When she accepted Tolu’s invite for lunch to celebrate her birthday, she had wondered what she would tell Bina. But he had made everything easy for her when he called that morning to tell her he was on morning shift and would see her later in the evening. She made her calculations and noted with relief that her date with Tolu would be long over before Bina would meet with her.
Despite all she had told herself after Doubara’s counsel, she couldn’t stop the flutters in her stomach as she thought of being on a date with Tolu again. She rushed through her work as the clock ticked towards the time she would be with Tolu. She accepted birthday wishes from friends and colleagues. Her phone kept ringing. Everything was putting in her in the mood for a great time; even her mother had called her. Her call put a broad smile on her face. Her recovery was quite fast and it made her happy.
When she finished her major work that morning, she turned over the others to her partner whom she had planned with that morning. She went into the ladies to retouch her makeup. She would not meet Tolu looking ordinary. She must appear her best. It was the reason why her dress had been specially picked out that morning. The red gown was as daring as her mood. It was a long, flowing linen gown with a cut that ran from her knee downwards, revealing straight legs that were her pride. She left the ladies with so much confidence. As she swayed towards the reception to await Tolu, her steps faltered. She must tell Tolu the truth. She couldn’t keep up with their fantasies all in the name of old love. Yes, her heart was attuned to the feelings from the past, but she had to do the right thing. Tolu must know about Bina. Whatever the consequence, so be it.
That didn’t give her joy. She didn’t look forward to their meeting again. She dropped heavily on the metal chair in the reception. Her face was sad and withdrawn. Her hand rested under her jaw as she read the messages on her phone without her earlier glee. Her face brightened a little when she read the post Doubara had made for her on Facebook. Tolu arrived while she was at this.
He breezed into the office with the aura of the wealthy man he was. In his right hand was a bouquet of flower. His blue blazer glimmered in the bright light. The hair she loved was neatly combed. The fragrance of his perfume filled the area immediately. Heads turned to him. Some didn’t return to what they were doing before. It angered her that two ladies sitting in front of her were making ‘google’ eyes at him. She stood up then. Time to claim ownership of the fine specie that seemed to be everyone’s fantasy.
His eyes sparkled as he set them on her. The corners of her mouth widened in a smile until she felt they would tear. When he got to her, he dropped a kiss on her cheek.
“Happy Birthday, beautiful.” He whispered into her ears. His free hand curved her small back.
If she was fair, her face would have become as red as a ripe tomato. “Thank you, handsome.” She replied in a husky voice. She met the eyes of the two ladies who had been looking at him with open admiration when he came in earlier. She didn’t expect friendly looks from them and she didn’t get them. What she saw was what would be seen in the eyes of defeated ladies: jealousy. She winked at them. One huffed and turned away.
Tolu moved away from her and ran his eyes from her head to her toe. “You look more beautiful each day, my dear.” He told her, longing in his voice.
She giggled like a love-struck teenager. “It must be because of you.” She replied, batting her eyes at him.
He touched the tip of her nose. “Don’t kill me, Ebika.”
Another giggle. She looked around. They were the centre of attention for everyone. “We’ve given these lot a good drama. Now, let’s go before they declare war on us.”
He looked around then and guffawed. “You’re right.”
He led her through the slide doors and into his car. He drove down to a private guest house a few kilometres away from her office. He told her he had made reservations for them right there.
It was an exotic place. The environment was serene. Flowers adorned the drive way. A lawn tennis court occupied one side of the drive way. Just after it was a large swimming pool. A small shelter for relaxation was built beside it. The other side of the road had small hut-like shelters built with bamboo sticks for relaxation too.
Ebika took in the whole place in sheer delight. A place like this would have cost a small fortune. She said as much to Tolu, but he laughed it off. She was worth more than that, he told her. Ebika agreed too. It wasn’t wrong to be pampered this way, even if the one doing the pampering was your ex-boyfriend that you never broke up with.
Tolu guided her past the glass paned lobby. The desk clerk greeted him with a big smile. He got the key to the room he had paid for and led her there.
The room was quite exotic too. All was prim and neat. From the beautiful oil paintings on the wall, to the leather upholstery and the flat screen TV on the wall. She turned around. A fridge stood beside the king-size bed, laid with white bed sheet.
Tolu motioned for her to take her seat on the couch. She did with grace. If he saw her worthy to be brought to a place like this, then she would act the part of a well-cultured lady too.
She watched him as he made a call to room service. In a few minutes, a table was rolled into the room, and a feast was set before her. Her mouth opened in total surprise.
“Wow! Tolu. This is a lot.” She cried in delight.
He reached up a finger to her face, touching it with a feather-soft stroke. “You deserve this and more. This is what I would have given you if things hadn’t gone the way they went, but I’m here now to always give you this.” He stared at her with intense, burning eyes.
A strange sensation crept up her body as she looked at him. She swallowed the desire filling her senses quickly. Things were getting heated. What would be the state of her heart after this awesome time with Tolu? Her heart hammered in her chest. She looked away from him.
“You know how to make me feel special, Tolu. No one has done this.” She told him in a small voice.
He placed a hand under her chin and brought her face back to him. “I’ll do it always.”
No, you won’t, a voice cried within her. She is taken. She belongs to Bina.
Ebika shook off the voice. Tolu was not proposing to her, she told the voice.
“Come, let’s eat.” He said.
The fireworks that were on the verge of exploding moments ago eased as they moved to safer conversation during the meal. They shared stories of childhood birthday celebrations. She laughed easily at his jokes and stories. By the time their meal was over, they had relaxed considerably.
They moved to the shelter of the balcony with their drinks. The balcony overlooked the flowered garden in the compound. Tolu dropped a bottle of wine on the table that was placed alongside two chairs on the balcony. He pulled out a chair for her and took the other one.
He looked up at her, his intense gaze scanning her face. “I’m happy to be spending this time with you, Ebika. I don’t know what I would have done if you had rejected my invite.” He said.
Her gaze swept over his face. “Thanks for making this day very special for me. I won’t forget this in a hurry. It will be in my memory for a long time to come.”
He brushed her cheeks lightly with warm fingers. “I don’t want you to ever forget, Ebika. Let us build more memories.” His voice was very soft, pushing through the walls of her heart.
She lifted one dark swooping brow at him. “What do you mean?” She asked.
He placed his warm hand over hers that had gone cold, causing it to tingle. He looked like he was going to bear his heart to her, but then he shook his head. “Time will tell, Ebika.”
Ebika shook her head. “I don’t have time.” She told him in a tone heavy with sadness, her eyes looking into the distance.
He gave her a quizzical look. “What do you mean, Ebika?” He asked, making her turn back to him. He stared across at her.
Ebika let out a long breath. She felt her emotions brewing over like a cup of hot tea. She had to do the right thing.
“We’ve been separated for a long time, Tolu. A lot has changed between up.” She said in a tone that was just above whisper. Tolu fixed a steady gaze on her. She closed her eyes tightly and opened them gradually. She wanted the moment to pass by quickly. What if she was wrong about all that had been happening between them since they met again? What if Tolu was just being nice? He could have someone too, and was just being a good friend to her for the sake of old times. She sighed, let me just tell him, she decided within.
“Tolu, I’m engaged.” She said in a rush, staring into Tolu’s eyes to see his reaction. He seemed not to have heard her. He tilted his head to the left, a disoriented look on his face. He said nothing, just kept giving her the strange look. Worried lines etched her forehead. “Tolu.” She shook his hand. “Did you hear me?” She asked.
Only a small nod told her he was still with her. She sighed with relief. But then, why was he not talking, she wondered?
After what seem like forever, Tolu’s eyes refocused and gave her a conscious stare. “What do you mean ‘engaged’?” He asked her in a raspy tone. He downed his wine to wet his dry throat.
“I met someone else a couple of years back, and we are planning to have our introduction in three weeks.” She explained to him.
Tolu looked like she struck him. He got up from his chair and went to stand in front of the rail, his arms crossed his chest. His chest heaved up and down in quick succession. Fear moved down Ebika’s spine like tapping fingers as she watched him. He stayed that way for a while. All the time she kept wondering if she had kept her engagement to Bina too late. Guilt twisted her heart.
Tolu whirled, coming to her with burning eyes. He wrapped his fingers around her slender wrist. “Don’t leave me, Ebika.” He pleaded with her in a shaky tone.
Ebika swallowed at the intensity of his tone. “I’m right here with you, Tolu.” She replied. She was held captive by his gaze and so she found herself staring into the depth of his eyes.
He shook his head. “I love you, Ebika.” He admitted.
Laughter rippled within Ebika and rushed to the surface. She guffawed in his face. “That’s funny, Tolu.” She said, lifting her chin in disbelief. Her voice was calm, in spite of her runaway pulse.
Tolu shook her hand. “I mean it, Ebika. Meeting you again has proven that what I felt for you never died all these years. I can’t go a day without you now.”
She gaped at him as he spoke. He touched a finger to her lips. She felt heat move up her neck all the way to her hairline. It was happening for real. Tolu wanted her. If that was the case, then nothing was holding him back too. What would hold her back? Could her love for Bina stop what was building in her heart for Tolu? She listened to him as he spoke.
“I know I don’t have a good record of keeping a promise, but this is different for me, my love. I want to be with you. I feel it strongly like I felt it the first time I saw you. Just think about it, Ebika. While you do, you could put off the introduction. I want you be the one that would walk down the aisle with me.”
The walls in her heart were crumbling. She could feel it. She placed a hand over her chest as if she could stop it, but she knew she couldn’t. Tolu appealed to her a great deal. What she felt for him made her alive. She didn’t need to make her decision immediately, and there was no need for her to rush into anything with Bina. She would have this time with Tolu and make the right decision.
“Alright, Tolu.” She finally said, smiling up at him. “I’ll think about it.”
He circled her in a bear hug. “You won’t regret this, my love. Just give us this chance.”
“I will.” She said. Her words were muffled by his chest.
When he moved away from her, his eyes were happy. Gone was the deep sorrow from before. “I have something special for you.” He moved into the room and came back with a small jewellery box. He stretched it towards her. “Happy Birthday, my dear.”
She took the box from him. “Thank you.” She said.
“Open it.” he nudged.
She did. It was a gold wristwatch. She looked at the expensive wristwatch. “Wow, this is beautiful, Tolu. I will treasure this always.” She gasped in awe.
He gave his usual shrug. “You deserve the best.”
She left her chair and flew into his hands, dropping a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you.”
He wrapped her hands around her trim waist. “I’ll do more for you. Just love me.”
Sounded easy enough to Ebika. She could do this. She would only make the right choice between Bina and Tolu.
The rest of the time spent together kept tugging her heart towards someone. It wasn’t surprising that the name wasn’t that of the one whom she was engaged to.
Promises! Decisions! Crossroads! the web is so tangled, friends. Don’t forget to share your thoughts.