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He didn’t seem like himself. Something felt off about him. Tired, somewhat red eyes admired her in a lazy manner when she walked into the restaurant for their breakfast date. Even when he stood to meet her, it seemed like he was beat. But a million-dollar smile spread across his lips, followed by a warm hug.

Too warm maybe. His neck burned hers a little when they hugged.

“Wow. You came. I thought you’d stand me up, after all the forming.”

“Don’t be silly, Femi,” she replied, lowering herself to sit in the chair he pulled out for her.

“Eighteen days of forming.”

“Eighteen days of you bugging my ass with text messages.”

“I told you I was going to be a nuisance until you agree to go on a date with me.”

He reclaimed his chair and leaned forward. “You are absolutely stunning, by the way, Umi. I didn’t know you had such long legs. And the heels…” He shook his head for emphasis.

Umi smiled demurely. She had struggled with picking what to wear. The date was a little different from other dates she had done in her past. One hardly got asked out for breakfast, and hence she had run out of ideas when picking out the right outfit. Finally, with the help of the internet she chose a pair of jean shorts, a white t-shirt, an equally white jacket and sandaled heels. The end result was charming. Even little Zainab admitted that she looked fly.

“Where are you going?” she had asked Umi after the compliment. Umi’s eyes darted at Quincy who was combing Zainab’s hair. It was clear by her stare that she also wanted to know where Umi was headed.

“To see a friend, darling.”

“This friend doesn’t have a name?” Quincy asked.

“Nope,” Umi replied as she headed out.

“Don’t stay too long,” Zainab added with a wave of her hand. Umi waved back. The child was finally opening up to her. The bond between them grew by the minute. Zainab was a spoiled child and sometimes it was hard parenting her but with baby steps Umi was making progress. She was also falling for her. And this threatened Umi’s sense of individuality. She didn’t want to be responsible for anyone or make choices for them. She just wanted back the life she had before Amra turned up at her door. This, in part, was one of the reasons why she chose to go out on a date with Femi after much pestering. It made her feel like she was in control of her existence. Asides that, curiosity had the best of her. She wanted to know Femi behind the walls of his house, to see if he had depth, to know if there was something beyond what happened between them that night.

“So, how have you been, Umi?” he inquired.

“Great. You?”

“Bushed. Busy. Jetlagged. Working long hours without sleep. I traveled out, returned two days ago, went straight to work… I haven’t slept in four days.”

“That’s not good.”

“I know but forget all that. Let’s have breakfast.” He pushed the menu to her and had a drink of water from a glass before him. She thought she saw his hand shake but she wasn’t sure. Her eyes picked out that his beard was fuller than the last time they were together.

“Stop staring without complimenting, Umi. Just tell me I’m smashing.”

Umi kept a blank stare on him.

“You really like me, don’t you?”

“You’re a joker.”

Umi lowered her eyes on the menu. There was so much to choose from but she went for triple stack pancakes that came with bacon and fried eggs.

“I’ll have what she’s having,” Femi said to the waiter standing by their table. The man bowed his head slightly and walked off. Umi’s phone rang out with a shrill sound, drawing a bit of attention from guests in the restaurant. She took it out of her purse, a little embarrassed. Zainab had been playing games on the phone and had clearly tampered with her sound settings.

“Excuse me, please,” she muttered to Femi. “I need to take this.”

“By all means.”

Umi left the table, attending to a call she had been expecting all week. She had sent a proposal to a new hotel which had the potential to be big soon. She proposed a long-term contract which would involve having a branch of her business in their hotel. They called for a meeting but it didn’t turn out well. Nonetheless, they promised to contact her once they made a decision. As she listened to the man on the other end speak, she prayed he had good news. Her feet hurried out of the restaurant. She picked a spot near the entrance and with a racing heart, pinned her ears to his words. Soon enough, he dished her the best news she had received in the year.

“We look forward to working with you,” the man concluded.

“Same here.” Umi maintained a calm tone.

“We’ll meet on Monday.”

“Sure. Thank you.”

The man hung up. It took a lot for her not to scream in excitement. She swallowed down her joy and turned around. The first sight that met her as she peered into the restaurant from the glass door killed her high. She dashed in and ran straight to the table she and Femi were sharing. He was lying next to it, his back to the floor, his eyes shut. The scene had everyone’s attention.

“Are you with him?” a woman asked. Umi didn’t answer. She was perplexed. Didn’t she just leave him a couple of minutes ago? How did this happen?

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