The next morning, Opal’s car was delivered, the tyre fixed and looking as good as new by a mechanic she didn’t recognize. She felt disappointed that Justin hadn’t brought the car down himself – at least just to catch a glimpse of him again. Opal figured he’d meant what he’d said at the close of last night. All in all she was glad to have her problematic car back.
Breakfasting with her elder sister and only sibling on the verandah overlooking the Olympic sized pool, Opal was reflecting over how the night before had gone when her sister, Adora suddenly broke into Opal’s thoughts.
“Are you going out with Ibraheem later today?” Adora asked airily as she buttered her toast liberally.
Opal grimaced at the mention of that name as she was made to think of him for the first time that day. “Nope. He’s out-of-town,” Opal muttered, biting vengefully on a piece of fruit.
“You sound angry,” Adora noted with a grin. She was reed slim like a model and dressed elegantly in a sleeveless dress. She was twenty-four and two years older than Opal. She was the exact copy of their mother who could still pass for a runway model at age fifty. Opal had always envied them both the ability to eat what they liked and still stay slim. Opal had to watch every calorie since she seemed to pack on the pounds more easily. Opal was glad for her Kim Kardashian meets Beyonce meets J.Lo curves but once in a while, she wished she could fit into a decent pair of boy shorts her elder sister could do so effortlessly.
Adora was the perfect elder sister. Beautiful, intelligent and already doing well outside of school in her career as a Microbiologist. She had a handsome boyfriend with whom she was getting very serious and whom she probably intended to marry once he returned from furthering his studies abroad.
“Maybe I am,” Opal murmured in reply. “Pass the honey, please.”
Adora complied, her eyes twinkling as she viewed her younger sister, trying to catch her eye. “You two have a fight?”
“No – and let it rest, Dora,” Opal said irritably. “Ibraheem is the last person I want to talk about now.”
“So you did have a fight,” Adora said relentlessly, her grin widening. “I wonder what over?”
But she didn’t seem to need an answer, because she picked her cup of coffee and sipped at it They ate in silence for the next few minutes.
And then, impulsively, Opal blurted, “Dora. I need to ask you something. Have you…I dunno, ever been involved with a guy who wasn’t as rich as you? I mean, not rich, period?”
Adora stopped chewing on her food, her eyebrows lifted. She swallowed thoughtfully before she spoke. “Well, considering it’s actually our parents who are rich…but I get what you’re asking. And yeah, maybe I have. I had this teaching assistant working at my college whom I had a crush on. But it ended soon enough and we went our separate ways. Not long after, I met Tade, my boyfriend.” Adora stared at her sister. “Why do you ask? Have you met someone like that whom you’re interested in?”
Opal sighed deeply. She didn’t feel ready to tell Adora about Ibraheem’s rumored infidelity, but she was itching to confide in her about Justin. She found herself saying, “See, I’m sure it might not seem like a big deal to you, but yes, I think I have. And I’m going nuts. His name is Justin and I met him where he works at the Repairs Workshop – ”
Adora choked on her omelette. “You mean he’s a mechanic?” she gasped once she’d had a gulp of juice.
Opal frowned. “Don’t sound so horrified. He’s not like your everyday local car repairman. You know how upscale Zik’s garage is. It’s not one of those road-side shops. They work with computers and have a whole showroom thing going on over there. Anyway, Justin is cool. He’d refined, well spoken. And damn, totally hot.”
“But… a mechanic,” Adora said again, aghast.
“I told you, he’s different. He even goes to the same college as me. And it’s not as bad as you’re making it sound. I think it’s a very honorable job – just as much as teaching or…or even law,” Opal blustered, knowing Tade was a law graduate.
Adora paused, then shrugged. “You’re right and I didn’t mean to sound so snotty. You know me, I like being melodramatic about everything. So…he’s handsome, articulate…and likes you?”
“Well…we just started to get to know each other,” Opal said carefully. “Although he’s giving me the impression he’d rather resist me.”
Adora grunted. “How can you be so naive. Can’t you see that’s just a front to get you even more interested in him.”
Opal mused over that for a few moments, then shook her head decisively. “No. Justin isn’t like that at all. He just believes he hasn’t got time for love or romance now. There’s simply something about him…He’s so controlled and mysterious…and I feel I should get close enough to him to unravel it all.”
“Well, I would say go for it but there’s the little issue of your boyfriend Raheem,” her older sister told her warningly. “If he finds out you just might be throwing him over for some hot stuff mechanic, he’d blow a fuse.”
And returning to her food, she missed the cunning look that suddenly crossed Opal’s face at her elder sister’s words.
“Yes…” she thought to herself after a few minutes of scheming, “…This just might work…”
Two days later, Opal finally had the free time to make it down to the Repairs Workshop. Stepping out of her car, she made for a pair of legs she could see stretching out from underneath a sedan.
“Justin?” she called out questioningly, but the man who drew out into the open was someone else entirely.
“No, I’m Fela – and I’m really glad to see you,” the good-looking guy with the comical expression said as he straightened, dusting himself off.
Opal decided she liked him on sight, and said in return, “I’m Opal.”
“Any problem with the ride?” Fela asked, nodding at her gleaming car parked across the yard.
“No..I just…I wanted to see Justin. Is he around?” Opal asked, crossing her fingers behind her back. She rushed over here once her lectures ended and she hoped she’d made it fast enough to meet him.
Fela seemed to quickly hide his surprise. “Uh, yes. But he’s out back in the work shed. Our boss Zik is not around now so I guess it’s OK if you go on in.”
Opal’s face broke into a grateful smile. “Thanks,” she said, and walked off in the direction he indicated.
She found Justin in the shadowed expanse of the shed, bent on one knee with his eyes shielded from the sparks flying from the bodywork he was fixing. Opal paused just inside the doorway, watching his profile for a few moments and wondering what to say to catch his attention.
A few moments later he seemed to stretch with fatigue and suddenly turned off the machine before pulling off the protective eye gear, wiping at his brow with his wrist.
“Are you going to stand out there forever or are you coming in?” he asked suddenly, startling her. He straightened and faced her, making Opal gulp as she realized he must have sensed her presence from the start.
“I…I didn’t want to disturb you,” she began, and caught his quirked brow. “Are you uh..busy?”
“Yep,” was his daunting reply as he tugged off his gloves, adding mildly, “But I can spare a few minutes. I take it it’s not about your car you want to see me?”
“No,” Opal admitted, biting on her bottom lip and wondering why being around him made her feel so gauche, like a thirteen year old. What on earth had made her think she would have the nerve to go through with this? Finally, she forced herself to advance into the shed. “My car’s perfectly fine, thank you. Actually I…I came to see you about something more…personal.”
“Opal….,” Justin began with a warning sigh, but she plunged in quickly.
“I need your help, Justin. With something to do with Raheem.”
She saw him frown in confusion, and she stepped forward persuasively. “I can’t let him get away with what he’s done, Justin. I’ve been thinking about this for days and I’ve decided he needs to learn that I’m nobody’s fool. So I’m going to give him a taste of his own medicine.”
Justin leaned back against the Jeep he’d been working on and folded his arms. “I’m almost afraid to ask how you intend doing that,” he murmured.
“Well,” Opal began with a shrug while picking her words carefully. “I thought that the perfect way would be to let him think I was with someone else. You know, like I was cheating on him too.”
“And let me guess…,” Justin said wryly, “You want me to be that ‘someone’ he’ll see you with.”
“He needn’t actually see us together at first,” Opal told him hastily. “But we could go to places where definitely, someone who knows Raheem and me are a couple would catch us both together and tell Raheem.”
Justin was already shaking his head firmly as he moved off the car. “Not only is that too far-fetched a plan, it’s actually pretty juvenile if you ask me. I don’t…”
Opal shot forward and grabbed his arm pleadingly. “Justin, please. I know you’re a very busy person, and I’m asking for too much of your time – and if that’s a problem, then I’ll pay you.”
Justin was silent for so long afterwards that Opal was afraid she’d offended him again. Why oh why couldn’t she think things out before saying them, was her regretful thought. But then, to her confusion, he burst out laughing.
“I can’t believe my ears,” he said at last, shaking his head mirthfully. “You actually want to pay me to go out with you?”
“If that’s what it’ll take,” Opal said stiffly.
“Boy,” Justin said with wonder. “What I just don’t get is, why me? There must be dozens of guys out there that are just itching for this kind of opportunity. For free,” he added pointedly.
Opal looked away for a moment. Did he really think she was that sought after? It was flattering but not all that correct. Opal had her share of admirers but not all she could call sincere or trustworthy. And none with whom she felt the same kind of affinity she had when she was around Justin.
Finally, she made herself look into his face. “Justin…the other night, you really sounded like you understood my plight. I really feel like you’re the only guy who can help me with no strings attached. Someone who would do this without having a hidden agenda. And besides, I don’t even like those other guys. But I…I do like you.”
And then she wanted to kick herself for sounding more like an underage teen than ever.
“Cute; very cute,” Justin murmured, his face otherwise devoid of expression. It would have been nice if he’d said he liked her too but Opal knew that was too much to hope for. His eyes were now thoughtful as he asked soberly, “Doing this really means a lot to you, doesn’t it?”
Opal nodded firmly. “It just feels like something I need to do to finally get the ill-will out of my system. I know it sounds so much like a bad romcom movie or some silly tween flick, but it’s exactly what I know will get on Raheem’s wick,” she said as sensibly as she could.
“Okay. I accept – but only because you’re so damned persistent,” he said drily, shocking her.
“Oh thank you!” Opal gushed, forgetting herself and throwing her arms around him, kissing his cheek.
Instantly mortified at her own audacity, Opal made to draw back but then his arms, like iron bands, closed around her waist. Bemused and breathless, Opal stared up into his darkly handsome face.
“Come now, you can do better than that,” Justin murmured, and instantly the fluttering in her chest became almost unbearable. There was a tight fist clenched round her belly as her eyes felt too heavy to hold up, growing hooded with the shadow of Justin’s face falling over hers.
When Justin kissed her, Opal got that same melting sensation as the last time, at his place. She was almost too dazed to respond to his deep, eating kiss. His texture was like silk, his taste like chocolate-dipped berries. But then it took moments for her hunger to seize her being and she began to kiss him back eagerly, opening up to the heated invasion of his tongue swirling against hers. She was clinging to him like a reef and it felt like he would crush her in those big, powerful arms of his.
Lost in their passionate bubble, they were mindless to everything else till a loud ‘ahem!’ had them breaking off reluctantly.
“Uh…sorry to interrupt,” Fela said with a cheeky smile, “But I just thought I should warn you J.J. that Zik is back and he could walk in here any second and check on you, especially since he couldn’t hear the machine going.”
“That’s fine; thanks Fela,” Justin said gruffly, and Opal could hear the anger in his tone, knowing full well it was directed at himself – probably for losing control the way he had and kissing her. But Opal had loved every second of it; knowing that she’d made him forget his iron-clad willpower even if for just a few seconds.
Knowing she looked flushed, Opal straightened her clothes and hair, not that they were that mussed but it gave her hands something to do. “Um, I was just leaving anyway ah…Fela,” She said easily, a friendly smile on her face directed at Justin’s co-worker. Inwardly, she felt much too thrilled by Justin’s unexpected kiss to be actually embarrassed that Fela had caught them. However, she found it difficult to meet Justin’s gaze and when she managed it, she recognized that look of hunger in his eyes that made her heart skip a beat and told her he’d been just as affected by the kiss as she’d been.
“I guess I’ll see you soon,” she told him demurely, and without waiting for a reply, brushed past Fela and was gone.
Once they were alone, Fela turned to Justin, who promptly scowled and started to pull on his discarded gloves. Not to be intimidated by Justin’s look, Fela let out a whistle.
“Well well well! That is one fine-looking female specimen. Justin my man! I always knew you had more to you than met the eye. And there you were always acting like you weren’t interested in girls and all that kind of thing. And how come you can afford a chick like that anyway?” Fela teased, slapping Justin on the back.
“She’s not my ‘chick’,” Justin told him shortly, reaching for his safety goggles. “And I’m not affording her – she’s affording me.”
And before his friend could ask what that meant, he got back to work.
Moments later, when Fela was gone, Justin thought about what he’d said. Of course, he had no intention of accepting money from Opal for whatever it was she was asking him to do. But it did help him in putting things in perspective and keeping in mind that this was just some ‘assignment’ he was undertaking. A scheme he’d never have believed he’d let anyone rope him into. But saying ‘no’ to a girl like Opal seemed like a feat that was getting more and more impossible.
Justin felt like such a crazy idiot but it was too late to back out. Just what the heck was he getting himself in for now?