Bumping into Karine

It was Wednesday evening. He had come home two hours ago, showered, changed and had dinner. He was on his chatting with his mother through What’s App while checking his emails. His father wasn’t at home. “He’ll be sorry that he missed you,” she said.

“I’ll call again over the weekend. How are you and he doing, Ma?”

“We’re both doing fine. What about you? Are you still eating like a rabbit?”

“No, Ma. I’m eating very well.”

“So, how do you like your job?”

“I like it very much.” He was sure he had told her that the last time she asked. “The people are nice.”

“Are there just Chinese working there?”

“No, Ma. I told you that Kenyans work there too.”

“How do you find them?”

“They’re very nice, very friendly.”

“Is it true about the Cursed pens and bleeding paper?”

He sighed. “No, Ma, it isn’t true. They use regular pens and paper.”

“Humph! I still think they dibble dabble in witchcraft. Be extra careful whenever you’re around them.”

Ma!”

“Don’t you raise your voice at me, young man.”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t like it when you make derogatory remarks about the Kenyans.”

“Fine. I won’t mention them to you again.”

He didn’t answer.

“Are there any single Chinese women at the office?”

“Yes.” He mentioned a few, including Michelle.

“Do you like any of them?”

“Ma, I’m not sure that the company allows employees to date one another.”

“I don’t see why they won’t.”

“Well, I don’t think I would feel comfortable dating someone I worked with.”

“Why don’t you give it a try and see instead of assuming that you won’t like it?”

“Ma,” he started to protest when his cell rang. “Hang on, Ma. I’ve got another call.” He put the cell down beside the laptop and got up to answer the phone. It was Mr. Chang. “Please hold for a moment, Sir.” He rested the receiver down and hurried back over to the sofa to grab his cell. “Ma, I have to go. It’s my boss.”

“You mean the one who’s from Shanghai and is married to a South African?”

“Yes, Ma. I’ve got to go. I’ll call you and Dad over the weekend. Love you.” He ended the call and hurried back to take the call from Mr. Chang. “I’m sorry, Sir. I was on another call.”

“I hope I’m not calling at a bad time.”

“No, no. You’re not,” Jason quickly assured him.

“This isn’t a business call,” Mr. Chang was quick to inform him. “My wife was wondering if you would like to have dinner with us on Sunday evening.”

“Yes, I would like that, Sir. Thank you.”

“Good. Michelle can bring you.”

“Michelle?”

“Yes. She was invited the moment I told my wife that you were single.”

“Oh.”

“I warned you about my wife’s match-making schemes, didn’t I?”

“Isn’t there a company policy against employees dating each other?”

“Maybe there should be but, there isn’t. Don’t worry about it. You’re under no obligation to have more than a working relationship with Michelle although, she’s a terrific woman.”

“What time would you like me–us to be there?”

“Dinner is at eight sharp so be here by seven-thirty the latest.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I suppose I could have waited to ask you tomorrow at the office but I thought I would do it now and get it out of the way.”

“I’m looking forward to meeting your wife, Sir. I can thank her in person for stocking up my apartment.”

“She’s looking forward to meeting you too. Well, I’d better sign off now as we’re about to have dinner. I’ll see you in the morning. Goodbye, Jason.”

“Goodbye, Sir.” He ended the call and then returned to his laptop. Half hour later, he powered it off and closed it. He got up and stretched. The evening was still young. He decided that he would go for a walk.

Today was Wednesday. He had passed by the tennis court yesterday, hoping to see her but she wasn’t there. Maybe she would be there today. He brushed his hair, straightened his clothes and left the apartment.

He headed straight for the tennis court, his heart sinking when he saw a group of people and that she wasn’t among them. He walked past and went for his usual walk, hoping that when he passed back, she would be there. She wasn’t.

Ever since he saw her for the first time on Monday, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her and wondering if he would see her again. He wanted to know her name and find out if she was married or dating. If she wasn’t married or dating, he would ask her to have dinner with him. His mother would have a fit if she knew that he was deeply attracted to a Kenyan woman. She would probably accuse her of casting a spell on him and want to have her arrested for practicing witchcraft.

He returned to the building, chatted with Gatimu for a little while and then he went over to the elevators. He stepped inside and after pressing the button for his floor, he leaned against the wall. The doors were closing when they opened again and his heart lurched when she stepped in. His heart immediately began to beat faster and he could feel his face getting hot.

She smiled when she saw him. “Hello, Jason Cheng,” she greeted him in English. She pressed the button for her floor and then one for the elevator door to close before turning to face him, her head titled back slightly as she studied him.

He was surprised and pleased that she remembered his name. “Hello.”

“So, how are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you. And you?”

“Fine, thank you.”

“You live here?”

“Yes. I’ve been living here for about seven years now. I like the building, the area, the tennis court and the people.”

“I went by the tennis court yesterday and today but I didn’t see you.”

“You wanted to see me play again?”

“I wanted to see you again.”

“I told you that we’re going to see more of each other.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Which floor are you on?”

He told her.

“I’m two floors below you.”

“What’s your name?”

“Karine Otieno.”

Mrs. Otieno?” he asked, dreading the answer.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is large-1606212178-8aac7abf8bd1bf416abeb3076a4d3179.jpg

“No. Ms. Otieno.”

“So, you aren’t married. What about a boyfriend?”

“I don’t have one of those either. What about you, Jason Cheung? Do you have a wife or a girlfriend?”

“Neither. I’m single.”

“That’s good to know. So, are you up for a friendly game of ping pong tomorrow?”

He nodded. “Sure.”

“Great. We’ll go to the St. Teresa Table Tennis Club. Do you have a car?”

“No, but I’m planning to get one next week.”

“I’ll drive then. Meet me in the lobby at seven.”

“Okay.”

“If you can’t make it, call me. Here’s my number.” She handed him a business card with her private number written on the back.

“I’ll make it,” he assured her as he put the card in his breast pocket.

“Great. Well, this is where I get off. Good night, Jason Cheung.”

“Good night, Karine.”

She stepped out of the elevator and turned and smiled at him, making his heart skip a beat before she disappeared from view. The doors closed and the elevator ascended to his floor. He was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow and when the moment was right, he would ask her to have dinner with him on Saturday.

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