(....the concluding part of the story that began here)
The second time Bitsy and Gabe met was purely by chance. Or so she thought.
She wasn't to know that three times Gabe had turned up at their house under the pretext of discussing a 'work point' with his colleague friend, her brother Paapa, in the hope of running into her. Gabe, convinced by how smoothly he had orchestrated things, thought Paapa was none the wiser.
Until the third day.
Whilst the two discussed the merits of the digital marketing proposal they had put in place for the communications company they worked for, Paapa broke off suddenly, and stated in a very quiet voice, 'She's my favourite sister. If you ever hurt her...' He'd trailed off, and then calmly resumed his argument on branding and logistical alliances.
Gabe would have thought he'd imagined it if it wasn't for the eerie intensity that had pulsed within the words. Paapa had since watched him with growing bemusement, although he was careful not to give anything away. Bitsy, he knew, had the nose of a bloodhound and could smell a story before it was even told. It also meant that he had become the unwitting rosy-cheeked cupid. He wasn't particularly amused by this role.
Bitsy was sitting on a hand-woven mat in the back garden at home when she was startled by a face peering at her through the net door of the kitchen.
'Gabe! Hi. Kinda startled me there..' she said, almost accusingly.
He flung the door open and walked the short distance to where she sat, and with characteristic cheekiness, plonked down noisily on her mat, uninvited. 'Here I am! What was your second wish?'
'Oh shut it.' She gave him a Look.
'Sorry. Aunty Adzo let me in. In any case, you don't look like a girl who scares easily..'
'Oh really? Just what kind do I look like then, oh great expert?'
He laughed, 'I love the experts. They haven't got a clue.'
'Hey, I was hoping to catch Paapa...is he here?'
'Out and about with his girlfriend,' Bitsy shrugged.
Perfect. Just perfect.
He gestured at her book. 'Any good?'
She held it up - Kiss and Tell, A Collection of Awkward First Kisses.
'Interesting,' he drawled slowly. 'I wouldn't have had you down for this kind of book...'
She sighed audibly. 'You have this idea of me, and it's a real pain to live up to it!' she retorted hotly.
His mouth twitched. 'So...first time?'
'First time what?'
He smiled into her eyes. 'You're the one reading a book on first kisses...so tell me about yours.'
'Oh, that.' Bitsy closed the book. 'Why don't you tell me yours!'
'Okay, I'm going to let you in on my secret. I used to practice on my arm..' He closed his eyes hard as though preparing for a torrent of abuse from her.
He nodded solemnly.
Bitsy laughed. 'Ew why would you do that? Didn't you have a cousin or something?' As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she realised what she had said.
'A cousin, huh?' Gabe echoed, intrigued. He leaned closer. 'That what you did? Or rather...who you did?' He grinned mischievously.
'She told me that's what people did if they wanted a baby!' Bitsy laughed at the memory. She'd fallen for Maame's lie as quickly as she'd become besotted with Naana, the newest baby in the family whose arrival had prompted her curiosity about where babies came from.
She was tickled further when years later, Maame rang her in a blind panic in the middle of the night. 'Peter thinks he's my first kiss. For goodness' sake, DON'T tell him about us!'
And Bitsy had injected a hurt note into her voice, 'I know we were kids but did I really mean that little to you?'
Maame, ever the softie, had been immediately contrite. 'No, no! It ..er..meant a lot to me..it did..'
Bitsy nearly asphyxiated with laughter.
Gabe was staring at her with amusement. 'Tongues?'
'Gabe!' she shoved him playfully, 'we were kids...we didn't even know the tongue had other uses except to lick alewa!'
He threw his head back in laughter.
Bitsy feigned a chastising look. 'Do I amuse you?'
Gabe stared at her a moment and grinned. 'You amaze me, astonish and astound me, and yes, you do amuse me.' You do everything for me, he wanted to add.
She felt the beginnings of a silly smile working up the corners of her lips, but she lowered her eyes demurely, deliberately breaking the moment. 'Do you want to stay for lunch? Paapa and Beryl will be back in the next hour or so.'
He expelled the breath he'd been holding in one quick whoosh, 'Actually I was hoping to..to..take you to try that new place that's opened on Beach Road...'
Gabe was a little flustered. 'Honestly, got nothing fishy planned..Paapa mentioned that you like seafood..and - ' he stopped talking, noticing her growing bemusement.
'Something Fishy is the name of the place..?' If he were any fairer, he'd be blushing a beetroot red right now.
She nodded solemnly, trying - and failing - to hide her pleasure at his obvious discomfort. 'I suppose you've asked quite a few women to this place, haven't you?' She meant to tease, but to her horror, it came out sounding jealous.
'Only one,' Gabe supplied calmly, recovered from his faux pas.
'Dark eyes, great wild hair, the best smile..' He paused. 'Someone a bit like you, really,' he added conversationally.
Very, very slowly she turned to look at him.
'Someone exactly like you, in fact.' He said, his eyes lit with warmth.
'And what did she say?' Her voice was a little breathless.
'Something along the lines of 'when hell freezes over,'' Gabe said, completely straight-faced.
'I did not say that!' she protested, laughing.
'No? What did you say then?'
'I said..er..' Bitsy frowned, 'hey, not fair! Objection! You're leading the witness on!'
'Oh really? Now it's my fault?' He looked at her with wide, innocent eyes.
She shook her head, smiling as she leaned over his knee and grabbed her book.
'Did you know two babies could be made at once?' He drawled lazily as she stood up. 'Bet your cousin didn't teach you that...'
'No, really?!' She smirked
He nodded with mock seriousness. 'Incy Bitsy spider...' he started in a nasal voice.
Bitsy whirled around. 'Hey,' she murmured softly, 'that's the first time you've called me Bitsy..'
'Oh I'm sorry...I meant Elizabeth, of course,' he smiled.
Bitsy smiled back. She did fancy some tilapia after all...