When I arrive at work on Monday morning, it is still to no trace of Chris in his office. I ask Ciku if he will be around this week.
“He left for a breakfast meeting but he should be in the rest of the day,” she tells me. “Should I pencil you in for some time when he’s free?”
“No, no,” I tell her. “I’ll just catch him when he walks in.”
“Are you sure?” she prods. “You looked for him a lot last week. I was thinking maybe it’s something urgent.”
“No,” I reiterate. “It’s fine. It’s not urgent.”
“Hmm,” she says. “You know you two have been acting pretty strange towards each other lately. Did you-,”
And then I cut her off. “Oh my goodness my cell phone is ringing and it’s someone I have really been chasing down to talk to let me call you later, ok?” and then I hang up. Ciku can get really nosy sometimes. I am not sure whether it is coming from a place of good intentions or if she is looking for gossip for the office grapevine. Either way, I will not feed her anything.
A few hours later, my phone really does ring for real. I look at the display. It’s Joseph.
“You know, I am flying out of the country tomorrow on a business trip and it would really be nice if I saw you again before that,” he says once we are done with our salutations. I laugh.
“Are you trying to trick me into meeting with you or are you really going to be out of the country?” I ask him.
“I’m serious,” he says. “Let me buy you dinner tonight.”
“Well… I mean…”
“Coffee, then, if that makes you feel more comfortable. Wherever you like.”
I sigh. I might as well be over and done with this since he doesn’t sound like he’s going to give up any time soon. “Ok. We can have a meal tonight. But it’s NOT a date. It’s just a meal.”
It’s his turn to laugh. “Whatever makes you comfortable,” he says. Then we make arrangements to meet at 8pm at an Italian restaurant close to my home.
THE REST OF THE DAY
The rest of the day goes quietly. I leave for a couple of meetings and come back at 5pm to wrap up. I sit at my desk for the next two hours willing myself not to think of Chris at all, and I succeed so well – so engrossed am I in my work – that before I know it, it’s half past seven and I fear I will be late for my date.
By the time I leave the office after shutting down and refreshing my make-up, it’s 7:45. I toy with the idea of texting Joseph to let him know that I will be a little late, but I figure it’s not necessary to be that polite for a first date. If things work out exceptionally well there will be many occasions for Joseph to wait for me while I put on my make-up and find the right dress, so let’s consider this short wait of his a test.
That said, I drive like a maniac to get to the restaurant. I get there at quarter past. I am such a hot, sweaty mess that I have to pass by the ladies’ room to freshen up before I make it to our table. As I dab on some powder, I play with a number of excuses in my head: “I’m sorry I was late. You know Nairobi traffic.” Nah, too cliché.
“I’m sorry I’m late, last minute meeting with my boss.” Ok, that’s it. Then I take a deep breath and step out, making my way towards the maître d’ to show me to our table.
“Sorry, we don’t have a reservation under that name,” the host says when I ask him.
“What?” I frown. “That’s odd.”
The host gives me a pitiful look. “But there is one table that’s free tonight, I can seat you there.” I nod, thinking that it is odd; my watch says it’s 20 past – and there’s no sign of Joseph, who has been keenly asking me out.
In any case, the maître d’ walks me through the restaurant to the table, and as we walk through, I look around hoping to spot him. No luck.
“Your table, madam,” the host says, pulling out a chair for me, and I settle down to see how the rest of the evening will unfold.