Boris was out taking a walk. It was early evening. He had stopped by Tulia’s apartment to see if she wanted to join him but she wasn’t there. Too bad. It would have been nice. He thoroughly enjoyed her company. They had been seeing each other regularly for several months now.
As he walked in the direction of the park, he recalled their conversation last night. They were at her place and had just finished having dinner and were relaxing on the sofa. In the background, the stereo was playing.
“Thanks for dinner,” he said. “You’re such a terrific cook.”
She smiled. “Thank you. I love to cook. My mother taught me how to since I was twelve. She said it would come in handy when I was on living my own or married.”
“You’re a good cook too.”
“Thanks. That’s something I had to learn really fast when I moved out of my parents’ house because I was getting tired of spending money on take-out and delivery. So, I decided to google recipes and try them. It was a lot easier than I thought. I don’t mind cooking either.”
“It’s fun trying different recipes and making international dishes. I’ve asked Mrs. Dusabe for recipes because I want to try Rwandan dishes.”
“I’ve tried West African dishes and loved them.”
“My grandfather was the same way. He wasn’t afraid to try different foods or interact with different cultures. In fact, before he married my grandmother, he traveled all over the world. He loved it. He loved meeting all sorts of people, leaning to speak their languages or at least trying to communicate with them and living among them. He didn’t stay at hotels but with the locals who were always willing to accommodate him. He has written books about his travels.”
“Was it hard for him to settle down after he met your grandmother?”
“I don’t think so. He was quite happy to stay put and start a new and exciting life with her.”
“Did they meet here in England or on one of his travels?”
“They met here after he returned from a cruise.”
“A cruise? How nice. I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise. Maybe one of these days.”
“It was while on that cruise that he decided that he wrote his first short story.”
“What was it about?”
“It was a seafaring story. That’s how I learned about battened hatches and big dippers.”
She stared at him. “Battened hatches?”
“Battened hatches mean that the ships are prepared for trouble at sea. Batten down the hatches is something you would hear sailors say when a real storm was coming. Ships’ hatches were called hatchways and they were either open or covered with a wooden grating to allow ventilation down to the lower decks. When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, known as battens, to prevent it from blowing off.”
“Oh. And what are big dippers?”
“Those are the albatrosses. He was referring to what is known as Dynamic soaring which is a small-scale flight manoeuvre which albatrosses and other large seabirds use to travel huge distances without flapping their wings. The albatross shifts and dip back down towards the ocean, catching another skyward draft moments later. The albatross is adept at this technique. The albatross is a fascinating bird. Its huge wings can keep it aloft for days without flapping.”
“I read somewhere that the albatross is symbolic of innocence, goodness, God’s creation, and even God’s love and salvation.”
“Yes. And in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, it was a sign of good luck to the sailor.”
“I read that a long time ago.”
“I read it because of my grandfather. He encouraged me to read other books like Moby Dick, Billy Bud, Captain Blood and The Sea Wolf. After reading those books, I wanted to run off to sea–become a sailor or a captain of a ship.”
She smiled. “I’ve read all of those books so I can understand your desire to take to the seas.”
“That desire changed after I read the book, The Perfect Storm.”
She laughed. “I guess that book, if nothing else would do the trick.” Then, she sobered. “I never read the book but I watched the movie. Very tragic real life story.”
“Yes. All six crew members of Andrea Gail were missing and presumed dead. They and the ship were never found. Only the wreckage of a few fuel drums, a fuel tank, the EPIRB, an empty life raft and some other flotsam were the only wreckage ever found.
“The sea can be a scary place during a storm. Sometimes the waves are as high as skyscrapers. There’s something about the wide open ocean that gives me the creeps. Maybe that’s why I haven’t gone on a cruise as yet.”
“Yes, the ocean can be very foreboding at times. And sailors had to deal with cramped conditions, disease, poor food and pay and bad weather. So, it’s very likely that even if I hadn’t read The Perfect Storm, the realities of life at sea would have cured me of my fancy.”
“It looks exciting in the movies, though. Would you like some Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies with ice-cream?”
His eyes darkened. “No, I would much rather kiss that mouth of yours.” He leaned over and kissed her.
He smiled now as he remembered how they had ended up making love on the sofa.
He had reached the park and had stopped to adjust his left runner when his cell rang. It was Sandy. “Hi, Sis.”
“Hi. You sound like you’ve been running.”
“No, I was taking a brisk walk.”
“Don’t forget that tomorrow’s Mom’s and Dad’s wedding anniversary.”
“How could I forget that? It’s at the Drawing Room at Army & Navy Club, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. Out of all the places I considered, I thought it was the best one although it’s above what I would have liked to spend.”
“Don’t worry about the expense. This place is worth it and we want the best for our parents, don’t we?”
“Yes, we do. Thanks for splitting the cost.”
“I was willing to pay the full amount.”
“I know but I didn’t want you to do that.”
“So, everything has been arranged?”
“Yes. So, whom are you bringing?”
“Tulia, your neighbor?”
“Yes and friend.”
“Hmm. I’m looking forward to meeting her.”
“I’m sure you are.”
Sandy laughed. “Well, I still have last minute things to take care of–like my outfit and the kids, so I’ll sign off. See you tomorrow.”
“Yes. Goodbye.” He ended the call and dialed Tulia. She answered on the second ring. “Hi. I came by your place earlier to see if you wanted to come for a walk with me but you weren’t there.”
“No. I was with Mrs. Dusabe. I’m sorry I missed your call and I didn’t have my cell with me.”
“It’s all right. We can go for a walk together another time. So, what are you doing now?”
“I’m going to get dinner ready. Have you already eaten?”
“No. When I got home, I just changed and decided to come for a walk.”
“Then, you’re invited to have dinner with me.”
“All right. I’ll head home now. Tulia?”
“Are you nervous about meeting my family tomorrow?”
“No. Should I be?”
“No. Sandy’s looking forward to meeting you.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting her and the rest of your family too.”
“Good. I’ll see you in about twenty minutes.”
They rang off. While he headed back to his flat, Tulia went into the kitchen to get dinner ready.
To be honest, she was a little nervous about meeting his family because it wasn’t that long ago when they were expecting him and Cate to get married. It should have been Cate accompanying him to this anniversary dinner, not her. When he asked her to go with him a week ago, she was blown away. She didn’t imagine that he would want his family to know about her. They were neighbors, friends and lovers.
Obviously he had mentioned her to his sister, Sandy. Did his parents know about her? How would they receive her when she showed up at their anniversary dinner as Boris’s date? Would they approve? Would they be relieved that he had moved on? Boris told her that there wasn’t any reason for her to be nervous so she told herself to stop worrying about the reception she would receive. He ought to know the kind of people his parents were and if they would have a problem with his interracial relationship.
She thought about what she was going to wear tomorrow. There were a couple of new dresses to choose from. Maybe the cap sleeved black dress or the maroon dress with the spaghetti sleeves or the cranberry off the shoulder dress. And her hair…fortunately, she had an appointment for tomorrow morning.
After she finished preparing dinner, she went and took a quick shower and changed into a more attractive outfit. As she fixed her hair as best as she could, she thought of what Mrs. Dusabe said to her when she mentioned that Boris had invited her to his parents’ wedding anniversary dinner.
“Don’t assume anything. It might be that he’s just comfortable having you meet his family. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s ready to make a commitment. Just go as his friend and have fun.”
It was very good advice, albeit not what she was hoping to hear. She had to consider the possibility that Boris and she might never be more than what they currently were. It was a bitter pill to swallow but she had to be sensible about the whole thing and not allow her heart to cloud her judgment. Until she met Boris she never dreamed that love could be so scary and complicated at the same time.
“How long are you willing to wait for him to make a commitment?” Mrs. Dusabe has asked her.
“For as long as it takes,” had been Tulia’s quick reply.
“And what happens if he never makes that commitment? What then?”
“I don’t know.” The truth was she did know. She would continue to be his friend and lover for as long as he needed. Some might call that being foolish but she called it being in love.