On their third date, Shata and Klarissa chose not to go anywhere public. Klarissa had complained about the fried rice and chicken she was served in the restaurant they dined in when they went out together for the second time, so Shata offered to cook for her instead. He told her he didn’t want to rush things or put any kind of pressure on her, but that he’d like to see her again. He bragged about being a good cook because he grew up with his grandmother who passed on the family’s secret recipe for all kinds of rice, stews and soups to him before he moved out of the family house many years ago to be on his own. He promised to make it worth her while if she came.
When Klarissa joked about not wanting to be pounced on and dug into like one of his delicacies, Shata chuckled and reminded her that the “quiet and lonely” mansion he was inviting her to was owned by her father so technically it wasn’t a visit but a home coming of sorts for her. Shata told Klarissa that he was a gentleman, and that no gentleman worthy of being described as such, would “dig in and eat up” a woman under her father’s roof no matter how hungry he was.
“So, we’re only doing fried rice?” Klarissa asked.
“Fried rice and chicken. And maybe I can throw in some salad and cream into the mix if you want the records to show that I fed you a balanced meal,” Shata teased.
“What if I am not hungry or I lose my appetite after a few bites?” Klarissa retorted coyly.
“Then I’ll clear the table, do the dishes and walk you to your car. I didn’t learn many things from my father, but one thing he drummed into my ears as I grew from boy to man, was to stop the moment a woman says no.”
“So, you believe that ‘no’ means ‘no?’”
“I almost got my fingers burnt as a young man and that incident thought me a lesson I’ll never forget in my life. Whether she says it, or she insinuates it, once a woman lets me know she’s no longer comfortable with a visit, I respectfully oblige her. It is all the cue I need to fold my napkin and walk away.”
“I like a man with table manners,” Klarissa said smiling.
“Then come over and let me show you that I know my way around spoons, knives and forks,” Shata responded in his best imitation of a sexy voice.
Klarissa held up her hands to her chest in mock trepidation. She stared intensely into Shata’s eyes and asked if they were still talking about the same thing.
“I believe we are,” Shata said, dropping his fork on his plate. “The last time I checked, this conversation was still about fried rice and chicken, right?”
Shata was amused at Klarissa’s playfulness and he burst out laughing. He hadn’t dated a girl that young and carefree since his marriage failed and it made him feel reckless, young and wanted again. For a while, his mind lingered on the recklessness of what he was doing, and what he was getting himself into because Klarissa wasn’t just any other girl he could have met and dated or slept with casually in Yenagoa. She was Chief Edozie’s daughter and that meant he had to tread cautiously. His head told him to be careful, but Klarissa was beautiful, witty and rich. She was strangely knowledgeable in things he didn’t expect her to be knowledgeable in and that always intrigued him about women.
Shata thought Klarissa was spoilt without being a brat. He loved her naivety, if that was what it was. Her sophistication and early exposure to the good life made up for the times she shocked him with her insensitivity to the reality of life on the streets and the hardship poor people in Nigeria lived with on a daily basis. But she had a good heart and a good laugh, and Shata couldn’t resist the combination of both.
“Klarissa, I won’t force you. You will come on your terms and you will leave on your terms. Most importantly, you will be safe with me whether you decide to try out my recipe or not.” The corny way Shata said those words left both of them in stitches again, but when the mirth was over, they knew there would be a third date that would end with more than just laughter.
On the evening of her first visit to his house, Klarissa wore a short red dress Ohita picked out for her. She also brought along an expensive bottle of wine from her father’s cellar. It was red because she knew Shata loved red wine. She said it was her contribution to dinner since she didn’t know a thing about cooking or how any of the gadgets in the kitchen worked. Shata laughed and told her it was okay for her to stay and watch him prepare dinner, as long as she swore not to take down notes of the ingredients he was cooking with and give out to her followers on social media. Or worse still, make a video of him and post it on her Instagram page because a video of a handsome guy cooking was sure to attract a lot of views.
“You’re not my boyfriend. Why should I put up a post of you on my page?”
“I am not your boyfriend yet,” Shata corrected her confidently.
“Would you even ask me to be your girlfriend?” Klarissa teased him again. “I bet you’d never have the balls to, because you’d be scared shit my dad would do something to those balls, you’d never use them again.”
“For a rich man’s daughter, you have quite the X-rated imagination and the vocabulary to go with it.”
“So rich men’s kids, especially their daughters who are well over twenty shouldn’t know or talk about balls?”
“I don’t know, but remind me to ask the next rich man’s daughter I invite to my house and make dinner for.”
“If it makes you feel better, my stepmother knows I am here and my father is out of town.”
“Your dad is out of town?”
“Yes. He came back from Abuja two days ago and then he travelled again this morning for ‘treatment.’ He didn’t tell us exactly where and for how long he’d be away, but from the look of things I might not see him again for a long time, if ever again.”
Shata noticed the light switch off in her eyes and suddenly she was enveloped by an aura of sadness so unexpected he had to probe further.
“What makes you think that?”
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” Klarissa hesitated and then she continued, “there is a curse in my family.”
“Yes. My dad and stepmom, they think we don’t know, but we do. We know everything. You know walls have ears and they whisper things. We overheard things, my immediate younger brother Kennedy and I. One night they were talking in their room and they didn’t close the door, we heard everything. That is why my dad left this morning. He has been seeing someone with supernatural powers that can protect him until his next birthday when he turns fifty-five. If he manages to stay alive from now till then, the curse will be broken. But if he doesn’t, then I’m afraid my brothers might suffer the same fate. They will all die before they clock fifty-five.”
“You look troubled,” Shata said pulling her in for a hug.
“I am troubled,” Klarissa admitted. It was her first time talking about what she knew to anyone other than her brother. “Why do you think I am here? Why do you think I like spending time with you?”
“I’m so sorry, Klarissa.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, it’s not your fault that we have this terrible secret thing in my family.”
“If there’s anything I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to ask me. My shoulders are here for you to lean on anytime.”
“Then please Shata, help me forget now. Even if it is just for one minute, kiss me, carry me into your room and make me forget this tragedy that may consume my entire family very soon.”
When their lips touched, Shata knew that she, like many other women before her, had fallen for his charms. What he wasn’t so sure of in that moment was whether he had fallen for hers too. In her vulnerability, Klarissa inadvertently revealed a family secret he and his father could use in bringing down Chief Edozie and his company for good. However, as they kissed and as he led her through the hallway and into his room, the question that kept ringing in his head was whether he had the balls to use it.