Her legs were already trembling when she came to the luggage carousel in Arrivals of Calabar airport, stretching not to miss hers when it rode by. All Yadili could think about was checking into the hotel and diving into bed, the cross-country flight having worn her out. She needed a long rest before the conference began tomorrow, and it was already 2pm.
This break from work is a Godsend, she thought. In fact, she needed a break from everything. And everyone. Even Daddy.
“To me, it’s not so bad”, he’d said over the phone, right before she boarded. “You’re just thirty-two, not forty. But your mother won’t stop the vigils on your behalf.”
“Daddy, I know how old I am”, she’d grumbled. “The problem isn’t me. It’s the men that can’t stand to marry a successful and well-educated woman.”
“I understand. But, see, maybe you should be less stringent. I know you want the best, but maybe now is when you take the best of the men you get.”
“Heh! And spend my life regretting marrying a hideous retard or wretched fellow. Or something worse, like an albino. Daddy, no way. I’m not that desperate.”
He grunted. “Then go and find this prince yourself, since he has refused to come to you. And find him soon, because old princesses don’t get the princes.”
She’d hung up on him then, angry. How could he call her old? She wasn’t old! People misjudged her for a twenty-something most times. She was young and beautiful and smart and ambitious. Any man who couldn’t see that, choosing instead to see her title of University Lecturer as his Great Wall Of China was, in her opinion, too foolish to get married to anyway.
Still, he’s right, she thought, scanning for her box. My time is ticking. Well, then! New city, fresh prospects. Smart and intelligent prospects. She thought of the scores of single men she would meet at the conference.
She finally spotted the maroon suitcase and hoisted it off the belt, lugging it outside. A cab ride and twenty-five minutes later, she was in the small hotel room reserved for her. She quickly shred her formal shirt and skirt, retrieving her suitcase to pick out something casual before visiting the restaurant.
When she opened it, she gasped.
None of her belongings were in the case.
Instead, she was greeted by a whiff of male cologne and many unfamiliar items. Clothes, from crisp office shirts and well-ironed trousers to some singlets and boxer shorts, all neatly folded. She spotted the perfume culprit, a bottle tucked into the corner alongside other toiletries and hygiene products, all of high calibre. Three thick volumes of Dean Koontz and a pair of obviously expensive black suedes completed the contents of the box.
Yadili flumped on the bed, laying like she’d been crucified. How could she have picked someone else’s suitcase? But it looks exactly like mine! Damn this!
She rose and poked around the box. Thankfully, she found a small Nokia phone, the kind with green backlight and tetris games. Glory! Some form of contact.
The standby profile read a name: Kade Collins.
The last dialed numbers were unsaved ones. Same with the last few texts, all business-related or from network providers. No wife or girlfriend then. Or intimate friend or family.
She thought about him having another phone, so she scrolled through the contact list, searching for any sort of reference. Sure enough, there was a “My Number2” saved.
She dialed that on her phone and listened, all the while thinking about the kind of person he probably was. Obviously single, and with good taste in everything. He’s probably handsome too. Men like this are always tall and handsome. Maybe he isn’t intimidated by successful women. She chuckled at the thought of meeting him leading to something more. Well, well, Daddy, you were wrong. Old princesses do get some princes afterall.
She cleared her throat and prepared her best phone voice as the line went grruuupp grruuupp!
There was a click. “Hello?”
The voice was a rich baritone.
“Hello. Good afternoon. I’m speaking to a Kade Collins?”
There was a pause.
“Yes, Kade here.” Another pause. “Are you the one who has my…”
“Suitcase, yes. We mixed them up at the airport.”
“Thank God!” he sighed. “That rush can be crazy! I’m glad I switched with a responsible person. Thank you!”
“No problem. Thanks for keeping mine safe too.”
He paused again. “So…where can I come pick it up? I’m at the opposite end of town from the airport.”
“I’m at some hotel called Excellence, half an hour from the airport. If you can get a good cab driver, he’ll probably know it.”
“I know it.” A lock clicked. “I’ll meet you at the reception in about an hour. How will I spot you?”
“I’ll be there with the box. My name’s Dilly, anyway.”
He chuckled, a deep rumble. “Okay. I’ll look for Dilly with the maroon box.”
Yadili cozied up in one of the reception’s armchairs, the box next to her. She had replaced her makeup with the kit in her handbag. She sat replaying scenes of the eventual meeting in her head, casting different handsome hunks to play the role, each episode always ending with them having lunch together. She was still engrossed in this that she didn’t notice a tall man walk up to her with a suitcase just like hers.
She could’ve prevented her ensuing gape if she had been forewarned, but it was a bit much to take in all at once.
The milky-white melanin-depraved hair. His squinting yellow eyes. The complete absence of pigment on his milky skin, splotched with big, red spots.
She didn’t know when she snatched the box from his hands and stormed away, leaving him standing there, squinting in disbelief. Screw this. Dilly finds her princes herself now.