“So, you like this boy?”
“No dad. I’m in love with him.”
Chris gave a short laugh.
“You say it like there’s a world of difference between the two.”
His daughter was now frowning her upturned face at him.
“You know, during my time we never used “in love” except when it was a really heated relationship. And yeah, when we were also much older. You know, marriage kind of older.”
He put on a smile just as Christy’s smile burst into her most outrageous girly laugh.
“Dad, you sure can’t be serious.”
She laughed again, while he tried very hard to keep the smile on.
“Come on! I sure won’t be talking marriage for like another ten years!”
“Don’t say that. Your mum and I got married when she was five years older than you are now. And she had you a year later.”
Christy was now grinning like a Cheshire cat while her dad continued.
“And I still think twenty one’s the ideal age for a girl to get married.”
Her grin blossomed into a smile.
“That means you dragged mum to the altar a year too early.”
Chris couldn’t hide his shock as he shot a quick look at his daughter.
He looked away only because her smile was too sweet. It was exactly like her mother’s. The one that had him dragging her to the altar a year too early. He laughed in his heart. It sure would have been a couple more years earlier if he’d had his way.
“Dad, there’s no way I’m getting married at twenty-one. I’ll just be graduating from the university, probably halfway through my service year or something. I would barely know how to play wife. I mean, no one gets married at that age anymore. Or does anyone?”
It was Chris’s turn to laugh. And he let it out long and hard.
The flicker of doubt which had crossed his daughter’s face just before she blurted out that question was unmistakably what it was. And it was grandiosely hilarious to see it on the face of someone who was usually always so sure of herself and of her perception of everything.
He placed an arm around her slender shoulders.
“Tell me about this boy; this love thing you got going.”
She pouted and gave him one of her looks of suspicion. His smile didn’t fade. She parted her lips to speak and she was all glowingly so sure of herself again.
“You know, when you like a boy it’s probably just that he’s cute and is probably real good company. You know, knows what to say and just when to say it. So, I certainly don’t just like Hassan.
When you’re in love with a guy, like I am…”
Two raised index fingers reinforced the emphasis, and then she sighed.
“Oh. How do I explain this, dad?
It’s like I could kill for him ….”
“Wow, wow. Slow down girl. Don’t you think that’s a little extreme. Somebody dies who offends the boy and we got the police coming for you .”
“Dad, it’s not funny.”
He saw the glow in his daughter as she clenched her fists in exasperation and all he could think about was how much he’d like to make this love of hers know just how badly he would hurt him if ever he made her experience the flip side of the coin she was right now so swallowed up in.
But what was he thinking? She was barely fifteen.
At that moment, he heard the screen door on the side of house slam shot. He only had to turn his head a little to catch sight of Deola strolling towards them . Her honey milk skin contrasted so sharply with the dark blue of the gown which was being moulded unto her slender frame by the evening ocean breeze. He had only meant to glance and didn’t realise he’d been staring – her approaching figure seemingly making music with the wind as she walked; until Christy triumphantly exclaimed “That’s exactly how it feels!”.
He glanced at Christy’s ecstatic face and back at Deola who was now on one of the winding garden paths. From the corner of his eye he saw Christy slip off the garden bench and break into a light run in the direction of the garden shed. He let his eyes turn back towards Deola, his attention completely swallowed up by her presence.
“And where’s Christy suddenly run off to?”
The beauty of her articulation never ceased to please him. There was no accent to her speech. However, her intonation was as unique as her being. She spoke like some people sang. It made him wonder how it seemed that his native city, Warri, had rubbed off more on her than it had on him.
“I guess you scared her off, like you always do.”
A burst of pearly laughter, no different from Christy’s.
“Sometimes Chris, it feels like I’m sharing you with her. Did I interrupt one of those your adult conversations?”
She was now right in front him, her right hand stretching forth to brush against his cheek and linger ever so briefly on his chin. He caught her glance in the direction of the shed where he was sure Christy was hurriedly washing garden dirt off her arms and boots.
He allowed a slight worry frown settle on his face. Deola noticed and frowned too.
“I’m a little uncomfortable with this her love for Hassan. It’s more than a little intense.”
Deola giggled like a little girl, reminding him again how much their eldest daughter was taking after her.
“And she’s not even telling you the half of it. You won’t believe she chided him for looking admiringly at me last weekend when he came visiting.”
Deola was smiling irrepressibly.
“The boy was forced to beg me to explain to Christy how it was a compliment to her.”
Chris actually raised an eyebrow “How so?”
“You should see the look on your face right now.” Again, her pearly laughter enriched the evening air.
“It’s definitely you she got the jealousy from .”
“Don’t pull that stunt on me, woman. I know what they say about a girl’s mother being a mirror into the girl’s future, still I would draw a line on staring at your girlfriend’s mother that way.”
“What way?” Deola couldn’t help laughing again at Chris’s obvious struggle with emotions she could not right now clearly identify.
“You sure weren’t there, so you can’t seriously be taking Christy’s side on this one.”
The way she was laughing and her body dancing ever so slightly to the wind made him badly want to pull her unto his thighs and then seriously do things to her. But there were factors to be considered. And one of those factors reasserted itself just as he caved in.
Deola was tumbling into Chris’s arms when Christy reached the garden bench. She hadn’t seen his hand move to grab hers, still she allowed the thrill of the spin elate her and couldn’t resist the excitement which surged through her body as her thighs crashed into the muscles of his . The hardness of his body always had that effect on her. She was laughing freely, thinking to herself just how right their friends were about their constantly carrying on like they were newlyweds.
Chris spotted Christy first. He’d earlier projected that he had roughly a three-minute window; enough time to take his wife from excited pearly laughter to sound ranges of a much deeper timbre.
Christy’s straight face was so not straight, he couldn’t help feeling embarrassed at his miscalculation.
“Dad, I think I’ll be borrowing mum for a while. She came to get me to go help with dinner.”
She was already pulling her mother away by the arm as she spoke, refusing to look directly at either of them, her straight face stubbornly pointed in the direction of the house.
“It’s an all girl tingy, so could you please help us keep Maro away.”
Deola shrugged somewhere in between giggling and laughing intermittently. She somehow managed to plant a light kiss on his lips in the midst of her being whisked away, as girly a smile as he’d ever seen lingering on her face.
Chris rose to his feet as he watched his wife and daughter meander with the garden path away from him, their mixed laughter and giggles a kind of music.
His heart ached.
For both of them, he would kill without hesitation, without regret.
She was barely fifteen and she knew what it felt like.