“Hey beautiful, what are your plans for the night?”
Zoe thought everything was wrong with this text by Nigel, but decided to play along anyway. She had been dating the same person, Kuda, since college, and never tried out other avenues, so to speak. She hadn’t even imagined being intimate with any other man besides Kuda. It was a taboo. She didn’t allow her mind to wander. However, curiosity got the best of her, and she wondered what it would feel like to kiss another person. These were just thoughts, and she had never acted on them, and besides, she only had a little flirt with Nigel. It wasn’t like she was sleeping with other men. She was just being friendly. There is nothing wrong with being friendly right?
“Uhm… Nothing,” Zoe replied. “I’m just bored, sitting at home and about to get in bed to watch a movie.”
“I’m having a drink alone at the Avon restaurant and could use some company if you don’t mind. Should I come and pick you up?”
Nigel was a thirty-five-year-old politician who had been showing interest in Zoe for about a month. They met when Zoe joined her father, a civil engineer, visiting a construction site he was developing with Nigel. She usually accompanied her father on Saturdays on his errands, a much-desired break from the extra classes she took at an accounting school on weekdays. This particular day she felt distracted. Was it the argument she had with Kuda the previous night, about him forgetting to buy her a two-year anniversary present? Kuda apologized, and said that the gift was on the way. Nonetheless, she felt he misjudged the timing, something he’d done more regularly, and which made her feel their relationship didn’t matter that much to him.
She got out of the car after her father, and stood with the three men who discussed concrete procurement. She wasn’t that interested in it, but her father always insisted that she ought to learn how his company was run if she wanted to be its chief executive one day. What you get from being the eldest daughter, right! She didn’t notice the pair of eyes staring at her. Before they left, one of the men asked for her contact details, which she gave without even giving it a second thought.
As Zoe was thinking if she should meet up with Nigel at the restaurant, she scrolled back to the first message Nigel had sent him. “The moment I saw you, my whole confidence was shattered, I couldn’t even sit properly next to you. You sat there looking beautiful without the knowledge that you were torturing me,” it read. Zoe remembered being surprised when she received these words, as she had only exchanged greetings with him, but she felt excited as well.
From that point onwards, they started texting regularly. Knowing she had caught someone’s eye excited her. Occasionally, they met, but nothing really happened. They just got to know each other, but Nigel slowly became the reason why Zoe woke up in the morning.
Nigel was a very busy and adventurous man, meaning that Zoe already made a bucket list for her school holidays. They had begun to plan trips and list out restaurants that they were to visit. With Kuda absent, this would be the ideal time. Also, Nigel was rich! He would throw in “extra change” to Zoe’s father when he made payments for supplies, adding instructions to them to spend it on his children, indirectly implying a gift for Zoe.
Zoe dashed into the tub for a quick bath and put on her best clothes afterwards. Guilt grappled with her conscience, but she didn’t decline the invitation. In fact, she was really looking forward to the encounter. Soon, an army green Mercedes Benz S class pulled up at her house, followed by her phone ringing . She told her parents she was going to meet up with school friends, and quickly left the house before they could ask questions, leaving her Victoria’s Secret scent to blossom in the living room.
Kuda vanished from her mind. She was finally experiencing what she had been missing. Nigel opened the door for her and she sat down in the warm, comfortable and massaging seats of the S class. Naija love music was playing from the high-quality speakers, creating an even more romantic mood.
Zoe enjoyed the drive to the restaurant. Nigel was just a friend, she told herself. Calling him a friend made her feel better, as deep down, she constantly thought about her Kuda. She loved him. But she doubted if she really loved him at the same time. Because, if their love was real, wouldn’t it have prevented her from meeting Nigel? Nigel filled up the duration of the journey with stories. They talked about school, politics, how they could live a happy life together if they’d marry, they even planned a Valentine’s trip to Zanzibar, one of Zoe’s dream destinations.
She liked that Nigel wore expensive clothes. She also like that he talked about business most of the time. It meant he was goal oriented and would be an ideal husband, a husband who could properly take care of her.
They arrived at a restaurant, and he chose an expensive beer. He must really be rich, Zoe thought to herself, though she had no idea how rich exactly he was. She fancied all this, but there was a downside as well. He did not fill her heart as much as Kuda, and she felt somewhat intimidated by him, as if she had to put up a show for him, to be somebody that she wasn’t, whereas with Kuda she could be exactly who she wanted to be, and he loved her for that.
After what seemed like two hours of laughter and getting to know each other, Nigel drove her home, kissed her hand and ushered her to the entrance of the house. Instantly, Zoe remembered her phone, so she ran into the house to grab it.
“Baby, I’m sorry for disappearing for some time. I was running some errands for my parents.” This was her first solid lie.
“It’s alright babe, December time is for family, remember?”
More calls and video chats with Nigel followed. She was always looking forward to meeting him. The two made plans to spend the next month together. Each time she thought about Kuda or saw his “I love you” texts, she was grappled with guilt. Nevertheless, Nigel was making her come alive. She had missed the variety. Not knowing where this was going, she always comforted herself by saying “I will cross the bridge when I get there.”
7 June, 2023