By Stanley Bassey
It was a Sunday evening in Kansas, USA and Alex sat at his desk in his study on the top floor of a four-storey residential building, desperately trying to study for a professional paper.
Although he wouldn't care to admit it to anyone, for the greater part of his life Alex had always regarded ladies as a distraction.
He had taken to heart the half hour lecture his four-time divorcee uncle had told him over fifteen years back.
"All they do is make you lose focus and then when you are down they'll dump you for someone else" uncle Sam had told the wide-eyed ten year old Alex just three days after his latest divorce and it had stuck on Alex like permanent glue.
Now at twenty five years of age Alex truly wished he hadn't been the one sent by his mother to Uncle Sam's house to deliver him some groceries that day because although he was attracted to the opposite sex like every normal guy was he could never truly be himself around them. The very few times he had got friendly with female course mates in college those words would pop right up in his head
You'll lose focus…you'll be dumped
His next course of action would then be to find excuses why he couldn't have lunch with one or why he couldn't study along with the other.
Alex had managed to cope from adolescence to this point with no female companion even though a part of him had always wanted one. Right through high school, college and even now at work he watched with a pinch of envy as guys and girls paired up and seemed so happy to be with each other. His one consolation, if you could call it that, was that none of them ever bested his academic and now professional performance; he had always been miles ahead.
Perhaps uncle was right, Alex thought
He immediately reprimanded himself for thinking childishly.
Uncle was only sore because of his failed marriages.
As Alex sat in front of his desktop computer in his apartment study, he wondered what he could do to take away a feeling; a feeling he had been having for years now but was at the point of explosion; a feeling that all his awards and certification couldn't brush off, a feeling that no male friend could retract…the need for female companion.
"I really need a lady" he said to himself as he pushed back his chair and rested his head beside the keyboard and closed his eyes.
It was at that instance he perceived it.
A strong and yet gentle and sweet fragrance dispersing around him. It was an enrapturing blend of lavender, vanilla, jasmine and a few other fragrances.
Both his eyelids swung open instantly. He gazed around his study, perplexed.
What could have been the source of that smell? Was someone else in his apartment?
The smell was gradually fading. Alex wanted to just sit back on his chair and relish it before it totally diffused off but he desperately wanted to know the source of the fragrance.
He shot up from his desk and rushed into the parlour, then his kitchen and then the bedroom…no one.
How strange? Perhaps it's coming from downstairs?
He rushed to the entrance door of his apartment and looked down the eight-flight staircase. Nobody was walking up or down the staircase and so he sniffed the air in an attempted to get a whiff of the perfume; he closed the eyes, tilted his head upwards and sniffed.
He was sure it had been a woman's perfume he had smelled. He had perceived nothing like that before. It was so sweet, so alluring, and so pleasant.
Oh, what will he give to get one more whiff of it?
But just had it had suddenly and mysteriously come so had it dissipated.
When he returned to his computer and attempted to study ahead for the professional paper he would be taking in two weeks' time, he observed that the shock and curiosity from perceiving the strange perfume had temporarily taken away the lonely feeling he had been having before but now he felt a confusion and sadness that was just as strong; sadness that he couldn't trace the source of the scent. He imagined she would have been the answer to his burden had he seen her.
After vainly attempting to read a single page of an e-book for fifteen minutes he closed the application and played a movie instead.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
"The most peculiar thing happened to me yesterday" Alex somewhat reluctantly told Matt as they had lunch in a restaurant across the road from their office building the next day.
Alex had spent the last ten minutes listening to Matthew yap about how great his weekend had been; how he had hung out with friends and attended parties and shows and how surprised he was that he could make it to work by 9am prompt this morning.
Alex felt the obligation to share something about his own weekend.
"I was studying for…."
"Boring!" Matt interjected
"I was studying for our CSE exams when suddenly I smelt some kind of perfume all around my study. A strong feminine perfume filled the room. I checked everywhere and I didn't find the source of the perfume."
When Alex finished talking he waited for the taunt his friend will no doubt give him and sure enough…
"You were just imagining the smell of the girl you never had. Your mind has started playing tricks on you" Matthew said, giggling.
"I don't know what your problem is, anyway. You've got the looks, you've got the money; you earn more than anyone else in our department, except the boss. I don't know why you don't have a girlfriend. Should I talk to one of them for you?" Matthew said.
"Don't be silly Matt. Like I need you to find me a girlfriend" Alex replied, almost blushing at the concept.
"I just don't understand you, really. Even Diane and Linda have been given you signs at work and they are both nice and pretty. Don't tell me you never noticed it?"
"I know that, it's just that -" Alex broke off. He knew the reason he had been avoiding compatible females but he couldn't tell anyone, not even his old and good friend, Matthew.
"It's because you are gay, right?" Matt asked comically.
"Hey! Don't go there, mister"
At this point, Matthew began lecturing Alex on all the pros of having a girlfriend but Alex wasn't listening to anything he was saying because he smelt it again; the same perfume from last night. He was sure of it. This was no imagination. It was coming in from his left.
He shot his head towards the smell and there she stood, every bit a goddess among men. She was tall at five feet and eleven inches with a perfectly streamlined body. Her skin bore no blemishes. Her hair was dark, thick and curly, and it flowed over her shoulders and back. Her face was calm and sweet.
Alex noticed that Matthew and most of the others in the restaurant, both males and females were staring at her. She was near the entrance to the restaurant and was talking to a waiter. Her voice was so sweet and angelic, hearing it melted Alex's heart. The waiter pointed her to a seat two tables away from Alex.
As she passed by Alex felt himself stiffen unconsciously; her perfume was so strong and sweet it was unbalancing. She gracefully and stylishly pulled a chair, sat on it, brought out her mobile phone from her hand bag and started punching its keys.
"What a scent she's got on her. Em! By the way, you are clutching my arm" Matthew told Alex, smiling.
"It's the one" Alex told Matthew, after he pulled his arm away from him.
"The one? What are you talking about?" Matthew asked, perplexed.
"That perfume she's wearing. It's the one that was all around me yesterday" Alex said with a straight face.
"Hmmm!" Matthew said, and after a few seconds he said "Go talk to her"
"This is not the place. I'm sure tonnes of guys approach her in public places like this. She'll just brush me off" Alex replied.
"Come off it Alex. You clearly admire her. I mean, you actually grabbed my arm when she walked by. Moreover, you said it yourself that you mystically smelt her last night when she wasn't there. Isn't that some kind of sign?"
Alex didn't reply, he just looked down at his half empty glass of orange juice beside his empty plate of spaghetti and meat rolls. He knew his friend was right. No lady had ever stunned him the way she did just now and so far he fancied all her physical attributes he could see but the ancient fear that grips many a man when he wants to approach an attractive lady had totally engulfed him.
"Go on Alex. Lunch break is over already. Quickly go over and say hi. If you leave her now you will regret it all your life."
"She most likely has someone else" Alex answered sheepishly.
"You wouldn't know unless you talk to her. Someone else here will make the move soon and it'll be too late"
Alex said nothing, but continued looking at his glass of juice.
"Well, I'm heading back to work" Matthew said, standing up. He was clearly disgusted by Alex's non-action.
Amassing courage, Alex suddenly got up, spun towards the direction of the lady and began walking towards her. A broad grin formed on Matthew's face as he sat back down.
As soon as Alex began walking towards her he already regretted the move.
What the heck am I gonna say to her? He thought, realizing he had absolutely no experience in this regard nor had he been counselled by anyone.
Wait a minute, what if she's married? He thought anxiously as he arrived at her table. The last thing he had wanted was to try to get together with a married woman.
He stood there and frantically attempted to fully sight her ring finger as her hands gripped her handset.
"Can I help you" she asked in her sensual voice.
He didn't look up until he was sure she had no ring on and then when he did look up he was too flabbergasted by the prettiness of her face to give an immediately response; she was more beautiful up close.
"What do you want?" she asked, looking intensely at him.
Alex thought he could see irritation in her eyes.
"Well! Em! I really just came over to say - Em! Hi. I haven't seen …"
"Hi!" She said, stopping him mid-sentence. She looked down at her mobile set and continued punching its buttons like before.
He continued nervously.
"I haven't seen you around here bef…"
"I'd rather be left to myself, please" She said without looking away from her phone.
Alex just stood there for the next few seconds feeling foolish and struggling within him if he should say something else or not.
Why don't you tell her about last night's experience? Why don't you tell her she's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? But she said she doesn't want to be bothered.
He turned on his heel and walked away, highly downtrodden but he tried to put on a bold face for Matthew and for the many others that were paying key attention to his very brief talk with the pretty lady, though they pretended not to be.
As Alex walked off, she stopped pressing her phone and looked up at him. Perhaps she felt a little guilty at the way she had snubbed him.
He walked away from the lavishing woman and her over-powering perfume and back to his table. He didn't bother sitting down, he just wanted to get out of the restaurant immediately.
"What did you say to her?" Matthew asked, looking up at him with a straight face.
"It doesn't matter, let's just get back to work" he answered quietly.
"I'm asking because she's now staring at you as though you were an alien or something. Turn and look" Matthew said seriously.
Alex didn't turn and look. The moment she replied him his initial thought of her was confirmed.
She's got to be the kind of lady that only sees guys with megabucks. She's after money, not a relationship. He thought.
"I'm not interested. Let's go. We should have been back at work ten minutes ago" Alex said as he reached into his inner suit pocket to get some money for the meal they had had.
He dropped the bill on the table and walked towards the exit. Matthew got up and rushed after him.
"What did you say to her" he asked Alex as he stopped him a few feet outside the restaurant.
"I don't want to talk about it"
Matthew wasn't satisfied. He raised his voice as he asked again.
"Why can't you tell me? I mean we've been friends for …"
"She blew me off, Okay? She said she wanted to be left alone" Alex barked out at him when he noticed Matthew had begun taking it personally.
"Let's get back to work, alright?" Alex added.
They walked out of the restaurant premises and were just about to crossing the street to their office when Alex perceived the scent again, this time from behind him. Immediately after, they both heard the sound of someone running towards them from behind. They turned to see who it was.
It was her.
Alex held his breath.
She stopped three feet away from them and waited a few seconds to catch her breath.
Now it was her turn to talk nervously.
"Hi again. Um! Something - um! Something happened. I'd like to talk to you if - if you could spare a minute" she said to Alex, looking him deeply in the eye.
"We kind of need to get back to work right away" Alex said plainly to her with a frown on his face. He could sense Matthew's grave disapproval from beside him without even having to look at him.
"Aawwww! You are upset about before. I'm sorry I dismissed you like that" She said very sweetly. She reached out with her right hand and brushed the side of his left arm a few times.
"It's just that you won't believe the number of times I've been flirted on, and most of the time by cocky and annoying guys. It's so frustrating."
"I'll leave both of you to it" Matthew said, smiling.
"And don't worry; I'll cover for you at work." He added to Alex.
They both walked back into the restaurant grounds. Just walking beside her sparked so many feelings within Alex, he felt at peace, he felt vulnerable and yet strong around her. He wouldn't have minded just walking beside her for hours.
They sat on a bench near the gate to the restaurant.
"This is going to sound a little bit weird" she said, smiling fretfully at him.
"…but when you were walking away from me inside the restaurant I realized something. I had seen the whole scenario before. It was like déjà vu or something. You, the people in the restaurant, everything; I had definitely seen it before then."
She paused to study Alex's reaction. It was indifferent. He knew about déjà vu and had in fact experienced it once before.
More confident, she carried on.
I've had déjà vu twice before; the first time when I was fourteen and the next when I was nineteen. I did nothing about it both times, and regretted it. So, well, I think seeing you before in a dream or something means something relating to me is centred around you especially now that I'm…"
She broke off and looked away; her face becoming reddish.
"Especially now that you are what?" he asked her
"Please don't let me have to say it." She said, covering her face with both hands.
"Surely you don't have to if you don't want to" Alex said softly
After a momentary pause she said "Especially now that I need a real man"
Alex cleared his throat and she chuckled nervously.
"So, what happened to your last relationship?" he asked her.
"I've never really had one. Only attempts at a relationship. Many of them come at me with money and none of them was willing to take it slow; they all wanted 'you know what'. The longest attempt lasted two months"
Alex was shocked. She seemed to be the opposite of what he made her out to be.
"I'm also looking for a partner" he told her.
"I never had one. Never really wanted to, till yesterday" Alex added, when she didn't react to what he said earlier.
She stared at him
"You mean it? Wow, we are kinda like the same" she said, smiling.
"Yeah, I want to ask you something. Why'd you wear so much perfume?"
She leaned back and laughed for a few seconds.
"Oh, don't mind me. I was on the phone when I was applying the perfume and I kept subconsciously spraying it until the call ended. I knew I had sprayed way too much but I was running late so I couldn't change"
"That explains it. I'm Alex by the way. It's nice to meet you" he said, stretching his right arm towards her.
"Loretta. It's a pleasure" she said, receiving his hand.
Her skin felt smooth and soft to the touch.
And just when I thought she couldn't be any more perfect.
"Ooops! A friend I was waiting for at the restaurant has most likely arrived by now" She said, springing up from the bench.
"It's just as well. If I don't get back to work ASAP my boss will roast me" Alex said, getting up as well.
They exchanged mobile numbers.
"So, Loretta, I'll call you after work. I'll tell you exactly why I approached you in the restaurant today. It'll interest you to know it's even stranger than déjà vu"
"Hmmm! Can't wait to hear it" She said smiling and hastened back towards the restaurant.
Wow! I never had a girlfriend and now I've got the prettiest girl alive. You go boy! Alex thought.
I wonder how I could possibly do anything for the rest of the day without thinking about her.
The old haunting words of his uncle came back to him at that point.
"You'll lose focus" "All they do is make you lose focus"
He grinned broadly as he crossed the street to his office building.
For her I'll be distracted any day.
- THE END -