“You love her, don’t you?”
The gentleness in the familiar voice was a not so gentle jolt.
I’d been staring at Fisayo, my eyes following her as she drifted across the room, mingling here and exchanging pleasantries there.
With anyone else, I would have tried to downplay the situation. Probably turned the question on its head, or responded with an outright lie. But not with Weyinmi. She knows me pretty well; spent most of her adolescence studying me. And then there was that particular unguarded look I was definitely wearing on my face. That would have given me away to just about anyone. And for her, who spent her days yearning for that look; to experience the rapturous power with which it filled her. For her to now see that very same look directed at another woman. What foolishness had seized me?
I tore my eyes off Fisayo and brought them level with Weyinmi’s. Her lovely pout caused my eyes to stray for a bit; always did. But then I forced my eyes to look directly into hers again. With such provocative lips, the façade of calm she was wearing would fool anyone. I placed my left hand on the smooth skin of her shoulder bared by the green dinner gown she was wearing, and then forced my voice to mirror her calm.
“Darling, what does it matter?”
The violence with which she swept my hand off her shoulder was such that I momentarily thought she’d also slapped me and I was yet to realise it.
“What does it matter?
You’re telling me it doesn’t matter!”
She stormed away from me, her hourglass figure made all the more curvy by the green gown drawing away the attention which her outburst had aroused. Knowing that the eyes would take a while to revert to me, I quickly looked back to where Fisayo had been. She was there, an almost empty wineglass in her left hand, looking directly at me. So she’d witnessed it. At the very least, she would soon be getting the full gist of it. She mouthed something, which could only have been ‘Go after her. What are you doing standing there?’
I tried not to smile. Here was the source of all the trouble spelling out its solution. Yeah, that’s what I was about to do anyway. I moved swiftly through the crowd which had only seconds ago parted for Weyinmi’s commanding presence to pass through. I knew instinctively that she’d headed for the rooftop garden. She always sought some fresh air whenever she was upset. And that was about the only place to get that around here.
I ditched my wine glass on some floating tray; failed to respond to hands thrust at me and more than a few smiling faces. I took the flight of stairs two at a time and was soon bathed in moonlight. The plants which partitioned the rooftop into a maze of intersecting pathways were only waist-high; tree plants of varying heights interrupted the pattern here and there. I soon spotted her green gown. She was at the far end directly opposite me; leaning on the rails, her back to me. A sharp looking young man was walking away from her; definitely from her. He had the self-satisfied bearing of a man who had just left the company of a very beautiful woman. In the bright moonlight I could see that his face was handsome, with the arrogant air of one who was acutely aware of his own attractiveness. There was a tightening in my chest.
I was soon standing behind her, a little to her left. Just the sight of her in that clinging green gown under the light of a full moon had fire flaring through my veins without consultation with my will. I forced myself to speak.
I moved closer, bringing my hand to fall ever so lightly into the valley between her shoulder blades, onto skin glistening ever so slightly in the silvery light.
“Weyinmi, you know I can’t leave you like this.”
“I want to be alone. That should give you time enough to party with your doll.”
She didn’t even glance at me.
I slipped my right hand through her slender braids to caress the beautiful face which they framed. I wasn’t surprised to find her cheeks moist with tears. My fingers moved to her chin and I upturned her face to mine. She responded by standing straight up and turning her body to face me fully. Her eyes accused me still, even with the tears which brimmed within them.
“Why’d you marry me if it’s her you love?
Why didn’t you two find a way to keep your romance alive?
Why drag me into this madness?”
Her stabbing questions were accompanied with wild gesticulations; her braids flying about in tandem. Suddenly, she reached for me like she were about to fall, her right hand clutching onto my jacket by one of its lapels. Both my hands seized her and pulled her into myself, my body bracing the weight of hers. She tried to bury her face in my chest, but her high heels made her too tall for the posture. She placed her head on my shoulder instead; gentle sobs sharp stabs as they hit my ears.
With one arm wrapped firmly about her narrow waistline, my free hand soothingly traversed the curves of her mostly bare back, while I whispered sweet nothings in her ear. It took a while, I have no idea how long, but she soon stopped sobbing and I noticed she was holding onto me with both arms. My voice remained barely a whisper.
“Weyinmi, I need you to listen to me. I need you to believe me.”
I felt the jolt of tension which ran through her body. Her head shot up from my shoulder, bringing her nose to within an inch of mine. The way she looked at me with that mix of expectation and fear, which is not so much apprehension as it is rapt attentiveness; this reminded me that she was still only a girl. A woman’s body, the mother of my two kids, yet still, always the girl who stole my heart.
“Weyinmi, I’m not going to deny that I love Fisayo.”
She stiffened, but made no move to pull away from me.
“You know the truth about us. Yes, we were lovers. Yes, we probably will always love each other.”
Her eyes searched mine. I slipped one hand away from around her waist and brought it up to her face.
“Yes.” Her voice was almost inaudible.
“I am yours. My heart and everything I am is yours. And yes, I love you; and I always will. No, not out of a sense of duty, but out of an insatiable desire which has possessed me from the very first moment I realised my heart was yours.”
I couldn’t help the smile which now stole across my face. The memory always did that to me. She was crying again; quietly this time. She’d moved her arms from around me and now one palm rested just above my heart while the other cradled my hand which cradled her face.
“I will always be your man, for now and for always, regardless of anyone or any circumstances, because that’s what I want to do; what I’ve always wanted to do; and what I’ll always want to do. I’m yours.”
I felt her cheeks begin to form the smile before I saw it through the tears.
“I love you.”
Her arms flew about my neck as she sputtered these words. Our embrace was tight, and she kept saying those words.
I couldn’t tell her why I loved Fisayo so much; that our affection for each other simply refused to die. Could never tell her why I and Fisayo never married; couldn’t tell her that a man’s love for one woman need not detract from his love for another. I could only reassure her that I truly loved her, and God alone knows how deeply I do love her.
Gently, I pulled back from Weyinmi; just enough to look into her eyes before I took her lower lip in between both of mine. It was a slow, passionate, unhurried kiss; like our tongues were saying things to each other which couldn’t be verbalized.
When I ended the kiss, she sought again to hide her face in my shoulder. I caught her face in my palm just in time to hold her eyes with mine.
“Weyinmi, you are the most beautiful woman on God’s green earth.”
She smiled a wide smile and then laughed her melodious laugh.
“My husband’s such a charmer.”
It’s been five years and she still doesn’t believe me when I tell her she’s the most beautiful of God’s creatures.