Ekene barely listened as a colleague complained quietly beside him about the cold in the conference room. It was the first time the air conditioning units were running since the conference room was refurbished. The presentation by the project manager would be done in a few minutes, and some of the new trainees were waiting outside the conference room for a training program they were scheduled to have in there within the next hour. Less than a minute after her complaint, the power holding company decided to relieve her discomfort, and cut the power. That ended the presentation. It was almost done anyway.
He proceeded to leave the room with his backpack clutched firmly over his right shoulder. He put his dark shades back on as he approached the door; he had had no need for them in the dark conference room. A few of his friends came up behind him, and started up a chat about the just concluded presentation. They got out of the conference room, and entered into the corridor leading away to the stairs. There were about thirty trainees waiting there, talking in low voices, and stealing glances at the leaving group.
He looked up, and his gaze settled on one of the trainees. He froze where he stood. He suddenly wasn’t worried about his eyes getting exposed to bright light, as he has always been, and slowly removed his shades. His heart rate increased, as a million butterflies found their way into his stomach. The noise and crowd on the corridor faded away, and all he was conscious of at that moment was the lady standing a few feet away from him.
He was completely mesmerized.
She stood there graciously, tapping away on her smartphone. She was a slim girl, light skinned, and her natural hair colour was a tint of golden brown. She wore a simple and pretty wine dress that stopped just above her knees, and the colour of the dress matched brilliantly with that of the twists she had on her hair. She is the type that is generally referred to as ‘escape albino’.
She was beautiful.
Something had just happened to Ekene that he could not explain. He had just imprinted on her.
How best to describe this.
Just by seeing her for the first time and even though she was totally oblivious of his existence, Ekene had completely fallen in love with her. He felt more for her than anything else, including himself. He would do anything for her as long as she was happy. It was not a lustful sexual attraction. What he felt within him was real and genuine and true.
He knew in that moment his life had just changed forever, and he was experiencing something he had never experienced before. Tears clouded his eyes, because he knew this encounter would either make him, or completely break and ruin him.
He had not planned for this. He just got out of an exhausting relationship a few months earlier, and had planned to take some time off and focus on his career. But here he was, looking at a lady he would gladly donate his two kidneys to if she needed them right away.
He felt like walking over to where she stood, going down on his knees, and passionately asking her to marry him. But he knew he couldn’t do that. He doesn’t even know her name yet – not that getting to know her might change what he felt for her though.
If she had told him right there that she sleeps with men for money, it would not be enough to change his mind about wanting to be with her. If she had confessed to be the assassin that killed his father some years back, he would have waved it off and still asked her to marry him.
Right there where he stood, in his head, he had travelled with her round the world, had exquisite dinners, bought her expensive gifts, and already planning a second trip round the world. He would do anything for her as long as she was happy.
He decided against going to talk to her right there, because he knew it was not an appropriate time. He most certainly would not be taken seriously at that point; all that would be on her mind would be the training she was going in for. He was sure he would see her another time soon. He turned to catch up with his colleagues as she entered the conference room with the other trainees.
It was going to be a long weekend for him. The wait got longer when the union announced the commencement of an industrial action against the government the following Monday. The strike lasted six weeks. Those were the longest six weeks of Ekene’s life. He had to wait six weeks before he could get a chance of seeing her again. If he had known her name, he might have been able to get through to her on social media. But even that, he wasn’t sure he would have done. He wasn’t comfortable with that idea, and he would only turn to it as a last resort.
For the entire six weeks, he was obsessed with thoughts of her. He knew it was not healthy, but there was nothing he could do about it. She bothered him like a white sheet; he wanted to search for stains, hidden dirt. Nothing he did could change what he felt for her, the golden girl.
That was what he called her in his head; the golden girl.
She was the love that came without warning. She had his heart before he could say no.
He thought of the possibility of her rejecting him, and not feeling the same way about him. He tried to dismiss the thought. The thought reminds him of a disaster waiting to happen. It would completely ruin him if she turns him down. He could not understand how it had all happened, and how it had come to that. Someone he was not aware existed before, now suddenly has such a strong influence on him.
He saw her again a few days after the strike was suspended, but again, the timing could not have been any more inappropriate. She was with her other trainees, preparing to go in for a meeting with the Director. They all seemed tensed up; they had definitely heard about the Director’s reputation for no nonsense.
He got her name this time though. He heard one of her friends call her Omotara. This made him happy. At least, now he knows something about her.
He didn’t get another chance to see her again in a long time. Because they were trainees, they were moved around frequently to different divisions, and also, given the nature of Ekene’s role in the organisation, he travelled around a lot. Those factors reduced greatly the odds of him seeing her frequently.
After a number of weeks, when he could not wait any longer, and it was looking like he was not going to see her again anytime soon, he decided to look for her on the social media. He has talents when it comes to using a computer, and he had mastered the art of using a search engine. All he had was her first name, and it took only a matter of minutes before he was staring at her profile page on his computer screen.
He carefully composed a message, making sure he did not come off as the typical social media guy trying to hit on a pretty girl he found online. He made clear who he was, euphemized his previous encounter with her, and told her how much he would love to meet up with her and talk. He knew he had just taken a big risk. She could easily ignore his message, and that would have been the end of a chance he had not even gotten.
She replied, and she was nice.
It was a Saturday, and Ekene had two weeks left on his annual leave which started a week earlier. His plan was to travel on Monday for a vacation that would last a week. When she agreed to see him on Monday, he immediately postponed his travel plans.
She did not show up on Monday by four o’clock in the evening as they agreed. He called her after two hours of waiting, and found out she could not make it because she had some trainee work to attend to. She rescheduled for the next day, Tuesday, same time. After two hours of waiting on Tuesday, he rang her cell, and she gave the same reason as the previous day. She told him she actually just realised she would not be free until Friday, which was three days from then. He had waited months for that opportunity, so he could wait a few more days.
They finally met on Friday, and from the chat they had, he admitted to himself, it was worth the wait. He told her he had to travel the next day, and will see her again when he gets back in a few days. He enjoyed every moment he spent with her. He made it known to her that he appreciates when he sees beauty with brains. She was not empty; she had substance, and this made him happier.
He got back from his travel, and they did some hanging out. Her thinking and orientation towards life matched his. The things he loves to do are the things she loves to do. Her being a part of his life at that point made him vibrant.
She became his muse.
He had motivations to get his work done, and also push for the realization of his long term career goals. Within the few weeks they had started hanging out, he started making big moves on his large-scale investment plans, and everything was going so well.
He was determined to be successful and have enough resources to take care of her, and make her happy.
After a few hangouts with her, he decided to come out clean and tell her how he felt about her. He could not wait any longer. He had fallen so deeply for her. Out of fear of rejection, it took a lot of courage for him to have the talk with her. When he finally did, his heart was practically in his mouth, as he waited for her reply.
She started to talk, and it didn’t sound good.
That day, he died a little inside when she was in the middle of her sentence. He knew where it was going, and he didn’t want to hear the rest.
His worst fear had just come true.
He wanted to open up his heart for her and describe to her how he truly felt. He could not find the words. Perhaps, he did not want to come off as pathetic. News of his medical condition he wanted to share with her remained shut up inside him.
Ekene knew disaster had just happened. He was never going to remain the same. Omotara, his golden girl, had just rejected him.
He lost concentration in his work, lost taste for food, and could barely get sleep to come around. He could not understand what was happening to him. He wanted to make it stop, but he could not.
He was broken, and he breaks a little more each time he runs into her, especially now that she had started avoiding him. He tried convincing himself it was not real and that it was just one of those things, but he knew it was not. Somehow, he knew what he felt was real.
She made him happy because she existed in his world. She made him sad because he didn’t exist in hers.
She always ticked inside of him, and he dreamt of her more often than he didn’t. He could close his eyes to the things he did not want to see, but he could not close his heart to the things he did not want to feel.
He was never one to believe in love at first sight, but what had happened to him went a step beyond that. He had no words to describe it.
Most days, he wished he never met her, because then, he could sleep at night and he wouldn’t have to walk around with the knowledge there was someone like her out there.
What a terrible, terrible burden he carried.
She was the love that came without warning. She had his heart before he could say no.
Yet, Omotara, the golden girl, said no.
Akinpelu, Adewunmi O.