It was Valentine’s Day, and darn it, she was going to be spending her evening alone… once again. And her night alone too.

Dang! But why did her life have to be so boring and so empty?

God, why did you have to create me to be such a social-shy introvert? Simi cast her eyes heavenward and frowned depressingly at the pillows of patchy grey skies. Why couldn’t you make me bold, witty, a lover of people and crowds and… and some kind of modern-day party animal, huh? Why create me, offer me this pretty face, and then dump on me this burden of… of… Simi searched her head for a better word than timid… of a retiring personality?

Why couldn’t she get a man?

Why couldn’t one stop her as she was walking now and just pay her a compliment?

“Aunty, look where you dey go, abeg? Abi you blind?”

Simi blinked, took a hasty sidestep and mumbled an apology. “Sorry, Oga.”

There, it had to be a rough-looking, crude, musky sweaty bodied man, didn’t it? Simi whooshed a low hissing breath, even now when she was desperately praying for a man, it was the no-no type God tossed her way. Why couldn’t it be a man in Toyota Rav4… or in a sleek looking, curvaceous Venza pulling up beside her and asking her which way she was headed?

The splatter of water, and possibly some particles of sand, came at the same time as the blast of the earth-shattering honk. Then the car blew past her.

“Oh God, what is this?” Simi exclaimed, her hand grabbing her muddy water stained skirt whilst she raised her head to glare at the car barrelling down the street. “What kind of idiot driver is this, eh? Bloody jackass!” She cussed and spread wide her fingers at him in an impish childish curse. “Wakah!

Not mollified by the venomous display, Simi looked down at her skirt and grimaced. Now, she was going to walk the rest of the way home looking a mess.

“And all because some senseless driver wouldn’t slow down knowing this damn broken tarred street is filled with puddles of muddy water from yesterday’s rain.” Simi grumbled, wringing the hems of her skirt. “And the idiotic driver didn’t even bother to stop, thoughtless thing!”

She retrieved a handkerchief and started pat-drying her skirt… the best she could. Why people thought owning a car equated owning the entire highway, she would never understand. So, pedestrians could walk anymore because some people owned cars, huh? Selfish people! The engineers that added pedestrian lanes to highways and expressways are not normal, abi? Nonsense!

Simi abruptly stopped her mental mutterings and stared at the back-rearing car. The car… the SUV that had splashed mud water on her was backing up… towards her.

Or wasn’t it towards her? Simi halted… and waited.

The car… a sleek red, curvaceous Venza pulled up beside her. The front glass wound down. “Hey, did I splash mud water on you?”

“No, it was ocean water you splashed on me!” The words flew out of her before Simi could think to slip on her usual caution-hat.

The man laughed. Then he apologised. “I’m sorry. I guess that was a stupid question. And I guess, driving at that speed, along this road, was also quite stupid. I sincerely apologise. Hope no lasting damage was done?”

“Oh, since this is not Valentino, I am sure I can wash it and it will be back to new.” Since her tongue was still too sharp-edged, Simi inhaled and offered a faint smile. “Apology accepted. Thanks for back-pedalling to offer it.”

“Back-pedalling? I like the expression.” He widened his smile.

And his white teeth winked at Simi. Or rather, she thought they winked at her. They probably hadn’t. And she probably should not start thinking that he was a good looking man… which he was. But she shouldn’t be thinking that now… or ever.

“How about I give you a ride the rest of the way?” He offered and beamed that toothy smile again. “I bet it’s embarrassing having to walk with that mud-stained skirt.”

“Very embarrassing. But…” Simi caught her tongue between her teeth and winced. “Ah…” she soothed the tip of her tongue with her teeth. “Yes, a ride the rest of the way would be nice. Thank you.”

“Jump in then.” He shifted inside to push open the front passenger door.

“I’m Gani, by the way.” He introduced once she got in.

“Simi.” Simi introduced, settling on the amazing leather seat.

Dang, was God sort of answering her… well, it had been a prayer of some sort and God seemed to be listening to her  if she was riding home in a Toyota Venza.

“A pleasure to meet you, Simi. I hope you would still consider it a pleasure despite my bathing you with mud water.” Gani sent her a sideways smile. “So, returning from work?”

“Yes.” Be mentally here, she chided herself. “I’m a teacher. French and Spanish teacher at Hopewell. I drop off at the highway and walk the rest of the way home most times.”

“Ha, French teacher. That would make this, bonsoir, right?” Again, his smile was swift and toothy.

If only wishes were horses, Simi mentally sighed. Then bolstered her own smile. “Bonsoir would be acceptable. Although, bonjour still works even at this time. It’s just five-ish and late afternoon, or early evening greetings can maintain the bonjour status.”

“Hmm, interesting.” He gave his head a double dip. “Do you enjoy teaching, or just something you do while on the wait for something better?”

“It is my profession. I am a trained teacher.” At his glance, Simi nodded and smiled. “The world hasn’t stopped producing them… teachers, I mean. I love to teach. I always did and so, I pursued it after my A-levels.”

“Now, that is even more interesting. Usually, you hear people say in-the-meantime when it comes to jobs as teachers. I’m glad we still have professionals who enjoy the job.”

“Many only go on the defensive because of the society’s mind-set concerning teachers, and because of the way they are treated by the nation’s government. If many, and that is the government inclusive, would recall that teachers are professionals just like doctors, lawyers, engineers and the likes, they would accord us our due respect and most of us wouldn’t be tempted to feel ashamed of our chosen profession.” Simi paused to point her finger. “I’ll be stopping by that red-painted container. The house it’s standing in front of is mine.”

She gave a quick smile. “Not mine like I own it. But that’s where I live.”

“Cool.” He tipped on his trafficator and started pulling to the side of the road. “It was nice meeting you, Simi. And my sincere apologies once again about the mud spatter. I promise to be a more conscientious driver. At least, to avoid getting wakah… or is it, shege curses heaped on me in future.” His grin flashed as he winked.

“I didn’t… you saw that?” Simi felt her cheeks flame.

“I did.” His grin widened. “I was debating whether to stop or not, then I saw you raise your hands and jerked all five fingers at me.” He let out a laugh. “I actually did laugh. But I knew for certain then that I needed to back-pedal.”

“Oh.” Could her cheeks feel any hotter? “Well, sometimes, these childish… childlike… children’s habits stay with us and we unconsciously express them. I…” Should she apologise for the wakah? No, he’d deserved it… and it a meant nothing. Hopefully. “Thanks for the ride. And for the repeated apologies.” She turned, pushed open the car door, then cast him a final glance. “Have a good evening and a happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh yes, it is Valentine’s Day.” Gani nodded, smiled. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Simi.”

She would have loved to wait until he’d driven off, but Simi didn’t want him getting the impression she was watching him… or his Venza.

She pulled open the pedestrian gate and walked into the yard. The blast of music from the front flat told her her cousin was home and she was in a partying mood. Simi sighed as she opened the front door and entered their mini-flat’s even more mini living room.

Yeti had the ceiling fan rolling at full blast and her body wriggling in effortless fluid movements to the loud beats as she worked her makeup in front of the half-length mirror she’d brought out from their bedroom.

“Hey, welcome back.” She cast Simi a quick smile and then instantly frowned. “What the heck happened to your skirt?”

“I got splashed with mud water.” Simi strolled to the DVD player and turned the music down a notch. “Then, I got a ride from the man who splashed the water on me.”

“It was the least he could do after putting that ugly mess on you.” Yeti muttered, her attention back on her image in the mirror. “Anyway, how was your day?”

“Exhausting.” Simi found a free spot on the sofa holding all manner of makeup items. “Going out with Fola?”

“Of course, I am.” Yeti sent her a wink. “It’s VD, baby girl. No dulling. And no staying up, waiting for me to come back either. It’s clubbing, dinner and then… naughty-moments all night long with me and Fola.”

“Lucky you.” She could do with all three, Simi thought enviously. Although, she’d never been comfortable with naughty-all-night-long moments with any guy. Sex wasn’t just something she did lightly. Yet, she wouldn’t mind getting her engines oiled after the Sahara-desert dry years of abstinence.

Gosh, what normal already sex-active woman stayed three years without so much as a nuke in the netherworld, huh? There’s got to be something wrong with her.

“I wish I could tag along with you guys.” She sighed aloud. “Not for the all-night business… but at least, dinner outside this house for today would be something.”

Eya. But you’re not coming.” Yeti spread out her dark gold shadow even as she winked. “This is a ‘him and her’ night and it’s going to be all about Fola and moi.”

“Valentine’s Day is not primarily about lovers, you know.” Simi absently murmured, picking a Mac lip pencil and twirling it. “It’s about sharing love generally to everyone.”

“Na you sabi.” Yeti told her. “My love… all of my love tonight is dedicated to Fola.”

“Maybe I should go for the love feast holding in church.” She hadn’t wanted to go. But surely a church program was better than boring hours at home? “They are inviting a comedian and the choir will be sensationalizing us.” If only it didn’t sound so dreary.

“Not to talk of the free suya and drink.” Yeti was openly laughing at her. “Babe, no dull yourself this evening abeg. If na dat mumu Kenny wey wan die on top ya mata, abeg follow am dis night. Which wan be church program for Valentine’s Day nau? Shuo!”

Yeti probably had a point. But Kenny? Heck no! He was, as far as Simi was concerned, an undesirable element. A total nuisance, if ever there was one. He smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. And the gossip in the neighbourhood was that he belonged to some cult.

No way. She would preserve her boring life rather than risk it.

“I will stay home and watch a movie instead.” Simi decided aloud. It was becoming her every Valentine’s Day ritual, after all. “And if I want suya, I’ll just stroll to the junction later.” She heaved off the sofa. “Let me change, bathe and get ready for my own stay-at-home Valentine’s Day, abeg.”

Simi was stretched out on the sofa, her Valentine’s Day all-time No.1 movie Valentine’s Day slotted in the DVD and playing on the TV screen. Her movie date companions were her bottle of cashew nuts and a glass of juice—that was for the entrée session of the evening. Later, she’d be strolling out for that suya and then she’d get out the bottle of cheap wine from their refrigerator.

She heard the brisk knock and scowled even as she roused from the sofa. It was no doubt their neighbour, Mummy Fisayo. The woman was worse than the abeg-borrow-me girl in the MTN advert. If Mummy Fisayo didn’t require to borrow something in a day, then that day wasn’t complete.

Simi unlocked the door… and it was him. Gani.

Oh God! Why the heck was she wearing this ragged jeans cut-offs and a crop top?

“Hey, glad I caught you. Didn’t think I’d be that lucky.” His toothy smile flashed.

“Caught me?” Simi tugged the crop top and tried not to fidget.

“At home. Thought you might have gone out.”

“Oh.” Leave the darn top alone! Simi silently rebuked herself. But her fingers stayed there and tugged. “Yes, I am home. I mean, I haven’t gone out yet.” He’d switched to a T-shirt and denim trousers. Earlier, in the car, it had been short-sleeved shirt and some cotton trousers. “Did you want something?”

“Yeah. To ask you out.” He wiggled his eyebrows; like in a coaxing manner. “That is if you don’t have any plans.”

“You came to ask me out?” Her fingers fell off the hem of her top. “Oh. Ah… well, the thing is I, um, had some plans. I’m attending a church program a little later.” Lord, please forgive me. But a girl’s got to show she has some activity in her life.

“Oh.” He looked momentarily disappointed. And Simi started to wonder how to get out of her lying excuse. “Look, I know this might be an imposition, but could you possibly ditch your church program and come out with me? We’ll maybe see a movie, stop over at some club, have a drink and move our bodies to some dance beats, and then dinner?”

“Club?” When it came to dancing, she had two left leg and they never coordinated well. “Ah… shouldn’t you be making this invitation to your girlfriend?” Investigate the field first before you start worrying about your epileptic dance steps.

“I would be, if I had one.” Gani slowly smiled.

The truth or that line men pulled when they wanted a lady dropping her guard? He looked honest enough, Simi thought, and boy, really very good looking. So, a Valentine’s date with a good looking man who drives a Venza?

“Okay.” Simi agreed and stepped back from the door. “Come in and sit, while I change into something… suitable.”

“Thanks.” He followed her in. “Oh, Valentine’s Day. I love that movie.”

“So do I. Which is why I’m watching it…” Simi timely cut off the again and snatched up the bottle of cashew nuts and half empty glass of juice. “I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time.” He reassured, lowering into the sofa.

Yeah, she would need to take her time to figure out what best to wear, Simi thought as she buried her head deep in her closet. Heavens! It seemed God had indeed been listening to her mentally rant. At last, her boring and boo-less Valentine’s Day jinx was going to be broken. She was actually going on a date where she wouldn’t be an inconvenient third-wheel.

If nothing more came out of this date tonight, at least she’d have spent the evening with a man that was, for some few hours, her man.

They saw a romantic comedy flick. And thereafter, going along with his earlier recommendation, they went to a not-so-popular club in the heart of the city. Simi had insisted on that particular club. But it turned out her two left legs managed to emulate dance steps that may not have looked like nothing choreographers invented but they left without anyone coming to bodily harm. And that to Simi spelt mega success.

Dinner too was a success. She couldn’t recall the last time she sat across a much more attentive, jovial, witty without being garrulous and funny without being ludicrous man. He was the perfect date. The perfect gentleman and Simi started to wonder if she should be taking it further.

Could she sneak it in that she had the flat to herself tonight?

What would he think of her the next day after sex on the first day they met?

Was she prepared for a sexual commitment? Or would it just be a one-night stand?

She didn’t even have a condom in the house. She hadn’t needed to have one in the last three years. Yeti too never kept any. Fola seemed to have a stockpile of them at his place.

Gosh, should she even be thinking condoms? It was their first date for heaven’s sake! Probably their only date. Simi, stop trying to leap before you have learnt to crawl, she chided herself, and shut off her over-busy mind.

“I hope you had a good time like I did.” Gani said as they stopped in front of her door.

“I did, very much.” Simi clasped her hands in front of her and smiled congenially at him. “Thank you for a wonderful evening, Gani.”

“We can do it again. Valentine’s Day is not the only day to have fun and spend time with someone you consider special.” He flashed the toothy smile Simi already loved. “I’d like it very much if we repeated this again.”

“You would?”

He nodded, beamed the smile. “I really would. I’d like to get to know you more, Simi.”

“Okay.” Why prevaricate, play hard to get and waste valuable time? “We can get to know each other and see how it goes.”

“Let’s do that. Meanwhile…” He stepped closer. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Simi.”

Then he kissed her.

Just like that. In front of her door. Outside in their yard. Where Mummy Fisayo was probably peeping at them through her window… and would gossip about it for the rest of the year. And she would be considered the new neighbourhood slut.

Simi thought all that as she responded to the kiss and enjoyed the kiss. Good looking—check. Drives a Venza—check. Good kisser—triple check. Thank you, Lord!

He ended the kiss, stepped back and smiled charmingly at her. “Have a good night, Simi. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night, Gani.”

This time, she waited until he was through their pedestrian gate before she entered the house. She had to secure the gate, after all.

But as she strolled into the mini-flat with it’s even more mini living room she shared with her cousin, Simi decided that today, in this year 2017, it had indeed been a happy Valentine. And she wondered if it had been the same for everyone.

She hoped it was.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

***

Yay, I made it! It’s still Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. And a happy birthday to you, my sweet, sweet Rose *muah*

*New eBook: *OPERATION STOP THE WEDDING!*