Part 4: link Lunch?
Three dakika pass, then Gwen’s phone vibrates on her desk. Sorry, I have a lunch meeting today. Another one? Okay.
She puts her phone down on her desk, trying not to slam it on the hard surface. There is a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach that has been plaguing her since Sunday night, when Arthur chose to go nyumbani instead of staying another night. He’s allowed to sleep in his own bed. He’s paying rent on the place, he should spend some time there,
she had told herself. Still, it’s not the fact that he went home, but he was just… weird. Closed off. Awkward. In the short time we’ve been together, we’ve never had an awkward moment. Just in the lift that first night. Until we kissed.
“Gwen?” Merlin’s voice brings her back to reality.
“You all right?”
“I don’t know. I think Arthur’s avoiding me.”
“What makes wewe say that?”
“Because I haven’t seen him since Sunday night, and it’s already Wednesday!”
“Another lunch meeting today, then?” Merlin raises an eyebrow.
“So he claims,” Gwen shrugs.
“He could at least be creative. Come up with fresh material.” Merlin shakes his head. “And what was it last night? His long-lost Great Aunt Myrtle came to town and wanted to take him to dinner?”
“Said his father was having him and his sister over for a family dinner.”
“Right. Does he even have a sister?”
“Yes, I’ve seen her picture.”
“Sure it wasn’t one that just came with the frame?”
“Sorry. I liked the guy when I met him, but if he’s jerking wewe around, that doesn’t sit with me.”
“Thank you, Merlin. If he would just talk
to me, maybe I could figure out what’s going on. But I haven’t even run into him in the lift, which is very unusual.”
“That is weird.”
“Excuse me,” Gwen says suddenly, getting up and walking briskly to the ladies’ room. Merlin sighs. He couldn’t help but notice the glassiness of her eyes and the way her face crumpled and her voice shook before she took off.
When she returns to her desk, Merlin is nowhere to be seen. Ten dakika later, her phone buzzes again, and she grabs it like she wishes to choke the life out of it. Roof.
It’s from Merlin.
Gwen trudges to the lift, pokes the highest button, and rides the short distance to the roof access.
Merlin is waiting with a bag from McDonald’s but his face is grim. “Your boyfriend is stupid,” he declares.
“Obviously, but what specifically brings on this assessment?” she asks, sitting on a ledge. He hands her a chicken sandwich, fries, and a Diet Coke. “Thank you.”
“I just saw him at McDonald’s.”
” Gwen shouts, setting her chakula down. “Did he see you?”
“Now, maybe his meeting was cancelled…” Merlin starts.
“So now you’re defending him?”
“No! But… he looked quite miserable, actually. I don’t think he would have seen me if I had walked right past him. He was eating, alone. Sort of.”
“Well, he was definitely alone. His Big Mac was halfway to his mouth, but it wasn’t getting any further. For like two minutes.”
“Why doesn’t he talk to me if something is troubling him?” Gwen wonders. The reality of the situation, that they really haven’t known each other for very long, suddenly hits her. “He doesn’t know me well enough to trust me yet,” she whispers, reaching for a napkin to dab her eyes, still red from earlier.
“I don’t think it’s that, Gwen. wewe are a very easy person to like and trust,” Merlin says, wrapping his arm around her. “Most guys just tend to keep their emotions bottled up inside. I am unusual in that respect,” he grins at her.
“Yes, Merlin, your emotions are generally clearly on your sleeve for all to see,” she says, taking a drink of her soda.
Merlin puts his arm around her shoulders and hugs her to his side.
She picks up her sandwich, sandwichi and takes a small bite. “I think I’m going to go nyumbani after lunch,” she says.
xXx If you’re going to lie about a lunch meeting, at least have the brains to keep your sorry punda in your office instead of going out where people can see you.
Gwen presses send, tosses her phone on the kitanda cushion and reaches for another salted caramel, karmeli bar.
“Merlin?” Arthur’s voice behind him makes Merlin jump out of his skin.
“Well, you’ve got some nerve,” Merlin glares back at him.
“I know. Um, where’s Guinevere?” he asks. Merlin can see the remorse, but he’s still mad at Arthur, so he decides to not be helpful.
“She’s not here.”
“I can see that. Where did she go? Please.”
“Why should I tell you? So wewe can make sure to not
Arthur drops his head and looks to the side, glancing at Gwen’s tidy desk, noting how everything is just so, her piles of work are tidy, her pens and pencils in a little ceramic cup that looks as though it has been decorated kwa a child.
“I need to talk to her. To see her. Explain myself,” Arthur says quietly.
“She went home,” Merlin relents, turning back around, facing his dawati again.
“Thank you, Merlin.”
“Arthur?” Merlin says, not turning around.
“Are wewe going to break up with her?”
“No. But now I’m worried that I may have just dug my own grave.”
“You should be,” Merlin answers, not helping him at all.
Gwen’s doorbell jolts her awake. She’d fallen into an exhausted sleep, strung out from crying and slightly overdosed on sugar. She sits up and looks around, blinking. Then the kengele rings again, and she can hear a faint, “Guinevere?” from the other side of the door.
She gets up, walks casually to the door, turns the knob just so the door drifts open six inches, and then walks away, back to the living room. She doesn’t look at him.
She hears Arthur enter and close the door behind him quietly, hears him follow her path to the living room.
He sits opposite her, on an upholstered chair, and looks at her. I’m sure I look like complete shit, and I don’t care. Let him see me at my worst. It’s his fault I look like this anyway.
She watches him a moment, and it hits her that he doesn’t look much better. He looks like he hasn’t slept.
“I’m sorry, Guinevere,” he finally says, his voice soft, pained.
“That’s a good start,” she answers. He looks away.
“What the hell, Arthur?” she finally says, exasperated. “If wewe don’t want to see me anymore, at least have the balls to tell me straight!”
“I… it’s not that. I do want to still see you,” he says, looking at his hands, elbows resting on his knees.
“Then why did wewe bail on Sunday like wewe suddenly didn’t want to be here, like wewe couldn’t stand being around me any longer? Why have wewe been avoiding me all week?”
Arthur still says nothing, continuing to look miserable and guilty.
“If wewe can’t even talk to me, Arthur, then this isn’t going to work. We
aren’t going to work.”
“I know,” he says, “it’s just hard for me.”
“Because I feel really dumb right now, and now that I see how upset I’ve made you… how many of these bars have wewe eaten?” he asks, indicating the now half-empty pan on the table.
“More than I should,” she says. “They’re melting a bit now, I should put them back in the fridge,” she adds, absently.
“I’m confused and a little freaked out,” Arthur blurts suddenly.
“Oh,” Gwen says. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.
“You don’t know how wewe feel?”
“No, I know how I feel. I’m just…”
“Confused and freaked out kwa it?”
He nods. Then, closing his eyes, he whispers, “Truth.” He’s not sure exactly what she’ll ask, but at this point, he needs to give her the control, let her ask what she wants to know.
“Why?” she asks. She would pick the hard question.
“Because I’ve never felt like this about anyone ever before,” he quietly admits. “It’s like… when I’m not with wewe I feel like someone has taken something from me. I… I’ve had other girlfriends in the past, obviously, but I’ve never felt the… intensity
of feeling that wewe seem to bring out.” Whoa.
Gwen is speechless. Is he saying he loves me? Dare I ask? No. Don’t. Not until wewe are certain as well.
“Say something,” he whispers.
“I suppose that can be confusing and scary,” she answers.
“I dated this one girl for over a mwaka and I never felt…” He never felt like her like he does about me,
Gwen finishes mentally, nodding. “I know,” she whispers.
“You do?” he asks, looking up suddenly.
“I do. This week, when I didn’t see you… it sounds really stupid,” she stops, shaking her head.
“No, please tell me,” he asks.
“I felt… lost. And then when I began to think that wewe were avoiding me, it was like someone was stepping on my chest.”
“Oh, Guinevere, I’m so sorry about that,” he says, his voice pained, and finally he crosses to sit beside her on the couch. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” He takes her hand in between his.
“You were thinking that wewe could sort your feelings out if wewe stayed away from me,” she whispers
He nods. “Didn’t work. I only ended up zaidi confused.”
“I do feel better now, actually,” he admits, but then he furrows his brow. “How about you? Can wewe forgive me?”
“I’ll take it under advisement,” she says, smiling a small smile.
Arthur opens his mouth, then closes it again. He doesn’t know what to say, so he leans in and kisses her, softly but ardently, pouring his soul into her until she cannot even remember her own name.
“Truth,” Gwen whispers when their lips part, gasping for air.
“Do… do wewe feel the same?” he asks, his eyes closed, as if he is afraid to see her reaction to the question.
“The same…” she whispers still, “the same overwhelming, all-encompassing desire… no, need
to be with you, the same bewildering feeling of abandonment when we are apart, the same sense of completeness, contentment… just rightness
when we’re together? That same?”
He nods, his face in her neck, his hands gripping her waist.
“Yes. I do,” she answers, and she feels him breathe again, exhaling heavily against her. “And of course I forgive you,” she adds, running her fingers into his hair.
Arthur’s phone rings and he slowly pulls away from her and pulls it from his pocket.
“You really know how to ruin a moment, Dad,” he mutters, then swipes his finger across the screen.
Gwen watches him, taken aback at the redness rimming his eyes.
“Hello,” he answers.
“No, I told Elana that I was gone for the day, didn’t she tell you?”
“Yes, well she’s a complete flake, I definitely told her. I wasn’t feeling well.”
“No. Honestly, I have no idea. I really wasn’t paying attention. Not feeling well, remember?”
“Most likely. I just need some rest, I think. No, don’t send over any soup, I’ll be fine. Really. Thanks, Dad, ’bye.” He sets his phone to silent and places it on the meza, jedwali beside the pan. Then he reaches for a bar.
“Whoa, these are really soft,” he says, quickly depositing the small square into his mouth before his hand becomes a mess of caramel, karmeli and chocolate. Then he picks up the pan and takes it to the jikoni to put it back in the fridge.
“Arthur?” Gwen calls after him. “What… what made wewe come over?”
“I got your text, obviously. Who saw me?”
“Ah. I was wondering if it was you.”
“If I had seen wewe there, wewe would have known before now,” she says, raising her eyebrow at him as he sits at the end of the kitanda and motions for her to come over into his arms.
“So I’m fortunate that Merlin spotted me and not you,” he says, pulling her back against him, snuggling her into his chest.
“Yes. But from what Merlin says, wewe weren’t noticing much of anything during your lunch.”
“I don’t even know if I finished it.”
“What took wewe so long?” she asks, turning her face to look up at him.
“It was nearly two hours between my text and your appearance. I fell asleep, actually.”
“Oh. I didn’t get the text right away because I was… wait for it… in a meeting.”
Gwen actually laughs.
“A real one, honest.”
“Oh, is that what wewe were talking about to your father when wewe alisema wewe weren’t paying attention?”
“Yep. As soon as I saw your text, I ran upstairs to your office, but wewe were gone.”
“Yes. And I must say that Merlin gave me rather a frosty reception. Wasn’t surprised then, even less surprised now, now that I know he was the one that caught me.”
“That was pretty stupid,” she says, and he pokes her in the ribs. “Hey!”
“Yeah, it was. Obviously wasn’t thinking clearly.”
They sit quietly for a bit, Gwen cozy in Arthur’s embrace, staring at the television. It’s been on the whole time, on the chakula Network, ignored.
“I’ve seen this one,” Arthur says after a time. “Morimoto wins.”
“Morimoto wins 98% of the time, Arthur. He’s scary good.”
“Too bad it’s not Battle Avocado, though,” Arthur teases.
“I would have to turn it off,” Gwen says, settling against him zaidi now, using him as her mattress, pillow, and teddy kubeba all in one.
“I upendo how wewe feel cuddled against me,” he mutters into her hair.
“You are very comfortable,” she says, smiling. “Arthur?”
He looks down at her, running his hand along her arm, caressing from elbow to shoulder and back down again. “Truth,” he says, sensing a swali coming.
“What scared wewe away on Sunday?”
“It’s bizarre,” he warns.
“Lance?” she turns and looks up at him again, and he leans down and kisses her.
“Yes. I didn’t like the way he was… leering at wewe at the chajio, chakula cha jioni Saturday night. He’s got it bad for you, and I know you’re not interested, but it still made me jealous. Unreasonably so, aliyopewa the short time we’ve been together. I wanted to walk around the meza, jedwali and ngumi, punch him, if for no other reason than to mess up his good-looking face a little.”
“So your own jealousy made wewe realize the, um, depth of feeling wewe have for me, and wewe freaked.”
“I think so.”
“That’s actually… kind of sweet, Arthur,” she says.
“In a twisted kind of way.”
She laughs, turning her face into his chest.
“Can I stay tonight?” he asks.
“Do wewe really think wewe need to ask?”
“Well, after today, yes,” he admits. “I don’t have any clothes, though. For tomorrow.”
“Hmm.” He should keep some emergency supplies here,
Gwen finds herself thinking.
“Tell wewe what,” he says, tilting her face up, kissing her nose. “I’ll take wewe out to eat,” he kisses her forehead, “then we’ll stop at my place,” he kisses her cheek, “and I’ll grab some things,” he kisses her lips, “and then we can come back here,” he kisses her lips again, longer.
“Or,” she pulls away, “we can go to your place,” she kisses his chin, “and wewe can get your stuff,” she kisses his neck, “and then we can go to the market,” his neck again, “and then come back here and cook dinner,” she moves back to his lips, “and eat here,” kisses his lips again, “alone.”
He captures her lips and squeezes her tightly, lingering over her, kissing her softly.
“I like the way wewe think.”
Part 6: link