In a few seconds her name would be called next.
She had dreamt of this moment over and over. Just last night, she tripped over something on the stage and fell and everybody laughed at her. Stupid dreams, more like nightmares. She took a deep breath in and tried to focus on the stage. For comfort, she looked in the direction of Mofe. The gigantic room was scantily lit, only the stage had a bright light. From where she stood, quite a distance from where Mofe sat, she thought she saw Mofe looking down, probably typing into his phone. But she convinced herself the lack of sufficient light was distorting her view. Mofe would not be looking down at his phone or whatever it was he was looking at; he would be looking at her, proud of her.
Before she had any chance to analyse her thoughts any further, she heard her name.
Her heart leaped.
She quickly made her way up the stage. Then she reminded herself to walk a little slower. Her expensive six-inch heels and excited hurry were the perfect ingredients in the recipe for stage disaster. When she got to the last step that led to the stage, an academic staff helped her up, holding her right hand.
The head of her department announced that just last month, Anita had received a best paper award at an international forum on opto-electronics sensor-based monitoring in geo-engineering that was held in California, and that she was also one of the finest doctoral students the university had had. A louder round of applause swept through the hall, and Anita soaked it in. She knew she deserved it, and she was grateful for it. Four and a half years of hard work was paying off. She shook the Vice Chancellor’s hands and received her certificate.
The host of camera flashes that attacked her would have intimidated a shy person, but Anita smiled and gave different poses. She thought about her parents. They would be so proud in heaven. She looked around the hall quickly to see if she would be able to spot her aunty and uncle who had promised to come. It was a frustrating exercise, like looking for a pin that had fallen into a thick, ruffled rug. Maybe they were late; Aunty always made Uncle late to every event.
As she left the stage, she looked again to where Mofe was sitting. He was now on his feet, his Canon camera in both hands, his smile as wide as it could ever get.
At the end of everything, after Anita had taken pictures with her colleagues and academic staff and Mofe, Uncle and Aunty arrived.
‘Anita my dear, sorry, your aunty caused it,’ Uncle said as he hugged Anita with pride.
Aunty was about to say something, something unpleasant , and Anita could tell by the way Aunty’s countenance changed.
‘And the traffic was very bad!’ Uncle added quickly.
Anita thanked them for coming anyway. Not even their lateness would steal her joy. Apart from that, Uncle and Aunty were very generous – they had promised to take her to lunch in a classy restaurant she loved, so she looked forward to that. But more than anything she could not wait to introduce Mofe to them.
‘Are you looking for somebody?’ Aunty asked.
‘Yes. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.’ Anita stretched her neck even further, scanning through the groups of people standing around.
Mofe seemed to have disappeared. She took her phone and called him.
‘Hey baby, sorry I had to run,’ Mofe said in a rush before Anita could say anything. ‘The hospital called. I wanted to tell you but your uncle was hugging you and I didn’t want to interrupt.’
‘Oh,’ Anita sighed. She wanted to say more but she had promised herself she would not be the clingy, immature girlfriend that did not understand her man’s very busy schedule. After all, dating one of Britain’s most sought-after surgeons had to come with imperfections such as this.
She had become so used to not having him around as often as she wanted and already perfected her art of self-dependence to the point where Mofe had noticed and loved her more for it. She once heard him brag on the phone to his friends that his woman was a busy accomplished woman, not a bored aimless girl. He used those exact words, and it made her smile.
‘I’ll make it up to you tonight, I promise,’ Mofe said.
‘Tonight?’ Anita scoffed discreetly.
‘I’ll be done by five or six and join the party at your flat, I promise,’ Mofe said.
‘Come on, don’t give me attitude,’ Mofe cajoled. ‘If it means leaving a dying patient to be with you tonight I will have to do just that.’
Anita laughed. ‘Of course you won’t do that.’
‘See, you’re hot when you laugh like that,’ Mofe said. Anita laughed again. She hated that this man could melt her ice in seconds, yet her stomach buzzed with butterflies.
‘So where’s the friend you wanted to introduce?’ Aunty asked after the call.
‘Oh he had to leave,’ Anita said. Aunty’s mouth had formed to ask more questions, and Anita did not want any more word on the topic, so she quickly complimented Aunty’s necklace and that set off the perfect distraction she wanted.
By seven in the evening Anita’s anger had turned to worry. Mofe should have been there by six, at the latest. The party was already in full swing, with food and booze in abundance. The DJ Mofe had hired was impressing everyone.
Anita left her flat and went towards the lift. She was going downstairs to wait for Mofe in the car park area. She would not call him. She would not make him think she was worried or too concerned. She would wait for him to arrive and then give him the dirtiest piece of her mind. She even thought about asking him to leave if or when he eventually showed up. She would tell him she had had enough. She would tell him that if she was important to him, he would make more room for her in his schedule. She would ask for a break from the relationship. She wouldn’t care whatever Mofe said, her mind would be completely made up. What nonsense! She felt deep disappointment at herself for falling too hard for this demigod. When did she become that person who was completely wrapped around a man’s fingers? Why did she let herself become so vulnerable and become so powerless where Mofe was involved? All that would end tonight, for sure.
When she stepped out of the lift angrily, it was Mofe that stood in front of her. If Anita’s looks could kill, Mofe would have needed a CPR at that moment. She could not hold in all the things she had to say any longer. She just had to let this guy know she was done with him.
Mofe put down all the gifts in his hands – the flowers, the wine, the wrapped thing that looked like a box of shoes – and held Anita’s head with his hands as he gave her a passionate kiss. Anita did not expect it. Her knees trembled slightly and unexplainable warmth surged through her. Mofe’s mouth tasted like sweet, minty berries and his perfume filled her senses. When Mofe stopped, she wanted more.
‘Really sorry baby,’ Mofe said. ‘I had to go home first to freshen up.’
‘You could’ve called,’ Anita protested weakly.
‘I did. Where’s your phone?’ It was at that point Anita realised she had left her phone in her room.
Mofe brought out a small box from his pocket. Anita’s eyes widened.‘Open it,’ he said.
Anita wanted to scream but she refrained herself. How cool would it be to get engaged on this perfect day? She took the box and opened it. Something flashed back at her. It was the gem stones of two small, beautiful earrings.
‘You like?’ Mofe asked.
‘Aww, they’re lovely,’ she replied, hiding her disappointment with skill. She hugged him. When they both eventually joined the party in Anita’s flat, Anita held on to Mofe’s arm and introduced him to everybody as her boyfriend.
Although she was having fun, she wished the party would end already; she desperately needed to spend time alone with Mofe, time they had been denied for too long.
Then she heard a bit of commotion coming from the hallway. She asked the DJ to turn down the music.
‘Where is she?’ an angry voice bellowed.
‘Shit,’ Mofe said.
‘What is – ’ The angry person had burst into the living room before Anita could finish.
Everybody was trying to calm the person down.
‘Jeez!’ Anita said. ‘I hate when stupid party crashers turn up. That one is probably drunk.’
‘Shit,’ Mofe said again.
‘I knew you weren’t going to the hospital!’ the angry lady said. Then she looked at Anita. ‘Is this her?’
Mofe looked away. The music had stopped. Everybody was watching.
Anita guessed the situation. ‘Mofe, are you cheating on me?’
‘No, he’s cheating on me,’ the angry lady said. ‘I’m his wife.’