Wednesday, 25 June 2014

THE PROPOSAL


The sun kissed the waters in warm, flirty tones. The churning sea returned the kiss with as much fervor, reflecting the purple-burgundy complexion of her lover. The sun was withdrawing its warmth from the corners of the earth as she prepared to take a snooze. The wind, in defiance of the sleepy-eyed sun, picked up her dance, ruffling the trees clothing the bank of the seas. It wasn't a surprise when the wind playfully lifted the skirts of the damsel. She twirled and twirled, laughing, basking in the slowly-cooling dance of the wind and the ebbing heat of the sun. She was happy! 


It was her first time at the beach. Somehow, she got convinced to take a break from her usually hectic life. She felt so glad that she had come. Only one man could have made her do so. She stopped her twirls, turned to him........and smiled. He walked languidly, until he was abreast with her, the squish-squish sound of the wet sand the only evidence he wasn't gliding towards her. His smile said it all. He was happy! And better still, he was happy that he made her happy. Like a child, she squealed in delight and

jumped into his arms. He twirled her until she became dizzy. They both fell to the ground in ecstatic laughter. All was right with the world! Roy and Melanie were perfect for each other.


They got up and started walking the wave-kissed bank, arm in arm, two love birds enjoying the last of the sun's glory and the company of each other. Roy stopped Mel (only Roy could call her that). She looked up at his tall, handsome physique, and still managed to blush while smiling. Roy’s face was set in stone. Something was wrong. He stared at Mel with such intensity, that she begun to fidget.

'What is wrong baby?'
Roy stared at her a bit for a few more seconds. He then dropped on one knee, taking her left hand. Mel gasped. She tried to pull away from him. He held her hand firmly.


'Mel.......' he stared at her, his expression like someone who had swallowed a wasp. He looked so uncomfortable that Mel wanted to run the other way. He put his hand in the back pocket of his loose slacks. Mel was obviously uncomfortable.

'Roy......don......' He put his finger on her lips. 'Shhhh! don’t speak baby'. 
Mel kept quiet only because she truly had lost the ability to speak, what with the blood rushing to her head.
Roy turned his face away in the gesture of a drama-king. Mel began to wonder if he actually was acting or really feeling all the emotions his face was showing. He pulled out something and with the toothiest grin ever, he opened his palm. In his hands was a Toblerone chocolate, the dark one to be precise.
'Why on earth don't you like dark chocolate?' he asked.
Mel nearly died...of relief! She breathed out a huge 'phewww!' The blood rushed back to her face and her skin began to look more alive than before. She playfully jabbed him and pulled him up. She ended up hugging him . 
'I almost thought that was a proposal......whewwww! I just did.....' 
She paused when she noticed that Roy was more interested in unwrapping the Toblerone than he was in listening to her. He had become all serious again and this time, Mel knew she was in trouble. 
Roy opened the chocolate and there in the shiny paper lay the most beautiful sapphire ring ever!
'I love you baby...and I feel like I’ve been in heaven since we started dating. Well, not always heaven, but it is as close as it can get. I want to have this piece of heaven for all eternity. Will you, Melanie Davidson Olaolu, be my wife?'


This time, Mel pulled away from his arm. She took a couple of steps back from him. She had lost all color and happiness, becoming a picture in sadness. Roy could feel her spirit leaving him. It wasn't just a physical pull-out. She had begun to wring out her fingers, a clear sign that her nervousness was beyond her control.

'Mel....'
She pulled further away, slightly turning away from him, such that she was no longer fully facing him.
'Say something........'
Mel looked at him and he saw his answer in her face, her demeanor, and her sad eyes. She didn't need to say it, but Roy needed to hear it. He needed to know that what he saw was really true.
'Ba'y........I’m sorry' 
Roy crumbled, though he remained kneeling, whether by sheer will, or because his brain couldn't move past the icebox that had suddenly frozen his heart.
'I am not ready to get married any time soon. I want to wait for at least....' she looked at his face, his stony expression and she shut up.
He got up and stood looking at her.
'We have been dating for four years. When is the right time to get married? Huh?' The increase in the pitch of Roy’s voice wasn't lost on Mel. He was definitely angry! 
'I just.....phewww.........marriage takes a lot out of a person. It sucks a person until they totally lose themselves in their spouses. With the rate of divorces in the world today, this is not an institution I want to rush into and just jump out when it gets hard - and it will get hard! So.....I don't want to lose myself before I’ve found me'
She reached out to touch Roy but he shrugged off her gesture.
'Since you are all about finding yourself and not loosing you, I hope it all works out fine because you just lost me’. He said with certain finality. 
‘Goodbye Melanie. Enjoy your great life. And........... when you find you, tell her I said she is a coward who is too afraid to get out of her comfort zone and trust a person. You know what? Scratch that! Maybe I just dodged a bullet with your insecure ass! Goodbye!' 

With that, he stomped off in the direction of his car. The squish of the sand couldn't remove the determined hatred that every step signified. It didn't matter that that was also Mel’s ride.


She watched him walk away from the beach, from the happy memories shattered like it was Friday the 13th, and from her life. She had always said to herself that she wasn't going to cry for any man. She watched his back and her lip quivered.



***



Mel was crying her heart out. It had been a month of pure liquid hell. Roy had not looked back since that day when he walked away. He had not called either. And when Mel tried to case out their favorite hangouts, she did not find Roy in any of them. As she was such a career woman, she had not bordered with friends and as such she had no anyone to talk to about her breakup. 


Day one was the easiest day. She had filled her day with lots of activities, running work errands until she got home too tired to do anything but fall into bed. She didn’t have time to think of Roy and the gaping emptiness that was her life. She kept up this routine, sometimes forgetting to eat and before long, she had dropped weight like an anorexic. Though her boss liked the sterile emotions of his staff, he had begun to notice the abject sadness following Mel everywhere she went. It was like a second shadow and he just didn’t want to be a part of that! So...he sent her home. On compulsory leave! 


She had two whole weeks to herself. By day three of her leave, her house was sterile-clean, her dresses all washed, rewashed and ironed and she had absolutely nothing else to do! That was when the thoughts she had hidden in the far recesses of her minds began to ebb to the surface. By day five of her leave, she had collapsed into an avalanche of depression, pain and sadness. 


Why was she so bullheaded? She had always had a jaded view of marriage because of the examples she had seen growing up. She saw women lose themselves in their husband’s identities, in being mothers, in being home-makers. She saw women give up their own dreams to cater to their men and she sure didn’t want to go down that path. She had honed her skills so well that she didn’t give herself completely to anyone....well, until she met Roy. She loved him like she had loved no other. She learnt to be sweet, gentle, womanly and loving to a man and she learnt to accept the same from him. She should have known that she couldn’t expect to run away from the proposal. She had managed to evade it for the four years they had been together and somehow, she got blindsided when he asked for the weekend getaway. She had let herself be so happy that she ignored all the signs he usually gave. But she had been right. Love sucked!



***


Saturday morning and Roy was finally feeling himself again. He had eaten half a bowl of cereal today without feeling listless about it. He had had a cold shower and looked forward to the new day. The psychologists were right. It gets easier after 21 days! It was day 22 and Roy was ready to move on. He looked forward to some basketball that evening with the dudes. It had been hard to even focus on his free throws for the last few days but he felt he was getting his groove back. It still felt like a 500 ton trailer rammed into him, but he was glad he was alive. He got kitted up, took up a bottle of water, turned down the light and headed out to where he could always find a piece of sanity.



***


Mel headed to the only place where Roy felt sane; the country club basketball courts. She parked outside and sat in the car for close to twenty minutes. She couldn’t bring herself to open the door because she felt so ridiculous coming here. How stupid could she be?! There was bound to be many people here. She had pumped up on guts and jumped into her car after she ensured her face was wiped off of all streaks of tears and her breath felt fresh. Now that she was here, she felt an utter fool. She could go back and put this behind her.


She was still thinking of what to do when a security guard rapped on the side glass. She snapped out of her reverie and clumsily wound down the glass. 

‘Do you need any help?’
Errrrrrmm.......no. I was just....ermmm....’ she looked at the entrance to the courts and looked back at the guard. ‘I was just waiting for someone’.
‘Well ma’am........you cannot wait here. You are making some members uncomfortable. If you are not going in, I will have to ask you to leave’.
‘Okay......’ she said as wound up her glass. It was ‘make or break’ time. 

She got out of the car, locked the door while she still felt capable and walked briskly to the entrance of the courts. She followed the maze of alleys and finally got to the main indoor courts. The muffled sound of the ball making contact with the court showed the high technology which the members were paying top Naira for. Mel took a deeply needed breath and pushed the doors leading into the courts.


Roy and two other guys were facing away from the exit and didn’t see her come in. His other friends did though and they stopped playing in that awkward way that seems to scream, ‘something is about to happen!’ They all seemed to be staring at her and Mel’s only thought was, ‘Oh! Shoot! There is a crowd.........all 10 of them!’ Jeff and Kelvin both look behind them and joined in on the awkward shuffling that is characterized by about-to-be-terse moments.

Roy wheeled around with ‘Did the president just step in?’ coming out of his mouth. He hadn’t finished his sentence when he saw Mel. His emotions would have been a director’s delight because it went from easy camaraderie to shock, then confusion and finally, ice cold stony anger! He stared at her for a few seconds and somehow, she seemed riveted at that spot. Buckling up courage, she took a step towards him. Her move was reciprocated by one of Roy’s. He turned away and started off towards the other exit. The order guys got in front of him and prevented him from leaving. He got into a scuffle with his boys but they held on, pushing him back into the courts. As he turned back to the court, he unleashed his inner hulk.

‘What the hell are you doing here?!’ he roared.

‘Can.....can I.....can I speak...speak to you.......privately?’ she stuttered, visibly shaking.
‘I’m guessing I can stop my game, right in the middle of it, for her royal highness now can’t I?’ he intoned in the most sarcastic tone he could muster, knowing that sarcasm was the worst form of offense to Mel and one which she absolutely abhorred. True to expectation, Mel flinched; feeling like a whip had landed on her bare skin.
‘Please.....’ the tears and treble in her voice very audible.
‘What?! Just what do you want?!’ he doesn’t shout anymore but his flat voice somehow feels worse than shout.
‘I want to talk to you....in private’, Mel whispered.


Roy snickered, and bursts into full blown laughter. Even the guys felt the embarrassment mounting and with Mel’s coloring, she turned a bright hue of pink. That statement seemed to spur her because she walked forward, until she was close enough to talk to him. His friends made no move to leave. This was far better than any basketball play they were having.


‘I just need a few minutes of your time to talk. Please’


Roy became downright condescending. He gave her the one-over. He still managed to, somehow, see that she didn’t look so good.


‘If you have anything to say to me, you can say it right here’, he folded his hands and wore the most annoying smirk on face. He sure knew how to rile Mel up. He knew she hated public fights. He was surprised that she had even come closer when she saw the crowd.


Mel looked uneasily about her, and seeing the eager and expectant expressions of the guys, she blanched. Her head wanted to run, but she was there only by the sheer force of will.


‘Okay....if that is what you want’. Roy’s only register of the surprise he felt was raising his eyebrows. 


‘I...I came here today...to ....to...’


‘I don’t have all day to listen to your speech impediments. You either speak or you leave’. He turned away from her. The first tear fell then, and plopped on her collarbone.


‘I came here to tell you that from the moment I met you, I fell in love with you. You made me cast my fears aside when you showed me that you could be trusted and taught me to let down my walls. I have always had this independent streak and when I met you, I felt like I didn’t need to be that ‘miss independent’ anymore. That scared me. Hell! That scared the shit out of me! I didn’t want to be another statistic of women who let down their guards for men and ended up being bitter and sad. So when you proposed.....’ 


The guys gasp in shock. They didn’t know that Roy had proposed. Mel kept quiet as she imagined their judging looks.

‘Yes! Don’t be so shocked. I proposed to her’ he turned to Mel, ‘and all she did was throw my proposal in my face! And now you think your tears and melodramatic speech means anything to me? Please! You had your chance. You blew it. Get over yourself and get out of my life’. Though Roy was speaking from anger, it was easy to see that the pain he was feeling was raw and unbearable.


‘Plea.......se....’ Mel reached out to touch him and he shrugged her off. ‘Don’t lower what little respect I still have for you. Get yourself out of this place’. He turned away and started walking out of the gym. Mel wiped her face. 


The guys were parting to let Roy through when Mel’s voice stopped him in his tracks. 


‘ONE GAME!’

Roy stopped. He slowly turned, but not enough to be fully facing her.
‘Huh?’
‘We play one game of basketball. If you win, I will walk out of this court and your life forever. I won’t so much as allow my presence to stain your existence’.

Roy walked back to Mel in slow, steady steps. ‘And.....if somehow, or by some luck, you win the game? What do you get?’

Mel stared at him unblinkingly for a few seconds. She didn’t shake in her look and it seemed she had the same mindset about her resolution too.

‘We get married’
. She said in a simple tone, devoid of all emotion but the hope she hung on.


Roy laughed. ‘You won’t win me even if I give you three quarters of the point. Go home, Mel’.


‘Owwww...........scared are we? Afraid a girl is going to beat you in front of all the guys?’


The guys ‘uhhhhhhed’, and started snickering.

Roy looked at the guys and they started staring at all other parts of the court but at him. Roy turned back to Mel.

‘Owww...this is so going to be good! Best of 7. And to show that I know the spirit of fair play, I give you five points. I’m a nice guy like that’. His attitude couldn’t have been more patronizing. 


‘Ball!!!!!!!!!’ 


David threw the ball and Roy shot at Mel. 


‘Ladies first’. 


Mel began to bounce the ball and before she could acknowledge Jack and Robinson, Roy had stolen the ball and the ‘whoooosh’ of the ball going into the net was a sign of how ready Roy was to win her.


‘You sure brought your a-game!’. 


Mel walked to the start line and started the game again. She tried to go past Roy but over and over again, he stole the ball from her, and at a point, it seemed like the ball going into the net was the only constant thing. Soon, it was 5-all. 


Mel was visibly shaken. Her amateur basketball skills had been reduced to perfect comedy for the guys. She knew she wanted to win! She NEEDED to win at all cost! She was so sad! But she sure couldn’t let Roy’s taunts keep her from giving her all. She so wanted to give up and tuck her tail in, but she couldn’t!

When she started again, she took a deep breath. It didn’t reduce his height. By getting beat five times, she had learnt that Roy always went after her right hand when they were playing. She wasn’t strong on her left bounce, but she knew if she tried cutting him from her left, he wouldn’t anticipate that. So she bounced....with her right hand. And just when he was about to steal her ball with the ease he felt, Mel bounced the ball to her left hand and cut across his left as he leaned towards her right. Roy was shocked. He stood there for a few seconds which allowed Mel go for a lay-up and make the basket.

‘Whoa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ the guys shouted and clapped. The game was getting more interesting.


Mel bounced the ball to Roy with a less than shaky ‘your ball’.


Roy seemed to bounce the ball only twice...he was so fast! He sent the ball flying from the 3-point line and another point was made.


It was 6-all and whoever made the next basket was set to win. The air was tense with anticipation. Mel felt like her legs turned to lead. She couldn’t move. She stood staring at the basket. The sweat that was gathering at her armpits suddenly started dripping down. So was the one on her brow.


‘Just take your time. I definitely have all day to wait for you’.
With that, Mel walked to the start line. She started with a weak bounce and looked that Roy. It seemed that he was already on top her and only the adrenaline that was pumping in her veins made her deftly evade him. She bounced the ball and ran with it and he seemed ready to stop her. When she tried to go left, he was two steps ahead. When it was right, he blocked that part too. She didn’t know what to do.

Roy didn’t want her to win. His ego was bruised by her abject rejection. She had made him feel like less than a man. He loved her (loves her still) but he couldn’t bear to have someone hurt him again like that in his life. He was going to win. Even if it was the last thing he did.


Mel was putting her heart on the platform, and losing was going to mean the mallet would crush her heart to pieces. She needed to win. That thought spurred her and she decided to try something she had never perfected. She made a ‘fake’ and somehow, Roy didn’t see through the ruse. He jumped up and she stole past him with the ball in hand, while he was still in the air. He turned and chased after her. She ran and went for the lay-up. The ball went into the air just as Roy jumped for it. It whizzed past his fingers as he fell. The ball touched the rim and kept rolling....and rolling... and rolling. Mel held her breath. So did the guys. 


The ball rolled one last time.....and went out of the net! Roy went for a rebound and the last ‘whoosh’ from his dunk had a certain final ring to it. Before he could let go of the net, Mel took off with as much speed as she could muster and ran out of the building.


Roy watched her go.


David picked the ball that had rolled to him and with as much energy as he could muster, threw it at Roy, all the while aiming for his head. The ball hit Roy on the side of his head.


‘What the hell was that for?!’

No woman puts up that much fight for a man she doesn’t love. Mel especially had everything to lose doing what she just did. You are a fool to let her go!’

Roy looked at him.....then at the other guys. It finally dawned on him what Mel had done. He rubbed his head a bit and slowly brought his hand down his face. With a loudly exhaled breath, he started running.


‘Roy...’

He stopped and turned. David threw his car keys at him. Roy caught in one deft move
‘Go get her!’. 


***



Roy went to the one place he was sure to find Mel. He had met her there five years ago when he accidentally took a wrong turn in the park. The stream at the end of the park was clustered with trees and a small enclave that let just the right amount of sun to stream in. It was a beautiful, peaceful place. She always said her that was her little part of heaven. She had always gone there when she needed to think. He hoped he would find her there. 



The sun gave a pointer to where she was sitting, knees up and encircled in her arms. Her sobs were heart wrenching and Roy felt like killing himself. He walked to her, and sensing his presence, she looked up. When she saw him, she jumped to her feet and made a beeline for the shrubs marking the exit. Roy caught her at her third step. He pulled her to himself, flailing and all. She fought him like a banshee! He didn’t let her go. She struggled until she lost all will to fight. Still, he didn’t let her go. He wasn’t ever going to let her go. Mel finally let up and stopped crying. She was totally spent. She looked up at Roy and saw the tears glistening on his face. He never cried. At least, not since he was 9. She touched his chin tentatively. He looked into her eyes, lifted her chin and let out his breath.

‘Yes...I will marry you! 



THE END


7 comments:

  1. Whoa! I sit in a library seeking motivation...then I go on facebook where your post says you have a new piece; all along I always felt you drag your writing especially for a blog that is one in a million others with so much seeking our readership. From start to finish this was awesome a storyline with depth in plot, near perfect twist in the many moments of suspense and well versed through good research. And to say this is your first work of fiction? You sure do have more deposited in you than you can ever imagine & I commend you for this one shared with the World. Thumbs up...your loving basketball playing fan!

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  2. Wow!!! thank you a million. I'm a long winded writer and also read long winded writers. So when I write, I actually expect my kind of people to read the blog. This won't put me in the league of the writers who give 'quickies' but I write for me. *wink. Anyway, this isn't my first fiction.........it is just the first time that I have written something this long! Your comment is inspiring. Thank you!

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  3. Amazing piece. you have made my weekend already.thanks

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  4. This is beautiful..I am not one to read a long piece as this to d end without missing a few lines. But you got me stuck I couldn't even dare look away till I was finished. Lovely write-up Ramat. Well done

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    Replies
    1. Awww...thank you so much dearie! I am so happy you took out time to read! Thanks a million!

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    2. Awww...thank you so much dearie! I am so happy you took out time to read! Thanks a million!

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