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“Happy birthday, my man!” Femi said as he clinked his glass with mine. “Smile for the camera!” He said as he grinned into the camera.
I smiled faintly and the flash from the camera came into our eyes.
Femi dropped his glass. “It’s time to party, the guys are waiting for us downstairs.” He said pulling me up.
“I…I just want to work.” I replied as I stared at my laptop. “You guys can go ahead.”
Femi stared at me as though I had just revealed some horrible secret about myself.
“Don’t give me that look, Femi.” I said, cutting off the awkwardness of his stare.
Femi hissed. “George, I don’t get it. It is your birthday.”
“Not an off day.” I replied as I adjusted in my seat. “Besides, if I don’t make these drafts ready before Monday, we won’t have a good case in court.” I added with a smile.
Femi was not having of that. He turned away and started to type on his phone. He then turned in my direction. “I have taken care of it.” He said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
Femi shrugged. “The litigation officer would be here to handle the necessary drafting for you.” He said. “The ladies are waiting.”
Ladies! The perfectly crafted species by the Almighty, enough to make the heart of a man stop momentarily. Every woman, beautiful and appealing in her own way to all men…but not to me.
Femi sighed. “I know you are not a big fan of women and booze, but, it is your birthday and it is a Friday night, so we are going to spend it in the club, you are free to hook up or not, but you won’t spend it here.” He said, and picked my phone from the table. “I know you can’t do without this guy here.” He said staring at my phone.
He was right. My phone was my mobile office. Femi might have his way by dragging me with him to the club, but he won’t be able to stop me working with my phone in my hand.
“Follow me.” He said, stretching the phone out at me.
With that, I followed him.
The club pulsed with excitement. I knew it was not my environment. Dark lights, clinging bodies, and noise. Not music. Noise. I covered my ears as I walked in with Femi.
“George!!! The man!!!” Jude, a colleague of ours shouted from the corner.
Femi led me through the crowd over to their seat. “The man is here!” He announced.
“Happy Birthday!!!” They shouted.
I smiled and lifted my hand to wave. The others burst into what I could guess was a mocking laugh. I dropped the hand slowly.
Femi nudged me with a smile. “Dude, what is that? A wave? Hug your buddies, man.”
I shrugged as the guys came over to ‘hug’ me. It was more of a shoulder hug…then, the ladies followed. They hugged.
“We want you to set the floor open.” Femi said shouting at the top of his voice because of the noise.
I stared at him. “The club is already grooving.” I said. Femi made a gesture to his ear and I had to shout.
Femi smiled at this and handed me a bottle of champagne. “Pop it!”
I shook the bottle and flicked the cork.
“Party starts now!” Femi cheered as he went to the dance floor with a lady. The other guys followed suit and I was left standing alone. That, to a reasonable extent made me happy as I settled into a chair and pulled out my phone.
I looked around and watched. Girls sitting together drinking. Couples dancing. Everyone with their own activity stood out. I was sitting and watching too. That should pass for something, right? But just when I thought I was distinct in my activity, my eyes caught the most beautiful sight. It was pure, it was a smile. It was beautiful. It was a woman. I swallowed as I watched her approach me. Did I know her? Why was she smiling in my direction? I didn’t smile back.
She stopped at the table before mine and joined the girls who were in a group. I watched her from my seat as she conversed with the other girls. She laughed the loudest. She laughed so freely. No holds. No boundaries. I couldn’t take my eyes away for a second, I was not ready to miss a thing about her…at least, what I could observe.
She then turned in my direction with a smile. And then, she rose to her feet, and she came to me. My heart did stop for a second.
“I am hitting on you.” She said.
I stared at her and then the smile came effortlessly from me.
“My friends are going to pay me twenty thousand naira if I get your name.” she said.
I smiled and cast a glance at her group of friends who didn’t seem to be looking at us. “Are you sure?” I asked.
She nodded. “What is your name?”
“George.” I replied. She raised an eyebrow as though she was expecting me to complete the statement. So, I obliged. “George Ade.”
She then took a seat. “So, who dragged you down here, George?”
“Is it that obvious?” I asked.
She nodded. “It is.”
“It is my birthday, my friends thought I could have a little fun.” I replied.
She gaped and then laughed. “This is really fun, George! You sitting all by yourself seems like fun to me.” She mocked.
“What is your name?” I asked.
She smiled. “Do you really need it? Or do you want it because I asked for yours?”
I paused to think about her question. I wanted her name and I really didn’t know why. “I don’t know why.” I replied, honestly.
“I know why. You like me.” She replied. “Thanks for the conversation. There is no twenty thousand. Smile some more, it’s looks good on you.” She said and rose to her feet.
I reached for her hand. “Are you going to leave me this way?”
She nodded with a smile. “I just did.” She said and walked out.
I smiled as I watched her leave. Something in me lit up. I lit up.
This short story written by Nigerian screenwriter Tomi Adesina for our second issue.You can view the issue here
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