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Plain

“Goodnight dear, I really enjoyed myself,” you said and smiled. He leaned in and your heart beat around wildly, he came closer still and your heart sang. Then, he pecked your forehead and your soul wailed like a child whose favorite toy had been taken away from him.

“Goodnight Dora,” he said and turned away.
You watched him get into the car walking briskly, like someone trying to get away from an unpleasant situation.

You knew he was trying to get away from you, to be somewhere else but with you. You waved as the door of the car bang shut, the firm sound tearing at your heart like a surgeon’s blade

Yet you mustered courage to scream, “Take care, call me,” to him.

Here goes another, you thought. You knew that he would not call.

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That evening was like other evenings, other dates, like other blind dates. He was twenty minutes late and you were already seated at the table before he arrived. You watched his eyes rove around the room looking for a beautiful lady in red sitting at the table before it fell on you.

You watched disbelief creep into his eyes and he shook his head severely as if to steady his control. You smiled sadly as you watched him dial your number, looking everywhere else but at the table where you were sitting, looking for his blind date.

Your phone vibrated and you thought to ignore it, maybe it would do both of you good if you did not pick up, if you gave him the opportunity to walk out of the room, pretending he didn’t know you were the one.
But you picked up and smiled and waved. He gulped nervously and walked gingerly towards you, putting one step after another mechanically like a robot.

You bit your lower lip and tried to smile sweetly as the bobbing up and down of his Adam’s apple betrayed his discomfort. He bumped into the chair and grinned awkwardly to save the situation before sitting at the edge of the chair.

You were already used to this, the banging in and out of your life like black lightning by those men, too quick to establish something serious and yet too powerful to be ignored.
You knew the problem was you, not them.
You are—what is it called again?—a Plain Jane, and your life revolved around the blandness of your looks.

Your sisters, Esther and Melody and took after your mother in beauty and your father in height while you got the reverse, your mother’s height and your father’s plain looks.

Growing up, Esther your immediate younger sister had the curves, the bounteous hair, the hoarse voice and of course the attention of all the popular boys in school and the church. Melody was tall and had a light, sheeny complexion. You were the ugly duckling among them and though they never said it out loud, you always thought they were ashamed of you and your looks. Your father had always advised you to put in extra efforts in order to measure up and though it remained unstated, you knew what it meant.

So you plunged into everything, your academics, singing, dancing, pencil sketching, graphics and designing, fashion and designing, everything. Your sisters just scaled through, their beauty creating a path through the desert for them.

“I will be a model when I grow up,” you remembered Melody saying as she crossed her shapely legs and you swallowed difficulty, envious of those legs which when wrapped around a man could break his last resistance. Those legs which when on the runway would make the world go crazy with yells, howls and applauses.

You imagined yourself on the runway and could picture the crowd’s face turning sour, could almost hear people muttering to each other, “Sorry, is this an obscene idea of a joke?”

Your manager would pull you away in shame and say, “Sorry, Dorothy, this is not for you.”

It’s been years till you and your sisters left home, graduated from the university and went in pursuit of her dreams. Melody, true to her words was already on the hallmark of success as a popular model. Esther was married to a young, handsome actor, with an already bulging stomach and you were on your way to being an aunt.

You stopped caring long time ago, stopped caring that despite the dance classes you took, at your grandmother’s wedding, Esther’s swaying of her full hips and fleshy buttocks got more cheers and cash spraying than your professional dance steps.

You had forgotten that at your parents’ thirtieth anniversary, your father described you as the brainy and intelligent daughter and your sisters as beautiful. He had always called you strong, and told you that as the first daughter, you were to protect your sisters. He told you that he was proud of you, for bearing the brunts, from shielding your sisters from the harsh realities of life as much as you could. You always wished you could tell him that you would rather be the delicate rose than the Rock of Gibraltar.

When you met Roselle, she was just a colleague at work but slowly the bond of sisterhood developed. Roseline’s curvy figure reminded you of Esther’s.

She had spoken you into going on blind dates for a start, spoke you into going to random clubs for manhunt. She disposed half of your serious looking pair of trousers for clingy gowns. Yet it was never enough, your popularity soared. Because of her. Because of Roselle. Your colleagues at work who pretended that you did not exist started coming around, including the guy, Damilola, who you had a secret crush on.

They came, hoping to gain your loyalty, hoping that you’ll put in a good word for them to Roselle, hoping that you’ll work ‘something’ out between them and Roselle. You were disappointed.

The clingy gowns did not look as well as it looked on Roselle, it rather emphasize the boyishness of your hips. Make-up made you uncomfortable and you struggled at the end of the year party to veil your discomfort as it itched you unbearably. You watched Roselle dive in and out of the crowd, smiling, for a hug, a peck and a handshake every now and then while you sat alone at a table, lost.

An unknown young man approached your table and sat on the seat. “A penny for your thoughts?” he said and you smiled. He was obviously captivated by the beautiful craft Roselle designed on your face.

He made you smile and laugh with his words. When he stood up to go, he stretched his hands for a handshake, your fingers met his and he remarked, “You shake like a man.”
Your heart turned sour because you knew you had lost the game without even starting.

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You sighed at the sound of tyres reversing and went inside the house to the comfort of Nina Simone’s hoarse vocals.

Tonight would be a long night.

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