He looked up from the magazine he had picked from the collection placed in no particular order, on the small coffee table, in the middle of the compact, but well managed room.
The full toothed smiles the photographed mouths gave him did nothing to allay his discomfort.
The receptionist hummed a local tune and flashed him a quick smile. Too many smiles here.
Just then, an older man in what seemed like his fifties came out of the inner room. He put his hand to the side of his jaw briefly before he proceeded to the receptionist’s desk to presumably make payments.
Jude didn’t pay any more attention to the exchange as a dental technician came out to call another person in. A preteen boy went in with his mother. She whispered something into his ear.
Jude swallowed. He looked back into the pages of the magazine to distract himself, but absent mindedly flipped through the pages. “I’m a man. I’m a man,” he recited to himself.
He smelled her before he saw her. Her bright orange purse hung casually on her shoulder. She quickly scanned the room and nodded in his direction. No one else was waiting.
The receptionist greeted her as she walked to the desk to confirm her appointment and such. He strained to hear her name, but couldn’t. Her voice was this sweet strong sound; she laughed at something the receptionist said, and it warmed his insides.
He tried hard not to look at her face and her form. She wore a simple white summer dress that stopped just at her knees. When she turned towards him, he thought he saw her eyes twinkle. He just kept looking straight into those eyes – until the receptionist broke the barrier. “Mr. Okoli?”
“Yes, yes,” Jude replied, rushing the words too quickly over one another.
She was there in his periphery. He didn’t miss her chuckle at his expense.
It was his turn to go in. He had to be strong and not lose face in front of this woman. He nodded in her direction and stood up tall. She sent him a reassuring smile, which broke his resolve. Even she could see through his façade.
It was painful. He stifled a protest as he was careful not to be heard in the other room. His long legs stretched too far out the chair, and he shifted uncomfortably. When he closed his eyes, he saw her legs, her bright orange purse, and her beautiful smile. He heard her laughter and saw the twinkle in her eyes.
It was over. The girl with the orange purse had got him through.
When it was all over and done, he stepped out like an accomplished man, and there she was, sitting with her knees bent, legs together and crossed at her ankles. She stood up and they met halfway.
Whatever came over him, he looked down at her into her eyes. She looked up at him with an amused smile.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello.” And she laughed.
They both laughed.
“You were scared weren’t you?”
He paused. “I was.”
His answer was well received.
With that she walked around him, as he gave her what room he could, to pass.
“Can I call you some time?”
She paused at the door. “Only if you wait with me.”
And wait with her, he did.