He watched them talking, even though he was doing a very good job of not showing it. They were having a very animated conversation. She was sitting on the sofa next to him, facing him, her right leg tucked under herself. She looked very comfortable, and animated. Yes, that word again. He couldn’t think of another word to describe how she was just then. She was obviously enjoying the conversation. They both were. They were laughing a lot, gesturing a lot. At some point, he even touched her knee as he emphasized a point he was trying to make. Jeez! Physical contact! “What the hell is going on here?” thought Tonye as he watched his girlfriend engage with the guy from the creative agency.
They were at a meeting with his brother-in-law and a representative for a premium cars brand, who his brother-in-law was considering partnering with. Tonye had asked his girlfriend to come as a favour to him, to help them work through the marketing bits of the deal since marketing was her day job. And he had also brought a friend of his who worked in sales, to lend his voice to the conversation so that his overly-optimistic and easily-impressed brother-in-law would get the best deal possible from the conversation. But this wasn’t going as planned.
To start with, there was really no point for the meeting. He’d realized that five minutes into the conversation. His brother-in-law had misunderstood the brand representative – there was really no deal on the table. That had pissed him right off because he had planned to have a quiet evening, spent with his girlfriend. Instead, they had journeyed all the way to VI from the mainland for this! To make matters worse, said girlfriend was yapping away with the creative guy and not saying anything to him. She wasn’t even glancing in his direction! Imagine! And that stupid live band! They were playing so loud, he couldn’t eavesdrop on their conversation. Why had she gone to sit on the opposite side of the table in the first place? Why hadn’t she chosen to sit beside him? Had she been planning to flirt? Was she flirting? She had laughed with her head thrown back just then. She only did that when she found something really funny.
And she was looking straight at the guy. Her eyes weren’t shifty at all, which would have been the case if she had been bored or if she didn’t like him. She hadn’t even taken a single sip from her drink. All the ice had melted in it, and the glass was in a puddle of its own sweat. Just like he was. “Why am I sweating?” he asked himself silently. He realized he was very uncomfortable. And irritated. The brand rep was starting to spew some rubbish about why his brand was the best option for them to go with. His friend, the sales guy, was peppering him with questions about the benefits of going with the sale. He himself had a few choice words for the brand rep, but right now, all of his thoughts were focused on her. And him. There was a huge knot in his stomach. His head was pounding and he thought he felt his heart rate pick up. Another droplet of sweat rolled down his back. They really needed to get out of there.
Ten arduous minutes later, his brother-in-law and the brand rep shook hands, and every one stood up to go, girlfriend included. He saw the creative guy bring out his phone and start to type in it. Shit! She was giving him her number! Right in front of him!! Tonye was seeing red. But he kept his cool. They all walked to the car park, him walking off ahead of them, leaving her to chat with his brother-in-law. He was quiet on the trip back. She tried to make conversation with him, but he didn’t bite. He didn’t want her telling him what a great guy ‘Mr. Creatives’ was. They dropped off his friend and headed to her apartment. As she started to get out of the car, she looked at him and asked quietly “Are you okay? Are we okay?”
“I’m fine.” He replied curtly. “I’ll see you tomorrow”. And she took that as her cue to get out and close the door. As he drove home, he let his bad mood settle in. But he couldn’t understand why he was in such a bad mood. If he was honest with himself, he knew there was nothing wrong with his girlfriend talking to some other guy. And she was probably enjoying the conversation because they were in complementary fields. Plus, he knew she was great at making conversation. So that might have just been a harmless one. Until he touched her knee! He touched her fucking knee! Surely that was him making a move? Or wasn’t it?
But then he remembered as he played the evening back in his head, she had shifted slightly after that, moving backwards as if to put a little more distance between them. And she hadn’t ‘touched’ him back. He remembered that the sofas they had sat on could only take three people, and he had chosen to sit on the same one as his brother-in-law. His salesman friend had followed suit. So really she had only been left with the space next to the creative guy, who was sharing the other sofa with the brand rep. He remembered that, as the meeting ended, she was already walking away from the guy before he had stopped her to get her number. He remembered that she didn’t bring out her own phone to mirror the gesture. Even throughout the drive back, she hadn’t brought out her phone. Well, she could have chosen to wait till she got home, he rationalized. And that wouldn’t stop the guy from calling her since he had her own number.
But he also remembered that several times during the evening, she had looked in his direction, trying to catch his eye. He’d been too annoyed to oblige her. And the one time he had, she had given him that look, the one that asked ‘Are you good? Is everything going well?’ She had been checking on him and trying to check in with him. She always did that when they had other people around them. It was their alternative to PDA. Oh, and she didn’t like rum. His brother in-law had ordered Long Island ice teas for all of them. That’s how come she hadn’t touched her drink. He remembered that as they left the lounge to head to the car park, she had walked towards him and tried to hold his hand. But he had shrugged her off and walked faster to get ahead.
And then it dawned on him. He loved her. To bits. And the thought that she could actually meet someone else scared the shit out of him. He couldn’t imagine his life without her. She made him happy, whole. She was everything. And that guy had obviously realized she was a catch. Which is probably why he was putting the moves on her. It occurred to him that he’d never told her that he loved her; he never showed his feelings. He had always been afraid to, worried that she might take him for granted. He loved to spend time with her, and she was with him every day. Always there. Solid. Caring. Present. Genuine. And he loved that about her. It made him feel like everything was going to be fine, no matter what. She encouraged him, motivated him, chastised him when he was being silly and she taught him a lot of things. Why on earth did he not show her how much she meant to him? It’s a wonder she was still with him, had been for the last year and half, never asking for more than he could give at the time; Patient. Loving. Kind.
He turned the car around. He was going to tell her.