Nothing followed those weighty words which hung heavy in the air between them. Each syllable delivered with little emotion or inflection, lips held in a straight line. Still in it, Namdi could sense a threat, a promise of unrestrained violence simmering just below the surface, merely waiting, hoping for a reason to be unleashed. Namdi did not dare look in the direction of the older man beside him. The forest of curly hair along his arms stood straight, remnant of long forgotten instincts. Somehow, he managed to keep the pandemonium in his mind from his facial features. Woodenly, Namdi looked on into the night, wishing desperately there was a thousand miles between him and the manifestation at his side. However, wishes granted are a thing of fantasy, his only option to fight had failed him.
What did he know? Namdi internally cried out the question, his unease manifesting in the rigidness of his posture. Carefully he combed over his memories of the last couple days, searching for any aspect that would raise alarm bells. No, there is nothing that would give him a reason to suspect; Namdi concluded, his muscles relaxing as tension bled from fibers. Pivoting, he faced his father in law.
"I don't hurt the ones I love."
Time had trudged on before Namdi answered. Enough to be noticeable, but not enough to be unfathomable. Mr. Shagari turned, steady gaze on his son-in-law. Namdi did not flinch away from the piercing brown eyes of the older one, wholly determined he would not be cowed; a determination not lost on the man before him. In the dimly lit balcony, the whites of their eyes were all they could truly see. A slight curve appeared unseen on the lips of the older man. His hand reached into the deep pockets of his native attire, bringing out a leather humidor little bigger than the length of his hand.
Carved ivory ran along the edges of the leather, the pearly white still able to gleam in the gloom. Popping open the case revealed four Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapped cigars. A slight aroma of cognac wafted through the cool night air. With great reverence, he took one out, placing it beneath his wide Nubian nose. His eyes closed, drinking deeply; Namdi standing in front of him temporarily forgotten. No longer able to wait, he clipped the end of the cigar. In-between his teeth it went, thumb and forefinger holding on to the golden band.
Namdi did not waste any time, bringing a match to life. It flared up, driving away the subtle darkness around them for a time. It lit up Mr. Shagari's face, alternating between shadow and light, giving a hard unyielding vibe. Around his eyes, Namdi could see lines forming trenches that told a tale he knew he would never take the risk to ask. It did not mean he was any less curious. War was an experience they did not share. Like all things alive, the match soon died, its life passed on to the smoldering end of the now glowing cigar. The scent of cognac grew stronger in the air among other flavors Namdi could not quite pin point. His father in law took a long drag from the cigar, his countenance visibly becoming as the smoke he released into the air; free.
An expression of surprise grew on Namdi's face when he saw the hand with the leather case held up to him. It was not the first time Mr. Shagari had lit up in his presence, yet each time he had been nothing but a spectator. Afraid a change of heart would occur, Namdi put aside his reservations, helping himself to his father-in-law’s generosity. In his hand, Namdi could feel the opulent nature of the cigar. It was heavier than he initially expected. Finger and thumb traveling down to the band led him to the truth behind the mystery. Real gold! he realized, shocked enough the etches in the band were lost to him.
Clipping the end he placed the cigar between his teeth, a match lighting the end. Two puffs in quick succession followed by the release of bluish white smoke. He watched the smoke float, dragons in the cool night air. They curled around, roaring silently, freedom suiting them well before their inevitable disappearance into the ever dark night. He felt he could watch them till the end of time, the multitudes of flavour still undecipherable. Like all good things, there will be some kind of end.
"The first time I cheated on my wife was not planned."
The two men no longer faced each other, pupils firmly trained on the stars above them.
"I can never forget her name, at least I could never bear to try. Even now those sweet four letters hold me in their sway."
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