A short story (re-written)
Karibi had expected this. He’d even wanted it to happen. Still he felt a twinge of pity. She’d been stood up. Again. She sat there, alone in a restaurant, wearing a pretty black dress.
He watched her reflection in a mirror and saw the sigh that gusted out of her mouth and ruffled her natural, black hair as she sat back and closed her eyes.
In one way or another, he’d been rescuing her since they were kids and she’d always resented it. Whether as a pre-pubescent tomboy or the swan she’d evolved into, she’d been diving head-first into catastrophes and he’d been reeling her out. And though until just recently — he hoped — she’d viewed him as nothing more than a bothersome big brother, he’d never considered her a sister.
He couldn’t think of her as a sister, not with the way he felt about her. His problem was that every time he’d tried to tell her how he felt he’d muck it up, the result being that she’d never believed him. But maybe it was time he made his move and rightly this time.
He came up noiselessly behind her, cupped the back of her neck, his thumb caressing her just under her left ear. He felt her pulse leap, saw a smile burst across her face as she turned to look over her shoulder. Kabiri stepped beside her and watched as her smile died.
Yanking herself away from his touch, Lolia frowned. “What are you doing here?”
Kabiri gave her a long-suffering look. Then, jerking his head, he said. “Come on, let’s go.”
Lolia hunched a shoulder and turned her head away. “Get lost. I don’t need you to rescue me.”
He glanced at the two empty water bottle sitting before her and pulled a bill out of his wallet to leave on the table. Then he stood there for a moment, gazing at the top of her head, feeling the usual exasperation. “Yes, you do. Come on, it’s time to leave.”
She didn’t surprise him. True to form, Lolia was stubborn and tried to dig her her feet in, but after a brief struggle, she must have realised it was pointless. With a sigh, she let him help her up and followed him out of the restaurant. The walked a block without speaking but he had no problems reading her thoughts. He’d known her long enough and she had an expressive face.
They got to his car and he started to unlock the passenger door for her. “Get in.” Taking her by the elbow.
She pulled away from him, lifted her head and looked into his eyes. But she didn’t say anything.
Kabiri felt his mouth twitch. She was just sulking. “What? Still mad at me for turning up?”
She pouted, turned and settled her butt against the side of his car. “No, I’m not mad at you.” She shook her head, a sad look replacing her pout. “I’m mad a Mpaks. I’m mad at myself — or at least disgusted with myself.” His heart clenched as tears began to roll down her face. “What’s wrong with me, Kabiri?” She asked brokenly. “Why is it so hard for me to find someone who will care about me once in a while, instead of thinking only of himself? Someone who can remember which night of the week is my night, and which night is the night with the guys.”
He came to her side and took her hand. He drew her sideways into his arms and rubbed his hand down her arm. He wanted to wrap her up in his arms but they were in public, so he contented himself with the gentle, platonic touch.
Lolia sighed and looked up at him. “If you dare make some wisecrack or make fun of me, I swear I’ll hit you… hard.”
Kabiri chuckled and squeezed her hand in his. “It won’t be the first time, would it? Anyway, get in, relax. I promise everything will be fine, okay?”
She shifted, frowned. “I have my car just over there.” She pointed ahead.
Kabiri sighed. Here they go with her stubbornness again. But he wasn’t having none of it, not today. “Lolia, I told you to get in the car. Now get in!” He growled out the order.
She wrenched free of the hand on her elbow and glared at him. “Don’t you dare give me orders!” She hissed. “Who do you think you are, my boss?”
He watched the way her eyes spat fire at him and his mouth curved into a lopsided grin. “I daren’t be boss as you’ll never obey me.”
“Good thing you know that.” She grumbled and breathed deeply, relaxing a little. “Well, I do have to go.”
“No!” He grabbed her arm, stopped her. “You are not going anywhere, you are listening to me.” He looked around. There were people going and coming, some casting them curious glances. He sighed and turned to her. “I didn’t want to do this here, but you leave me no choice.” Taking her hand again, he looked deeply into her eyes. “You’ve been a part of my life since you were six, and I was eight. So I can speak with authority and say there is nothing wrong with you, Lolia.” He paused, drew in some much needed courage. “I wanted to drive us to the churchyard where we used to play as kids. Where I first realised I wanted to marry you.” He saw her dark frown and went on. “Something I’ve told you four times, something you’ve doubted each time.”
“I told you no wisecracks.” Lolia hissed. “You are making fun of me again.”
He caressed her wrist. Her pulse was jumping. He kept his eyes on hers. “No, I’m not. It has never been a wisecrack, nor a joke. But the way I feel about you scares the shit out of me, so each time I’ve said it I tried to lighten it up by making it sound like a joke. But I’m not doing so now.” His voice softened. “I am serious.”
Lolia’s eyes widened. Her mouth trembled. She was looking at him with hopeful, yet teary eyes. “What is wrong with you? What are you saying?”
He swallowed around his heart, which had taken up lodging in his throat. This was his chance. Their chance. “I am saying that I love you, Lolia. I want you to be my wife. And lately I’ve been thinking that, just maybe, you love me too.” God, let me not be wrong, he prayed silently.
She gaped at him. “Are… Kabiri, are you serious?” Her voice wobbled and the tears shimmered. “This is not one of your silliness, right?”
He shook his head, squeezed her hand. “No, I am dead serious. I love you, Lolia. I’ve done so for a really long time. And I really, really want to marry you… if you will have me of course.” He added with a nervous laugh.
She laughed, pressed a hand over her mouth as the tears slipped. “Oh my God, I’ve been so afraid to believe in the possibility of you ever seeing me as anything other than your best friend… your sister…”
“I never saw you as my sister.” Kabiri clarified, smiling now.
“You never did?” She asked in a small voice. Then she shook her head and laughed. “Oh Kabiri, I love you. I’ve loved you for a long time too. I’ve just been so afraid to let you know. So scared to ruin our friendship.”
Kabiri laughed. He felt the power of love surge through him. His wait is over. She was finally going to his… she was his. He pulled her into his arms, not minding the now curiously staring passersby. “I love you, Lolia.” He murmured against her hair.
“I love you too.” She whispered against his chest.
His heart soared.