I waved at Alex just before his car pulled away from my driveway, then stood there for a moment happily contemplating the events of the evening. My smile widened as I looked down at the square cut diamond solitaire that graced my middle finger.
I am engaged!
I lifted my hand to get a closer look at my ring, and the diamond glittered as it caught the overhead lights on my front porch. The ring was beautiful and a perfect size—how had Alex been able to pull that off without involving me in the choice? But then again, that was Alex. He always had a way of figuring things out.
We had met at an official conference. He had come as part of the delegates from Mobil Producing, the company he worked at. I had represented my company, Ka-Tell LTD.
The sitting arrangement had been such that we had been across the aisle from each other. We had exchanged a couple of smiles as our eyes met and had met up again later during one of the coffee breaks.
I was pleasantly surprised when he sought me out and had seemed uninterested in having anyone else join us. He had been charming and witty, and I found myself laughing at his funny anecdotes. He had requested for my phone number and had called me later that day to ask me out to dinner.
At the end of the evening, he asked me on another date. That date had led to another, and another, until we got to where we were now.
I smiled again while gazing at my ring. It was really beautiful, and I could hardly wait to announce the news of my engagement to my friends and family.
“Mummy!” My seven-year-old daughter, Zara, squealed as I let myself into my apartment.
I braced myself to take her weight as she launched herself into my arms. The housekeeper, Becca, and I exchanged greetings over her head.
“How’re you, princess?” I asked before kissing her forehead.
“Good, Mummy,” she replied before she began to give me an account of what she and the housekeeper had been doing while I was away.
“And have you been good for Becca?” I asked.
“Very good,” Zara replied. “Haven’t I been good, Auntie Becca?” she asked, looking towards the woman for confirmation.
Becca assured her that she had been good indeed before excusing herself to go tidy up some stuff in the kitchen.
I dropped onto the sofa and bent to undo the straps of the high-heeled black sandals I had worn on my date with Alex. My gaze lingered involuntarily on my ring again.
“Your face is so smiley and pretty,” Zara said as she moved closer to me.
I lifted my head and stroked the side of her face with my palm.
“That’s because Mummy is so happy. Mummy is getting married!” I said as I showed her my ring. “Uncle Alex asked me to marry him.”
Zara smiled, but her eyes seemed to search mine as though looking for some sort of reassurance. “Just like in the movies, Mummy? Is he going to be your prince?”
I drew her close and tickled her sides. “Yes, my baby. Just like in the movies.”
She giggled and tried to move away from me. “That’s nice, Mummy, and then we can live happily ever after?”
“Yep. By God’s grace,” I replied while getting up from the sofa. “That will be really cool, won’t it?”
Her answer didn’t come immediately. Instead, she looked at me for a moment before responding.
“Yes, Mummy,” she finally said.
I shrugged inwardly as we both went into the kitchen. That was my Zara, very analytical even at her age.
I got her a cup of warm milk and a couple of crackers, then poured a cup of milk for myself, too, but not the semi-skimmed version Zara drank. I had started drinking almond milk for some weeks now. It was supposed to be healthy, but I literally had to force myself to swallow it every time.
“There’s a thin line between healthy and awful,” Fayona, my friend, had said when she had tasted the stuff at my house. She had promptly emptied it down the sink and poured some semi-skimmed dairy milk into her cup. “And that almond whatever-you-call-it is certainly not for me.”
I had eyed her slim size ten figure. “Lucky for some,” I had retorted while forcing the vile-tasting milk down my throat. “You’re effortlessly slim. Me? I have to work hard to remain like this.”
I was working even harder now because Alex had been complimenting my efforts, and that had fuelled me on to try to shed some more weight.
I smiled indulgently as I thought about his own rigid gym regime. My guy was almost a health and fitness freak.
“Is my daddy coming to see me soon?”
Zara’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“He’s not back to the country yet,” I muttered, trying to school my face as always when she talked about her father. “Your grandma said he’ll be back in time for her birthday, though.”
“I miss him.”
I tried to smile, but it must have come out as a grimace because Zara looked at me strangely. Zara was her father’s girl through and through, although I didn’t know what she saw in him. It must be all the candy he buys for her.
“Remember, Reni is coming over for a sleepover this weekend,” I told her as I changed the topic. The subject of her father always put me off.
Her face lit up. “Of course, Mummy. I can’t wait.”
I took another sip of my tea as she began to tell me about their plans for the weekend. I listened and made the necessary comments and sounds, happy that I had succeeded in distracting her.
But as I tucked her into bed after we had said our prayers, she looked up at me again as she clutched her teddy, Pinky, to herself.
“I wish you were marrying my daddy, Mummy.”
I suppressed a sigh and tried to maintain the smile on my face.
“Uncle Alex is going to be your other daddy, Zara,” I said reassuringly. “And remember, we’re going to be one big family.”
She just looked back at me, her eyes solemn and unsmiling, which left me a bit unsettled. This daughter of mine has always been serious. Much too serious for her age.
“Now go to bed, baby,” I said, bending down to kiss her soft cheek. “Mummy loves you.”
“I love you too, Mummy.”
I touched her cheek lightly before adjusting the duvet over her and reducing the air conditioner in her room. I looked back at her before leaving. Her lids already looked heavy with sleep.
“Goodnight, baby,” I said and put out the lights.
I shut the door three-quarter of the way through as she liked it and walked down the hallway towards my room.
My phone vibrated as a text came in. It was Alex. He was meant to be at a meeting, so he must have managed to sneak out to send the text.
‘I can’t get over the fact that we are now engaged,‘ his text read. ‘I love you so much, Denola.‘
I smiled involuntarily. ‘I can’t get over it, too,‘ I texted back to him and sent some love emojis along with it.
But another thought tugged at my heart, interrupting the happy haze around me as I remembered the searching look in Zara’s eyes, the lack of excitement.