Choice (CHois) noun
An act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
*Beep beep beep beep*, my alarm goes off on Thursday morning. I reach out a sleepy hand to shut it off. I wish I didn’t have to wake up so early. I’ll just snooze for another 10 minutes and then I’ll go get ready for class. I turn in my bed and prepare to snooze, but something’s niggling in the back of my mind. I’m not sure wh… I gasp and bolt out of bed. It’s Thursday. It’s today. He’s taking me out to lunch today. The events of yesterday flash across my mind; how uncomfortable class was, that hot moment when he told me he loved – no – liked me, coming out to see him waiting for me and getting asked on a date – it IS a date, isn’t it? Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. What’s important is that I still haven’t decided what to wear.
I rifle through my clothes. Can’t figure out what’s appropriate both for class and then lunch, cos I won’t get a chance to change clothes. Or should I? Would that seem like too much? Or maybe I should just avoid class altogether. No, that’s not a good idea. He’ll assume I chickened out. So, I settle for a white strapless maxi dress and a red short sleeved cardigan. At least, I’m not showing lots of skin and definitely no legs. Plus the maxi hides that sinful body, as most of my clothes do at this point in my life. I’m extremely self-conscious of the fact that I get lots of looks when I wear jeans or straight skirts and some of the dresses my aunt buys me. So when I make the shopping decision, I tend to buy clothes that aren’t figure-hugging – so that I can walk around in peace.
Dressed and ready, I head out. The drive to Ikoyi is unusually quick, or is it? I look at the time as I drive into the car park. It’s taken me the exact same amount of time to make the trip as it does every morning. I must have been lost in thought. I find a parking spot and then make my way to the bar. He’s sitting there as usual and today, as I walk towards him, he gives me a deliberate once-over. I pull my cardigan closed and hold the lapels together and then I sit across from him.
“Good morning” I say, smiling shyly.
“Good morning” he responds. His lips are twitching, and he looks like he’s about to laugh. I run a hand across my hair to be sure it’s not a mess, I look down at myself to be sure that nothing is out of place. I seem fine. So what’s funny?
“You look nice…”
“Thank you.” This is getting awkward. Now I wish we could just go back to yesterday morning and keep things as they were.
“Will I see you later today?”
“Err, I thought we were going to lunch. Or did I get that wrong? I mean we don’t have to.” I’m babbling.
“Yes, we are going to lunch. That is unless you decide to chicken out. But what I meant was are u coming to my class today, or did Mr Nestor scare you off with his antics yesterday?”
“Oh.” Gosh, I feel so silly. “Yes, I’m coming. To your class that is.” Why did I just say that? I better get out of here before I put my foot further into my mouth. “I’ve got home work that I didn’t complete yesterday. So I’m just gonna go do that in my class. See you at 10.” And I get up hurriedly and go off to my class but not before I see the knowing smirk on his face.
The day goes by without incident. Even class with him goes well, though I don’t look his way much. But it’s not as awkward as I imagined it would be. He’s his normal self, asking questions, making mistakes, taking feedback. I, on the other hand can think of nothing but when my classes will eventually end. I go back to my class at 10.30 and ignore the questioning look on my colleague Yvonne’s face. She’s had that look on her face every day for the last 6 weeks (which is how long this thing with Danladi has been going on). And I’ve learned to ignore it. No way I’m telling anybody what I’ve been up to during break time.
Time goes by too slowly, but at the same time too quickly. I’m looking forward to the afternoon but I’m also scared. It’s almost 2pm. Now I wish I had taken a window seat in class. At least I would know if he was already here waiting. What if he doesn’t show up? But something tells me he’s too much of a gentleman to stand me up. So I count the minutes until the teacher leaves the class, then I try not to hurry downstairs (I don’t want anyone asking me where I’m rushing to), though I did tell him I’d be ready by 2 and I don’t want to be late. And then I get outside. And I see him. This is where they’d cue swelling orchestra music in those romantic movies. He’s leaning on the hood of his car, wearing a pink polo shirt and black jeans. That’s not what he was wearing in class today. He looks different. Not so uptight. He must live nearby if he’s had a chance to change clothes. His arms are folded across his chest and he looks at his wrist watch as he sees me. I look at my watch as well. It’s 5 minutes past 2.
“You’re 5 minutes late” he says as I approach him. I open my mouth to offer an excuse but he moves to the passenger side of the car, opens the door and gestures for me to get in. I shut my mouth, a bit surprised at the abrupt manner in which he’s behaving. I get in the car, watch him walk around the front and get into the driver’s seat and his door closes and there’s suddenly nothing else in the world but the space in the car. With me. And him. And silence. Excruciatingly loud silence. He starts the car, regards the steering wheel and says “I’m not sure how you feel about this, but we have an audience.” And I look up and indeed see a group of my class mates and some from other classes glancing surreptitiously at us. I’ve obviously got some explaining to do when I get in tomorrow. But tomorrow is far away considering where we are right now.
I’m still miffed at how he acted earlier and I’m starting to go into a sulk when he says “I’m sorry I was rude. I’m just a little nervous. I thought you were going to change your mind and the five minutes just seemed to drag on forever.”
I smile inside, taking comfort in the fact that I’m not the only nervous one. But on the outside, I look pointedly out the window on my side of the car and say nothing. He puts the car into gear and drives out. We make the trip in silence. This hasn’t started quite the way I expected it and I’m wondering if maybe I shouldn’t have come out with him in the first place. We go up Falomo bridge, descend on the right of the bridge to Ozumba Mbadiwe and take a left. Soon after, he drives into Lagoon restaurant, parks and turns to me.
“Truce please? I’ve been looking forward to this all day and I would really like for us to have a good time. Please don’t be mad at me.” And he takes my hand. I look at his hands holding my hand and marvel at the contrast of our skin colours – his very dark against my caramel-coloured. It’s a pretty picture and it makes me smile.
“Truce…” I say “…but you’ll have to make it up to me.”
“I promise I will.” And we get out of the car and go find a table.
We get one right by the water and menus are thrust in front of us. He asks me if I have an idea what I’d like to eat and drink, and I tell him to order for me. “Let’s see what taste you have. Next time, I’ll order, and we’ll compare.”
“So there’ll be a next time?”
“Well, if you’ll have me, why not?” I say, shrugging a shoulder in a false show of nonchalance.
“Trust me. I will have you…”
My stomach does a back flip. I’m in very unfamiliar territory. I have no comeback to his remark and so it hangs in the air between us, heavy with intent. He beckons to the waiter and places our orders, then brings out his phones, turns them off and puts them face down on the table.
“Now you have my full attention, no interruptions.”
“That’s very flattering. How can I be sure that you don’t do that with other girls?”
“Well, you’re the first girl I’ve taken anywhere since I got married.” He says, deadpan.
Oh my God. He’s married. He’s actually married. I thought he was joking when he said it yesterday. That explains the look he had on his face when he left. He knew I didn’t take him seriously. He should have made sure I understood. He must have done it on purpose. I can’t believe I’m out with a married man. Three wives? Three wives! Of course, he’s a northerner. He’s a bloody northern man! With three wives! And he’s not wearing a ring. Bloody, deceitful man from the north! Well, if he thinks he’s going to make me a fourth wife, he’s joking. I’m not having that. I’m not having any of that! I didn’t go to school and graduate with a first class to come and become the fourth wife of some randy Mallam, no matter how respectable he is. I should just get up and leave.
“You probably are thinking of leaving right now.” He’s read my mind. But my car isn’t here. It’s back at school. I could take a taxi back there. “Before you leave, just hear me out.” He can probably see all the conflicting thoughts running across my face. I can feel my face squeezed into a mighty scowl.
“I figured that telling you I’m married would be the right thing to do, which is why I mentioned it yesterday. I assumed you’d bolt the minute I said it, so I exaggerated a little and told you I was married with three wives. In actual fact, I have just the one wife. She lives in Abuja, in our family house. We’ve been married for three years and a couple of months.”
Ok. It’s just the one wife. That’s a relief. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s married.
“Why don’t you wear a wedding band? Is that on purpose, to deceive unsuspecting young females like me?” I’m still smarting from being lied to.
“I did have one, but I lost it down a drain on a trip to New York early this year. I thought about getting a new one, but she didn’t seem to mind that I had lost it, so there was no hurry.”
I ponder this for a minute, a million questions running through my mind.
“Do you have children?”
“No. Not yet. We just haven’t gotten round to it. With me being in Lagos most of the time and she tending to her business in Abuja, it just didn’t seem like the right time to have kids.”
“How come you never mentioned her all of this time?”
“I don’t know. I guess I didn’t want you to treat me differently. Would you have spent as much time with me if you knew?”
“No, I wouldn’t have.” But it still doesn’t make it okay I want to scream.
Just then, the waiter arrives with our food. And the conversation stops for a while, as we both eat in silence, each of us lost in thought. Who am I to judge this man? I have a boyfriend that I still haven’t told him about. Am I not just as bad as he is? Technically, no. But surely, I’m guilty of the same thing.
“Say something.” He breaks into my thoughts. “Please…”
“I’m sorry. I’m just a bit surprised. Scratch that, a lot surprised. The food is great by the way. Excellent choice.”
“Don’t try to change the subject. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I’m thinking that I should get up and run as far away from you as possible. I’m thinking I should stop spending time around or with you. I’m thinking that come tomorrow, I should apologise to Monsieur Nestor and go back to spending my break time with my class mates…” I pause, looking down at my plate and trying to decide whether or not I should say the words that come next to my mind. I have a choice here – to walk away and avoid certain hurt or to jump in the deep end and hope that I make it.
“I’m also thinking that I won’t, that I don’t want to.” I continue. “I like spending time with you. The fact that you’re married won’t change that, at least not now.” I look up at him then and I know I’ve made my choice. And I think it’s the wrong one. But, right now I don’t care. Because he’s looking at me in a way I’ve never seen before. It looks like surprise mixed with joy and with something more carnal and I suddenly feel a sense of excitement and apprehension at the same time…
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