I got home that night very tired though exhilarated. The day had been full of fights and victories, and I was so ready to crash in front of my TV and watch my favorite station; Telemundo. There’s something very relaxing and soothing about watching lovers fight and make-up in these TV dramas. I microwaved my dinner of fried potatoes and fish, grabbed a bottle of soda, and settled down to watch the show presently on. It was at that moment my phone rang.
“Girrrrrl, you were supposed to call me the moment the deal went through.” It was Adelaide, Daniel’s cousin on the line. “I just ended a call with my cousin and he was filled with nothing but praises for you.”
“Really?” Who would have thought?
“Really, girl. You must have done a hell of a job because my brother is not that easily impressed.”
“Hmmm, that sounds cryptic. We have to get together for a drink.”
“Now? Tonight?” I groaned.
“Yes, tonight, girl. Don’t worry, I’m coming to pick you up. I won’t subject you to Lagos night traffic. Get dressed; I’m almost at your house.” She hung up.
I groaned once more and flopped on my chair. So much for a quiet night in with my Telemundo.
Thirty minutes later, I found myself seated in front of Adelaide. She ordered a glass of apple martini and I settled for club soda. I don’t drink, my years of experience with ‘the boy’, Bayo, had taught me what too much drink can do to the mind. I sipped my soda, while I listened to Adelaide tell me all her cousin said.
“When I asked DJ what he thought of your beauty, he said that was none of my business. Trust me that raised my antenna higher than if he had just told me he found you irresistible. He found you irresistible, didn’t he?”
“DJ?” I asked with raised eyebrows.
She laughed. “Just a nickname that stuck with him since we were kids. You can ask him about it sometime.”
“Well, he did ask me out to dinner tomorrow night.” I answered.
“Yes!” she punched the air. “I knew it. So, where are you guys going?”
“I’m not going out with your cousin, Adelaide.”
She reacted as if I just hit her. “Why not?”
“I don’t mix business with pleasure.”
“Oh, Ella! You’re too straight-laced for me. Why did you think I sent you to him in the first place?”
“Well, forgive me but I thought it was because of my very lovely work.” I answered, hurt.
“Of course, I love your work, Ella. My brother wouldn’t have given you the time of the day if he hadn’t seen some pictures of your works and loved it. But I was so hoping you guys will hit it off.”
“He saw some pictures?” The nerve of that man! And he was busy asking me all those questions.
“Yes, I sent him some.”
“Can’t you make an exception for my cousin? He’s very handsome, don’t you think?”
I smiled. “Yes, he’s alright. And if you dare tell him I said that, I’ll cut off your tongue.”
She laughed. “My lips are sealed. So?”
I knew what she was asking. “Adelaide, your cousin is cute but I don’t want to complicate things. My life is in order right now, and I’m not looking for any disruptions.”
“It’s cool. I hope you change your mind though.”
I smiled. “Thank you for looking out for me, babe.”
“That’s what I’m here for.” She gave me a high-five. “So, I got the impression that you had a harrowing day?”
“You have no idea.” I launched into just how harrowing the day was.
“By the time I was done checking all of your cousin’s offices and making a list of everything I’ll need, I was very exhausted. I had to rush down to the LASTMA Office though, because I had to get my car. Suffice to say, I finally got it out. I went home immediately and was about to settle down to my dinner when your call came in.” I gave her a nasty look.
She laughed. “Forgive me, darling. I just had to hear the full gist from you.”
“I’m glad I came out. It’s a nice end to a not-so-enjoyable day.”
“All is well that ends well.”
“That reminds me, I’m going to need the services of a trucking company. Do you happen to know any?”
“No, I don’t. But I can help you find out from someone.”
“By the way, I’ve not thanked you for hooking me up with your cousin for this job. It’s really a lifesaver.”
“It’s my pleasure, darling. I know you’ll do an awesome job.”
I winked. “You got that right. It’s going to take a lot though, your cousin’s office is very impressive.”
“You don’t know the half of it. The guy is loaded.”
“Really? How loaded?”
“I’m telling you. Like the caliber of Dangote and the rest.”
My eyes almost bulged out of my head. “Seriously???”
She laughed. “Nah, I’m just kidding. He’s stinking rich though. I mean the guy can afford to buy an Aston Martin without batting an eye.”
“Hmmm. That’s really cool. I can’t imagine what it’ll feel like to have that kind of money.”
“What does he do anyway?”
“He’s into real estate. I mean the big guns; buying and selling of properties in Lekki, Banana Islands and so on. He’s not in the minor league.”
“Wow! I’m impressed.”
“I’m impressed too and he’s ‘only’ my cousin.”
I laughed. “Lucky you.”
“Would you like another glass?” she eyed my club soda.
I yawned. “No, girl. I’d rather just go home. I’m so tired.”
“I understand.” She signaled the waiter and paid for the drinks, and we walked out together.
By the time I got back home, I was so ragged that all I could do was crash into my bed. Before long, I was far in dreamland, having dinner with Daniel.
The following day started a lot better than the previous. I was able to get a lot of work done. I went to the market, priced some of the materials I needed for the job and proceeded with my price estimate. I planned to send in my quotation before the time allotted expired, just to make up for my tardiness the previous day. I want Daniel to see me as a professional, ready to do her job.
I woke up that morning, ready to conquer the day. I was feeling exhilarated thinking about the money that will enter my bank account by the completion of this job. That alone got me grinning like a Cheshire cat throughout the day.
After I did my market runs, I decided to treat myself to a good lunch. I found a little corner café and had some fried chips and chicken. By the time I was done with lunch, it was almost time for church. I quickly drove back home to get ready.
I chose a chocolate-colored pencil skirt and a pink chiffon top. I tucked the top into the skirt, put on a belt for waist definition, retouched my make-up and slipped into ballerina flats. I was not in the mood for heels that evening.
I got to church at a quarter past five, just about fifteen minutes late. Praise and worship was in session. By the time the preacher came on, I was feeling the effects of my busy day, I persevered though and only dozed off twice. I was grateful when the time came to close the service. All I wanted was to slip away quietly before anyone noticed me. But I was not in luck.
I spotted Adelaide coming towards me with determination etched all over her lovely face. I groaned inwardly. She’s going to want to catch up. A slight shift of my gaze to her side stopped me up short, I couldn’t believe my eyes; it was Mr. Hotshot himself beside his cousin. He grinned cockily when our eyes collided and a frisson of electricity went through me. Oh, not in church too!
“There you are, Ella! I’ve been looking all over for you.” Adelaide exclaimed.
“Hi, dearie.” I gave her a hug. “I’ve been right here.”
Mr. Hotshot was still wearing that cocky grin. “No hug for me, Miss Ella?”
“What did you do to deserve one?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Just for being here.”
“And did you come here because of me?” I twitched my mouth to keep from smiling.
“Well, that can be up for discussion.”
“Alright, alright, you two. That’s okay. I’m still here, remember?”
I smiled at her. “Hope you weren’t too hung over after all that drink last night.”
“Well, that was last night. Imagine my surprise when Daniel called me this evening.”
“I can imagine.”
Adelaide maneuvered so her back was to Daniel. She winked at me. “No, dear, you can’t. When I told him I was on my way to church, he promptly invited himself. Of course, that would have nothing to do with you?” she raised her eyebrow at me.
“I wouldn’t know, Adelaide.” I looked at the man we were discussing and he was just standing slightly behind his cousin, staring at me, with that self-assured grin still on his face. I became a bit ruffled.
“Anyway, he has invited us for drinks.” Adelaide went on, oblivious to the drama going on at her back.
“Invited us?” he kept staring at me, and I had to look away. I was too flustered.
“Yes. You and I.”
I reluctantly turned back to her. “I’m too tired for drinks tonight, Adelaide.”
“Oh no, you’re not. We are going together.”
“It wouldn’t be that you’re scared to be in my company now, would it?” Cocky grin intact, eyes twinkling, Mr. Hotshot challenged me.
“I’m not scared of anything.” I fired back.
“Then, what are we still waiting for?”
I knew what he was doing. Oh, I knew he deliberately made that statement just to rile me. He knew I wouldn’t back down from a challenge and he was right.
“Let’s get going, then.” I marched ahead of them, ignoring his chuckle and Adelaide’s titter. That made two nights in a row that I’ve been made to do something I’d rather not do. You need to get a life, Ella, I told myself.
It turned out we went to a karaoke bar somewhere on the island. I had no intention of taking anything, so I just sat stiffly, watching Adelaide down drink after drink. I couldn’t fault her though; she’s the fun-loving type and she doesn’t believe in not drinking, even as a Christian. I am cut from a different clothe. I noted Daniel wasn’t drinking any hard liquor too. He was nursing a bottle of Fayrouz.
I watched the people singing on the stage with minimal interest, while I tried to pretend I was not hanging on every word that came out of Daniel’s mouth. As I turned to surreptitiously watch him without giving myself away, my eyes collided with his and he winked. I turned away, embarrassed.
“Ella, are you insisting you don’t want anything?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m fine. Thank you, Mr. Daniel.”
“Please, call me Daniel.”
I nodded. “Daniel, then.”
“Your refusal to have a drink makes this little outing of ours moot. I wouldn’t want you to say you didn’t enjoy yourself.”
“I was badgered into this, don’t expect me to thank you for it.” I retorted.
“Oh, come off it, Ella. Just have a Coke or something.” Adelaide muttered, exasperated.
“Please have a drink, Ella.” Daniel said.
I looked at him and saw the sincerity in his eyes. I decided to have a coke anyway. “Okay, I’ll have a coke.” I relented.
Before long, I was actually having fun, laughing and swapping jokes with them both. Adelaide remembered some of Daniel’s escapades when they were quite young and she told a tale of a particular young man with a huge crush on an older woman, amidst protests from Daniel.
“And immediately she drew close to him, he just started stammering. All those pretty words he practiced on me must have flown out of his head. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. After a few minutes of embarrassing silence, the lady finally took pity on him and patted him on the head. ‘You look cute too,’ she said.”
I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants. I couldn’t imagine the self-assured Daniel having that big of a crush on an older lady. He didn’t laugh with us, but I could see the effort it took him, his mouth was twitching madly.
“Come on, let’s sing, Ella.” Adelaide suddenly said.
I shook my head. “You know I don’t sing, girl.”
“It is karaoke, who’s gonna notice?”
I glanced at Daniel as if to say, ‘he will’.
“I promise I won’t bite.” He said. “And I won’t laugh too hard.”
I ignored him and turned to Adelaide. “Let’s do this!”
“Yeah, that’s my girl.” She whooped.
We stepped on the stage and I took up my microphone. Adelaide went ahead to request a song and to my surprise, Celine Dion’s ‘My heart will go on’ started playing. The first line of the lyrics, ‘Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you’ set my heart thumping rhythmically to the beat of the music. As I sang along, my eyes couldn’t help but stray to our table, where Daniel was seated and I watched him as he watched me, thinking how apt the song was.
As the song wound down and got to its conclusion, I finally tore my eyes away from his and smiled at Adelaide in a bid to regain my composure. I don’t know what came over me, but the guy is sure to know how into him I am after that drama. A part of me wished I could disappear, and the other part was earnestly waiting for what his reaction would be.
“That was really lovely.” He stood up as soon as we got to the table. “I felt you were singing to me and for me.” he said quietly, moving closer and backing Adelaide.
I coughed nervously and shook my head. “It was just the emotions in the song.”
He smiled. “I like my explanation better.” He winked.
“Guys, it is pretty late. We’ll better get going.” Adelaide interrupted.
“Oh, yes.” Daniel stepped back from me.
“Thanks for an enjoyable evening.” I said to him.
“I’ll like to do this again. Preferably just you and I.” he winked.
I smiled shyly and just nodded. Uh, uh, Ella, now you’ve gone and done it!
We said our goodbyes and I headed home, wondering what I’ve gotten myself into this time.