Banke sat up on her bed suddenly.
She was tucked in with her favorite Stephen King piece and something in the plot, got her thinking. It had been 5 months since Femi waltzed back into her life and stole her son’s heart. First love never dies, that was the saying, right? She had turned down every date beyond lunch for as long as that. And till now, she had not given much thought to what she was doing, what she wanted, and more importantly, what Femi wanted. In all of that lay the constant reminder of what was good for her and best for her son. Her history with Femi was a bit worrisome. She had mentioned his return briefly to her Father. The old man’s face lit up in surprise. She wasn’t sure it was wise to say more until she could tell what she and Femi would be about. The other day in his car, he was talking about his sister asking after her. She never knew they had so much contact least of all discuss her. Since his relationship, he had made efforts to reunite with his sister and his relationship with his extended family was on the path to healing. There were till a few strains, but she saw that he took great effort to handle the issues as they arose. In her books, he was scoring high for maturity. It was obvious life had taught him major lessons that he himself had learned well.
So, where did this put her? Titi had asked her to go with the flow, Bayo repeatedly gave his blessings. But she had neither brought up the topic no responded to any of his instances or side comments. She had laughed at them, shook her head on many occassions, and she had thoroughly enjoyed his attention these past few months. Initially, she had thought that his frenetic rush into her life was out of guilt and a need to reconnect to something familiar. But with time, she began too question that reasoning. A part of her was scared to believe that Femi had loved her still all this while. Why didn’t he do something about it before now? Would they have lasted if they had stayed together after he left? So many questions in her head, so many with no clear answers. Until she read that paragraph of her novel:
“…the things you do not know or understand should not keep you away from those that are clear as clear as this crystal in my hands”
The novel’s plot was in no way related to her story with Femi, but that sentence had all the answers she needed. And she knew what to do.
It was fresh flowers the fourth time. Work was certainly over for her colleagues today as they all oohhed and aahhed over Femi’s messages. It was a good thing it was Friday. The last gift came with a letter, an epistle that rivaled the length of the one she had written him. And if she thought she poured her heart out, Femi must have emptied his very soul…
Wow… babe, you really are full of surprises! I’m wondering what other surprises you have for me. I’m glad you came to this conclusion yourself. I was hoping not to have to be the one to make you say the words.
You have made me the most fulfilled of all men. I’m trying really hard to be simple with the depths of my feelings, but the more I think about, the more I realised how tied up I am in you. I’m so not into you, I am like a mixmarsh of all that I am and all that your influence has made me. Believe me when I say it’s no cliche that I cannot imagine my life without you. I tried to work up the image recently and it was the most scary thought I have had in a while. You and Tega have brought more joy into my life than I ever thought was possible in such a short period. Coming back to Nigeria for me was like an impulsive obsession. Funny thing is, I thought of you a lot, but I did not think I was been influenced by the thought of you. Whatever my reasons were, I’m glad I came home. And for what it’s worth, I’m glad for the way I met you. And to top it up, you have given me Tega, much more than I could ever think or hope on.
You asked me what I wanted to do now, now that I know that you love me still, now that you have said that you are no longer afraid of loving me. I thought I made it clear. Did you for one second doubt the sincerity of my words? I want forever with you. I want the promise of tomorrow that never ends with you. I want to see you in the morning, see you at night and all the times in-between, for the rest of my life. You already own my heart, all I need now is for you to be a constant part of my life. I ask to much, I know. But in exchange, I offer you all that I have. My heart, my every joys, successes, everything. I want to build all the dreams I have shared with you, I want to build them with you. I love you, with every fiber of my being. And though I tried hide from it, that is something that would never change. And just so you know, I have one more gift for you. But this, I’d rather give you in person.
Dinner tonight? Call you soon.
She had barely finished the last sentence when her phone rang and her control over the rest of the day ended immediately. Femi had planned dinner for two. And with it, he organized what he said was his 6 year old imagination of her. He had her pampered from her office table to the table for two at her favorite Thai restaurant. It was obvious a lot had gone into the planning of this short notice dinner. Tega was spending the night with Titi and her family. It was a good thing it was Friday.
She had half expected him to propose there, but more like the Femi Ajai, she knew, he took his things in stride. He got the restaurant to play her favorite songs, they danced as she cried to their old favorite love songs. They ended up at his empty apartment to find the living room set with projectors and reels of her “Pretty Woman” and Gone with the Wind”. She fell asleep in his arms to the sound of “Tom and Jerry” at their best and woke up to the smell of hot cocoa in front of her.She felt his movements through the night and the early hours of the morning, but for once in a long time, she gave in to the pleasures of being catered for. Femi had said the next couple of days were all about her and she settled into the languid bliss of doing absolutely nothing about it.
“Hey! Sleepy! Howdy? You good?”
“Yeah… I really slept” she yawned again and sighed with a smile
“It’s 11.00 a.m. and you need to get dressed”
“Where are we going?”
“Out.” he said, with a mischievous smile
“I’m still not allowed to ask questions?”
“Nope. You are only allowed to enjoy…”
She found herself melting into his arms as he held her. The peck on the forehead was slow and purposeful, and very sensual. She could feel his efforts at self control. It was painful not to be able to taste beyond the tips of his lips. She had vivid imaginations of how she could react, but for now, she played along and enjoyed what she was getting.
They ended up at Eleko Beach. She remembered the place well. It held loads of memories for them. Femi’s parents just moved into their new house in the area before their passing. Femi could not be taking her there…
“What’s going on? Where are we going?”
“No questions, young lady. I told you to trust me. I got this.”
“But we are driving towards your…”
“My folks place? I’ve been there twice since I came back. Trying to fix the place up properly. My sister hasnt had the time and the last tenant just moved out. Thinking of converting it into a serviced apartment or something…”
Her shock was genuine. “You never said…”
“I know… I didnt intend to keep this from you, I was dealing with private demons. Couldn’t afford to drag you into that one.” He raised his hands to stop her from what he guessed was a sharp retort, “Not that I didn’t think you could handle whatever mess would come with it. I had to do this for me… I had to get over the s*%t myself. I would have thought myself less of a man if I didn’t. Do you understand..?” He looked at her, “it’s important to me that you do…”
The rest of the 2 minute drive was in silence. It seemed to Banke that the whole drama was about to have a sour end. And she hadn’t yet gotten the much awaited proposal! Femi parked in front of his parents old house and turned off the engines. Without saying a word, he got down from the car and walked over to the passenger’s side to open the door for Banke. She got down and together they silently began to walk down the road. Femi held her hands, played with her fingers and he recounted past memories they had shared on this once dusty road. Banke noticed familiar landmarks on the way. The bricklayer’s shed was no longer made of wood, though the sign in front of the new structure still read ‘briklaya for hire’, the Hausa gate man in the brown house still had his wooden kiosk outside the gate. Her eyes scanned the area and took in the sights as a distraction from her now confused thoughts.They had taken this walk before, several times before he left.
Before long, they were on the beach. The old cargo ship had been moved, and in its place was a small bungalow with an open terrace. They place, whatever it was being used for, had not opened in a while. At least from the way it looked. However, it was obvious someone had done some recent house cleaning. Femi climbed the rickety stairs of the bungalow and reached for here hands as she did the same.
“Femi, what is going on?”
“You remember this spot?” He paused to look at her and saw her nod. She looked so beautiful wearing cute worry frowns. “I used to dream about this place when I was away… I thought we could spend some time here and then go and get Tega from Titi’s place.”
She sat beside him on the surprisingly clean wooden foor of the open terrace. She noticed the camera in the corner and looked at him again. “Why did we come here, Femi? What is going on? Are you recording this..?”
He ignored her questions.
“I’ve been doing a lot of bridge mending since I got back. My dad and mom’s folks… my sister… with myself… We had a lot of good times here… good memories. With you, most of the time. I hardly ever came here alone. It was meant to be our special place, me and you. That’s why I thought it would be nice to bring you here to do this… Olubanke Adefunto Omoshalewa, you are my dream come true. I…”
Femi found his heart beating. “What if..?” He swallowed and continued.
“I couldn’t be a luckier man, having you in my life. You have no idea the things you’ve helped me pull through. I always thought myself a strong man, able to handle anything, but you… I can be anything, do anything, as long as it’s with you. I want to always be the better man for you, so I can make you happier than you are, put a wider smile on your face. Make you laugh more. That for me, is enough to live for. I probably would have to make plenty money to keep up, but I don’t mind…” Banke laughed as the tears threatened to run.
“I want to be the man that makes you happy forever, babe. I want it to be my life long responsibility. I want to love you, care for you in many more ways than the past few months have allowed, be your friend, share your dreams, and help you make them reality, just as you are making mine.I want to marry you. So, I’m asking you…”
There was no getting down on one knee, he was already on his both knees, just as she was. Her eyes were swimming in a pool of tears. She had never seen him more vulnerable in his entire grown up life. The boy in Femi, had finally become a man.
The kiss said it all. In it was the question and the answer they had both being waiting for.