14 Feb Valentine’s Day
“Where are you?!”
Feranmi was practically pleading at this point.
“The waiters are starting to look at me funny.”
“Ah, why now?”
“What do you mean ‘why’? Our reservation is almost over. Two-hour blocks. I told you!”
“Ey, Feranmi stop shouting na. It’s the office. I promise I’ll be there as soon as I can finish up. Deadlines, baby. The proposal deadline was brought forward.”
He sighed. He was trying to be understanding and patient but it was getting more and more difficult. The two glasses of complimentary wine weren’t helping in the slightest.
“It is almost 9 pm, Tola. You promised you would take the day off, then you promised you would leave the office at 5. Is this another promise I shouldn’t expect you to keep?”
“Feranmi. Stop talking like this. You know how the manager can be. Or would you rather I lose my job over a Valentine’s dinner?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose to stifle the headache that was brewing. He didn’t understand how Tolani’s flakiness still got to him. Every time. After 4 years of marriage, he expected to be desensitized by now.
“Okay. As soon as you leave the office, let me know. I’ll swing by and pick you up. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find something else.”
“Aww, okay baby”, came her reply in that singsongy tone of hers that had been his kryptonite since they first met.
“Don’t bother coming this way because of traffic. I’ll come and meet you wherever. I’ll call, don’t worry.” They said their ‘love you’s and she hung up.
A smartly dressed waiter snuck up to the candlelit table and politely informed Feranmi that the holders of the next reservation had arrived. He took the news on the chin and rose, straightening his jacket about his muscular frame. He tipped the waiter a crisp thousand-naira note and strode out under the gaze of over half the restaurant. He stepped out of the heavy oak doors into the cool sea breeze of the Victoria Island nighttime. Times like this, he enjoyed his clean-shaven head. The air currents massage his scalp as he made his way through the crowded parking lot to his car. The matte red AMG S65 Mercedes-Benz stood out wherever it was parked. He sunk into the leather seats before pulling out his phone again. He quickly tapped a text to Ehi, one of Tola’s closest friends.
“I’m pissed. She didn’t come. Thanks for the tip on the restaurant tho”.
Ehi seemed to have taken a liking to him. Of all his wife’s friends, she was probably the only one who wouldn’t outrightly side with Tola during a squabble. Her reply dinged in like a minute later. It was a long one so he made a mental note to read it shortly. The next person on his mind was Osi. Osi’s number was somewhere in his ‘recents’, as always. They spoke almost every day and about almost everything. Today, Feranmi was calling to rant.
Osi’s phone sprang to life, making a racket on the nightstand. He reached for the brand-new Samsung, almost dropping it. The caller I.D read ‘Ferro’, Feranmi’s high school nickname derived from his penchant for pumping iron. At times he would claim it also referred to his ‘tough-as-nails disposition’, but he fooled nobody. His guys all knew he was as soft as they came.
“Osi, she didn’t come. Can you imagine?!”
Ferro had begun even before Osi could put the call on speaker.
“Osi. My head is hot. Ah. Two whole hours, I waited. Two!” Osi could imagine him with two fingers up. Ferro always spoke with his whole body, even when he was on the phone.
“I reminded her every day since I made the reservation. So how did this happen?”
“Bro, I don’t know”, Osi finally spoke up. He knew this call was coming.
“But what are you going to do now? Where is she?”
“She’s at the office, man. Apparently, the Diamond Bank proposal got shifted forward, so there’s nothing I can do.”
There was a heavy sigh.
“I think I’ll just go home and wait for her, man. I have an early meeting tomorrow so I shouldn’t stay out late.”
“Don’t worry, bro. It’s just bad timing”, Osi reassured.
“I mean, it’s a Wednesday. Maybe you guys can shift your own Val’s day to the weekend when you’re both free?”
“Sounds like a solid suggestion”, Ferro said, audibly perking up.
“Thanks, bro. You always make sense”
“No worries, Ferro. That’s your problem, you worry too much. That’s why you’re bald”, he teased.
“Don’t be foolish, guy”
Osi laughed along.
“You can’t ask me to not be myself, bro”
Both men laughed and ended the call there.
Osi was still laughing as he rolled over in bed, pondering the peculiarities of Feranmi and Tolani Adebiyi. Meanwhile, Feranmi’s laughter faded when he read Ehi’s text. Then he read it again. And one more time for good measure. He started the Benz, reversed recklessly and then drove off.
“Baby, what is it?”, Tola finally picked up after maybe 6 missed calls. She sounded annoyed.
“Sorry. Please, I’m really stressed right now”, she explained after an awkward silence.
“Some of the figures weren’t adding up and I have very little time to fix it all.”
“Don’t worry about it, Tola”, Feranmi said calmly. A bit too calmly.
“It’s almost 10:30 and I’m tired”, he explained as well.
“I’m just going to head home, yeah?”
“Awww baby you were still waiting?”
“Well, yeah. You told me you would call so I waited in V.I. I’m done waiting though so, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow morning. We’ll just move date night to the weekend? The whole February 14 thing is overrated anyway.”
“Awww for sure, baby. We can even make it a whole date weekend”, she sang.
“We’ll plan it in time”, he replied flatly.
“Later.” And he was gone.
“Awwww”, she said out loud. “Sounds like he’s hurt. I’ll have to make it up to him.”
“What the f-“.
Osi was stirred by the rapt knocking at the door. He reached for his phone and checked the time. 10:45. He wasn’t sleeping but he also didn’t want to be disturbed. And he wasn’t expecting anyone. He felt around in the dark for his shorts and dragged himself out of bed. The knocking continued in hurried bursts of three. Then five. Then it wouldn’t stop.
“Fuck! I’m coming!”
As soon as he turned the handle, the door flew open, knocking Osi back a bit. The lights were flicked on. Osi’s face contorted partly in confusion, partly in temporary blindness.
The other figure in the bed sprung up.
“Feranmi?!” came Tola’s voice.
She sat up in time to see Feranmi’s massive fist connect squarely with a stunned Osi’s jaw.
“Jesus!!”, she squealed as his lanky body dropped to the plush hotel carpet. After studying the limp body of his friend, his gaze turned to his frozen wife. She was scared stiff.
“Fer-, baby!”, she started, looking for words in the air.
He put a finger to his lips and hers shut immediately. He kept the posture as he crept towards the bed and she began to cry; as silently as she could. There was a groan behind him. Osi was shrugging off the blanket of unconsciousness.
“Ferro, bro-“, he began, struggling with his words. His lips and tongue felt heavy.
“Abeg, don’t even try”, Feranmi snarled, cutting him off. Tola was snivelling, her nose running with her eyes. Osi struggled to his feet, nervously watching on while Ferro sat on the edge of the roughened up queen-sized bed. His face was covered with a million questions, but Osi knew he would never voice them. Instead, he reached for his ring and wrestled it off his finger, fighting the tears forming in his eyes. He rolled it around in his hand for a moment, and dropped it on the nightstand, beside her phone. He got up, looked at her deeply, mulling the decision over one last time in his head. His gut told him he was right and he stormed out.
“Baby?” Tola called out between sobs.
“Baby, I’m sorry”, she pleaded to deaf ears.
“Bro.” Osi joined in.
“Ferro, chill man. “
Feranmi’s stride was confident as ever as he walked out the hotel door.
“Have a great Val’s night”, he said quietly before slamming the door shut.
The tears began to flow in the hallway. They streamed down his face in the elevator. And he was a heaping mess behind the steering wheel. Through misty eyes, he pulled out his phone and fumbled his way through a text.
“Thank you. I had to see it for myself.”
Sent. To Ehi. He leaned back against the headrest and gathered himself. Deep breaths, counting to ten, all the things he could think of that were supposed to help with emotional distress. His phone dinged.
“You’re welcome. How are you feeling? Wanna talk? You can come over.”
Feranmi cleared his eyes and pushed the ignition button. He stared at his phone for a minute or two. Then his fingers glid across the screen briefly.