He screamed from the compound. I stood on the 2nd floor reluctant. See I knew it was first April and I knew Kwaw Kwaku Boateng too well. He was the fun guy, celebrated every day worth a special name tag on the calender. He spotted pink for breast cancer day, did blood test on AIDS day. I can continue the list.
“You won’t be fooling anyone today.”
I shouted back full of pride. I’d busted his plan. Who wanted to be taken on a ride a day before their dreaded Interim Assessment? Yes, you understand definitely.
He dropped his hands and shoulders and smiled. It was a cute sight.
“I’m not trying to fool anyone.”
“Mmhm. Tell me about it.”
I laughed and tended to my kaklo. It had fried just perfect. I looked down again. Kwaw was there, looking solemn. I took a bite of the hot ripe plantain balls and grinned at him.
“Kwaw, I’m going to dress up, pack some of these and get into your rickety Corolla. It better be good.”
He shouted back and got into the car. I made him wait longer than usual. I occassionaly stepped unto the balcony to steal a peep at him. He still had the same solemn look. It made me uneasy. A thousand things run through my mind. Before we go down the events of the night. Let me do some proper introductions.
Kwaw Kwaku Boateng wasn’t in my life till 2 years ago, dating back to when this happened in my 4th year in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. We call it Tech. We met in my 2nd year. He had transferred from University of Ghana and joined my required courses class. I never took notice of him. He sat by me every day of that class. It was Literature. I hated it and he loved it. He’d save seats for me for a cheesy thank you as he calls it. I returned the favor. 5 minutes after our last lecture for the class, I decided to walk over and be a lady. And here we are, best friends.
Kwaw is never at any of the extreme ends. He’s neither loud nor quiet, neither tall nor short. He doesn’t have the brightest smile, neither a frown. He exudes confidence that doesn’t intimidate and cares just enough. His attires are just good for every occasion. You can’t call him the long-sleeved man nor the Tees nor the sweatshirt guy. He explores every crazy look you can think of trending on campus.
The stable things in his life will be his choice of food and his faith. Less junk and all real good homemade African dishes won everyday. Pizza and Coke doesn’t do it for him. I’m slowly falling into that category but for the oils I’m dreading cutting down. He complains but I have kelewele with spiced chicken wings on any meal they’ll taste good with. His faith is how I found mine to stand on. Kwaw says Jesus is all and all is nothing without him.
Quite some dude huh? I know.
So to the events of the night.
A thousand thoughts skidded off in my mind. I’ve had my own hopes I’ve been trying to let go for the past year. I was in love with Kwaw and I hoped he won’t notice it. Well, until he feels same and wants to propose. So you understand. I tried convincing myself Kwaw could have another surprise or may have no surprise but just a prank. My heart however won’t have it. It thud, caused my tummy to have this funny feeling all my way down the steep, long fleet of stairs. I dropped my keys at the Porter’s and exhaled. It’s better I brace myself for a disappointment than have one hit me in my face.
And I couldn’t brace myself for one. Kwaw Kwaku Boateng stood by the front seat, all smiles, ready to open the door for me. It was a treat when he wanted something bad and knew I’d say no. Like when he wanted me to pose as his girlfriend at his brother’s wedding dinner or wanted me to do his laundry for no fee. Good times together huh. I know. Two days ago, I couldn’t help but think how romantic retelling this will be. I sat down and shook my head at him. He just smiled and said “I like your outfit”.
You are not helping me.
I smiled and said thank you. I didn’t want to add that I was just in a denim shirt, denim trousers, black, earrings, bracelet on the right wrist and an inch block heel – to make the look fit if it turns out to be a proposal.
I chewed on my ripe plantain balls as he drove on. I didn’t bother asking where we are headed. The road he took leads out of campus. It meant we will either end up in his room, a one bedroom self-contained apartment he hires out during breaks for the extra cedis or some place else. And it’s meant to be a surprise while ruin it.
In 20 minutes we were standing by his door and he was nervous. More than I’ve ever seen him. He wasn’t this nervous when he had to confess to his dad he chose a different major from what they have agreed on prior to his transfer. This and that he drove slower on our way here only added to my own excitement. After a minute, he managed to grip unto the door handle and pull it open. Kwaw wasn’t really fooling anyone today. There in the middle of the room, now without the bed, the two worn out settees, the plasma, the centre table, the ugly suitcases was a dining table with a rose in a vase, two plates, two glasses and two red little jewellery boxes and just the two of us, no one else.
Kwaw pulled the seat facing the balcony for me. I sat shocked out of my skin. The softest version of Because He Lives over guitar played smoothly in the background. The white room light was replaced by some dim, red, velvelty kind. Now, who wants to talk about romantic. I couldn’t smile, laugh or even grin. What if he really proposes?
“I hope you like it.”
Kwaw said, still nervous.
I nodded. Was there anything to say? My best friend, turned lover on my side, was treating me to a dinner on April 1st for no reason I know of. And now I was so taken aback I couldn’t ask. For some reason, I regretted not grabbing my skater skirt with that black top my Aunt bought me three weeks ago for my birthday. Then it struck me. Kwaw missed my birthday. Maybe this was all in an attempt to apologise. Nothing more. My best friend was obviously a sweet guy. He saved seats for me all through the literature class when I wasn’t nice to him. A dinner like this for missing my birthday won’t be out of his league.
For the very first time that night, my heart sank two inches and I was getting disappointed. I wanted to scream and tell the little blood pumping machine I said it but Kwaw was busily dishing out starters. I exhaled and plastered a smile on my face. No matter how bad the night goes for me, Kwaw can’t know my little secret. So I went through the schedule. Ate starter, then the main course. Before the dessert, Kwaw had eased. We chatted about all the funny times in our almost two year long friendship. I didn’t forget to remind him of all the times he embarrassed me. One stood out for me. We were supposed to meet in front of Kantanga after my class. He was driving, as daily, and I was dead tired. I saw him and waved. He stopped, made me get to the car and started driving off. He’ll drive off and when I catch up, stop. He did so till all the boys had their eyes on us and were calling out names out of which not even one was mine.
“I have your favorite dessert.”
Kwaw brought out two packs of Kelewele and set it on the table.
“And I know it’s not an official dessert but between us, it’s accepted.”
I said, my heart sinking deeper. I dug my toothpick into the brown, peppery spiced beauties, and popped them into my mouth.
“Can you pause on these for me.”
Kwaw said with one of the red boxes in his left hand. My heart went from 4 inches sank in mud to doing some tip toe dances. You couldn’t blame me. I nodded and swallowed. I don’t remember if I even chewed. I paid every attention to him but heard nothing till he said some more.
“I’m sorry I missed your birthday. This is the gift I bought for you.”
He brought out a ring with we’ll wait engraved on it. He took my middle finger and slowly put it on.
“I don’t know if that’s the right finger for it.”
He said. The nervousness he had was creeping back on. I smiled and then started crying when he showed me his left middle finger with a similar ring. He grinned. I know. He thought I was excited. I wanted to ask him to stop but I had made a silent pledge to myself. I’ll do nothing to let my little secret out.
I whispered and let the lines from the tears stay on my face.
“You can open the second box.”
I nodded and took it. Who cared what was in it. It might be a bracelet, a watch or worse a knuckle ring to complement. I must say I was shamelessly getting angry inside. And then I lifted the top lid off and there, glittering back at me like a little shining star was an engagement ring. Then I really started crying. Kwaw laughed a little and then just smiled at me. It was diamond. I don’t know the caret but I once told him I’ll only accept a proposal if it’s true love plus a diamond.
He held my chin.
“I have the diamond.”
He said. I laughed amidst the tears and nodded. You should know. I was totally ashamed.
“Is it true love?”
He asked, soft and determined.
I nodded and we’ve lived ten years now happily ever after. I wear three rings – of course I kept the purity ring. He wears two – and he kept his purity ring too. And it’s been love plus the diamonds mixed with some dirt sometimes but who cares when it’s Kwaw.
©M’afua Awo Twumwaah 2016