Aaron offered to drop me home. It was already close to midnight and the road was free. The air in the car wasn’t though.
“I hope you’re not angry I showed up,” he said.
“No.” I paused. “I’m glad you came. Thank you.”
After that we were both quiet. What could I say to him? He had hit me deeper than anyone could. Who told him I had never had a birthday party in my life, or that I had always planned to have one when I had money to do so.
My family history wasn’t a long one. My mother never knew her parents. She grew up on the streets and got charities from the church. When she was old enough, she met Salome’s father who married her. He didn’t stay long enough to see Salome though. My father came and went just as unceremoniously and Mama decided not again.
By the time she died, all we had was ourselves, and my prospective university education. Salome and I looked alike, like Mama but I was much smarter than my sister, and it was the reason my mother chose to do all to get me an education. I would never be able to thank her enough for the privilege.
From the girl who took me to Aaron, I learnt he was a playboy from a rich family. Working with David confirmed this. He’d made it a habit to globe-trot spending money on strange women. When he met me, he was only doing what he’d done so many times.
I couldn’t love such a man. What was the basis for it? A classy surprise birthday party? I moaned. It all summed up to one thing. I was being bought. Again.
The truth hit below the belt. Was he still interested in me? Because he wasn’t saying anything anymore. Or he was simply resigned? Or he was playing the reverse psychology game on me. Whatever the case, I feared who I really was deep down. This man could still be the reckless playboy I met eight years ago. For him, everything summed up to the naira. He had more than enough to do as he wished. He wasn’t someone I should even consider.
He asked for directions to my house once we got off the third mainland bridge and I gave him. We got to my house soon enough, and I got out.
“Thank you for everything,” I murmured.
He nodded and drove off.
I could weep. He didn’t want me anymore, and I could not ask him about it. My heart thudded through the night. I couldn’t sleep. Salome had waited up and chatted for almost an hour before we turned in. For the first time, she didn’t notice my misery amid her excitement about the party. We had never had a birthday cake not to talk of a party. Again I couldn’t share my pain with her. The man I disdained most was now most desirable.
The nagging questions held me captive. What if he was still the playboy he used to be? And anyway, did he still want me? Why would he throw such a huge party if he didn’t? To spite me?
At work the following day, I opened all my gifts excitedly with my colleagues. People had been thoughtful. I got nice presents a young woman would appreciate. It was almost like wedding gifts. I was tempted to call Aaron and thank him again but then, my spiritual mind cautioned me.
I’d better not put my heart where I couldn’t vouch for its safety. If I fell for Aaron now, I was doomed. Either way. If he didn’t want me anymore, or if he hadn’t put his life straight.
I got home with my presents and we looked through them again, Salome and me. Designer perfumes, expensive lace material, a wristwatch, several kitchenware, and a microwave oven from David! It was great.
Aaron didn’t give anything but he had given more than enough. In fact, in essence, he had given all. Bomi showed me a copy of the invites sent out stating clearly the card, and a gift for the celebrant admitted. I’d never seen an invite like it before.
Once again I fought the urge to call him and open conversation.
Cuddled on the double bed we shared, Salome said softly, “I don dey pray for you and dat man o, Shirley. Aaron abi wetin you call am.”
“Thank you, Salome,” I whispered back.
“E don cuh you?”
“No.” She was quiet. “What do you think that means?” I said.
“E go cuh you. Jus dey pray. God go tosh am.”
“I fear say e no like me again, Salome. I dey also fear say e no be Christian.” I sighed. “The way e con ask me for that contract again.”
Salome giggled. “Who contract epp?”
We both laughed.
“Make we ol hands pray, Shirley. Make God tosh am.”
My sister did not pray as long as I could, but she feared God, and observed a lot of fasting. If Salome was praying for you, the chance that God would answer was high.
Aaron gave me a week to steam, then he called.
He sounded husky on the phone. “Can we talk?”
I cleared my throat too. “Yes.”
He picked me up at my house the following evening.
“No argu o. Jus dey pray insai,” Salome whispered before I left.
We went to an exclusive restaurant on the mainland, and after an exotic meal in silence, Aaron took a deep breath.
“I don’t know what to say, Shirley.” He chuckled. “I think I say the wrong things when I’m with you.” He stared. “Thank you for responding to me at least.”
“Well, you did something nobody ever did for me. Not even my mother.”
He arched an eyebrow. “What did I do?”
“You gave me a birthday party. I…I know that must sound so strange.”
He nodded. “It does. But I’m glad I did it. Though I wasn’t at the party, I couldn’t stop smiling. I just knew I’d hit it right.”
I felt shy. “You did. Thank you.”
“After David asked me to back off, I went to my knees and asked God to help me. I wanted you so much, and I didn’t know what else to do. The birthday idea sprang into my spirit.”
I gasped. “You prayed about me?”
“From that first day I saw you at your office.” He held out his hands across the table. I slowly put mine in them. “I’ve been so confused.”
“You asked to renew the contract.” I shrugged. “That totally put me off.”
He rubbed the back of my hands. “I didn’t know what to say to you.” He frowned. “I think back on the life I led. The friends I kept with my brothers.”
“You continued after me?” I shook my head. “I don’t even want to know. What’s important is the future.”
He chuckled. “My father threatened to disinherit us. In fact he did. And three years ago, my two brothers and I got back in his good books. Family intervened and we were added back into his board of directors.”
He had to be so old. “How old are you?” I said.
“Thirty-six this year.”
“I’m twenty-nine,” I said before I remembered he just threw me a party.
Aaron smiled. “I know.”
He had a beautiful smile and I enjoyed gazing at him. “I was scared you still lived like that.”
“Horrible lifestyle. I gave it up even before Dad disowned us. Before I repented and turned to God.” He squeezed my hands. “I gave it up because of our contract.”
Picture credit: https://pixabay.com/en/rose-flower-nature-floral-romance-402093/
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