David was careful to clean up the house before Rain got back. He wasted almost a quarter of his favourite cologne, the Creed Royal Oud, in a special crystal-like bottle he reserved for special occasions, just to erase the overpowering scent of Annabel from the house. It was a costly way of getting rid of evidence, but it was a price he was willing to pay. In any case, it wasn’t as if he bought the perfume himself. It was a gift from Rain on his last birthday, so technically it wasn’t costing him anything.
Bed sheets and duvet were washed, boxer short and BYC white vest tossed into laundry basket, dishes and glasses cleaned, and condoms deposed off in preparation for Rain’s return.
After dealing with the smell and clothes, he put back all the pictures of Rain on the wall, the dresser in the bedroom and on the television stand in the living room. Every picture of his girlfriend had to be taken down because Annabel complained that Rain smiling at her from walls and mantles in the house unsettled her – and affected her performance.
Satisfied at the outcome of the two hours he spent cleaning and putting everything in the one-bedroom apartment in Edepie he and his girlfriend shared back in order, David went into the kitchen to make dinner for Rain.
He figured she’d be tired and hungry after the long drive from Port Harcourt, so he decided to welcome her home with a special meal, complete with a fancy tablecloth, candles and wine laid out on the centre table. He knew Rain would like the surprise, but he wasn’t going all out for her benefit alone. David needed to do something to make his girlfriend smile when she walked in through the door, because he needed to see her gorgeous smile to make him feel less guilty about what he did with her best friend.
In the freezer, there was some vegetable soup and white rice Rain prepared the week before, and the leftover spaghetti and fish sauce Annabel made for him when she came in the day before, but he didn’t think those were good enough for his ablution. He wanted to cook something for her from scratch. After mulling over a couple of options, he decided to put together for her, a meal he knew she’d enjoy. It was his mea culpa.
David knew Rain could never resist his fried rice and prawn sauce, and that was what he went for. She also enjoyed his Caesar salad with avocado and chocolate milk smoothie, so he decided to make those as well. It was the exact same meal he prepared for her on their first date and preparing it again for her three years after that first evening they spent together brought back memories of how they met and fell madly in love with each other.
The first time they met was in the gym of the hotel he worked as Head Chef. The way it happened, it was clear to David Spiff that their meeting was predestined and that they were meant to be lovers. Otherwise, why else would he be in the gym of all places at 11 o’clock in the morning, which was when he usually began preparations for the lunchtime rush in the hotel restaurant? But on that day, instead of being in the kitchen, reviewing the menu and deciding on recipes for the hotel patrons and customers, he found himself in the gym with his movie producer friend, Orutu, discussing the possibility of shooting a music video for Mas Aluko in the gym.
His business in the gym should have lasted five minutes or less, but because of Rain, David stayed for thirty minutes. Being the person in charge of food in the hotel, a lot of the other employees sucked up to him because he could make things happen for them in the kitchen. Bob was no exception. Every now and then, David pulled those strings and got a free pass for a friend to train in the gym or use the place for something else. The deal between Bob and Orutu was closed over the phone, but David needed to do a formal introduction before heading back to his oven and pots.
He sighted her from the door; the tall, dark-skinned girl throwing jabs and hooks at the punching bag right in the middle of the gym like a true professional. He was attracted by her flawless beauty and carriage, and intrigued by her near-perfect boobs and weaves.
Aridolf Hotel had the best gym in the city and people waited for months to get confirmation of their membership and schedule to access its equipment and training facilities. David felt fortunate that he could use the place any time he wanted because of his position in the hotel, so naturally he respected people who were able to achieve that on their own. It showed seriousness and commitment on their part to whatever it was that drove them to workout. Seeing such a beautiful young lady training so hard by herself at that time of the day already told him something about her.
David made a beeline to where Rain was sweating out.
“No, I roller-skate,” she replied sarcastically, not even bothering to stop or take her eyes off the black Everlast punching bag she was practising with. Her response told him he had asked a foolish question. David was embarrassed for himself. He immediately swung into action to remedy his gaffe and catch her attention.
“Sorry, my name is David; my friends call me D3 and I’m the head chef and nutritionist for the hotel.” That caught her attention. Rain stopped and took a step back from the heavy bag to acknowledge his introduction.
David smiled. It was his go-to icebreaker whenever he was in the gymnasium and it always did the trick. For the girls, who invariably fell for his subtle blitz, it was either they were surprised at seeing a handsome, young and well-spoken guy proudly announce that he cooked for a living, or it was that they needed advise on dieting and slimming down. Either way, he always got the attention he wanted and a little bit more if he was persistent.
For Rain, he knew it had to be the former because she appeared fit and in perfect shape, and didn’t look like someone in need of nutritional advice.
“I’ve had lunch here once and I totally enjoyed the food,” Rain grinned. “It was banga soup and starch and I licked my fingers like a village woman. Don’t tell me you cooked it?”
“If this lunch took place like six months ago, then it was probably Chef Anderson.”
“This was last year, November I think.”
“Then it was definitely Chef Anderson. I too have heard of his cooking skills, but he left before I was employed here, so I didn’t get to taste his tantalising banga soup.”
That made Rain chuckle. She took off her boxing gloves and stretched out her hands to him for a handshake.
“My name is Rain, but my crazy friends call me Thunder and Lightning.”
“Let me guess. They call you that because of how fast you are in the ring?”
“No. They’ve never even seen me in the ring before. They call me that because they’re just crazy like that.”
David laughed again.
“And your friends, are they crazy too? Because I’d like to know why they call you D3.”
“Oh, there’s no craziness there at all. My grandfather was David Spiff. My father became David Spiff II when his father decided to name him after himself,” David explained. “I guess my father didn’t want to bother his head looking for a suitable boy name for me so he went for the known and trusted. That’s how I became David Spiff like my father and grandfather, but David Spiff III in my case.”
“And the cooking, did you also get that from them?”
“Oh no. That came from my mother. She had only boys, three of us, so she made sure we knew how to cook, clean and take care of the house.”
“See how far your home training has brought you.”
David was entranced by the whiteness of her eyes and teeth, the silkiness of her skin, and the sonorous cadence he heard in her voice and laughter.
“Enough about me and my home training. Can we go back to your crazy friends?” David asked, not waiting for a reply. “Since you say they’ve never seen you fight in the ring before, does that mean you don’t box professionally?”
“No, I don’t. I took up the sport for self-defence.”
“And who or what are you protecting yourself from?” a curious David asked.
Rain hesitated. “The dangers that come with just being a woman in Nigeria, I guess. But a strong guy like you would never understand, so let me not bore you.”
“How long have you been boxing?”
“It’s been a hobby since I was sixteen.”
“So what do you do professionally then? You know I cook, right?”
“I’m currently out of work, but I do a little bit of buying and selling. I cook as well though.” David opened his eyes wide in mock surprise. “Only for myself and close family,” Rain added quickly.
“I know what you’re thinking, but let me assure you Rain, nothing I cook here as head chef can compare to what you can do even on your worse day.”
“And why would you think that?”
“You’re a woman!”
“A woman that didn’t go to school to learn how to cook like you did.”
That was the beginning of the friendship. The relationship began three weeks later.
David didn’t get the smile he was hoping for. Rain didn’t eat the food. She said she wasn’t hungry.
“Should I make you something else, perhaps fish pepper soup or even tea?” a very disappointed David asked his girlfriend.
“No. I think I should just hit the sack. I’m really exhausted.”
David followed her to the room and watched as she undressed to wash and sleep.
“You didn’t tell me how your mother is doing?”
“D3, I’m really tired,” Rain said yawning loudly. “Can we talk about my mother’s health tomorrow, please?” her answer troubled David. He wanted to believe her when she told him she was weary from the long drive and all she had to deal with in Port Harcourt, but his guilt made him think the worse. Maybe she didn’t want to talk to him because she had found out about his rendezvous with Annie.
“Okay. If you’re really tired, I should let you rest.” Disappointed that Rain wouldn’t eat the food he spent so much time and energy preparing for her, David went back to the living room to clear the table and refrigerate the things that needed preservation.
“David! D3! D3” He heard Rain call out for him from the bedroom.”
“I’m in the Kitchen,” he yelled back. “Do you want anything?”
Rain was silent.
“Rain, do you want anything?” David called back again.
Rain remained silent.
Scared that something bad may have happened to her, he abandoned the dishes and walked briskly to the bedroom to investigate her sudden silence.
Judging from her posture, he knew she wasn’t in any danger. A person in danger wouldn’t be examining a piece of jewellery with the intensity with which Rain was staring down and pulling on the strings of the colourful beads she was holding.
“David, this isn’t mine.”
David kept mute. His mouth wouldn’t open. Even if it did, he wouldn’t have known what to say to absolve himself from the trouble he was in. The only thing he could think of was how careless he was to have missed such a crucial piece of evidence.
Obviously, in wanting to erase every trace of the night he had, he hadn’t been as thorough as he’d imagined himself to be. He couldn’t fathom why he forgot that moment something snapped from Annabel’s waist because she increased the tempo of her gyration to match his pace. In the heat of passion, neither of them could stop, but he remembered vaguely, afterwards, that she reached for the bedside table and tossed something in the drawer.
“I found these waist beads in the nightstand drawer. David, they are not mine.”