By seven in the evening I had finished my reading for the day, had my bath and dressed in a fitted smart looking blue and white stripped shirt and black denim trousers. I walked down the road to the fast food restaurant that had just opened up down the street a few weeks ago. Their food was delicious and the atmosphere was serene. It would be the perfect place to propose to Nina.
I had booked a table there about two weeks ago and I prayed the manager of the place remembered. I had not been there more than twice since then to remind them I was coming and I didn’t want them caught unawares; I needed to make it extra special after the goof I made this morning. As I approached the place I saw that it had really taken off. Customers were lined at the entrance and there was loud music blaring away as the DJ played the latest hits. I became anxious for a moment, wondering if the environment would be too rowdy for the romantic evening I had in mind. Anyway, I had booked in the VIP suit and been assured of privacy in that area.
I walked into the restaurant and made a beeline through the crowd for the manager’s office.
The office was a small one and his desk had been placed right in the middle of it. He was a short fat man with a cigarette between his lips and furrows of worry etched across his forehead like a tattoo. He wore a light grey suit with a black shirt beneath it. His hair was cropped and balding at the centre. He sat down, worrying over sheets of papers on his desk with a chain of bottles attached to his legs which protruded from under the small uncomfortable looking desk. A hooded creature with a scythe sat beside him nonchalantly, signifying a worry which leads to death. It was not attached to him in any way which showed that he could still change his fate if he made the right decisions.
“Hello sir,” I said. “I’m Chukwudi. The guy who made a reservation about two weeks ago when you first opened…”
“Show me your receipt first if not I can’t help you!” He retorted angrily. “I don’t know why my staff will be booking seat reservations in a busy place like this! If your receipt isn’t here we can’t do anything about it!”
I saw the hooded creature shift closer to him. I ignored it.
“Sir, here’s the ticket. You really should calm down.” I added, my conscience getting the better of me. The man misconstrued my concern for aggression.
“Eh?” he looked up for his papers and at my outstretched hand. He took the receipt from me and looked at it. The moment he saw the insignia fir VVIP his countenance changed.
“Ah, sorry sir, please wait a minute while our waiter takes you to your table.”
He pressed a button and in seconds a young chap entered the office.
“Take this gentleman to his seat in VVIP section.” The manager purred. The boy nodded and turned to me. “This way sir.”
I thanked the manager and turned to leave then paused at the door.
“Pardon my asking, but have you checked your blood pressure?” I said to the manager who had gone back to studying his papers. He glanced up at me.
“No. Why? You selling something?”
“No Sir, but you should have it checked soon as a matter of urgency. All the signs of an impending stroke are there on your body.”
The man sat back and smiled. “What are you, some sort of doctor?”
“Something like that.” I said, “Take it as a friendly advice. Get your blood pressure checked first thing tomorrow morning. I’m serious.”
He thanked me very politely and returned back to his work. I left, saddened that I couldn’t tell him any further for fear of being labeled a psycho, and also by the fact that the hooded creature had barely budged from its sitting position near him. He hadn’t taken what I said seriously.
I shook off the thought and followed the young man to the VVIP section of the restaurant. A glass sliding door ushered us into a serene environment, much different from the noisy atmosphere outside. There were couches arranged in beautiful modern designs around small hexagonally shaped tables. There was a flat screened television and a bar at one corner and the lighting was arranged in such a way that each table was separately illuminated from above by a cone of light which could be dimmed or brightened to the taste of whichever guests sat there. There air-conditioning was set to a comfortable temperature and just beside it was a sign indicating that it was a no-smoking area. A DJ behind the bar played some soft music.
“Please have a seat sir.” The young man said and I surveyed the place for somewhere isolated, somewhere I could make an ass of myself without being easily seen. I picked a table by the right, close to the wall and far away from prying eyes. He nodded and asked what I wanted to order and I told him to bring their special wine and to prepare one spicy roasted chicken. He nodded and left.
I looked around my surroundings once again. A couple sat at the extreme left hand corner close to the air-conditioning, laughing away and having a good time over soft drinks and fried rice. A young man sat alone at the other end near the entrance, sipping a sex-on-the-beach cocktail and watching the football match on the television. He wore a white outfit with gold outlines on the shirt and black outlines on the trousers. The gold outlines sparkled when he moved. A pair of dark shades covered his eyes and a white and black fedora hat sat on his head. He reminded me of Michael Jackson in his “Moonwalker” outfit.
I looked at my watch, 8 o’clock on the dot. She would be here soon. I felt the ring in my pocket and my heart skipped a beat. I suddenly became a little nervous and loosened the collar around my neck. I wanted everything to be perfect. I caught the eye of the DJ and nodded my encouragement, he grinned and gave me the thumbs-up sign and continued with the cool jazz he was mixing. The tune was relaxing and the warmth and strong confidence the music exuded helped in calming my nerves as I took deep even breaths.
Fifteen minutes passed and she still hadn’t arrived. I began to fidget. Was she still angry with me? She had replied favourably when I had told her about the dinner date and even though it was a text message it had been friendly enough to show she still wasn’t harbouring any bad feelings, at least not enough to stand me up. I battled with the idea of calling her, whether it would be good manners or not. I decided to give her another tn minutes.
The man in the Michael Jackson suit ordered for another drink. He looked forlorn, but there were no manifestations around him that I could perceive. Probably worrying about a little thing., not like me that was being stood up by the girl I wanted to marry on the romantic evening I had chosen to propose to her…
Damnit. I picked up my phone and called.
The number you have dialed is switched off
The robotic voice seemed to be deliberately taunting me. I tried again and got the same response. I closed my eyes and sat back on my seat, massaging my temples with my hands.
Why had she switched off her phone? Was she really that upset? Was it that her battery had run down and she had forgotten about our date?
The glass door slid open and I stood up expectedly but instead two burly men walked in. I groaned and sat back down, asking myself why I had been so stupid earlier and wishing I could turn back the hands of time when the two men passed my field of vision and headed for the bar.
I sat up immediately.
Both men had