‘I think I love you.’ I told Dami.
The smile on her face reflected mine, and her eyes glowed bright.
But my lips quivered as I sought her words for assurance.
I waited and hoped she would say something, anything.
A second passed; nothing.
Another moment passed, but it was only the silence of the room that was audible, and the smile across her face was still visible.
The time seemed to stand still, yet it seemed time stretched on for eternity.
‘How can I say something so strong, and she wouldn’t respond quickly?’ I wondered.
Strangely, Dami continued smiling and it was the only substance that held me back from regretting my words.
The words of love declaration seemed to echo on for another minute, and Dami just stared at the lines on her open palm.
‘What’s the problem?’ I wanted to ask but decided she must be the one to speak first.
The sound of the second passing on in the rectangular clock above the curtain became louder, and I began to reconsider.
‘I hope I haven’t gone too far.’ I didn’t know when the words escaped from my lips.
The words were said in a whisper but Dami heard it all the same.
Her head came up and she looked at me. And this time, her lips held no smile.
‘I hope I haven’t gone too far.’ I said again, louder.
‘No, there is no problem.’ she answered.
‘Then, why are you so quiet?’ I asked her.
I stood up from the opposite chair I was sitting, and took the space beside her.
‘I don’t understand, Dami.’
She shifted to make more space for me and then breathed in heavily.
‘What happened?’ my voice grew pensive.
She blew out some air, and then began to talk.
‘VJ, I think I really like you too’ she started.
I was glad to hear that part, and I felt I would be able to take anything that came after.
‘To love someone who doesn’t love you back is the ultimate death’, that quote and fear melted away before me.
‘In fact, I am certain I love you.’ She said firmly.
I sensed a ‘but’ was coming, and I prepared for it.
I adjusted myself on the chair and breathed through my mouth.
‘But,’ Dami said. ‘a lot of questions and issues lie ahead if I want to follow my heart and continue.’
‘Because of the age difference?’ I cut in.
She shrugged and hissed. ‘That’s nothing. What is five years?’ she asked rhetorically.
‘I have always imagined I would only marry someone well older than me.’
Her last words were like cold water to my troubled mind and I smiled.
I rested my back against the chair and waited for her to conclude.
‘To be honest, I thought my brother would have told you before…’ She continued.
‘Tell me what?’ impatiently, I asked.
‘I had a crush on you when I was young, and I thought you knew. On the first day I arrived here, my memories and emotions came running back and I realized I still liked you.’
I remembered how she always stopped talking anytime she was with my sister and I happened to walk in.
I also recalled Dami used to draw away whenever I visited their house.
I had always thought she was just afraid of me back then. I didn’t know it was a childly attraction.
‘That was ten years ago. Things are different now.’ I said.
She nodded. ‘Yes, things are different now. I also thought it was over when Steve told me I would meet you here. I was not even bothered until I finally saw you.’
‘I didn’t know that.’ I said apologetically.
‘I know you didn’t know, VJ.’
A moment of silence passed and I could see she was deep in thought.
‘So, if you are not worried about the age difference, what are you worried about then?’ I asked.
‘My parents, my brother Steve, how will they take it?’ she turned to me and worry was plainly draw on her face.
The chat I had had with Steve two weeks before came back to me with clarity and I finally understood her worry.
I wanted to mention it but I decided to hear it from her own mouth.
‘Why are you so worried about them?’ I asked gently.
‘They have chosen another guy for me.’ Dami said.
‘Not really chosen…’ she corrected herself. ‘They are hoping I marry another man.’
‘Oh!’ I feigned surprise but I was sincerely sad to see my fears confirmed again.
‘Which man?’ I asked and searched her eyes for truth.
‘When I was in the University, a guy helped me throughout my stay and before he left school, he had already told me he wanted to marry me.’ Dami began.
I wanted to ask her response but kept quiet and waited for her to speak on.
‘I told him I didn’t have time to think of marriage then, and said he should allow me graduate first.’ She continued.
‘But before I finished school, he was already a friend of the family and had hinted my parents about his proposal.’
‘He even attended my convocation and calls my parents every week. Steve also knows about it, and all my siblings are friends with him.’
I didn’t know the relationship was that deep, and my eyes widened as I realized it would be an uphill affair for the two of us to be together.
‘But what about you? Do you love him, are…’ I was still speaking when Dami cut in.
‘I don’t! I don’t feel anything for him except gratitude for all his years of care.’ she turned to me and her voice rose a decibel.
I relaxed and forced a smile.
‘Okay, Dami. Then tell your parents about it and…’
‘I have already told them. Many times…’ Dami cut in again.
She shook her head and continued. ‘But they told me I should give him a chance and that the love will eventually develop.’
I didn’t know what to say. I was speechless and my knees shook as I pondered the complexity of the situation.
Dami continued speaking.
‘My parents always used themselves as an example and say they only really started to love each other after their marriage.’
‘I am sorry.’ My voice was broken, full of pity.
The pity soon bloomed into an unfamiliar feeling in my heart.
On the left side of my chest, where the heart is housed, I felt a tug.
I felt something course through the flesh. It was an ache, yet it was like a cold.
My right hand went up on its own accord and my fingers pressed against that part of the chest.
The beat of the heart raced and my palms became warmer.
With each heartbeat, it seemed the heart increased in size and longed for something I didn’t quite know.
‘Are you alright?’ Dami saw my state and asked.
Her eyes looked up into mine and I couldn’t think for that moment.
Peace, joy and worry filled my insides all at the same time, and in equal proportions.
I didn’t know what to feel, or what to say.
‘VJ, are you alright?’ Her low sweet voice asked again.
I dropped my hand from my chest and smiled.
I looked up at the ceiling and the back of my head rested against the edge of the chair.
‘I really love you, Dami.’ I said and laughed at myself.
‘I really really love you.’
The worry in her voice left and was quickly replaced with a lively and bright tone.
‘I love you too, I know I do.’ she said.
My gaze remained fixed at the ceiling and both of us were comfortably silent for the next couple of minutes.
My mind wandered about and traveled to the future, where I saw myself sitting outside a house on a cool evening.
I read aloud from the pages of a book and Dami sat beside me, sipping a brown liquid from a plastic bottle as a cool breeze blew past us.
‘We will walk through it together.’ Dami’s sweet voice came to me in my distant thought, and took me back to reality.
‘We will overcome it together.’ She assured and lightly pressed the back of my left hand.
I dropped my gaze and looked at her.
With her gentle features, and the exculpatory look on her face, I wondered how someone so precious and beautiful could be so strong in mind.
‘I believe too. We will conquer it together.’ I spoke softly.
The sound of a passing wind whistled outside the house and the sky grumbled its threat of rain.
But as we sat together, we were in perfect harmony, and I knew, I was certain,
Nothing could make us falter.
Stay tuned for episodes 6 CLICK HERE