Tobias was in his bedroom on the phone with Yasma when the doorbell rang. “Hold on, there’s someone at the door.” He placed the phone down on the table and went to answer the door. His heart leapt in his chest when he saw who it was.
“Hi,” Puah said when he opened the door. “May I come in?”
“Yes.” He stepped aside so that she could go in. After closing the door, he turned to face her. “You can go straight into the living-room. I will join you shortly. I’m on the phone with Yasma.”
Her face fell. “All right.” She followed him into the living-room and then he went inside what she presumed was his bedroom and closed the door. She went over to the sofa and sat down. That was the first time she had seen him wearing a dressing-gown. It looked expensive. She wondered if he was wearing anything underneath it. Her pulse and body reacted to the thought of him being stark naked.
Were he and Yasma making plans for later? She had come over to apologize for the way she behaved yesterday. She had acted out of jealousy. She hoped that it hadn’t made him change his mind about taking her and her grandmother to dinner. That was tomorrow evening. Tomorrow morning they were going to his church. She was a little nervous about that. She got up from the sofa and went over to the window to look out. She hoped he wouldn’t be much longer on the phone. She wished she could dislike Yasma but she couldn’t. She seemed like a really nice person.
“It’s Puah,” Tobias told Yasma when he resumed their call.
“That girl has a crush on you,” she teased him. “I saw the way she was looking and acting around you. It was obvious that she didn’t like me showing up. She wanted you all to herself. If she were ten years older, I would definitely have a problem with her hanging around you so much.”
“I’ve been answering Bible questions for her,” he replied. He didn’t mention the cake Puah had baked or that he was taking her and her grandmother to dinner the following evening.
“Are you sure she isn’t using the Bible as an excuse to see you?”
“No, I think she has real interest in learning more about the Bible,” he told her. “Besides, we’re just neighbors, nothing more.”
“Maybe she needs to hang out with neighbors or people closer to her age. I could always introduce her to Farid.” Farid was Yasma’s nineteen year old brother.
Tobias’s fingers gripped the receiver. “Puah isn’t interested in dating right now.”
“Maybe it’s because she has her eye on you. Make sure you aren’t encouraging her in any way.”
“I’m not,” he was quick to inform her. “Don’t worry, I can handle Puah.”
“Okay. Are we still on for tonight?”
“Yes. It’s six-thirty. I’ll be there by eight.”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you then. ‘Bye, Honey.”
“‘Bye.” He hung up. He opened the door and paused in the doorway. Should he change into something else? All he was wearing under the robe was his boxer shorts. He decided to keep on the robe. As soon as Puah left, he would take a quick shower. He walked down the passage and into the living-room. Puah was standing at the window but turned her head when she heard him.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen your bare calves,” she said, looking at them. “Are you wearing anything under that robe?”
He felt his face get hot. “I’m not naked underneath it if that’s what you’re wondering.”
She turned so that she was fully facing him and tried hard not to think about how much or how little he was wearing under the robe. “I–I came over to apologize for the way I acted yesterday.”
“You mean when you left soon after Yasma came?”
“Yes and my remark about not wanting keep you from your girlfriend. I’m sorry. It was very childish. My only excuse was that I was–I was jealous.”
“Yes. I’m jealous of Yasma.”
“You’re jealous of Yasma?”
She looked at him in exasperation. “Don’t sound so surprised, Tobias. You must have guessed by now how I feel about you.”
“Well, I know you have a crush on me—“
That made her seethe. She wanted to yell, No, you big Jerk, I don’t have a crush on you. I’m in love with you.” Instead, she said, “I just wanted to say that I was sorry to your face. Please tell Yasma that I left because I figured that she would prefer to be alone with you.”
“Puah, you really didn’t have to leave right away.”
“I didn’t want to stay, Tobias.”
“I guess not.”
“Well, I know that you probably have plans so, I’m not going to keep you.” She wished that he would tell her that he didn’t have any plans for that evening and ask her to stay. And after he changed, they would relax on the sofa and watch a movie or talk.
“Before you go, I wanted to let you know that I ate the slice of cake and it’s the best I have ever tasted. Thank you.”
She smiled then. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Are you and your grandmother still coming to church tomorrow?”
“Yes. And-and you’re still taking us out for dinner, right?”
Relieved, she moved away from the window. “I’d best be leaving now. I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Tobias.”
“Goodnight, Puah.” After she left, he closed the door and headed straight to the bathroom. He dragged his fingers through his hair, grimacing as the cold water beat down on him. If he hadn’t been wearing that robe, she would have seen just how much he was attracted to her.