Yemisi was nervous; watching the door as she was.
She did not want to call Dapo again; she had called him like fifty times in the past hour – and that wasn’t exactly bringing him any closer.
She had to be patient.
Her cocktail was beginning to warm; she put it down gently after taking a long pull from it and put it down – studying the hand she had carried it with.
It was trembling.
Hastily she put the hand in her lap and wished the whole thing with Dapo and his cousin would just disappear.
In fact; she would like to just disappear.
She hadn’t tried to sort through her feelings; every time she thought about Remi she felt as though she was betraying Dapo – and even though it had always been like that; the feeling was ten times worse now she knew they were related.
What do I do?
“The cocktail can’t be that bad,” a familiar baritone spoke from her elbow making her jump in fright. She laughed in spite of herself.
“Trust you to make an entrance,” she said before standing up and turning slightly to hug the tall figure beaming at her. She let the tension ease away from her shoulders and back, relaxing into his embrace and closing her eyes at his scent. “You smell so good,” she said.
Dapo’s laughter rumbled from his chest. “That’s Mosun’s handiwork. The whole world must know I have a sister who just returned to the country.” He released her but held on to her left hand, standing back to look at her from top to bottom, taking in her blue Ankara gown and brown sandals. “You’re really beautiful tonight,” he said with a straight face.
Yemisi looked down shyly – and then looked up, meeting his eyes. “Thank you. You look good yourself.”
And he did, in a white shirt, blue jeans and brown boat shoes. He smiled and handed her into her seat before sitting himself directly opposite her. “I’m sorry I’m late. Traffic is crazy.”
She nodded. “I’m grateful you still came sef. Didn’t you just return from IB?”
“We have plenty to talk about. How did your send-forth go?”
Yemisi looked away, her eyes filling with tears. “It was just sad. You know, sometimes you never know what you mean to people until it’s too late to do anything about it.” Reaching into her silver purse, she pulled out a white handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. “I laughed plenty too.”
She put her unoccupied hand over his. “I missed you there too. Adura wanted so much to meet you – she was hurt when I told her you weren’t coming. And the boss’ speech?” she shook her head. “It would have been easier if you were there.”
Dapo couldn’t resist. “Me – or Remi?”
He saw a flash of hurt appear in her eyes and wished he had not made that crack. She made to pull her hand away but he quickly covered it with his other one. She shook her head, but she stopped pulling away.
“We need to talk about that, Yemisi.”
“I know, Dapo. But whatever it is I’m feeling, I know the difference between you two. And if I say I miss you; Dapo, I’m talking about you. Understand?”
He nodded solemnly. “I know – and I’m sorry I made such a lame joke.”
Yemisi nodded. “That’s okay. I feel guilty myself – because there are times I have wished I hadn’t started anything with you, and I would just have met Remi and everything would be perfect.”
“That wouldn’t make such a great story,” Dapo interjected. “There’s always something bigger over the horizon.”
“But doesn’t that mean we should all keep chasing straws?”
“‘Bigger’ is relative, Yemisi. When you find your ‘bigger’, you and only you can know it. And besides – there’s always the next thing – ‘bigger’.”
She raised both her hands in mock surrender. “You win!”
Dapo signaled the nearest waiter. “Wouldn’t you rather have some ice with that drink – or would just have a new one?” he asked Yemisi.
“Yes; a new one would be good thank you.”
“I want a huge chapman – she would just have a regular cocktail.” He considered for a bit. “I would like some meats too – something I can chew on as I drink,” he said. The waiter nodded and slid off.
“Did you really think I would set you up to meet Remi like that?” he asked the girl sitting in front of him.
She averted her eyes. “I honestly didn’t know what to think! Seeing him at the wedding like that –“ She sighed. “You’re the one who always says there’s no such thing as coincidence. Really – what would you have thought?”
Dapo shook his head. “I would have trusted you.”
“don’t be so hard on me, Dapo – “ she broke off as the waiter appeared with their drinks, and sat silently as Dapo carried her drink off the tray and placed it in front of her before carrying his. The waiter bent over and whispered something in his ear. He nodded.
“Meats will be done in a moment,” he said as the waiter slid off again. “Why he thought it necessary to whisper will forever baffle me.” He lifted his drink and took a long pull. “You were asking me not to be hard on you – should we use your actions as a benchmark?”
Yemisi sighed. Dapo was on the warpath – there was no stopping him. In fact, if anything she could expect it to get worse. She looked at the smile playing around his lips and thought to herself how someone so – could be so –
“don’t mind me – I’m just having myself a bit of fun at your expense.” He stirred his drink with the straw he was holding but he wasn’t looking at it. Instead, his eyes were on her face.
“You know one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you since that awkward moment?”
At her nod he continued. “I was wondering – were you that upset because you thought I had something to do with your meeting with Remi; or was it just guilt?”
Yemisi started from her seat; mouth half-open in denial – and then she slumped back, wrapping her arms around shoulders that suddenly felt really cold.
“You know,” she sounded like a turned-down radio set. “That’s one question I have been asking myself – but I haven’t been willing to look too closely at the answer. ‘Why was I so hard on you’? I knew; deep down you couldn’t have done anything that elaborate; too many parts of it depended on coincidence – which you and I know you’re not exactly a fan of –“
She broke off as Dapo pointed at her drink. The ice was a lot less than she remembered; so she lifted it and took a sip, enjoying the cold liquid as it streamed down her throat and seemed to make fluttering nerves somewhat steadier. She watched as the same waiter set a steaming plate of meat in front of her; and set her drink down before reaching for one.
“don’t look so serious – it’s not that serious.”
Yemisi slowly bit into the piece of meat, enjoying the sticky warmth of various seasonings as they flooded her mouth. “Hmmm hmm,” she moaned out loud, looking at Dapo through half-closed lids. “This is really good!”
He smiled in response. “They should feel complimented – a top chef just approved their cooking!”
She looked at Dapo with shinny, grateful eyes; “It is true isn’t it?”
He nodded wisely, understanding what she meant. “Yes indeed it is. How does it feel?”
“It feels – surreal. I still wake up feeling like I should get going else I’ll be stuck in early-morning traffic; and then I remember I’m self-employed. An entrepreneur.”
Dapo raised his glass. “Hear hear!” and drained it, sucking away at the straw long after the glass was empty. Yemisi could barely contain her laughter.
“So what’s next, CEO?” he asked after their laughter had subsided.
“Well, I feel some self-development is in order so I registered for some cooking courses; immediately after which I’ll be headed to Poise for some on grooming too.”
Dapo nodded. “I like that. Maybe you’ll show up a judge on the next Knorr Taste Quest.”
Yemisi smiled. “Who knows?”
Dapo nodded and for the next few moments the only sounds from their table were clinking glasses and chewing jaws. Yemisi raised her drink to her lips and eyed Dapo over the rim of the glass.
“I like it when you smile, you know. Your face relaxes – and you look so young.”
He looked away from her piercing gaze in embarrassment. “Well ah – thank you. It’s really nice to hear that.”
She slowly lowered her glass and shifted uncomfortably. “You know, I’m really fond of you – I really care and worry; which is what prompted me to ask you out in the first place.”
“I know that,” Dapo said quietly.
“It did hurt when you said what you said – about saying yes to me when you could have said no. It made me feel as though you were…as though you said yes only because you felt sorry for me.”
“Yeah. That was a really thoughtless thing to say – and I really didn’t mean it. I agreed because I wanted to date you too; that and no other reason. I’m really sorry.”
Yemisi pressed his hand briefly. “It’s okay,” she sighed. “It’s okay. I have grown so much between then and now – I mean, I now have my own business to say the least.” She looked at him, her heart in her eyes. “Dapo, the time we spent together was…it redefined all of my ideas concerning what a relationship should be like – should be about. I learned a lot about myself, about guys and stuff – and it made me a better person because as timid as I was, as insecure as I used to be, I saw something I wanted – something I wanted so much I did not consider the consequences. I just went for it. And boy – am I glad I did.” She looked away, an intimate smile caressing her lips.
Dapo had never seen her look any more beautiful.
“I love you, Dapo. I always have and I always will. There’s this – there’s this kind of steadfastness you have; a kind of ‘always there’ presence that I have come to rely on. I know I don’t have to look too far to find you; I know you’re always somewhere around me. I have come to love that – about you, I mean.”
Her light skin darkened around her cheeks and she lowered her eyes briefly before facing him again. “I love you. Maybe not the want-to-jump-on-you-and-rip-your-clothes-off type, but the I-feel-safe-in-your-arms type.”
Dapo cleared his throat. “Gee thanks. That’s really encouraging – I’m only good enough for brotherly hugs!”
But he smiled at her brightly and held onto her hand.
“I’d rather have brotherly hugs than none.” He inhaled sharply. “Yemisi, I know how you feel about me. And it’s okay. We did find something – in fact; we found plenty things. don’t you know how easy it is to forget people who matter? This whole thing has made me and you closer – I have rediscovered a friendship of life; for life. I’m thankful for that.”
Yemisi’s eyes watered. “Are we breaking up?”
A throaty chuckled emanated from Dapo’s chest. “Do friends – do siblings break up?”
The car taking Remi to the airport was quiet. The occupants were lost in thoughts of various variations.
Dapo, behind the steering wheel was thinking about that night three weeks ago – the night he returned from Ibadan and saw Yemisi.
It went well – all things considered.
Yeah. That it did.
I think it was particularly thoughtful we did not mention that Mope is still single.
Yeah. That would have been a bad idea. Even if it wasn’t meant to be, no woman likes the idea that another is preferred to her.
That – is correct.
So – I would expect that after so many dates Yemi and Remi would have plenty to say to each other.
We expect that too.
Or maybe they’ve said everything.
Maybe that too.
Remi; sitting beside Dapo was softly caressing the hand in his grip and thinking about the owner of the hand.
This is crazy. This is stupid. How can I be this in love with this girl?
She’s so sweat, so calm, so kind, so considerate. All soft and firm at once.
I wish I didn’t have to return so early. I wish I could just tell her how I feel – but I’m worried she might start to feel like some family heirloom. Like family hand-me-downs.
However did Dapo let her go so easily?
Who cares? My luck.
But Dapo na one kain guy sha o! And wait…
Is she over him sef?
Yemisi; seated behind the two of them was also lost in thoughts of her own.
She was thinking about the guy rubbing her hand.
What does this guy want sef?
Just rubbing my hand as if it’s an ATM card.
She chuckled quietly at her own joke.
And became thoughtful again.
But what does he want?
Takes me to the cinema – and spends the whole movie holding my hand. Na hand-hold I wan chop?!
At least make a move. Or say something. Or say something more.
He keeps looking in my eyes and sighing.
Would have grabbed and kissed him too – the way the butterflies were misbehaving.
I had a rethink in time though – and I concluded it’ll be wise to wait. Let someone else do the asking for a change.
She looked up and met Dapo’s eyes in the rearview mirror. He smiled and winked at her.
“So why are you guys quiet?”
Remi jumped and let go of the hand he had been holding on the far side of his seat as though it was red hot. Dapo smiled as Yemisi blushed and looked out of the window. He adjusted the rear-view mirror and cleared his throat.
“I suggest the two of you go check in – or at least Yemisi help Remi check in while I look for a place to park.”
Yemisi looked around, startled. They were in front of the departure area of Murtala International.
Aware of some trembling in her thighs, she shot Dapo a grateful look through the mirror before scrambling out of the car on Remi’s side.
They both stood and watched their cupid drive off and then walked towards the entrance; Yemisi grabbing her companion’s hand.
“I still can’t over the fact that you’re traveling with a backpack,” she stated as they cleared the policemen at the entrance.
Remi shrugged. “I wasn’t planning to stay for long – this long sef.”
“What changed your mind?”
He eyed her from his ‘Idris Elba’ height. “You really think you need to ask that?”
She nodded – and then they were at the Arik checking-in section. “I’ll be right back,” He said as he walked towards the pretty attendant who was grinning, leaving a disgruntled Yemisi standing at the line, arms folded against her chest.
“When is he going to kiss you? Shall I ask him?”
Yemisi tried to look stern but failed miserably, smiling up at Dapo as he materialized beside her. “Who send you message?” she asked.
“I want to know – that’s all. Can’t I ask?”
“No you can’t,” Yemisi answered, hugging his arm. “He should take his time – all the time he wants or needs so it won’t as though someone helped him make up his mind or coerced him into something he’d rather not be doing.”
Dapo eyed her. “All of a sudden you’re so smart.”
She chuckled. “That’s what saving Dapo did for this woman. Made her wiser and stronger – more mature.”
“Saving Dapo? What’s that – a Nollywood movie?”
Yemisi punched his shoulder lightly. “You never know.”
She rested her head against his shoulder and watched as Remi walked over.
“What happens now?”
Remi looked everywhere but at Yemisi. “Now I’m supposed to – “
Yemisi; who was hanging onto every word Remi was saying did not see the almost imperceptible nod Dapo gave over her head. The only thing she knew was that Remi stopped talking and gently took her hand.
But he was already walking away from them.
Remi looked at Yemisi. “I guess maybe I didn’t know what to say to you, Yemisi. You have to admit this is one helluva strange happening.”
He scratched his jaw. “Yeah – I mean, who would have thought I would run into a girl in an eatery, fall in love with her – only to find that she’s my cousin’s girl?”
“Yeah! I mean – waitaminute,” Yemisi interrupted herself. “What did you say?”
“I said who would have thought…”
She waved her hand impatiently. “I heard all that. I mean the almost-last part.”
Remi grinned. “Hmm…it went something like…” he leaned closer to her and whispered; “I have fallen in love with you, Yemisi. Totally, completely…”
She shook away his hand. “That’s what you should said since, you idiot!” She said as she slowly slipped her arms around his neck. Remi laughed as they kissed.
And Dapo, who was watching from the confectionary stands shook his head, grabbed the Bounty chocolate bar he had been struggling with for the past minute and walked away.
He was not smiling.
Yemisi snuggled in Remi’s arms, heart tripping a mile a minute. “So how long are you leaving me for?”
“It won’t be too long – maybe five months at most,” Remi winced as he saw the hurt that flashed in her eyes. Maybe he should have given her a non-committal answer.
“At least I have something to look forward to,” she answered, tangling her fingers with his. “Remi, I love you too. You know, sometimes those words sound like clichés and repeated phrases – but they are true sometimes too – and they have never been truer for me than now.”
He bent his head slightly and kissed her, and did not stop till it seemed as though she was catching a bad case of vertigo. “Wait for me, Yemi. Wait.”
Remi smiled and looked over her head for his cousin. “Where is this bullheaded – “
“I think it’s time,” Yemisi said in a trembling voice – and pointed to a couple who were scrambling towards the departure point. They had been ahead of Remi on the check-in line.
“Time to go, cousin.” Dapo spoke from Yemisi’s elbow making her jump.
“What is wrong with you sef?” she freed her right hand from Remi’s embrace and hit Dapo in the chest with it. “Just be disappearing and reappearing like one thief!”
He chuckled dryly. “I have been standing behind the two of you since – your romance has been turning my belly is why I kept quite.” He winked at Yemisi. “Time to go, cousin,” he said again.
Remi nodded. “I know. Okay.” He bent at the waist and planted a soft kiss on Yemisi’s lips.
Remi broke off and pulled his cousin in a hug. “You don’t have to tell me anything;” Dapo said. “You don’t tell me to take care of my friend. You behave yourself.”
Remi pulled away from the hug, intending to swing away but Dapo pulled him back. “Behave yourself,” he said again.
“Why are you repeating yourself again and again?” Yemisi asked, pushing herself into Remi’s arms.
“Because he does not hear anything once,” Dapo answered, scowl marring his otherwise smooth forehead. “I’ll be waiting for you over there,” he told Yemisi and walked off.
Standing as he was, thinking about Mope as he was, Dapo did not notice Yemisi till he felt a hand pull his sleeve. He turned and there she was.
“Hey, you – “
He broke off the moment his eyes met hers.
She looked like she ought to look – tears in her eyes, smudged lipstick and all; but there was something more – something that made her eyes shine like stars.
She looked like she was seeing things.
“Hey…are you okay?”
She swallowed and nodded repeatedly for a few seconds before she could frame an answer.
“Yes…em…yes. I’m okay.” She paused. “At least I think so.” She looked up at Dapo, smiling brightly as tears slowly started trickling down her cheeks. “Your cousin just asked me to marry him.”