It was sudden and clean. Her eyes were dry and her words cut to the chase. Though there had been a decline in the relationship for the past few months, the break up still came as a shock.
Claire was a stunning beauty. Among the first 5 in her class, she was the epitome of beauty and brains. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Her body was to die for and I wore the crown of being her boyfriend proudly.
Sitting opposite me at our favourite spot in school, her dark eyes swirling like a bottomless pool seemed to stare into the depth of my already fragile soul.
“We can’t continue this way Brian.”
She obviously wasn’t expecting a response from me. I stared at the trees, the grass, everything and nothing around except her.
“Brian, are you with me?”
I nodded at her absently to continue.
Only a few weeks back, I was chatting with my sister back in Nigeria on how I was certain that Claire was the one and my search had ended.
“Brian, I think we should take a break and check ourselves. We don’t connect like we used to.”
Break? Check ourselves? For what?!?
What about all the good times we’ve shared? No! I would fight to reclaim our love!
I produced my best lined argument ever. It didn’t work.
I spoke straight and directly from my heart. No progress.
She had made up her mind.
That was four years ago.
We graduated the year we had taken a “break” and after graduation we tried dating on and off. I used every trick in the book, just to win her heart back.
Still, nothing changed.
I pieced myself together and started up a construction company with the help of some of my lecturers back at the university.
That was four years ago and my heart is still mending.
I landed Murtala Mohammed Airport at precisely 2:50pm. Today is Mary’s convocation and I had made a promise to be there. A promise I intend to keep even though I’m late already.
“Where you dey go?”
“Unilag pls, sharp sharp!”
“Oga, I no dey go that side, go slow plenty for there because of the graduation wey dem dey do”
“abeg…I go double the normal rate”
“Ok ok…enter kia kia…gimme your bag make I put am for boot”
I had forgotten how bad traffic could be in Lagos. Whoosh! It was past four before we got to Yaba. From Yaba to Unilag, the trip just got worse as traffic was at a standstill.
Finally, after bouts of cursing rants and crazy driving techniques, I dropped at the gate of the school and walked as fast as my luggage allowed me to the University’s sport complex where Mary’s tent was set up.
Mary was the first to turn. I’m still surprised at how she didn’t break the plates she was holding because her look of shock, surprise and joy was unbeatable!
Then almost immediately, she jumped on me screaming with excitement. As she kept on hugging me, I felt my back being pinched, badly.
“Ahn! What was that for?
“How come you didn’t tell me you were coming home?”
“He told us, we just weren’t sure he would actually make it. So we thought it wise not to tell you so your hopes won’t be raised”, Mummy said.
“oya come and gimme a hug, better than the one you gave to Mary o…abi you didn’t miss me?”
I smiled. Mummy. I crossed over to mum’s side and hugged her too. And Dad. I was so happy to see everyone.
And as I raised my head to look for where Mary had left my side for, I was dazed!
Yeah, she wasn’t an Agbani Darego…but I was attracted to this babe Mary was pulling towards me. It’s crazy yeah, but I felt like I knew everything about her even though it was the first time I ever set eyes on her. There was something about her that was different in a strange way that made my insides tingly and my hands all sweaty.
Wait! What’s wrong with me? It must be the excitement at seeing everyone…yes it is.
I took a deep breath and waited for Mary to introduce me to this babe assaulting my senses left right and centre!
“Brian, I want you to meet Uti…my best friend. Remember Uti that I told you about?”
Uti. Hmmm. Nice. I remember Mary telling me about one girl she met at school, now her best friend blabla. I guess I never paid much attention to all that Mary always said about her. Now I wish I had.
They all screamed her name. I guess she too had gone someplace other than here…my indulging in some day time fantasy like I was.
She and Mary exchanged some codes through their looks and I could only watch them with interest, though I couldn’t decipher whatever information they just shared.
As I imagined, her voice wrapped its tiny fingers round my heart and tugged softly. She went on about how she has heard so much about me and how nice it was she was finally meeting me.
I studied her up close as she spoke to me. She had a dimple in her left upper chick bone and eyes that danced while she spoke excitedly. She had this simple elegance around her and she exuded love and warmth.
Maybe when I get home and have a cool shower, my nerves would calm down.
The party folded up few minutes later and we set out for home.
We 3 kids sat at the back and Mary sat in between. The girls chatted all the way home with Uti stealing glances at me, occasionally.
Then the realization of her dazed expression when she saw me hit me!
Yeah! She likes me too. I felt like removing my shirt and waving it the air, screaming it out loud!
Instead, I just sat quietly and smiled at them both as they spoke.
And it took us forever to get home…Naija!
Home sweet home!
Since everyone was so tired, we decided to call it a day. Hugs and kisses went round, while Uti and I strategically avoided each other.
I went up the stairs to my room and had that nice cool shower I had been craving for. After lounging a bit longer than usual in the shower, I finally laid my head to rest on my bed and the voices of Mary and Uti crept into my room. I could hear their sudden burst of laughter and their chatter far into the night.
I slept off with a smile on my face…thinking of Uti and the little dimple on her cute face.
I woke with a start around 3 am. When I think back to that night, I still can’t remember what woke me up from sleep. I decided to go downstairs and take a warm glass of milk. Maybe that would ease me back to sleep.
As I went softly down the stairs trying to make as little noise as possible, I started hearing voices…and it was from the living room.
I peeped in the room and discovered that the TV was on, yet the room was dark and empty. Who forgot to put off the TV now? As I moved swiftly to put off the TV, I discovered someone quietly staring at me.
It was Uti.
“You couldn’t sleep?”
“Yeah…I had a bad dream and I didn’t want to disturb Mary…so I opted to watch a film instead to relax my nerves.”
“Ok… Would you mind a cup of milk?”
“I don’t mind…thanks”
I hurriedly went into the kitchen and made two warm cups of milk for the both of us. As I cleaned up after myself, I wondered if I was doing the right thing by being alone with Uti at this time of the night…seeing as were both attracted to each other.
Emmmm. I think I…I mean we can handle this. After all we are adults.
Staring at the screen as I came in, I saw that she was watching an animated movie about birds…hmmm, cute.
“Would you like to talk to me about it?”
“Nah…It’s no big deal”
“O.k. …If you say so”
“What’s the title of the movie?”
“Rio…it’s a about a girl and a cute blue bird who can’t fly…It’s almost over though”
“Hmm…Interesting, a bird who can’t fly.”
We watched in comfortable silence tilled the credits appeared on the screen.
She didn’t make a move to put off the TV and head for bed.
I didn’t make a move to take the empty mugs back to the kitchen.
“So how did you and Mary meet? I’m sorry I didn’t pay much attention to the entire gist she told me about you….”
“O.k. … We met at the…”
And that was how we get chatting nonstop till Dad and Mum turned on the lights around 7am when they were ready to leave for work.
Wow! We had been talking for 4 hours?
Wow! Wow! Wow!
I don’t like talking per say.., and I just spent the last 4 hours chatting idly with a stranger and I enjoyed every bit of it. I was so comfortable around her the way I had never been with anybody else…Except well, family.
Even Claire didn’t get me to talk this much…this deep…this long.
Ahhh…!!! I’m gone o.
After Mum and Dad left, I asked her if she and Mary had plans for today and she said to go quickly and run it past Mary upstairs.
I sat back on the sofa and stared unseeingly at the TV. I really like this girl. She’s got depth, style, charisma plus a little bit of sass! And I was really looking forward at spending the day with her.
Oh! I had forgotten Mary…mehn…this girl has gotten into my head!
I was really looking forward to spending the day with Uti and Mary.
We made a decision at around 12pm to go the palms…alongside some of my friends and theirs. Mary and Uti called 3 other girls and I called up some of my best pals and we all totalled 8. Just enough to squeeze into the family’s white Sharon.
Anyways, we had a smooth ride and I was able to take in the beautiful scenery of Lagos. So much had really changed in the past few years.
We got a hut, some munchables and drinks and then we settled down. We all started gisting and I told them stories of South Africa and my budding business. I gisted them about how Nigerians live in S.A and how we were closely knitted over there and then the turns went round.
As evening came closer, a local band set up close to our hut and began to play some sweet music. Most of the others went closer to them leaving me, Uti and another couple in the hut.
We picked up where we stopped.
I had been so anxious all day to have her all to myself. Mary had caught us both stealing glances at each other and she gave us both a knowing smirk. I knew she was going to rant and rave and tease me senseless about me being hung up on her best friend later…but who cares?
I like this girl… a lot.
Since my break up with Claire, I really had no connection with all of the girls I had gone out with. Maybe just basic attraction, but no deep heart feeling connection.
We kept on talking about everything and nothing, soaking up information about the other like rain on dry ground after a bout of drought.
Maybe it was the poor lighting. Maybe it was the intensity of my growing feelings that made me lose focus. Or the fact that I was carried away by the way her voice made music to my ears…I didn’t seem to notice that she didn’t look so ok.
Yes. It was the poor lighting.
And all of a sudden, she started struggling to breathe.
In her sick state, she was trying to tell me something but I couldn’t decipher it. All reason left my body as fear paralysed me.
My voice came out as a mere whisper even though every bone in my body screamed out with fear and panic.
I can’t remember the point at which the other couple with us in the hut came over and tried to help. One of them ran for Mary and everybody outside came running.
“What’s wrong?” Mary asked as she ran for the hut.
Immediately she came in and took in the situation, she just asked for the car keys with surprising calm, her voice just laced with a little panic and fear.
“Yeah…I think we should take her to the hospital.”
“Don’t lift her…just leave her and stop crowding her. I’m not getting the keys to take her to the hospital…just gimee the damn keys!”
Though I still didn’t get it, I gave Mary the keys and she ran to the car park. Then I sent for someone to go get the one of the managers to call the resident physician, that’s if they had one. I stayed with Uti and watched on helplessly as she struggled to breathe. I held her hand and tried to soothe her. I pulled my shirt and began to fan her. No progress.
Mary came back as quick as possible back with her handbag and I wondered here this crazy attitude of hers was leading up to.
Then she brought it out.
And it slowly dawned on me.
Immediately, Mary held out the inhaler for Uti and they both cradled the inhaler like the lifesaver it was. Slowly Uti began to get better. Being weak from the entire struggle and the pain, she couldn’t sit up, talk less stand.
I picked her up in my arms and headed to car. Party over.
Since Mary was reasonably calmer than me, she opted to drive while I sat in at the back with Uti. Then I began to flashback to us talking, she hyper ventilating and then collapsing. I remembered the fear and panic I felt. And the great sense of loss.
Now she had fallen into a light sleep, laying out on the back seat and resting on my laps with beads of sweat crowding her forehead.
As I wiped her forehead with the back of my palm, her eyes fluttered open and found mine. And she said my name. More like whispered my name.
And then I knew.
I was in love with Uti. In the moment she collapsed in my arms, I felt like the world had come crashing. It wasn’t the kind of pain I felt when I lost Claire…No…It doesn’t come close. I felt like life had cheated me and made me loose something I hadn’t even had time to discover. God. I’ve never felt so scared and cheated in my life.
Brian you are crazy!
How can you be in love with a perfect stranger you’ve known less than 2 days…? You don’t know anything about her! For instance, you didn’t know she was asthmatic! Who knows what other surprises she could spring up? You are attracted. Yes. But in love?
Yes! I am. Absolutely in love with her.
And I think it all started from the first minute I set my eyes on her.
Dedicated to fairy tales and happy endings! ***taking a bow***…***loud applause please***