Her name is [ I haven’t asked her yet but I’m sure it’s pretty] and she worked part time at what grew to be my favourite café. I still can’t tell if I fancied the place because of their delicious breakfast treats or her presence there.
“Hi Sir, what can I offer you?” she asked politely as I neared the counter. “Hi …” I said before squinting to read the name on her tag. “Lili! Hi Lili,” I replied. “To be honest, I don’t know what I want yet. This is my first time in here you see and..” I explained before she cut me off. “Say no more Sir, I’ll suggest the best tasting out of the lot!” I smiled as she hurried to get me a copy of the menu. These series of questions followed.
“Do you want your beverage hot or cold?”
– Hot please, it’s freezing in here.
“Would you want something with coffee?”
– Nope, I’ll rather not.
“Would you prefer your beverage sweet?”
– Yes Please.
“Would you like our Creamy Frozen Hot Chocolate?”
– Let’s try it!
“Would you have it to go or would you take it in here?”
– What do you suggest?
“Well my break is in 5 minutes so if you take it to go I’ll have someone to walk me to the fountain”
– I’ll have my Hot Choco to go please!
She smiled and said it’ll be just 2 minutes. I nodded an okay and stood there staring at my shoes. “Alright Sir, here you go,” she said handing me my drink. “No don’t call me Sir, I’m Jim. And it’s nice to meet you Lili”
I didn’t like this idea one bit yet no matter how much I tried to convince mum to let me stay home, she didn’t budge. “You are going to go dress up this instant and meet me in the car.” Mum ordered when she got tired of my complaints and excuses. “Now!!” she added when I hesitated. I cursed under my breath and headed for my bedroom, making sure I slammed every door I walked through. “I hope Jim is having a better day than I,” at least I’ll be able to draw some excitement from his lit mood.
“So what brings you to our humble city?” Lili asked me. “Oh urm, I’m new here. And I don’t mean to just this city but Canada as a whole.” I replied. She sipped on her juice as we walked, seeming very interested in whatever I was saying. “So then Dad has been here for like the best part of my life, which is like all of it! And he finally got me to come see him. So I’ll be staying here for like 3 months, and urgh one week is gone alrea…” I added before looking up to see the sad look on her face. “Are you alright?” I asked trying to playback what I said to find out the exact thing that changed her mood. She came to and tried to shrug it off with an ‘oh it is nothing’. I insisted and managed to get her to finally voice out, “it’s just that 3 months isn’t long at all. And I was here thinking I had a new friend.” What she said caught me by surprise. Honestly, to me, she looked like someone who will have no trouble making friends and all. And I barely know her yet I could tell. “Come on. We can still be friends. Isn’t that what the whole social media global networking was built for?” She smiled when she realised she was probably making a mountain out of a molehill.
I got out of the house the same time Enoch pulled into our driveway. He quickly got down and walked over to the other side so he could open the door for mum and I to enter. “Such a gentleman,” I whispered to myself while rolling my eyes. I sat down and turned to mum looking at me with her ‘you better behave before I whoop your behind’ face on. I responded to her eyes’ warning by folding my lips inward to gesture that I wasn’t going to make any more comments. And I didn’t. I was quiet the whole ride to the restaurant. With my chin resting on my palm and elbow fixed to support the weight of my head, I stared out of the window as the lights and blurry objects flashed past. “Light, light, light, light,” I continued to mark the register on the number of street lights we passed by.
It wasn’t long till we reached Regal Chinese Restaurant. Although I stared out the window throughout the journey here I didn’t know which area we were in or how to reach here from home. Mum and Enoch held hands as they walked in. I trailed dragging my feet on the tiles and wishing my handbag had straps long enough to be worn on my back.
“This is the same road I used to come to Second Cup,” I said as we turned to my junction. “Don’t tell me you live on this street!!” she got excited. “Okay fine, I won’t tell you. I’ll show you.” I suggested. Holding her hand, I dragged Lili to the third house down the lane. She said her ‘OMGs’ and tried to lower her excitement. “What about you? Where do you live?” I stopped smiling when I saw how thrown aback my question got her. In that same second, almost as if she fought the frown off her lips, she smiled and pointed to a distant building down the street. I dropped my bag inside and locked up again so I could go see her off. After all she lived close by. I swallowed hard as we neared the building. On it had big inscriptions reading : Hope Alive Orphanage. She smiled at me and told me I didn’t have to go in. I shook my head to gesture I didn’t mind and slowly followed her in; walking slower and slower as we went deeper. There were kids of all ages running up and down the halls. Most were in groups and cliques. “So yeah, I’ve been an orphan ever since I could remember,” she began as we walked down the halls. “Lived in here all my life. Had my education funded by an NGO and so I have a lot to be grateful for you see. But I have outgrown this place. I’ll be 20 in June and the system caters for kids ranging from infancy to eighteen. It’s expected that by then, the one should have finished with high school and should be getting ready for the university. They pay for the first year and leave the rest for you to handle.” As if she read my mind she added, “I’m not in the university, I mean I got offers and all but I didn’t go. I really love to sing and I am chasing that dream. Well now, I’m not chasing cos I have to raise enough money to pay for an apartment or room or whatever so I can be sure I have somewhere to lay my head every night. Then I’ll save for a guitar. And then I’ll …” tears welled up her eyes. I could only imagine how confused and afraid she must be right now. Going into the world once again, with no guardians, must feel very lonely and terrifying. I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose any of my parents. I wrapped my arm around her to console her. Just then my Skype notification rang to alert that I had an incoming video call. I reached for my pocket and hit the volume down button to mute the phone. I couldn’t possibly answer any calls at this moment.
After a number of failed attempts, I figured Jim was probably taking a nap or something. It was still afternoon there in Canada but he probably was tired from the stroll he mentioned he was going to take. “I’ll just wait up,” I said to myself.
Dinner was a total bust. There was a lot of throat clearing and not enough eye contact to go round the table. Mum did her best to ease the rising tension but it only made things more awkward. God knows the number of times I ‘had to use the bathroom’. I almost felt bad for Enoch. He probably means well but I just can’t see him becoming my step dad. I honestly don’t see myself having a step dad for that matter. But I can’t be selfish. At first, I wouldn’t have allowed myself even think of the whole stepdad idea but ever since I fell in love with Jim, I have appreciated what having a partner can mean to a person. And so I understand mum’s craving to find that Mr. Right she missed the first time she tried choosing. All I wanted right now was to talk to Jim and probably sleep off on the line.
After Lili gave me a ‘thank you’ hug, I said my goodbyes. “You’re coming to second cup tomorrow right?” she said in a tone that sounded more like a plea than question. I nodded a yes before walking out. Dad was still not back home. I shook my head and inserted the keys to let myself in. Once in, I set up my laptop at my bedroom desk and turned on the lights.
Imani picked up after just one ring so I knew straight away that she was expecting my call. “Hey Love,” I said waving. “I miss you so bad Baby!” Imani responded. “Today has been crazy!” she added. “Tell me about it, will you?” I asked. After thinking about what she wanted to do, she said she wanted us to talk about my day instead. “Oh and by the way, I tried calling you earlier,” Imani pointed out. I remembered muting a call back at the orphanage. “Oh yeah! So today I met his girl yh…” Imani sat up after hearing this. “…she works in this cool café called Second Cup. I just found out she doesn’t have any parents and all. Like full orphanage rundown. She’s so outgoing and happy; you won’t know there’s something like this happening to her. How do I approach stuff? Because it’s clear she wants to be friends, and I’ll like having her as a friend too. But how do I be friends with someone for just 3 months knowing that we might lose contact and all.”
“Woah, slow down Tiger.” I responded. It was clear that this lady had caught Jim’s attention, she must be a nice person. “First of all, I’m jealous! I have had to suck up to mum’s attempt to get me another Dad and you were there having hot chocolate with a new friend.” Jim laughed his head off. “Jim, you are a great listener. That’s probably why people find it easy to open up to you. But then the curse part of it is that you share the pain and struggle in their stories with them. Just be you, baby. I’m sure she really needs someone about her age to be there for her.” Jim nodded as I went on. “Remember not to talk too much about your problems with Dad to her because well, her story beats all of your complaints. You should be fine.”
I stared at her the whole time. As the time we were apart increased, so did her beauty. I run my fingers along her face on my computer screen and longed to feel her skin again. “What have I done to deserve you, Imani? I’m just so grateful to God for giving you to me.”
“Hey, shhh” I responded. “Don’t you dare reduce your worth my Love. You deserve whatever God gives to you. After all you’re his son. I love you so much more, honey. And when we finally get to say our ‘ I DOs, ‘ the whole world will know it.” Jim touched his camera and I did same. The best feeling is when the distance tries to starve your love to death but your heart keeps growing fonder and fonder. We spoke until the stars and moon couldn’t ignore us anymore. “Goodnight Jim.”