I watch him as he dresses up, one arm shoved into a sleeve of his crisply ironed white shirt and then the other. One button done up and then another and another till it’s all buttoned up. That’s how this mess started. A coffee here, a mojito there. Dinner with friends, dinner for two and before I knew it I was lacing his shoes, sending him off to work with a hug and a kiss. Friends with benefits, that’s what my friend Debbie calls it, this screwed up arrangement that’s turning me into a nervous wreck. Damn it! I don’t want to be his friend and he knows it. I love him and he loves me too. He’s never said it but I know he does. The way he looks into my eyes, cradles my head in his hands, tickles me till we collapse in a heap laughing, the number of times he’s told me how grateful he is to have me in his life… what else could all that mean? Damn that girl for breaking his heart!
It couldn’t have been easy for him to discover that the girl he’d been planning to spend the rest of his life with was cheating on him. I would never do that to him though. I thought he needed time, time to see that I’m not like her. I told myself to be patient and I have been, so much so that my friends think I’ve lost my mind. I think I have too. How long is a girl supposed to wait?! It’s been a year and I’m still waiting. How long does he need to get over his ex? Like seriously!
I’m scared. Scared to ask him what this thing between us is. When people ask if I’m in a relationship I don’t know how to respond. What am I supposed to say, it’s complicated? Damn it Femi, what do you want from me?! In one breath you tell me I’m the most important person in your life and in the next, you say we’re just friends. What am I supposed to think? I can’t stand this anymore. I need to know where I stand. Do you care enough to commit or is this a strictly cum and go affair for you?
“What do you want from me Femi?” It took him so long to respond, I thought he didn’t hear me.
“What do you mean what do I want from you?”
“I didn’t speak Chinese. It’s a simple question, answer it. What do you want from me?”
“You women ask the strangest questions. Isn’t it obvious?”
“If it was I wouldn’t be asking. You say you want us to be friends yet you spend your nights tucked between my thighs. What am I supposed to think?!”
“You think what I tell you…that I want us to be friends”
“Then why the hell are you boning me! Is that what friends do, have sex with each other?”
“I’ve got to be at work in half an hour, I don’t have time for this Abs. You know the score.”
“Like hell I don’t! You’re a friend who cares about me, thinks I’m special, thinks you’re a better man for having me in your life, takes me out on romantic dinners and surprises me with thoughtful present, touches me like your life depends on it and goes to asleep in my arms…is that the score?
“I’m not ready to be in a relationship. The last time…”
“Damn the last time!” I screamed cutting him off mid sentence. “Yes she cheated on you but was two years ago Femi, you can’t punish me for another woman’s sins.”
“Who said anything about punishing you? I have to go Abi.”
“You can’t leave me confused. I can’t go on like this, it’s killing me. I need to know where I stand. I love you and you know it but do you love me? Is this thing going anywhere or is this it for you?”
Tearing his gaze from mine, he picked up his briefcase and silently headed for the bedroom door.
“Femi, I need to know,” I pleaded as he opened the door. He turned around and the instant our eyes met I realised how foolish I’d been. “I need to hear you say it. Say it so I can move on with my life,” I whispered, tears streaming down my face.
“This is all I’m offering Abi, I’ve always been clear about it. You can’t blame me if you allowed yourself hope for more. I care about you but I’m happy with what we have. It works perfectly for me.”
“What about me Femi? Doesn’t what I want matter? You can’t do this to me Femi, you can’t!” I sprung to my feet and latched onto his shirt collar. “When will you be ready? You have to be ready! I’ve waited a whole year, you can’t do this to me!”
“You don’t get to tell me what I can or can’t do. If this isn’t enough for you, make sure you’re not here when I get back.” Flinging me onto the bed, he adjusted his collar and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.