Jessica’s eyes had been on her phone throughout the afternoon class. Even her mobile data which she rarely left on had been running for the past three hours. The message which reminded her that she had used up seventy-five percent of her data had been blatantly ignored. Her phone vibrated, she opened it immediately. A smile filled her face when she saw the sender of the message and the message that had been sent to her on WhatsApp.
It was funny how a simple message of ‘Did you get home safely?’ resulted in a series of messages that had nothing to do with the fact that Obinna already had someone he would marry, and that person was her friend, Uju.
After Katherine had left with her future son-in-law, Jessica had found herself saving the number on his card. She looked up his profile on WhatsApp and had kept on going back to the profile picture, a picture of Obinna in thick winter clothes, standing on a snow-covered ground. His face was not clear in the picture, but she kept looking at it all the same. By evening, she could not contain herself, and then sent him ‘Did you get home safely?’ Unlike her, she changed her profile picture from a picture of a green forest to her personal picture. She had put up one of her finest pictures with the hope that he would be able to recognize her. Twenty minutes, he had replied with ‘Yes’ and a smiley face emoji. Her heart had fluttered when she saw his reply, and she sent back a happy face with ‘Thank God’. A feeling of awkwardness descended on her when she realized that she didn’t know how to begin an actual conversation with him. In her disappointment, she had switched off her mobile data. As was her usual practice, she switched on her data before she went to bed to browse the internet and social media. He had sent another message to her, asking her what course she was studying. And like that, they began chatting with each other.
Uju had returned three days after their visit, but Obinna had made no effort to come and visit her. Uju was less-concerned, her boyfriend had gotten her a new phone and had taken her shopping, buying her different clothes, bags and shoes. She said very little about Obinna. Whenever Jessica asked either of them how the situation was between them, they would both brush it away and change the topic.
Two weeks after the visit, and two weeks to the introduction, Obinna finally decided to take Uju out. He had invited Jessica, but she had declined. Despite how fast their friendship had grown in the past weeks, or how happy she was when he called her at night, she had to force herself to remember that he was her friend’s fiancé. Even though, it seemed everything was stale between them, but the marriage had been arranged by their relatives, no matter what she felt for him, she couldn’t involve herself. For her friend’s sake, she could only hope that their first meeting would go well.
Three days, and she had not received a message from him. She was worried. Three days and she had tried her best not to ask her friend how their date went; three days of going through all his social media accounts hoping to get a clue of what happened; three days of endless worry; three days of forcing herself to forget him, telling herself that he was about to get married, that he didn’t belong to her. Finally, she couldn’t bear the silence. She called her friend.
“How did it go?” she asked after the usual greetings.
“Don’t mention it. It was disastrous,” her friend lamented.
Jessica was surprised. That day, she had viewed Uju’s status including the pictures she had posted, everything had seemed okay.
“Everything was going well, until he started asking me why I lied to them. And then that he knew I had a boyfriend. Can you imagine?” Uju huffed. “We haven’t even gotten engaged and he is already behaving like this.”
“But it’s true,” Jessica rushed to his defence. “You do have a boyfriend.”
“I’m sure he also has a girlfriend abroad, why can’t I have my own boyfriend? Besides, the first time we meet and he was already finding faults with everything—”
“Like what?” Jessica cut in.
“Just forget it, but after everything, he said we should date properly for the next few weeks before the introduction, and see how it goes.”
“Oh.” Jessica ignored the pang of pain in her chest. “So, how do you see him? When he came here, I felt he was okay.”
“Okay? First things first, he is so boring. I mean, aside asking me how I am, whether I have eaten or not, how school was, he doesn’t say any other thing. If I show you our chats, you will be shocked.”
No, he is not, Jessica thought, he is not boring at all.
“But aside that, you don’t have any other problem with him right?” Jessica asked.
“He is also stingy.”
“Stingy?” Jessica furrowed her brows in confusion.
“Yes, he has money, but take me shopping, mba. I called him last night and told him that I want to make my hair and do my nails. He didn’t even understand what I meant. He just told me okay. Can you imagine?”
“If you wanted money, you could have just asked him. He gave me N5,000 when he came, he doesn’t even know me,” Jessica sighed.
“My boyfriend is not like that. Once I tell him that I want to do something, he will just ask me how much I need. Why will I tell you I want to make my hair, it’s very obvious. I’m sure that he purposely ignored it.”
“Aside the fact that he is boring and stingy, do you have any complaints about him? Character-wise?”
“Not really. At least he has money and he is good looking. That is enough to consider marrying him. I just hope that he is just clueless, and not stingy. Because I don’t think I can live with a stingy man. Definitely not possible.” Jessica could hear her snapping her fingers in a ‘God forbid’ gesture.
“It will be good if you can try to look beyond his looks and his money. Marriage is not a joke. It’s important you get to know who he is first before you jump into the marriage. Even though your parents arranged the marriage, I am sure that they also want you to marry him because you love him, not because of his background,” Jessica repeated the words she always told her materialistic friend.
“No p. I know what I am doing, babe. Don’t worry about me,” Uju reassured her.
After the call ended, Jessica sent him a message, ignoring the fear of being left unread.
It was a week to Uju’s introduction that Obinna gave Jessica a call, and asked to meet up with her. He wanted to talk to her. Filled with trepidation, and also fear of what it would mean if her friend found out that she saw her fiancé behind her back, she declined, saying they could talk over the phone. But Obinna was persistent, if she didn’t agree to meet with him, he would come to her hostel.
And so with no other choice, she agreed to meet him.
They met in restaurant that specially served Igbo specials like nkwobi, peppersoup, abacha, ụkwa and ngwo-ngwo. It was afternoon, so the place was empty with two other patrons. The small restaurant was simple but aroma that filled the room was not simple at all, pulling passers-by into the restaurant.
A lover of nkwobi, Jessica felt glad that she accepted his invite. As soon as plates filled with meat arrived, Jessica wasted no time and began digging in. Opposite her, Obinna laughed at her enthusiasm and started eating as well.
“I don’t want to get married to Uju,” he said suddenly.
With her attention on the food, it took a while for Jessica to understand what he said.
She looked up from her plate with shock. “What? Why?”
Obinna shook his head slowly. “We are not compatible.”
“But she said everything was going on well between the both of you. You have been taking her out all these while, how will you say that you are not compatible?” This was what he wanted to talk to her about?
“I don’t think I am ready to settle yet. I thought I was, I mean I have been talking to Uju for a year and some months. I thought that I liked her. Even though it was my parents that introduced the both of us, I felt there was something between us. But when I actually got to meet her, I realized that things weren’t the way I thought them to be. These few days with her made me realize who she really is. She is not a bad person, she is a great girl, but I don’t think I can spend the rest of my life with her. The connection isn’t there. I think she also feels the same way.” He picked up his spoon and continued eating, as though he hadn’t said anything.
Jessica slowly picked up her spoon and continued eating. She wanted to say something, but she didn’t know what to say. She could also sense the truth in what he said, but she couldn’t help but feel that there was more to what he said. It wasn’t just the fact they were incompatible.
“You met another person?” she blurted out, and immediately regretted it.
He looked at her in surprise, then smiled widely, “How did you guess?”
Her heart trembled. He met another person, she didn’t know how to feel; anger for her friend, or sorry that her hopes were once again brought down.
“Oh,” she said.
“I want to see where it goes with her. I just met her recently, but she seems like someone who I can get along with pretty well.”
Jessica thought back to their conversations and chats, he had told her a lot of things but had never mentioned any new girl.
“She must be a nice girl,” she said.
He chuckled. “You would get to meet her, and tell for yourself.”
Jessica lowered her head, blinking away tears. “When will I get to meet her?”
“Soon,” he said.
When Uju had called her to tell her that the marriage had been called off, Jessica had acted surprised and tried to comfort her. It had been a friendly breakup, Uju had said, we were not into each other. Our families supported us too.
The marriage had been called off, and having completed what he came back to the country to do, Obinna was preparing to return back to Germany. He invited Uju and Jessica for a night-out with his friends. Knowing that she would be able to meet the girl, he had been talking about—he hadn’t stopped gushing about her during their chats, she could cook, she was beautiful—she was filled with mixed feelings, happy that he found someone he liked, sad that the girl wasn’t her.
The venue was a resort centre. Jessica had heard of it before, but she never had the opportunity to visit the place. Uju of course, had been here a number of times and took it upon herself to introduce the place to her. Playing the host to about ten people, Obinna was responsible for the food and the drinks, urging both Uju and Jessica to order anything they wanted without worry.
“Just look at what I missed,” Uju moaned as she took in the table filled with assorted meals, including her favorite barbecue fish. Of course she was referring to the ‘generous’ version of Obinna that she had gotten to know.
The table was filled with laughter as they feasted. The men took glasses after glasses of wine, Jessica stuck to the fruit wine that had been bought.
Her attention was on the other girls seated on the other side of the table. She wondered who Obinna had been talking about. Two of them were girlfriends of Obinna’s friends. The other two seemed single, so she focused on them. Her attention was pulled away by a pat on her back. It was Obinna. He motioned to her to come aside. Confused, she stood up and followed him.
They walked a distance away from the group before he stopped.
Jessica looked at him with questioning eyes. “Hope there is no problem?”
He shook his head. “I just want to talk to you.”
“Oh.” She looked away, her eyes falling on two couples cuddling in the distance. “Did she come?”
He frowned, “Who?”
“The girl you were talking about.”
He smiled. “Are you that clueless?”
She looked at him with surprise. “What do you mean?”
His shoulders shook with laughter. “I thought your friend would tell you? She really didn’t say anything to you?”
“Is it Uju? I thought you already called off the introduction? You guys want to try again?” she asked.
“Oh my God! Jessica, what are you saying? I meant you, you’re the girl I was talking about.” He couldn’t hold it in any longer.
She looked at him with wide eyes. Was this a dream? “You’re joking?”
He shook his head and stopped laughing. “I’m serious.”
“Why…why me? Uju is my friend. I mean—” her voice caught in her throat.
He pulled her into an embrace. “I like you, Jessica. I want to get to know more about you. I want to see where this thing between us will go.”
Still caught in disbelief, Jessica brought her hands round his waist and breathed in deeply, drawing his scent into her lungs. “I also want to see where it goes,” she murmured.
From a distance, Uju looked at the two people locked in an embrace with a faint smile playing on her lips. This wasn’t the end that she had expected. It was funny how her friend had found happiness in the middle of everything that happened. She hadn’t intended on being a matchmaker, but somehow, she had brought the two together.