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 sun, picked up her dance, ruffling the trees clothing the bank of the seas. It wasn’t a surprise when the wind playfully lifted her skirts. She twirled and twirled, laughing, basking in the slowly-cooling dance of the wind and the ebbing heat of the sun. She was happy!
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. She looked up at his tall, handsome physique, and still managed to blush while smiling.
‘Mel…’ he stared at her, his expression like someone who 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 fidgeted.
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 soul disconnecting from him. It wasn’t just a physical pull-out. She began to wring out her fingers, a clear sign that her nervousness was beyond her control.
With that, he stomped off in the direction of his car. The squish of the sand couldn’t remove the determined anger 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 in one breath, 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 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 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 definitely 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 learned to be sweet, gentle, ‘womanly’ and loving to a man and she learned 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!
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.
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 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 stared 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 went from easy camaraderie to shock, then confusion and finally, ice cold anger! He stared at her for a few seconds and somehow, she stayed riveted to that spot. Bucking 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.
Roy snickered, and bursts into full blown laughter. Even the guys felt the embarrassment mounting and Mel turned the equivalent of a bright hue of pink for a brown skin girl. That statement seemed to spur her because she sniffed, pulled herself together and 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 game 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 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, blanched. Her head wanted to run, but her mind forced her to stay.
‘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. You either speak or 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.
‘Yes! Don’t be so shocked. I proposed to her…’ he turned to Mel, ‘…and she threw my proposal in my face! And now you are here, crying? Please! Just go. This isn’t something anyone wants.’ 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 moved away. ‘Just go’. 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.
Roy walked back to Mel in slow, steady steps. ‘And…if somehow, or by some luck, you win the game? What do you get?’
‘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. 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 snickered.
‘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.
David threw the ball and Roy passed the ball to Mel.
Mel barely caught the ball. When she steadied her hand, she began to bounce the ball. 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 much Roy wanted to win the game.
‘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. Her handles were the worst and she barely had any control of the ball. 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 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!
‘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 near the half-court and another point was made.
It was 6-all and whoever made the next basket, wins. 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.’
Roy didn’t want her to win. His ego was bruised by her rejection. She had hurt him terribly. 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. The ball hit Roy on the side of his head.
‘What the hell was that for?!’
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 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 always went 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. 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!’