The first time I saw Donald was in my office.
I was running late to work on that day which was unusual as I try to keep up with time in every area of my life.
But as unscripted as life could be, my car tire went flat barely twenty minutes after driving out of my house.
Whether the tire had been flat the night before or just that morning, I do not know, but as I wheeled down the streets of Gbagada, an okada man riding past started to flag me down, making gestures towards the lower part of my car.
I was forced to swerve to the side of the road, pack and inspect what he was pointing at.
It turned out to be a flat.
“Oh, God!” I exclaimed, lifting my hand to my forehead. “Not right now.”
I glanced down at my wristwatch; it was almost 8 a.m. I was supposed to be at work by 8 a.m.
Refusing to think of the workload that sat waiting on my desk and lined up clients I had fixed appointments with, I walked around to my car, hunched inside, and withdrew my cellphone from my purse.
I dialed my mechanic, Chidi, and placed the cellphone to my ear.
He picked up on the second ring.
“Good morning ma,” he greeted.
I still did not like it when people addressed me as ‘ma’; it reminded me that I was a 36-year-old woman with no husband or a child.
“Good morning,” I responded. “I have a flat tire o, and I was on my way to work.”
“Eiya, na for where you dey?”
“I dey Bale street, for this GTBank side, this side wey Crunches eatery dey, the new Crunches, you fit come?”
“Na now I just dey come shop–”
“Abeg just try for me, ehn? Emabino”
He hesitated for a while, then said, “Oya, I dey come.”
I ended the call and leaned against the car in wait for him, tapping my left foot impatiently against the sandy ground.
He arrived about 40 minutes after and got straight to work.
Poor me, I didn’t know how to change a tire.
He retrieved the spare from my boot, and in less than 10 minutes, he was done replacing the punctured one with the new one.
“Thank you,” I said gratefully, pulling out five mints of one thousand naira notes from my wallet and handing it to him.
“God go bless you,” I said.
“Thank you madam.”
He collected the money and wheeled the punctured tire while I hurriedly got around into the car.
I glanced at him through the rearview mirror as I tugged the seat belt over me. He was hailing down an okada with the punctured tire balanced between his legs.
I made a mental note to pass by his shop at the close of work to receive it; he should have fixed it by that time.
I started the car ignition and drove away.
By the time I got to my office in Ikeja, it was past 10 a.m.
“Good morning ma,” my secretary rose to her feet as I breezed into the building.
“Good morning,” I responded, glancing at the four persons seated in wait for me.
Donald, as I would later get to know him, was one of those persons.
“Good morning,” I said casually to my waiting clients and hastened my steps into my office.
I blew my hands over my face to dry out the sweat prickling over my makeup. I breathed out in the process, calming my nerves.
Time is money; I really hated being late.
I picked up the intercom and called the secretary’s desk.
“Please ask the first client to come in,” I demanded. Then, I replaced the receiver, picked up the air conditioner’s remote control, and clicked it on.
He pushed the door open as I was placing the remote back on my desk.
“Good morning, madam.”
Did I really look that old that even a stranger would address me as ma? Or was it due to my position? I would never get used to that word.
“Good morning, please sit,” I pointed to the black chair across my table.
He sat down while I pulled out my notepad and pen from the drawer beneath my desk.
I held the pen over the book and looked at him questionably, ready to take instructions.
As an event planner, people came to me to help plan their events, and Donald, in particular, had called the office a day before, but because I was out on location, my secretary asked him to come in today.
He was a really tall person – hard not to notice with a well-trimmed beard.
“It’s my ma’s 60th birthday, and we just want something very formal but nice.”
I scribbled down the words formal’, ‘nice,’ and ’60th’. “Okay?”
“My siblings are busy, and out of Lagos so I’m sure she is not really expecting anything, we want this to be a surprise, big enough to knock her off her feet,” he finished.
I nodded, jotting down on my paper.
When I lifted my head, I asked him. “Will that be all?”
“For now, yes. We’ll keep in touch as you go on with the planning.”
“When is this party coming up?”
“In three weeks.”
I clenched my teeth.
“What?” he inquired, a glimmer of awareness dancing in his eyes. “Short notice?”
I nodded, smiling. “I prefer my clients to make bookings a month prior, November is already tight for me as it is.”
“But,” I spread my palms in the air. “I’ll squeeze you in.”
“But it will cost you.”
“Of course,” He smiled, exposing well-aligned teeth. “Let me have your personal number and account details,” he said, shifting in his chair.
I would give him my business line specifically bought and registered for that purpose, just like I did to every other client. But, when I opened my mouth to speak, I was reciting my personal number, the one my family and friends had, ‘personal,’ just like he demanded.
Was it the chocolate skin, broad shoulders, or the rich woody-scenting perfume he wore? But I wore an equally expensive perfume, and he wasn’t the first handsome man to be sitting in my chair. “…635141” I completed.
“Got it,” he said. “Calling you.”
My smartphone vibrated in my purse, and I reached into the bag and pulled it out.
“Saving it….what should I save it a—”
“Donald,” he said. “Donald Agu.”
I nodded. “Okay….done.”
He rose to his feet and extended his hand for a shake.
I shook it, and he said, “We’ll talk. Send me everything.”
“Okay,” I replied.
He nodded, withdrew his hand, and walked out of my office.
I heaved a sigh and turned a new page on my notepad, ready to meet the next client.
Three weeks was not a lot of time to plan a party, especially given the other things I had on my itinerary, so I started the very next day.
First, we needed a location; I had some good ideas, so I called Donald to go over some of the places with him.
“Let me come over, let’s go look at them together,” he suggested.
“Okay,” I agreed.
He arrived at my office and suggested that we go in his car, promising to bring me back after the tour.
I got into his Range Rover Velar, a solid car with a dashing interior, but I equally had a nice car of my own, so material things didn’t impress me much; I worked hard to give myself most of these things already.
“How are you?” He was asking.
“Very well,” I answered, flipping my 26 inches weave to my back. “You?”
“Good,” he replied, watching the monitor as he started to reverse out of the premises. “A client of mine flaked this morning.”
“Sorry to hear.”
“Thanks, these things happen.” he glanced behind him as he reversed the car out to the road, then shifted the gear into drive and stepped on the gas pedal.
“So, what do you do?” I was asking for conversation’s sake.
“I’m a real Estate Developer,” he responded, turning down the stereo’s volume.
“Nice. How’s that going?”
“We have our days, but can’t complain.” he smiled at me, “Which way?”
“V.I. There are three locations I think you would like.”
“Sounds interesting already.”
“Turn right. We’ll first go to the one at Q lounge.”
Mr. Eazi’s ‘Anointing’ came on the stereo, and I began to nod to the song’s rhythm.
He shot me a glance before returning his eyes to the road. “You like it eh?”
I nodded, “I do.” And he turned up the volume.
“Eazi is a good singer, I like him too.”
The speakers boomed as we cruised towards our destination.
As I continued to bob my head to the music, I checked him out through the corner of my left eye. The guy was fine sha! He wore a dark blue long-sleeve kaftan, which perfectly fit his sturdy physique.
I wondered who his girlfriend was, or girlfriends, as it was common with men.
He definitely wasn’t married, my eyes slid to his left finger for confirmation, and there was no ring sign. But many married men these days don’t wear wedding bands.
“Will your wife be in attendance?” I rolled my eyes at the silliness of my own question.
But how else was I going to ask if he was married without looking so obvious? He was my client; it really wasn’t any of my business.
He chuckled. “I’m not married. Too young,” he added with a side glance at me.
Too young? I eyed him up and down to try to ascertain what he meant.
“I will cross that bridge when I am probably in my mid thirties.”
Wait! He wasn’t yet 30?
“How old are you then?” The words slipped out before I could restrain them.
I was staring at him; arms crossed over my middle. I don’t know what I was feeling, astonishment or plain disappointment; I mean, I was crushing on this guy just a few minutes ago.
“I am 30,” he announced.
My brows popped, and my heart dropped.
Quick math, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, I was five years older.
I could not hide my shock,
“Is there a problem?” he inquired.
“Em no,” I said, returning my eyes to the road.
Just when I thought I had met a potential boyfriend, this guy was too young; joke’s on me!.
“Yeah,” I faked a smile, “I’m good.”
“A-A-And we’re here!” he announced, pulling up in front of Q lounge. “Traffic decided to be a friend today,” he grinned, turning off the ignition.
I shot him a pretend smile and began unbuckling my seat belt.
“But 30 is not bad na!” Bisola insisted, flipping her hands.
We were at a restaurant; we had just finished our meal and sat sipping on drinks.
“That’s because you are dating a twenty-nine-year-old guy.”
“En heh? So what? See babes let me tell you, age is nothing but a number, it’s only in Naija that we carry this age thing on our head, look at all these yankee celebs na, dem no send! How old is Dwayne? T-that Gabrielle Union’s husband, are they not happy? Did they tell you that the guy did not see younger girls his age? But he chose to be with her and they even just welcomed a child….”
“En heh! Ei matter? Babes see forget all those things. If you like that guy, just shoot your shot.”
“Hmm,” I took a sip from my drink. “But you know these Lagos guys na, I’m sure he has one serious girlfriend somewhere.”
“Ehn, you too you will be serious na. In fact, your own seriousness will surpass her own…”
I chuckled helplessly.
“He is not even married so it’s not like there is an issue there. See, any man that has not carried a girl to the altar is available..”
She flipped her hand. “Ah! Yes na!” she turned her face to the side and added quietly, “Even the married men sef, some of them are just unhappy there.”
“So I should now be the giver of joy abi? Babes, at my age, I cannot afford to be with a married man, we don do those things before na, ei no get head. Stolen moments are not a life abeg.”
“Ehn then go and be with Donald na. No dey reason him age, it’s no-thang but a number,” she stressed, lifting her glass to her lips. “Shebi he has money?”
“It looks like it. I sent him the charges for his mother’s party and he didn’t complain about a thing.”
“Oho! My dear you don’t have a problem,” she concluded, taking a sip from the glass.
I chuckled. I loved her.
I was gliding my cursor over web pages on my laptop, seeking new ideas for interior decorations, when my smartphone chimed next to me. That was the phone that carried my personal line; my business sim was on a different phone.
I picked up the phone and got a mushy feeling as I read the caller.
“Hello Donald,” I answered, placing the handset to my ear.
“Hey, how are you?”
“Busy, but fine.”
“Busy is good. So talk to me, where are we on our planning?”
“The venue has been paid for. I’ve contacted the catering team, and they are on board too..”
“My mother won’t be eating any carbs, she’s a vegetarian.”
“I remember, that information has been delivered to the caterers.”
“My team of decorators are shopping for items as we speak.”
“That’s good. My elder sister should be in Lagos by Monday, I’m sure she would like to meet with you when she comes, I don’t think she trusts me completely to pull this whole thing off,” there was amusement in his voice.
I smiled to myself. “I understand, a meeting with her would be fine.”
“So, you’ve still got the MC and the D.J. yes?”
“Okay.” I said, and he didn’t say anything else.
Silence fell between us, but it wasn’t a weird kind of silence, it was soothing.
I could feel him quiet at the other end of the phone. It was one of those moments that you really did not want to pass so I waited, instinctively smiling with my finger drawing invisible circles on my desk.
“It’s one week left to the birthday,” he stated, finally breaking the silence.
“Yeah,” I muttered.
“When all of this is over, we should talk.”
I bit my lip and blushed at the possibility of the meaning of those words, but I chose to feign ignorance. “I thought we were already doing so.”
“This will be different.”
I lifted my hand to my lips to stop myself from chuckling out loud. Why was I acting like a 16-year-old, though? The guy in question was still younger than me.
I comported myself, and in the most indifferent tone, I replied, “Okay.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay,” I said again when he won’t drop the call.
Seconds of silence passed, then he said. “Maybe okay would be our always?”
My eyes popped with excitement, What! Why would he say that to me? Was this a joke? Could he possibly have meant that? I mean, I haven’t even gone on one date with this person.
I paused, thought about what I wanted my response to be, and then, in all sincerity, I said, “Okay.”
I was watching the decorators set up the venue. I wore white jeans with a red t-shirt and red sneakers. My weave was held up in a bun due to the Lagos heat.
I stood at the end of the hall, giving orders and glancing down at my wristwatch. Donald’s sister was going to be meeting me here today.
He had two siblings that I gathered from the names he emailed me for the guest list.
There was his sister who was meeting me today and one brother who would be coming in from the States with his wife and 11-month-old baby.
“Ah, don’t do that!” I cautioned one of the decorators struggling with lifting a chandelier. “Let Emma help you, abi you want to break it? You cannot carry it alone na.”
“Ma?” my assistant called behind me.
I whirled around. “Yes?”
“Mr. Donald’s sister is here.”
“Oh!” My heart skipped a bit, only because I liked her brother.
Who knows? I may just be about to meet my future sister-in-law.
“Where is she?”
I saw a tall older woman with glowing light skin, auburn weave, Ankara dress, and stiletto heels gracefully strolling towards me.
“Hi,” she smiled, holding out her hand. “You must be Jane.”
I shook it, returning her smile. “I am, and you must be Donald’s sister.”
“Yes, Amaka,” she grinned, staring me up and down. She was definitely sizing me up. “He’s told me so much about you.”
“Good things, I hope?”
“Oh, only good things!” her smile held more than her words were saying.
She shifted her focus to the hall and ran her eyes over the space. “I like it.”
“The colors are nice. Was that you or Donald?”
“Both of us, but more of him.”
“Aha!” she remarked, shooting me a glance from the corner of her eyes. “Covering up for him already.”
She hands up. “I didn’t say anything, take me through everything, will you?”
We smiled and started to stroll further into the hall.
*** DONALD’S POV***
I relocated back to Nigeria, and it seemed like every girl I met was there to leach. It became clear that many of them were that way, dressed pretty, wore lengthy weaves, believed that owning an iPhone for some reason ranked them higher in life, and sat around waiting on the next rich guy who would be their sponsor.
Yet as flashy as they were, many could not hold an interesting conversation or keep you intrigued for up to 30 minutes.
The sex was good, but it seemed like that was all they had to offer.
I was starting to wonder when I would meet a woman that had substance, a woman who was not so basic, someone who actually believed in working and earning the things she desired, not that I had a problem providing for my woman, but it gave me profound satisfaction knowing that she had her own thing going for her, and that was when I stumbled upon Jane’s portfolio.
It popped up as an advertisement, and I still thank whatever gave me the urge to click on it.
I had been looking up event planners on Instagram, so when I went through Jane’s page, I was impressed. I liked the work she had done for others; her décor and planning were exquisite in pictures.
As I continued to scroll through her page, I stumbled upon a photo of hers, smiling broadly behind a desk in what I presumed to be her office.
I stared at that photo for a good five minutes.
It was one of those moments where you see someone for the very first time, and you take a liking to them. You really, really like them.
She had to plan my ma’s party, I decided, but more than that, I had to meet her.
So I called the number on her profile, and it was her office. I introduced myself, expressed my purpose for calling, and was immediately booked for an appointment.
Monday came, and I put everything on hold at my office. Hers was my first destination.
She had a clean office space, it wasn’t a large building, but it didn’t need to be; the space was just fine for the nature of her job. The entire place was neat with attractive paintings.
When a brown-skinned lady rushed into the office, panting lightly with tiny beads of sweat sitting on her makeup without smearing, I recognized her to be Jane.
She was just as I recalled from her Instagram photo, only taller. A tall curvy woman blessed moderately in the front and at the back.
I was certain then that I had come to the right place.
I was engrossed watching her that I was too carried away to respond when she greeted us.
It didn’t take long before the receptionist asked me to go into her office.
Sitting in her chair, talking with her, I could not help but admire how beautiful she was.
She had the kind of beauty that was not created by layers of powder. She didn’t wear much of it anyway, and you could tell that even if the powder came off, she would still have her pointed nose, wide-set eyes, full lips, and high cheekbones.
I asked deliberately for her personal number that day because I had personal plans.
That day in my car, as I drove us to look at venues, I could tell that she was disappointed at my age; maybe she had hoped that I was older, given my body stature.
I already knew that she was 35; I had my sources and didn’t mind her age. I had always been attracted to older women anyway – they were more mature and put together; I dated a few back in the States.
From what I knew about her so far, she ticked most of the qualities I wanted in my woman – beautiful, successful, and humble.
After tonight, I would make my move, and I hoped that she won’t let the age affect her decision because when I told her that okay would be our always, I meant it.
My sister even approved of her, and she didn’t do that to many of the girls I liked in the past.
Tonight, after ma’s party, I would tell her. But right now, as I shrugged into my jacket in preparation for the night, I had no idea what I was going to say to her.
“Are you sure it’s fine?!” I complained to Bisola as I stood in front of the mirror in my apartment.
She was here for moral support.
“Babes this dress is fine na,” she approved, running her eyes up and down my body as if searching to find a fault, “Is it not the same Didiekanem that has been making your dresses that made this one?”
“She is but—”
“There is no but,” she walked around to my back, placed her hands on my shoulders, and looked at me through the mirror. “You need to stop worrying. I’m sure he would love it.”
“Yes, I promise, Now go! You don’t want to be late for a party you planned, especially since it is your future mother-in-law’s party,” she joked, and we burst out laughing.
She dropped to the bed, and I turned to her. “I wish you would come with me.”
“He did not invite me, plus, I do not want to be a third wheel. I’ve got my man to see tonight.”
I sighed, stepped back in front of the mirror, straightened my hands down my dress, and turned around to face her. “Wish me luck.”
“You’ve already got it. Go!” she waved me off.
I crouched forward, embraced her, then made for the door.
Soft jazz music played in the cozily lit hall.
White chairs beautifully put around round tables decorated in black pleated skirts. Utensils correctly set on each table. Sitting on each silver charger plate was a black knot napkin fold.
In the middle of every table next to the table number sat a floral centerpiece and tea light flameless floating candles.
Ma’ had a separate table overlooking the rest of the tables. It was rectangular, fully decorated with centerpieces, candles, and drinks.
There were chairs for all three of her children and grandchildren, and Hers was a black queen chair.
Jane really outdid herself with this décor, a black and white affair, and everything looked good.
There were female waiters in black jeans, white long-sleeved shirts, and black bow ties attending to the arriving guests and showing them to their seats.
We were expecting 70 people, and it looked like we already had over 30 scattered in the hall, including my sister’s two kids and my brother with his family.
My sister herself was home with ma, tasked with the duty of whisking her here. So far, we had planned this whole thing without her knowing.
I was standing in the center of the hall, glass of wine in hand, greeting guests, but every time someone walked through either of the entrances, I would hope that it was Jane. I hadn’t seen her all night yet, and I could hear my heart racing, every pound, in my chest.
I had searched for a woman like Jane, and now that I had found her, I could not wait to have her… if she would have me too.
“Attention ladies and gentlemen,” the voice of the MC rang over the microphone. “I’m getting news that the celebrant is just arriving, her car is pulling up in the parking lot as I speak. I would like everyone to gather around over there and be quiet for a moment, this is meant to be a surprise, she would come in blindfolded, and when the mask comes off, we would all scream a unison happy birthday. So please kindly gather over there, close to the entrance….yes,…..yes, thank you. Mr. DJ, please keep the music playing, but turn down the volume….yes, that’s it… that’s it. Everyone, maintain silence, they are walking towards the hall.”
My nieces and nephews were standing beside me, my brother and his wife at the forefront of the crowd.
Everyone’s eyes watched the door, waiting for ma to come through.
And there she was, coming towards the large door, blindfolded and guided by my sister.
What I had not expected to see, however, was Jane, trailing behind them.
She had on a white sleeveless bodycon dress that stopped just above her knees, with legs that went on forever. I thought I had never seen her looking more beautiful.
“Happy birthday!” the crowd echoed behind me. I had been gazing at Jane that I missed the unveiling of my mother’s eyes.
Everyone began to clap and cheer.
My mother was shocked, exclaiming at the sight of everyone she knew, embracing them, laughing happily.
I was clapping, but my eyes were on Jane. And she was looking back at me, with a small smile on her lips.
I broke my hands-free and strolled closer to ma. “Happy birthday, ma,” I said, embracing her.
“So you too?” she pointed the finger at me, laughing, “You were in on it!”
“Mummy Donald is the mastermind behind this event,” my sister explained.
“Ah! God will bless you my son!” she embraced me again.
When I withdrew from her arms, Jane had disappeared into the crowd.
I led my mother to the table amongst clapping guests and resumed music.
The celebration went on seamlessly. Jane would whisk in and out of the hall; she was barely sitting.
How she could work so hard in those heels was beyond me.
When the D.J. called for the closing dance, I first danced with ma. And as soon as my older brother took over from me, I went in search of Jane.
I found her sitting, thankfully, alone at the extreme end of the hall, sipping on a glass of cream whiskey.
I bowed to her, one arm crossed behind my back and the other held out to her.
“May I have this dance?” Donald was asking.
It had been a successful night, but my feet were killing me in those heels. I was tired, but even though my feet hurt, I could manage a dance with Donald. I would do it, even if it were the last thing I had to do.
“Yes, you may,” I placed my hand in his and he led me to the dance floor.
He outstretched my left hand and placed his free hand below the shoulder blade at my back. I placed mine on his waist, and we began to move slowly to Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight.
I was looking up into his deep brown eyes, and he was staring down into mine. He looked like a brown snack in his Tuxedo, ready to be eaten.
And that perfume he wore, it engulfed my senses!
My tender hand stayed clasped in his strong hand.
Standing this close, feeling his breath down on my face, I wished this dance won’t come to an end.
He was such a beautiful man.
I forgot about the pain in my feet. I forgot about the people in the room, it was just Donald and me.
“You look so beautiful,” he whispered.
“Thank you,” I responded, my throat parched.
“I like your hair this way, the way it falls down the side of your neck, all the way to your back.”
I half smiled, completely feeling moist within my thighs. It was hard not to, given the chilly atmosphere, alcohol in my system, this fine tall, broad-shouldered man holding me, and that song, oh that song!
“I might kiss you,” he declared.
“I might like it,” I responded, and he leaned down and closed the gap between us.
His mouth felt warm, and his tongue tasted sweet.
People started to whistle and clap. We broke free, pinned our heads, and giggled.
“You want to get out of here?”
I nodded, feeling shy to lift my head.
“One minute,” he said as he pulled away.
I watched him whisper something into his beaming mother’s ears, pecked her cheek, and hurried toward me. He arrested my wrist, and the people cheered as he whisked me out of the hall.
We ran towards the elevator, and he hastily closed us in. Then he took my face in his hands with a serious gleam across his face.
“I want to be with you Jane, would you do me the honor of being my woman?”
Those words, that request!
I nodded with a wide grin across my lips.
I was going to follow up with a ‘yes,’ but he crashed his lips down on mine in a sensual kiss, and at that moment, no more words were needed.