Tomorrow was the d-day, the day Akpan has waited for since the day he first set his eyes on her; Emem.
Closing his eyes, he could see her well-formed waist and the beads showing through those gowns that she loved to wear, those short gowns which also showed off her long legs which seemed to go on and on.
He smiled as he remembered the first day he had seen her. It was on the 4th of January. His master had just brought him from home to serve as his helper, and he had been introduced to Emem. He was pretty sure he heard angels sing the moment she mentioned his name, repeating it with a smile after her father had introduced them.
She had shown him to his room, and had made sure he was comfortable. She smiled at his attempt to impress her with his broken English, and had switched to the local dialect so he could also switch, making him love her more. What more could a man want than a wife who knows when to protect his pride?
Seeing her each day had shown him all her beautiful features, both inside and out, he couldn’t hold it in anymore, he had to tell someone.
One reason he quickly felt at home in his master’s house was that everyone there was either from his home, or somewhere close home, and that meant they could speak comfortably with each other, and so in his search for a confidant, he turned to Aniekan.
Aniekan was the gateman who referred to himself as the Chief Security Officer, CSO for short. Akpan had learnt that only God had that post, but he couldn’t argue with Aniekan as nobody else did.
It was Aniekan who told him of the day called Valentine’s Day.
With eyes still closed, and deeply in thought, Akpan frowned when he remembered how Aniekan had laughed at him, accusing him of greed. He advised him to look for a girl who was of his league and leave the master’s daughter alone. It took him three days to convince Aniekan that he was serious, and might fall sick if he doesn’t do something about the love he felt for Emem.
Aniekan told him of his plan to buy a gift for Eno. Eno was a thin girl who Aniekan claimed was the best thing that ever happened to him, since after his mother’s love. The first few minutes in Eno’s presence had told Akpan that he should avoid her, as she kept send him winks.
Aniekan told him Valentine’s Day was close, and he planned on spoiling Eno, he also told him how he planned on throwing her a party on her birthday which was sometime in March, but since that was not his business, Akpan drew the conversation back to Valentine’s Day.
Akpan thanked the spirits of his mother’s village that he had thought it wise to save some money, instead of squandering it all during the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, from which he could buy Emem a gift.
He and Aniekan thought hard and long on what to buy, and decided on a wristwatch. The wristwatch, though beautiful had cost him half of his savings, but he consoled himself with the hope that Emem could hug him in happiness at the sight of the gift.
Her smiles and kind manner convinced him each day that she liked him, maybe not as much as he did her, but she definitely had a soft spot for him.
Feeling the urge to pee, Akpan got off his bed, and unable to help it, went to his drawer, as he has done innumerable times, to look at the wristwatch, after which he went to pee, while he whistled.
Getting back into bed, he closed his eyes and slept off, tomorrow was going to be a great day.
* * *
“Em… Emem, I bought something for you,” Akpan said, his palms suddenly sweaty. Aniekan who had promised to give him support had cancelled at the last minute, saying Eno needed him. Akpan just took it as another reason to hate her. He had almost aborted the mission, but Aniekan had told him that it was either today or never, so here he was. Wishing he could disappear. “Happy Valentime,” he explained.
“You bought me a gift?” Emem asked, truly surprised, choosing to ignore the mistake in Akpan’s words. It had been obvious from the onset that he had a crush on her, but she never expected a gift, she didn’t even know he knew about Valentine’s Day.
While Ogbu was somewhere avoiding her calls, here was someone else giving her a gift, and a beautiful one too, she thought, after unwrapping it. “Thank you,” she said with a bright smile, feeling a little better after Ogbu’s disappointment.
Her smile was Akpan’s undoing.
“I love you, talk your own.”
Immediately the words left Akpan’s mouth, realization set in. He had done it; the very thing Aniekan had warned him not to do.
Aniekan had told him that contrary to what was believed at home, classy girls didn’t fall for that line, and had made him swear he wouldn’t use it. He had gladly sworn. And yet the words had found a way to slip out.
Akpan could see that the smile was frozen on her face.
“I… I am sorry, d… don’t talk your own, b… but I love you,” he stuttered, trying to salvage the situation.
The smile returned on Emem’s face and she leaned over and kissed his cheek, rooting him on the spot, before turning to go back into the house.
Akpan made the decision immediately; the kiss was all the sign he needed. He would forget about Ekaete back home, she would have to understand. She was also free to fall in love with someone else as he has done.
It wasn’t until he recounted his eventful day while lying on his bed that he realized that Emem had not said she loved him too.
“Okay,” he spoke to the empty room, feeling stupid, “I have not broken up with Ekaete yet. Besides I can love two women as an African man.”
Placing his palm on his left cheek, just where Emem had kissed him, he smiled. He had bargained for a hug but he got a kiss.
It was his first Valentine experience, and it was worth it.
He slept off with the smile on his face.
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