She found him leaning against his car when she got out after work. Aisha faltered, then picked up her pace and walked on. She thought about going around his car, but it was right in her way, and she had already started out on that path. If she let him run her off this way now just to avoid him, she could only imagine how much worse it would get. She steeled herself as she approached him. Light though her footfalls were, he raised his head and looked at her.
Aisha couldn’t quite get away from the slow smile that graced his lips and indeed, his entire face, when he saw her.
“Good evening,” he said softly.
“What are you doing back here?” she asked none too gently.
“Here to give you a ride home.”
“One that I didn’t ask for.”
“You know, I didn’t get your name the last time we were here.”
“You didn’t ask.”
“I’m asking now.”
Unwittingly, Aisha laughed. What could it hurt, right? She hadn’t made any friends since being here, and with the exception of her colleagues, she hadn’t really gone out of her way to meet anyone. And the colleagues weren’t really out of her way. In fact, they were right in her way, so no effort there. This man had brought himself into her life, forcefully, it seemed, but she had no reason to be afraid of him.
So she said, “Aisha. My name is Aisha.”
“Nice to meet you, Aisha. May I give you a ride home?”
She smiled her thanks, but her mouth said instead, “Are you really this nice or is this something else?”
He chuckled, taking her aback. She thought he would be offended at her obviously rude and ungrateful comment. “You will find that there are kind people in the world, and after a while, generousity won’t surprise you so much.”
With that, he held the car door open for her and she slid in.
The drive was quiet, and he had on jazz music again.
Okaye was trying to figure out where she was from, but he couldn’t seem to get a handle on anything. She was noticeably without any accent even remotely Nigerian. Truth be told, she had a funny European-like lilt in her voice, but couldn’t place it. He didn’t even want to hear her pidgin because he was convinced it would only be more comedic material for him. Deciding to be smart and wonder less, he cut into her thoughts unexpectedly. “So.” He drew that one word into three syllables. “Aisha. Where are you from?”
“Where am I from? I don’t understand.”
“I mean your origin. State of origin? Like, where your father – and maybe your mother – is from?”
“Oh! Right. Okay.”
Okaye laughed. “What did you think I meant?”
“I don’t know. I guess I thought you meant where I came from to work here.”
“Not really,” he replied, enjoying how she was relaxing into the conversation and in her seat, not as tense and aloof as she had been the last time he/d driven her home. “But you can tell me that too if you like.”
“Oh, well. My parents are from Kano State.”
“Really? So are you really Hausa or just one of those funny tribes that nobody really knows so we just say all your Northerners are Hausa?”
She laughed at how funny and serious he sounded at the same time. “I am truly Hausa, but I’m a poor representative.”
“I don’t speak Hausa.”
He pinned her with a surprised look that held hints of disbelief. “That’s not possible.”
“Is too,” she replied, and once again brought to his consciousness how odd her speech was. Like she wasn’t truly Nigerian. The absence of an accent and her wit and clever way of terming things and equally understanding things was too odd for him. “If you can, say something to me in Hausa.”
“And how will I know that you aren’t just playing me?”
“It’s in the eyes, man.”
He laughed at her expression and agreed. Then he said in Hausa, “You’re really pretty and I think I was destined to meet you.”
And she just stared at him. “What did you say?”
“What would be the point of telling you?”
“Weren’t you telling me anyway? And I really didn’t get any of it!”
He liked her this way, he decided. Excited. Interested and interesting. Fun. Her eyes held laughter, both at herself and at the situation. “Let’s make a deal.”
“I don’t know you. I can’t make deals with people I don’t know.”
“But you can get into their cars late at night from Jabi to Maitama?” he asked sarcastically.
“Good point,” she conceded. “What’s this deal?”
“I’ll tell you what I said if you will give me five days of your time and agree to come somewhere with me the weekend that follows.”
Laughter bubbled up from her throat. “You want me to go out with you for one week in exchange for a simple phrase?”
Not exactly his plan but if that was the way she wanted to look at it. “Yes. That is what I want.”
“Okay. So what’s in it for me?” she asked seriously.
“Actually, everything about my request is what is in it for you.”
“That makes no sense.”
“I know, so why don’t you wait until our week is up? Patience is a virtue.” He smiled at her as he parked at her gate.
“One that I do not possess in plenteous measure,” she glared at him.
Smiling, he pulled out his phone and had her type her number in. “If next week works for you, we can start Tuesday.”
“Now you make it sound like a job and I already have one,” she grumbled.
Okaye chuckled. “You won’t be saying that by the time we’re done.”
By the time Monday rolled around, Aisha fell ill.