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Chapter Three and
And now for today’s chapter…
Cordelia woke up luxuriating in a warm glow. She felt like a contented caterpillar hidden safely away in its cocoon. In this case, the cocoon was co-inhabited by Philip. They’d fallen asleep locked together in a semi-fetal position, his legs tucked up tightly under hers. His chest was pressed against her back, and she was keenly aware of the cushion of soft, furry hair that was sprinkled over his sinewy body. Slowly, she lifted her hand and gently touched his. She wondered how things would be if this was all there was to life, lying here listening to the steady, even breathing of the man who had bulldozed his way into her life four months ago and changed everything.
Not wanting to wake Philip, Cordelia carefully slipped out from beside him, inched over to her side of the bed and lowered her feet gingerly to the floor. But as she was about to stand up, she felt the feathery touch of his finger running down the smooth arch of her back.
“Hey,” he whispered.
She turned to face him and smiled. “Has anyone ever told you that you snooze like a grizzly bear in hibernation?”
“Me? Nah! I sleep like a pussy cat. I can even hear your dreams.”
“So, tell me about the one I had last night.”
“No problem. Just come closer.”
She slid back under the covers and turned to face her handsome lover. His hand moved leisurely over her body, stroking her gently, playing his fingers over her breasts and then going slowly down.
When he knew she was ready, he moved up to mount her. Cordelia’s eyes fluttered shut and her breath came in short gasps as Philip straddled her, his weight on his arms. For several moments, their bodies moved with the ease and rhythm of two people who’d had a lot of practice. Faster and faster they moved, spurring their desires to an utmost peak, before release came in the form of a glorious cascade that had them shaking against each other.
Then they lay together in the shadowy room, whose curtains were drawn, staunchly keeping to a minimum the intrusion of the Saturday morning. The shared warmth of their just concluded lovemaking and the comfortable talk that followed had begun to feel familiar to Cordelia.
“Seeing as we both have this entire weekend off from work,” Philip murmured close to her ear, “how do we begin spending it? Perhaps we could do a brunch picnic at the beach?”
“That sounds very appealing, but I have to go back home.”
“Why? But you just came.”
“And what a spectacular coming that was,” she said, turning her head to grin at him.
He chuckled. “Don’t be such a bad girl, Cordelia.”
“Or what? You’ll spank me?”
“Haven’t you already been sufficiently spanked? Twice last night and again just now.”
“What can I say? You make a bad girl want to remain bad.”
He laughed shortly, before pulling her tighter into his arms and her lips to meet his in a softly passionate kiss. When their lips parted, she said, “I’m still going back to Agungi this morning.”
Philip groaned. “Come on. I thought we’d already resolved that.”
“In your favour,” Cordelia said, breaking away from his embrace and moving toward the end of the bed. “I have to get back and get some things sorted out. I’ve been here –”
“Since just Thursday evening,” Philip interrupted. “And before that, we hadn’t seen each other in a week.”
Cordelia gave a light laugh. “You make it sound like a millennium.”
“This is ridiculous,” Philip groused, sitting up as well. “We’ve been dating for four months, and we don’t get to spend enough time together, all because we have a transatlantic relationship.”
“Transatlantic?” Another laugh gusted from Cordelia. “We’re only separated by the Third Mainland Bridge, sweetheart, not the Pacific Ocean.”
“It feels that way sometimes.”
“Well, you need to stop worrying about that so, while I go make us some breakfast.” She bounded up from the bed and grabbed a robe.
“So no beachside brunch picnic then, yeah?” he grumbled behind her.
“We’ll do that next weekend, I promise.”
As she moved away from the bedroom, sashing the robe around her body, a familiar muted roar began resonating in her right ear, reducing all external sounds around her to an indistinct hum. She momentarily debated going back into the bedroom to fetch her hearing aid, but shrugged off the need and continued on to the kitchen. She was no longer self conscious with Philip over her hearing condition. And so, should he come to meet her in the kitchen, he’d have to either speak really loudly or right next to her ears, if he wanted to carry on a conversation with her.
She walked into the kitchen, a small but impeccably put-together room, very modern with chrome and glass and not a square inch of wasted space. She made for the refrigerator, picked out a plastic bottle of water and took a few gulps before shutting the fridge and placing the bottle on the kitchen table. Her eyes strayed to the small board hanging on one corner of the breakfast nook. That was Philip’s meal timetable, a statement of his routine, which showed what he had for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the different days of the week. She shook her head with wry amusement as she began opening cupboards and fetching utensils. She had a boyfriend who didn’t want an adventure when it came to what he ate at home.
Well, this Saturday’s breakfast wasn’t going to come from the timetable.
Several minutes later, she was hard at work, humming under her breath while she chopped at the cutting board in an atmosphere that was filled with the sound of sizzling oil and the aroma of budding breakfast.
“You did not hear a word I just said, did you?” Philip said close to her left.
Cordelia let out a yelp, jumping and dropping the knife in her hand at the same time. “My God! You startled me!” she said, pressing a hand to her chest in a theatrical demonstration of distress. “Philip, you’ve just taken ten years off my life.”
She saw his mouth move as he moved away from her. He was gesturing at the kitchen table.
“You’d have to speak up, babe. I can’t hear you.”
“Where’s your hearing aid?” he said in a louder voice. “You’re supposed to be wearing it.”
“Sometimes, my ear just needs a breather,” she said as she turned to resume her task.
“Well, I was talking about this, Cordelia.”
She turned her head around, and instantly saw what had put the wrathful tone in his voice. The water bottle she’d drank from earlier was standing on the kitchen table, the cool air around it causing moisture to drip from the bottle’s exterior and collect around its base on the table.
“I’ve told you, as a matter of principle, I always drink from a cup, and not straight out of the bottle,” Philip said sternly. “And really, Cordelia, I have coasters lying around for a reason.” He lifted the bottle, fetched a rag and wiped off the ring of condensation. Then he slid out a coaster, placed the bottle on it, and dropped a glass tumbler right next to it.
Cordelia watched his meticulousness with the awe she hadn’t learned to stop feeling whenever she observed these bursts of compulsion. She was sure a time would come when they’d begin to irritate her, but at the moment, she was content with indulging her boyfriend’s compulsiveness.
She chuckled as she returned to her chopping. “You know you’re very adorable when you get so bossy, which kind of defeats the purpose.”
She heard his voice rumble behind her.
“Babe, you’ll have to speak up please.”
“Oh for chrissakes!” he heaved with exasperation. “You really need to get this hearing thing fixed, if you want your ear to take this breather so badly.”
“And I will. I told you I’m saving up for the surgery.”
“What if you don’t have to save? What if you could just have the surgery in no distant time?”
“And get the money from where?” She turned her attention to the frying pan, scooping up potatoes from the hissing oil. “My family? Ha! I’m sure they’d jump at the chance to help out, and never let me forget it for the rest of my life.”
“Not your family, Cordelia. What if I offered to help?”
“What? Come on, Philip. I can’t ask you to do that.”
She looked askance at him, in time to see him open his mouth as though to say something more. Then, upon an apparent change of mind, he shut it, and then said, “There’s no milk. I’ll go get us some milk from across the street.”
“What were you going to say?”
“Nothing.” He waved dismissively at her. “Not right now anyway. I’ll be right back.”
She shrugged as he left the kitchen, and refocused on her work. A few minutes later, the bland staccato sound of a phone’s ringtone cut through the room. She whirled around to see the LCD light of Philip’s Samsung winking at her from the kitchen table. He’d clearly forgotten to take the phone with him on his errand.
She walked over to the phone and peered at the screen. There was no Caller ID, just a number with the Lagos ‘01’ area code. She shrugged her disinterest in the incoming call and went back to her work.
But the caller was evidently determined to speak to Philip. The call rang out, and picked up again after a short moment. Upon the third ring, Cordelia blew out an exasperated breath. The blasted ringtone was distracting. With the mind of informing the caller to call back much later, she went back to the phone and answered.
“Hello, is this Mr. Ekezie?” a very solicitous female voice enquired.
“No, he’s not around right now. Could you call back in five minutes?”
“Could I leave a message for him?”
Cordelia hesitated. She wasn’t even sure Philip would appreciate the fact that she’d answered his call. But then, the endless ringing had been a real bother. He would understand. “Sure. What’s the message regarding?”
“The paperwork on his stapedectomy has been processed. We would simply like to schedule a convenient time for the surgery.”
Surgery? “What surgery?” she queried, her brows furrowing.
“The stapedectomy,” the caller said.
“The stapde – spatpe – stap – what’s that please?”
“It’s an ear surgery he paid for, ma’am,” the woman replied.
Ear surgery! The words slammed into Cordelia with the blunt force of a bulldozer. Before she could react verbally to the woman’s answer, she was telling her not to forget to relay the message to Mr. Ekezie, and promptly signed off the call.
Cordelia felt numb as she wordlessly dropped the phone back on the table. It’s an ear surgery he paid for… Philip had gone behind her back? How could he do that? When did he plan to tell her?
Earlier on, right here in the kitchen perhaps?
Still, he had no right! Anger flared up inside her. He knew how she felt about people doing things for her, and still, he’d gone ahead to start proceedings he knew she wouldn’t approve of. And what was worse – he had clearly intended it to be a surprise. It was her life, her issue, and he hadn’t thought to tell her! The nerve!
“Hey, babe, I also got some bread that I thought we could toast…” Philip’s voice trailed off as he walked into the kitchen and found himself looking at a grim-faced Cordelia. “What’s the matter?”
“How dare you?” she hissed.
A wary expression jumped into his eyes. “How dare I what? What did I do?”
Cordelia’s anger was cresting and crashing inside her so fast that she had to clench her fists and count silently to three, before she could speak calmly. “A nice lady called. From a hospital, I think. She wanted to know the best time to schedule your ear surgery.”
Philip exhaled. “This wasn’t how I wanted you to find out.”
“People usually find out the things they are not supposed to find out in the ways it wasn’t planned for them to find out!” she snapped, her voice rising. “When were you going to tell me? Perhaps when I was stretched out on a gurney with the anesthesia running through my body?”
“And how could you make such a decision about me without consulting me first? How could you? How dare you?”
“I dared because I care about you!” Philip exploded. His outburst startled Cordelia momentarily from her anger. “You are such a stubborn woman – you don’t even know that you need help sometimes. You have been saving for a surgery for nearly a year now, for a condition that you should have fixed right away. And you don’t even see that in this case, your determination to not ask for help is proving detrimental to you. My God, it infuriates me so much when you get so hopped up on this your streak of independence!”
“I am my own person, Philip!” she retorted in a voice with a hard edge. She jabbed a finger at him. “I am not the person who fits into your life and schedule. I don’t care for it. I am not your food timetable or your always-pour-into-a-cup water bottles or your bloody coasters! I am my own person, goddamnit! Either you deal with that, or you get the hell out!”
“This isn’t about me trying to change you, Cordelia,” Philip rejoined, his expression getting just as stormy as hers. “It’s about you reevaluating some of the things about you that shouldn’t be.”
Cordelia gave a bark of humorless laughter. “This is very rich, coming from you.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’m telling you to back the hell off.” She punctuated the words with another thrust of her forefinger. “And I’m done with breakfast. I think I’ll go back home now.”
And she turned and stalked out of the kitchen, the air that moved with her crackling with the energy of her indignation.
To be continued tomorrow at www.wordsarework.com