Mist

She had never wanted to meet anyone before like she wanted to meet him. He fascinated her in the way unfamiliar yet alluring things do. She wanted to explore the depths of his mind and uncover the treasures she knew were hidden therein, but it would be another year before she had any opportunity to see him. In the meantime, she would try to be content with the occasional email.

The occasional email.

Ndu had read those emails too many times; musing over every word–words she believed were carefully thought out and typed–and pausing to relish the times he wrote dear, or wonderful, or beautiful, or smiling when she came across the word Nnem. He was an enigma. There was much about him she did not yet know since they had exchanged their first message only five months ago, but she could sense he was fighting an internal battle. There was something about the way he cautiously constructed his sentences, the way he emphasized the words take care of yourself and the way he politely thanked her for their conversation, that suggested he was being more than just perfunctory. She often imagined his inner tempest howling as he struggled with the likelihood of falling in love with someone he had never met, and this thought, of his brows in deep furrows, his heart thumping and his trembling fingers suspended over the keyboard while he pondered what to type, made her heart dance. Oh, how she wanted these thoughts to be true! Granted, he was yet to be explicit about his feelings for her; after all, it had only been five months of sending emails back and forth. Regardless, she knew. She was good at deciphering these things. There was something about his sentences…

Did he know she felt the same way?

She had been careful not to reveal too much, playing him at his own game, and together, it seemed, they tiptoed on eggshells–careful not to say anything about how they both really felt–as their conversations steadily grew both intense and circuitous. Nnem, you should rest. You work too hard. She had read those words in his most recent email over fifty times, and each time she did, they gave her rest. Could she be wrong? I need you to be happy. Please take care of yourself. Could she be projecting her own feelings on to him? He ended all his emails with love and light to you. Could his emails be nothing? Disturbing, ludicrous, platonic nothing? No. She was good at deciphering these things…

Her strong desire to meet him reminded her of tangerine. Peeling the rubbery skin of the fruit releases a fine mist of fragrant oils that cruelly stimulate the taste buds. Yet, gratification must be delayed and the peeling must be complete for the tangerine to be enjoyed. Meeting Chimso would be a delicious end to the current peeling process. For now, she would enjoy the sweet-smelling mist of their conversations that seem to gently but consistently nudge the boundaries of mere friendship.

Image credit: Instructables

The painting

DAY 13

“Hold out your hand.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Do you trust me?” He asked.

She hesitated. “Yes?”

“Seems like a half-hearted yes to me.” He smiled a half-smile. It wasn’t really a smile; a corner of his lips simply curled up when he was seriously contemplating something.

They were standing in front of the easel holding the white 8 x 10 canvas in his small basement studio. The walls and shelves were lined with completed and near-completed paintings of different sizes. Some were commissioned paintings for clients, others were inspired works he hoped to eventually sell or gift out or keep. The air from the vents in the ceiling was cool but the smell of oil paint and acrylic hung heavy. There were several humming sounds from the refrigerator, the dehumidifier and the air vents that combined to fill the studio with a low, comfortable drone. The studio had no windows, but it was well lit with bright white lights. Nate had his palette in one hand, brush in the other.

“It is a half-hearted yes.” She replied.

He nodded. “I’ll never hurt you. You know that, right?”

Silence.

“Cécile?”

Silence. She held out her hand. Her fingers trembled as her arm hung in the air, palm open. She looked away, fighting back the tears.

She felt something cold on her palm. Nate had placed a paint brush in her hand. He closed her fingers over the handle of the brush.

“What?” She gasped and turned to face him. “No. Nate, you know I can’t.”

“I know you can do anything you set your mind to.” He let her hand go. “I’ll go grab us some coffee. How does that sound?”

“I don’t want to do this.”

“I won’t hurt you Cécile.” He whispered. “Just try. Take the palette.”

“I haven’t done this since….”

“You are an artist Cécile.”

She took the palette from him and struggled to wrap her fingers around it. Nate watched. As soon as she had the palette well positioned, he gave her shoulder a soft squeeze and left.

Nate returned with two cups of steaming coffee and placed them on the small table that served as a dining table located in a corner of the studio. He had been gone for a long time, about an hour. She knew his prolonged absence was deliberate because the coffee shop was only a block away from the studio. He walked up to the canvas.

“Well done Cécile.” He smiled. This time, the sides of his eyes crinkled, revealing soft lines. He was thrilled.

She smiled too. “It’s a branch.” She said. On the canvas was a long, bent, brown line.

“Yes, I can see that.” He replied, still staring at the painting. “Would you like to continue?”

“I think I’m done for now. The coffee smells so good.”

“Very well.” They walked to the dining table and sat.

The heat from the coffee cup felt good against her fingers. Her spirit was lifted. “Thank you for letting me do this.”

“You have to promise me something.” He said, as his eyes danced in mischief.

“What?”

He sipped his coffee. “You have to finish it.”

“What?” She almost dropped the Styrofoam coffee cup.

“Hey, Cécile,” He whispered. “You can take as long as you want. No pressure. OK?” He sipped again, “It’s just that you had an idea, some inspiration when you started. I want to see what it was. My studio is your studio.”

She nodded. Painting for the first time since the diagnosis felt good. Painting that bent line, even though it took an hour, made her feel better than she had felt in a long time. She’d try to finish the painting.

DAY 25

His phone rang while he was having cold cereal for breakfast in his studio. “Hello?”

“Nate? James here.”

“Mr. Oliver? How can I help you?”

“Yes.” A pause, “Cécile won’t be coming to the studio today.”

Nate’s heart skipped a beat, but he responded coolly. “Is she alright? She was doing much better yesterday.”

“Yes. She is just fine. My wife and I need to attend an important function today. I’m sorry she didn’t let you know earlier. You know how she forgets things these days. It’s…it’s the disease.”

Silence.

“Err, I’ll drop her off tomorrow,” James continued.

“That’s alright. Have a good—”

“Oh, Nate?”

“Yes, Mr. Oliver?”

“I want to thank you for helping my wife. Her mood has improved since she started painting at your studio. She never uses her studio here at the house anymore, but I know how much she loved to paint before the disease.”

“Cécile is an artist.” His jaw was clenched and his eyes were slits, but his voice gave nothing away.

“Yes, yes. Well, till tomorrow.” James hung up.

Nate hated the way James said the word ‘disease,’ as if his wife was dirty and could contaminate anything she touched. He knew James stopped appreciating Cécile’s artistry and berated her feeble attempts at painting soon after the diagnosis. There wasn’t any money to be made from her work since she could no longer brandish a brush with the dexterity she once had. The constant criticism from her husband led her to vow never to paint again. He also knew James only took Cécile out to events when he knew he could use his wife’s illness to garner favor from potential clients. James was scum. He was using his wife’s illness to his advantage, and he dumped her at the studio the rest of the time so that he wouldn’t have to deal with her.

Nate had lost his appetite. He left the unfinished bowl of cereal on the table and walked to the tall stool which stood in front of a painting he was yet to finish. Picking up his palette and brush, he continued where he had left off.

DAY 26

Cécile continuously wept for what seemed like an eternity. She lay on the hardwood floor of Nate’s studio, her short yellow gown stained with the paint she had accidentally brushed on herself several times while trying to finish her artwork. Her tremors had worsened and she was frustrated. Nate sat on the floor next to her, a box of tissue in his hands. He didn’t say a word. Somehow, he knew there was something else causing her to cry this hard for this long besides an inability to paint. She took another tissue, blew her nose and dumped it on the pile that had accumulated on the floor next to her. When she sat up, her eyes were bloodshot. She breathed in deeply and shakily exhaled.

“I’m so sorry, Nate. I feel embarrassed.”

“Nonsense.” His hand reached for her face. He cupped her chin, then gently brushed away a tear from her right cheek with his thumb. “Tell me about yesterday.”

Her eyes filled with tears again. “It was awful. I didn’t want to go. He threatened to stop bringing me here if I didn’t go with him. I need him to bring me here. I can’t drive anymore.”

Nate nodded.

“I couldn’t hold the wine glass. I couldn’t handle a spoon! It’s worsening Nate, and yesterday, he seemed to really enjoy my embarrassment. Everyone was staring at me like I was a freak.” The tears flowed down her face. Nate wiped them away with a tissue. “And now, I can’t seem to handle a paint brush.” She continued. “I thought doing this would give me a sense of hope. Now it fills me with dread. I’m afraid to do anything with my hands.”

He moved closer and embraced her. She fell on his shoulders and sobbed. “Shhhhh. It’s alright Cécile.” He whispered as he patted her back. “There are good days and bad days. You’ve been having a couple of bad days. It’ll be OK.”

“I can’t paint.”

“Of course, you can.” He replied. “Look at this!” He released her from his embrace and they both gazed at the 8 x 10 canvas where she had painted an Oak tree with reddish-brown leaves. Above the tree was a clear blue sky and below were fallen branches and leaves on a carpet of green grass. “You did that in under 2 weeks. You can paint. It is beautiful.”

“It’s not even finished.” She whispered.

“Then you’ll finish it. No pressure, remember?”

She nodded. “Thank you, Nate.”

“Feeling better?” He asked. “Does coffee sound good?”

“Yes, please.” She replied. He helped her to her feet. “Look at my dress! What a mess.”

“It’s the dress of an artist.” He responded as he helped her sit at the dining table. “Although it looks like we may have to get you to finally wear an apron.” He smiled. “You think you’ll be ok by yourself while I go and get coffee?”

She nodded.

“Good.” He replied. “No more attempts at painting today.” He said before walking out.

DAY 43

“What is THAT on your wrist Cécile?” Nate asked. He was furious; she could tell from the tone of his voice. She turned away from her painting to look at him. His eyes brimmed with tears. His jaw was clenched. His breathing was labored. He looked like he was in actual physical pain. She knew he knew what was on her wrist.

“It’s nothing.” She replied and returned her gaze to the canvas.

He made a guttural sound, turned around and stormed out of the studio, banging the door shut behind him.

DAY 47

He had not seen Cécile in 4 days, and with each day that passed without a word from James, he grew increasingly irate. Was she alright? Was she very ill? Should he call James? James had insisted on Nate having both the house phone number and his cell phone number in case something happened to Cécile while she was in the studio. Nate had come close to hitting the call button several times in the past few days but always decided against it. It was now four days and he couldn’t bear the silence anymore. Her painting was still up on the easel, complete except for a few small details. He had not been able to take it down since the last time she was here, the day he saw the red scar across her wrist. The day she had refused to tell him what happened to her. He was almost certain James had hurt her. He didn’t think Cécile’s condition had progressed to the point where she would hurt herself trying to do something.

He picked up his cell phone and dialed James’ mobile number. After gazing at the number for four days, he knew it from memory. This time, he hit the call button. It rang five times and as he was about to give up and hang up someone picked up.

“Nate?” James sounded cold.

“Mr. Oliver?”

“If you’re calling to ask about my wife, I’m surprised you haven’t gotten the message after all this time. She won’t be visiting your studio anymore.” He spat.

James had emphasized the words ‘my wife.’ Nate immediately knew something wasn’t right. “She isn’t done with her painting, Mr. Oliver.” Nate’s voice matched James’ in coldness.

“She is now.”

“Don’t keep her away from something that gives her so much joy. She doesn’t deserve that. You know this.”

“I can do whatever the hell I want!”

Nate paused. His heart was racing. He was hoping James hadn’t done anything stupid. “How is she?” He asked.

“Now, why would that concern you Nate?”

“She’s my friend. I have a right to know.”

“Right?” He scoffed. “You have the right? Let me warn you, never call this number or my home phone again. Henceforth, you do not know my wife. You understand me?”

“I saw the scar on her wrist, Mr. Oliver. If you try to hurt her—”

James had hung up.

Nate was livid. He let out a loud growl that rose from the pit of his stomach. In anger, he threw his phone across the room. It fell on the hardwood floor but remained intact. He stood from the dining chair and paced his studio. What happened? Did Cécile tell James something to upset him? He groaned. He had to see Cécile. He missed her scent. Ever since she began visiting his studio, he couldn’t get enough of her scent. It smelled of jasmine and wild orange and it filled his studio. He missed her smile and the soft skin of her cheeks. He missed holding her hand and guiding them over the canvas as he painted, his steady fingers over her quivering ones. He missed sharing coffee with her, and their many conversations. He missed staring into the deep brown circles that were her eyes or stroking her curly hair when she was tired. He missed seeing the longing in her eyes when she had to leave or hearing her say the words I don’t want to go. He knew what his feelings for Cécile were. He wanted to protect her, to care for her, to love on her. She didn’t deserve to be with James. He was a selfish, deceitful piece of filth. He never loved her, only her art. Before they were married, and while he worked as her manager, he fell in love with the money she made from her paintings, so he charmed his way into her heart. With her present condition, he had no use for her except as a puppet for his egocentric needs. She deserved care, not heartbreak or disdain. Nate shook his head. The more he thought about what might have transpired between James and Cécile, the more he couldn’t shake the ominous feeling that James was responsible for that scar and worse, he may have hurt her again. He needed to see Cécile. He had to.

DAY 49

Nate knew where James and Cécile lived. She had described it in detail severally, including how to get there. As he sat in the back of the taxi on its way to the Oliver home, he had a knot in his stomach. He knew James wouldn’t be home at this time. James now worked at an insurance firm owned by a friend who took pity on him after he had to quit his job as Cécile’s agent following her diagnosis. Nate also knew that James and Cécile lived alone. The thought of Cécile alone in the house with her tremors sent an angry shiver down Nate’s spine. He would get her out of that house, then call the police and have James arrested for neglect and abuse.

As the taxi neared the house, Nate knew it had to be the right one. He recognized the remains of the tulip patch Cécile had planted and tended before her diagnosis prevented her from gardening. He noticed the classic French window on the side of the building. Drapes covered the glass, but he knew behind the glass was Cecile’s studio. The front yard had a picket fence around it, and he remembered Cécile mentioning that theirs was the only fenced house in the neighborhood. He ordered the taxi to stop and paid the driver. The fence had a small gate that opened to a red brick path towards the front door. He knocked twice on the front door and waited. Soon, he heard the shuffling of feet as they slowly approached. He heard the knob turn very slowly and his anticipation rose as the door began to swing inward.

As soon as he saw her, he bit his lower lip and resisted the urge to curse. He almost couldn’t recognize the woman standing before him. She had large bags under her eyes, a cut on her forehead, her curls were unkempt and she looked like she had been starved for days. Cécile let out a soft moan and fell on Nate. As he wrapped his arms around her he noticed how cold she was. She couldn’t lift her arms and he could feel the persistent quivering of her right hand. Without thinking, he lifted her and walked into the house. He gently placed her on the couch in the living room and stroked her curls. His face twisted in anguish as he held her shaking hand.

“Cécile,” his voice broke, “What can I do? Tell me what I can do. How could he leave you like this?”

“My medicine,” she whispered

“Where are they? Tell me and I’ll get them!”

“James took them. I can’t find them. I’ve been searching for four days.”

“Shit! Shit! He hid your drugs? Is he crazy?”

She tried to sit up on the couch but Nate was not going to allow it. “No, Cécile. Please lay down.” He sniffed and blinked back tears. “What do we do? I have to get you to a hospital. Have you eaten?” He could already guess the answer to that question.

Cécile shook her head. “He emptied the fridge and pantry.” She sighed, “He’s punishing me.”

“FOR WHAT?” Nate shouted. He was finding it increasingly harder to control his rage.

“I asked for a divorce, Nate. I…think I want to be with you.”

Nate froze as her words echoed in his head. When he finally spoke, his voice was soft, and the tears he had been fighting back were falling down his face. “Cécile,” He whispered, wrapping her trembling fingers with his, “I love you. I’ve loved you since that fine evening you walked into my studio asking if you could watch me paint. I’ve watched you gain confidence in your ability to paint again. I know you are strong despite this illness. I know you deserve better. I won’t hurt you. I promise.” As he spoke he felt her hand go limp in his. The trembling stopped and her eyes rolled shut. “Cécile? Cécile?” He shook her. She didn’t respond. “No, no!” He retrieved his cell phone from his pocket and dialed emergency services. As he waited for someone to pick up he prayed she would be OK, that she only fainted, that the worst had not happened. An operator picked and he quickly described the situation and their location. As he waited for an ambulance to arrive, he lay on the couch next to her, held her as tightly as he could and wept.

DAY 50

“She’s my goddamn wife! Let me see my wife!” James could be heard arguing with the police outside Cécile’s hospital room. He was finally ushered into the room, hands in cuffs and two officers on either side of him. “You will regret this Cécile,” He shouted at her, “You know I didn’t mean no harm. It was just to teach you a little lesson is all. You’re still my wife!” His gaze turned to Nate who was sitting next to Cecile’s bed and his face burned with anger as he watched Nate place his hand over Cécile’s and gently caress her arm.

“She’s sedated, Mr. Oliver. She can’t hear your yelling.” Nate said calmly. “Count yourself lucky she’s still alive. You would have had more trouble on your hands otherwise.”

“Arrest this man too! He broke into my home!” James shouted. A doctor rushed into the room and asked the officers to escort James out as he was disturbing the hospital with his yelling. He followed reluctantly as the officers led him out of the premises into the waiting police car.

DAY 73

“I’m finished!” Cécile giggled. She let the paint brush fall to the floor. “You can turn around now.”

Nate turned to face the canvas. He smiled as he beheld the finished painting of the Oak tree. “it’s beautiful, Cécile,” He whispered.

“How much do you think it will sell for?”

“Sell? We’re keeping this one sweetheart. It’s too special to sell. We’ll mount it up on the wall over the fireplace.” He walked over and wrapped his arms around her waist. “I’m so proud of you.”

“I can’t believe I did this. I never thought I would do this again.”

“I told you to trust me.”

“And I did.”

He smiled, “And you did.”

“I don’t regret it.”

“You have made me one happy man.” He turned her stool around to face him, then slowly leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on her lips.

oak

Image credit: Pinterest

Murky Waters

What is the one thing you would do, if you knew you would never fail?

Those words hung in the air around me long after the empowerment seminar was over. I was glad I had attended the seminar organized by the student union government for all undergraduates. This was the first in what was to be an annual event, and this year, speakers—successful people—from different sectors of the economy were thoughtful enough to come to campus and speak to us. They inspired me. I learnt a lot; however, those words, what is the one thing you would do, if you knew you would never fail haunted me. As soon as Dr. Mrs. Badeshi, a PhD holder and business mogul asked the rhetorical question in a hall full of attentive students, the silence that followed was palpable. She had gotten the students right where she wanted them—thinking. I was thinking too. I had an answer to her question immediately after she asked. For me, the answer was a no-brainer. I had grown up wanting to be a missionary. My father had been one before his untimely death and we travelled all over the West African coast when I was a child. I enjoyed the constant travelling, and even though we lived in poor conditions most of the time, I saw the joy my father experienced preaching at local churches and helping the different communities in the ways he could. His eyes shone when he smiled, and he was a man who loved people deeply. We didn’t stay at a village or town for more than a year before having to move again. Wherever we went, we relied on churches and the goodwill of the people for our needs. Dad made a little money from offerings raised when he visited local churches to preach, and he would sometimes take on short-term jobs, but we were not rich by any measure, and could only afford the basic things we needed.

We were living in Nhacra, a small town in the Oio region of Guinea-Bissau when a cholera epidemic hit the country. Father contracted the disease and because his body was already weak from malnutrition and a recent bout of malaria, he did not survive. That year, the cholera epidemic affected over 14, 000 people and killed over 200. In fear—and sometimes I think relief—mother and I returned to Nigeria. I was seven. Her family was quick to receive us into their home. Mother soon found a job and began to earn a good wage. We moved out of her parent’s home into our own apartment. The travelling ended, and we soon settled into a typical life. I could tell she was very happy to be living stably. She had never been happy with father’s constant travelling and our penurious living, and she made it known many times. They frequently had heated arguments at night while I pretended to be asleep. On such nights, father would sleep outside on a bench, at the mercy of the heat or cold—depending on the month of the year—and mosquitoes.

In the years following father’s death, two things never left my mind: his deep satisfaction with, and love for his vocation, and the love I had developed for travelling. I wanted to be like my father, to do the things he did. I wanted to go from place to place telling people about the value of a relationship with God, and how it is capable of providing deep satisfaction. I wanted to tell people about my father; to let them know that there was fulfillment beyond simply acquiring and amassing material wealth. I had watched my father touch hearts and change lives with his message. I wanted to do the same. It became a dream I would dream every night. I would close my eyes and see myself back in Guinea-Bissau, or Burkina Faso or Mali or any of the other countries we once called home, living in a small house, welcoming the young and old and speaking words of encouragement to them. I would envision myself helping to build small schools and clinics. I would dream of the wind blowing over my face as I stuck my head out of the bus window while I traveled from one town to another, from one church to another, from one country to another.

When it was time for me to go to college, I told my mother I was interested in studying Religion as an undergraduate major. She asked me why, and I answered, “So that I can be equipped for missionary work.” My mother screamed at me, telling me I was out of my mind. She said over her dead body will I be a missionary. She banned me from speaking about it and demanded that I throw the desire out the window. At first, I was adamant. I gave counter-arguments and defended my decision. Mother then resorted to emotional blackmail. She would cry and beat her chest, calling me her only child, her only boy, reminding me of Father’s death and the poverty we once experienced. She said times had changed, and as a missionary, I would not be able to afford to start a family of my own. When her emotional blackmail didn’t work, she called a family meeting where I heard the dreaded word disown. My own extended family threatened to disown me if I decided to cause my mother unbearable grief by becoming a missionary. I bowed under the pressure. I gave in to their demands. I certainly did not want to cause my mother unbearable grief and lose my entire family. I got into college to study Business. I was in my second year when the student union government decided to organize the empowerment seminar. I still had the strong desire to become a missionary when Dr. Badeshi’s voice thundered from the speakers in the hall and she asked the question I couldn’t shake off. What is the one thing you would do, if you knew you would never fail?

I knew Dr. Badeshi asked that question to encourage people to look beyond potential obstacles and failures and launch out into the fulfillment of their dreams. She went on to say that on the road to success, failure is inevitable; that the people who truly succeed are those who pick themselves up after failure and keep moving.

What about me?

I wanted to ask Dr. Badeshi what she had to say to people like me, whose fear is not necessarily failure on the path to success; whose barrier to fulfillment is not necessarily money or opportunity, but the loss of loved ones? What about people who are willing to launch out and take risks and fail and get back up, but are held back because they will hurt and disappoint or even lose family and friends if they dared? What advice does Dr. Badeshi have for us? The one thing I would do, if I knew I would never lose the love, trust and respect of my family is to be a missionary. But here I am, studying Business. I’ll likely graduate in another 2 years and get a job. I’ll earn a good wage and live a stable life. I’ll get married and have children and everyone will be happy. I may travel occasionally, alone or with family, but it won’t be to the places I have grown to love. It won’t be to those villages where they smile in the midst of lack and pray even when surrounded by uncertainty; where their happiness is not anchored on how much wealth they have, and where they will die having lived what I consider a fulfilled life.

How about you? What is the one thing you would do, if you knew you would never fail? Or hurt those you love? Should I even care about disappointing or hurting loved ones? What do you think?

Of Held Breaths and Skipped Heartbeats

I heaved a deep sigh.

I felt lighter, like a ton had been lifted off my shoulders. As I watched the coffin being covered in earth, I was happy. Finally, I thought, he can rest. I let out another sigh. I could finally breathe. For a long time, it was as if my life was one long held breath. Living between hospitals, having him near death, only for him to fight hard and recover—albeit temporarily—and then watching the cycle repeat itself, made me feel like breathing would bring everything crashing down. I remember how my heart would skip a beat anytime my phone rang and I saw that it was from my cousin. I must have braced myself a million times in the past 8 years to receive the bad news each time my phone rang. I had a near heart attack once when I went on an errand without my phone and returned to 50 missed calls from my cousin. My fingers trembled as I dialed her number. I swallowed hard and dried the perspiration forming on my forehead as her phone rang, all the while whispering to myself, be strong, be strong, be strong, you can take this. My cousin tried calling to remind me not to forget to bring his favorite shorts to the hospital. To say I was terrified before the call is a gross understatement.

My cousin Dawn and I took turns staying with Mr. D at the hospital. Whenever I had to be at work, or run errands, Dawn would watch him and update me of any new development. I knew Mr. D’s extended time in and out of hospitals took its toll on her too, but to me, she dealt with it better. I would sometimes walk into his hospital room to find Dawn telling a joke to an unconscious man. She would end up laughing alone at her jokes. Regardless of how well she took Mr. D’s illness, I could perceive the relief that washed over her and the look of gratitude in her eyes whenever I came in to take over from her. Nathan, be strong, she would encourage me with her hands on my shoulders, and give me a hug before leaving. I will, I always said, but I was never sure how I would accomplish it.

The good times were when Mr. D would recuperate, and we were allowed to take him home. Even though Mr. D became a shadow of his healthy self, the gaunt, bald, shaky, wrinkled person he had become still knew how to be the life of the party. He would attempt to dance to his favorite tunes while Dawn and I teased, and these were the times he would laugh so hard at Dawn’s jokes. Some days, he would be somber and reflective. I will leave soon, he would say, but I think I will be happier when I leave. We never argued when he made such comments, or tried to stop him from thinking along those lines. He was telling the truth, and we all knew it. There was no point pretending about it. He would die sooner than later, it was only a matter of time. However, even though I knew that at this point, death was inevitable, I was not prepared for it. My heart still raced when he relapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital yet again; I still deliberately refused to answer my phone sometimes, especially when I guessed it was Dawn calling from the hospital. Many times I put my phone off altogether, just to have some moments of peace; some moments without the fear of a phone call or text message that may bear bad news.

One long held breath.

The times that Dawn would spend the night at the hospital, I would cry myself to sleep. Crying helped me. I felt sane afterwards, and the bubble of fear that constantly surrounded me abated each time I allowed myself to cry. The nights I cried were the nights I slept well. I never cried around Mr. D, not even when he was unconscious, nor around Dawn. It was my duty to be strong for them. Meanwhile, the bubble of fear never went away for too long. Soon, it was back, surrounding me, haunting me, sucking the life out of me like a black hole.

One long held breath.

His demise was beautiful. It was during one of the remission periods and he was home. I had just arrived from work. It was a perfect night. Whenever Mr. D was home, he liked to sit on the veranda and take in the air. This particular night, it was a lazy breeze that blew. The moon was full and the stars twinkled brightly. Not one cloud was to be seen. It was a clear night. We all had dinner together on the porch. After dinner and drinks—Mr. D still liked his wine after every dinner—he told Dawn and me a story:

There was once a man, who thought he had everything he needed in life. He was wealthy, he had good friends, a good wife, and happiness. He was respected and greatly admired by the community. Then he fell sick, and all his wealth went into paying his medical bills, his friends disappeared because the parties stopped and the money dwindled. His wife left, because she could not cope with caring for an invalid and because luxuries were no longer available. Happiness slowly diminished, and depression started to set in.

Not long after the sickness hit; after spending heavily on the best medical therapy available, he began to feel better, his strength returned, and before long, he was healthy again. However, he never forgot a lady who would always come to his bedside and crack jokes. She was good! She always got the man laughing hard. At a time when everything the man had placed his hopes on had failed him; at a time when he was starting to slip into depression, this young lady, who looked not more than 14 years old, would joke by his bedside and provide respite from his pain. Since he was now alone, without friends or family, he found himself thinking more and more about that young girl. One fine day, he went back to the hospital to inquire of her. All the hospital staff knew her as ‘the comedienne.’ She was a cleaner; and as she went about her duties she would spend time with the patients who were awake, making them laugh. This middle aged man met this young girl again, and invited her out to dinner. Imagine! Mr. D chuckled at this point; Dawn and I smiled. He continued: In fact, it was the best dinner of his life. They went to a fine dining restaurant, it was very formal, and they talked and laughed from about 7 pm till near midnight. When the man dropped her off at her ‘home,’ he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a rundown shack of a building in a dirty slum. He asked her who she lived with, she said her cousin. Where were her parents, her family? Dead, she had said. It was then that the man decided to adopt this young girl and her cousin.

Fast-forward to 10 years. The girl and her cousin are his pride and joy. The sickness returned a few years after they were adopted, and this time it seemed as if it was having the upper hand, but the man is no longer happy, he is joyful. It’s as if he’s back to the beginning, having everything he ever needed. Perhaps he was relieved from the first bout of his illness to experience true joy. Perhaps he was struck with the first bout of his illness to meet true joy. For that, he is satisfied, and eternally grateful.

He wiped a tear from his face with his shaky hand as he finished his story. Do you know why I renamed you Dawn? He asked, that’s what you were to me, it’s what you still are. You are the dawn of a new morn for me. Both you and Nathan have blessed me in ways you may never know. Dawn and I drew closer and hugged him, and we remained in that tight embrace for the longest time. I love you both. You have no idea how much. Thank you for bearing with me these many years and carrying this burden with me. He whispered to us.

He slipped away in that embrace. He was gone.

One long held breath, finally being let out.

He was at rest. Dawn and I were extremely sad at his passing, but we were happy that he would never have to feel pain again.  Relief flooded my entire being. It was over. There was no reason to be afraid anymore. There was no reason to live in constant anticipation of the worst. The man who brought us into his life, and transformed our lives was at better place.

I heaved a sigh.

One long held breath, finally let out of the lungs in a gust of air.

So, as the earth was shoveled over his grave, I was happy, I felt lighter, freed. I held Dawn’s hand and we looked at each other, Dawn’s eyes glimmered with the tears she was holding back. He wouldn’t have wanted me to cry, she said, he would have wanted me to crack a joke.

So, don’t let the tears flow, I said. Don’t let the tears flow.

 

Image Credit: Madamenoire

A Part of Oneself

Lisa rushed into the hospital ward, tears running down her face as she went up to his bedside. “Don’t leave me. You are not permitted to leave now.” She gently whispered as she held his limp hands. The doctor stood next to his bed on the other side from where Lisa was. Lisa looked up at him and asked, “What does he need?”

“A new kidney. It’s unfortunate that none of his family members can donate. They refuse to get tested. He will die if he remains in this coma longer. Even though he’s high on the list for a new kidney, we don’t know how long it will take before a match shows up.”

“Take mine.” She said it without blinking; without thinking twice about it. She didn’t mind giving out one of her kidneys to Jason. She would give him both if he needed them.

“Lisa,” The doctor calmly said, “I know he needs this but don’t you want to think about it? Does Chris know about this decision you’re making on the spot?”

“Matt, I know you and my husband are best friends, and you know how much I love him, but you also know how much Jason means to me. There will always be that special place in my heart reserved for him. You know that. And you know why.”

There was silence as the machines connected to Jason beeped. Finally, Matt sighed and wrote something on his clipboard. “We will need to carry out some tests, find out if you are a match for him. I suggest you talk to Chris while the results are pending.”

“Do it. Do your job. Save his life.”

Matt nodded and walked out of the room. Lisa sat on the plastic chair next to Jason’s bed. They would never understand. She was sure Matt thought she was crazy, but she would never regret giving Jason a part of her. She couldn’t explain exactly why she still loved him after all the years they had been apart, but she knew it had something to do with the way he cared for her when they were dating. He was the real-life ‘prince-charming.’ He treated her the way no man ever had before they met, and even after. Not a day passed that she did not feel loved, respected, safe and treasured with him while they dated. Their breakup was hard on both of them, but inevitable. His family for some reason never liked her. She had no idea what drove them to dislike her so much that she received death threats from his father, and insults were hurled at her by his mother every time she visited. They had to break up for peace to reign in his household, but not without a fight. Jason was willing to be ostracized from his family to remain with her. He fought his parents and defended her whenever they tried to harm her. He sacrificed for her, did everything to make her happy in the face of overwhelming antagonism from his family, but eventually, she had to end the relationship. It was no easy task, but she did not want to come between a son and his family, regardless of how much she loved the son. She moved on, fell in love with Chris and got married. Jason never moved on. They remained friends after the breakup and he confessed to her once over dinner that he would never be able to love another. Even though she had gotten married to Chris, she still loved Jason deeply. She loved Chris too, but she tried not to compare because Chris would lose. She wondered at times if it was possible to love two people the way she loved her husband and her ex-boyfriend. She made sure Jason and Chris became friends, because she couldn’t stand the two most important men in her life being enemies. Chris respected Jason, and Jason loved Lisa so much that he kept his distance, only showing up for the occasional hangout, or lunch or dinner, out of respect for her marriage. Surely, Chris wouldn’t mind her donating a kidney to Jason. This was a way she could repay him for all his love—for going against his family for her sake. She wanted to do this. Jason was her soulmate and if they would never end up together, at least she would be happy knowing that a part of her was inside of him, giving him life.

A nurse walked in pushing a cart with some syringes and other things Lisa could not identify on it. “I’m here to take a blood sample,” She said. “Could you please stretch out your left hand for me?” Lisa did all the nurse asked her to do. Her blood was drawn after which the nurse smiled and said, “The results will be out soon. I hope you are a match.”

“Me too.” Lisa smiled back. The nurse left with the cart and Lisa looked over at Jason on the bed. She took his limp hand again in hers. He is still so handsome, even in a coma, she thought.

Matt returned and paused at the entrance to watch as Lisa held Jason’s hand. She still loves him, he thought. She loves him so much that she can give up a kidney for him. What will Chris make of this? He shook his head and walked in. “Have you called Chris yet?”

Lisa looked away from Jason, “No.”

“Would you like me to call him? Your blood work’s being done.”

Lisa paused for a few seconds, “Y-yes. Tell him about Jason’s condition.”

“And the kidney donation?” Matt asked.

Lisa shook her head, “No. I’ll wait for the blood work to arrive. It’s pointless to tell him if Jason and I don’t end up a match.”

Matt nodded. “Lisa,”

“Yes, Matt,”

“I know you love Chris, but don’t you think it’s time to let this thing with Jason go?”

Lisa thought for a few minutes. Let go? She didn’t know how to begin doing that. “I’m not sure I can, Matt.”

“You know, if my wife Taylor did this, I would flip.”

“Then maybe you don’t love your wife as much as you claim to, or maybe you don’t understand her.”

Matt was quiet. He liked Jason. Jason was a great guy, and he respected Lisa’s marriage by keeping away. Not many men would do that. It was obvious Jason would never do anything to upset Lisa, or rock her marital boat. If Jason was conscious, would he allow Lisa do what she was willing to do? “Do you think Jason would want you to give him your kidney?”

Lisa’s tone turned harsh, “Are you a doctor or what? Are you looking out for a life or looking out for your best friend? A patient is dying. I can help. I am willing to help. What is wrong with you?”

“I’ll call Chris,” Matt said and walked out.

A few hours later, Matt walked in scribbling something on his clipboard furiously. He glanced up at Lisa, “You’re a match.”

Lisa jumped from the chair she was sitting on and clasped Jason’s hand, “Thank goodness,” She whispered into his ears, “Did you hear that Jay? You’re going to survive this. You’re getting a new kidney.” She smiled as tears rolled down her face. She then turned to Matt, “What do I need to do?”

“You have some papers to sign, consent forms and such. I’ll explain to you the risks involved in the surgery, and we will wheel both of you to the OR immediately.”

Lisa nodded. “I’m ready to sign the papers.”

As Matt handed her the papers, Chris burst in, looking chagrined. “Lisa,” He shouted.

“Oh, Chris, you’re here. Matt must have told you what I have decided. Jason and I are a match.” She giggled, “I’m going to give him a kidney.”

“Lisa,” The pain in Chris’ voice was unmistakable, “What do you think you are doing? Why are you doing this?”

Lisa stared at Chris like he was insane. “How can you ask me that? He will die if he does not get a kidney soon, and I’m willing to help keep my friend alive.”

“But, couldn’t we have discussed this first? I am your husband!”

“And I am helping my friend. Would you rather we watch him die when I could have done something to prevent that?”

Chris groaned in frustration. “You will do no such thing.”

Lisa laughed bitterly. “And why not?”

“I’m your husband. You should have talked with me. I won’t have you do something stupid because of your-your ex-lover. I have loved you and respected him, but this is taking it too far!”

“Am I missing something here?” Lisa turned to Matt, “You’re the doctor. Tell him what’s at stake.”

Matt who had been quietly observing the argument between his friends turned to Chris, “Jason will die without that kidney.”

Chris was furious at this point. “Then let him.”

Lisa gasped.

The room was silent except for the beeping of the machined hooked to Jason. Lisa stared at her husband in horror. “Who are you?” She asked Chris. “What are you? You’re a monster!” She fell on her knees and wept. Matt rushed to her side and held her up. She shook him off and faced Chris again, “Look around you. Do you see any of his relatives? Do you? No, you don’t. Do you know why? I’m the reason. This man practically gave up everything for me, even a chance at happiness. He fought his family for me, to the point that they didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore. Even in this condition, they don’t care. This man loved me in ways I know you never will. He let me marry you. He let me shatter his hopes. He respected our marriage. He looked out for you! And you want him to die?”

Chris walked towards Lisa spreading his arms to embrace her, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Sweetheart, I didn’t mean it that way,”

“Don’t touch me!” She snapped. “Get out. Get out!” She shouted.

At this point Matt had to lead Chris out of the room. As he led Chris by the shoulder, he looked back at Lisa and said, “Sign the papers and a nurse will be in to prep you and Jason for surgery.”

Lisa knew then that it was over between her and Chris.

A Difficult Situation

I walked briskly with my head down. Thank goodness it was dark and no one could notice my strange demeanor. There was a cool breeze blowing as I arrived at the compound and quickly slid through the gates that were slightly ajar. I walked up the dark staircase leading to the second floor and knocked twice on the wooden apartment door. It opened, and I slid in. It was dark, but I knew Musa had opened the door. He flipped the light switch and the room was flooded with harsh yellow light. I looked around. The living room still looked the same from a month ago when I last visited. Nothing had been added or removed. The walls were still green. The tattered sofa next to the wall in one corner and a small round center table were the only furniture in the living room. He did not have a TV, but I could see his laptop charging atop the sofa. The ceiling fan creaked as it spun slowly and if not for for the open window letting in the cool breeze, it would have been hot in the house. I knew that if the living room had not changed, neither would the bedroom; which boasts of one furniture: a large mattress on the bare floor.

“What are you doing here?” Musa’s tone was harsh, almost full of hate.

“Musa,” I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. “What sort of question is that? Are you not happy to see me?”

Musa hissed and began to walk towards the bedroom.

“Musa,” I followed. “I had to sneak out of the house to come see you. Imagine how hard it must have been especially with my father around. At least say you’re glad to see me.”

“Halima, what do you want?” He flopped on his mattress while I stood by the door to his bedroom and watched. I was starting to get irritated with his behavior.

“I brought you food.” I stretched out my hand to show the bulging polythene bag I held.

“I’m not your dog. Go back home to your super rich father and don’t come here giving me crumbs from your table! I’m fine. I can take care of myself.”

I choked, “M-Musa!”

“What?” He spat. “You expect me to be happy and full of glee at seeing you? Why? When I know in 3 weeks you will be marrying that oil tycoon’s son, Abdul.”

“But it’s you that I love!” I cried.

“Hahahahaha,” His laughter dripped with sarcasm. “And so what? What is love in this case? Since you made that announcement last month that your father wants you to marry Abdul, I’ve erased the thought of a future with you from my mind.”

I dropped the polythene bag on the floor, walked towards the bed and sat next to him, “You hurt me badly with your words.”

“Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe you should be so hurt that you never return here. I wouldn’t want to ruin your happily-ever-after.”

“But you know I won’t be happy with Abdul. You know that. Stop sounding like I’m thrilled about my father’s arrangement. You know how I feel.” I tried to hold him, he flung my hand away. I was shocked. Why was he being especially mean to me? Was it because I had not been to see him in a month? “Sweetheart, if you’re upset that I’ve not come to see you in a month, I’m sorry. You of all people know how difficult it is to get away from Daddy’s watchful eyes. Since he returned from the States, he always has Hassan and Idris follow me everywhere. It was a miracle I got the opportunity to escape this night. I’m sure he’ll soon notice my absence. If he does, then only God knows what I’ll face when I return.”

“Then you better go.”

There was silence for about a minute. I decided to brush aside the rude remark. “How is work? How about that promotion that’s due?”

“I was bypassed. Again. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I tried to hold him again. This time he didn’t resist as I put my arms around him, “I’m so sorry. But don’t worry. I believe in you. You will be promoted or you will get a better job. Daddy’s company—”

He quickly stood up, “Don’t ever mention any of your father’s companies to me.” He shouted. Even if a job was offered me on a platter from his conglomerate, I won’t take it. I’m not your dog, you hear me?”

“Musa,” My voice trembled. “You’re yelling at me. It’s me, Halima. It’s me, the one you couldn’t get enough of.”

His voice softened, “Don’t remind me of that. As good as it was I want to forget about it. You should too. I know your mother is presently in Dubai shopping for your upcoming wedding-of-the-year.”

“But how can I forget? I’m pregnant.”

Musa glanced at me, then did a double take. His eyes became so wide that they looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets. He stood motionless staring at me but I could see his hands trembling. The tremors soon spread to the rest of his body. Afraid he was going to have a seizure, I got up and walked towards him and tried to hold his hand. He withdrew it like he had just touched a hot object. Tears welled up in my eyes.

“Musa, what’s the meaning of this?”

Astaghfirullah!” He exclaimed. “Halima, you’re pregnant.”

“Yes.”

“You must leave.”

The tears flowed down my face, “Are you telling me you won’t accept this pregnancy? I was a virgin Musa!”

“I’m not denying anything, Halima.” He still refused to touch me. “I-I don’t know how to deal with this. You are getting married in 3 weeks. Your father….If he finds out—”

“If he finds out he will have no choice than to make me marry you. Don’t you see? This is wonderful for us.”

Musa was shaking his head. “Your father will make sure I’m dead rather than make you marry me.” A pause, “When did you find out?”

“Last week. I was so excited because I finally had something concrete to make this coming marriage to Abdul null and void. I couldn’t wait to tell you but you know, Hassan and Idris are always lurking about somewhere.”

Musa heaved a sigh, then returned to sit on the bed. I joined him.

“Musa, we’re pregnant. You should be happy.”

He groaned and ran his palm over his head repeatedly, “Hali, I can’t take care of you and a baby. Not now. Look at where I live. I barely eke out a living with this stupid job I have. I’m currently applying to other places.”

“None of that means anything to me. You know I don’t care if we live in penury as long as we’re together. How many times do I have to tell you that?” I held his hand.

“Hali, you were born with a silver spoon. You think it’s okay to marry me now but you will be the first to complain bitterly when all the comfort you are used to is no more. This is too sudden. And remember how your father treated me when we met?”

I sighed. Daddy had been brutal with Musa, even threatening to make life a living hell for him if he didn’t stay away from me. That was before I realized Daddy had plans to marry me off to Abdul. Would Daddy respond the same way if he knew I was now carrying Musa’s child? The thought of what Daddy could do made me shudder.

Musa rose from the bed, and paced the room for what seemed like an eternity. I watched. “I love you Halima,” He said, “But I cannot be with you. You have to go ahead and marry Abdul. I’m sure he will make you happy.”

“What!” I screamed and jumped from where I was seating. “What are you saying? What about the baby?”

“The baby will be his. You are only 3 weeks gone. In another 3 weeks you will be married and hopefully consummate your marriage on the same day. No one will notice.”

I began to sob bitterly. My body shook from the heartache I was experiencing. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from the love of my life. I didn’t even know this Abdul. We met for the first time only last week when Daddy invited him over for dinner. Surely he looked good, but he couldn’t take his eyes off me and I was disgusted by it. He looked at me like I was a prize he deserves, like a toy he must have. Daddy seemed to approve of the longing. The moment daddy left the dining table Abdul wasted no time in reeling out his qualifications: Harvard graduate, PhD in Stanford, currently works as a director at the multinational Oil and Gas Company which his father chairs. He kept telling me how he would spoil me with everything and more. I was repulsed. All I could think of was the baby, and how it would be my way to escape this loveless marriage daddy was forcing me into. Now those hopes were being shattered by the very man I thought would be joyful at the news.

“Halima,” He held my hand.

“Don’t touch me!” I screamed as I wept. “You never loved me. How can you coolly ask me to give our child to another man? What happened to love conquering all?”

He sighed. “Halima, you live in a fairy tale land. Would you rather see me dead?”

Naudhubillah! Never.”

“Then we can’t be together, and this child only reinforces that fact.” He embraced me, “Stop crying now. You will be fine. I predict you’ll be happy with Abdul. At least both you and the child will be well taken care of. It’ll be our little secret.”

I calmed down, somehow I knew daddy wouldn’t be thrilled at the news of my pregnancy. As a powerful man he could even let harm come to Musa because of this. I couldn’t bear the thought of Musa getting hurt, or worse, getting killed because of me. I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll always love you Musa.”

“And I, you. You must go home now. It’s getting too late.”

“Will you keep the food I brought?” I asked.

“I will, if it will make you happy.”

“Will you come for the Nikkah?”

He groaned. “That’s asking too much Halima. You must go now.”

I nodded, left his embrace, walked to the door and left. He remained in the bedroom. Not even a proper goodbye. I wept bitterly as I walked home. It suddenly seemed like a bleak future was in store for me.

 Photo Credit: Bellanaija

*A Tale of Two Men

*Warning: This story contains explicit sexual content. 

He kissed her. It was slow and very passionate, it was heaven. In a few short seconds she was transported to a world she never knew existed. That a kiss would make her react this way was strange considering the fact that she had kissed a number of boyfriends in the past, including her current one. This was different though. She did not want it to stop.

As his lips slowly drew away from hers, Kayode breathed deeply and whispered “I could kiss you all day Bunmi. You are beautiful.”

Bunmi smiled. That was the thing about Kayode that got her weak in the knees all the time. He knew the right words to say every time. She bit her lower lip, “Then don’t stop.”

He grabbed her by the waist and his lips crushed hers in a deep kiss. She swooned and her hands found the back of his neck. Soon hands were everywhere. His all over her body, hers all over his. Clothes came off and they found their way to his bedroom, all with lips locked. Bunmi couldn’t believe what was happening when he suddenly lifted her in his arms like she weighed less than a pillow, and laid her gently on the bed. He started with her feet, kissing, nibbling, licking and worked his way up to her calves, her thighs, she moaned when he reached between her thighs. His voice was coarse with desire as he murmured, “That’s what I want to hear sweetheart.”


It was over two hours before exhausted, they both lay on the bed; she was curled up next to him, his arms were around her, tracing delicate lines on her back.

“Tell me again why you won’t date me Bunmi.” He whispered into her hair, which was tangled and wild.

“I have a boyfriend.”

“Then why are you with me?”

Silence.

“I know you don’t like him, not as much as you like me. I know he does not make you feel the way I make you feel. Why are you punishing yourself princessa?”

Bunmi closed her eyes and savored the sound of his voice. She loved how he used every opportunity to call her sweet names. She loved the sound of his voice as he called her princessa. It was full of longing; she could feel everything he felt with the way he said that one word. “I…I don’t know. Maybe you are too good to be true?”

He chuckled. “Ah, mi reina, you don’t believe you deserve good?” His fingers trailed the edges of her left breast, just under her armpit.

She took in a shaky breath, “It’s not that, it’s…I’m scared that you attract many women and if I end up with you I will be heart broken. That’s what I mean by you being too good to be true.”

He chuckled again and began kissing her softly on her neck. She held him close. “You don’t know what you do to me reina. You don’t know how I’d give anything to have you, to love you, to call you mine. Women? None of them hold my attention like you do. I’ve thought of having your boyfriend killed you know?”

Startled, she sat up and stared at him. “You’re kidding right?” She said with a wry smile.

“No.” He started to pull her back to lay next to him.

She resisted, “You would never do something like that.” Her tone turned serious.

He chuckled again “I said I’ve thought about it, not that I will do it or that I can do it.”

Their eyes locked. He had the most beautiful eyes, hazel eyes that gave away his emotions all too often. She could see them turn dark depending on what he was feeling: rage, anger, sadness, desire, and she liked the way they danced when he was amused and had that cocky smile on his face like he had now. She smiled, “You know how to scare a girl.”

“I love it when you suddenly turn serious. It is such a turn on, you have no idea.” They both laughed and before long their lips locked again in a passionate kiss.


Bunmi stared unseeing at her desktop screen. She slowly replayed in her head, the events of the weekend she spent on Kayode’s bed, in Kayode’s arms. Why didn’t she just let Gafar go? Because he has done nothing wrong. Because he is a good guy. Because he loves her….in his own way. Gafar is not–probably will never be–as romantic as Kayode. Gafar is the pragmatic one. He hardly calls her sweet names. The only time he does is when he’s about to ejaculate. She shook her head at that thought. He refuses to send her gifts unless there is an occasion. He has announced that he wants to marry her next year. Is she really punishing herself like Kayode said?

Susan walked past Bunmi’s cubicle, stopped and walked back. “Bunmi?”

Bunmi jumped, like she was startled out of a trance.

“Is everything OK?” Suzan asked. “You seem to be staring at your desktop like a zombie.”

Bunmi shook her head and smiled. “I’m fine Suz. My mind isn’t here.”

Susan walked in and took the only empty seat in the cubicle that was Bunmi’s office space. “Spit it out.”

“Bunmi laughed. You like gist Suz. I think I’m getting married next year.”

Susan raised her hands up and mouthed a silent ‘yay’ in mock celebration “It’s good news Bunmi. So, why do you look like someone died?”

Bunmi shook her head.

“He had better make a proper proposal o! Complete with roses and champagne and him going down on one knee.” Susan joked.

“I don’t know…Gafar isn’t that kind of guy. We simply talked about marriage and he said he is putting plans in place to make it next year. I guess that’s as good a proposal as I’ll get from him.”

Susan snorted. “Still, you should be happy. People like us are still searching for the right guy. Why the gloomy look?”

“I don’t know if he’s the right guy. I don’t know if I’ll marry him and eventually wish I didn’t because I will be unsatisfied the rest of my life.”

“What do you mean by unsatisfied? Gafar is OK financially, isn’t he?” Susan looked puzzled.

“It’s not that, Suz. He is financially stable. It’s my love needs I’m concerned about. I love romance. I love a guy who treats me as precious and delicate, who calls me by many pet names, who never fails to let me know that I am the single most important person in his life, who spoils me, and whose desire is to please me always, even…even in bed. You know Suz, a guy who puts my desires before his, who makes sure I reach orgasm before he does. Gafar isn’t like that. He isn’t romantic.”

There was silence for what seemed like a minute before Susan spoke, “Bunmi, you sound like you have met such a guy. Have you?”

Just then, Andrew, the office assistant walked in with a nicely wrapped package. “This is for you Miss Bunmi. One DHL man just delivered it.”

“Thank you Andrew. Drop it on the table.”

Andrew dropped the package and walked away. Susan looked at it with wide eyes. “Wow, Bunmi…look at this wrapping…it’s beautiful. Is it from Gafar?”

Without even touching the package or looking at the attached envelope to see who had sent it, she knew who had not sent it. “No.” She answered. “It’s not.”

“It’s from him, isn’t it? From the romantic guy? The guy who isn’t Gafar?”

Bunmi nodded. “Gafar would never do this.”

Susan sighed. “I love you Bunmi, you’re my best friend and gossip-mate, but I know when you need alone time and since you’ve never told me about this new guy, I guess you need to sort through this. I’m always available if you need to talk.” She got up from the chair. “I’m going to my office. Let’s do dinner together sometime, OK?”

Bunmi nodded. Susan walked out. Bunmi carefully opened the envelope to reveal a small card. It was cream colored with a love symbol in the middle made with delicate red lace. She opened it and saw the familiar handwriting with the words, “Just because it’s Tuesday mi teroso.” A smile stole across her lips as she unwrapped the gift. It was a custom bracelet that gleamed as she removed it from the box. It was made with diamonds set in pavé. It was simple, minimalist, but very expensive from the looks of it. She fell in love with it. Kayode knew her too well. He knew what she liked. She giggled. She would go to dinner with Susan and get advice. There was still time to break up with Gafar if necessary. After putting on the bracelet, she took a picture of it with her camera-phone and sent it to Kayode with the words, “Thanks, you make me feel so special.” Her phone beeped two minutes later. It was Kayode’s reply, “I don’t make you anything hon. You are everything and more.”

Tale of Two Men

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

I understand that being torn between two men (or sometimes more) is a problem some women face and the aim of this short story is to bring to the fore a topic that is mostly avoided but very real. How do you guys think this story will end? This is one of the open-ended stories where I allow the reader decide how he/she wants it to end. So, feel free to leave your thoughts below! You just might be helping someone make the right decision.