“So for lunch can we have Indomie with lots of plantain? And maybe even like eggs?” I asked the cook.
“Yes madam. What about Oga’s dinner?” he asked.
“We are going out for dinner. No need to worry about that,” I said and walked out of the kitchen. I walked past the huge portrait of my husband and I in the foyer which held the spiral staircase leading upstairs. Sometimes, I had to stop and pinch myself. How could this be my life? I wondered. Me, a common girl from Mbaise. How did this all happen to me?
I came to Lagos when I was 10 to stay with my uncle and his wife after my parents passed away. I hate to remember my parents. They were always so nice and caring. I was their only child and even if we didn't have much, my parents always showered me with love. I thank God for my Uncle Emeka and his wife, Aunty Ifeoma. Without them, I don't know where I would be today. My uncle had a daughter called Onyinye who was around my age. We were the best of friends anytime they came to Mbaise and anytime my parents and I visited Lagos. I remember how it felt the morning after I arrived in Lagos. I can still remember the sound of the soft burr of the air conditioner in Onyinye's room which was so different from the loud noise our standing fan made in our room in Mbaise. Onyinye’s room also smelt differently as well. Like roses. That morning, I knew my life would never be the same again.
It was Aunty Ifeoma, who decided that I should enter the Miss Nigeria Pageant. I had just returned from the East, after visiting my grand parents. Onyinye was away in America, and it had been so lonely in the house after she left to the States. I had gotten admission into the University of Lagos and my uncle and aunt had suggested I commute from home instead of staying in the hostel. I knew that they suggested this because they felt lonely without their daughter in the house. I became their substitute daughter and I went everywhere with my aunt and uncle. One day, I was out shopping with my aunt when a lady came up to me and asked if I was interested in doing the Miss Nigeria Pageant. I blew her off because I was only thinking of how I would pass my examinations and get a first class to make my uncle and aunty proud of me. However, my Aunty Ifeoma managed to hear what the lady was saying to me.
“Ngo,” she said grabbing my shoulder. “Are you sure you don’t wanna take that woman up on her offer?”
I was about to refuse when she turned around and began to chase after the lady. I watched incredulously as my aunty caught up with the lady and began chatting with her. She laughed with the lady and then collected the flyer that the lady handed her. She turned and saw me and smiled, pointing at the paper in her hand. Walking towards me she announced excitedly, “Ngo, we are doing this o. Uncle will pay your fees. You will win, I promise you.” I had not seen my aunty this excited in ages. I did not want to break her heart so I relented.
Who knew that I would win that pageant. Definitely not me. I cried real tears of joy when they announced my state as the winner. It was surreal. I knew my life had once again changed and it would never be the same again.
I met Obi on a flight back from England to Nigeria. I had been flown out to be a judge for an event in London and I was finally coming back after a whole month of non stop travelling. I was looking like a bum that particular day. I made sure to wear the biggest sunglasses I had to make sure nobody recognized me. My plan was to just sleep on the plane and wake up in Nigeria. I was in my seat getting comfortable when I saw him walk into the plane. He was wearing a white t-shirt and black joggers. I had never seen anyone look that good in that outfit. He was talking on the phone and I could see flashes of his dimple when he spoke. I was torn. I wished he would sit beside me but I also didn’t want him to because of how I looked. Why hadn’t I just tried a little bit to look nice today? I hadn’t even remembered to spray perfume. Why Lord whyy? I asked myself. I rustled in my purse for my perfume, then I realised I had removed it and put it in my checked in bag. He was walking closer to me. I hung my head in shame. He walked past me, and I felt momentary relief, followed by a pang of sadness. Then I heard a deep voice next to me which made me jump. I turned to my left and was met with his handsome face. I immediately fell in ‘love’.
“Ahem,” he cleared his throat. “I said I think you are in my seat.”
“Oh ohh,” I said. Standing up too quickly and bumping my head as a result.
“Oh shit. I’m so sorry,” he said dropping his bags on the seat next to mine and reaching for me.
I felt a frisson of electricity when he touched my hand and my eyes immediately darted up to his.
“Are you okay?” he asked with concern in his eyes. His eyes were so brown. Swoon.
“Yeah I’m fine,” I mumbled. I felt so embarrassed and very hot all of a sudden. I shuffled out of the seat, allowing him to go in. He moved his bag and I sat down in the seat that had been assigned to me. The entire flight, I tried not to look in his direction. I did steal a glance here and there to just gaze at his fine ass but I had to put that to an end when he caught me staring at him when they turned down the lights. Shame. I felt so disappointed in myself when it was time to unboard the plane and leave the aircraft with nary a word to my hunky seat mate. I figured I should say something along the lines of “Nice to meet you” or “Have a nice life” or something. I just knew I had to say something. When it was time for my row to unboard, I turned to him bravely, only to find out that he had his ear phones on. Dejected, I picked up my bag and left the plane. That was the end of it...or so I thought.
Two weeks after my plane debacle, I received an instagram DM from some guy called Obi. It read, “Hey, I met you on the plane from London to Lagos and I have your book.” I almost dropped my phone when I checked out this Obi’s page and found out that it was the guy from the plane. Dead. I could not believe my luck. I quickly messaged him back...as fast as my fingers could type, “Omg...I have been looking for that book everywhere.” In reality, I didn’t even know I had lost the damn book.
We arranged to meet up at a restaurant to get the book. This time, I was going to look like a million “dallarrrrrs”. He was going to see who I really was and of course fall in love with me.
My weave was popping, 18 inches babay. Face casually beat to the gods. Wearing a white jumpsuit that showed off my body with some nice loubs. Casual and classy and expensive....who gon check me boo? My aunty had to ask me where I was going to because I looked too damn good. I explained to her that I was meeting a friend but didn’t tell her anything else.
When I got to the restaurant, I spotted him lounging against the bar. He had a drink in his hand. I walked over to where he was and sat down next to him.
“Hey..Obi right,” I said smiling at him.
“Heyyy..heyyyyy,” he said. “I almost did not recognise you,” he added looking at me with a little confused look on his face.
I flipped my hair and chuckled, “Oh really,” I said feeling myself.
“No. Are you planning on going somewhere after this?” he asked.
“Err no..,” I started then looked at what he was wearing...a t-shirt and print shorts…..and then at what I was wearing at 12 pm on a Wednesday in literally the most casual location in Lagos. God, I think I over did it.
“Actually I have a meeting with um the director of um a pageant thingy in VI later,” I lied.
“Oh yeah...I saw that you are into pageants right,” he said.
“Yeah...I am actually the current Miss Nigeria,” I said.
“Oh wow, congratulations,” he mumbled sipping his drink.
I didn’t get it. He was supposed to be falling in love with me. I looked too good right now. He wasn’t even impressed that I was Miss freaking Nigeria. Who the hell did he think he was anyway?
“Thanks” I replied sulkily. Maybe he had a girlfriend….or a wife. I checked to see if he was wearing a ring. Nope. No wife here. Hmm. Maybe he was gay? I cocked my head to the side, assessing him. Nope, he was straight. Maybe he just wasn’t that into me. That sucked. I wished I hadn’t worn these freaking heels now. My toes were getting squished for no reason at all. I wished I was just wearing my slippers. Why did I send Mr Emmanuel away, I thought to myself. My slippers were in the car.
Fuck it. I sipped the water the waiter had placed in front of me, marinating in the quiet awkwardness of the situation.
“So here is your book,” he said, breaking the silence. He slid the book across to me.
“Oh thanks,” I muttered collecting the book. Sure enough it was my book. I put it in my bag.
“So have you had lunch yet?” he asked.
“No I haven’t,” I answered. My stomach at that point chose to groan and embarrassed, my hand went over it immediately. I guess I was hungry.
“Do you want to do lunch or do you have to go for your “thingy” in VI?” he asked.
“I can eat,” I said smiling at him.
“The food here is actually sooooo good. I know it is not super fancy like you are probably used to,” he said.
“I don’t only go to fancy places,” I replied which caused him to raise his right eyebrow. “Beauty queen like you,” he said smiling. "In the fanciest outfit I have ever seen."
I rolled my eyes jokingly. “Whatever,” I said. “I have a meeting later on in the evening.”
“Sure,” he said smiling. Then he motioned to the waiter to get us a table.
Stay tuned for Part II
Story by Joan C.