Rewande and Cameron smiled at each other over tall glasses of iced tea. Cameron languidly swirled the straw in his drink, hitting the oblong ice-cubes which made sonorous clinks against the glass. He chuckled softly and glanced away from her.
Rewande noted the crescent-shaped depressions in his cheeks as his smile deepened. Some things had not changed after all, she mused. Cam still appeared to be the sweet, gentle giant he had been back in secondary school. In J.S 3, at the age of fourteen, Cam had already hit the six feet bar. Now, he stood at about six feet five, towering majestically over her slight frame- just the way she liked her men. She had fit so snugly against him when he had taken her into a side hug, his heady cologne wafting tantalizingly into her nostrils.
She sighed inwardly now as she gazed at his smooth caramel face, shadowed at the chin and jaw with a fine line of beard that bore origin from his sideburns. His eyes were bright pools of molasses, glinting with humor and intelligence, accented by thick, swooping black brows that added mystery to his sweet countenance. A straight, pointed nose led down to his full pink mouth. When he pursed his lips to take a sip from his drink, his salient Cupid’s bow diminished, making his elegantly groomed mustache stand out against his fair skin. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed and then looked up at her, those beautiful dimples accompanying yet another shy smile.
Rewande reached for Cameron’s left hand, loving how bare his ring finger was, how unmarried he seemed. She had not yet inquired about his marital status though; she was still scoping his eligibility for the role of her next catch, although her decision had been more or less made after he had told her that he was the CEO of the huge oil company that had sprung up only about three years earlier and had overshadowed all its counterparts. His fingers melded with hers and she shivered delightedly as he lightly rubbed her knuckles.
“So, Wande, what have you been up to all these years? It’s been… How long?” He asked.
“Almost eleven years since graduation.”
“Wow”, he breathed. “Feels like just yesterday when you flung that teddy bear in my face.
“She let out a surprised chuckle. She had completely forgotten about that incident on Valentine’s Day in SS1. She had been young, and blinded by the allure of the big boys in SS3 back then, especially Wale Thompson who was the most wanted by all the girls. She had bumped into him at the mall only three months earlier. He had been grocery shopping with his overweight, under-maintained wife, and two rambunctious children whose heads were both scraped in a clean skin-cut, although one of them- who she guessed was a girl- had on a dress. Wale was now employed in an overstaffed government agency. Rewande had not been impressed.
“I can’t believe you still remember that,” she remarked.
February 14th, 2000 came to her in a flash. Starched, striped shirts and creased navy pinafores flitted around the school compound during break time. White socks had turned brown, polished shoes had long lost their shine; but even amongst such seeming innocence, romance, or rather, the illusion of it, thrived. Rewande had been chatting with her friends on the expanse of land behind the school, which served as a makeshift football field. The boys and girls used the bustle of fun and activity during recess as an opportunity to exchange Valentine’s gifts. Rewande had already received a large parcel from the handsome Wale Thompson, son of a wealthy senator. She and her friends had hastily peeled off the red, gaudy wrapping sheet to reveal a box containing a complete jewelry set of solid gold bangles, a pendant, earrings and rings. Rewande hadn’t needed to know how Wale had come to acquire such treasures. She had been the envy of the entire female student population.
Amidst excited chatter, Rewande and her friends had not noticed the tall, skinny boy who had come up behind them. Ini had spotted him first and nudged Rewande, knowing that she alone could be his reason for being there. Rewande had turned to the boy she had been dating for the past two months. Their relationship had been discreet, simply because she had insisted on it so as not to taint her reputation. The poor, smitten boy had been too enamored to care, so long as he had her.
Cameron had stood in front of Rewande and her friends in his undersized shirt that stretched across his fast broadening chest, causing the buttons to strain. His trousers were far too short, and exposed his bony, weather-beaten ankles. Those gorgeous dimples had surfaced, and her heart had gone out to him instantly. Ini had nudged her again. Her friends were giving her a look. She knew what she had to do.
The cafe waiter cleared his throat loudly beside Cameron and Rewande, interrupting her reminiscence.
“Sir, Madam, do you need anything else?”
Cameron shook his head after confirming Rewande did not need anything, and waved the waiter off, slipping a tip into his hands. The man glanced down incredulously at the rolled naira notes, and began to stammer words of gratitude to Cameron, almost kneeling in the immensity of his appreciation.
After the waiter left, still dazed with the large token he had just received, Cameron turned to Rewande, a modest smile playing on his lips. Yes, he was definitely still the same sweet guy he had always been. Only, now, he was the rich version of that guy. She had been a fool to have let him go. If she only had hung on to him and not broken his heart back then, perhaps, she would have been smiling to the bank with him by now- with a large, shiny rock on her finger.
“Cam, about that day I embarrassed you… I’m really sorry. I wish I could take back what I did.”
Oh, yes, she wished she could, she thought, looking longingly at the very eligible bachelor in front of her.
“Some things aren’t easily forgotten, but I forgive you.” He reached to tweak her chin gently with his free hand. As he did so, something on his shirt sleeve caught her eye. His cufflinks that were discs of intricately incised white gold, rimmed with little square-cut black diamonds glittered enticingly under the soft lights. Rewande began to take in his obviously expensive white linen shirt and his navy, corduroy blazer that could only have been a limited edition designer piece. She could not believe her good fortune at bumping into Cameron again. Destiny was giving her a second chance with him. Her heart was dancing etighi in sheer glee.
Cameron’s eyes didn’t leave Rewande’s; those beautiful brown eyes that had gazed into his with this same besotted expression in them many years ago, before Wale ‘Money-Talking’ Thompson had come into the picture and whisked her away. Unfortunately, she was still the same materialistic opportunist she had always been. He had watched the way her eyes had lit up with lust when he had deliberately given the waiter an outrageous tip. Her eyes had done the same light effects when she noticed his bejeweled cufflinks. Earlier, she had almost choked on her drink when he told her that he owned Nova Oil group of companies. He knew he looked like money, and smelled of it too; and he knew Wande’s cute little nose could sniff up cash from miles away. He had her just where he wanted her.
He had had a long day at the office and had stopped by the café a few streets away to grab a snack. Stepping in through the automatic sliding doors, he had spotted a pair of long, creamy legs belonging to a petite lady who stood at the counter in bright red platform heels, and a short zebra print dress; her long, curly hair extensions cascading in rippling waves down her back.
Cameron had gone up to the counter beside her, and after making his order, he had stolen a glance at the lady, and had not believed his eyes. There she had stood, looking more beautiful than he could have ever imagined- Rewande of his life. Rewande of his heart. They had hugged warmly and had decided to catch up over iced tea.
The expression on her face now took him back to that fateful Valentine’s day. Rewande had glanced up, smiling back at him as he approached her and her friends. She had looked pleased to see him, until that snobby friend of hers, Ini, elbowed her sharply. Then, the smile disappeared and Rewande had rolled her eyes at him, turned away and continued chatting with them. Perplexed, he had spoken up in a shaky voice, “Wande, can I talk to you?”
Ini had burst out laughing, and the other girls had joined her, Rewande inclusive. Cameron knew Wande well. The laugh had been feigned. In her attempt at snobbery, she couldn’t meet his eyes, not only because she had wanted to ignore him, but mainly because she had known she was hurting him. Cameron could see that. But he hadn’t known why she had had to put up a Nollywood scene for him. Why had she been acting up like that? To impress her stupid friends, perhaps?
At a loss of what to do, Cameron had simply walked up to Wande, and thrust the parcel he had held behind his back into her lap. “This is for you”, he had said.
Before he could walk away, Ini had grabbed the parcel from Wande and ripped it open. All that Cameron had been able to afford from saving his meagre pocket money was a small teddy bear. The scruffy-looking thing had wild brown eyes, and clutched a red heart in its paws. The girls had guffawed loudly when Ini brought it out.
“Really, Cameron, is this the best you can do?” Ini had asked, mockingly. “You should see what Wale bought her.”
Rewande had then gotten up from the broken brick wall where they sat, and sashayed over to him, hips swinging. She had then held the bear up to his face and raised her voice, loud enough for everyone beyond the curious crowd that had formed to hear.
“I know you’re POOR and all”, she began, sarcastically, emphasizing heavily on the “Poor”. “But do you always have to be so CHEAP? Is this all I’m worth?”
She paused, as though waiting for him to respond to her wounding insult of a question. Cameron had been able to spot Wale Thompson smirking within the large crowd of students that had come to witness this public disgrace.
“I don’t want this shit”, Rewande had said in disgust. She had flung the stuffed animal right in his face. It had hit him squarely on the nose before falling pathetically unto the sand. His gorgeous Wande had then strutted back to her friends who cheered her loudly. Cameron had bent down to pick the teddy which he had purchased with all his heart and all his savings after haggling in vain with the salesman. His vision had been blurred with unshed tears as he walked away from the shame.
Cameron brought his mind back to the present, to the beautiful woman seated in front of him. She was telling him about how she now owned a hair salon across the street, and about how she missed her carefree university days. She answered the questions he deftly threw at her, and he watched her talk animatedly, gesturing with her perfectly manicured hands. The only thing he really needed to know had been confirmed; she was single.
Cameron’s iPhone buzzed on the table. He glanced down at it. It was Ifeoma calling. He switched the phone off discreetly, informing Wande that it was a call from work that he would return later.
Ifeoma would understand why he was doing this- why he needed to do this. She was the only girl he had been able to fall in love with after Wande had stabbed him in the back. All the others he had been with had been just like Wande; leeches who perched on a man and financially sucked him dry. He and Ifeoma were engaged to be married in six months’ time. He knew she would understand that he needed to teach Wande a lesson of a lifetime. Destiny had given him this chance for sweet revenge.
“Cam, are you seeing anyone right now? Are you in a relationship?” Wande asked cautiously, looking him straight the eye.
There was an odd pause. “No, as a matter of fact, I’m not,” Cameron’s gaze didn’t waver. “I’m very much single.” He smiled, his eyes glittering with an emotion Wande could not identify. She felt strangely unsettled, but was distracted by those dimples she had never been immune to.
Cameron was simply the sweetest guy, she gushed to herself.