It was late afternoon. 3:15 PM precisely. And it was Tuesday. The sun was covered by rain clouds and soft wind took over, relieving us of the terrible heat that had dominated the earlier part of the day. People went about their activities quickly, as we all anticipated a downpour. We just didn’t know if it will be a heavy one or not.
Ruth and I were in my ride, a Toyota Camry, speeding through the less busy street. Goodwill it was, just off the trade fair shopping complex.
Ruth is my bosom friend; the friend I tell anything and everything. We had come along way from our secondary school days, attended the same university and eventually set up a business together – a fashion house targeted at the rich. Trust me, clients are always in a queue. We are never tired of them, hence we hired more hands.
Ruth and I, we work all day long, every day. We only take breaks when we have health issues or when there is a really special public holiday or social event going on.
On this particular day, however, I was on my way to Kada Fries, just before MM Way, along Sapele Road. Daniel Asaji was there already, waiting for me. Daniel, tall, has an athletic built, dark-skinned and has the smile of a million stars, was my boyfriend. Yes, you heard right. Boyfriend.
I met him about 5 months ago just after a heart-wrenching break-up from a serious relationship I really thought was going somewhere. In that relationship, things went sour due to no fault of ours. I was really hurt that period and Ruth was my saving grace. But at that time, I decided that relationships were not worth the heartaches they caused. I didn’t think I could starts or agree to another relationship.
After nearly three weeks of locking myself indoor and crying my eyes out, Ruth finally convinced me to come out and at least, take a stroll around the neighborhood. Work was definitely out of the question. I would mess up customer’s clothes and I didn’t want that. It would ruin all the positive feedback we’ve been getting from customers. All the while I was down, Ruth had been the one running the fashion house and supervising the hired hands. But no matter how much I tried to move on, I still couldn’t get my ex out of my mind.
Then one morning, during an early morning jog in the Trade Fair estate, I ran into a young man in his late thirties. Actually, I bumped into him at a turn. I didn’t know he was coming, neither did he see me coming.
“Oh! Sorry, I’m so sorry”, I apologized, cleaning the sweat off my forehead and bending low to help pick up his documents which fell in the course of the accident and were scattered on the sand. He bent low too to pick them up.
“It is ok. It was an accident from both our sides. Please, may I know your name?” He asked after we picked and arranged the last set of documents.
“Look, I’m sorry I bumped into you. But that’s it. I don’t tell strangers my name”. I frowned.
“But I wouldn’t be a stranger if we start to get to know each other…”
“Forget it”, I frowned some more and then stormed off. It was better I went back home than bump into another person. Men will do everything to get your attention. I thought. But once they have it, they do everything to toss it into the dustbin.
It was the following evening, after Ruth returned from work, that I finally told her what transpired. She frowned at my refusal to tell the stranger my name.
“But Ruth, you know me better than that. Not every Tom, or Harry or even Zion is worth it”.
“You’re hurt. I understand. But what I know is that you need a man, any man, to help you forget about Zion. You can’t continue like this”.
“In other words, you’re saying use him to move on?”
“Yes dear. You don’t have to like him and your relationship doesn’t have to be a serious one. Just move on”.
“I hate being used and dumped. And you know me well. I won’t do to another what I don’t want to be done to me”.
“You’re having fun and moving on. He is having fun. End of story. You both gain. No one loses. Think about it”. She left me and went in to change her clothes.
I thought long and hard about her advice and yes, I took it. But it was not until two weeks later that I ran into the stranger again. He smiled broadly upon seeing me.
“You look brighter today. It is almost as if the planet added two extra suns to help light the day up. “How are you?” He asked,
“I’m good”, I smiled lightly. “You?”
“Well, since I’m back from work, I am good. Now that I’ve seen you, I feel even better”, he chuckled. I laughed. “So, hope your day was peaceful?”
And so we got talking about everything, from politics to education, business, and entertainment. By the time we arrived at the cross junction that separated our individual streets, we exchanged contacts, name and said our goodbyes.
It wasn’t up to 10 minutes I arrived home, he called, saying he couldn’t stop thinking of me as he walked home and wished our conversation would just go on. He insisted on wanting to know me more.
“You had better say yes,” Ruth admonished, as she peeped in at me from the kitchen where she was preparing the famous black soup. “Seize the opportunity. You don’t have to like him”.
I shook my head at her. How did she even know he was the one calling? Then it hit me. My phone had a volume problem and so I always have to put it on speaker during calls. I waved her back into the kitchen and sat at the nearest dining chair. But she wouldn’t go away.
“I don’t care if the soup burns”, she was determined, “I’m going to stand here and keep pressing your buttons until you say yes”.
And that was how I said yes and a relationship started. Daniel Asaji is a nice guy, although he doesn’t meet up with my ex, he is ok and to a large extent, he helped me move forward. He carried me like an egg and never stopped telling his friends I was his queen. Five months later, our relationship was stronger than I ever thought it could be. I never planned for the way events turned out. We had gotten so used to each other, despite the fact that my thoughts occasionally went to my ex.
Now it was February 14th. Daniel had called earlier and asked that I meet him up at Kada Fries. I knew it was for a valentine hangout and from the way he sounded, I wondered what surprise he had in store for me. I told Ruth I was going to meet Daniel and she asked that I give her a lift to the market, as her car was still at the mechanic.
I drove to the end of Goodwill and into College Road, then Joromi and into Ekenwan Road. I took the turn opposite First Bank, leading to Stadium Road when my phone rang. I checked it, but couldn’t recognize the number calling. I didn’t answer the call.
I was past the Stadium and close to Ebenezer junction when it rang again. Being in a temporary hold up, I picked the call.
“Hello, good afternoon. Please, I’m I speaking with Kelechi?”
“Yes. Who is this please?”,
“This is Tony. Zion’s brother. Remember me?”
“Oh, Bros”, I said. Why wouldn’t I remember him? “Good evening. Its been a long while”.
“Yes. It has been really long. Please, I need to ask for a favor. I don’t know if you’re busy now and I know I’m not fit to disturb you after everything. But its really important.”
“What is it?” I ask, holding my breath. I wondered what sort of favor Zion’s brother wanted from me. The family never accepted me. Why now? What was up?
“I’m at Faith Mediplex, down airport road. Zion is here, on admission. He wouldn’t stop asking to see you”.
“Zion?” I whispered. My breath was suddenly heavy. Ruth, who had been watching me since the telephone conversation started, frowned. I noticed it but ignored. “What happened to Zion?” I asked, already in a serious panic. From my tone, a neutral observer wouldn’t know Zion was my ex.
“He isn’t well. And he keeps asking to see you. Please, we will appreciate if you can come over”.
“I’m coming. I’ll be there in roughly 15 minutes”.
“Ok”, he sounded relieved, “thank you so, so much. I really appreciate your doing this”.
“What is wrong with you?” Ruth asked as soon as I ended the call. “Have you forgotten you’re supposed to meet with Daniel?”
“Daniel can wait, Ruth. Zion is hospitalized. I have to see him”
“No, you don’t. You don’t owe him and his family anything. He left you, have you forgotten?”
“I haven’t. Don’t forget he was forced to. He didn’t mean to”.
“Well, I’m not going to be part of this. Drop me here”, she ordered, as I turned into Akenzua, heading towards airport road. I brought the car to a halt and she got off.
“Just so you know,” She bent low to look at me through the open window, “Daniel actually planned to propose marriage to you today. Don’t forget he was the one who picked you up when Zion left. He was the one who made you smile. He was the one who helped you move on. Think about that while rushing blindly to see an ex that doesn’t deserve you.” She hissed and walked away.
Her words hit me. I heard Daniel’s excitement over the phone when he called. And I knew he had a surprise stored up for me. I just didn’t know what, until Ruth spoke up. I had already promised Tony I was coming. But I was no longer sure I was doing the right thing.
To be continued …