For a moment, Dave felt tongue tied. He didn’t respond immediately. Shit! Shit! Shit! He swore inwardly, slapping a palm to his forehead.
“Hello?” Lily prompted into his ear. “Dave? Are you still there?”
He sighed. “Yes.”
“So who…who is Imani?”
“Can we discus this later?”
“No. Now, Dave.” She countered “You just called me another woman’s name!” Her voice rose a notch above the norm. “Six months of dating and just when things are looking up, I get slammed with this? I need to know if I’m wasting my time.”
“I’m sorry, honey. It just slipped out.”
“Answer me, David. Who. Is. Imani?!”
Another sigh. “My ex. She’s my ex, Lily. I ran into her on Friday. At the cinema before I saw your messages.”
“How recent an ex is she?”
“Don’t do this. She’s happily married and has moved on from…”
“And it looks like you’re yet to do the same. How recent, David?!”
“Two years ago.”
“If your answer had been any different, I’d have dropped the issue. Right now, I feel like the rebound chic and slightly worried about our…”
“No. No. No. It’s not like that. I was just…” Gosh! What was he doing? What was wrong with him? What was he saying?
On the other end, Lily waited for the rest of the statement, hoping something in it would redeem him but her man came across as either losing his train of thought or out rightly fibbing to her. What the heck?! They had just spent a rare, amazing weekend together. He had practically shut down and given her his undivided attention and love. No interruptions from official calls or emails. Two hours ago she was grudgingly uber – ing her way out of his Ikeja residence to prepare for the new working week, content their relationship had taken a huge turn in the right direction. And now th…this?!
“I’m sorry.” His voice, inhibiting her thoughts, eventually arrived. “It doesn’t mean anything; she doesn’t mean anything to me.”
“Hmmmm. I need to think.”
“Wait, you were going to say something. That’s why you called. What was it?”
“I don’t remember any more. This has thrown me off.”
“Lily, I love you.”
Dave flung his mobile phone on the cushion beside him. “Shit!” His palms wiped down his face as he leaned back on the couch he sat on. In the self- same moment, his eyes fell on the laptop opened up on the coffee table in front of him, displaying a Facebook page of Imani Ejoh.
Since bumping into her two days ago, thoughts of her roamed his mind, at the most inopportune moments to his utter dismay, while Lily spent the entire weekend. He brooded over seeing her again in the flesh, happy with another man; bound to him even by a ring and vows. Was it him or did the marriage seem to have occurred too soon? Perhaps Ken was a face or friend from her past? That would surely explain away the speed of wedding bliss. She looked happy. They both did. In their little married circle.
Once he had tried out the only number, he still had of her on his mobile phone, to no avail. Several times he had resisted the urge to start a search on the internet and scout all available social media. And Lily had been traipsing in his house. Within touching distance. Warming his bed. It was a mystery he hadn’t goofed earlier on the name mix up.
Immediately Lily left, he whipped out his laptop and had been intent on checking his emails and catching up on work but, somehow, logging into Facebook and looking up Imani’s profile had taken precedence. She still retained her maiden name on the platform, and few photos of her wedding ceremonies showed the colours and excitement of her special day. For a period, he lost himself gazing into her heart shaped face wreathed in smiles as she either twirled around or sat demurely during the proceedings.
It was into this state of mind Lily’s call invaded, failing completely to jar him out of, and calling her Imani.
He buried his face in his palms now. There was no denying it; he was still carrying a torch for Imani. What other reason could there be for this borderline stalking behaviour and runaway thoughts?
If only he hadn’t assumed and just picked up Lily’s call the first time around on Friday. He would have been spared the need to enter the cinema and certainly eliminated the point in history where he ran into Imani and Ken, thus unearthing emotions he thought were dead and buried, making for uneasy relations with Lily.
And he thought there were only two issues in his life to contend with – expanding his business and making Lily happy. Hello to a third, unfinished matter which was also boldly assertive – the ghost of Imani.
He leaned forward and tapped the message icon; a little, blank, rectangular box materialised at the bottom right of the screen with a blinking cursor.
Hey Imani. He typed out. Really good seeing you again. Perhaps we could meet for drinks sometime and catch up?Here’s my number 0803 33…
He clicked the send button before he changed his mind. Then he snatched up his ‘phone and dialled Lily’s number, heaving his weight off the chair simultaneously.
Imani adjusted her head comfortably on Ken’s shoulders and was closing her eyes when her ‘phone beeped once, twice, three times. She’d look at it later, she decided as her husband’s hand snaked around her waist, cradling her closer.
The waiting lounge was in its usual state, buzzing endlessly with human traffic and sounds – voices loud and hoarse, shoes pointed and padded, suitcases wheeled or heaved or dragged, trollies whining past slickly or tiredly, the cacophony of travelling sounds rent the space.
She was tired. She needed to snooze a bit. The weekend had been energetic. Her father’s 73rd had been anything but a quiet affair as she had previously been led to believe. Trust her mother to pull out all the stops in a guise to celebrate and gather family members in one place.
“Aren’t you going to check that, babe?” Close to her ear, Ken’s baritone rumbled in.
She shook her head. “Not now. I’m tired.” Her words in slow tone.
“It could be important.” He said mildly.
“Maybe.” She murmured and snuggled closer.
She didn’t prevent his hand when it extracted her mobile from one of the pockets in front of her jeans dress.
Switching the device from the one around her to the other free hand, he brought the screen up to view, tapping on it gently.
“Dave wants to meet for drinks and catch up.” He read out the message. “He left a number for you to call.”
Her eyelids fluttered open slowly but her head remained nestled on his shoulders. “Is that so?” Her voice sounding less drowsy than earlier.
“Who is he?” His tone held no trace of curiosity.
She straightened to look up at him. “The man you met on Friday. At the movies?”
It took a moment. “Ooooh.” Recall reflected in the baritone. “Your ex.”
Imani’s features expanded in mild surprise. “I never said…how did you…?”
He grinned at her, stroking her pert nose lightly. “Come on, babe. We know these things.” He said. “You didn’t have to say anything. I saw the way he looked at you.” He continued. “Your body language and his told me a few things too.”
“That’s why you didn’t ask about him. It figures. I kept waiting for the question to come.”
“Because I wasn’t worried about your body language. Now his, his was deafening.” He paused. “Was he the one you wouldn’t talk about when I was wooing you?”
“Do you want to talk about him now?”
Fleetingly, she hesitated, then shook her head silently, and resumed her position on his shoulders; his arm found her waist instinctively again.
Thoughts and times of Dave were in her past. There they’d remain; where they rightly belonged. Dusty memories she was unlikely to dredge up. She hadn’t given him a thought in more than a year, after crying him out of her system once they went their separate ways. She promised herself never to be in such a situation again. Running into him two days ago only reinforced her current status – married to a man whose love, care and attention she was in no contest for, and in which she duly basked.
She smiled suddenly, wanly. To think that he’d been in her life all the while as one of her elder brother’s, Andrew, close friends, coolly observing her blossom as the years passed by and subsequently nursing a growing crush on her until it evolved into a deeper emotion.
Their fateful encounter at Andrew’s flat in the UK, a year and a half ago, had brought them in contact again, registering his tall, dark frame, smouldering looks and Barry White tone firmly in her sights and mind, setting in motion the wheels of their relationship. After seeking her brother’s consent, Ken went into full wooing mode.
Though he crossed her mind often after that meeting, she was still surprised, initially, at his attentions towards her. Casually, she mentioned it to her brother who shrugged it away: “He has always liked you. Even joked one day that he’d marry you but felt you were too young then. Didn’t want to upset our friendship too but…I don’t mind. He is one of the good ones.” Andrew rested big, bright eyes like hers on her. “He is also a serious guy, looking to settle down soon. If you”re not game, let him know. Don’t string him al…”
Imani held both her hands up in the air, smiling. “Hey, hey, hey big bruv, whose side are you on?!”
“The side where no one is hurting at the end.”
Four months ago, he stood beside Ken at the altar as the best man, grinning from ear to ear. The night before, he’d asked his sister: “Is this what you want? Are you happy with him?”
She met his gaze, nodding without hesitation. “I love him, bruv.”
And there was no mistake about it. She was happy with the love she’d found with Ken. Dave was a distant memory, from a past she had no plans to revisit; Ken, the future she was tottering into, excitedly, impatiently, lovingly.
“Are you going to reply?” Her husband’s voice brought her back to the lounge humming with its human and machine noises; mostly separately, often combined. He held out the ‘phone.
Moments later, she was tapping into it.
Good to see you too., Dave. Have to take a rain check on that invitation though for whenever Ken and I are back in the country .Take care of you.
“And that’s us.” Ken uttered in the same moment she clicked on _send_ as a voice, over the public address system, announced the details of a BA flight which was beginning its boarding process.