(Months later, in a quiet office in the middle of Nairobi City)

Keep the library,” Nicholas said, surprising himself.

Renovations at the Villa were underway.

Nick, you wanted to divide the library and turn it into two bedrooms,” the contractor in charge argued.

I’ve changed my mind,” Nicholas said, sitting back in his office chair.

He couldn’t forget the sight of Nalia standing by the windows, sunlight dancing on her pretty face. She had looked like a goddess with a golden smile, designed to turn him into an idiot.

Why couldn’t he stop thinking about her?

Nick?” his contractor said, cutting into his thoughts. “What about the books? They’re not exactly the best—

Box them,” Nicholas said. “I’ll collect them this weekend.”

He knew a man who could restore those books.

Whatever you want,” his disgruntled contractor said. “You’re the boss.”

Nicholas sighed.

Keep to the schedule, Tony. We’re not working on this house for six months.”

I promised one month, Nick.

Make sure you keep the promise,” Nick urged, ending the call.

The trouble with renovation and construction, no matter how many deadlines the contractor had, they always went beyond those deadlines.

Nicholas stared at his phone, ignoring the pile of files on his desk. Legal papers to notarize, cases to work, requests from his bosses to fill, today he would be stuck in his office until midnight. His finger slid over his phone’s screen and he tapped on a two-month-old message from Nalia.

She had paid the five hundred shillings through M-pesa. Her accompanying message read, “Thank you, Lifesaver.

Nicholas smiled. He should have cleared the message by now. Instead, he stared at the little smiley face she included in the message and wondered how she was doing.

Nicholas wanted to reply to the message, had even composed replies, close to a dozen, but he never sent any. Exiting his messages, he placed his cell phone on the desk and shook his head.

This was no time to daydream about a woman. Nicholas reached for the folder on top of his pile and got to work. He had no time, he decided, no time to worry about a woman he’d met in the dark.

***

Two days later, Nicholas stood in line at a bakery opposite City Hall buying chocolate cupcakes. The aroma was delicious, but not the same one he remembered. He had dreams about the sweet scent of Nalia’s chocolate cupcakes every night, it seemed.

His phone buzzed and Nicholas smiled when he saw Eli’s face on the screen.

Come to my office,” Eli said in greeting.

That’s in Westlands, you mad man. Traffic is killing right now,” Nicholas protested.

“I have a present for you,” Eli said. “If you don’t want it, fine. I’ll eat Nalia’s cupcakes alone.”

Nicholas gaped.

“What?”

Cupcakes, chocolate,” Eli said with a laugh. “We have them at my office

Whose cupcakes?” Nicholas asked.

Oh,” Eli chuckled. “Nalia. Remember her? Two months ago—

I’m on the way.”

Nicholas dashed out of the bakery forgetting the order he’d made. The drive to Eli’s practice took one hour and that’s with reckless driving and angry horns from innocent drivers and pedestrians. Traffic at two o’clock in the afternoon was no joke, beyond three o’clock, the roads turned into a parking lot.

Nicholas drove into the Medical Plaza on Waiyaki way and parked at the front parking. He dumped his sunglasses on the dashboard, and got out of the car, his gaze roaming the three-story building that housed Eli’s medical practice.

Business was good, what with the packed parking lot, Nicholas thought as he locked his car. It was a bittersweet thought.  Eli’s business relied too much on the human condition, which could be heart breaking.

Nick went into the building and hurried through the lobby to catch the elevator as the doors closed.

Hold,” he called out and cursed when the doors closed anyway.

He sighed and started to press the button to call another car. The doors opened and he stared at the woman carrying a cake box in the elevator.

Nalia,” he whispered.

An older woman pushed her way past him into the open elevator, and Nalia gave him a frown.

Are you coming?” Nalia asked, her expression blank.

Nothing there to indicate she knew him, or she had even been thinking about him. He scowled and entered the elevator, turning to punch the number to Eli’s office. The number three was lit, already pressed. His scowl deepened and he leaned on the wall, his gaze on Nalia.

The elevator stopped on the second floor, and the old woman exited. The doors closed and Nicholas crossed his arms against his chest.

Hi Nalia,” he said. “Are you ill?

She graced him with her smile.

Hi, Nicholas,” she said. “Are YOU ill?

You can’t answer a question with a question.”

“And why not?”

Because it’s going round in circles,” Nicholas said.

Do I look sick to you?” Nalia asked.

Nicholas frowned.

Nalia looked great. Fitting silk green blouse, dark slacks that hugged her hips, her feet in green flats. Still, no excess make-up, she was pretty.

What?” she asked, when he didn’t comment.

Nicholas cleared his throat.

“You look well.”

The elevator doors opened.

Nalia led the way out. Nicholas followed, amazed when she got a round of hellos from the nurses at the reception desk. She got a very warm welcome, which was surprising. He’d never gotten that reaction from Eli’s nurses.

How long have you been coming here?” Nicholas asked as they walked to Eli’s office.

A while,” she said with a shrug.

He frowned.

Are you really not sick?

Why else would she visit Eli so much?

Nalia opened the door to Eli’s office. Nicholas followed, his frown only deepening when he saw Eli grin from ear to ear at the sight of Nalia. They greeted each other like old friends.

He got jealous.

Nick,” Eli said, glancing at him. “Come on in and close the door.”

What’s going on here?” Nicholas asked, afraid of the answer.

Eli was single after all. He took out a chocolate cupcake from the white box Nalia had set on his desk. He smiled and held it up.

I promised you cupcakes, didn’t I?”

You’re magic, Nalia. These are delicious. Your customers must be going crazy.

Nicholas stopped in the middle of the office, his gaze on Nalia who sat in an armchair, that maddening smile on her lovely face.

You own a bakery?” Nicholas asked.

I do now,” Nalia said. “I’m also a primary school teacher.”

Sit down, Nick,” Eli said, holding out a cupcake to him. “Nalia and me, we have a favor to ask you.

Nicholas took the cupcake and sat next to Nalia. To think he’d been dreaming of these cupcakes for weeks. He smiled because in truth, he had wanted to see Nalia, wanted to know more about her.

Nicholas, Nalia needs a lawyer,” Eli said, shocking him. “Can you help?

Nicholas turned to look at Nalia in question.

I’m divorcing my husband.”

****

(To be continued… looking forward to the end!)

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