Curiosity sent her searching for him on Facebook.
To Dinah’s chagrin.
When she found him, she was disappointed, again to her chagrin, that there were no pictures of him uploaded.
Not even a profile picture.
She contented herself with browsing his Timeline. Which, for the most part and to her amused dismay this time, contained recycled humorous memes. His bio data revealed he was a software engineer, lived in Lagos and was single. Nothing else.
She didn’t send him a friend request, and for that Dinah was proud of herself, and firmly put the matter of a love letter from Oliver Kenudi out of her mind.
Out of her mind until she got back home and was faced with Eyine’s unsolicited act of goodness.
“I’ve done a crazy thing. I knew it will annoy you, but didn’t care at the time. The problem is it’s been five hours and I’m now worried I might have made a mistake.”
She was in front of her decorative round mirror, the evidence of that worry in her troubled stare. Since she was dressing for her date with her boyfriend and soon-to-be fiancé—according to her—and Dinah knew she was going to do her brows all wrong, she marched over to snatch the eyeliner.
“What crazy thing did you do?”
“Promise you won’t get angry.”
“I won’t make a promise I’m likely to break.” Hand nimble and skilled, Dinah began to fill in scant brow hair. “Go on, tell me.”
“Fine.” Eyine sucked in breath. “I couldn’t get the letter out of my head, so I sent him a friend request and a message. I sent it at one-thirty thereabouts, and it’s six-forty and still no reply.”
Dinah pushed back at the blurted confession. “You looked him up on Facebook even after I told you not to do so? What did you tell him? That we’re cousins and read his letter for the first time yesterday?”
“That’s the crazy part. I sent the request and message as you.”
“You did what?” Angry, as predicted, Dinah smacked her on the arm. “This is what happens when you have my password.”
“You have mine, too.”
“And I’ll never use it against your wish. Why do you never listen, Eyine? I said forget this, didn’t I?”
“You did. And I’m sorry I didn’t listen. But you have to agree I’ve never done anything like this. I know I’ve no right at all to do so now,” she added with a contrite look. “I only did because it feels like you and he are missing another chance to connect.”
She gripped her hand. “I’m sorry, Di. Forgive me.”
“I ought to say no, but I know you mean well.” Letting go of her mad with a huff, Dinah bent to resume work on her left brow. “Stop scrunching your eyes, unless you want to end up looking like a scarecrow. Which I might make you, just to punish you.”
“Don’t you dare punish me that way. You want to give Pascal a stroke? Jokes apart, I wish I’d listened to you. I can tell he hasn’t seen the message. He could get a glimpse of it from his notification pull-down screen, I know—”
“What did you say in the message?”
“It was the usual after a long time of no communication kind of message. I didn’t mention the letter, or even said anything soppy. But in retrospect I wonder what if he reads it and be like: why is she trying to connect now? Or worse, totally ignore you. Ignore you, because he believes you first did that to him.
Done, Dinah straightened to inspect her work. A frown knitted her own brows at the thought of Oliver Kenudi ignoring her. “That possibility is exactly why you should have left this alone.”
“Aw, see how gorgeous I look.” Beaming a smile, Eyine gave her face a closer scrutiny. “Perfect brows make a huge difference, don’t they? And you have a real knack for it.”
“I’m familiar with the trick of trying to butter my ego, coz.”
“It’s not a trick when it’s the truth,” Eyine said, and pouted. “I shouldn’t have sent the message. Then again, what if he sees it and doesn’t ignore you? That’s possible, isn’t it?”
“Forget what is possible or not and let this go.”
“Are you saying that because the letter was written ten years ago?”
“Ten years, not ten weeks or months. A decade ago, Eyine. If that’s not reason enough, I’ll give you another. Men don’t appreciate women who run after them. More than half of them prefer to do the chasing, not be chased.”
“You’re not running after him. All you did…Well, all I did on your behalf was send a message to an old friend. Just hello, long time, how are you. That kind of thing, nothing more.”
“And if he replies, what next?”
“If he replies, then you mention the letter. Tell the truth that you only recently read it, and then apologize for appearing like you ignored him.”
“I don’t see why I have to apologize at all. But okay, what then after apologies?”
“I don’t know. Neither of us can tell what might happen next.” Selecting a pair of pointed toe heels, Eyine strode to the bed where she’d laid out the outfit for the evening.
She would put on the shoes before the dress. That was Eyine’s way, except when she had to wear pants.
“But you read what he wrote in that letter; how he sounded. Aunt believes he spoke from the heart, and I agree with her. Di, his words touched my heart.”
“I’m sure they did,” Dinah muttered.
“Well, it’s true. And I think a letter like that is not something you ignore without making an effort to see if there’s still hope.”
“I don’t know why we’re having an argument, seeing it’s my letter, and my business.” Wanting the matter closed before she did something else crazy, Dinah made another attempt to reason with her. “Let me explain this once again to you. He was a young boy at the time—”
“We agreed he was old enough to fall in love and understand his feelings.”
“Men never know what they want at that age, Eyine. They barely know at thirty.”
“That’s a stupid generalization. Some men are quite mature at a young age. He sounded mature in that letter. You have to admit that.”
“Fine, he sounded mature. That still means nothing. Oliver was probably dealing with a case of infatuation, confused it with love and wrote that letter. But it’s been ten years, and I can assure you, he’s over that infatuation.”
“Unless it’s not infatuation, but real love.”
“Even if it’s real love, he’s over it.”
“You can’t know that.”
“I know it. And you do too, if you allow yourself to be sensible about this, not sentimental.”
“I’m not being sentimental. I have a gut feeling about this.”
“No, you don’t. You never have a gut feeling when it has to do with love and romance. Forget the letter. And I’m demanding that you do so.”
“There’s a reason we found it, Dinah.”
“Yes. So we can burn it. Which I will do after I get the door, for I hear the sound of a car and know it must be Pascal.”
“You can’t burn it. That will be poor judgment.”
“Finish your dressing, Eyine. I’ll tell him you’ll be out in a few minutes,” Dinah said, and was out of the room before she could further argue her point.
Perhaps she wouldn’t burn the letter. Not this evening, at least. But she was going to pretend like she did, to lay the matter to rest.
“Good evening, Pascal,” she greeted, her smile one of easy affection as she let him in. “You’re looking good, I must say.”
Pascal Onwordi wasn’t the irresistibly handsome sort. He was the kind of man you called cute because he possessed gallant manners and a sweet nature you couldn’t help but find endearing. He was also the one man her cousin insisted her heart wanted. So, Dinah hoped that soon-to-be fiancé was indeed a coming reality.
“Thank you for saying so.” As usual, Pascal’s smile was easy and affable. “How are you, Dinah?”
“A little tired after a busy day at the office. Other than that, I’m good.” She waved to a seat and took one. “Eyine will be out in a few minutes.”
“That’s cool. I hear you’re starting your leave next week. Any travel plans?”
“I’m thinking Uyo to see big sis and her family, and Abuja to hang with friends. It’s all tentative yet. Oh, here comes Eyine.”
“How lovely you look.” Admiration vivid in his amorous gaze, Pascal rose. “You always do, but are more so this evening.”
“I agree. She looks wonderful.” The silk flutter sleeve mini suited her better than it’d done the only other time she’d worn it.
“Thank you, guys,” Eyine said with a pleased smile. “Now, Di, promise me you won’t burn the letter.”
“Not in front of your boyfriend, coz,” Dinah chided.
“Why not? You and he are friends, aren’t you?”
That was true. They’d both finished from the same university, and while they didn’t know each other until Eyine introduced them two years ago, Dinah considered Pascal a friend.
“Agreed we are. But you’re on your way out and we’ve finished with the matter of the letter.”
“No, we haven’t. I think we need another opinion on it. Maybe a man’s perspective will help us settle things.”
“We don’t need anything except for you to mind your business,” Dinah told her. “Pascal, take your girlfriend with you and see if you can find something more fun to occupy her mind.”
“Hold on, Pascal. Let’s take a few minutes, so you can hear what this is about.”
“Can you let this go, Eyine?”
“Hey, sweet, if Dinah doesn’t want you talking about whatever this is, you should let it be,” Pascal said.
“That’s the problem. I feel letting it be might be a mistake. Di,” Eyine took her hands. “Let’s tell Pascal. If he agrees with you and not me, I promise I won’t bring up the subject ever again.”
As it wasn’t like she cared if Pascal knew about the letter or not, and knew Eyine would tell him anyway, Dinah shrugged. “Go ahead, then. Let’s hear his opinion.”
“Must I hear about this matter right now?” Pascal asked, clearly impatient for them to be on their way.
Dinah grinned. “Your girlfriend insists. My advice is you grab her by the hand and pull her through that door.”
“Can we go, sweet?”
“In a minute.” Taking his hand, Eyine pulled him back on the couch. “I came back yesterday with a bag containing stuff Dinah requested from home. Part of the items in the bag was an old diary with a love letter inside.”
“Okay,” Pascal said, making a good effort, in Dinah’s opinion, to look interested.
“She read the letter yesterday, aloud, so I can hear it—”
“She nagged me into doing so,” Dinah chimed in.
While Eyine made a face. “I didn’t nag. I asked you to, and you did. Anyhow, the letter was a sort of confession of love. This guy wrote that he’s in love and dreams of a future with her.”
“Wow,” Pascal said.
Aha, now he’s interested, Dinah thought, amused. “Yes, truly touching. It was written ten years ago, and in my opinion, too late for me, or anyone, to do anything about it. However, my darling cousin doesn’t agree, and already sent a friend request and message to the guy on my behalf.”
“I thought she should make a move as a letter like that deserves some kind of reaction. While some years have passed since it was written, it still feels like losing a good chance if she does nothing. Or what do you think?”
“I, ah, have no thought on it, yet,” Pascal said. Then he looked at Dinah. “You didn’t see this letter until yesterday?”
Dinah shook her head. “Nope.”
“It was found in your diary. How did it get there, if you didn’t know about the letter?”
“The guy put it in my diary, believing I would find it sooner that way. But I didn’t, not until yesterday. And only because my mum and cousin were poking around my private stuff.”
“We were not poking around.”
“Let’s hold off on the family drama. You’re saying this guy wrote a love letter, put it in your diary and…Hold on a minute.” A considering frown covered Pascal’s face. “Ten years ago. That means you got the letter while we were still in school. You got the letter from a student?”
“Yes.” Curious at his thoughtful expression, Dinah asked, “Why are you asking?”
“I’m thinking, or more of wondering. You found this letter inside your diary and are sure the guy put it there?”
“He said he was going to do so in the letter, so we are sure. Why are you asking all these questions?” Eyine demanded. Then her eyes widened as a thought clearly struck her. “Do you know anything about the letter?”
“I don’t know. Unless it was from…The writer of the letter wasn’t by any chance called Oliver, was he?”
“Yes, Oliver Kenudi. Oh goodness, you know him. Or knew him.” Eyine gave an excited clap. “You were friends with him.”
“We were acquainted. He was a friend of my roommate’s, and often in our room.”
“You know about the letter.” Dinah was watching him, studying his expression, and thinking. “What do you know about it?”
“Uh, not much. Like you said it was ten years ago, and I agree it’s best to forget it.”
“You can’t say that after revealing you know the writer,” Eyine protested. “Especially when you don’t know in full what the letter said.”
“Or maybe he does.” Dinah saw through the attempt to close up the matter. “What do you know about the letter, Pascal?”
“I told you, not much—”
“Tell us the little you know.”
“It doesn’t matter what I tell you or not, Dinah. The important thing is that you read the letter when it was too late to do anything about it, and you should forget it.”
“I said I’d respect any opinion you offered, but I don’t get why you’re insisting she forgets the letter.” A frown now marring her features, Eyine studied her boyfriend. “If there’s something you know, you should tell us.”
“I know nothing.”
“In that case, I think she should try to reconnect with this guy.”
“No, she shouldn’t.”
“But why shouldn’t she?”
“Yes, why shouldn’t I, Pascal? Tell us.”
“Because you said it yourself, it was written ten years—”
“For heaven’s sake, tell us the truth,” Dinah cut in impatiently. “It’s clear you have info concerning that letter. Tell us what it is.”
“Oh shucks, I do wish you hadn’t involved me in this,” Pascal complained, looking unhappy.
“I didn’t. Your beloved Eyine did. Now tell us.” When he only groaned, Dinah pointed out, “Whatever you know about it happened years ago, so what harm can it do now?”
“I guess you’ve got a point,” Pascal said after another groan and a sigh. “Well, I walked in one evening and heard Oliver—He’s sort of stylish with his dressing, athletic looking, Computer Science major. That’s the guy who wrote your letter, right? Just so we’re sure we’re not making any mistakes.”
“That’s the guy. Go on,” Dinah said.
“Right. So, he’s talking about how he’s penned this love letter and is going to slip it into some girl’s diary—”
“I know it sounds bad that he was telling his friends about it, but maybe he was just sharing his feelings with them.”
“Shut up, Eyine. Let him finish,” Dinah ordered. “Go on, Pascal.”
“There’s not much to tell really, except that he wrote the letter purposely to get the girl. It was sort of what they did. Their clique, I mean,” Pascal explained. “They found ways to make girls fall hard for them, and Oliver was sure his method was full proof.”
“No. That can’t be true.”
Dinah ignored Eyine’s shocked protest. “Full proof, how?”
Pascal shrugged. “Who can resist a love letter? And a handwritten one at that.”
“Who indeed? It was a lie.” Dinah thought she could hear again every single word she’d read aloud the evening before. “He wasn’t even infatuated. It was a joke to him.”
“It can’t be true,” Eyine said again. “What he said, the way he said it—how can that be a joke? Or a lie.”
“Look, I’m sorry, Dinah,” Pascal said, and looked truly regretful. “I shouldn’t have said anything. What was the point of revealing any of this, anyway?”
“So I know the truth and stop being foolish,” Dinah said, and gave a chuckle. “It was a joke for heaven’s sake. A game he was playing with his friends. If Grandma hadn’t died and I’d seen the letter…”
She shook her head. “I would have been the butt of their joke.”
“But you weren’t,” Pascal said. “He never had the chance to brag about making you his conquest, so the joke was on him. In any case, all of this happened years ago, so forget it. Burn the letter or something, and move on like it never existed.”
“Yes, burn that letter,” Eyine agreed, although she still looked disappointed. “You said you were going to, so do it. And I’m so, so sorry I got in touch with him. I will cancel the request and delete the message.”
“I will take care of it. Don’t worry yourself. You and Pascal go on your date, while I relax here with my soap operas.” Dinah sent them a smile. “And we’ll forget about this nonsense.”
“Yes, we’ll do that. Sorry again, Di.”
Dinah gave her shoulder a reassuring rub as she walked them to the door. “Oh, let’s forget it. Go enjoy your evening.”
When she closed the door and turned to stroll back to her seat, the smile around her mouth turned feline.
It was all a game for Oliver Kenudi.
He wanted to make her his conquest and brag about it, did he?
Well, they do say two can play the game, don’t they?
She took her phone and tapped open the Facebook app, then chuckled as she read her notifications.
Let the game begin.
Coming Wednesday, 21 July 2021