Posts tagged “date

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 31

Posted on 01/05/2015

cafe

Even as the other messages played on, Samina stared out the window, reeling over the word. Love. It sent warm thrills down her spine just replaying his voice form the word. Ezekiel loved her!

Then her brow furrowed, the warm feeling gone. What kind of love did he mean? Was it just the love of a sibling since they practically grew up together? She bit her bottom lip, realizing she’d rejoiced all too quickly. Annoyance surged through her body and she leaned back in the seat.

But before she could decipher Ezekiel’s unexpected confession, her phone rang. Looking down, her eyes widened and panic shot through her veins. Ezekiel’s caller id flashed on the screen.

Heart thumping a mile a minute, Samina’s finger inched to the answer button. His last words echoed in her head and she hesitated. What if he really just meant that he loved her like a sister?

Squeezing her eyes shut, she pressed the button and pulled the phone to her ear. “H-hello?”

There was a slight pause and then. “Good morning Sam. You’re back yet?”

Heat flooded her cheeks. “Yes… just got in.” Her pulse was racing so fast, she was worried he could hear it and leaned away from the phone. “H-how are you?”

“I’m fine. How was your vacation? Good?”

Samina gnawed the inside of her cheek. “Uh-hmm.”

“That’s good.”

She pulled in her bottom lip. “Um…”

“Yes?”

Samina frowned. “You wanted something?”

“Oh right.” Ezekiel laughed softly, the sound sending warm shivers down her back. “I called you, didn’t I?”

Something was strangely awkward about this conversation. Samina pulled at her lip. “Is everything okay?”

“Sure. Did you get my messages?”

Goosebumps skittered along her arms. Samina licked her sudden dry lips. “Y-yes.”

“All of them?”

She sat up. “Uh-hmm.”

“Can I see you today?”

Her heartbeat skittered at the softly-spoken request. “Today?” She grimaced at her breathless reply.

“Yeah, may I?”

Samina paused in contemplation. Meeting Ezekiel could verify her suspicions, could finally settle her conflicting feelings for him. It would also bid her time before meeting with her family, delaying the lectures even just for a few hours. She nodded, making up her mind. “Okay. What time?”

“Are you busy now? We can do an early lunch.”

Her empty stomach growled on cue and Samina’s cheeks heated, mortified. Hopefully he didn’t hear that. “Um okay, that’s fine.”

“Great.” His smile invoked hers, though apprehension slinked in as she noted the address to meet him around noon. “I’ll see you soon, Sam.”

“Yes,” she answered stiffly and disconnected the call, leaning back in her seat.  Her heart still hadn’t calmed down by the time she reached the highway and Samina wondered if meeting Ezekiel so soon after his confession was a good idea.

There was no time to rethink it. No time to turn back. She sat in the parking lot of one of the restaurants they’d frequented in primary school days.

She could see him from the window, in a booth. From where she sat in her car, she could see the furrowed lines in his brow; watched him shift to find a comfortable spot in the booth and adjust the salt and pepper shake bottles. He seemed as nervous as she felt, like they were just meeting for the first time.

Like this was some date.

Samina would’ve laughed at the absurdity if it wasn’t happening to her, right now.

Drawing in a deep inward breath, Samina glanced at the mirror to check her hair and light makeup. She told herself she wasn’t primping for him. That it was circumstances that forced her to mask the dark circles under her eyes and her dry face and lips.

“Relax,” she mumbled, checking her reflection one last time. Then she stepped out of the car.

At the same time, Ezekiel glanced out the window and saw her.

Samina froze.

Ezekiel smiled and waved her over.

She drew in another breath and released it slowly. “Relax,” she said through her teeth and managed a smile, making her way to the front door.

Ezekiel met her at the door, eyes warm and searching as it swept her face.

Samina’s face heated, taken back by the difference in his gaze. She was reminded once again by his words. I love you, Sam.

“Hi.” Such a simple word but filled with much more.

She drew in her bottom lip and squeezed the strap of her purse. “Hi.”

Then he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her.

Samina bit back a gasp, eyes wide as he folded her in his embrace. He was all solid, warm muscle and her body couldn’t help melting against him. Tears gathered in her eyes as she leaned into him. Where was he when she lay scared and alone in the hospital? If only he’d spoken with her sooner?

Then Ezekiel leaned back and Samina quickly composed herself before his gaze slid to her face. His expression was rueful, the corner of his mouth lifted in a gentle, tentative smile. “Forgive me?”

She blinked. Was he rescinding his words already? “Forgive you for what?”

“For being a jerk.” His hands still remained on her shoulders, eyes riveted to hers. “I was a complete boor that night. I was jealous about something false and acted like an idiot.” He squeezed her shoulders. “Forgive me?”

Samina stared at him, lips parted in surprise. Ezekiel was jealous?

His smile brightened and he slid one arm around her shoulders. “Come. I’m keeping you hungry. Let’s eat and we’ll talk some more.” He led her toward their booth. “If you don’t mind, I already ordered for us both. Turkey and bacon club sandwich, right?”

Samina couldn’t stop staring at him as he slid across the booth from her. He remembered her favorite lunch order.

One brow arched, his smile waning a little. “Has it changed?”

She shook her head, offering him a gentle smile of her own. “It’s the same.”

“Good.” His eyes crinkled at the sides, making him look remarkably boyish; as though he was twenty and she a shy sixteen-year-old crushing all over again.

Her body warmed all over and she leaned back in the seat, intent to enjoy a simple lunch with Ezekiel. And they did. He teased her on their first and last trips to this very restaurant, surprising her that this was the very booth they sat in all those years. She laughed, impressed that he remembered, warmed by his gentle smile and kind eyes. Even though his intentions were unclear for now, it was comfortable revisiting fun memories of their childhood.

“Sam,” he sobered after a bout of laughter over yet another fond memory. “I meant what I said earlier.”

She swallowed a laugh, feeling Ezekiel’s steady gaze on her face.

His lips twitched a smile. “I know you must’ve been surprised by it.”

Samina gnawed the inside of her cheek, words caught in her throat.

Ezekiel nudged his plate to one side. Then he reached across the table, pushing hers aside also. His fingers sought hers.

She inhaled sharply and Ezekiel’s eyes skittered up to hers. Her face fired up, seeing the truth there. Her pulse hammered and she started to pull her hands away for fear he would feel it against his thumbs.

Ezekiel held fast, gaze unwavering. “Sam… I do love you and I want to date you.”

Her eyes grew wide as tea saucers.

“Can I?” His thumbs grazed the insides of her wrists, his touch rendering her speechless if his words didn’t already.

<<Chapter 30 || Chapter 32>>

Samina’s Chance: Chapter 25

Posted on 23/04/2015

street2

“Well hello humidity and smog,” James drawled, leaning back into the cushioned passenger’s seat of Ezekiel’s car. His mouth twisted in plain discontent over the slow-moving cars. “And of course, horrible traffic.”

Ezekiel smirked, switching on the signal to make a right turn. “Like D.C. is any better.”

James scoffed, peering out the window at the cloudy sky. “Well at least our weather isn’t as temperamental.”

“Our?” Ezekiel chuckled, giving his friend a cursory glance. “Do I need to remind you this was once your home?”

James threw Ezekiel a scowl. “Don’t tell me you’re already used to it.”

“It’s not that bad.” Ezekiel shrugged, turning the car onto Louisiana Street. “It’s home.” He slammed on the brakes as a Metro bus swerved into his lane.

“Sure it is…” James snorted derisively, clocking his friend’s tight jaw. Shaking his head, he scanned the bustling lunch-hour crowd strolling down the street. He surveyed the eclectic mix of historic brick buildings jammed between modern-styled steel-framed lofts.

“You’ll be surprised how many people migrate to Houston on a daily,” Ezekiel remarked, slowing to a stop at the intersection. “Especially when places like Downtown are evolving to look like places in downtown D.C. and even some places in Chicago.”

James threw him an exasperated glance. “So you took a part-time job as a tour guide on your free time. Save the speech, will you? I’ve lived in Houston long enough to know not to return here.”

Ezekiel laughed, draping his hands over the steering wheel. “Never say never… Besides, D.C.’s summers can get as hot as Houston’s.”

“Bite your tongue. No summers are worse than Hou—” He trailed off, eyes focused on the pedestrians crossing the street in front of their car. “Well, I’ll be…” he breathed, a smile lifting his lips.

“Changing your mind already?” Ezekiel muttered dryly, adjusting the collar of his polo shirt.

“Yeah right.” James choked out an incredulous laugh. “You won’t believe who I just saw.”

“Who, an old girlfriend from high school?” Ezekiel eased off the brakes and continued on Louisiana Street, breathing a sigh of relief when the Metro bus turned on the next street. He sped up a little.

James chuckled. “Samina.”

Ezekiel jerked on the brakes. A drawn-out car horn screeched behind him. Ignoring it for a moment, he snuck a look at his rear view mirror and would’ve turned fully around if it wasn’t for the weight of James’ astute gaze on his face.

“You okay, man?” James’ voice hinted restrained mirth at his reaction.

Clearing his throat, he eased off the brakes and continued on. “Sure it was her?” he managed to ask as nonchalantly as he could.

“Positive.” James folded his arms. “I’ll spare you the suspense. She looks good.”

“I guess…” His teeth clenched at James’ delight on his expense, Ezekiel couldn’t help picturing her in her surprise birthday party. The yellow sheath dress that accentuated the coffee tones of her skin.

“You guess?” James mocked, snorting a laugh. “Well, it looks like she’s out on a lunch date with someone.”

“Date?” he echoed softly. Samina out on a date? Ezekiel scowled as a biker swung onto the astonishingly-narrow lane beside him. Nothing was going his way today.

James smirked at the hitch in Ezekiel’s baritone voice. “Looked like it. She was walking with a tall dude.”

A frown marred his brow. “Maybe it was her dad. Uncle Gabe’s a tall guy.”

“Uh, hate to break it to you, compadre… that wasn’t her dad. Except if by some groundbreaking new technology, he’s become thirty years younger, taller, more toned and lighter in complexion.”

Ezekiel’s scowl darkened, imagining the faceless man James just described as Samina’s companion. He didn’t like what he saw. “I see…” he managed, not knowing what else to say.

“Indeed,” James replied, amusement clear in his voice. And without another word, James returned to people-watching, openly listing the differences between Houston and D.C.

Tuning out his friend, Ezekiel scowled as yet another cyclist swerved around him. He sat up in his seat and shoved aside the nagging thoughts of Samina in the company of a younger man, knowing all the while that he couldn’t delay any longer.

Samina sighed as Topher closed her door and hurried around the front to enter the car. “Really, you didn’t need to pick me up,” she said, tugging the seat-belt across her lap. “I could’ve driven myself there. It wasn’t far from my work.”

Joy surged through her at the thought of working again. Yes, “work” at the House of Hope was more of a volunteer job but it still felt good leaving the house, driving with other Houstonians heading to work. She had her own cubicle and her business cards were on order!

Topher smiled at the serene look on her face. “I wanted to surprise you. Is that a crime?” He turned on the engine and put the car in reverse.

She shrugged. “Not a crime but unnecessary. You didn’t need to waste time coming to pick me up.”

“Oh it’s worth it.” He reversed onto the cross street, tossing her a bright smile. “Definitely worth it.”

Samina’s face fired at the knowing twinkle in his eye and looked away, watching the buildings blur as Topher entered the main street.

“So, Ms. Wells…” Topher spoke up in the silence. “How’s work so far?”

His question coaxed a smile and she turned to face him. “I like it,” she answered honestly.

“It fits you,” Topher answered, tossing her a glance.

Samina raised a brow, surprised at his confident tone. “You think so?”

He dipped his head, a slight dimple appearing at the corner of his mouth. “Oh definitely.” He smiled to punctuate his words. “You’re kind, conscientious, generous, talented, determined. And you have an uncanny protective quality that I’m sure they’ll appreciate there.”

She lifted her head. “Uncanny?”

“Mother Hen-esque quality.”

Samina scoffed out an incredulous laugh. “Mother Hen-esque?”

He grinned, eyes dancing playfully. “It’s one thing I like about you.”

Her face heated as he flashed his straight pearly whites at her before facing the road. “Thanks?”

“Oh, you’re most welcome, Ms. Wells.”

The hum of traffic filled the silence as they took the circuitous route in Downtown Houston. Then Samina frowned, turning to face him. “Those things you said earlier…”

“Compliments?” he offered, eyes on the road. “I meant them.”

Her cheeks tingled. “It seemed too easily said…” She wouldn’t readily admit that it wasn’t often anyone complimented her on anything.

He tossed her a look before smiling. “Can I be honest with you?”

Samina’s shoulders stiffened and she braced herself. “Sure…”

“When I meet someone, I make a list.”

Her brow furrowed. “A list.”

“Hmm,” he bobbed his head. “A list of qualities I like and dislike about a person.” He turned to look at her. “After five years, I’ve developed a list for you too.”

She raised a brow, curious what bad things were on the list. “Go on.”

Topher chuckled softly. “Let’s just say your good outweighs the bad, by far.” He slowed the car at a traffic light. “You know, it’s a strange coincidence that our families are from the same town. Abbeville.”

She smirked, noting his deflection. “It is strange.”

“I’m inclined to say it’s more like fate. Destiny…” He flashed her a crooked grin.

Samina rolled her eyes at the suggestion. “Actually only my dad’s from Abbeville. And besides, you’ve never mentioned anything about your parents.”

“You never asked,” he countered, pulling the car onto another street. “Actually, I never met either of them. Nadine’s the only one I’ve known all my life. All I know is that my folks met when they were kids, got together in college and had me. At least that’s all Nadine says. I know nothing about my father.”

Her heart squeezed tight, her eyes roaming over his striking profile. “What was your mother’s name?” her voice was soft, hesitant.

His lips curved in a half smile. “Odetta Chance…”

“Odetta Chance.” Samina smiled. “Very pretty name.”

Topher winked. “Not as beautiful as Samina. Your name is exotic yet homely.” He chuckled when she rolled his eyes at him. He faced the road again just as a cyclist swerved around him. “So… after the wedding, I’ll be heading back to Montreal.”

Samina frowned at a fleeting twinge in her chest. “When will you return?”

Topher smirked, glancing her way. “That question means you’ll miss me then?”

She pressed her lips together and quickly faced the window.

“I’m teasing,” he cajoled, nudging her hand with his.

At his unexpected touch, a warm shiver zinged up her arm. Swallowing a gasp, she quickly shifted her hand away.

He merely smiled, pulling into an open parking spot in front of a Mediterranean grille café. Without unbuckling his seatbelt, he turned to face her. “Samina…”

The solemnity in his voice coaxed her to look his way. When she did, Samina blinked at the intensity in his gaze. “Y-yes?”

His eyes swept over her face, a corner of his lips lifted. “I hope you’re aware how serious I am about you.”

Samina couldn’t breathe or move a muscle. She could only stare, overwhelmed by the intensity of his gaze burning into her.

Then his fingers grazed her wrist and the warmth from his touch traveled up her arm and along her shoulders. Involuntarily, her fingers curled into her palms and his eyes darted up to hers.

Samina swallowed hard, unable to look away.  “I…” she began, her throat clogged with emotion.

His fingers curled around her slight wrist, Topher offered her an encouraging smile to continue.

“Nadine…” she choked out. “H-How is she?” And before she did something crazy like lean into him again, Samina tugged her hand from his.

Topher smiled. “Doing a lot better. Hopefully, she’ll be at the wedding and would like to see you before we leave.” Then he unbuckled his seat-belt. “Let’s get some food in you so I can take you back to work. Don’t want you getting in trouble on your first week there.”

Samina nodded, bewildered by her wanton response to his touch.

As they settled in a booth at the corner of the restaurant and ordered their meals, Topher adjusted his long legs, his knees brushing against Samina’s. “Sorry…” he muttered, shifting his legs.

She shrugged silently and turned away to scan the restaurant hall, aware of his gaze on her. Unable to stand it, she tossed him an exasperated look. “What is it?”

He merely shook his head, a contented smile playing on his lips. He leaned back and draped one arm casually on the top of the chair.

Uncomfortable under his open perusal, Samina dropped her gaze to the unlit candle before them.

“Can I ask you a question?”

She slanted him a glare. “Do I have a choice?”

His lips twitched in amusement. “You always have a choice, Samina. But could I ask anyway?”

She kicked a shoulder, looking down. “Go ahead.”

“What do you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?”

Samina frowned up at him. “Pardon?”

Topher tilted his head, studying her with those gray-green eyes. “What are your aspirations and dreams?”

She scoffed incredulously. “What, are you a counselor?”

He smiled, gesturing her to answer.

Samina blew out a sigh. “Aspirations…” She smiled wistfully as if recalling a thought from a long time ago. “To be a world-renown artist.”

Topher’s brows lifted in surprise. “Really?”

Just then, a waiter returned with two plates of pesto grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. Once he thanked the waiter and watched him leave, Topher turned back to Samina. “Artist as in drawing and painting?”

She reached for her frosted glass of water. “Yeah.”

“Like Picasso or Michelangelo?” he lifted the glass to his lips.

Samina paused to sip the cold water before responding. “Not quite, but yeah.”

“I bet you’re as good as them.” He then reached across the table, hands open to her. “Let’s pray.”

At his softly-spoken mandate, Samina felt her cheeks warm and she placed her hands in his. The strange sensation returned, skittering along her skin like electricity as his fingers wrapped around her palm.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she listened in silent reverence as he said a soft prayer, blessing their food and their families. Her eyes teared up as he prayed for their health and her chest squeezed tight, recalling Dr. Halliday’s urging to prepare for next week’s surgery.

Once they whispered their shared amen, Samina quickly slipped her hands from his before losing all composure.

Topher made no mention of her discomfort and lifted his fork. “So did you ever fulfill any of your aspirations, Ms. Artiste?”

Samina smirked, cutting a piece of grilled chicken. “I wouldn’t be sitting here, if I did.” She grimaced at the bitter undertone. “Sorry, that didn’t sound very nice.”

“It’s alright,” Topher chewed on a steamed stem of broccoli. “So what made it impossible to fulfill? I thought you were an art teacher in college?” He grinned unapologetic at her raised brow. “Jaxson has a big mouth.”

She kicked a shoulder. “There was no opportunity. Hard to break into that kind of business.”

“How come? Art fairs, flea markets…”

Samina inclined her head. “Flea markets?”

“What, don’t like them?”

“Never really thought about them.”

“You think it’s only for weird people?”

Her eyes widened, cheeks blazing at the amusement dancing in his gray-green eyes.

Topher chuckled. “You’ll be surprised the talent in a typical flea market.”

Samina hesitated replying, envisioning a pen of clucking chickens and a mystical tent.

Topher chuckled. “How about you come with me once next week?”

She frowned. Her plans for next week consisted of a week-long escape to a hotel to recuperate from the surgery. She couldn’t afford traipsing through a flea market with anyone. “I don’t know…”

“C’mon, Samina. What d’you got to lose?”

Sighing, Samina warily eyed his boyish grin. Maybe the surgery wouldn’t be as bad. Maybe Topher had something worth checking out. “What day?” she heard herself ask.

<<Chapter 24 || Chapter 26>>

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