Zee sat before her dressing mirror and watched her phone ring, the name, Stanley flashing across the screen.
She was dressed in a little black dress, her hair held in a single braid that lay flat on her head and flowed down to rest on her back.
She was wearing a black choker and other red accessories, her lips painted a bright shade of red lipstick. Her eye makeup as usual was smokey. She had her trademark nose ring in her hand, about to put it on but she was reminded of Michael’s warning- when I say I don’t want to see it on you again, I mean it…
She hesitated for a moment. It wasn’t like she was going out with Michael. This was Stanley and he already knew who she was. If she appeared differently, it would look like she was trying to impress him or it would look like she was trying to change herself. It would look as if she was no longer comfortable with herself. She couldn’t let that happen.
Stanley had been asking her out for a long time since his family moved into the neighborhood but she had always turned him down, insisting that they be ordinary friends. Then Inara got married and Lemuel started keeping them apart which would make her lonely at times, hence she started considering Stanley.
Truth be told, Stanley and her both had many things in common as far as her camouflage lifestyle was concerned. Too bad he had no idea her life was one big act. Not that she cared anyway. However, the loneliness had made her start thinking deeply about accepting the guy before the last dare had reared its ugly head.
Her thoughts were interrupted as her phone started ringing again and she stared at it, Michael’s words in her head- Prepare to be engaged in no distant time. If you have a boyfriend, cut him off at once. I will not make with you the same mistake I made with Cassandra Blake.
Well, damn it, she had promised to go on this date with Stanley. She was supposed to give him an answer.
SOME DAYS AGO
Under the moonlight, Zee and Stanley sat on the hood of a car in the backyard of an apartment. They lit cigarettes in their hands from which they sucked the smoke into their mouths and expelled it from same, some of the smoke escaping through their nostrils. Zee’s truck was parked right beside the car they were sitting on.
Stanley was about twenty–two, skinny and of average height, his hair, dyed to a red color. Rock music was blaring on low key inside the car and they were smiling at each other, his earrings shining under the moonlight.
“Zee, we are good together. Why don’t you just accept me as your boyfriend?”
“I thought you’ve let this go and we are just best of friends if you will?”
“We are friends but you know I want more. I will always want more. We are good together. We have so many things in common.”
“Of course you do. Anyway, you’re wild and I like it but it seems you’re not as wild as you look.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you’ve always refused my advances. My ex-girlfriend was in some way like you and well, we had sex before I even asked her out. She turned out to be a damn slut. But you, you’re kind of a bit reserved. I see some decency in you. That’s why I’ve not been able to get you out of my head. I’m not happy with being just friends, I’m serious.”
At this point, Zee was considering him. She was practically alone ever since Inara and Lemuel had gotten married because Lemuel was keeping Inara away from her, saying that she was a bad influence.
It was painful but she blamed herself for making them play that game. Well, it wasn’t her fault. She blamed Inara. Inara could have chosen a soft guy like Alex from her choir. Instead, she picked a badass guy like Lemuel, and now their friendship was bearing the brunt of her choice. Her thoughts were interrupted by Stanley’s voice.
“Would you give me a chance, Zee? I’ll make you happy. We can drink and smoke together and just be happy. Happiness is everything. I told you I’ll introduce you to some cool drug. I swear it will take you to another level of happiness. We will discover things together. I promise.”
“I don’t know, Stanley.”
“Okay, I won’t rush you. Just use some days to think about it. Then you can give me an answer next weekend on a date, Saturday evening precisely. We can go out all fancy like prim and proper couples do okay and then you can tell me your decision. I want to show you that I’m patient.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet of you, Stanley.”
“Thanks. So what do you say?”
“We are going on that fancy date.”
“Great, give me a lame hug.” He said and they both hugged using their sides, their facial expressions, merry.
“Give me a cool hug.”
They both hugged, facing each other and cackling like two intoxicated people without a care in the world.
Zee smiled as her mind returned to the present. Stanley was so cool. The guy deserved her presence at least. Standing him up would be cruel. If anything, the guy had always been a friend.
She would have to come up with how best to say no to him since she would be marrying Michael. Or maybe she would be seeing him secretly since Michael didn’t love her anyway. Their upcoming wedding was a sham.
Looking into the mirror, her face took on a determined expression, her jaw raised in defiance. She was about to put on her nose ring when Stanley’s call came on, so she received it.
“Zee, what’s up? I was afraid you wanted to stand me up.”
“I am so sorry. It’s nothing like that. I was dressing up and the phone was in silence mode. I’m good to go.”
“Great. Hope you still remember the venue.”
Stanley laughed. “I changed it to somewhere more flattering. That’s why I was calling you. I was about to text you but decided to call again.”
“Wow, sounds so cool. Where?”
“Great. So cool. Aww, Stanley.”
“Uh-huh, today I have to make an impression.”
“Alright, see you there.” He said and ended the call.
Zee slid her phone into her purse, put on her nose ring, and walked out of the room in a pair of black mid-heel sandals, her purse, worn in a cross-body fashion.
As she opened her bedroom door, she saw Israel toddling down the corridor towards her, his arms open wide.
“See...See.” he kept saying and she laughed.
“Oh Izzy, it’s Zee. Don’t worry, as you grow older you’ll get it.” She picked him up. “How are you?”
“Fy,” he responded, smiling and Zee couldn’t help but laugh as she placed a kiss on his chubby cheeks. Israel gave her joy.
The housekeeper came for Israel and she handed him over.
“Have fun,” she said.
Michael walked out of the Eagle Hotel in a black suit and headed towards the Range Rover where the driver was waiting for him in the parking lot.
His bodyguards were in the smaller car parked behind the Rover. It was funny how by now, he would have been on his honeymoon but instead, he was going to be attending to a business deal.
He had stayed back because he had attracted some business proposals from residing companies who had learned of his presence there. He had filtered the proposals and was going for the feasible one. He didn’t need bodyguards but well, enemies were all about in the business world.
He got into the Rover and the driver started the car. “Sir, I’m sorry but I can remember the address you told me over the phone but cannot quite recall the name of the hotel.” He said.
“The Oxbow.” Michael reminded him, adjusting his tie and looking at his wristwatch. The time was 7:30 pm.
“Okay, Sir. Thank you.” Said the driver and moved the car out of the Eagle hotel, the smaller car with Michael’s bodyguards following them at a safe distance.