I curled under the sheets and wriggled my toes. My heart thudded softly with guilt but I wasn’t going to give in. I knew it was only a matter of time before the soft thud became an insistent and defiant pounding. Too soon perhaps?
I shut my eyes tight and focused on happy thoughts only. Like that time when my life was simple and uncomplicated. When people envied me with good reason. Those were good times. I sighed. I would get through this too and find my way back soon enough.
I felt gentle arms wrap around me and draw me close.
“I know you aren’t sleeping” he purred.
He planted a kiss on my neck with my back still to him and he snuggled close. I smiled but I did not respond. It felt good to be held like that and I was going to savour every single moment. Memories from last night flashed through my mind. Alex had been really edgy over the phone. I kept worrying that something was wrong and he wasn’t alright but there was nothing I could do from where I was. I got on the flight from Kaduna and willed the plane to get to Lagos in five minutes. We got to Lagos alright, but only after about an hour. He was waiting for me at the airport like he’d promised. Something was wrong but he was doing a pretty good job of not showing it off. Only I knew him well enough to know that all was not well.
He drove me to the Oriental hotel where I was to be lodged for the night and where the awards ceremony that had brought me to town was holding amidst light chatter. I checked in, freshened up and proceeded to meet with the organizers of the event. I was distracted. Something was wrong with my man and we needed to talk about it. I caught a break with an hour left to the show and asked that we talk. He insisted it could wait till after the awards ceremony. We argued back and forth but he wouldn’t budge. Finally, I gave in.
The awards ceremony and dinner was lovely. I had a great time. My golden moment came when I was announced youngest philanthropist of the year. My heart was bursting with so much joy. All the years of hard work, imparting lives and making a difference had earned me a place in the spotlight. I walked to the platform, received my award and smiled at the cameras, the lights blinding me slightly. I looked to Alex and smiled and he winked at me. My speech was short and simple.
“To God from whom every good and perfect gift comes, to my parents who always made me think of other people than myself, to my friends who always only see the good in me and to my boo who insists that my big head complements my big heart. Thank you for your unending love and support.”
Everyone applauded me loudly and I walked gingerly back to my seat holding the plaque loosely in my hand. Alex hugged me and kissed me on the forehead and told me he was proud of me. We walked back to my room at about 11pm when the entire event was over and I was exhausted. His pensive mood returned and I decided to forget my fatigue for a minute and focus on him.
“Something is eating you babe. You’ve got to tell me what it is.”
I sat on the bed and took off my six inches platform. He was much taller than me so the platforms were a necessity.
He walked to the other end of the room and stood by the window. The view outside was lovely. I’d enjoyed it a few times myself.
“There’s no easy way to say this. I want a break.”
I was sure I hadn’t heard right.
“A break? From what?”
He wouldn’t even look at me.
“Our relationship. I can’t keep up anymore. You’re doing so much and I’m doing so little. I can’t keep up.”
I was confused. Alex was one of the smartest guys I knew. What was he on about?
“Can’t keep up how?”
“You’re in the spotlight. You’re your own person. You’re not vulnerable. You don’t need me.”
Shock waves crashed into me repeatedly. He was leaving me because I was my own person?
“We aren’t in a competition you know. We’re in a relationship. You seem to be forgetting that.”
It seemed like he had made up his mind. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t find the tears. He wasn’t even done dishing the blows.
“I met someone…”
He was still looking out the window. At that point, I lost it. If he was dumping me, he’d damn well be brave about it.
“You met someone? Look at me Alex!”
She depends on me and is always reaching out to me. She allows me be responsible for her…”
His voice was breaking. I didn’t care. I raised my voice.
“Look at me Alex!”
I got off the bed and went to meet him.
“You’re leaving me for someone else because she is weak and I’m not?”
He finally looked at me and I saw the hurt in his eyes. He had given up on us. He wasn’t even going to fight.
“I’m really sorry Jennifer. I’m really sorry.”
I gathered my wits together within seconds and I spoke up.
“It’s alright. We’re through.”
“You heard me. Get out!”
He did not make any attempts to beg. He shuffled out of the room and I slammed the door in a rage. I grabbed my phone and dialed a number I knew by heart. I took out my anger on the poor keypad and punched the numbers furiously in. Hillary picked up on the second ring.
“Madam! Congratulations o. I saw you on AIT tonight and I was really proud. I would have called but I saw oga with you on tv and figured I should wait till morning.”
“Larry, where are you?”
I could hear muffled music in the background.
“I’m at a friend’s party in Lekki. What’s up? Are you okay?”
I breathed in deeply and tried to steady myself. The hurt was already hitting me hard and tearing me apart.
“No, I’m not okay. Can you come over immediately? I’m staying at the Oriental. I’ll meet you at the reception.”
It’s one of the reasons me and Hillary had been best friends for twelve years. When one called, the other answered. No questions asked, no judgment passed.
“Sure. I’ll be with you in 15 minutes.”
It was almost midnight and the roads were pretty free. In exactly 15 minutes, Hillary was with me at the reception. We walked to my room and once the door was shut, my tears came down like a heavy downpour. He thought Alex was a coward and he didn’t mince words in letting me know that. I cried for about thirty minutes and I eventually felt better. He offered me a glass of cold water after my tears subsided and I accepted it gratefully.
“Funny thing,” he said
“The very reason for which he dumped you is the major reason I’ve always admired you. You’re solid, you’re independent and you’re an asset to everyone around you. I can’t stand babes who are liabilities. Ugggh!”
I laughed at the face he made and I walked to him and hugged him.
He smiled mischievously and said.
“I know something that’ll make you feel better.”
He brought out his phone, fiddled with it a bit and soon Ne-yo’s “Miss independent” filled the room.
I actually laughed.
“Come and dance with me.”
I laughed again and shook my head but he pulled me close and I couldn’t help myself.
We swayed easily to the beat and he sang along. It was somewhat amusing watching the mock serious look on his face. When it got to the bridge, I was slightly surprise to hear him alter it.
♪♪ … And everything you got best believe you bought it…
You gon’ steal my heart ain’t no doubt it,
you’re everything I need, girl you’re everything I need♪♪
I smiled as I looked into his eyes. Something changed in that moment. The song ended in seconds but he held my gaze and held me in his arms. I knew it was coming even before it did and I didn’t hold back. He kissed me. It was slow and somewhat uncertain but I urged him on. I didn’t let myself think. Thinking would only ruin the moment.
I sighed as I turned on the bed to face him. He had drifted back to sleep. Things would never be the same again certainly not after last night. My phone vibrated a few inches from me and I reached out to pick it and read the text.
Saying I made a mistake would be putting it mildly. I don’t care how tough or independent you are. I really can’t imagine my life without you. I realized between last night and this morning that I’d be crazy to let you go. Forgive me please and let’s pretend last night didn’t happen…