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Just thirty minutes. I told myself as I succumbed to the temptation to doze off in my office. Just thirty tiny minutes. It had been a long day and I was tired, plus even if I were caught, there was no one to tell me off. I was my own boss, after all.
There are a few things I love more than the fact that I am a successful, self-employed young woman who does what she likes doing, writing. It’s still hard to think of myself as the publisher and Editor-In-Chief of ‘Living Lagos!’ a weekly lifestyle magazine that presents the highlights and highpoints of Lagos life in an entertaining and engaging format. But I am! I own ‘Living Lagos!’, or at least I own a part of it. I have an investor, my close friend Eddie Bakare, but he’s more of a silent partner.
After years of co-editing a campus newspaper together, I got the idea for ‘Living Lagos!’ during our National Youth Service year and Eddie bought into it, literally. He invested over seventy per cent of the capital. (He does have a lot of money. His grandfather was a well-known politician/public funds looter, who made a lot of money ruining the country in the seventies. Eddie suffers the ill-gotten wealth very gracefully and generously.)
We worked very hard in the first year of running the magazine and by the time service year was over, ‘Living Lagos!’ had become a hit. In the second year we started an online edition. By then we were getting very good returns on our initial investments and Eddie was ready to leave me totally in charge, and take the job in his father’s oil marketing firm that had been waiting for him all his life.
So here I was, two years after completing my service year, practically my own boss and boss of four others. We rented this really tiny office space on Lagos Island from where we pursued stories on fashion, lifestyle, arts, social events and so on, within Lagos.
It was Friday afternoon, and the latest edition of ‘Living Lagos!’ had just hit the stands. After a week of intense work all I wanted to do was rest. Even the thought of driving to my tiny apartment, close by in Victoria Island was too much for my exhausted limbs. I leaned back in my chair and tried to ignore the sounds of Lagos Island coming from outside my window. I was already well on my way to dreamland when Ada, our resident photographer cum graphic designer burst into my office.
‘Hey! Wake up Soph!” She practically shouted, jolting me out of my doze.
I groaned and opened my eyes “What, what, what?” I said wearily. “Can’t you see I’m trying to work?”
“Yeah right!” She scoffed, impatiently brushing her braids away from her face and planting her rear on my desk. “Working with your eyes closed?”
“I’m working on catching up on my sleep, duh” I said with an unrepentant smile. “I had a meeting with Morpheus.”
She pursed her lips. “You will never change, Sophie.”
I sniggered. “I hope not.” I replied. It was comfortable to have Ada around. We had been casual friends in university, and even though we hadn’t been very close, I’d always liked her a lot. When the guy I and Eddie hired to do the graphic design had messed up the work, she stepped in as a favor to me. Now she was an integral part of our organization and apart from the other gigs she took as a wedding/ event photographer and portraitist, she seemed to be satisfied with her work at ‘Living Lagos!’
“I have some pictures I want you to look at.” She told me, cutting into my thoughts. She placed a large folder on my desk. The pictures were neatly grouped into categories. There were the ‘Candid Nollywood’ pictures, which showed Nollywood stars in various situations around the city – Stuck in traffic, riding in commercial motorcycles, looking bored on a public movie set etcetera. There were also the fashion pass and fail pictures, which included several pictures of socialites and actresses in varying degrees of embarrassing fashion failures or very well put together outfits.
Some of them made me laugh out loud as I looked through, but I made sure to remove some of them from the folder, ignoring Ada’s disapproving look. I wasn’t interested in being mean, or feeding other people’s meanness, so I took out pictures that I felt would be too unfair to publish. Ada was of a different persuasion in that respect, she thought most pictures deserved to be published. It was the photographer in her.
As I removed one of the last pictures, one of a young girl I recognized instantly, attending one of the award shows, and wearing a particularly hideous orange gown, Ada couldn’t help herself.
“Not that one!” She complained. “I think it’s a really good one.”
I gave her an uncompromising look. “If she were older than eighteen, maybe I would think about it.” I told her, ignoring the sulky face she was making. “Besides, she is Eddie’s little cousin.”
That got her quiet, sometimes I imagined she had a crush on Eddie, she was always quieter and more reserved whenever he was mentioned or came around.
“Okay, forget the picture.” She said. “There’s this benefit at the MUSON Centre tonight.”
The Music Society of Nigeria Centre was a very popular venue for highbrow occasions. One of the good things about working at ‘Living Lagos!’ was that we always got invites to the best events and nicest parties.
“And?” I asked.
“We have an invite.” She continued. “Actually, we have two. There’s a press tag, but that’s mine as I am going to take the pictures.” She paused. “So there’s one guest ticket.”
“Get Oliver to go.” I advised. “He can write something afterwards, or take Fadeke, she needs to cut her teeth on events like this.”
“I would ask them,” Ada said. “But I think you would like to go.”
“Moi?” I laughed. “Er… Nope. I am going to the Galleria to see a movie, get a facial, a foot massage and a pedicure, and then I am going home to sleep till Monday.”
“It’s a benefit for children with heart disease.” Ada said.
“Oh!” I said guiltily. “That’s sad.” I thought for a minute. “I’ll send a check on behalf of all of us.” I told her.
“It is organized by CareLife Foundation.” She continued, with a challenging expression on her face.
I paused. My heart had just started hammering like a gong, my mouth was suddenly very dry.
“CareLife.” Ada continued sweetly. “You know CareLife, don’t you? It is run by Cecilia Fernandez, who used to be Cecilia Ade-Cole.”
Of course I knew CareLife, and she knew I did. Why she was torturing me though, I didn’t know. I swallowed, hard. My heart was beating too fast, much too fast.
“You know her brother just returned from the states?” Ada continued, trying and not succeeding to keep the smirk from her voice “What’s that his name again?”
“Michael” I said. It came out as a whisper “Michael Ade-Cole”
“Yes that one.” She nodded, obviously pleased with herself. “I heard that he will be there.” She paused and gave me a mischievous look. “Confirmed.”
“Yes.” She replied.
“You’re evil.” I said, when I could breathe.
“I know.” She grinned. “So what should I do about the ticket?” She said innocently. “Should I give it to Oliver or Fadeke?”
I glared at her “Not on your life.”
Michael Ade-Cole! Long after Ada had left my office, his name kept running through my mind. In a world of Facebook, Twitter and even email, it would seem really strange that I had not seen or spoken with Michael in more than five years. We hadn’t spoken since before he left the country after his National Youth Service. If other people wondered why we hadn’t communicated at all, I didn’t, because I knew. It was because I was afraid. I was afraid of how much I still loved him, still wanted him, I was afraid of how his being in my life would affect me.
I met Michael in my first year at university, through Eddie Bakare. They were family friends. When we were introduced, Michael was in his final year and I was the greenest fresher that ever was. For some reason, He took a great liking to me. Whenever there was anything happening, like the cool parties he or his friends usually had, he’d invite Eddie and tell him to bring his “cute friend Sophia”. As for me, in those first days I was in awe of him, he was really handsome, tall, and slim with a smile that could do things to a girl’s insides. For a girl straight out of a girl’s only boarding school, he was like a Mills and Boon hero come to life.
After a while, Eddie kind of dropped out of the equation. Michael would pick me up after my classes and take me to lunch, he knew all the best places to eat and the best places to just hangout. He used to listen to me talk and talk, in those days I had views on everything and I was always sure I was right. He would listen and laugh and call me a breath of fresh air. The first day he came to the girl’s hostel to visit me, my roommates were all agog. I hadn’t realized before then, how popular he was. It turned out that everyone either knew him, or knew of him. Rich, handsome, brilliant, funny and friendly, guys liked him and girls loved him. He was like a campus legend.
I was very innocent at the time. The fact that his interest in me seemed to be purely platonic made me very comfortable in my new friendship. It made me less insecure, I doubt that the fledgling confidence I possessed at the time would have supported a romantic attachment to the most desired guy in school. But if I was comfortable, his avuncular attitude also made me aware of my lack of siren power.
I wasn’t too bothered at the time. I really didn’t want a relationship. Before starting university, I had heard countless stories about the ‘Jambites Rush’ the annual seduction of Freshers by more experienced male students. Determined not to be a statistic, I had resolved not to date anyone in my first year in school.
But sometimes when I thought about the possibility of going out with Michael, I could feel my resolve weakening. I daydreamed about him so much it was a wonder that I got anything done that year.
Once, when I was presenting my views on the ‘Jambite rush’ to him, and making fun of the guys who had tried to ‘rush me’ I mentioned that I had no intention of going out with anybody for at least my first two years of school.
“Seriously!” He had exclaimed teasingly. “So if I were dying for you right now, you would just tell me to get lost?”
Even though my heart had skipped a beat and was now pounding erratically and my mouth had gone dry and I couldn’t really arrange the thoughts in my head, all of which seemed to be screaming ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! Tell me you love me and see what happens!’ I shook my head stubbornly and gave him a challenging look.
“Really! Sophia!” He had groaned. “You just broke my heart, so I have to wait for like, two years?”
“Yes.” I replied stubbornly, forcing myself to laugh as if I wasn’t taking it all seriously.
“Hmm.” He shook his head. “Two years is really long, I might just have to polish my Casanova skills.” He said laughing “By the time I give you the smoothest lines ever invented, you won’t even know when you’ll be dating me by tomorrow.”
No one can understand the kind of elation that conversation gave me. What I had always seen as impossible now seemed like a distant possibility at least. Even when we started talking about other things, hilarious pickup lines and such, my heart kept soaring. Yes! Yes! Yes! I was going to go out with him!
However, nothing ever came of that conversation, even though every day I fell more in love with him. Somehow, the school year passed, our friendship continued, and his graduation came around. Sometimes it was like a fever, all the time we spent together was like some sort of sweet torture. I had to pretend all the time, that I wasn’t dying for him, that it wasn’t all I wanted for him to tell me that he couldn’t wait any longer and would I please go out with him.
It was hard to convince my friends that we weren’t dating, everyone thought we were. If only they knew.
By the time his graduation came around, I was convinced that he really didn’t have feelings for me, that he had only been teasing me that day, and that we were and would only ever be friends. I had also heard millions of rumors, a girlfriend he had at home, in another school, outside the country, etc.
On the day of his convocation, his whole family came to school, and there was a huge party. I had met his mother before, but now I also met the rest of the family. They all knew of me, and called me Michael’s baby. They made such a fuss over me, it felt like I was the one celebrating something.
The next day, after his family had left him to pack up his stuff and come join then at home, I called him to ask how the packing was going.
“Horrible.” He had replied, sounding dejected on the phone and begging me to come keep him company.
He sounded so miserable, I readily accepted.
I had been to his rooms a lot of times. He lived in a self-contained apartment close to the campus. I had done a lot of my studying there. Whenever he travelled, he would leave me his keys and I would sleep over there until he returned, watching cable television and trying to match his prowess on the play station.
When I got there that day though, all his stuff had been packed into boxes and cartons, apart from the blue rug that lined the whole apartment, which he was leaving because he had no place for it at home, the apartment looked stripped and bare. I could see why he was depressed.
“My house has disappeared.” He said with mock desperation when he saw me. He looked so comic, I burst out laughing.
“Seriously though.” He said, when the merriment was over. “Tell me you will stay here and I’ll unpack right now and return everything to how it used to be. Please.”
He had offered me the apartment before. I had only refused because my parents had no intention of letting me stay outside the campus hostel for my first two years of school and I didn’t want any of my numerous guardians sending bad reports to them.
“Sorry” I said soothingly, “No again. Anyway, it looks like you’ve finished packing, there’s nothing for me to help you with.”
“I just stuffed everything into boxes and cartons.” He said with a slight grimace “I’ll sort through them when I get home.”
“How are you going?” I asked. I knew all his stuff would never fit into his car.
“I got a truck to take the stuff home.” He informed me. “It will be here soon.” He frowned. “I will be leaving later today, after the truck leaves.”
I nodded. “I’ll miss you so much.” I said earnestly. I couldn’t help it, I went to him and hugged him tighter than I had ever hugged him before. He was my closest friend and constant companion, his leaving was devastating for me.
He seemed surprised at first, we hadn’t really been the touchy, huggy, kind of friends, but after his initial hesitation, he hugged me back.
Then he kissed me.
My first kiss, surprisingly.
It was crazy. One minute my arms were around him in a very platonic friendly hug, the next, I was on fire, and no matter how he much touched me, it was not enough.
We made love, my first time, in his room, on his soft blue rug. It was slow and sweet and the best thing that had ever happened to me. His passion, his eagerness, the expression on his face when he touched me, when he lost control, made me feel like I was the queen of the earth and sky.
Afterwards, as he held me and stroked my hair, my body was singing with pleasure, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. I thought of how we had wasted a whole year we could have had together and I felt so sad I wanted to cry.
It was around then that he got up, leaving me alone on the floor, I lay there wondering what was wrong because, I could have lain in his arms until forever ended.
“I’m sorry.” I heard him say.
He had already started getting dressed. “I’m so sorry.” He repeated, not looking at me.
I couldn’t process what he was saying, sorry about what? I started to feel naked. I found my blouse and held it against my chest. As a covering for my nakedness and also I think, as protection from whatever it was he was going to say.
“I’m sorry.” He repeated “I really hate the fact that I have done this to you.”
Done what? Didn’t he know that everything he had done to me had made me feel beautiful beyond words? But then, he looked so guilty that I began to wonder, what was he saying, was he sorry because he had taken advantage of me? That could only mean that he had no intention of our little incident becoming more than that, an incident.
I kept on looking at his face, trying to read what I saw there, of course he felt bad, I thought. This was ‘Jambite rush’, a year too late perhaps but still the same thing. And he was feeling guilty because it was me, me who was innocent, me who had never been anything but nice to him.
Suddenly, I was angry, I got up and started to dress as fast as I could. “Look.” I said, doing my best to sound confident, as though I didn’t care, even though inside, I was shaking with disappointment, hurt and anger. “Let’s just forget this happened okay, obviously we both made a mistake.”
“I didn’t, Sophie.” He said, looking earnest and dejected at the same time. “I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time.”
“Really?” I raged. “Exactly how long have you been planning my seduction, and is it coincidence or just some kind of poetic injustice that it took place on your last day?”
“I didn’t plan anything.” He denied. “Sophie, I know how you feel, and I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.
How could he know how I felt, when I couldn’t even understand it myself? I stopped listening; I was trying too hard not to cry. I was done putting my clothes back on. Without a word I picked up my bag and left. I started to cry as soon as I had closed the door behind me.
We never spoke again after that day, not for lack of trying on his part. He did call, over and over again. But I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him. I was still trying to understand what had happened and still too confused and angry to talk to him. I changed my number after a while. Then I heard from Eddie that he had travelled to the states for a master’s degree.
Over the years Eddie kept me updated, he told me that Michael was working somewhere in the states, and then later that he was thinking of coming back to Lagos. I always listened. Sometimes I would imagine what life was like for him. I missed him and I wondered if he thought of me at all.
Life went on though, I graduated, served, started ‘Living Lagos’ and gave up on ever loving any other man the way I still loved Michael.
I had confided my feelings to Ada on one of the ‘Girl’s night in’ days at my apartment. Drunk on red wine, maudlin on romance movies and incensed by a picture of him I had seen on a friends Facebook page. I told her everything while she listened patiently.
“I think you overreacted.” She had said at last. “I’m not really sure about the ‘jambite rush’ thing and I don’t understand all your ‘vexing’ and not picking his calls. Why didn’t you at least talk to him?”
I had asked myself the same question over and over for years, so I couldn’t bring myself to argue with her. We went back to oohing and aahing over his picture and how handsome he looked. Before the day was over Ada made me promise that if I ever had a chance I would see him, talk to him and see how it went from there.
“You never know.” She said. “You might just take one look at him and wonder what you ever saw in him.”
Very unlikely, I thought.
Now here I was in my tiny bedroom, with no idea what to wear. I was in a panic. I didn’t want to be too dressy, and make him think I was trying too hard. But I didn’t want to dress down either. Half of my wardrobe was on the bed and I still hadn’t decided. I almost decided to give up and stay home.
My phone rang. It was Ada, of course.
“Have you left home yet?” She asked.
“No!” I replied dejectedly, collapsing unto the pile of clothes on the bed “I’m not going. I have nothing to wear!”
“Of course you do.” She cajoled. “You have lots of lovely clothes.”
“Well they’re all hiding somewhere.” I said petulantly. “Because I haven’t seen any of them.”
“You’re just panicking.” Ada said. “You’re afraid to go and see the man you know is the love of your life.” She continued. “Just relax.” She coaxed. “You’re beautiful, in fact you’re stunning, forget about him for a moment and just dress up for a fabulous night out.”
Easy for her to say, I thought.
At last I decided to wear a simple black dress, a pair nude colored shoes and a matching clutch. I wore simple gold accessories and pinned my hair up. My makeup was light, a little eye shadow, mascara and lipstick, and I was done.
The girl who stared back at me in the mirror was classy and elegant, with long black hair, and smooth fair skin. My almond shaped eyes, already large, were well framed by my long lashes and elegantly arched brows. My small nose was perfectly underlined by my full cupid’s bow lips. Combined with my slim figure and long legs, I knew I looked good, and I was glad.
It was a short drive to the MUSON center. When I arrived, the event had just started. I saw Ada, looking odd as usual in jeans and a T-shirt, taking pictures of people at the entrance. She saw me and gave me two thumbs up. I smiled, relaxing a bit.
As soon as I entered the full hall, my eyes started to scan the place for Michael. I didn’t see him. As I futilely searched the faces of the people across the numerous round table arranged in the big hall, I tried to ignore the pang of disappointment in my stomach. I gave up and went to search for my seat.
There was funny couple on my table, a husband and wife in their sixties, who adopted me as soon as I sat down and before long, had me laughing at their stories on how they met.
“He walked up to me and said he was going to marry me!” The lady told me, her light voice just able to reach me over the music the live band was playing. “And I told him to get in the back of the queue.”
“I told her I was starting a new queue.” Her husband said with a self-satisfied chuckle.
“Then I asked him what he had that my other beaus didn’t.” The lady said still smiling, “and do you know what he said?” She asked me.
I shook my head.
“He said marry me and you’ll find out!”
“She couldn’t resist that!” Her husband laughed. “She just had to know.”
It continued like that all evening and even helped to ease my tension a little. But I still couldn’t forget why I was there. Michael Ade-Cole was like a weight, an anchor, holding my mind in one place so that no matter what I did, I couldn’t turn it away from him.
I had psyched myself to be cool when I finally saw him. But when I did see him, all that preparation went out of the window. Somehow as soon as he came into the hall, I knew. My eyes went to the entrance and there he was, still beautiful, like some sort of god. He looked taller than I remembered, dressed in a semi-casual traditional attire of a white brocade caftan and trousers. I watched him stride into the hall, following an usher to a table at the front. As he passed by my table I thought I saw him pause and almost turn around, but then he kept on walking, and joined his sister at their table in the front.
“Are you all right?” It was the old lady. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I’m fine” I reassured her, smiling quickly.
She pursed her lips. “Why are you here alone anyway?” She asked as if I had personally affronted her. “A beautiful girl like you should be here with one of her beaus. I always had someone to escort me when I was your age.”
“Times have changed.” Her husband quipped. “These days’ girls impress each other with their careers, not with the men on their arm.”
At one point Ada came up to me. “Babes, I saw him and he is hot!!!” She whispered in my ear. “How did you ever let that one get away?”
I shook her away and then stole a glance at him. He seemed to be enjoying himself, talking and laughing with the people at his table. Yes, he was handsome, more handsome than I remembered. I sighed. It hurt to even look at him.
The event drew towards the end. The last of the comedians and dancing troupes had concluded their acts and Michael’s sister gave her vote of thanks. Everyone was up and socializing. I got up. There was only one way to do this. If I was going to find out if my feelings for Michael would ever result in anything after all this time, then I was going to have to go to him.
He was standing towards the front of the room, talking with a slender woman who, as far as I could see was being very receptive to whatever it was he was saying. Of course I had known that he might bring a date, but the sight was much more unamusing than the thought. I didn’t pause though, I walked towards him, my steps purposeful, inside I was a knot of nerves, but outside, I am sure I looked like the most confident girl in the room.
I was halfway to him before he raised his eyes.
And looked right into mine.
I paused, the sledgehammer effect of his gaze throwing my purposefulness out of the window.
He stopped talking and frowned. I smiled hesitantly.
Then he broke into a huge smile and hurried toward me.
“Sophia!” he exclaimed, wrapping me in a hug. “I can’t believe it”
I stood there, shocked and happy at the same time. It was beautiful to stand there in his arms, inhaling his cologne and the fresh scent of his clothes. It felt so good I wanted to stand there forever.
“I’ve been thinking of you all evening!” He exclaimed. “I don’t know why. But since I walked in here I have not been able to stop thinking about you.”
I smiled weakly and said the only thing I could think of. “Well, Long time no see.” I said lamely.
“Yes!” He said emphatically. “Much too long.” He paused and looked me over admiringly. “You look great.” He said. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a work thing.” I said. “For my magazine.”
“Ah!” He smiled. “Living Lagos.”
I nodded, of course he knew about it, Eddie would have told him.
He grinned widely. “Well, just look at my little Sophie! All grown up and running her own magazine.”
“I could say the same about you” I said. “Except you’ve always been ‘all grown up’”
He laughed. “So no one has tamed that your tongue of yours yet.” He said teasingly. “It’s good to see you though, five years is a very long time.”
“It is.” I agreed. The woman he had been talking with was still standing there, waiting for him, I guessed. I looked towards her. “Aren’t you here with someone?” I asked.
“Many people.” He replied. “My sister, Cecilia, I’m sure you remember her, her husband, my cousins! That’s my cousin Julie I was just talking to. You can come meet her if you like.”
I almost let out a sigh of relief. He didn’t have a date with him after all.
As we walked toward his cousin he turned towards me. “So are you here alone or is there someone looking daggers at my back right now, ready to challenge me to a duel?”
“Oh no no!” I laughed. “I’m here alone.”
“Good” He laughed. “That suits me fine.”
“Really!” I exclaimed. “Why? I hope you don’t have any nefarious plans for me?”
He gave me a look I couldn’t quite decipher. “Here’s Julie.” He said, as we reached his cousin. He introduced us. After a few moments of small talk, he took my hand and led me away from his cousin. “We need to catch up.” He stated. “When can I see you again?”
“I’m free this weekend.” I said, my heart singing, this was going much better than I had hoped.
He nodded. “Where do you live?” He asked.
I told him.
“That’s not far.” He stated. “Let me take you home.” He offered.
I almost said yes before I remembered that I’d brought my car. “I brought my car.” I said regretfully, wishing I’d never bought it.
“Okay, well tomorrow is Saturday.” He said thoughtfully. “So we have all day.” He thought for a moment “You know what? Give me your keys. I’ll drive you home and get someone to bring your car to your house.” He smiled teasingly. “That way, at least I’ll get to know where you live, in case you plan to disappear after tonight.”
I happily agreed.
His sister came over to say hello. She was tall, like him, in fact they looked so much alike, they could have been twins. She was obviously pregnant and seemed to be one of those women who carried pregnancies with energy and ease. I had met her back when I and Michael were at school together. So we knew each other.
“You!” She started to chide me as soon as she saw me. “Why did you abandon my brother?” She asked mock seriously.
“I didn’t.” I protested weakly.
“Don’t mind her.” Michael said to her in a conspiratorial tone. “She broke my heart and she won’t even accept it.”
“I didn’t.” I exclaimed with a frown.
“Hmm.” Cecilia said. “Thank God he has found you. He’s been moping around the U.S for four years, so now maybe he will stop.” She smiled. “Hopefully you’ll be a good influence on him.”
“I hope so.” I laughed. “Though with this one, it might be too late.”
“He’s too corrupt already, isn’t he?” She laughed and turned to leave us, then stopped. “Folake just called.” She said to Michael, “She asked if she should still bother to come. But I told her it was too late and we had already finished.”
He was holding my hand and I thought I felt it tense up a little, but that could have been my imagination “Okay.” He shrugged. “That’s fine.”
We soon left for my apartment, after I had shown him where my car was parked. He drove one of those new Range Rovers. It was very comfortable and luxurious. “Nice car.” I commented.
“I aim to please.” He said.
I thought he seemed a little preoccupied. What was he thinking about, and who was Folake? The person his sister had mentioned. Was she his girlfriend or fiancée, I didn’t want to think about it so I pushed it out of my mind.
“Don’t be so quiet.” He said after a while. “I spent the last five years missing your constant prattle.”
“Prattle!” I exclaimed incredulously. “I didn’t used to prattle.”
“Yes you did.” He said. “You could never stop talking, you had opinions on everything and you never hesitated to voice them.”
“Some people would call that opinionated.” I laughed.
“Well.” He said. “As Jesus himself once said,” He looked at me with a teasing smile. “You said it.”
We both burst out laughing.
He stopped at the parking lot of my apartment building and we remained in the car, just talking. I told him all about running ‘Living Lagos’, he seemed really impressed.
“I am impressed.” He said at last. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks.” I replied diffidently.
“So aside from the magazine, what have you been up to?” He asked.
“Nothing much.” I said, “Just living.” And thinking about you, I added silently.
He laughed. “I used to have nightmares that when I saw you again you would be married with a kid or two and a jealous husband who would forbid you to talk to me.”
“Well I hope to have the kids and the hopefully not-so-jealous husband someday soon.” I said, with a small forced laugh.
He held my eyes for a while. What was he thinking? I wondered.
“I’m engaged.” He said suddenly.
I had been sitting there in the car with him, my whole body growing warm at his closeness. As soon as he spoke, it was like someone had poured icy water all over me. My stomach dropped and I looked away from him. Outside the car, the security lights were casting an orange glow all over the compound. I concentrated on that, so that I wouldn’t cry. I felt like a fool, I felt like I should have known, really. Why had I expected him to be single? He was young, handsome and virile, of course someone else had taken the opportunity I had thrown away.
I forced a smile. “Congratulations!” I exclaimed, turning back to him. “I am very happy for you.”
He looked at me for what seemed like a long time. He shifted his gaze outside the car “Thanks.” He said at last.
“She wasn’t there tonight?” I asked.
“No she was busy with work.”
“Oh!” I nodded. “Okay.” I opened the car door. “I guess I see you around then.” I said, trying to make it sound like I didn’t care, like he hadn’t just broken my heart a second time in one lifetime.
“I hope I’ll see you more than that.” He replied. Was I imagining the pleading note in his voice? “After five years.” He continued. “I don’t want you to disappear again.”
I nodded and he smiled.
“Goodnight.” I said.
“Goodnight.” He replied.
I watched him drive off. My heart felt very hollow. All my hopes now felt too foolish to even bear thinking about. It took all my strength even to walk up the stairs to my apartment.
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