Night was falling. I was a little more collected in thoughts and actions now. He had grown a little taller and even more handsome I acknowledged as he sat across from me on a sofa in the sitting room. Still his face held no expression but I could care less, at least my own anger had dissipated a little. I didn’t even bother about offering him anything, that’d be me being too nice.
‘I’m sorry’ he finally said.
‘It’s a little pointless now, don’t you see?’
‘I don’t see anything. You are not married yet.’
‘I’m as good as being married boo, I’m engaged already’
‘But you don’t love him.’
‘How would you know? You don’t even know what love is!’ I snorted.
‘See, I am sorry okay? I love you. I have loved you since the first time we met.’
It was the last thing I wanted to hear. ‘Why are you here Mensah?’ I questioned impatiently.
‘To ask you to..’
‘Be your girlfriend?’ I laughed without meaning to. I was angry but I just couldn’t help the laughter. ‘You take a year to finally decide I’ll make a good girlfriend, maybe you’ll then be needing 4 more years to finally decide I’ll make a good wife or not but sorry darling, I don’t have that kind of time to spare.’
He had a ring in his finger. I only just realised because he was awfully silent and staring at me intently like he was expecting a response to a question he just asked. I smiled in my head. He wouldn’t kneel, or perform all of that unceremonious proposal rituals other people busied themselves with. He just sat there with so much confidence and aura, certain that I had no choice but to jump into his arms and kiss those enticing lips of his. I turned my head away from him. He had to be joking!
‘Marry me Ayo. Marry me and put us out of this misery.’
‘I..’ There was a knock on the door. I was thankful for it because I wasn’t sure how to respond yet. I went to see who it was. It was Bello.
‘Thank Godness you are fine!’ He said excitedly as he took me in his arms. ‘You scared me love. Your phone was switched off, and you didn’t answer my calls earlier.’
I just stood there like a log of wood- not welcoming him into the house and not ushering him out. I let fate decide what will be. Eventually, his eyes caught Mensah’s who had obviously been watching the scene with mock interest from the beginning. He stuttered now, releasing me from his embrace, willing me to explain what a full grown man was doing sitting on my sofa at some minutes past 7pm.
About a year ago.
I met Peter Mensah through a friend at our final year dinner. He is a tall, black attractive hunk of a man, with tiny eyes, and distinct dimples that gives him an undeniably appealing look. A Mensah by all standards, I fell for him instantly. My friend, Tope Ojo, had always promised to hook me up with one of her many rich boyfriends because she hated to see a beautiful girl like myself single at 23. True to her word, she introduced me to Mensah as my arranged date at the dinner and we got chatting. He made good company and I had begun thinking maybe, just maybe, he could be the next big thing until I found out he was running his Masters program in the UK and had only just come into the country for a quick visit. Long distance relationship? No way! Quickly, I put the thought out of my head and enjoyed the evening as it came. After he travelled, we kept chatting via BBM and he would call me every now and then despite the costly charge. It warmed my heart. In months, we had built an enviable virtual relationship, that even couples that saw each other daily could not boast of. We would chat everyday and he knew of everything that was going on with me, same with me about him. We were both single and we were aware of the fact but we never broached the topic of being in a relationship. I was thankful for it really because much as I would have loved to date him, I never wanted to do the long- distance thing. So I fixed him in the bestfriend zone, without letting him know. I made my head register the fact too. And it obliged. Service year was going well, and I was growing older by the months, and there was my mind teasing me about being a lonely old soul, so that when Tope Bello came up on the radar, I gladly welcomed the distraction.
It was a coincidental meeting at the Banking hall on that Thursday, my CDS day. I think my Khaki attracted the fine black thing to me, before he noticed my smallness. So the question flew right out his mouth before he could even censor it ‘how old are you?’. I laughed in my head. No, I couldn’t be angry. I was used to the question already. ’10’ I responded with an unsmiling face but hell yeah, that was just a facade! He bursted out in laughter on realising how silly his question must have sounded. ‘I’m sorry’ he finally said. And then I responded with a smile, my first smile that day and the very thing that undid him. He walked me to my home. His company was enjoyable but I didn’t want to entertain any thoughts or hopes of seeing him again so I declined when he asked us to fix a formal date. He was shocked. I guess he had never been turned down in his entire life. What sensible girl would anyway? The way his face fell made him look even all the more gorgeous but if I let anything with him, it was going to be pure rebound for I knew my heart was with Mensah even against my will. I loved him.
To my surprise, weeks after on one Saturday afternoon, Bello visited. I had forgotten about him already because I didn’t expect that he’d check back. He made me go out with him on a lunch date. His ‘plea-face’ was so damn irresistible. He had a charming personality. And he was smart in thought and style. ‘Why are you single?’ This time the question flew out my mouth before I could censor it. He gave a short laugh. ‘Did I mention that I was single?’
‘Is she that boring then? Or I am just your idea of passing time?’
‘Ah. You want to put me in that corner you girls love to put guys abi?’ He laughed again. His laugh was contagious but not ticklish like M… Don’t go there, my mind cautioned. I dismissed my thoughts and focused on him again, harder this time. There had to be something about him that would beat Mensahs charm. And there I found it, his eyes. They were surprisingly grey. How did I never notice it?
‘I like you.’ And here was someone who would tell you his feelings even when they were so obvious. Mensah would.. Don’t go there! My mind warned again.
I smiled. ‘Thank you.’
‘It wasn’t a compliment.’ I laughed this time, honestly, for the first time.
‘A proper gentleman would say ‘you’re welcome’. What village are you from again?’ We both laughed.
Lunch was great and I found myself looking forward to seeing him again. I told Mensah about it though over a chat later that evening. He seemed like someone squealing in delight as he replied with about a dozen BBM ‘dancing’ smileys. I think for a minute I felt hurt. Hurt that maybe it was just me feeling the ‘whats’ and ‘what-nots’ all this time, imagining what was and what wasn’t.
But I dismissed the feeling almost as quickly as they came when Bello’s message popped from below Mensah’s chat page. Quickly I navigated to his chat page and we had an wholesome chat. It was enjoyable. I was so engrossed I became oblivious of Mensah’s chats or maybe it was my way of punishing him for being excited at the news. With time, things balanced out. I gave Bello a chance and I was almost sure I would not regret it. We had gone four months down and it had begun to look like marriage as both our families knew we were an item already and they were fine with it. Service year was over, and I had been working at my dad’s law firm for 3 months, which would mark a year of being together with Bello when I received a call one unsuspecting afternoon from Mensah. We were still friends but the chats had reduced considerably over time.
‘Hey!’ I called out.
‘Hey. So when should I visit? If you won’t visit, I won’t mind visiting.’
‘What? You lost me there.’
”M back to Nigeria.’
‘Whoa. Since when? You didn’t mention na. How was I supposed to know?’
‘Ha. Well, since you started dissing my chats since you found a new love, how really were you supposed to know?’
Then it clicked! All those chats I had ended even before reading because it seemed like he was catching feelings long after I had moved on with my life.
‘Errm. Guess we’ll see soonish dear. By the way, welcome back! Sure you had a smooth flight. Stay away from unnecessary contacts o. Remember you’re in Lagos and Ebola is very real!’ I said on a lighter note.
He laughed a little. It tickled my ears. ‘Let’s talk later dear. Work calls.’ I lied. I needed to get off this phone before he used his winchi winchi to get me feeling those feelings again.
We didn’t speak again for a while and I was fine with it. Tope had proposed the weekend after Mensah’s call at a family dinner, and the question almost made me choke. I wasn’t sure if I was ready, worse still, I wasn’t sure if I was still in love with Mensah or if I had totally given in to him. If he hadn’t decided to make such a grand act with the proposal, I would have pleaded with him to let us give ‘us’ more time. But here, in the presence of sisters, brothers, cousins and nephews, it was impossible to say no. It would hurt him, torment him, embarrass him, and what’s more, there’ll be too many questions to answer because everyone thought it the best thing they had heard all day. I forced a smile to my lips before the teardrop that teased my eye found its was out. I stretched my fingers forward and nodded. I couldn’t trust my words not to fail me. Everyone squealed in delight. It made me all the more nauseous. If only they knew what turmoil my heart was in. What had started as a mere rebound had now got so big, it threatened to swallow me up. He hugged me now, and then I couldn’t help the flowing tears. I was sure they all thought it had everything to do with joy. If only they knew..
© The Short Black Girl, 2014.