Short Story - You Forgot Us by Daniel Okoli
They took their Val’s Day celebration to the Vignette restaurant.
This was the day he would propose, this was the day he would ask her to be his wife.
The table had been booked three weeks ahead of time, the wine pre-ordered about the same time.
They sat close to each other, arms touching lightly, before a table softly lit by four fragrant white candles that cast a glow on two serving plates, embroidered napkins and silverware.
She ordered chicken soup for first course and he said “Make that two.”
They waited. She smiled a lop-sided smile at him. “Let me show you something.”
She placed an iPad on the table, a gift he’d given her three months ago, on an ordinary Monday evening. She powered it up.
“The candles must be frowning at the intruding light” he laughed lightly. “Your appetizer would politely ask…”
“Ah, this would cost-” she held her index finger and thumb a fraction of an inch apart, “only about this much of our time here.”
He laughed again, but with a hint of unease.
Suddenly he disliked her smile, the way it seemed forced, faintly… mocking. He disliked the awkward silence, a fertile ground for ominous, disagreeable thoughts, apprehension…
“I’ve always wanted this” she turned the screen slightly so both of them could view it at once. The screen showed a picture of both of them laughing hard at something outside the camera range, against a brightly lit background of a building, hugging themselves in their mirth.
He looked at her and they shared a smile.
“Silverbird, October last year.”
She flipped at the screen.
Both smiling sunnily, posing by a Honda Civic, ice cream cones in their hands.
“That should be Grand Square, still last year, our first Honda.”
“Shola took the picture” she nodded & chuckled. “Remember how she kept taking those ugly, hilarious pics when we weren’t prepared for the camera?”
He nodded back, laughing. “I deleted them promptly.”
She kept flipping constantly; a picture at the airport, their first kiss scene captured on photograph, when she was leaving for South Africa for a week. Both had cried like abandoned babies.
Their soup came, served in wide, shallow bowls, round bread sitting in the centre. They ate & continued through their pictures.
Millenium park, 2010. Lying on the grass, her head against his chest.
“You remember?” She smiled at him.
“We were so broke we couldn’t afford N200 for a mat-” he said, smiling back.
“And trekked from the park to Wuse market.” She finished for him.
His eyes misted.
She’d hidden the only N100 she had on her in his note book that day. Then sent a text after they’d parted to tell him so – because if he’d discovered it, he’d have forced her to take it back. He was going to Karu & had just N30 on him; the N100 took him home. She walked part of the way to Jabi, before a good Samaritan gave her a free ride the rest of the way.
It was his prerogative, his idea to make the evening unforgettable for them, do something they could talk about, old, gray all over and sitting in rocking chairs. She was beating him to it- hands down.
“Shhh!” She trilled at him, slapped his shoulder playfully. ” Don’t stop me now, the best is coming.”
Standing in front of a Redeemed Church, as thin as a pencil, his hair unkempt but smiling delightedly at the camera. She’d taken the picture.
Two of them kissing, one of his arms out of view, holding up the camera; two of them in shorts and t-shirts, holding hands; two of them… Two of them…
“And now!” She grinned at him, that same strange smile that somehow evaded her eyes.
What he saw next were two naked bodies, clearly engaged in sexual intimacy on the bed of an unidentifiable hotel.
The man, although he had his back to the camera, although the lighting didn’t favour a good, well-lit picture, was clearly him.
The lady in the picture was light complexioned, plump.
Kemi was dark, very dark. Slim.
Speechless, he turned to look at her, opened his mouth to say something, said nothing, shook his head, eyes pleading. He raised both hands in a pleading gesture.
She smiled back again, and this time, tears dribbled down the corner of her eyes.
“You forgot, didn’t you?” She said softly, still smiling. “You forgot us.”
She got up, sipped from her wine glass, picked her purse and strode out of the Vignette.
This was first published as "The Vignette" on Naijastories.com. Check out Daniel Okoli's portfolio here, and support the writers by buying books from our store. Thanks.