Sometimes it really is as plain as this…
“You like me”.
In that split second, Kwabena felt his head heat up as a cold wave swept down his body.
Janice stood mere inches away from him as she leaned against the doorway with her arms crossed, that strange smile turning up a corner of her mouth.
Don’t get me wrong – she was no mean slice of woman, Janice, and boy did Kwabena know it. Putting her freshly manicured fingers, stylish perm cut, near-form fitting but smart work attire and pretty dimple in her right cheek together, in light of her crisp dadabee accent and half-co heritage, she was sure to score well over an 8.5 on the Universal Fine-ness Scale as far as any red-blooded male could judge, Kwabena inclusive.
It was not as if the thought hadn’t crossed his mind also, to be fair…Understatement of the Year! There had been more than a few times, in between power crunch meetings in the Break Room with the other young executives and staff, and during lunch in a group when he would catch himself staring at her as she spoke and gestured, when he felt he let a friendly eye-to-eye glance linger just a moment longer than it needed to, or when he would find himself drawn almost irresistibly to her in the elevator as he surreptitiously breathed in the woody scent of her hair…the man was well and truly smitten.
Truth be told, it made him feel like a stalker at times but he just couldn’t help himself. Three and a half months into this new appointment and he was as lost as the school fees of the son of a drunkard.
In fact, barely 3 weeks prior to this exciting episode, he’d started having dreams of her –peculiarly only when he somehow tried to catch forty winks at work. It reached a point where he wasn’t sure if he was sleeping more at work because he was up all night catching up on extra work at home, or if he was up all night catching up on work just so he could have more time to sleep the next day at work.
Evidently, the next step would be asking her out to get to know her better – mind before heart, just like Sitso would say – so he could get to know if there was something truly there apart from this blinding physical attraction. There was only one problem – whenever he saw her, his carefully crafted words would spontaneously evaporate into thin air! At those times, one would be justified in wondering if his Masters Degree in Communication had been spent in mastering Plaster of Paris instead! In fact, at those moments, he could give the bona fide mute a healthy run for their money!
Leonard was the only one of his colleagues he’d trusted enough to share his plight with – old school buddy and all. Now if you knew Leonard, you’d understand just how desperate he must have been to do so that weekend at their corporate retreat at the Royal Senchi.
“Ei Kobe!’” he’d burst out laughing at the breakfast table they’d both secured in the corner on the second day. “You aim high papa!” he then paused to look around before lowering his voice and continuing in a conspiratorial manner.
“This girl who the CFO has been chasing over the past year since she joined us, nso still! Massa, forget about it. Upon all his money and things, she no dey give am face, and you think you’ll make any progress with your 2013 Cerato and 2-bedroom flat? Ah, you paa!”
Crestfallen, he’d decided to try and step back from the (mostly non-verbal) friendship he’d managed to have with Janice from then on. It finally made sense of the manner in which Mr. Agyarko had been throwing dark looks at him across their conference table at executive meetings in the past few weeks that he’d tried to become somewhat close to Janice.
He tried to squash it all but it only made him more miserable than usual. In fact, he’d even begun considering whether to start binding and casting out those dreams when they began because waking up to realise that his tongue was still tied around her and she was still the subject of interest of his boss – unlike in the dreams where every word from his lips would make her laugh and Mr. Agyarko dared not trespass – was exquisitely painful.
He’d just returned from the washroom after lunch to his small office and was shortly anticipating his usual afternoon nap when he heard a light tap on his door. Uncharacteristically, he’d gone to open the door himself and there she was! In a split second he wondered if he’d started dreaming already, but there was so much detail in this version of her before him that he knew this was the real deal – so of course, his common sensibilities fled away almost immediately.
“You like me”, she repeated.
“Uhmm…I, er, huh?”, he finally managed to sputter, stepping away from the doorway as he backed into his desk and away from her. He leaned against his desk, silently thanking God for the abundant melanin in his African pigmentation that made blushing an impossibility – he knew otherwise that he’d be lit up like a Christmas tree decoration, seeing as his A/C all of a sudden seemed to be malfunctioning.
“Erm, I like you? Why, erm, why would you think that?” he asked, desperately trying to find his cool again.
“Oh really? You want to play that game now?”, she teased, stepping into his office and driving him a little bit closer to the edge, even as she came a step closer to him. “Okay. I’d like you to know that I know you usually get to work by 7:20am, give or take 5 minutes every morning. I look forward to those elevator rides too.”
Kwabena’s eyes opened wide as his jaw dropped in surprise.
“Huh?! You really know! Why didn’t you say anything then??”
“Well, I’m saying it now – Kobe, I know that you like me”
He finally let a little smile out with the pent up breath he didn’t know he was holding, passing his hand over his short-cropped hair in relief, relaxing a bit. He let go a deep sigh, and in that split second decided to lay all his cards on the table.
“Janice, I’m sorry for the near-stalkerish behaviour. I just couldn’t help myself,” he began, staring down into his palms. Hearing her chuckle, he lifted his head to see her with a twinkle in her eyes to match as she beamed. Encouraged somewhat, he continued.
“There’s just something about you that I haven’t seen in years in any woman I’ve come across – you’re intelligent, driven, easy to talk to, non-judgemental, and of course beautiful. I admit, I had a few misconceptions about you at first from a distance, but seeing you at the Soup Kitchen we organised last Republic Day as you interacted with the unfortunate showed me another side of you I couldn’t ignore. So, yes Janice, I like you.”
Just then she furled her eyebrows, sending him into a spiral of worry.
“And yet it took you so long to say anything, Kobe? What if I was bringing you my wedding invitation card? I’ve heard you speaking a lot of times both formally and informally – you can’t tell me it was just an advanced case of PoP! Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You’re totally right there. I uh…I was a little bit intimidated. Imagine small fry me competing with my Boss for the affections of the office beauty – I did the calculations and it didn’t really add up. Why are you laughing?!”
She’d started laughing halfway into his reply and was just managing to keep it under control by covering her mouth with her right hand as she shook her head mockingly.
“I’m sorry Kobe, I’m not really laughing at you like that. It’s just that I didn’t think this would affect both categories of men I might meet here.” Sensing his confusion, she lifted her right hand slightly and continued.
“Let me explain. Virtually none of the staff here know that Mr. Agyarko is actually my uncle, my mother’s brother, and we decided to keep it on the quiet side so no one thought I was getting any special favours because of him. I still manage to see him a few more times than one would expect though, and that sparked off a few rumours around here – I’m sure one or two made their way to you.”
Kobe couldn’t believe what his ears were hearing! There was No Competition! He beamed from ear to ear at the news. “Are you serious?!”
“Sure I am Kobe. I thought it was an added benefit that some unwanted attention could be shifted off me in light of the rumours so I could face my work undisturbed. I didn’t think it would also dissuade the good ones from coming closer too. Maybe I didn’t think so because even some of the other shady characters managed to come forward – those ones I had to dispatch in quick order.”
“Really? Even in light of your uncle’s well-placed Stares of Impending Doom during meetings?!” She laughed at that and it was nothing but sweetest music to his ears.
That bloody jackass, Kwabena thought internally. Aboa bɛka wo a na ofra ntoma ampa!
“Is that so? Anyway, I’m sorry for being chicken Janice. I won’t let others’ opinions scare me away ever again. Can I start making it up to you this evening at my favourite restaurant?”
“Wow, look who’s got his, erm… mojo back all of a sudden” Janice squinted her eyes at him mockingly.
“Oh dear me”, Kwabena mocked fanning himself with a hangdog look on his face.”My newfound courage in its infancy, just about to be squashed before it matures…woe is me.”
“Okay, okay, you win!” she burst out laughing at his antics, wiping the false look of self-pity off his face. She swiped a post-it note from his desk and wrote on it before turning round and leaving him without a word.
Leaning back in his chair, Kobe laughed out loud at how his fortunes had changed so utterly in just one day as he read the note she’d attached to her phone number…
They’d been going out for just over 8 months now and Kobe just for the life of him didn’t know how he’d managed to plod on daily without her for so long.
They were visiting her parents for the weekend and after a hearty supper, the cool evening breeze in the backyard garden was just on point. They were sitting in a lazy wicker backyard swing, her legs up in his lap as they leaned back listening to the sounds of nature. At that moment, Kobe realized that there was not a single thing more he could ask for in his world.
“J”, he whispered, turning his head from the setting sun to look at her. She had her favourite magazine covering her eyes as she lay back, which she lifted to look at him then.
“Kobe, what’s up?”
He grinned and said to her, “I know you love me”.
She was stunned for all of a full second before recovering somewhat, sitting up and shaking her head stubbornly “So? That’s not news anyway. I’ve told you so before, and I believe you’ve said so before too.”
Lifting a finger, he reached into his pocket and brought out that same post-it note.
“Remember this? Let me finish.”
Her eyes widened when she recognized the note, but she mimed zipping her mouth closed so he could continue.
“I know you love me, I know you care for me. I know you’ll be there for me before I even know I need you to be. I know you’ll point out my failings to me because you want me to be the best version I can be of me. You always make it all okay, I’d be a fool not to wish for that always. I know you love me and all that, but what I’d really like to know now is if you’d marry me…”
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