The warm, flavoured air settled on their tongues as it rushed out of the lounge, as if it were being set free from captivity as soon as Zaynn opened the door and stepped aside to let the lady in first. Isipho strolled past him without uttering so much as a ‘thank you’.
As the pair made its way to the booths, Isipho couldn’t help but to let her eyes wander. Handsome, burly and moneyed men sat on the velvet couches of the Prestige Lounge, discussing their daily business affairs and laughing modestly as they went on with their poker games, occasionally sipping on lavish champagne or taking a drag of the flavoured steam before letting it escape through their mouths and nostrils in a lapsed fashion. She picked a comfortable-looking booth that was close to those couches, probably the one that offered the least amount of privacy. Her eyes continued to jump from young man to young man, so much so that she did not even notice the waitress who had arrived to welcome them. Zaynn had to tap the table in front of her to capture her attention.
“So she’s just going to leave without welcoming us?” Isipho complained.
“She just finished doing that” Zaynn said shyly and looked down at the menu before him as if trying to elude conversation with Isipho.
She followed pursuit and began paging through her menu, embarrassed.
Isipho gave herself the pleasure of paging to the back of the elegant menu, where all of the extravagantly priced food was listed. She had only ever fantasised about ordering from that part of the menu, but today she wanted to make sure that she would eat and be satisfied like the Queen.
After squinting at several mystifying dishes described on the menu and generously selecting a distinguished brand of wine for herself, she looked up to find Zaynn glaring at her with his intense, true sapphire eyes. She looked away for a moment.
“Creepy!” she thought, but she was undeniably blushing.
The waitress arrived in her blemish-free jet-black uniform and took their orders. Zaynn’s order sounded like a chemistry equation to Isipho. She wasn’t even sure that those items were listed on the menu but she assumed that he was just trying to impress her, because the young man before her wearing sweats at a distinguished lounge surely wouldn’t be able to afford first-class food. She smirked at the fact that he hadn’t even brought her there; she was the one who had literally picked him up from the side of the road when she spotted him on his late afternoon walk or something like that. She recognised his unmistakable muscular stature and sleek silver hair. Not to mention those striking blue eyes that stared at her as he stepped into the passenger seat of her white Kia Picanto. She had first seen those eyes 6 days ago at Adventuriat. It had been her turn to go for a bungee jump and it was supposed to a simple strap-in-and-go, but the man in charge made a huge deal out of her jumping alone on Valentine’s Day. She was about to storm off and demand a refund when a tall, silver-haired young man emerged from the queue of jumpers and offered to go with her since he too had arrived solo. The idea of what was supposed to be a rejuvenating jump being interrupted by the presence of a total stranger irritated her. However she could not deny the fact that diving with a gorgeous stranger sort of turned her on.
‘’Sooo...” Zaynn started.
“So can you be found wandering under the streetlights every winter evening?” Isipho enquired.
“When I’m on my way to check on the family business, yes” he chuckled. “And besides,” he continued, “I had to clear my mind”.
“So then I interrupted your plans by bringing you here?”
“Naah, Isipho,” Zaynn smirked, “You brought me to the perfect place”
Something about the way in which Zaynn pronounced her name made Isipho feel exhilarated. She warned herself, however, that she shouldn’t be catching feelings and that she wasn’t there for him anyways.
A short silence followed their conversation, and then there were drinks, and then there was food.
There was laughter when Isipho glared at her mussels, trying to figure out what to do next and Zaynn had to teach her how to sip them up. Even more laughter when the clam juice splattered her Melton jacket and Zaynn resorted to feeding them to her instead.
Dessert was served. The warm, chocolate lava cake melted in their mouths and mingled with their taste buds, and it was all washed down with some expensive sparkling red wine.
The bill arrived and Isipho insisted on paying for her half, which surprised her because it something that she hadn’t planned on doing tonight, but Zaynn signed the bill and swiped his card before she could protest any further.
“So do you always have a couple of extra thousands to pay for your dates’ meals at your own family’s restaurant?” Isipho enquired.
“Naah, but it’s what you wanted right?”
“What do you mean?”
“You wanted a fun night out, but weren’t planning on opening your own wallet.”
Isipho shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “That’s not true, Zaynn”
“It explains why you were eyeing the guys earlier and wouldn’t pay attention to me. And also why you chose to sit so close to them; so that you could eventually leave with one of them.”
Zaynn tried to mask the hurt in his voice.
A pang of guilt pierced Isipho’s heart and she tried to mask the hurt in her own voice as she took off after shaming Zaynn for reducing her to a money-loving jezebel.
“So the guy tried to buy me with his family’s money and then he crucifies me? “ Isipho thought to herself as the anger burned in her chest. The anger was, however, quickly replaced by another feeling. Guilt. This was not the focused, successful Isipho that she knew.
“Isipho, hold on, that’s not what I meant!” Zayn shouted as he trudged through the snow.
She stood, numbed to the core by shame, waiting for him to reach her.
“Isipho, I’m not judging you. I’ve seen more than my fair share of girls who came into that lounge seeking what you were seeking. You’re heartbroken so you’ve resorted to the adrenaline offered by reckless behavior to try and clear your mind; only because the love you gave before was thrown aside.”
“You wouldn’t know” Isipho muttered.
“Trust me, I know. For years girls were using me for my money when all I wanted was genuine love. I really surprised myself tonight. I broke the oath that I made to myself which was to stop trying to use money to make my girlfriends happy. I didn’t want to get burned by the same flame again. ”
“Girlfriend’s?” Isipho queried.
Zayn nodded and held Isipho’s mittened hands in his own. His sparkling blue gaze matched her curious hazel brown glare.
“I would love for you to be a part of my life. There’s something special about you that sets you apart from any other woman that I have ever come across. And I have long been searching for that ‘something’”
Isipho smiled but didn’t say anything.
Zayn chuckled, “If you’re not ready yet, I understand. Something tells me though that if we don’t end up together in this life, there’s no doubt that we will be in the next”
Just then, a cracking sound permeated from their surroundings. Their eyes darted about, looking for the source of the interruption, but too late, they realized their fate. The pair was swallowed up by the ground as the ice of the frozen lake exploded open beneath their boots and they plunged into the unwelcomingly bitter cold water. They attempted to climb back onto the ice but none of their efforts were met by success as the solid only crumbled further. They shouted in desperation for help. Many agonizingly long minutes passed before Zaynn could hear the sound of the sirens growing louder and louder. He turned to Isipho but was met by only the surface of the water. He weakly reached into the water and grabbed a hold of her limp hand to try and keep her afloat but only found himself sinking deeper into the deep, cold abyss. The sound of the sirens faded progressively as darkness overcame his vision and he was drawn in deeper, never letting go of Isipho’s hand.