I first met Jane eight months ago. And I liked her almost immediately. By like I mean just like, the way you like a pleasant, warm, likeable person. Plus, she had an aura of sweetness and warmth around her. I’d gone to see my friend- Rosa at her new place of work that day. Rosa is what you’d call my ride or die babe. We’ve been friends since forever. We used to live on the same street and had been to practically the same schools all our lives except of course the year I spent getting a diploma before university. We knew each other inside out and had often been mistaken for a couple, but there was nothing of such going on. Our families of course, were close friends too but- I digress.
Four years after college and after four jobs of course, Rosa finally got her dream, no, almost dream job as the assistant quality control officer at ChocWind, a chocolate company; as it turned out, she was assistant two while Jane was assistant one. They shared the same office as I was to find out upon the directions of the receptionist that day. Now to what actually took me to her office that Friday noon…
Shortly before Rosa landed her new job, she’d been complaining of having gained some weight, a piece of information only she herself was privy to anyways. She made me check into a gym with her at first, and then made us withdraw our membership because ‘it was too strenuous’. Then she got the job. An idea popped up; together we drew what we perceived was an healthy diet to aid the slimming process and on top of it, I suggested she take the stairs instead of the elevator throughout her first month at ChocWind, a suggestion she readily jumped at.
That Friday morning, she’d called me up to inform me she’d just made it up to the fifth floor where her office lay via the stairs for the thirty-first time. She was excited. So was I. We agreed on lunch.
I got there that at lunch break and was met by the slightly fair complexioned chubby lady of average height who seemed to have the sweetest smile I’d ever encountered permanently planted on her lips.
‘Ms Cole is not around,’ she informed me patiently, ‘there was an impromptu change in plans that required her to be at the factory at this time,’ she explained.
‘Oh.’ I thanked her for the information and turned to go.
‘Who do I say asked after her?’ She called out to me.
‘Oh,’ I turned back somewhat embarrassed at my impropriety.
‘I’m Chika, Chika Sawyer actually.’
‘Jane Folawiyo,’ she extended a hand. ‘I think Rosa must have mentioned you a number of times.’
‘Oh really? In the negative or-‘
‘Positive. Can anyone ever be spoken of in the negative by Ms Cole?’
She was right, Rosa always saw the good in everyone, the best in fact. And that’s why a few weeks to that, Jane had been fully initiated into our clique- it was a clique now, especially considering the new arrangement that had me picking up the women after work every day thenceforth.
I worked nine to four, so picking up the girls by four thirty each day was just a perfect arrangement. Sometimes, we’d eat out before heading home, sometimes we’d go to one of the many art shows Rosa was addicted to, sometimes we’d just simply go home, taking our time in the exasperating evening traffic, gisting about everything and anything.
For Jane, it was mostly about her five year old son. He was her entire world. She could go on and on and on and on about him. When we finally met the youngster weeks later, we realized how adorable and easily likeable he was too, just like his mum.
Days rolled into weeks and weeks into months and my affection for Jane deepened. Rosa was consenting of course.
I liked a lot of things about Jane. She had a sense of maturity that surpassed her age, a sense of responsibility than time allowed her and a sense of duty than she ever owed anyone. She liked me too, or so I thought. She rooted for me all the time and would even support me against Rosa- jokingly of course. She’d call to ask if everything was alright on days when I couldn’t pick them up and call over the weekend to thank me for the transportation during the week. She’d buy me gifts occasionally, items that always carried a strong, personal message. She’d successfully talked me into retaining my job when once I’d got fed up with my boss’s arrogant cantankerousness- something even Rosa couldn’t have pulled off. I even had her and her son over for the annual Christmas eve dinner at my parents and everyone just fell in love with her. She was a very diligent and industrious woman who had a mind of her own, qualities which I saw rub off on Rosa in a very magical way. So when I decided to tell her exactly how I felt, I was certain, nay, cocksure we were on the same page.
I picked a Friday afternoon. Perhaps because we’d first met on a Friday? Better still, a mere coincidence. Thankfully, Rosa hadn’t been to work that day- malaria.
We were stuck in a terrible traffic that didn’t appear was going to move till the next day. She tried to no avail to get through to her son’s after school care centre to inform them she’d be coming later than expected, after we’d been grounded for about an hour.
‘You know right now, I feel like I can make it to Francis’ care centre on foot before you even get to move an inch.’
‘Wow! Superwoman!’ I clapped.
‘Come on, use my phone, maybe it’s the network.’
She did and got through.
‘Thanks a lot,’ she said afterwards.
‘Awh, she’s so modest,’ I teased
‘Come on,’ she waved me off with a hand and I caught it. A moment’s awkwardness.
‘Nice wristwatch,’ I let her go. Silence.
‘Would someone please move!’ She pressed the horn, miffed at the delay. I caught her hand again.
‘Why do I keep doing that, God! I’m sorry,’ I laughed and let her go, again.
‘I’m going to sue you if it happens a third time,’ she said casually. I apologized again.
‘Oh my! I miss Rosa already. We’d be feasting on an assortment of frivolities right now,’ she said.
‘About that,’ I jumped in tactlessly. ‘Jane, I feel like you’re part of my life already, a part I can’t bear to let go, a part I want to be permanent,’ I blurted uncontrollably and went on. ‘I like everything about you, you’re a great woman in all wise, you have a great personality, you’re hardworking, you’re a goal getter, you’ve raised a wonderful son on your own, you’re fun to be with and you’re just so perfect, so perfect for me. I just, I’m in love with you already,’ I looked at her.
She sneered at me disinterestedly and looked on ahead.
‘That was an admission actually,’ I tried to regain composure. ‘A sincere one and I just, I was just hoping we, you know, were on the same page?’ I stopped for a response.
‘Oh wow!’ She sighed, apparently whelmed, the sad gradation of her signature smile playing at the corner of her lips. She looked out of the window, then at me, then straight ahead, twitching her hands like she did when extremely embarrassed.
‘Why does this always happen?’
‘This,’ she gestured at nothing in particular, ‘why is it so hard to be nice without an undertone, without an agenda? Can’t a lady be friendly for the sake of it, with no intentions?’ She looked at me, ‘can’t we just be friends?’
‘No- I’m not saying you’re-‘
‘Chika,’ she stopped me, ‘I’m taken.’
‘Taken as in…’
‘Taken as in I belong to another man,’ she cut in.
‘Oh? I- I –‘
‘You didn’t know, yes I get it. Now can we move?’
‘The traff- traffic is-‘
‘Moving already,’ she completed pointing forwards. I could barely see anything, beclouded by embarrassment and a deep sense of disappointment. I scrambled for the ignition and started the car.