“Hello, from the other side.”
His chat popped in, a wry grin creeping to my face.
“Now, he wants to patronise me in my inbox.”
I was speaking to my younger sister, Lorraine who zestfully sat up from the bed the way young ladies in their 20s did when they discussed this sort of thing. I had barely managed to accept his friendship request and there he was, putting up a chat like nothing had ever happened. Who sends a friendship request to a lady after a fight on social media? I sneered. After succeeding in making her seem daft?
Richard and I had argued over a post on a mutual friend’s wall like our worth depended on it. And me, being me, wouldn’t have dignified his request, but for a quick browse through his timelines. His timelines that held an air of wealth and class. That unapologetic sort. Lorraine and I gathered he was very much single, a fashionista of some sort, caught somewhere between the ages of thirty and thirty-three. His swarthy, flawless face beamed with gap-toothed smiles all over his wall. I couldn’t resist envying his girlfriend, whoever she was. He seemed to be the sort of man most ladies would wish to hang out with.
His chat popped in again, after several minutes of waiting for a reply that I couldn’t bring myself to give him.
“I am sorry for being a sissy.”
I was still enraged. Enraged at his charismatic wits, wrapped in sarcastic passes at the opinions that I held. Another chat popped in.
“I hope I could secure your forgiveness and earn your friendship?”
I turned to exchange that ‘can-you-imagine’ sort of glance with Lorraine. Lorraine chuckled.
“What did he say?”
She craned her neck to steal a look from my phone.
“I am not sure I want to do this.” I mumbled.
“June! What is wrong with you?” Lorraine shot at me through clenched teeth and eyes threatening to pop out of her head. The weight of the issue balanced on Lorraine’s head more than mine. She would practically grab my phone and grapple with Richard’s chat, if I hurled it on her. Lorraine was ultra-possesive like that.
“Don’t just ruin this moment.”
Her words hung in the air for longer than I felt normal, the room caving in on us.
“I shouldn’t have been that mean.” Richard continued. “Hello? Are you there?”
“I am here.”
“Oh, you really must be enjoying this. Ain’t you?”
“Is there anything I can do to remedy this situation?”
“No. Nothing. The deed has been done!”
“I am really sorry, but would you at least let me give you a call?”
“You see, I am usually not online.”
At this point, I was scrunching up my nose like he could see me.
“How does that affect the price of stockfish in this recession?”
“Lol. I actually came around to make some trouble…lol. Friends too. Please, June?”
Lorraine nudged me and I found myself typing my cell number. Just like that. Just like I’d been spellbound.
Richard called at night. His voice was captivating. So captivating, I felt I would just swoon. Everything in me stood at attention the while he spoke, especially when he started each sentence with my name. He placed emphasis on the ‘u’ so it sounded like “Juuuuuu-ne”, in that graceful, contemporary English glory.
The more we spent time over the phone each day, the better it felt. Everything. It was fabulous. I started to enjoy this thing that I hadn’t grasped. There was this inexplicable connection, like we’d known each other since Columbus found America. Most evenings, he asked what I would have for dinner and if anybody was taking me out for dinner, like he would glide from Abuja to Port Harcourt just to break bread with me. The calls started to come so often that Lorraine and I resolved he had no girlfriend anywhere. The more I had this urge to resist Richard calls, the more I longed to hear his warm, reassuring, killer voice.
Acquaintanceship started to ripen into something romantic. I knew I wasn’t dating Richard, but Lorraine felt that I was. And the night he asked me to describe what I was wearing to bed, Lorraine asked me which part of not dating his question fitted into.
“If you are not dating him,” she quipped, “he’s apparently dating you.”
He blew kisses over the phone at the end of each call. I almost begged for them when it seemed like they wouldn’t come.
“We should see already.” He said over the phone, a fortnight after we had started this thing that I didn’t know where it fitted into. His voice was lilted so that his words tethered between a question and an assertion. Amused and amazed, my head started to entertain questions that reeled in it.
“You will come to Abuja next weekend.” He asserted, like he owned me already. What nonsense? I thought, surprised at my own thoughts though. This was something Lorraine and I had looked forward to hearing from him, but who ever made requests that way? My lips started to mutter things that I was sure were agreeing to what he had said. I felt betrayed. I heard him stifle his laughter.
For a second, I imagined that Richard could be a ghost, after all. “What if I am a ghost?” I asked him instead. “Oh, I am a ghost anyways.” He said in hushed whispers. “So let’s just say we are two ghosts, admiring and tripping head over heels in love with each other.” We both chuckled. It was a kind of chuckle that seemed to unite two supposed lovers with something they couldn’t even explain.
The next weekend was Valentine’s Day. The weekend for the rendezvous. I felt that Richard could be the sort of man to hang out with on Vals day. But, not after Kent had called the day after Richard mentioned coming to Abuja. Not after Kent’s video calls that reawakened something in me. Something I thought was not there anymore. His calls altered everything.
In a way, Kent coming back into my life just when I thought I was falling for Richard was mean. He was serious about reigniting the spark in our relationship. He meant it when he said “Let’s do this the right way, now.” He still loved me; we both knew that. It was etched in the deep furrows of his face.
As I disembarked from a plane at Abuja airport, I saw Kent hovering around the tarmac. He spotted me almost immediately and raced towards me. It was natural, like always, that we hugged and kissed each other. Richard and I weren’t meant to be. He would just have to accept that in good faith.