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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Santa's gift (2)

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I turned my face slightly and the kiss landed on my cheek. I drew out of his embrace and he went back to his seat. We both knew what he was about to do and what it could have led to. 
"You shouldn't have done that," I stated. 
"What?" he asked looking at me.
"You know what you were trying to do. You wanted to kiss me. Don't try that again," I warned him.

"I'm sorry. It's just that you look so beautiful when you cry! I guess I got carried away," he said.
"Ernest!" I said glaring at him.
"Alright, alright! I'll behave from now on," he said with a wry smile.
He kept to his words but for a short while. After that, it was back to his old ways of constant flirting with me and cracking jokes. He made me laugh and forget my troubles, especially the situation with Barri. 

We had spoken a couple of times since he told me he was not coming home to visit anymore. He had been full of apologies, promising to come another time once 'he was less busy'.
"If you like, come or don't come. Do whatever you like. I don't bloody care!" I had shouted at him during our last conversation.
"Ah! Bella! Don't say that," he had said, before assuring me again of his undying love and devotion to me...

Anyway, I decided not to let Bari's continued absence bother me too much. I focused on my job and when I was off duty, I spent time with my family and friends. 
May was one of such friends that I spent a lot of my free time with. One weekend, I accompanied her to a large shopping mall at Ikeja to help pick out a gift for her fiancé Jerry's birthday. After we made the purchase, we took a lunch break from window shopping and admiring some of the expensive items on display at the stores at the mall. 

"Bella, I'm traveling next week. Jerry and I are going to South Africa for the holidays," she announced as we ate at an eatery in the mall.
"Wow! Girl, that's cool. Lucky you!" I said enviously.
"Yeah. His company gave him some tickets as a bonus for all his hard work the past year. So, he's taking me along," she stated.

"Well, I have nowhere to go. I'm stuck in this boring place for the holidays. Worse still, Barri is no longer coming," I said.
"Don't be too sad," she said on seeing how downcast I looked. "He could still change his mind and come after all," she stated.
"I don't think so. He would have told me if that was his plan," I noted. 

"Poor you. So, what will you do during the period? Don't tell me you don't have anything lined up like places to go to unwind, catch some fun," she asked.
"Well, nothing much. I will just spend the day chilling at home with my people. Though someone has invited me to a weekend get together at the Golden resorts."
"Golden Resorts? That's great! Wonderful place! Jerry and I were there some months back and we had a swell time. So, who's this person taking you there?" she queried.

When I told her it was Ernest, my colleague, she looked at me sharply.
"Ernest? Why will he invite you for such an outing? Shouldn't he be taking his girlfriend or partner there? Why you?" she inquired.
"Hey, May, easy with the grilling. It's a professional club he belongs to that is organising it for their members. He broke up with his girlfriend over six months ago and he asked me to be his date for the event," I stated.

"Well, just be careful sha. You told me the guy likes you. Being together in such a beautiful setting as the Resort, a good looking young man and a pretty young lady, anything can happen," said May.
"Like what? Girl, you have a dirty mind! We will have separate rooms. Besides, I'm a big girl, a married one at that and I can take care of myself. And I have not even accepted to go with him," I stated.

That was not totally true. I had told Ernest I would think about it but in my heart, I knew I would go. Truth was that, I needed a break from all the hassles of work and other commitments I had faced all these past months. Three days at a nice resort with all kinds of delicious food to eat, a spa for some massages and other pampering sessions sounded very enticing. 

I trusted Ernest and I knew he would not do anything funny I did not want. So, what was there not to like about the trip, I wondered. It was just what I needed at that time, a get-away to relax and forget all my troubles with Barri.
The following Monday, I told him I would go with him to the resort.
"That's great, Bella. I'm sure you won't regret coming. You have been looking really stressed up for some time and this break will do you good. You will a have great time with my friends and I. I promise you," he reassured me.

Later, on getting home from work, I thought about how good Ernest had been to me and how he was always looking out for me. He had filled a vacuum in my life, created by my husband's long absence. He was playing some of the roles, Barri, my husband should have been playing in my life.
 'Instead, he is so comfortable abroad that to come home to see me has become a problem for him,' I said to myself with a hiss. 

What kind of husband will leave his wife alone for five years without bothering to come home? All he did was give excuses which were sounding more lame by the day. I had been understanding and patient with him all along but I believed he was beginning to take me for granted. In a way, my accepting Ernest's invitation to the resort was my way of showing him that I too, can go out and have my fun, that I was not going to continue living like a nun just because of an absentee spouse. 

Though I liked him and was somehow attracted to him, I had no intention of dating Ernest, though I knew that was what he desired and wanted so much. But who knows, anything could happen on this trip and I could change my mind...

The home coming
"So, what's your Christmas wish? Is there anything you desire so much that you want Santa to do for you this season?" said Ernest over a take away lunch in the office one day. It was some days before Christmas and we were winding up work for the year.
"Santa? At my age? Guy, I'm not eight years old! That's kids' stuff! I'm too old for that kind of bullshit," I told him.
"One is never too old to make a wish. So, what do you want? Who knows, your desire might come true," he said.

"Well, there's just one thing I want for Christmas. But I'm not telling you. Sorry, my secret," I said with a smile.
"Ah! Open up, B! What is it? A new car? That expensive Gucci bag I saw you drooling over on that shopping website the other day? Tell me, na!" he persisted.
I just smiled at him and shook my head. Barri, my husband was all I wanted for the holidays but since it was impossible for him to be with me then, there was no need voicing such a desire out.

Ernest was speaking.
“As for me, I got what I wanted," he said.
"What is it?" I asked with some curiosity.
He shook his head.
"Not telling. I can keep secrets too, you know," he said grinning.
"Bad guy," I said teasingly.
On the day, we were to leave for the resort, I woke up early and packed a few clothes and some toiletries in a small traveling bag. The resort was about two hours drive from the city. I did not want Ernest to pick me up at home so as not to arouse my Mum's suspicions as I had told her I was going to spend some days at Juliet, another friend of mine's place. I was to meet Ernest at his place before driving down.

I had taken my bath and was getting dressed when Estel, my cousin ran into my room, full of excitement. 
"Sister, come quickly! Uncle Barri has come!" she cried.
"Who?" I asked, turning from the dressing mirror.
"Uncle Barri! Your husband! He's here in the house, in the sitting room!" she said quickly.
"What are you talking about? This girl, are you sure you are alright? Or have you been stealing Daddy's brandy again?" I queried. 
"I'm serious, Sister. Just come and see," she said.
"It had better be real or you will be in serious trouble today," I threatened as I followed her out of my room to the parlour. I knew it could not be Barri as I had spoken to him two days before and he had given no hint that he was coming.
But standing right in the middle of the living room was my dear, long gone husband, a broad smile on his face and his arms opened wide...

"But Sweetheart, you should have told me you were coming. We would have come to pick you up at the airport," I said some time later after some of the excitement at his unexpected arrival had died down.
He laughed and pinched my nose playfully.
"I wanted to surprise you and by God, I succeeded. You looked as if you had seen a ghost when you saw me earlier. Ha ha ha!" he laughed. 

"You sure did. You were the last person I was expecting to see," I said cuddling up close to him on the couch.
"Truth is I missed you so much, Babe. So, I rescheduled some of the appointments I had and here I am," he said, kissing me on the forehead.
"Thank God you did. I missed you too. It's been so lonely without you," I stated.
"I know. I'm here now. This time, I 'm taking you with me so we will never be separated again," he promised.
I smiled at his words and held him tightly to me.
"Uncle Bari, what about my Christmas gift? I hope you didn't forget to bring something for me," said Estel. 
"Of course not. I have lots of goodies for you and every one else including my Baby here," he said turning to me and drawing me close.
 I smiled again. The only gift I wanted Bari, had arrived so unexpectedly making me deliriously happy. I didn't need anything else. Perhaps, it was Santa's gift to me, to make up for all the years of separation and loneliness. Now I know that sometimes, dreams and wishes do come true, even for sceptics like me who don't believe in fairytales like Santa Claus...

The End!

Postscript: These incidents happened a year ago and Bella and Bari now live happily together in the U.S and they are expecting their first child together. Often, a little bit of patience is all that is needed to turn a difficult situation around for good.

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