PLEASE MARRY ME – GRACE OCHIGBO
The smile I flash at the receptionist is enough to make her will her entire birthright to me. Not one single feature makes the ladies flock around me. Some have said it is in the way my eyeball look at them, ever so intensely filled with desire. I am yet to understand whatever that means. Deep within, I know there’s just one person I can look on at with intense desire and no one else comes close since her.
Fact is that, we men are not as strong as we portray. There’s always a lady every time – one that means the heavens to us and several others that doesn’t mean much. Whichever way, we’re almost never truly single. Behind all the strong build and rigid features, there’s that someone whose mere appearance in the room sinks whatever is left of our boldness.
“Go right in, sir.” the lady I now know her name as Ify says with chit-eating smiles stretching from ear to ear.
“Thank you.” I say politely and walk in the direction of the CEO’s office.
There’s a room adjacent to this with low sounds escaping into the reception. That must be the photo studio and I am certain the music is blaringly loud in there but for soundproofs.
At the door, I hesitate and draw the edges of my polo down as though I suddenly want it to become a short gown. My heavy Rolex wristwatch drops down my forearm as I lift my hand to tap on the wall.
“Yeah! Come right in?” A familiar voice comes loudly through my ears, giving them the same old effects they remember fondly.
I step into the office and I watch shock fill Ile’s face as she sees me.
“I am sorry, eh… what… what are you doing here?” she stammers.
I just stand there, holding onto the doorknob like my feet are glued to the floor. The both sides of my lip drop down to form the letter U as a genuine smile sits around it.
We stare at each other for a moment.
“You are not offering your visitor a seat?” I ask calmly.
She shrugs, flipping her hair to the back. “Last I checked, you’re not my visitor.”
I chuckle lightly. Never changing, huh? “And last I checked, you’re not one to be rude to a gentleman as cool, calm and collected as the one in front of you right now.”
She swings her head to the left and burst into a loud bout of laughter that’s pretty embarrassing to say the least. She claps her hands once, twice. “Bravo! I wish I can just bottle your confidence and sell because I will make a lot of money.”
That makes me laugh too.
“Well, you already make so much money running this large photo studio. You’re the boss here, you know?” I wink, walking into the room proper until I offer myself a seat right in front of her on the other side of the desk.
I watch her struggle with herself while searching for where to place her gaze, something appropriate to say or funnily so, whether to keep her interlocked palms on the desk or on her laps. Her actions make me smile as I just sit there quietly.
Sometimes, the best conversations are held in silence.
Everything in the room has a touch of pink to it. The royal purple curtains covering the wide window behind her has a touch of pink, the wooden shelves sitting pretty on the right hand side of the room is painted glossy pink, the four walls are a mixture of light pink, white and some other colour I am sure ladies will call fuschia pink. I have no idea where they coin all these names from and at the same time, I wonder how one person could be so addicted to the colour, pink.
The colours take my mind back in time again to the evening I’d returned home unannounced to meet a stranger. The fact that someone else was in our home wasn’t as hurting as mum and dad not informing me about their decision to bring her in. My parents came to my room as soon as they returned from midweek service. I was extremely delighted to see them. Mum had a heavy makeup done on her face as usual and her gele would rival a new bride. It was supposed to be mere midweek service not even Sunday service. My mum was vain as far as looks and appearance were concerned but I loved her anyway. Dad was wearing something way simpler; a neatly ironed blue kaftan on a leather slippers.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming. I would have made your favourite pounded yam and okra soup.” Mum said and hit my back tenderly.
“It’s not too late, Wifey.” Dad cut in. “…because even I don’t mind pounded yam right now.”
Mum eyeballed dad coldly. “You know we’re still watching your sugar level, my husband. Let’s not allow unguided cravings put an emergency in our hands.” Mum’s voice had a concern in it.
I watched my dad shake his head in the affirmative. He looked really pathetic as he did that.
“One evening of breaking the healthy dieting rule will not kill anyone, will it?” I asked in my bid to cheer dad up.
“Ok! You guys are teaming up against me, let me go find my girl.” Mum said and exited the room before I had the opportunity to respond.
Just a moment later, dad got up and urged me to rest a bit while he cleaned up before dinner. He was out of my room too in split seconds. Long after they’ve both gone, Mum’s last words stayed with me.
“…let me go find my girl?”
She was referring to the girl I met at the door when I came in, wasn’t she?
She’s mum’s girl now?
I was an only child and my mother’s everything. The mere thought that that might change because of a total stranger didn’t sit well with me at all. I made up my mind to blast my parents over dinner. They must explain how I was not privy to a decision as important as having another human in our home. Just then, there was a loud tap on the door that pushed me onto my feet. More often than not, I remain on my bed and shout ‘come in’ when there’s a knock because it was either dad or mum but now…
I trudged towards the door and opened it with so much haste that the glass cup on the tray in the hand of the girl on the other side of the door nearly slipped off.
“I am sorry,” she said, catching it just in time.
I stood still in a way that blocked her from entering the room. The look on my face was in no way welcoming.
She swallowed in fear. “Mum said I should bring this to you.”
I almost screamed.
She had the nerves to call my mother ‘mum’?
That title was exclusive to me.
Even though I didn’t understand where the strong feeling of jealousy I felt stemmed from, I wasn’t ready to let down my guard either.
“Next time, you say ‘Madam said I should bring this to you, SIR’.” I dragged the word sir so long it sounded like ‘Saaaahh’. “Do you understand that?”
“I am very sorry, sir.” She said with shivering lips.
I left the doorway, instructed her to come in gently and drop the tray on my reading table. I saw her body trembling as she walked past me into the room. I had succeeded in scaring the living daylight out of her and that gave me a victorious feeling.
Shortly after she left my room, the door flung open again. This time presenting my mum. She looked displeased in her apron with large pints of sweat everywhere on her face. She walked over to me, not dimming an eyeball and I knew I was in for some Sermon on the Mount session.
“Why were you so harsh to the poor girl?” Mum asked after placing her right hand on my shoulder.
I shrugged, letting her hand drop down. The question aggravated me in no small measure and I was ready to lash out. “One, I wasn’t harsh to no one. Two, she has no right whatsoever to report me to you or anyone else for that matter. This is my father’s house.”
Mum smiled and stared at me with her concern filled eyes. “She didn’t report you to ‘me or no one for that matter’.” Repeating my statement sort of made her frantic. “But with the fear I saw in her eyes when she joined me in the kitchen just now, I knew you had not been kind to her in the very least.” She wiped a sweat off her forehead with the back of her palm. “You should be kind to everyone, son. This girl is like a younger sister to you.”
“I don’t have a younger sister, mum.” I cut in, sprang up to my feet and hurried into the bathroom. “I don’t want that girl or anyone else in our house.” I yelled from inside the bathroom.
Now as I recall that event, I feel really stupid.
“What are you laughing at?” Ile asks, smirking.
“Oh nothing!” I deny, sitting up straighter on my seat.
Today is the only day I get a moment away from Attah. The boy has been clinging to me all week as if he’d known me in another life he lived before this one. We played basketball every morning, video games in the afternoon and cycled around the barracks every evening. With each new day, we grow closer and fonder of one another and that has increased the number of questions on my mind.
Mona doesn’t look too excited that I am bonding so much with the boy.
Something he’s still been unable to achieve, he said.
Ileanwa has been really evasive, ensuring I never find her alone. Yesterday afternoon, while playing video games, I got really thirsty and headed to the kitchen for a bottle of cola. There, I found her making popcorn, the aroma filling my entire nose. Our eyes met and we took them off almost immediately. Something urged me to go talk to her but I couldn’t execute that before,
“Uncle Ayegba… be quick.” Attah’s voice called from the sitting room.
“I’d be right back, my boy.” I responded and picked up the cola quickly from the fridge. “Hi…” I managed to say to Ileanwa, like a recently healed dumb person learning how to talk.
“Hi.” She responded without looking up at me.
“I am coming already, my boy.” I groaned as I exited the kitchen.
Everything has advantages and disadvantages. So does bonding with Attah.
Attah insisted on staying in the visitor’s room with me ever since we brought him home. Ileanwa was all uncomfortable about the idea until Mona calmed her down, stating emphatically that there was no cause for alarm. Made me wonder what sort of alarm could have resulted in the first place.
This morning, Mona came to wake us up. He wanted Attah and I to go to the base with him today. I quickly declined on the false ground that I needed to sort out some clients online today, so I’d greatly use some bit of privacy. More so, the base still gives me bad vibes, something called post-traumatic stress disorder. Mona understood perfectly. He’s easily convinced anyway.
“Thought you were supposed to be at the base with Mona and Attah?” Ileanwa asks, as if she could read my mind.
I shake my head. “You thought wrong, Vee.”
“Don’t call me that?” she screams out loud, provocation filling her voice.
“But that is your name. Your name is…” I try to insist.
“I-L-E-A-N-W-A. My name is Ileanwa.” She slams the desk hard, cutting me out.
I take in a deep calming breath. Once. Twice. “For how long are you going to run away from the truth? When were you ever going to tell me about my son?”
The colour of Ileanwa’s eyes changes drastically from its usual brown to the red of alligator pepper. “My Attah is not your son.” She yells and at this point, I am hoping this room is soundproofed too like the studio.
Blinking my eyes, I raise my entire form onto my feet. Anger is beginning to build up inside me now and I need to calm down.
“Is that the lie you tell yourself or what it is?” I ask.
She threw her face away from me and pouted her lips. The exact way she does whenever she’s lying. “That’s what it is.” She says gently, not convincing enough to herself.
“Alright then. My lawyer will call you. We’re taking Attah for paternity test tomorrow.” I spill the words out of my mouth like they are hot coals burning my throat. “If this is how you want it, then so be it.”
Before she could say anything else, I storm out of the office, slamming the door hard in her face.
To be continued.
- No matter what the truth is, do you think Ayegba is going about this the right way?
- What would you advice Ileanwa?
Have a beautiful weekend.