‘Man! I need a drink!’ Aanu plopped into a restaurant chair as soon as they’d picked a corner and a table. Mayowa took a seat opposite her and signaled a waitress. His driver had picked her up from a décor location that evening, a few blocks away from the restaurant where he’d been meeting up with friends. They’d left his friends for a more private corner.
‘You really look tired.’
‘I am tired.’ The waitress came.
‘What would you have?’ He asked.
‘Just anything that’ll calm me down in the meantime.’
‘That bad?’ He laughed and placed their order. The waitress left.
‘What’s that?’ He reached for her hand on the table.
‘Oh,’ she withdrew, ‘it’s a minor cut from pulling ribbons taut,’ she explained soothing it.
‘It’s nothing,’ she waived it off.
‘So how have you been?’ He asked, a full stare resting on her.
‘Fine, very busy and in need of a chilled drink right now,’ she laughed. ‘I’ve been extremely busy actually, did you see all those photos I sent you?’
‘Sure.’ The waitress came with their order and bill. She brought out her purse.
‘What are you doing?’ He brought out his own wallet.
‘We talked about this,’ she brought out some money.
‘We didn’t reach an agreement?’
‘I don’t like this, really,’ he pushed her outstretched hand away gently and paid the waitress. She left.
‘That was embarrassing.’
‘Very. How long do you plan on doing this for?’
‘I just don’t want to always be on the receiving end,’ she protested.
‘I thought you wanted a drink so bad?’
She smiled and picked up her glass.
‘Thank you,’ she lifted the glass to her mouth. He followed suit.
‘Hm, that was refreshing. I’m going to have another glass.’
‘Sure,’ he poured her some more and watched her drink.
‘What?’ She put the glass down. ‘Okay, now I’m back to being a lady,’ she smiled and smoothened her blouse with an air.
‘You need a break.’
‘I know right?’
‘A real break, a getaway or something. How about next week Fri-‘
‘Okay, let’s not get any glorious ideas. I’ll be just fine. Besides I’m catering a wedding next weekend so, no.’
‘Speaking of glorious ideas,’ he reached into his wallet again, ‘here.’ It was a newly designed business card.
‘Oh my God!’ She took it, whelmed. ‘This is so beautiful.’
‘The designer wanted to know if you liked it before going ahead with bulk production.’
‘Like? I love it!’ As soon as she’d said this, her countenance changed almost immediately from glee to gloom. She looked from the card to him, the residue of her smile turning sad.
‘What?’ He asked. She kept on staring at him
‘Why are you being so sweet?’
‘Sweet is my last name?’ He ventured with a mischievous smile.
‘I’m serious.’ Her eyes clouded, it looked like the rains were coming.
‘Hey,’ He reached for her hand but she pulled away.
‘What is it?’
‘What are we doing?’ Despair.
‘What do you mean ‘what are we doing’?’
‘Where is this going?’
‘Going? Come on, it’s not like I’m asking for anything in return? He chuckled.
‘I’m being serious here Mayowa.’
‘I know, and I’m serious myself?’ He was earnest.
‘What exactly do you want?’
‘Look- I know we don’t have it all figured out yet but, can we just allow things to happen? I mean, I-I like you a lot,’ he was gesticulating now as he was wont to do when embarrassed or nervous. ‘And I’d give what we have a chance to grow, and by that I’m pretty sure we have something great going on. I mean I love your personality, which is great by the way, he tried to smile. I love what you do, I love your spirit, which is that of great resolution and diligence, I love the people you’re surrounded with. I feel that you understand me so well like no other person, I like being around you, I look forward to each moment to be spent with you; I love talking to you and all, and sometimes he laughed uneasily. I want…’
‘Stop, she raised a hand, ‘please.’
‘I’m being sincere with you, he persisted. ‘I really feel we’ve got something great going on. I’m practically in love with you! Yeah, I’d say that,’ he looked away. ‘These days when I think about my life, I can’t seem to think of it without you in the picture-‘
‘I have a daughter.’
‘I know, Lara’s a great girl-‘
‘It’s Lara! Omolaraeni. There’s no ‘h’,’ she corrected impatiently.
‘That’s not even the problem now,’ she waved him off. ‘We- we can’t happen,’ she spat.
‘What do you mean we can’t-‘
She allowed a moment’s silence during which she pieced her words together.
‘I’m sorry if it appears I led you on in any way but I tried my best to stop all these. I’m not, not cut out for all of these. I’m only just trying to put my life back together,’ it was her turn to gesticulate, ‘I have a mother in a wheelchair and a young daughter I’m trying to be a good example to. Life has only just given me a second chance and I don’t want to blow it,’ she went on clumsily. ‘Maybe, just maybe this is the only chance I’ll ever have at making my mother happy, I’m working so hard at my business now… I don’t want my daughter to end up like me…’
‘What are you even talking about?’ He was rather confused at her line of thought.
‘I can’t- I don’t want to get myself entangled with just any man right now,’ she was hysterical. ‘I made some mistakes earlier in life and all I want to do now is focus on correcting them and making sure my mother enjoys her old age and my daughter doesn’t end up like me and I just don’t see how you come into the picture!’
‘Calm down Aan-‘
‘It’s Aanu!’ She preempted. They had a standing battle as to his continuous pronunciation of her name as if it were ‘Ann’ with a silent ‘U’. The same way he pronounced Lara as if was Larah.
‘I’m sorry.’ Silence.
‘I’m sorry too,’ she muttered after a while. I just don’t want to give you false hopes, she swallowed hard. ‘You’re a great guy but you probably know that already,’ she tried, she steadied her voice. ‘You should totally go find a great woman like-‘
‘You’re a great wom-‘
‘Don’t patronize me! Please. I’m talking about someone that complements you, not someone who is going to come in with so much baggage, you need-‘
‘I need you Aanu,’ he pled. Don’t just throw away what we have for a temporary feeling of unworthiness?’
‘This isn’t just a temporary feeling it’s the truth. I don’t want to tie you down while time passes. There’s more to me than you think or see. You should just go on and find the woman of your dreams. We can always be friends and-
‘Don’t just shut this down like that?’
‘Mayowa please,’ she pleaded, ‘please don’t make this difficult. You don’t know the real me? You’re just hanging out with the façade. I don’t want to disappoint you when you eventually find out. I don’t want you to ever feel obligated to stay on with me for any reason whatsoever. We’re two different worlds, we don’t meet.’
‘It’s not like I’m asking you to marry me or something,’ he pressed, sweat forming on his brow as he frantically sought for persuasive words. ‘All I am saying is, let’s try this out and see what comes out of it?’
‘We both know that’s not it. You’re not that kind of guy. We both know exactly what you want? But I also know,’ she emphasized each words, ‘I am not that person.’
‘So what are you saying?’ He resigned.
‘You know what I’m saying Mayowa, this is all wrong.’
A long silence followed. Aanu looked away all the time, fiddling with her glass. She could hear their conversation in her head a hundred times over. She waited, not knowing what to do or say further, if to bid him bye and leave or wait for him to speak. His gaze was fixed on the street. The street lights were taking over from the sun already, illuminating the street up until it turned into a bend but he could really see nothing. His mind was in turmoil, a thousand lines of thoughts presented themselves but he didn’t know which to choose. These went on for what seemed like eternity…
‘Is this what you really want?’
Finally. He was gentle.
She said nothing.
‘Would you at least give this a second thought? I ask nothing further, just a second consideration?’
‘Alright then,’ she said, pushing the card back to his side of the table as a lone tear found its way out of her eye.