‘I’am standing on the Nicon Hilton hotel now, on top of the parapet roof overlooking Abuja skyline…” Stephanie Nwuba babbled hurriedly fighting the chill that came with increase in altitude as she looked for the best position to place the mobile phone on her hand. She had just closed from work and was hence wearing only a silk purple blouse and a skirt, no match for the lingering harmattan cold. “Where are you?”
“I’m on the top of the Chrysler building…” came the muffled male voice on the other end of the line. “I’m guessing you just came back from work?”
“How did you know?” she squealed. “You’re not back are you?”
“No!” he chuckles. “Its to 12 over here and since the time difference between Nigeria and Newyork is 6 hours, I guessed it would be about 6…right?”
She sighed. “Yes.”
Then there was awkward silence for good 2minutes.
“Happy valentine” he interrupted. “Sorry.”
Then they laughed hard.
“I hope you know we are wasting you airtime.” She said seriously at the setting sun.
“Nothing is a waste with you.” Came his reply.
“How are your slave drivers, I hope they still pay your feeding and wardrobe allowances.”
“Yes.” He replied in an amused tone.
But she wasn’t. “They know you’re asthmatic right. I will not accept your dead body if that’s what they ship back for me.” her tone became deadly. “I will not.”
“I know and they would not. I love you babe.”
She was hysterical now. “I know but will that be enough?” tossing her fear of heights to the wind, she began to pace the rear distance of the flat-roof. “I don’t know if I can wait for seven years Jide, I waited for you all my life. All through secondary school for you to realize that you were in love with me. it wasn’t until you got that internship from hell that the scales mysteriously fell from your eyes…10years Jide, 10 years!”
“I feel myself die each day Jide. You remember Halima, my friend…” she didn’t wait for him to concur. “She got married 2years ago. I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want any awkwardness in our relationship; it is already awkward by itself. My friends’ advice me to have a fling; to keep my blood warm. They even warned me that with the way I was going, I could develop a tumor there, since I’ve never had sex before. I kept myself for you, for our wedding night and with each night the need kills me…” her voice falls to a desperate whisper. “It’s been 4years since last I saw you Jide. Are you really alive? How I’m I not sure those white men programmed your voice-“
“Stop it Steph-“
“I can’t concentrate in church anymore…I swear, I feel you touching me…I even…”
“Yes.” he finally said in a heavy, guilt-ridden voice. “I have those kind of dreams about you too.”
There was a pause, then a burst of laughter. Deep heartfelt laughter that resonated with hers even though they were thousands of miles apart. Peals of laughter that cleared the pregnant tension in the air.
“Look at the setting sun Stephanie.”
Still with the phone in her hand, she did.
“It doesn’t matter how far away from you that I am, I am still there with you.” She chuckled derisively. “Is it not the same sun that is in front of you that I’m looking at?”
“Look, your wise words-“
“There is no wisdom about it. I love you Stephanie Nwuba.” He said firmly.
“I know, but will it be enough?” she demanded wistfully.
“Maybe not, but hopefully, this will.”
“Turn back toward the door you used to climb up.”
When she did, a uniformed man with a cap that had the letters ‘FEDEX’ boldly printed on his cap and shirt was waiting for her.
“Are you miss Nwuba?”
She nodded in surprise.
“This package…” he brandished a neatly wrapped box at her. She took it and tore it open layer by layer ignoring what the delivery man was saying until she found a small box. “Was sent from NewYork two days ago from one Mister Jide-”
“OH MY GOD…OH MY GOD…OH MY GOD!!!” She squealed and melted to the ground in sheer glee with the surrounding sky-scrapers as witnesses. It was a miracle that neither the box fell from her hand, nor the phone from her ear.
“Just sign here.” The man produced and sheet of paper that she couldn’t read and she signed without paying attention to what she was scribbling. “Thank you for using our services-” the man was saying.
“Open the box…” the voice on the phone was saying.
She was excited and terrified of what might be in the box so she hesitated.
“Do it…”he urged.
“What is this?” she asked stupidly.
“Babe, I’m on my knees a thousand miles from you in a land where they don’t understand the concept of mind your business…” he was saying as she half cried half laughed also on her knees. “Open it.”
As she did, he continued. “I have held up your life for four years now, hell forever, now I want to give you a choice. You can walk away and I know you’d find more deserving men than me. Will you marry me? Will you wait for me 20 years more?”
“Yes…yes…I will.” She replied ecstatically.
There is a long pause. “like this time next year, would that be too early for you?”
“I don’t understand, I thought you still have 6 years over there as an intern…”
“Shush. I’m leaving them. I’ve worked with them long enough to get any job I want in my motherland. Plus I miss your ofensala.”
She was laughing in tears now. “But there are African restaurants-”
“None of them make them like you.”
“I love you.” She says in amazement of it all. “I always have and I always will.”
“As do I my love. Now my family must have their fun.”
“I don’t understand.”
Just then she heard loud chattering from the stairway that led to the first floor. She heard the distinct drawl of his elder sister…and the Yoruba accent of his mother…and the bellow of his father…and the cackles of his twin younger brothers.
She had been ambushed.
“My God, you planned the whole thing!” she accused as his entire family came forward to embrace her.
“No we did.” Claimed his father boisterously, puffing his chest through his suit. “We would not miss our son’s engagement for anything!” his mother came forward to hug her. “Welcome to the family.”
“We heard everything…”Ayo, the first twin was saying.
“Yes oh…” Kayode added enthusiastically, throwing an arm on his brother’s neck.
“You heard everything.” Stephanie muttered in shock.
Ayo brandished an ipad with Jide’s live rueful face. “He’s using an apple app to talk to you, so we used skype to stream his-”
“Leave this place!” admonished Jide’s Father. “Don’t you have innocent maidens to spoil, it is valentine after all.”
“Don’t mind them.” His Mother came and placed an arm around her. The reception is downstairs, your friends and family are around.
She still couldn’t believe it. “He planned all this… what if I said no?”
Her new sister in-law took her other hand. “Well we knew you didn’t want to remain a maiden forever.” She said as they escorted her to the stairs. Then she added in a whisper. “As for the abstinence thing, I have some herbs that could help you…”
Stephanie was too elated to be disturbed by her in-laws antics. She was glad she hadn’t broken up with him, because that was what she thought was going to happen. Maneuvering her hand into her bag, she retrieved her blackberry and removed Jasper Okomudo from her contact list. She didn’t care if she grew cobwebs down there or it closed up entirely, she wouldn’t need his services anymore. She won’t be having dinner with him either, she had her engagement party to attend.