Jide saw the shock laced with confusion in her eyes but couldn’t make out the words from her barely parted lips. Something in the pits of his stomach told him he didn’t wanna know. Asking her to marry him was a wild shot and maybe a little too optimistic. Their relationship was nothing to write home about and he wasn’t even sure he was ready to spend the rest of his life in this lukewarm manner. He’d actually contemplated walking away many times but two things kept him in the relationship. Tayo gave him peace. She had absolutely no drama and the calm around her was almost palpable. He loved that about her. Secondly she was far from materialistic. He hated girls who were all about the money. Tayo didn’t mind paying when they went out and didn’t complain when he bought her cheap presents. Very unlike his last girlfriend. He shuddered as he remembered Nkechi’s scathing comment as she walked out of his life.
“I’m gonna find myself a real man! Tired of hanging out with broke-ass cheapskates like you!”
Those words were accompanied by a long hiss and he had felt like she sucker-punched him!
Tayo was so different. Ahmed always teased him that Tayo was so great because she was old and desperate for a husband. He hadn’t really believed that but if Ahmed was right, why wasn’t she jumping for joy with tears in her eyes at his proposal?
Where was Ahmed anyway? He’d insisted on meeting him at the restaurant so he could finally catch a glimpse of Tayo but still there was no sign of him and he needed someone to break the thick wall of unease that his question which by the way still hung in the air, had created.
“Hope you are enjoying the food?”
He asked a silent Tayo. He still didn’t have the liver to repeat his question or even demand an answer. He took a large gulp of his beer silently begging for dutch courage.
“My friend was supposed to join us here…to celebrate our engagement…”
Tayo choked and kept coughing and gasping for a full five minutes as he urged her to drink water and patted her back. He was acutely aware that all eyes were on them.
Tayo still hadn’t uttered a word.
“Is the thought of marrying me so awful?”
He finally asked in a defeated tone.
“No Jide…It’s just very sudden. Please let me-”
Tayo was interrupted by a loud, surprisingly familiar voice.
“Jideeee there you are! Was about to leave since I couldn’t get through to your stupid phone-”
Ahmed stopped mid-sentence as his eyes saw Tayo for the first time. He froze. That made two of them because Tayo had turned into a pale statue about 5 seconds before.
Jide looked from Ahmed to Tayo and back to Ahmed.
“Do you guys know each other? Tayo this is my friend Ahmed, the one who was supposed to meet us here”
Tayo excused herself abruptly and walked out of the restaurant without a backward glance. The men were both too stunned to say a word. She’d had enough drama for one day.
“Ahmed have you and Tayo met before?”
“Dude I’m so sorry mehn. Hope I didn’t ruin your dinner. I just met her tonight while I was trying to call you. Guess she was just shocked to see me. Are congratulations in order?”
Jide stared silently at Ahmed. They’d been friends long enough to know Ahmed was hiding a whole lot from him. What more could go wrong this evening he wondered? First Tayo had basically turned down his proposal and then she’d run out on him after seeing his player best friend. He wondered if Ahmed and Tayo had a history. Tayo had never let him do anything more than kiss her and he knew how many blue balls he had had to nurse night after night. The thought of she in Ahmed’s bed brought a bitter taste to his throat. He took another swig of his beer.
“She said she needed time to think”
“She’ll come around dude. You’re a great guy and she’s what? About 30? She definitely needs to be married soon. Make you no worry…”
Soon Ahmed had steered the discussion to football though Jide sensed he was a bit distracted. All through school Ahmed had always gotten the babes because he was richer and better looking but the babes always had friends who were willing to date him and he and Ahmed had made a pact not to screw each other over where women were concerned. Like Ahmed used to say, women were sold for ten kobo in the market but friendship was priceless. He chuckled.
“Nothing. I was just thinking about you and our university days.”
“Ah, that reminds me. Guess who I bumped into last week?”
“Hahaha very funny. I swear if I ever catch that thieving b**ch, she’ll wish she never met me. No joor, I saw Fueko”
“Ah, skinny lengelenge. Where you come see that one?”
“At shoprite. Didn’t recognise her. The babe has chopped up and she’s now super hot. Got her number asap!”
“Ahmed you can’t change”
Jide concluded in fits of laughter. Yea he and his friend were good. Ahmed would never screw him over but it didn’t make Tayo’s rejection any easier to handle.
He hated being average. He had big dreams but reality had swept them all under the carpet without a trace. He had taken the high road choosing to be honest but that left him perpetually penniless and now that he had finally landed that contract, the eccentric commissioner had thrown in this disastrous clause. He seethed as he remembered the last conversation.
“Are you married?”
“That’s gonna be a problem. We’ve had nasty experiences with small boys duping us and at our last board meeting, we decided not to give out contracts to small boys again. You barely met the age requirement but I pushed for you because your father served me well. I cannot do more for you. I suggest you find a woman to marry before the end of this quarter as that is when we will be making the final deliberations…”
He had stared stupidly as the commissioner turned his attention to other things. He didn’t think it was fair to propose to Tayo just because he wanted to get a contract but according to Ahmed they both needed the union. Tayo because she was old and he because he needed to get that contract. He almost hadn’t bothered but he was tired of being poor, of not being able to afford nice things. His parents had always struggled and now it seemed they had passed that legacy on to him. He was still pensive when he parted ways with Ahmed.
His phone rang as he was approaching his house. He hoped it would be Tayo calling to sort things out. He looked around briskly to ensure there was no LASTMA official in sight and then picked his phone without looking at the caller ID.
“Hello foolish man. After impregnating my daughter you think e go better for you? Please come and take responsibility of your son oh!”
And there was a long hiss and the line went dead. He barely missed a pedestrian crossing the road and parked his car on the side of the road as he struggled to catch his breath.
He knew that voice anywhere. He looked at the caller ID to confirm his fears.
…To be continued!
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