Kate and Chris stared at each other, and for a moment it was like there was no one else in the room. Deji and Mma Ette seemed to have faded into the background as all the memories of their time in Akwa-Ibom came crashing down on Kate in waves; a tsunami of raw emotion that threatened to bury her under and leave her gasping for breath.
“Hello, Kate.” Chris said, his voice breaking her out of her shock. His face was impassive, stiff as a board. She had no idea what thoughts were roiling inside his head, and given their last encounter, she didn’t wish to know. “I should have been here yesterday with this package for you, but I got into Lagos late…”
“Hello Chris…” Kate had finally found her voice. “How are you?”
There was an awkward silence as some traces of emotion writhed in Chris’s face. Kate felt mortified at her question. It had been an impulsive one, borne out of a genuine concern for the manner in which she had left him the last time they saw in Akwa-Ibom. But it was hardly the right time for that question.
“I’m okay.” Chris muttered, his expression returning to its former stillness.
She turned around as Deji coughed slightly behind her.
“Er…i’ll just leave you two to it.” Deji said, a sardonic smile on his face.
Kate tried to keep her friend there with her eyes. The last thing she wanted was to be alone with Chris at that moment.
Don’t you dare leave me alone , her eyes warned. I need you here.
Deji ignored the plea in his friend’s eyes and his grin widened as he turned to Chris. “Nice to see you again, Chris.”
Chris cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable. “Same here, Deji.”
Deji threw one more look at Kate, winked and then darted out through the curtains through which they had come, leaving Kate alone to her fate.
Kate took a deep breath and faced Chris squarely. Excuses and pleas stuck to the back of her throat. How could she explain away her behavior to him?
They both started speaking simultaneously and faltered to a stop at the same time.
Chris took a deep breath and started again. “Kate, I didn’t come here to talk about us. There are no us. I came here to deliver this to you and make sure it was not intercepted. I had business in Lagos and since it’s a highly confidential document, so I volunteered to get it to you.”
Kate had zoned out after hearing “There is no us.” It had struck her in the heart like a razored shard of ice, but she deserved to hear nothing less than that.
Chris walked towards her and stretched the envelope in his hand forward. “Here. My errand is done. Please go through the documents and let them know when you can make it back to Akwa-Ibom for the reading…”
The unique scent of Chris’s cologne surrounded Kate as she curled her hand around the envelope, her breath hitching in her throat when their hands mistakenly touched. Chris pulled away as though he had been stung by something poisonous. His reaction left Kate shaken. Did he now hate her that much?
“I have to go.” Chris said quickly, making his way around her. “I have to meet someone and I’m already late.”
An irrational spike of jealousy ran through Kate. Was she meeting a woman? She winced, filled with chagrin. If he was, how was it any of her business anyway?
Her lips tightened and she tucked the envelope closer to her chest. “Alright, Chris. Thank you for bringing me the document. I’ll go through it and get back to the Itah and Associates office.”
Chris nodded and kept walking. He suddenly stopped at the door that led out of the living room. “Will you be returning to Akwa-Ibom?” he asked, his tone flippant.
Kate turned around and looked at him steadily, trying in vain to read the motive behind the question. “I’m not sure. Why are you asking?”
“I need to know, so I’ll decide if I will be there or not.” Chris said.
The message behind his tone was unclear.
“Are you saying you want to be there if I am? Or are you saying you won’t be if I decide to be?”
Chris turned slightly to look at her, and she finally saw anger smouldering in his eyes. “Isn’t it obvious, Kate? You don’t want me around you, and I plan to make sure I don’t get in your way. You know what? I didn’t come here for this. Let the office know, and I’ll get the info from them.”
Kate opened her mouth to protest, but his abrupt goodbye cut her off.
“Goodbye Kate. Enjoy your day.”
Kate watched the curtains rustle close behind him and listened as his footfalls faded. Her heart was racing in her chest, something within her on the verge of panic. Seeing Chris had made her question every decision she had made about what they could be.
Should she run after him? Should she tell him she had made a mistake? Would he forgive her?