The occasional sounds of cutlery meeting plates and muted conversations pierced through Bella’s subconscious. Peaches, a newly-established upscale restaurant in Abuja was buzzing with activity, with the Friday evening diners exuding a sense of cheer which she did not feel.
The evening had started to go downhill from the moment Mike had arrived at her place to pick her up for their date. ‘This blue dress again? I don’t know why you won’t wear any of the dresses I have bought for you’ he muttered by way of saying hello. Bella had been withdrawn and quiet afterwards on the drive to the restaurant, but he didn’t seem to have noticed.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Mike returning to the table where she sat, and she sighed. She almost wished he had left after taking the phone call which had taken him outside.
‘Sorry, Belly! One of my clients wanted some information about something’ he smiled.
Bella rolled her eyes internally. Why he insisted on calling her ‘Belly’, she could never fathom. For almost a year of dating, Bella had cajoled and outright asked him not to call her that, but Mike being Mike, did exactly as he pleased.
‘Maybe my calling you Belly will make you lose some weight’ he reasoned. Bella had been too stunned to respond. At size 10, she definitely wasn’t overweight. But then to Mike, anyone who didn’t go to the gym every day like he did was ‘chronically unhealthy’.
Their relationship had started off as exciting, but soon Bella realized that what she had first thought to be Mike’s decisiveness was in fact just plain bossiness.
They resumed their meal, with Bella enjoying her jollof rice and chicken, and Mike wolfing down his couscous and a giant plateful of leafy vegetables.
‘This food is really tasty’, Mike said.
‘Hmm’, Bella agreed, thinking that hers was the best grilled chicken she’d had in a while.
‘You should have ordered this salad-it’s very good’. Mike added. Bella pretended not to have heard him; her mind was focused on her chicken and on whether she had diesel left at home for her generator.
Mike continued talking. ‘I was talking to my mother yesterday and we both agreed that you would make a good wife if only you adjusted your diet. I told her how you really like burgers and other fast food’.
Time seemed to stop. Bella stopped eating, mid-chew. She looked up at Mike, who was still scooping spoonfuls of food into his mouth. She swallowed her food, placed her cutlery on her plate, and waited.
Mike eventually noticed that she was not eating and looked at her, surprised. ‘I thought you liked the food. Are you full already?’
Bella stared at him, wondering how come they had lasted for almost a year together.
‘So’ she started, ‘you want to get married to me’.
‘Well…of course’, Mike replied, looking surprised.
‘And you discussed it with your mother, before discussing it with me’.
‘Oh, is that why you are upset?’ Mike laughed. ‘You know how close my mother and I are. In fact, my father even suggested that I should make sure you can cook Afang soup before I discuss marriage with you’ he added.
Bella was at a loss for words. She looked at him, with his smooth black skin and precise haircut, good-fitting blazer with accompanying designer beard and shirt. She looked at his hands, with his badly bitten nails which she usually ignored, but which now seemed to be shouting at her.
She had a sudden image of herself, married to him, heavily pregnant and asking him to take her to the hospital, with his reply being, ‘wait-let me call my parents and find out if your pain is worth the trip’.
Rage dissolved into giggles. It started slowly, with just her shoulders shaking, and it finally morphed into loud laughter, with tears rolling down her cheeks and with the spasms making her clutch her stomach.
Other diners turned to look at her with amusement in their eyes, wondering what the joke was.
The joke, she wanted to tell them, was her relationship.
‘Why are you laughing so loudly?’ he hissed at her. ‘People are looking at us. I am sure that they think something is wrong with you’.
Bella reached into her bag, brought out her white handkerchief and wiped the tears from her eyes. Some of her mascara stained it, but she really didn’t mind.
‘Mike’ she started. ‘I can see that you do not recognize how absurd this situation is. I honestly think we should take a break, to think about if this relationship is what we really want’.
‘What? Are you breaking up with me?’ he asked, incensed.
‘Well…yes, I think we should break up’.
Mike shook his head, looking at her with pity. He beckoned at a hovering waiter to bring their bill. He paid with his card, and stood up, looking down at her.
‘I hope you know what you are doing; I’m the best thing to have happened to you. You can find your own way home’. And with those words, dripping with venom, Mike left her in the restaurant.
By now, the other diners were making a show of acting like they had not witnessed the dramatic exchange.
Bella tried to assess how she felt at that moment. She only felt relief.
She would take a taxi home, but first, she would finish her chicken.
After all, the chicken was too tasty to waste.
© Ivie M. Eke 2016.