He gripped the worn out chair that stood between them, his chest heaving from the explosive words he had just let loose.
‘What did you just say Bode?’ His girlfriend asked.
He debated whether to repeat his words, had he meant them? Was he ready to go down that road?
‘Bode, what did you say?’ Her voice was low, a dangerous sign and a stark contrast to the screaming girl she had been a few minutes ago.
‘You heard me,’ he said.
‘So, you’re saying if I don’t vote Buhari, we’re done? You really mean that?’
He was stoic, unblinking, belying the pounding in his heart. How had a simple political argument turned this sour?
‘So, cat got your tongue now? You know what; I’ll make it easy on you. We’re done right now. Why wait till tomorrow? This…is over.’
‘Nancy…’ he began, unsure of what to say.
‘Don’t. You just proved something to me. Our relationship isn’t worth anything to you.’
He watched her pick her bag from the seat and march towards the door, he wanted to reach out to her, to apologize and tell her that nothing mattered except her but he didn’t. He had already crossed the line and as the door banged behind her, he felt his heart rip to pieces.
What had he just done?
Why hadn’t he let sleeping dogs lie? The election had always been a sore topic between them especially since Nan had aligned herself with PDP, using her status as a journalist to plant herself behind the President even when Bode had told her he didn’t agree with it.
He had told her clearly that he didn’t support the President’s re-election and she had laughed about it, telling him she was just doing her job. And then she had gotten her PVC and it had moved from just-a-job to I-vote-Goodluck.
‘Why?’ He had asked consistently.
‘Why not?’ Had been her rejoinder. ‘He’s a candidate and I have a right to my vote.’
‘But, you are my girlfriend and I don’t support Jonathan,’ he said, kissing her. He knew how selfish and silly that sounded but he didn’t care.
She had thrown him a look of despair that ended the conversation.
And now this. He should have known when to leave things alone. He shouldn’t have pushed her.
Now, they had broken up one day to the election. Happy now, Bode?
She would not cry. She must not. She could not admit that he had hurt her that much. Absolutely not.
She blinked back tears as she lay in bed that night, a coldness enveloped her. She missed the warmth of his body. They were supposed to be together right now, cuddling and eating popcorn most likely.
She couldn’t believe it. Bode, had been her life for the two years they’d been together. Somehow, he had come to be a part of her; that extra limb she hadn’t known she needed and that she now couldn’t do without.
Maybe she should have backed out from this politics thing when he asked her to.
But no, she shook her head; he couldn’t be allowed to control every aspect of her life including who she voted for? C’mon!
And yet wasn’t love about compromise? He had given up a lot for her; like shaving off his beard and giving up drinking. So why couldn’t she do this for him? Was it because it signified something more than just compromise?
Or was it something else?
She buried her face in the pillow and the wetness assaulted her, raising her hands to her face, she touched the tears. She had been crying. Over a man! Something Mum had warned her never to do!
But Bode wasn’t just any man, he was the man. Her One. He made her feel again and whenever he touched her, her body lit with a fire she never knew existed.
She hadn’t let on to him, how much power he had over her, how much it scared her that she needed him so much. She was Nancy Ajao, the strong woman. The woman who could hide her feelings behind a mask of stone. She had learnt from Mum how to be independent, but right now, she felt anything but independent. She felt weak, like she was dying.
Bode had left her.
Her insides twisted and a sob escaped her lips.
Her hands reached for her phone and as if they had grown a mind of their own, they speed-dialled his number.
She hung up before it could ring. What would she say to him?
Was she ready to concede just to please him?
But that went deeper than just the vote. She wanted him to understand that she would not succumb to whatever he wanted just because she loved him. She would not give up on what she believed just because he said so.
It was wrong of him to ask her to switch loyalties for no good reason.
With this thought in mind she consoled herself and ignored the stray tears that danced down her cheeks. She was a strong woman, she would get over it.
Classic. Her boyfriend had broken up with her the day before elections. The day before Valentine. What a cliché.
The polling station was beyond crowded. She tried to ignore the stench of sweaty bodies mixed with mouth odour.
She had no idea Nigerians were this patriotic. She held her camera to her side, gripping it with care so it wouldn’t be crushed in the melee. She was here to vote and to work. She needed to take discreet pictures of the ongoing voting procedure.
She was glad she had something to take her mind off Bode especially since she had woken up in tears this morning.
‘Madam shift nau. Line dey move.’ The man’s mouth odour assaulted her and propelled her feet forward.
Where was Bode now? Perhaps voting for Buhari after all.
As she approached the voting booth, she tensed. The moment was now. Her vote could actually count.
She stared at the boxes in front of her, transfixed. The box that bore Goodluck Jonathan’s name called out to her.
She sighed again and cast her vote.
He saw her when she came out from the polling booth. Looking sporty and professional in her jeans and t-shirt. Her camera hung from her neck. Her hair was held back in a ponytail, enhancing her oval shaped face. His heart caught in his chest and he realised why.
He was still head over heels for this woman.
And a stupid vote wouldn’t change that.
He only hoped she would listen to him and give him another chance.
‘Hey,’ he walked up to her, his hand trembling nervously. He was glad the bunch of flowers hid it.
He saw her stiffen, her eyes narrowed.
‘Hey,’ she replied and kept walking.
‘Nan, give me five minutes please. I need to talk to you.’
‘There’s nothing left to say,’ she said her camera clicking as she took pictures.
‘Five minutes please. Please.’
He watched her consider it, her brows coming together in concentration.
‘Fine. Five minutes,’ she stopped.
And suddenly he couldn’t speak. The words melted away on his lips.
‘I…I…am sorry. Yesterday was a big mistake Nan.’
‘Sorry about what exactly?’ Her arms were folded across her chest. She obviously wasn’t going to make this easy on him.
He took another deep breath, ‘I should never have taken it that far. You mean more to me than any vote or any presidential candidate. I should have understood and respected your choice. So, this is me saying I’m sorry.’
He held out the bouquet of artificial roses.
She eyed him suspiciously. ‘So does this mean…we’re back together?’
A shy smile tugged at his lips, ‘If you’ll have me. Politicians come and go Nan, but you are my constant. You are the candidate I’ll vote for anytime.’
She laughed, plucking the flowers out of his hand.
‘I almost died last night,’ she whispered as she fell into his arms. ‘Don’t do that to me again.’
‘You have no idea boo. Can I kiss you? Your lips are pretty irresistible right now.’
She hit him playfully on the shoulder, ‘so all these people will curse us with their eyes abi? Besides I’m supposed to be working.’
‘Not like I care about these people but…happy Valentine boo.’
‘And I’ve got another surprise for you.’
‘I cast my vote for President Goodluck.’
‘What?’ her eyes widened.
‘I figured what-the-heck-just-do-it-for-love.’
She threw her arms around his neck, laughing.
‘I voted Buhari,’ she whispered, laughter-tears pooling in her eyes.
‘I figured what-the-heck-it’s-just-a-vote.’
His laughter matched hers, ‘Now I really wanna kiss you.’
‘Let’s do it and darn the consequences. Let’s give these voters their personal valentine show.’
And they did.
Submitted by MIMI ADEBAYO