The drive home was with little or no words from either of the lovers but Kamal’s mind was busy with memories. He remembered the first time he set eyes on Elsie; he had gone with two of his colleagues to grab some snacks and drinks from the pastry shop on the other side of the road from his office when she walked in – purple dress, black stiletto pumps, dreads, glasses – with a book in one hand and a small purse in the other. She had made straight for the counter, gotten a vegetable sandwich and an iced tea and then settled at a table all by herself, downing her meal and reading the book. The only persons he saw her smile to were the attendants at the counter and the doorman. Kamal was struck by her extreme beauty and poise and he was nursing the idea of going to join her at her table when she got up, used the trash bin and walked out the door. It had been his first time of going to the pastry shop as he just joined that branch of the company he had worked with for three years and he had from that day become an everyday-customer of the shop all because he wanted to keep seeing her.
Elsie’s first words to him were “It’s tufiakwa, not ‘tofiakwo’” after he made a statement in imitation of what someone else had said, and this was after he had shared a table with her for six straight days and done all of the talking.
“You said what?” He asked her after he recovered from the ten second-shock of hearing her speak to him.
“The word is tufiakwa” She responded, looking up from her glass of iced tea.
“Oh… Ok. You’re Ibo?”
“Oh, I see. That’s nice”
She didn’t say anything; instead she got up from her seat, picked up her tray, emptied its contents in the trash bin closest to her and walked out of the shop leaving him with his eyes glued to her back.
Kamal pulled up in front of the fickle gate that ushered one into the compound of the four-bedroom bungalow Elsie shared with her mother and two sisters.
“So I’ll pick you up from work tomorrow?”
“Okay. Don’t forget to confirm our reservation”
“I won’t and even if I do, they should know already”
She smiled, gave him a peck on the cheek and alighted the car.
They sure would know. They had a standing dinner date at La Grande six o’clock every Thursday night and had kept to it for four years of the five years they’ve been together.
Kamal watched her turn around and walk to the gate and made sure the gate was properly shut behind her before he started the engine of his car and began the 35-minute journey to his own house.
Elsie curled up under her wrapper, shut her eyes and willed sleep to snatch away her consciousness for the moment. While she waited on sleep, her mind drifted back to how it all began with the man who had now become a part of her life she couldn’t now imagine being without. Kamal had come at the worst time possible and that was her reason for the nasty attitude she had put up when she met him at the pastry shop. Her dad had just filed for a divorce from her mum and she was having a hard time looking at men with any form of affection. She had promised not to ever allow herself be put in the kind of situation her mum had been – jobless and helpless; she was fortunate to have gotten the house as settlement. Kamal had appeared just three weeks after the divorce was finalized; a time when her heart still burned with passionate hatred for men.
Elsie had deliberately ignored all of his moves and tactics towards her and put up the best of performances as regards being nasty and rude but the man had persisted and stayed. Even as she drifted to sleep alone in her room and under her wrapper five years, three weeks and two days after, Elsie wondered how a man’s persistence could have swept her off her feet and made her forfeit all of her hate-plans for the male folk. It had taken Kamal thirteen days to get her to go on a date with him and from that evening at her favourite ice-cream parlour, their journey of love and romance had begun and she had never had any cause to regret being with him.