She looked very much like when we first met; still pretty, petite and amusingly retrospective; almond shaped eyes that still glowed with the same intensity that had ignited a subtle hurricane of emotion from the dark depths of my palpitating heartbeats.
She smiled and my heart melted; nostalgic waves catapulted me down memory lane. I loved that smile and the way she always fondled my fingers in hers whenever we held hands. She loved to play with my fingers; it was one of her ways of constantly reminding me of her love for me; her soft yet small hands were a delight in my thick big ones.
Watching her at this distance was painful.
The desire to be close to her burned within me; I longed to revel once again in those sweet moments we once shared.
I felt something sting me in the right eye. It was a threatening tear.
I swallowed up the sob building within along with the ache of regret.
I wish I hadn’t done what I did back then.
We met years back.
I can’t really place the timing but the picture of our meeting still remains vividly etched in my memory like it was yesterday; like a short HD movie hidden in my cerebral sands of time.
I stood at a bus stop waiting for a cab.
It was one of those inner areas on the outskirts of town where cabs and okadas were scanty and don’t show up easily. You had to wait a while before you saw one.
I was on my way to see my cousin, Priye, pertaining to a recent employment information he placed through a phone call the day before. We had maintained a steady contact after youth service despite living on the opposite sides of town.
The bus stop which consisted mainly of an inscribed signpost rusted and worn with age, stood at the edge of a tarred road which stretched out into the distance linking different communities.
Vegetation lined both sides of the road obscuring from sight houses scattered about the developing neighbourhood. It was the typical topography you’d find in many eastern states. Any first time visitor would think nobody lived in the area until he looked closely.
Occasionally a car, motorcycle or truck would pass, breaking the semi-silence of the neighbourhood and punctuated screaming of errant crickets from the bushes.
I had come along with a big umbrella as Priye had informed me before hand that it was raining on at his place. I envisaged that the weather would soon extend its tentacles down to my own side of the town.
Two minutes had passed as I waited at the stop when I saw the lone female figure emerging from one of the paths that led to one of the numerous communities scattered around the area. She was wearing a sleeveless flowery gown that stopped at her knees and a pair of wedge slippers that accentuated her height a bit.
She wore an afro hairdo on her head and sparse make-up on her face. Bracelets matching the flora design on her gown hung on her left wrist alongside a leather strapped watch. A leather handbag hung loosely on her shoulder as she strode towards the bus stop in short hurried steps.
I had expected her to walk past me but she stopped a few meters away from where I stood. She was also waiting for a cab.
She was good to look at but I made sure it wasn’t obvious by throwing my glance in the opposite direction.
A pick-up and two cars zoomed past in opposite directions as time dragged and we waited.
Then the Sky rumbled.
I looked up and noticed flashes appearing in the clouds far ahead.
A gust of wind blew picking dust and dried leaves in its path. I closed my eyes partially to avoid being visually stung by debris.
Priye was right. The darn rain was heading this way. Thank goodness I wore my thick denim jacket and had an umbrella.
Then the heavens gave way like a pregnant woman whose water just broke. It started with rapid drops that quickly gathered momentum.
It was at this point that I glanced at the young lady standing metres away from me and noticed she had nothing to protect her from the coming rain.
She had folded her arms and was looking worriedly at the sky confused at what to do. Then she looked in my direction, a bothered frown creasing her face.
I held up the big umbrella, snapped it open and motioned her to come and join me under it.
Thankfully she hurried up to stand with me under the umbrella.
All around us the raindrops began thrashing the dust, dirt and asphalt on the long stretching road; wind blew almost hoisting her gown which she held down cautiously. She was actually having a hard time doing that because she needed to fold her arms to keep warm at the same time. The sleeveless nature of her gown didn’t help matters.
I felt for her.
A merciless rainfall was enough to dampen any good-looking girls pride and prestige.
Ignited by a gentlemanly instinct, I took off my jacket and offered it to her.
She gave me a surprised look and declined with the mien that she was taking too much from me. I insisted, telling her that the rest of my clothing was thick enough to keep me warm.
She looked at the jacket as though she was reluctant but I could see in her eyes how she longed to get into it. I didn’t wait for her to eventually decide and quickly draped it over her shoulders.
She was thankful and the sincerity was rife on her face and in her voice.
As the rain gathered more momentum, there was need for us to draw closer to each other under the umbrella in order to escape intruding drops that splashed about and threatened to hit us beneath the umbrella.
I had to put my hand round her shoulder to en able me hold the umbrella more comfortably and also to allow more covering for her than for me.
In our moment of closeness, I could perceive the sweet scent of her hair oil along with another nice scent which I couldn’t be sure if it was a deodorant, powder or body cream. She had a petite figure which made it easy for me to shield her from much of the rain.
The closeness of our bodies seemed to generate some heat; a welcome development in the growing chilly condition around us.
I’ve often heard that during rainy seasons human hormones are affected somewhat to want to copulate or engage in some sort of physical affinity. I can’t say if this is true or if that was the case in this scenario but as the rain got worse, we got closer…and it was beginning to feel uncomfortably good.
I asked her where she was headed to divert our consciousness from the unusual close positioning, and also to determine what to call at the first cab that showed up. It turned out we were headed the same way.
Eventually a cab arrived and we got in quickly.
It was evident throughout the journey that the rain was heavy everywhere.
I decided that she take the umbrella and my jacket home and return it to Priye’s address the following day.
She declined again, shocked at the extent to which I was sacrificing my comfort for hers. I reassured her that it was nothing and got her to agree.
She was very thankful and promised to bring them back.
And she did.
And it led to the beginning of a relationship.
I sat still watching her. My eyes travelled over her face, her eyes, shiny cheekbones and thin yet vibrant mouth.
Yes. She really did look very much like that first day we had met, though more matured.
It would have turned out to become a good relationship if I hadn’t gotten carried away by the juicy job offer that suddenly came my way later; a job for which I sacrificed our relationship while thinking that I’d meet ‘better’ girls later on.
I would later lose that job after being implicated in a scandal with a female senior manager who set me up for sexual assault after I refused to give in to her seductions and invitations for after-hour romps in her office.
It hurt to think of what I’d lost with the job – the official car, material benefits, allowances…
But now…it hurt more to think of the relationship I’d sacrificed for the job.
And now, here she was before my eyes; her life totally changed, surrounded by glamour and fame while I struggled with an income twice lower than the initial job – poverty, threatening to make mincemeat out of me every passing day.
This was my punishment for living life carelessly on the fast lane.
I took one last look at her on the TV screen as she beautifully played out her role in a high budget Nollywood flick before picking up the remote and switching off the set. I then strolled out onto the balcony of my rented mini-flat to gaze at the full moon in the night sky.
It glowed back at me like a medal of shame awarded to me for my bad decisions in life.
I remembered that rainy evening when we were in the cab and she was about to alight. The rain had reduced to spastic drizzles, a rather safer intensity. The clouds had cleared and night had crept in to reveal a lovely full moon in the sky.
That day, it glowed like a medal of achievement for me; a medal of discovering love that would last…if I allowed it.
Before she came down from the cab, she had turned to me on a sudden realization.
‘You never told me your name.’
I smiled at her thoughtfulness. In the whole melee of escaping the weather from bus stop to cab, we had never thought of exchanging our names.
‘I’m Richard…and you?’
She returned the smile, sweeter than mine.
‘I’m Genevieve…Genevieve Nnaji.’