THE SECOND SIGHT
It was a Friday afternoon in the little town of Apaso.
The handsome young man entered the supermarket and paused briefly.
He was tall and well-built, wearing black jeans and a white open-necked T-shirt. His feet were encased in black combat boots. He was wearing a black Chicago Cubs baseball cap with the bold ‘C’ emblem, and his unfathomable eyes took in the people in the store carefully.
The young man saw a few men and women, some children, store attendants and security men. At the far end of the store, near the maternity section, he saw a police officer and his pregnant wife. Near them was another happy couple who were trying to restrain their excited one-year-old baby girl from toppling down a rack of dolls.
The young man walked deeper into the store leisurely, and then he reached for a wheeled trolley and began to push it in front of him.
One of the girls behind the tillers looked up and saw the handsome young man moving deeper into the store. She quickly reached over and tapped the shoulder of the girl next to her.
The girl turned. She was a very beautiful woman in her early twenties. Her hair was cut short, and her eyes danced with happy curiosity. Her skin was chocolate clear and beautiful, her face elfin, her lips full. Perhaps, her most lovely feature were her eyes which were hooded into a natural loveliness, with pure-white sclera and irises that had unusual but breath-taking light-green tinges.
She had a fetching, lovely smile that always made other people smile when they saw it because that smile always made her face come alive. She was not a big woman, but she was so delicately formed and with such exquisite hollows, curves and lovely hills that made her one of the most beautiful women in the world. And, because of her, many young men always came to the store.
She now turned and looked at her colleague who had tapped her shoulder.
“What’s eating you, Mabel?” she asked in her lovely voice.
The girl called Mabel inclined her jaw toward the handsome young man who had now taken a cylindrical box of Quaker Oats and dropped it into the trolley.
“Your boyfriend just walked in,” Mabel said softly with a giggle. “Regular as a clockwork, I told you. Every Friday, three o’clock in the afternoon, he comes in. Hope you’re happy now, Esi Eduafo.”
Esi Eduafo tried to stop herself from smiling, but her heart missed a beat when she saw the young man, and even though she tried to turn her head she was quite unable to, and kept on looking at him, and then a gentle smile broke out on her face again.
Esi had moved to Apaso recently to join her parents who owned the supermarket. She had been staying in the city for a long time with her aunty as she went to school. She had wanted to stay in the city after her graduation and find a job, because she found life in the little town where she had been born quite boring. Unfortunately, her mother had fallen very ill and Esi had come to her hometown to be near her family and give her mother strength.
Her mother had been in hospital for almost three months now, and for the last two weeks she was on full life support.
Esi’s only sibling, Kobina, was also a manager in the store, and he was married with four children.
Esi now helped with setting up the finance office of the shop and keeping all the accounts, a job her mother had been doing, and whenever she was less busy and there was a queue at the tills, she came out to help serve customers.
The family was gripped with the fear of her mother’s ailment. The doctors were saying there was a cancerous growth in her brain that had not been noticed early enough, and it was feared that she might not survive it.
They were all trying to keep the fear down and look on the brighter side and support her as best as they could, but Esi could barely conceal her terror. Her mother was her strength, and she was not yet ready to lose her. Esi’s one prayer was that her mother would survive and live for a while, at least a decade more by which time Esi might be a bit more emotionally stable to accept the inevitable.
Her father was always at the hospital, unable to accept the fact that his wife was almost gone. Recently, after her work for the day was done, Esi helped out at the tills more and more because she was not comfortable being by herself now.
It was during one of such days that she first saw the incredibly handsome young man who came into the store one Friday afternoon, quietly bought his provisions, and then left without so much as a word.
He had come in twice after that first occasion, and each time Esi had served him at the till. She had noticed that he barely looked straight at anybody, and had not even allowed the attendants to carry his shopping bags outside for him, as was the norm.
On the first Friday he came in, Mabel had seen the way Esi looked at the stranger, and she had drawn close when the stranger left the store.
“Quite dishy, isn’t he?” she had said.
“What?” Esi asked, startled.
“The stranger you just served,” Mabel said with a smile. “He’s quite handsome, ain’t he? Cutest guy in the town, actually! Probably in the whole world!”
Esi had smiled nervously.
“Well, he is cute, yes,” she said with a giggle. “Is he from this town? Can’t say I remember him.”
“He’s a stranger,” Mabel said. “Came in here almost a year ago. Rumours are that he bought the old house at the top of the hill, the one that belonged to that retired soldier man, Amegashie. When that old coot died, his only son put it up for sale. No one could afford it, but that stranger came and bought it, and repainted it, and has been staying there alone. No friends, no family, no girl. Almost all the single girls have the hots for him, and most of the attached ones too, I daresay, but he keeps to himself, and rarely comes to town.”
“But what does he do?” Esi had asked, face puzzled.
“No one knows,” Mabel had said. “A recluse of sorts. Some say he’s a rich guy who evidently doesn’t like socializing with people. Sometimes he leaves town for stretches, a week or two, but he always comes back. Only name he gives out is Yaw, at least that’s what he says when he’s asked. Never provides a full name, just Yaw.”
“I see,” Esi had said, mystified. “That’s interesting. For a man as handsome as he is, and obviously with a little bit of money, as you claim, the life of a recluse is the last I would have expected of him! I would have expected him living a life of flamboyance with a full harem in there somewhere.”
“He shops every Friday,” Mabel had continued. “Shops enough to last a week, and then he comes in late Friday afternoons, regular as a clock. Don’t worry, he’ll roll in next week again!”
And here he was, for the third Friday in a row.
Esi Eduafo noticed that almost everyone in the store was looking at the man surreptitiously as he moved through the rows, picking his things carefully and dropping them into the trolley without so much as a glance at anyone else.
There were three tills in the shop. Mabel was manning one, and an elderly woman called Aunt Hannah was manning the other.
Esi was behind the one in the middle.
The stranger had come to her till twice in the last couple of Fridays, but that had been because Mabel and Aunt Hannah had been occupied with customers at the time.
Each time he had looked at the lighted screen of the till facing him, seen his total, and counted out money to her.
His money had always been crisp, almost new. On the first occasion that Esi Eduafo handed him his change their fingers had brushed, and she had almost gasped because it had felt as if an electric shock had passed through her, quite literally. When she looked at him quickly, she had met his eyes, and she had been startled to see the coldness in there as he looked at her, and then he had picked up his bags and walked out.
On the second occasion, he had not handed the money to her but put them neatly on the space in front of him. She had needed to give him a change of ten cedis, but he had simply taken his bags and moved away without a backward glance, not even when Esi had called out once to him to come for his change.
Esi now took a ten cedi note and placed it in front of the till.
That would be her opening point of conversation with him today.
The policeman and his pregnant wife had now moved to Aunt Hannah’s till.
The couple with the little girl also soon sauntered toward the tills, and to Esi’s horror she noticed that they were coming toward her till.
No, that would not do! If they occupied her the stranger would definitely move to Mabel’s till, and that was something Esi did not want to happen!
Esi suddenly leaned forward and shook her till and slapped the side a couple of times, as if there was something wrong with it, and the couple changed direction and headed for Mabel’s till.
Mabel giggled and rolled her eyes at Esi, who smiled and raised her eyebrows suggestively at Mabel.
The handsome young stranger suddenly wheeled his trolley towards the tills, and stopped in front of Esi.
He looked up, and Esi clearly saw his eyes for only the second time.
He had beautiful eyebrows, thick and lying straight, and his eyelashes were long and thick, almost feminine. His lips were full and sensuous. For a brief moment he looked directly into Esi’s eyes again. She saw how clear his eyes were, but lurking in there somewhere was a lost look, almost a profoundly sad expression that reached out to Esi and almost made her reach out and touch his cheek.
When he came in the first week, he had been extremely cold when their fingers touched, but today there was a certain air of vulnerability about him that oddly affected her, and she licked her lips quickly as her hand hovered over the ten cedis in front of her.
And then he dropped his eyes.
Without a word he began to take out his items and stack them neatly on the board so that Esi could reach them and pass them through the price sensor.
Even as she was checking out his totals, Esi’s mind raced furiously. Her heart was not stable.
Normally, she was the one who drew male attention because of her beauty, and felt amused whenever she saw many a male struggling for an opening to have a conversation with her. But now, she was the one seeking a line to begin a conversation with this stranger, and she was coming up with absolute zero in spite of the ten cedis change in front of her!
The couple with the baby had finished, and they were turning to leave the shop.
“You had a ten cedi change from last week,” Esi said in a rush, but the stranger was not listening to her; his eyes were on the couple who were walking away from him, and Esi saw him taking a deep breath.
Esi paused and looked at him. He looked suddenly uneasy and almost troubled, and his jawline was working hard.
He was turned towards Esi and she saw that his brow was suddenly covered with perspiration.
“Are you okay?” Esi asked gently, looking at him with concern.
He didn’t speak. He just took a deep breath and nodded almost unperceptively.
The policeman and his pregnant wife were also done, and they were headed for the entrance.
Esi continued to tally the man’s items.
Again, he turned his head and looked at the departing people.
Suddenly, a slight scowl furrowed his forehead and he sighed deeply, and turned halfway to look at the departing people.
“Hey,” he said.
His voice was a deep bass, pleasant and masculine, and its sound arrested those who heard it. The policeman and his wife stopped and turned. The couple with the baby girl turned, and all the attendants turned to look at the handsome young man.
“Did you say something, mister?” the policeman asked with raised eyebrows.
“Don’t go out now,” the young handsome man said calmly. “Stay where you are for five minutes.”
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