How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace
- Elizabeth Barret Browning
The phone rang. The high-pitched ring tone pieced the stillness like staccato gun burst shattering my thoughts. At the fifth vibration, I picked it up.
“Hello?” I said drowsily opening an eye. You see, I’d been lying on the couch whiling the time away this Sunday noon.
“Dave!” the voice on the other end cooed like a dove’s.
“Julia!” I said instantly coming to total wakefulness. Infact, I mouthed her name as I yawned.
“Are you asleep or what?” her voice sounded incredulously surprised.
“Oh, no!” I said as I ‘meowed’ again.
“What did you say?”
“Just yawning,” I replied.
“Yearning for what?” she seemed puzzled unable to make me ‘put your act like a man.’
“For your petite face!” I tried my level best at humour saying thus.
There was a girlish giggle at the other end which made a wan smile splinter across my face.
I had met with Julia Wambui two weeks previously. It happened that I had booked myself a ticket for a long bus journey and got myself a seat at the aisle. The window seat was unoccupied, but its occupant had left a travel bag indicative of the seat being booked and alighted briefly.
When the ticket man declared the bus fully booked those of the passengers who had alighted reboarded as the bus’ horn trumpeted twice. My focus was then directed through the windshield as I relapsed in a world of own thoughts. I must say my sense of perception was jolted to a sudden reality when a divine comely ‘apparition’ seemed to float the aisle towards my direction. I opened my eyes wondrously wide to stare at a lady whose unearthly beauty seemed to stand out even in a crowd.
Thus was my gaze fixated upon the wearer of that face to notice the lady stand close to me and say, “excuse me, I’d like to get to my seat,” for by then, her presence and overpowering perfume intimidated me completely that I only saw her mouth make movements as she spoke.
She was beginning to repeat herself again when I suddenly realized I was her addressee and stammered an “Ah….” and made passage by drawing my legs backwards. My attempt at coherence was a whimper that needed to have been magnified a thousand decibels to be clearly understood.
And man, did she smile down at me as she passed!
I’ll not bore you with pertinent details of the journey except to say I found myself casting furtive glances her way, and, when our eyes happened to meet, I’d pretend to be staring at some vague objects far in the distance through the window.
Rather than keep with this idyllic behaviour and be the lady’s object of abhorrence, I pulled out a Louis L’Armour paperback and pretended concentration though I found myself staring at a blank page and corrected myself the instant I found that I was holding the book upside down.
That did it! The lady’s curiosity was prickled and in no time, the ice was broken!
“I see you’re reading a book. Can I please see the title?” It was such a polite question she asked with her singsong voice that could have rivaled a nightingale’s.
Our eyes locked briefly and my insides would have withered – what passionate looking eyes she had!
I passed the book to her and, our fingers touched!
The magical touch! A sensation coursed down my system as those silky smooth fingers touched mine! Did I say the moment was electric that my breath nearly drained out of the lungs and my manhood went stiff erect?
Her stare – and that stare! Completely unnerved me that I’d have blushed with embarrassment had she not tore her gaze away to stare at the book’s cover; and what such godsend moment as this to enable me steel myself for the forthcoming ‘onslaught’.
“Never read this author before,” she admitted having skimmed the book’s back-cover for the story’s overview.
She told me she was an avid book reader and at times contributed articles to the local press, mostly book reviews or some to do with literary criticism.
“I do read the papers and am sure I hadn’t come across… well, what did you say your name is?”
I braced myself awaiting the queenly lady to explode in indignation volunteering her name out to a ‘shameless’ stranger like I, but, surprise of surprises, she answered me with a smile.
I squirmed in my seat and spurned my head around. My surprised gaze met hers, and, to help accentuate my vision, I opened my mouth wide.
“Julia who! No, you can’t be!” I suddenly said and the passengers in front seats turned their heads back to stare at me.
I didn’t realize then I had spoken out loudly and my voice boomed and rattled the nearby windows.
Julia Wambui is an accomplished writer with many literary awards to boot. Her name reads like a who’s who in Kenyan list of femme fatale writers who had tested the waters in the perceived male domains and emerged tops.
“What irks you to disbelief?” she asked.
“I can’t believe I’m seating next to a writer of some acclaim in a public service transport when she’d be chauffeured around in her, lets see, a Rolls Royce, a top of range Mercedes or a limousine of sorts!” I almost exploded at her face.
“You see, er…what’s your name?”
“Dave Kinyanjui,” I gave her the first false names that naturally came to me.
“You see, Dave, you’ve to realize that this’ Kenya and writing isn’t that rewarding and authors do not live in your imagined opulence. That’s the reality!”
“But with your many collected awards! You’d be flying planes not being here in hoi polloi’s means of transport!” I chortled out.
“Some are mere papers or plaques given as an honour to some outstanding writers and carries no monetary value!” she interjected.
We sat in silence as the bus noisily changed gears and sputtered uphill.
I stole a glance at her from the corner of my eye. Her hair was expensively styled. Her clothes bespoke of a woman of substance. The perfume she wore must have cost her a fortune.
And she was saying writing pays peanuts when she could stand out in a crowd with her bourgeoisie looks!
Then something puzzled me. During our brief exchange, she hadn’t shown any hint of an interest in me nor even queried a bit about me as women are wont to do.
Who was this Julia Wambui with her good looks that would drive many a man berserk at the mere look of her amorous body?
Then it clicked! This may be a high class commercial worker weaving me in a tandem of ‘intellectual’ lies to draw me to her as light does to a moth and who, before long, would suck me dead financially.
But was she?
To be continued.
If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Sunday 20th of March 2011 and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week on Monday 21th March. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.