“And I saw a dead body.”
“Only now?” I said. “It’s been a year!”
I shook my head. “I saw that on day one!”
The wind whipped us hard and Kay laughed, pretending to be carried away by it.
“This feels so weird!It’s cold out here! It’s so fucking hot in there!” she exclaimed, gesturing toward the hospital.
She tugged on my jacket and I pulled it tighter around myself.
“I’m not giving you my jacket.”
“I wasn’t asking for it,” she said, pouting her lips.
We passed through the turnstiles. “Is that why you carry it all the time? For just in case?”
“No,” I said honestly. The wind whipped up again and she squealed in response before running right at me and trying to stick her arms into my sleeves.
I laughed right along with her and we continued walking.
“Then why do you carry the jacket? All that stuff in your bag must be heavy.”
“I just don’t like showing my arms.”
This time, the gust of wind was strong enough to toss my braids and I cussed.
“Why?” she asked. “I’ve never actually seen your arms.”
I could barely see where I was going at this point.
I struggled to get my braids out of the way and this prompted her to step right in front of me to help.
“What do you have against hair ties?”
“Where would I find one big enough for this?” I grumbled.
There were just too many twists on my head. I missed my old hairdresser.
“It’s more about how you use it,” she said. She took my hands in hers and looked at them for a long time before looking up at me again.
“And I think with these hands, you’d know how…” she said gently.
She wasn’t talking about hair ties or my braids anymore.
I knew what she was thinking and I knew what she wanted.
Maybe I wanted it to happen again.
The truth was, that moment had been engraved on my brain from its inception and oftentimes, I had taken it all further in my head.
In my mind, I had let her touch me, over and over – in many different ways.
It had been a week since we’d made out and things had never been awkward between us. At least, not yet –
The sound of the engine stilled me.
The Mustang rolled to a stop where we stood and idled there.
“Let’s go,” said Kay, pulling me away from the car.
For a hot second, I was inclined to do just that. But staring at the dark windows of the car had me standing fast, wondering what would happen if I went with him.
All the windows were reflective. We couldn’t see him but he could no doubt see us.
“I’ll see you later.”
“It’s cool,” I said. “I’ll call you.”
I moved to the back of the car and popped the trunk, tossing my bag into the boot. There was a briefcase there along with a duffel bag.
“Dilia, wenzani?” Kay asked quietly.
“He’s a friend, it’s cool. I’ll call you.”
She reluctantly let go of my hand and I closed the boot and climbed into the car without looking at him. As soon as the seatbelt clicked into place, he set the car into drive.
The world zipped by and I never looked at him, not even once. But I knew it was him just by the way he shifted gears.
But the place was unfamiliar, where we were going.
It wasn’t toward Braam, but it was beyond Main. He moved through obvious back routes until we were in a high end residential area that was literally up in the hills.
He stopped in front of an apartment complex and tagged himself in. He parked his car under a thick canopy of metal and wood and powered the car down.
It was dark in the car and there was nothing to hear but my own quiet breathing.
I still couldn’t look at him.
He opened his door and climbed out of the car and I copied him.
I glanced his way when he was taking his bags out of the car along with mine but he didn’t hand me any of them.
He led me to one of the four buildings. They looked like far more extravagant versions of where I was staying.
He greeted the doorman and led me to the bank of elevators.
He pressed the button written PH.
The ascent to the fifteenth floor was quiet and tense.
There were only two doors on this floor.
I followed him out of the elevator cabin and to our right, heading to the door that stood at the end of the corridor. He set the bag down and he pulled out his key and opened the door.
And I looked at him.
He was entirely in black. The vest he wore was loose fitting and was paired with sweat pants and those Jordan’s of his. He must have been to the gym.
I followed him inside and he kicked the door shut behind me.
I could see nothing.
He placed the bags on the floor and somehow found my hand in the dark and led me into his new living quarters.
He flipped switches along the walls as we moved forward – the foyer, the hallway, the lounge.
It was big and spacious and had the same dark drapes on either side of the windows that I remembered, along with a giant breakfront with a big screen. There was a coffee table and several other small ones with books on them and a pot plant that couldn’t possibly be real because it rose along the wall into a creeping vine that stretched across the ceiling.
To my left was a dining area equipped with a large oval table and chairs and a small window in the wall that opened into the kitchen area, which was in back.
I felt unclean in the face of all if this – elegance.
I pulled off my jacket and stepped further into the lounge just as he emerged from the kitchen with two steaming mugs in his hands.
He gestured for me to take a seat in one of the sofas and I obliged, my nerves strung tight.
He sat down beside me and I took the hot chocolate from him.
He toed off his shoes and I toed off mine, curling up in the sofa.
No part of him was touching any part of me.
We sat in silence and I took down the chocolate with just a fragment of the taste buds I had the first time.
The rest of me was tuned into him.
And then we were done.
He set the empty mugs on the coffee table and sat down again.
My lips were trembling and I lifted my hand to my mouth to try and hide this fact.
And he was looking right at me.
I looked at him and felt all those feelings that I had berated myself for, rushing to the surface again. I knew that it was all wrong and as a result, I tried to find every possible reason to silence that cautious voice inside my head.
Like the fact that he was built like a damn god of Greek mythology.
And that his voice was velvet steel.
And that when he touched me, I wanted to burst into flames and I liked it.
And he had been there for me, even if it was for all of two seconds.
“I don’t understand…” I said quietly.
I swallowed hard, feeling like I just might cry. I looked down at my hands in my lap.
“I…” I breathed. “I asked you about her… You didn’t say anything…”
His frown was tangible but I didn’t back down despite my fear.
Fear of disappointing him.
Fear of knowing the truth.
“We aren’t together anymore,” he said.
I swallowed hard at his words. “When I last saw you, were you together then?”
“No,” he said. “We were over long before that.”
The air left me in a rush; the relief flooded me; the shame evaporated.
Whatever he saw on my face made him shift where he sat, moving closer to me.
He seemed to want to reach out but thought better of it.
“Was it because of me? Did I do that?”
He shook his head. “It was because of me.”
“I don’t do this,” I told him, the tears burning my eyes red. “I don’t just… I never…”
“I know,” he said, nodding his head slowly. “It was wrong of me to go about it the way that I did and I’m sorry.”
He rose to his feet, dragging his hands over his face – he looked tired.
“From in here, it was all flames,” he said. “I forgot for a minute that you didn’t remember my name or me knowing yours. I was a stranger to you but you weren’t a stranger to me.”
Again, I covered my mouth with my hands when my lips started to shake.
“What does that mean?”
He looked pained for a moment as he looked up at the ceiling and then down at me again, but he didn’t speak.
“You know – my body more intimately than any other person in the world outside of me,” I said, the words failing in my mouth as my body remembered his body.
“But I don’t know who you are…”
The smile rose, but there was no humour in it, only pain.
It was dark and alluring and I was drawn to it.
He sat down again then.
He sighed heavily, his shoulders rising and falling with the action.
He was quiet for a moment, simply sitting there and looking at me. He kept his hands to himself, even though he could have easily reached out and touched me. I could reach out and touch him, but I didn’t.
“My name is Dominick Tyree,” he said. “I have no second or middle name. I am the youngest of three, the other two are brothers. My mother was a Paediatric Nurse, she’s retired. My father was a general in the Royal Army and he too has retired, but is a specialist in Combat Training for Military Recruits.”
“I have a mind for business, which is why I work for my grandfather –”
“Tyree Incorporated – oh my word..!”
I was shocked at myself, that I hadn’t realized it before.
“You’re his grandson – wow,” I chuckled. “Okay.”
He smiled, but even so, it seemed sad.
“Yes,” he said. “I graduated three weeks ago. I’m an intern now. That’s what I’ve been doing. Business. I just got back. From Ireland.”
I blinked. “Whoa…”
He smiled again.
“I enjoy art, both literary and visual, but I am helpless to execute it, so I buy it,” he said with a smile. “I enjoy music, a variety of it, even in languages I do not understand. I have only one favourite colour, but I never wear it on clothes. I take pleasure in the bitter taste of coffee. I like the outdoors. Not like hiking and all that, just being outside with lots of green and air.”
I pursed my lips, trying not to smile. But my mood was lifting again and I was glad.
“I don’t like – heat.”
I blinked. “What?”
He shrugged. “Hot climates, increased temperatures. I prefer the cold and the rain.”
That was – random.
“I am at my most peaceful in the darkness.”
That was either frightening or – no, it was frightening.
“I have many interests, but no actual hobby.”
The look on his face changed somewhat, from openness to something like wonder.
“And I am interested in you, Dilia,” he said.
I swallowed hard, nervous again.
“I want to get to know you better. I know I went about it the wrong way – came at you like a boy chasing candy.”
He shook his head, looking away from me for a moment.
“To someone outside, I know how this looks,” he said. “I brought you back to my place… We didn’t really know each other. I know it looked like –”
He clamped his mouth shut immediately.
“You didn’t do that! Don’t ever think that you did that…” I said.
He still looked sad.
“It was stupid of me, either way. I – was overexcited.”
“Overexcited?” I chuckled, leaning back. I remembered what I felt and what I thought and the kiss with Kitso.
“Two-way street, my friend,” I told him. “Of countertops and chocolate and coffee.”
He laughed, a loud barking sound that was sexy as fuck.
“I thought I’d never see you again…” he said quietly. “You were – an intrigue to me when we first met.”
He rose to his feet and moved to the giant window wall, looking out at the view beyond the thin curtains.
“I admit it, I shouldn’t have given you my number with the intentions I had at the time,” he said. “And when you showed up on campus, I thought it was God’s way of giving me a second chance.”
I was gaping.
“You believe in God?”
He looked over his shoulder at me. “I do.”
I found it hard to believe.
How could he possibly believe in God and be as he was with me? Was there even a place for feelings like that?
“What intentions did you have for giving me your number?”
He chuckled, the sound wolfish and beastly.
“What?” I asked, feeling shyness creep up on me.
He nodded slowly, sobering up.
“Countertops, chocolate and coffee,” he said. “Even then. Even with all that blood and that cut on your hand and I didn’t know your name, I wanted you.”
Was that a compliment, or..?
“And now?” I asked, looking down at my fingers. “What do you want now?”
He looked at me properly, maintaining his distance.
“I want – more. I want to know more – I want to know you,” he said. “I want to know about you. And I want you to get to know me.”
I smiled wryly.
I thought about all the times that I had seen him and all the times that he must have seen me. I remembered the Mustang and how he’d stopped, that day when I was with Luke – when I didn’t know who he was.
All those times, we didn’t simply step up and speak to each other.
But even in spite of it all, I found that I didn’t want anything to stop me from being with him.
“I want to get to know you also,” I told him honestly.
He smiled warmly at me.
But I had to get this out.
“I know you said that it wasn’t because of me that you broke up with… But I need to know.”
I swallowed hard.
“Was it me? I know it was just a few minutes or whatever – but was it me?”
He sighed heavily again.
“It had something to do with you. It was because of us that we ended things,” he said. “It just wasn’t working for us anymore.”
I nodded slowly.
Here was the big one.
“And when…” I paused, swallowing hard. “When you first came to me, that night at the bus stop? Were you together then?”
He nodded slowly.
“When you found me in the library, we were no longer together,” he told me. He looked out at the city for a moment and then he looked at me again.
“I – dammit – I didn’t want to come and find you,” he said. “I wanted to be sure that this was real..?”
It came off like a question, like he wasn’t sure he had phrased it right.
“He had brought you to me many times before and other times, I went looking for you.”
My brows shot up and he ducked his head, looking shy.
There he was again, making reference to the Devine.
“I wasn’t being a stalker – shit, I sound like a stalker, don’t I?”
I burst out laughing and so did he. “Two-way street!” I reminded him.
We looked at each other for a moment as we sobered up.
The silence spoke volumes.
“When you found me in the library again that day, it felt like a do-over.”
It was like a revelation when I realized what he was saying.
And he saw it when I saw it.
“You’re so sentimental…” I chuckled.
His smile widened and I smiled wider too.
Tears threatened again for an entirely different reason now, but I shut them down.
I let out my hand and there was only the slightest pause before he stepped forward and took it, sitting down beside me.
“Thank you for sharing that with me,” I told him.
His hand was big and warm in my hands and I loved how it all looked.
“Say my name..?”
I smiled at the way it sounded coming out of his mouth.
“I don’t remember telling you that.”
“Your teacher called you that. I never forgot.”
He moved even closer this time.
“I’m glad you didn’t… I’m really sorry I forgot –”
“That’s not on you,” he interrupted. “The medication was strong and even outside of that, it all seemed so surreal. That was a lot of blood!”
“It was!” I chuckled.
“What book were you looking for?”
I shook my head, feeling embarrassed. “It’s stupid.”
I looked down at our hands for a second and he squeezed my hand reassuringly.
“My aunt used to lecture at WITS before she passed away. She published a book, Thoughts Of A Millennial.”
His expression became warm and sympathetic. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
I shrugged. “I didn’t really know her. Anyway, the book is hard to come by and my dad had asked if I could check if I could get a copy for him, maybe from the suppliers of the library.”
He nodded his head slowly.
“But then, I nearly died.”
“That was shit…” he said.
Something flashed in his eyes and a cold shiver drifted fleetingly up my spine.
I brushed it aside.
“So how does – someone like you come upon eyes like that? And – Tyree? Coz last I checked, the man – your grandfather was – well, he was –”
I chuckled at his use of the word.
He rose to his feet and moved to the breakfront where he opened a drawer and pulled out what looked like a photo album and then he returned to me. He flipped through the album until he landed on a picture.
“His father was white, Irish. That time, his father – my great-grandfather – had a housekeeper for his estate in the Highlands. She had a daughter, who my grandfather fell in love with. He married her despite all the protests and helped her find her way back to her homeland so that he could marry her all over again in front of her people.”
“Wow,” I said, gazing down at the old black and white picture of the Tyree Patriarch and his wife on their wedding day. “Where was home for her?”
“No way! And then what?”
“And then they started their life there. They had one son, my grandfather. He grew up and started school, met my grandmother and then he got into business. She helped him manage all of that. They had babies – of which my father was one – he grew up, joined the army. My grandmother died and this influenced my grandfather’s decision to expand his holdings. Took them big and wide with branches in East Africa and Ireland, which is where he returned to head up the main offices.
My dad, however, knew Uganda to be home for him and that is where he met my mother. Her studies called her here and he followed her. They had babies and because they were both too busy to be raising kids, they sent us to live with our grandfather in Ireland.”
He flipped to another photo a few pages down.
I could see his father in him on site and when I saw his mother, I could almost say that I recognised her – a completely biased observation, of course.
“So why did you come back here?” I asked him.
“Mum and dad are here. We came back when I was fifteen.”
He flipped to another picture.
“Donny – Donavan – the oldest one, and Denny – Aiden.”
All the Tyree men looked the same even though the boys had their mother’s skin.
“You are some handsome men,” I told him. He laughed at this.
I continued to flip through the family photos and when I was done, I looked at him.
“Wanna know something interesting?”
“I’m Dilia Nambiro. I’m from Uganda, too.”
His smile was just as bright as the sun and I burst out laughing at his reaction.
“But I know nothing about it.”
“I know a little, but I’m more Irish than I am Ugandan,” he said in response.
“Well, that explains the accent,” I realized out loud.
I could never forget his warning that night and I suppose now it would be branded on my brain forever because of this new information about his upbringing.
“What accent?” he asked, a wondering frown on his face.
I squirmed in my seat, looking away from him.
But he caught my chin between his thumb and finger – the contact ripped right through me like lightning.
And then he spoke.
I had no idea what it was he had just said because it was in no language I had ever heard but it engulfed me in flames.
He leaned in and I leaned back.
He stopped all at once, frozen to the spot.
“I’m covered in germs.”
His face morphed in full on ridicule. “What?!”
“I’m a Nurse! I work in a Level Three hospital, full of germs – I feel dirty!”
He looked me over, very slowly.
“What?” he chuckled mischievously, finding my eyes again.
“Maybe you can take off your clothes and then – I’m just kidding!”
We were both laughing.
“I’ve got a lot of clothes. You can shower and get these washed.”
My lips started to tremble and I pursed them.
“My clothes won’t be dry in time for me to go back to my place.”
“Then stay the night.”
He said it with such ease, as a matter of fact.
I bit my lip, nervous.
“I won’t touch you, I promise. You won’t see me until the sun comes up. I’ll drop you off at work in the morning.”
“I’m not working tomorrow.”
He looked like a wolf.
That was the first thing that popped into my mind when he looked at me like that.
“I could take you back in a couple of hours then.”
“And take my wet clothes with me?”
“Then you can stay in them.”
He said this as he backed off of me, right to the other side of the sofa.
I understood then what he meant.
“You’re terrible, Dom…”
“My immunity can take it,” he said with a shrug. “But then again, that’s what they all say until suddenly, people are dying everywhere because of germs.”
I wanted to punch him.
“Where’s your fucking bathroom?”
“Wash out your mouth, young lady! All those germs have got you talking so – dirty!”
I burst out laughing at his words but we both rose to our feet.
It was unclear to me what I was agreeing to here. I wanted to be close to him and I really did need to wash the day’s grime off my body. But that did not mean that I was going to stay the night, right?
I followed him into the hallway where I waited for him to collect our bags from the door.
As we moved, he pushed open a door that was directly opposite the lounge.
“Library,” he said. I snuck a peek and followed him toward the stairs. “Toilet,” he said next.
He then led me up the stairs to what would no doubt be his room.
At the top of the staircase, a hallway opened up to three doors.
“Study, guest room, my room,” he said, picking them off from right to left.
“You can use my bathroom, I’ll take the guest bathroom.”
“The taps are iffy in the guest bathroom. Not yet fixed.”
“Okay,” I said. That was fair enough I supposed.
He had a very big bed, which was the first thing that I noticed when we entered his room.
The bed board was solid black cushion and rode high against the off white walls. The carpet was just as soft as it was in the lounge and directly opposite the bed was a giant window wall and a part of me was not so surprised by this. He clearly loved his views.
To the left of the bed was a door that led to the en suite bathroom and next to it, was a bank of doors that ran along the whole wall, probably for wardrobes and cupboards.
He opened his duffle and pulled out a grey t-shirt and some red sweatpants and then he paused. “Underwear,” he said.
I hadn’t thought about that.
Maybe this wasn’t going to work out after all.
“How do you feel about briefs?”
I bent over laughing. “You’re gona give me your underwear?”
“You can keep it. I have other ones.”
He rummaged through his duffel and pulled out a brand new package of underwear, Calvin Klein, unopened.
“Just like magic,” I said, looking at him with a quizzical brow.
He shrugged. “New underwear was due for me, and so I bought some on my way home. You can have one and I will keep what remains.”
As ridiculous as it all was, he made a fair point – right?
“Pick a colour.”
“Black,” I said without pause.
He pulled it out and I laughed.
“This is happening.”
“Damn straight it is. Meet me downstairs in fifteen minutes. I want to hold you.”
He left me there.
In his bedroom.