It was a long day and Funmi was tired; too tired to sleep. It was almost midnight; two hours since she got back from work, yet she couldn’t find rest. She was hungry but couldn’t even find the appetite to eat. Turning away from Kayode the way she had done was cold, rude, and unfair. Although she was conflicted about the need to stay in control, she also needed him as a support in her life.
It would have been easier if she had just told him that she lost two major contracts that day. First, it was the one Kayode was currently running with them. The funders decided that since the government had lifted the lockdown in Lagos, and people were already going about their businesses, the food banks were becoming rowdy and could pose a threat to the community; even likely increasing the Covid-19 cases. The other one was from their North American crayfish merchant. The company cancelled their order for the entire second half of the year.
Nothing was the same anymore. Covid-19 was coming for her business big time, and she needed to be innovative. She had continued to pay salaries in spite of order and contract cancellations, and since the whole world was basically on lockdown, tourists could not book tours to experience Africa.
Yet, she threw her own safety away. She had called Kayode five times since 6pm when she finished her virtual meeting with the North American distributors for crayfish, but he did not answer his phone. She was tempted to drive to his place, but her pride did not permit her. She could not think of one reason to excuse her behaviour of walking out on him so abruptly and then shutting him out.
Kayode is a likeable man. Girls must flock around him, yet ever since they had been together, he hadn’t shown the slightest sign of interest in any other woman but her. He shared his life with her, but she kept holding back, and today she felt guilty; guilty and lonely.
She tried his number again, and this time she knew for a fact that he definitely did not want to speak with her, because this time, he declined the call.
Funmi tried to get angry, but even she felt unjustified in that anger. She was clearly in the wrong. She just wanted to speak with him, to hear him say sweet words to her, and ease her worries about the business with his positive spin on things.
Kayode felt weird for ignoring Funmi’s calls, but he was also tired of being treated like a dispensable alternative. She meant the world to him, but to her he was just good when it was convenient.
Two text messages came through his phone simultaneously. One was from Funmi, the other one from Bimbo. Funmi was irritated by his childish behaviour of avoiding her calls, while Bimbo wanted him to drop by their office for an emergency meeting by 8:00AM.
He deleted Funmi’s message without responding. It irritated him too that her first response to his anger was to call him childish. He may have been six years younger than she was, but he was by no means a child.
Kayode struggled to find sleep. He set an alarm for the morning, just in case. His matter with Funmi weighed strongly on his mind. He definitely needed some time away from her to reassess his emotions and be sure that she was the kind of person he could be with forever. He knew he had strong feelings for Funmi but he was no longer sure that it would be enough to carry them through. The nerve of her to call me childish! No, being childish would be continuing in a wannabe toxic relationship. It was a good thing Funmi wasn’t scheduled to be in the meeting or he would have been forced to face her so early in the morning, earlier than he was ready to speak about his conflicting thoughts.
Imagine Kayode’s shock when Funmi walked into the conference room unexpectedly the next morning. Clearly, even her employees were not expecting her. He felt her eyes heavy on him. Did she come here just to see me? The thought excited him a bit. It would appear she was trying to make an effort. Is this a good sign?
But nothing about being in that meeting room excited Funmi. Her banging headache was a constant reminder that she didn’t sleep a blink last night, while Kayode looked well rested and relaxed. It was also annoying to see how he seemed oblivious to Bimbo’s flirting. She was quick to touch his arms, and smile at him at the slightest opportunity, and Kayode seemed at home with it. Well, the news she was about to break was definitely going to roughen his feathers. It really wasn’t her news to share, it was Bimbo’s department and responsibility but now that she was here, she had to lead the meeting, and she did just that.
Funmi was blunt and straightforward, explaining how they had to terminate the vendors’ appointments with immediate effect because the client financing the food bank had decided to pull the plug. She had expected Kayode to flinch, like the other woman who was also affected by the contract termination, but he appeared stoic, unfrazzled; a side of him that she had not seen before. If her company was not the victim of his objective response, she would have been proud of him.
Kayode requested that the company cover the cost of all the raw items he had purchased ahead of time to serve them better. Per her job, Bimbo tried to get the company out of this financial burden, but Kayode quickly reminded them all of the clauses in the contract that gave the vendors the right to be compensated just in case the contract was terminated before term. Funmi and her team wanted of course to maximise their little profit from the project so far, but after some negotiations back and forth, a fair enough compromise was reached.
As everyone began to leave the meeting room, Bimbo and Kayode were left having a light chat. Funmi lingered, pretending to be doing something on her laptop. When Bimbo and Kayode began to leave the room, Funmi saw her chance to speak with Kayode slipping away, so she came up with an excuse to keep him.
She looked up from her laptop and said, “Kayode, please stay behind, I need a moment to go over your scope of service so far.”
Bimbo turned around. Thinking this was the beginning of a query for something Funmi thought she hadn’t done responded with “I have it already. I can send you an email about it once I get back to my office.”
It took every ounce of self-control for Funmi not to scream. To make things more awkward, Kayode was already turning to leave, not even giving her as much as a last glance.
“I’ll rather have that conversation in person with my fiancee,” Funmi said mindlessly, shocking all three of them. Bimbo looked at Kayode briefly and nodded before leaving the room, feeling foolish. She thought he was just playing hard to get, but now everything made sense. That basket from Eden yesterday was definitely not meant for her, and Kayode wasn’t playing hard to get, he was already gotten, and by a woman she wasn’t ready or willing to contend with. She would never have imagined it. Funmi had to be older than Kayode, but smiling to herself, she mumbled, “age is just a number, I guess.” Hopefully this was serious, Funmi deserved joy, and she knew without a doubt that Kayode could give her that. But if it didn’t work out though, I will be right here waiting for you!
“Like Bimbo offered, I can send you an email with the information you need,” Kayode said to Funmi when Bimbo left the room.
Funmi stared at him. Had she really messed up that bad that he didn’t even want to be in her presence? “You are right. Never mind. I will get the report from Bimbo. You can leave,” she said, really trying to maintain her composure, but Kayode noticed.
For the first time all morning, he could see her clearly. There were bags under eyes and he knew he’d put them there even though he hoped, somehow, that he was wrong. He shut the door of the conference room, and moved closer, taking the seat right next to her. “Are you okay?” He asked, genuinely concerned for his woman, and all his hard resolve dissolved. Seeing her like this was breaking his heart.
“What do you care?” she asked, trying to blink back tears, and that was all Kayode needed to see to let go of his pride. He wheeled her seat closer to him, their knees touching, and pulled her closer so he could kiss her intimately, showing her exactly how much he cared. He needed the connection like water, but Funmi obviously needed it like air because she had found her way to sitting on his lap with her arms around his neck without disengaging from the kiss.
Kayode had to break it off, “Babe, we are in your office.”
“I don’t care,” Funmi said, but stood from his lap and took another seat beside him. “You won’t be able to flirt with my staff once they all know that you are the man in my life.”
“I’m flirting with your staff?” Kayode asked.
Funmi rolled her eyes. “I feel insulted that you even have to ask me such a question.”
“Well you shouldn’t. Just face the facts. You are quick to discredit everything I say because I am ‘childish,’ he used both of his hands to put up air quotes around the word he’d come to hate so much, then added, “and you don’t trust me with the real issues in your life!” Kayode rose up from his seating position.
Funmi rose too, touching his arms. “I am sorry. I am not used to sharing. It has nothing to do with you. Yesterday, I lost two big contracts, and it shattered me momentarily, until I realized that losing you, the man I love, was worse by far.” She looked up into his eyes searching for a response of any kind.
Listening to her refer to her as the man she loves, warmed Kayode’s heart. He tried to pull her into his arms, but she held him at arms length. “It was childish that you wouldn’t answer my calls for several hours on end. And before you get angry about me calling you childish again, think about it, if our age difference was not a factor, would it have mattered to you that I called you childish?”
Kayode was quiet for a bit, then mumbled with a smile, “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.”.
They both laughed at what Kayode said. Funmi hissed and smacked his arm playfully. “Who is doing that yeye challenge with you?” They both laughed again. “Seriously though, Babe, you are letting our age difference get to you. You are my man, and when I look at you or think of you, I don’t see how old or young you are, I just see the man that I am in love with.”
Kayode pulled her into his arms, “I am sorry.”
“I am sorry too,” Funmi said. “I won’t shut you out anymore. Well, I will work hard at it.” She smiled. “I’m learning.”
That conversation was all Funmi needed to be restored back to a place of peace. Kayode drove her home, insisting that she shouldn’t be at work when she hadn’t slept the night before. She would have fought back, but there was no winning against him this time. Plus she too tired.
She really didn’t have much to do, and knowing that she was a day from her birthday, it was important to her to stay fresh. It was the first birthday she would be celebrating with this special man in her life, and though she didn’t really have anything special planned, she knew Kayode would find a way to make it beautiful for her.
When the next day came, she felt a sense of zen that came from resting well, but there were no butterflies in her stomach; no excitement. Kayode hadn’t done more than just sent a text message and spoken to her briefly for about a minute, asking her to please free her schedule for dinner, as he wanted to treat her to a really sumptuous meal.
Funmi was almost annoyed. She had freed her schedule for the whole day. She wanted to be with him all day long, laughing together, playing games, and receiving all the gifts of cake and more that were being delivered one after the other.
So, it was a boring day. She didn’t even answer all her calls, because some were obviously hypocritical at best. More importantly, they were not the call she wanted. She only wanted a call from Kayode, but he hadn’t called again since his brief call in the morning. He just sent another message saying he was in a meeting with a client for a private wedding coming up in June, and that he was thinking of her. But at about 4:00PM, he brightened her day with a box of hand-made pizza that he made himself. Along with the delivery was a note that read, “Please wear your red lipstick tonight, and a dress that leaves some skin on your arms for my hands to caress.”
Those words were triggering, and though Funmi knew he was definitely going to be a gentleman tonight, she still couldn’t help but grin like a little child.
Despite being ready to move by 5:00PM, she didn’t get a message from Kayode until about 6:00PM. It was an address to the location. Now, she was irritated. What kind of man takes his woman on a birthday dinner date, and wouldn’t even have the courtesy to pick her up?. So, she was going to have to drive. She sighed.
Is he trying to test my patience? Funmi thought as she put the key in ignition and drove to the address he had sent to her.
Kayode knew that he was fully irritating Funmi, but what’s a little irritation in the face of a surprise that could very well change their lives.
He was still trying to finalize the logistics of the surprise scream when Funmi strolled into the restaurant, thirty minutes earlier than schedule. Thankfully, everyone was already there. He had invited only ten people. Three members of her family, four people from work, his own brother, sister, and Tade his best buddy. Kayode’s predictions were all wrong. He did not expect her to leave home immediately she got his text.
They all screamed “Surprise!!” when Funmi walked in, and though she felt like running away, she just stood there, smiling.
To her delight, no one was hugging or shaking her, since they were all being social distance compliant. She didn’t want anyone to know that she was shaking, except for Kayode who did not stop holding her and rubbing her shoulders. He looked mesmerized by her, and she by him, which of course led to several teasing comments from their guests.
Funmi felt special. Everyone in the room seemed to care about her, or at least they cared enough for Kayode to wish her well. This was their first public announcement of love, and though Kayode didn’t consult her first, she did not mind at all. Let the whole world know that I have someone special in my life.
It was as though Kayode heard her thoughts, because in that moment, he dropped on one knee and brought out a small jewellery box, to the amazement of everyone in the room. No one knew about this part of the plan. Funmi found that she was scared. This was definitely out of the blue. Their relationship was not even up to three months yet. How could she commit to spend the rest of her life with him right now, when they were still trying to figure out just being a regular couple?
Both hands, covering her mouth, there was no doubt in Funmi’s mind that she was in love with Kayode. She was also sure this proposal was way too early, but how could she possibly ruin her surprise party and break Kayode’s heart by declining his proposal?
As if hearing her thoughts again, Kayode smiled. The party guests watched intensely as Kayode kissed Funmi’s left hand and then stood up. “Gotcha!” he joked. There was some laughter and some murmuring amongst the guests.
Funmi hoped that he had read her mind and was trying to end the awkward situation smoothly. People wondered what Kayode was up to. Was the proposal really a joke? Was he trying to save himself some embarrassment? How come his smile still seemed genuine?
“Not to worry, Ladies and Gentlemen, that was just a rehearsal. I am coming back for her hand soon.” Kayode said. He opened the box to reveal a beautiful silver necklace with a pendant that had both of their initials in interlocking hearts. As the guests oohed and ahhed, he walked behind Funmi and put the necklace around her neck. Funmi beamed, grinning from ear to ear while everyone else applauded.
Although clearly a jokester, Kayode’s next words left his audience feeling all warm and fuzzy. Even Soji who starred in amazement could not help but admit to himself how beautiful this relationship was.
“Oluwafunmilayo Adesina, the past few months with you have been the most interesting I have ever had. As your name implies, you have truly brought joy into my life. Your devotion to the ones you love, and your work ethic are unparalleled; and those are just two of the myriad of things I love about you. I would have loved to marry you today and begin forever with you, but I know we are not quite there yet. On this journey of getting to know you, I promise you that nothing I find out will stop me from wanting to be your husband. Before this year runs out, I will be getting on one knee for real, so be ready with your answer when that time comes. I love you with reckless abandon, and it would be my absolute joy if by this time next year, you have my last name.
Tears running down her face, thank God for waterproof eyeliner and mascara, Funmi smiled, “Never in my wildest dreams could I possibly have imagined that this terrible pandemic would be the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Funmi almost begged him to go ahead and propose right then and there. This was the man she truly wanted to spend forever with, he was simply magical but she controlled herself, grateful for the next few months to prepare to become his wife.
Kayode drew her into his arms and kissed her lips to seal the deal, while everyone around them rejoiced.