Sarah thanked her driver and pushed her trolley into O.R Tambo Airport. She knew the airport like the back of her hand. She made her way to check in, exactly two hours just like the airport rules prescribed. This time she was making her way to Lagos for a conference. If she had enough time to sit down and count, she wouldn’t be surprised to learn that in the past five years, she had traveled half of the world. While she looked for her check in info on her cell phone she heard an announcement, “Good afternoon passengers, this is an announcement that flight BB26 to Lagos will be delayed by two hours.” The announcer repeated the message and Sarah thought, just what I need. If it were up to her, she would have a private jet and travel at her own time and conditions, but she hadn’t yet made it to that point.
She checked in and decided to go and have a late lunch to pass time.
“Sarah?” she heard a familiar voice call her name as she was about to enter the restaurant. She turned to look and she couldn’t believe her eyes. She stood there stunned and for once after a very long time, she was out of words, everything around her seemed to stand still and then gradually disappeared and it was just her and the man she once knew very well. He was still dark, tall and even more handsome. Time passed and no words were said, they stood in the same spot and stared at each other. After a while, her senses came back to her and she shifted her weight to the left leg, still not saying anything.
“It’s me, Chris,” the man said as he walked closer to her. Sarah knew exactly who he was. Christopher Tinibu, the man who broke her heart five years ago. The man who promised her a train where there was no railway, the man who promised her marriage and children, the man who promised her a fairy-tale with a happily ever after. The man who taught her that when you fall in love, a part of you gets attached to that of your partner, and this is simple nature.
“Christopher Tinibu,” Sarah said in disbelief. Chris reached out to hug her but she pulled back. After her heartbreak, he promised herself to no let anyone close enough to hurt her. That is why she finally took the job as a traveling consultant for the insurance company she was working for, it was the perfect job for her to see the world and not be in one place enough to get attached to anything or anyone. Attachments are a punishment, she often reminded herself when she found herself to be slipping away.
But five years ago, Sarah wasn’t this calculated and cautious. She had just finished her internship and was ready to conquer the world of finance. Because she knew how to play hard and work hard, she got the first job she applied for, and that is where she met Chris.
It was the 7th of March 2011. Sarah was recovering from a wild weekend with her friends. She received a call summoning her to her boss’s office. Having been at her job for only three weeks, she wondered what the man who was known as Cruela wanted from her. She left the report she was proof reading, slipped her heels back on and did her power walk to Cruela’s office trying hard to ignore her throbbing head that seemed to defeat Grandpa. And in there she met a man who literally made her heart skip a beat.
Cruela introduced the man as Mr Christopher Tinibu. Christopher Tinibu, Sarah Tinibu that sounds great, she thought to herself.
“Nice to meet you Ms Nhlapo and please call me Chris,” Chris said, giving her a warm hand shake, leaning in enough for her to smell Issey Miyake’s Sport which she later came to know as his signature scent. After taking her seat, Cruela explained to Sarah that Chris is bringing his business to South Africa and he needs a consultant, and because of her enthusiasm and her new positive energy, Sarah is the perfect candidate to work on this new venture. And as much as she wanted to be around this charming man, she knew it wasn’t a good idea, but her young wild self, thought, why the hell not? Business and pleasure can’t be that bad a combo.
Sarah arranged a meeting with Chris and a few months down the line he had won her heart and they were now working hard to balance work and pleasure. She was no longer the wild Sarah Chris had met on that Monday. His drive had now rubbed off on her and she was furiously climbing up the corporate ladder and the account she was handling for Chris was a big success.
The weekend after their 8months anniversary Chris announced that he was going to Nigeria to visit his parents. He said that he will be gone for two weeks and promised to take Sarah on a weekend getaway when he came back. And with that, she dropped of Chris at the airport.
When he came back from home, Sarah’s woman instinct alerted her that he was no longer the same man he spent eight months getting to know. He had changed in those two weeks but she brushed it off. When she finally told her friend about her unease, she laughed and said, he probably got some juju from home, Sarah joined in the laughter and convinced herself that she was imagining things.
The night before the weekend getaway, they were busy on their laptops at Chris’ northern suburbs apartment, which Sarah was partly staying at. The two were racing deadlines and making sure that they don’t leave any work unfinished before they go away, Chris stopped typing furiously, the one habit that really annoyed her. He looked at her, she stopped, turned and looked at him and without wasting anytime he said, “I went to get married when I went home.” Sarah waited for him to say that it is all a joke, but he didn’t. He starred at her, waiting for her to say something. She then knew that her instinct was right and she should have insisted that he tell her the truth the minute she felt that something was not right. She closed the document she was working on and switched off her laptop and stood up to go and pack the things she kept at Chris’s place and wondered how she missed the signs of a man about to get hitched.
During her varsity years she and her best friend promised each other that, no matter what happens, not for once will they date married men nor will they become the other woman. And today was the day for her to honour her promise.
Chris was still sitting where she left him when she returned from the bedroom, it was as if he was the one who had been done wrong. His announcement shocked him more than it did Sarah.
“Good bye Chris” she said as she opened the door to leave.
The following day Cruela called her into his office to announce that Chris sent him an email cancelling their contract. According to Cruela, Chris said that Sarah had done a wonderful job and he will no longer be needing their services. She looked at Cruela and bravely asked him to please not question his decision or ask her what went wrong. And so it was. No one in the office could believe that Sarah got off what would have been big trouble just like that. And not once did she cry for Chris and what they used to share. She dedicated her energy to working harder and harder and when the post for traveling consultant became open she applied for it and got it.
It was as if the whole universe conspired to make her life easy and not once after the day she walked away from Chris did she ever see him or hear from him again.
“I’ve always wondered,” Chris said after Sarah pulled back from his attempted hug, “did you ever cry for what we had?”
Sarah let out a chuckle and thought, really? And at once, thoughts of her mother came back to her. How her mother would cry herself to sleep when she found out that her father was having yet another affair. On really bad days, not minding her presence, Sarah’s mother would call the women and hurl insults at them. Sometimes she would beg her father to tell her what she was doing wrong so that she fixes it. And when Sarah made the promise to her best friend, she had her mother in mind, who had been broken and hurt by the other woman. And when she walked out on Chris she had the same thought.
“No,” she said, “I never cried over you.” Sarah realised how she didn’t spend a moment to get closure from their relationship and now tears threatened to flow, she clenched her teeth and held them back.
“My wife knew about you and she was fine with the arrangement” Chris said
“Well, I didn’t know about her. And Chris, I’m way too wise to be the other woman, thanks for reminding me” she said, with a shaking voice and little conviction of her own words.
She turned to go and wait for the boarding gate to open, suddenly she had lost her appetite. And had she stayed longer talking to Chris, she would have to furiously remind herself that attachments are a punishment.
She sat and waited and promised herself that the next time she falls in love, it will be without any intention to get attached, but to simply have fun. All the while telling herself that crying at the airport is silly and Chris might be going to Nigeria on the same flight, she won’t give him the satisfaction of crying for what they had. She rummaged in her bag for her notes and when she took her head up, Chris was walking towards her. She remembered the words of Ugwu – evil’s spirits are everywhere.