It’s been a week since I last saw Ijeoma and I had a feeling she was avoiding me which was confusing because I was sure I didn’t do anything to warrant such action. For the past week, she wasn’t around for our lunch meetings and when I texted her she would say she was busy with this or that. Our chats were growing shorter and shorter with each passing day and even when I tried to initiate a conversation between us, she would reply with one worded answers.
It was like she was trying to put a strain in our growing relationship and I couldn’t understand why which was why I was heading to the cafeteria three hours after her lunch break when I was sure she’ll be around working.
As I walked into the cafeteria, I saw her at her normal station and she was indeed working. I walked up to the counter and as I got close, the patient she was attending to walked away making me the next person.
“Hey” I said
Her eyes widened when she saw me like she wasn’t expecting to me show up, she cleared her throat before responding.
“We haven’t quite met for lunch for some time now” I pointed out.
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been very busy, you know, running errands here and there” she said with her moving all over the place and avoiding mine.
“It feels like you’ve been avoiding me. If I’m bothering you, you can just say it and I’ll leave you alone” I said sincerely. As much as I was interested in her, I couldn’t force something that isn’t there
“No, no. You’re not, I’m sorry you felt like you were. I’m just ... I’m just trying to sort some things out” She blurted out.
“Oh okay” I felt some relief knowing that she didn’t think of me as a bother. “So, why did it feel like you were distancing yourself from me?”
She took in a deep breath. “Look, I was trying to clear my head and I just needed some space to think about ... well ... what we’re doing and what it means for me. You know I have a child and you still want to get to know me and it just ... I don’t know... it bothers me because...well.... I just don’t want to be hurt again” she poured out.
“I would never hurt you” I whispered to her.
“That’s what they all say” she retorted bitterly.
I took her hands that were placed on the counter in mine. “I get that you’ve had heart broken and you’re just trying to protect yourselves but if you feel anything for me even the tiniest bit then I want you to take a leap of faith and trust even though it’s hard for you to, that I would never consciously hurt you . Okay?”
She was quiet for a while as she looked down at out entwined hands. She took in a deep breath and exhaled before whispering out. “Okay”
I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy and excited in all my life, I felt like I had just won a lottery and nothing could wipe the smile that had been plastered on my face ever since I walked out of the cafeteria.
The moment she uttered ‘okay’ my heart literally skipped a beat, I was happy that she was willing to put her trust in me even though it wasn’t easy for her. I just hoped that I wouldn’t ever hurt her because I could tell she had been through a lot.
My windscreen wipers were swiping from left to right clearing the rain droplets falling on the glass. It was dark already and it was raining pretty heavily, it had started out with a little drizzle when Ijeoma and I walked out of the hospital hand in hand but it increased as we got to the express.
I was heading to Ijeoma’s first to drop her off before going home and there was a little traffic on the way probably because everyone was returning to their respective homes. We spent an hour on the road before I finally pulled into Ijeoma’s compound.
“Do you want to come in for awhile till the rain lessens?” she asked after gathering her things.
“Yeah, thank you. It’s not safe to be driving in this kind of rain anyways” I replied thankfully.
We both stepped out of the car with our umbrellas in hand as she quickly walked to her own apartment with me in tow. She opened the door to let me in before heading over to a neighbor’s apartment where her daughter was. She informed me on the way here that one of her neighbor was helping her babysit her daughter so there was no need to go over to her friend’s.
I walked into the living room looking around the place; it was very tidy and organized which was something I admired because I didn’t like unorganized places. The apartment was a little too small for two people but she managed to make it conducive enough for her and her daughter.
I gently sat on one of the couches in the living room as I waited for her to return, I noticed there was no TV set in the living room but didn’t say anything when she got back with her daughter in her arms.
“Zozo say hello” she said placing her daughter down to stand on her own.
“Hello” she said in her tiny childish voice before moving to hide behind her mom’s leg.
Ijeoma chuckled. “She’s a little shy. So what can I get for you, tea, coffee, muffins ...?”
“Tea and muffins would be fine, thank you”
“Okay, I’ll be right back” she said placing her daughter in her play area at the corner of the room before heading to an adjoining room which I guessed was the kitchen.
I took out my phone from my pockets as I scrolled through some of my social media accounts, I was in the middle of a chat when I felt a soft tap on my knee and I looked down to see Zozo.
“Hi” I said softly.
She smiled revealing her white baby teeth and lifted her arms indicating I pick her up. I gently lifted her up and placed her on my lap, she stretched out her hand to towards my phone.
“Oh, you want the phone” I said to her and she nodded making me chuckle, she was so adorable.
I put on a child friendly show on my YouTube and gave it to her which muttered a small ‘thank you’ as she collected it from me. She leaned on my chest as she held up the phone in her tiny hands, I watched her carefully just in case the phone slips from her hands I would catch it.
Ijeoma came back out with holding a tray where two cups of tea where placed and plate with four muffins. She paused when she saw her daughter in my arms before walking up to us and placing the tray on the coffee table beside the couch.
“She’s sleeping” Ijeoma announced quietly.
I looked down and noticed that Zozo wasn’t watching anymore and she was in fact sleeping. I slowly released the phone from her grip and Ijeoma gently picked her up to take her inside. When she returned, we ate the muffins in silence but this time it wasn’t an uncomfortable one, the rain finally reduced to a light drizzle making me take my leave.
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