.
‘But it’s not like we’re going out on a date. The restaurant is just a few metres away.’ He said smiling.
‘Is that much reason for me to go there in a pajamas?’ Tori asked trying to confirm his sanity.
‘Well, go on and change then. But I’d be going like ‘this’.’ He said as Tori ran off. His phone was vibrating. He had a call.
‘Hello.’ He said, thickening his voice the more after coughing nervously.
‘Tobi, can you come over? Something urgent came up.’ She said into the phone. Her voice was breaking up.
‘It so happens, I am on my way. Would be there soon.’
Tobi didn’t give it a second thought. He jumped in his car and he was on the street after a few minutes.
Not thinking about the moment when Tori would come out of the house.
Not thinking of when she would appear and find him gone.