There’s a love letter in your diary.”
“I don’t have a diary.” As she was more interested in getting into her bedroom and out of her clothes, Dinah sent her cousin a passing glance. “Not even an app. That said, I just got home and would really appreciate a shower, food and some rest before you badger me with talk.”
Sure enough, Eyine didn’t pay her any attention. She rarely did when she had it in mind to chatter.
“It’s a diary you owned in 2009,” she stated, using the remote to regulate the AC as she stretched out on the bed. “Aunt said it sounded mature and straight from the heart, and wants to know what happened to the young man.”
“What sounded mature and straight from the heart, the letter or my diary? if I indeed had one.” Fishing out her mobile devises, Dinah stuck the sac de jour and her pumps into their racks, and began flipping off the buttons of her office shirt. “And did Mum read my letter?”
“I would’ve read it too if I didn’t have a small voice repeating in my head that it’s bad manners to do so.”
“Mum obviously didn’t have that small voice in her head.”
“She said she resisted, but curiosity won the battle.”
Knowing her mother, it had to be a short resistance.
“Where’s this diary and letter?” she asked, knowing also she wasn’t going to get any rest until she satisfied her cousin’s curiosity.
Eyine jabbed a finger in the direction of the bookcase. “Right on top the bag I brought back.”
The bag she brought back was a small-size textile bag, which held some of her treasured paperbacks and the originals of her certificates. And of course, the diary.
“It’s really from 2009. What was I doing with a diary that year?” Studying the dusted-out journal, Dinah ambled to the bed to settle on her haunches. “I remember. Uncle Matt came that January and presented it to me as a gift. Said it was good practice to write down one’s thoughts.”
“I’m not surprised you got it from him,” Eyine said, her tone grumbling. “That man parted more with stupid books than he did with money.”
As that was true of their mothers’ only brother, Dinah smiled. “Some of those stupid books were great novels, which I recall you used to bury yourself in. Well, here’s the letter.”
She took out the light pink even-folded paper, unfolding to find two of them. “It was written on a letter pad, too,” she mused, eyeing the floral designs at the corners of the sheet. “But who wrote letters those days when we had emails and I believe, Yahoo Messenger?”
“People who knew the lasting value of written words. I will read it.” A quirky combination of level-headed school teacher and true romantic soul, Eyine slipped the letter out of her hand with a soft sigh. “Look at that. He had a lovely handwriting. One of these graceful cursive types.”
Dinah snatched back the letter. “I agree. The handwriting does have an elegant flourish to it. As it is my letter, I will read it.”
“Read it aloud.”
She ignored the eager command and moved the first sheet to check the bottom of the second. “Oliver. On my word, it was from Oliver Kenudi. I remember him.”
Why wouldn’t she? Her young, impressionable and quite foolish heart had a huge crush on him that year.
“He was the dashing type, all stylish and confident. Tall, dark, good-looking, with tempting muscles streaming his sprinter-looking lean frame. Wickedly flirtatious eyes, lips totally meant for kisses, and charming manners aimed to make a girl fall.”
“It sounds like you fell hard.
Momently sliding back into the past, Dinah recalled the wild flutter he set off in her belly and grinned. “I did. Had a crush on him, and he seemed to have those wicked eyes on me for a while. But to write a letter?”
Intrigued now, she returned to the first page and began to read.
Aloud, because Eyine would nag her mad if she didn’t.
How do I begin to express a feeling I don’t fully understand?
I ask myself the above question even as I’m writing this letter, which in itself is old-school and maybe even foolish in this digital age. I am writing it anyway.
“At least he knew it was old school,” Dinah murmured.
“Keep reading and don’t ruin the moment.”
She rolled her eyes at the hushed order, but resumed reading.
The first time I saw you, you were walking into the main library with two of your course mates, discussing a class assignment. Or maybe they were friends, I couldn’t say. All I saw was you.
This girl in pink-tinted cropped denims skirt and jacket, braided hair, her mouth moving quickly as she talked and a faint pondering frown on her pretty face with its scattering of tiny pimply bumps.
I followed you into the library, sat at a corner, four tables away, and stared at you. You were so focused on your reading you didn’t see me. But I saw you, and for me, it started that day.
It took me sort of stalking you two more times before I walked over that day at the cafeteria and asked that we be friends. Even then, I knew friendship wouldn’t be enough. I’ve realised it more and more in the last few weeks.
Perhaps it will sound contrived or crazy, or maybe even foolish given we’re young and still in school. The truth is that I have imagined a life with you. It’s impossible not to, because I have also imagined how empty and alone my life would be without you in it.
I think the word for what I feel for you is love. I know it’s so frequently, and I think irreverently used these days that it’s become almost meaningless. But I love you. I am as convinced of it as I am of the fact that I’m alive, here, and most likely insane for thinking so much about you instead of focusing on my final exams.
There, I have said it, Dinah, and I’m slipping this letter in your diary with the hope that you find it as soon as possible, read it and send me your reply, in whatever way you wish.
While I wait with that hope in my heart, I remain sincerely yours in love,
“Well, now, that is some letter. Really quite a letter. Mature, like Mum said. Definitely unexpected, and…” The right word simply eluded Dinah. “It’s touching. I mean, I’m flattered, and—surprised. He didn’t look like the sort who would use words like these. Or write a letter at all. He never acted like he had feelings for me. He flirted with me, yes, but flirting was second nature to him.”
“I wouldn’t describe this letter as flirting,” Eyine said. “It sounds too serious, and genuine, to be. If he wanted to flirt it would be easier to send you a text, or chat with you on Messenger. I agree with Aunt, he spoke from the heart.”
“He wrote a love letter, so he had to have been serious and speaking from the heart. All the same, to talk about love, and in such an earnest manner at that age? How was he certain it was love he felt? We were too young, for heaven’s sake.”
“He was a final year student, so he probably was twenty-two or twenty-three. Maybe even older. That’s not too young to fall in love and recognise that you are. You know what I think?”
Knowing it was her cousin’s romantic heart leading the way now, Dinah was sure she could make a good guess.
“No. What do you think?” she asked.
“I think he was in love for the first time, and overwhelmed, he sought a way to express it.” Her expression soft and musing, Eyine reached for the letter. “While you were crushing on him, he was in love with you. And he chose to tell you of his feelings through a letter.”
It still seemed implausible, as far as Dinah was concerned. “My question remains how could he be certain it was love he felt? That’s far-fetched. It most likely was infatuation.”
“When infatuated you are impulsive and act without thought. This letter,” Eyine traced her fingers across the paper. “A lot of thought went into it. It was real. What he felt for you was real.”
“Your romantic heart pushes you to believe that.” Because she was touched by the letter in spite of her scepticism, Dinah added, “Being someone who appreciates romance and soulful acts myself, I wish I had seen the letter at the time. Maybe if I had, we’d have had a chance to share something special. Unfortunately, it’s ten years too late now.”
“It doesn’t have to be too late. Yes, it was ten years ago, but there’s a reason the letter turned up. You should get in touch with him.”
“I should get in touch with him.” Dinah snorted a laugh. “Are you serious? I don’t have his contacts anymore. Even if I did, what do I say after ten years? I finally read your letter and…What?”
“You don’t have to begin with the letter. You say hello, long time, that sort of thing.” Sliding off the bed to squat on her knees, Eyine faced her with an earnest look. “He was imagining a future with you, Di. This letter was his way of asking you to give him a chance in your heart and life.”
“Maybe it was—”
“Just maybe? He said he imagined his life would be empty and alone without you. What does that say to you?”
“That he was a little dramatic?” At Eyine’s hiss, Dinah gave up trying to be funny. “Okay, I agree. He was asking me to give him a chance. But that was ten years ago. If I’d seen the letter at the time, perhaps we would have had a relationship and who knows what would have happened.”
“Why didn’t you see the letter?” Not one to tolerate discomfort for long, Eyine made herself comfortable again on the bed. “He put it inside the diary. Didn’t you open it after that day—whatever day it was he’d put it in?”
“Clearly not. However, I imagine I know the day it must have been. I’d met him at the lecture theatre where we usually read, and chatted with him before stepping out to buy a drink. I’m guessing that’s when he slipped in the letter.”
“I wish he’d said something when you came back.”
“I do, as well. He must have been embarrassed.” Dinah tried to recollect his behaviour after she’d returned with her drink.
Her memory failed to recapture the moment.
“Anyway, I took my books and found a separate seat, and ended up not seeing the letter. I rarely used the diary, so had no need to open it that night. Then I had to travel home the next day because Grandma died and Mum sent for me. Remember that time?”
“I remember the date. August 12. I had to come home, too.”
“Yes. I think I dumped the diary at home and completely forgot about it for the rest of the year.”
“You forgot about it for an entire decade.”
Dinah laughed at her dry retort. “I suppose I did. And that’s explainable because the very next year, I went for my year abroad at Abidjan, and the year was half gone by the time I came back, so didn’t need an old diary. As he’d graduated by then, we didn’t get to see again.”
He hadn’t kept in touch, and she’d been too shy to reach out.
“Why didn’t he ask about the letter when you returned after your trip home? Didn’t he know you were away for a few days?”
Dinah shrugged. “I was gone only two days as I needed to return for the exams. He must have thought I’d read the letter and wasn’t interested. Meanwhile, I’m hungry and need to get my food. Shower will have to wait until later.”
“How could he think you would read a letter like that and not be interested?” Eyine demanded, following her into the kitchen. “How can anyone not be interested when someone’s confessing they’re in love with them? You would have had a reaction, at least, not complete silence.”
“Silence in itself is a reaction, is it not?” Dinah mused, moving to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. “It’s probable he believed I saw the letter, wasn’t interested and decided to pretend like I didn’t so as not to embarrass him.”
“You wouldn’t have done that. You were friends, weren’t you?”
“We were more of friendly than friends. But no, I wouldn’t have ignored him.” She dragged over a side table and set the tray on it. “I guess he didn’t have a proper chance to ask me about it as we barely saw each other after I came back. Maybe twice, I don’t know.”
“Missed chances,” Eyine murmured, joining her on the couch. “That’s what it was, one thing or another happened to make you miss your chance of getting together.”
“Maybe nothing would have come of it.”
“Or something could have come of it. Something could still come of it. What if he’s still single as you are?”
She refrained from rolling her eyes at Eyine’s insistent clutch on hope. “What if he’s married, or engaged to be? Or maybe he’s just over me. Have you considered the fact that ten years is way too long to hang onto unrequited love?”
“That’s possible. It’s also possible he might be single and when you two reconnect, he will rediscover the love he once felt for you.”
“Such a delightful possibility. But my dear cousin, possibilities like that rarely happen.” Dinah poked her cheek with the handle of the spoon and went back to her food. “I suggest we put away the letter and forget it.”
“How can you forget a letter like that?”
With a sigh, she turned her head to meet the frowning stare. “I can because it’s a letter from a decade ago. We are both different people now. I am, and he definitely will be. Besides, I don’t have his contacts anymore.”
“That’s why we have social media networks. Search for him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I can do it now. His name is Oliver Kenudi, you said?” Eyine grabbed her phone. “Let’s begin with Facebook.”
“No way.” Dinah snatched the device out of her hand. “Are you out of your mind? You think he’s going to appreciate hearing from me one Tuesday night out of the blue after ten years of silence?”
“He might. Especially if he’s not over you.”
Dinah arched her eyebrows. “Seriously?”
“Okay, he probably would be over you by now. All the same, you can say hello. It can be a chat between old friends. He imagined you two will have a future, Dinah.”
“He did. In 2009, not 2019.” She handed back the phone. “Take your phone and don’t do anything stupid. Because it will be stupid, and most mortifying for me, to send him a message after a decade of mutual silence. I’m a woman who prefers to conduct herself with dignity and self-respect.
“You are too,” Dinah added, giving her a teasing smile. “When you’re not carried away by mushy, romantic sentiments.”
“Staying silent is you missing another chance.”
“Forget that letter. Switch the channel to Fox, and let’s enjoy our evening after work. Please.”
“Things happen for a reason, Di.”
“Remote control. Fox. Silence. Pretty please, Eyine.”
Eyine snorted, and moved to get the remote.
Satisfied, Dinah settled down to enjoy her medical series, and wondered—only briefly—what would have happened if she’d seen the letter ten years ago.