She smells good.

So good i don’t think i’ll open the windows, just so her strawberry-scented perfume doesnt waft away. The excitement i have is not because of the unwatched, third season of ‘Scandal’ in my bag, but because she sat next to me. There were lots of empty spots on the bus, even the ones that would have seen her get a window seat, but she chose to sit with me. And trust me, there were a lot of window seats.

The bus is filling up fast. The crowds at the bus terminus make work easy for the conductor, who only has to hold up his fist, meaning the fare is fifty shillings, and a signboard with the route number. She looks away, i follow her gaze to an empty seat, my heart beats faster, “she wants to move”, i think, dejected. I also notice the sun’s rays resting on her face, she looks beautiful. She has soft features, a cute nose, a pretty face, the kind you want to take pictures of, the kind you would stare at for a few seconds too long, and not mind if she catches you staring. Her suit says Lawyer. Or Communications Executive. Or Doctor. Mysterious. I like her already. She doesnt move, and i want to kick myself for letting her hear my sigh of relief.

The bus starts moving, i didnt even notice it fill up, just like i didnt notice my phone ringing. I pick up, my palms are sweaty, so i use my ear to prop the phone againts my shoulders. Our shoulders touch, she doesnt move, i put my hands away, i like that she doesnt mind us touching. “Oya, are you there ?” its Geezo, my best friend, and he is asking whether i am still in town, he overspent on movies, and now he is stranded in town. The traffic building up means i can alight, and the crowds outside mean my seat will be replaced in seconds, so the conductor won’t be mad. It also means Miss Sunshine will go home rubbing someone elses shoulders. I’m sure Geezo has an aunt or an uncle in town who can lend him fare, plus he’s probably sweaty, doesnt smell of strawberries. I say i just left town, which is not technically a lie, but not the truth either. Its a delicate situation, careful to not come off as a liar to Miss, and not look like a fake friend to my boy.

A candy vendor boards the bus, i think i want to have fresh breath should Miss want to talk, i motion him over. He comes, i realize my wallet is in my right pocket, so our little shoulder tryst will die a brutal death if i reach for money. She opens her purse, finds some coins, buys three mints and a couple of sweets. I say a silent prayer, she is as generous as she is pretty. She opens a mint, throws the rest into her bag, i am dumbfounded, how do you rub shoulder with me, and deny me mints ?

Shocked. Hurt. Disappointed. I get my own mints, but i can’t play the gentleman, and offer her mints, as she has her own already. The candy on sale is cheap, and i dont want her to think “stingy” when i talk to her, where is a Guylian stand when you need one bar ? She is clearly playing hard to get, as Miss is now retreated into her seat, no chance of even our knees touching, i have to do something, and quick, i can not fail Geezo, and fail to validate Miss Sunshine’s decision to sit next to me.

I am in the middle of thinking what Miss would like better, between a movie and a picnic, when the tap comes. That tap that conductors give you when you didnt feel the first one, or you ignored their outstretched hand, its rough enough to wake you up, but the expression says “hey, i’m not your waiter, pay up!” . Miss opens her purse, throws stuff around, she looks alarmed. I reach for my wallet, pick out the crispest, highest-value currency note i have, its a Ksh200 note. I hand it over, Mr i’ll-tap-you-however-i-want asks if i’m paying for two people. I look at Miss, her eyes say “please pay, i’ll pay back when i get to the bottom of the bag, all this embarrassment is not good for my skin tone”. I take the coins, and give her her receipt.

I play cool, like a boss, waiting for her to thank me, i even look outside the window, people walking, the sun’s heat layering their faces with beads of sweat, too bad they aren’t about to be thanked by a beautiful woman. Maybe even called in the evening. Maybe even given a coffee
date. Maybe even intoduced to her friends. Family. Pastor. Gynaecologist. I can already see a honeymoon in Watamu. And our cute babies. She taps my shoulder, i clear ny throat, “brace yourself Miss, here comes those smooth lines you can’t afford not to blush at”, i turn, she motions me to call the conductor. I tap the guy, as hard as he tapped me, he looks back with a scowl on his face, i motion to the lady. I cannot believe what Miss says next, “shukisha Yaya”, the conductor taps the bell. The bus stops. Miss smiles sweetly, and says “thanks”. Betrayal. I watch her alight, and i can swear she doesn’t alight alone, she alights with our kids, our wedding photos, our plane tickets to the honeymoon. And my mint, and fifty shillings.

Categories: Fiction

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