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“Mommie, Mommie, Mommie!”
Drew’s eyes fluttered open, and she stared straight at her daughter’s face, inches above her own.
“Mommie, Mommie, did you sleep like this? In your jeans? Have you brushed your teeth? Can you ask Auntie Aku to make me waffles? But can you show her how? She burns the waffles all the time!”
Drew groaned, partly from the uncomfortable position and clothes she’d slept in, but also from her daughter’s non-stop chatter. She wrapped her arms around the little girl and pulled her into the bed with her.
“Let’s sleep for a little bit longer, please?”
“Mommie! No, I want waffles. You promised that I could have waffles today! You promised! I’m gonna go ask Auntie Aku myself.”
Her daughter scrambled out of the bed and disappeared through the doors, but Drew could still hear her, calling for the housekeeper, demanding the promised waffles. And Auntie Aku would surely burn them again, she didn’t get the concept of the waffle maker.
Drew sat up right and allowed herself a few minutes to think and gather her thoughts. She loved her daughter Ama to death, she was her pride and joy, but there were moments like these when she wished she had hours to herself to truly wallow and be depressed, and not worry about another soul. Within her heart she knew that while she had been worried sick about Hans, she’d neglected Ama quite a bit. She’d abandoned her to the housekeeper who was no match for the precocious four-year-old. Kids ruled the world, especially in her house. Talking to Hans the night before had been a relief, but she was now back to square one, no way to reach him unless he reached out. It was a terrible way to care for someone and not know if they were okay. She hated it. For now, there was nothing she could so, so she had to force herself to get out of bed and make her daughter some waffles.
Thirty minutes later, Drew was at the dining table, absentmindedly watching her daughter gobble down waffles like it was her last meal. Waffles, that was their thing, Drew and her daughter’s father, the ex she couldn’t shake, the ex she was obsessed over when she first met Hans. THE EX. There’s always that one, right?
Drew was on vacation in the U.S. with her family. They were visiting family in Atlanta, Georgia. Drew wasn’t particularly enthralled with Atlanta, she preferred beach vacations. But in her experience, Ghanaians didn’t exactly vacation, they simply visited other family members and stayed home all day with them. Her family never took trips to exotic locales, it was usually, ‘let’s visit Uncle Kofi in London, let’s go see Auntie Esi in South Africa’. Always that sort of thing. She was 19, fresh out of secondary school and bored out of her mind. Eventually her cousins in Atlanta took her clubbing, and they stayed out till the clubs closed, and then drove to the nearest Waffle House to sober up and get some food. Drew didn’t drink, but she was thankful for the food, until she entered Waffle House. It was the worst dump she’d ever been to in the U.S. but her cousins assured her that the food was delicious, and the appearance of the place was deceptive. She had to swallow a gag as she sat at the counter and watched them prepare her eggs and hash brown. The place was filthy! She was about to completely lose all the contents of her stomach, so she looked away and her eyes landed on him. He was sitting to her right, but there was an empty stool between them. He was staring at her and smiling. His smile initially annoyed her. He stepped down from his stool and moved over to sit right next to her. The annoying smile became captivating. She couldn’t stop staring. He was light skinned, but she couldn’t tell exactly what he was, so many different mixes these days. His eyes were deep and dark, and his teeth were white, really white. He was definitely older, and rather smartly dressed for a place like Waffle House, at 6 in the morning. He was talking but she wasn’t paying attention. Eventually, she snapped out of her stupor.
“Sorry, I missed that, what did you say?” she mumbled.
“The waffles, the best thing here, it’s the waffles. If you have that, nothing else will matter.”
She nodded but said and did nothing else. He pushed his plate towards her.
“Try it,” he said.
She picked up her fork and took a piece of the waffle, right where he had lathered butter and syrup. And then her life was changed. Dear God. She had never tasted anything so divine.
“Oh my God.”
“You can have that. I’ll order another. It’s my go-to thing here. I think the dirt in the restaurant makes it taste even better.”
It was her turn to laugh.
And then that was it, they ate waffles and talked. Her cousins sat in the car and waited for her as she completely lost herself in the stranger.
She learned a few things, when she wasn’t drooling over the waffles and him. His name was Eunike King, but everyone called him Nik. His mix was intriguing. He was part Iranian, Nigerian and White American. His accent was pure American though, he’d lived in the US all his life. He was 15 years older than her and was a VP in a financial services firm. He’d done pretty well for himself at only 34 years old. He had a hunger and a drive for success. Drew figured the Nigerian in him was definitely strong! She’d never dated anyone that much older than her, but then again the older guys in Ghana didn’t look like that.
They exchanged numbers and she decided to go for it. She was on holiday. If her parents couldn’t take her to the beach for a proper vacation, then this was it. She had two weeks left, she planned to make the most of it.
Nik was based in New York but working temporarily in Atlanta, trying to close a big deal. His company had set him up at the Waldorf-Astoria in Buckhead, in a luxurious suite, and that became Drew’s new home. She fed her parents an elaborate lie about hanging out with some girlfriends from secondary school and gave them a hard time whenever they tried to force her to participate in any family activities. Jollof and chicken dinners with over 20 loud-mouthed relatives reminiscing about Ghana versus sushi and sake while nestled in the arms of an enamoring man. It was a no brainer for her. Nik was a foodie, so they dined out a lot, and it was through him that she became exposed to fine dining, but sushi and waffles, that was their thing. Waffles over the weekend, early in the morning, and sushi during the week, late at night. She’d never felt so connected to someone like that before.
Unfortunately, the two weeks flew by pretty quickly. Nik made it clear that he couldn’t have a long-distance relationship. He was a direct contact type of guy. Drew was devastated, she was in love, she was hopelessly in love. Nik wasn’t her first, she wasn’t a virgin when she met him, but he had dug deep into her soul, into her heart and no one before him counted. No one after him counted either, not for a long time. Her experience with him was otherworldly. She didn’t think it was possible to feel like that, physically and emotionally. He was so attentive, each touch of his went beyond the physical to parts of her that she didn’t know existed. She was done for. Despite how she felt, she hadn’t uttered the words, the great I LOVE YOU. She was afraid the words would make the certain heartache she was about to feel much harder.
When she returned to Ghana, she could barely cope. She desperately wanted to stay in touch but Nik struggled. Their correspondence was superficial at best, definitely not emotional. So she buried herself at the university, ignored boys until her itch got too bad, but recognized that these boys were only satisfying a need. She got her B.A. in Business from the University of Ghana with a first class, of course, to be expected. Nik paid for her to go on vacation to Paris with a few friends shortly after she graduated, and then he showed up, unannounced, whisked her away from her friends and they spent three beautiful days together, barely coming up for air. She had seen him just once in the entire four years since they met. He flew down and surprised her for her 21st birthday in Accra. She didn’t need to hide him from her family anymore at that point. They spent a week together, but that was all for a long while. She visited the US a couple of times while she was at the University but Nik was always too busy. Paris set a tone she wasn’t comfortable with but she went along with all the same. Their relationship was completely on Nik’s terms. After Paris, she worked in Ghana for a while. Then she took the GMAT, aced it and applied to the exclusive New York University Business School. She also got into Harvard, but Nik was in New York so she had to be in New York. She thought that would be it, the move that finally brought them together. Nik also paid for half of business school for her, while a scholarship from the NYU covered the other half. Why would he do that, if they were only friends? She reasoned that his generous gesture meant something. He loved her, he just didn’t know how to say it or commit to what they had, but he loved her for sure. So excitedly, she went to New York and then Nik crushed her heart and her spirit repeatedly all through the time she was in New York.
Drew was heartbroken and confused. Nik paid for half of her grad school tuition for the two-year period. That was a fortune. He rented an apartment for her and paid the two year rent in full! It wasn’t in a swanky place, but close to the school, decent and very comfortable. And yet, over the entire two years that she was at school, she barely glimpsed him, she barely heard his voice.
Hans came into her life her first year at school, but she was blinded by Nik, caught up in a situation she couldn’t extricate herself from. She and Nik were on the phone once, and she overheard him tell someone that he was on the phone with his ex. She should have walked away then, but she wanted to try and get him back, get back to what they had in Atlanta, in Paris, even in Accra when he came for her birthday and met her family. Their relationship, their status, it made no sense to her. The more it made no sense, the more she felt trapped, unable to move on. Why would he do all this, be generous and sweet, and yet ignore her so painfully?
Once she graduated from NYU, she landed a coveted job at a prestigious financial services firm, a competitor to Nik’s firm where he’d grown to be the head of the New York office. She realized she was following in his footsteps. She wasn’t interested in business or finance until she met Nik, but now she was caught up in this career, trying to impress him. She moved out of the apartment he’d rented for her, and did what she did best during heartbreak, she buried herself in work, in learning, in achieving. Hans was in DC, and they remained friends, but she was fixated on winning Nik back somehow. She wanted to show him she could be his partner, his equal. Once Hans moved back to Germany, she lost her ability to handle the situation with Nik. She knew she had to leave New York and completely leave his orbit. Her company floated the idea of starting an office in Africa and she latched onto the idea for dear life. She worked the concept until it became feasible and she single-handedly set up the office. Two months before she was set to leave New York, she reached out to Nik. They hadn’t spoken in so long.
They met up for drinks, to say goodbye, once and for all.
“You look beautiful, Drew. I like your hair like this, the natural look suits you.”
They were seated at the restaurant bar of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. She wanted to remind him of their time at the Waldorf in Atlanta. He was staring at her wistfully, the same way he looked at her the first time they met. Drew hadn’t exactly made an effort for their meet up. She wore no make-up, her afro was big and controlled only by a slim band, and she had on a long, flowy dress, shapeless to an extent. She was tired. Loving him had drained her, so she couldn’t be bothered. And yet he had lust in his eyes. Is this what it took? Looking like crap?
“So what happened? I really loved you, Nik,” she said quietly.
“You’ve never said that to me before,” he said matter of factly.
“What? Nik, come on, did I need to say it?”
“You never said it Drew, you never did.”
“But you knew! How could you not know? It’s been what, 15 years since we met? I basically gave up my youth for you. There’s been no one important in my life but you.”
“And this is what I know, Drew. We’ve had fun, really good fun, but you’ve always acted a little bit guarded, always on edge, and you never said the words. It just seemed like you wanted to hang out but you also wanted to be independent. I just couldn’t figure you out, and then eventually I stopped trying.”
She was stunned into silence. What the heck? She’d loved this man for fifteen years. She had denied herself every bit of happiness for him. She refused to take any responsibility for the way things had turned out. But deep inside, she realized a few things. She’d been so worried about losing him that she never allowed herself to actually be open with her feelings and show him how much he meant to her. And he had never done the same! They’d danced around each other for fifteen years! For crying out loud though, why couldn’t he just tell her how he felt, what he thought? She felt his hand on her face and she turned her head to kiss his palm. The next moments were inevitable.
They got a room, and did what they did best, avoid talk and buried themselves in the physical. Drew hadn’t been with him in years, and it felt good and perfect. She clung onto him desperately, and then she said it, with tears on her face.
“I love you, Nik, I love you so much.”
She couldn’t remember if he said it back or not, she was heady and emotional, and he was fully immersed in her body. She let it be. She had said it, she’d done that much.
The next morning, she woke up alone. There was a note on the bedside table.
‘Early meeting. I’ll call you later. Love you, Nik.”
Love you, written on paper, not the same as a verbal I Love You, but she latched onto it for dear life. She folded up the note, covered it with tissue and tucked it into her wallet.
Nik didn’t call that night, or any other night. She was exhausted from the roller coaster of their toxic relationship so she continued with her plans and moved down to Ghana. A month later, after passing out in the middle of the office, she got the news. She was pregnant. She should had known, but her periods were inconsistent. She hadn’t been seeing anyone in New York so she wasn’t on birth control, and Nik hadn’t come prepared either. Yet somehow, neither of them discussed the possibility.
Drew felt so alone, angry with herself and the situation she was in. She had just moved down to Ghana to head up a new office for a massive, global financial services firm and now she was pregnant? She felt embarrassed as well. She should have known better. She didn’t call Nik, until she was back in the US to have her baby. She remembered his words, that she had never told him she loved him, so she felt guilty. She called him when she was a few days away from her due date.
“Hey…” she said softly.
“Hey! Wait, you’re calling from your US phone, I thought you moved back to Ghana. Are you in New York?”
“No, I’m with family in Atlanta.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Listen, I meant to call you. I honestly did, but work has been the worst. I’m about to quit this mess. Can you believe what happened today? So, I …”
“Nik, I’m pregnant. I’m having our baby in a few days.”
She heard him cough, almost like he had choked on something. His breathing changed.
“Before you ask me the usual dumb questions, like am I sure, is it yours? The answers are yes. I’m sure I’m pregnant, and I’m sure it’s yours,” she added, irritated.
“Drew, I can’t do this. Honestly, I can’t. I wish I could. It doesn’t work for me. You can’t just do this to me. This is not right. I’m sorry, but I can’t be a part of this. This is not in my plans for now.”
“You’re 50 years old, having kids isn’t part of your plan? When will it be part of your plan, when you’re 80?”
“I’ve never wanted kids, you know that! Work is my life. You know that!”
She’d never heard him raise his voice before, not ever, not with her. She fell silent.
“I just can’t. So you have to figure yourself out, but I can’t.”
The busy tone on the other end should have surprised her but it didn’t. She realized she was done as well. There was no sadness and no pain. It was time. She felt relieved he didn’t want to be part of her baby’s life. She felt a little sad that her daughter wouldn’t know her birth father, but relieved that a selfish, egotistical douche wouldn’t be in her life.
“Mommie, mommie, your phone is ringing.”
Drew snapped out of her walk down memory lane and grabbed her cell phone from the dining table. It was a German number. Her heart dropped. She stood up from the table, her back towards Ama.
“Is this Drew?”
The voice on the other end had a heavy German accent. Drew realized she was about to panic again. Her emotions would be the death of her!
“Yes, it’s Drew.”
“My name is Lina, I’m Hans’ mother. We need to talk.”
TO BE CONTINUED.