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It was a very strange thing. He loved her; loved her since the first time he had met her but she was in a serious relationship – or so she said.

But it was pretty clear that she liked him, because no matter what she was doing she would make time for him, always making it clear that whenever he wanted to see her all he had to do was say.

And so they continued; she sitting by the phone waiting for it to light up with his name and he, feeling all hollow inside, thinking there was no point in telling her how he felt because she was in a serious relationship – or so she said.

Then; as is usual in stories like this – she had a falling out with her boyfriend and she could not wait to tell him.

When he called that evening like he usually did, she sounded quiet and gentle – more so than was usual for her.

He asked her what was wrong and she answered nothing; and then she told him she had broken up with her boyfriend.

He was struck speechless at first, and then it occurred to him that she might have done it because of him.

The rising hope in his chest became an overwhelming feeling of guilt and he hung up on her, hating himself for putting her in the situation.

In his bloated sense of self righteousness it did not occur to him that she might love him; and had decided to end things with some other guy whose kisses had begun to taste like sawdust. No; it did not occur to him at all – after all he was the one who knew what was best for everyone except himself.

Back at her house, she held the phone in her hand, stupefied beyond words. Why would he treat her this way; leave her hanging without a word of explanation or anything??!

She was confused and saddened. After a while, sadness became tears and she cried herself to sleep, sobbing as though her heart would break.

And then, just as the night began to get dressed for the day, tears became anger and she went through her house in a rage, destroying everything that reminded her of him.

Meanwhile, he was agonizing over what he thought was a rash decision on her part. He thought and thought about how to convince her that she had acted rashly – but could come up with nothing.

It was strange – because he was an artist. Creative expressions were what he did for a living.

But then, maybe it is true what they say about love leaving grown men speechless and tongue-tied, awkward like new born babes.

So for all his creativity, he could not come up with a solution to save his relationship with her or tell her how he really felt so he stayed in his house, depressed.

Two days later, he was in his house putting some finishing touches to a portrait and staring at his phone at regular intervals, slightly worried that she had not tried to call him.

He decided to fix himself something to eat and then call her. As he put some Indomie noodles on his doorbell rang.

He hastily wiped his hands on a table towel and walked towards the door, asking who it was.

A feminine voice responded and he opened the door hastily. She stood there, looking painfully fresh; as though it was just three minutes ago he saw her last.

A searing pain; similar to being stabbed with a red-hot needle worked its way through his chest and he stood there mutely, wondering why he missed the memo on ‘love hurts’.

She pushed into the house and he shut the door and stood aside nervously.

He probably would have stood there, staring at her as she looked back at him had he not suddenly smelled something burning – the noodles he was cooking.

Stifling a curse, he ran into the kitchen and carried the pot off the fire. And then, blowing and sucking on his burning fingers, he went back into the sitting room.

She was still standing where he left her, just on the threshold of his apartment. He asked her to have a seat but she declined, saying instead that she just came to tell him that she was going back to her boyfriend.

As she spoke, she looked closely at him obviously searching for a reaction. But she got none, his face remaining politely interested while his heart pounded heavily, his stomach churned and the needle was pushed deeper into his heart.

She asked him what he thought; he said it was good news and that he hoped she was happy. His condescending attitude annoyed her and she slapped him suddenly. And then, with tears in her eyes she delivered the only line of dialogue in this entire story;

“What do you know about happiness?”

He was too shocked to respond. He probably would have finally gotten over the fear that kept his lips sealed, but suddenly there was no time.

The sharp bark of a horn cut through the moment, and he saw her smile through the tears in her eyes. Carefully she wiped them and walked outside to sit in the car beside her boyfriend. They drove away and she did not look back. Not once.

And that is the end of that one.

PAUSE is a short story from Seun Odukoya’s ‘For Days and A Night’, a self published collection of short stories which covers several genres from romance to thriller to drama to horror – plus personal opinions on matters concerning us as Nigerians and as humans. Click to DOWNLOAD a FREE copy of ‘For Days and A Night’

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