Eloho coughed some more. Some rice grains had entered the wrong side of her throat and won't come out. Her continuous coughing wasn't helping issues as it made her throat hurt and her eyes watery.
"Here, drink some water." Someone offered, stretching a glass of Luke warm water her way.
Almost everyone in the restaurant had started to wonder what was up with her. Some couldn't eat their meals anymore and those sitting close by vacated their seats. They were only trying to be safe, in case she was down with a disease or something worse.
Without hesitation, she grabbed the glass of water from the stranger and drank it up. She felt a little relieved afterwards.
"Thank you," she was going to say as she looked up at the kind man who had offered her a drink. The words died on her lips.
"How do you feel now?" Joe asked, smiling at her. He too was obviously surprised at seeing the person he just helped. But it was a pleasant surprise. He was dressed as one of the staffs in the restaurant, but there was a different air around him.
Eloho was so surprised at seeing him. She didn't give her cough anymore attention. And with little attention given to it, the cough gradually died on its own.
"You're the last person I expected to see." She said, at last. "What are you doing here?"
"I work here. This is my restaurant." Joe smiled, broadly. "I didn't think you come here at all."
A smile curved her lips. Joe Edeh used to be her parent's gardener about 6 years back. He was very efficient in his domestic duties and neither her mom or dad could fault him on anything.
Unfortunately, that changed. She returned from UNIBEN campus after their first semester exams to find a gorgeous gardener in her father's house. Being a 300 level student, she had barely thought about going into a relationship. The guys that approached her on campus where all out to satisfy the ache in their willy, nothing more. So she avoided them like they were plagues.
During her holiday at her father's mansion, a series of events happened that brought Joe before her eyes almost all the time. But the one that changed things between them was when she had forced herself into a tight gown and couldn't get out of it. She screamed so much trying to get out of it. Joe ran to her room, thinking she was under attack. After seeing her situation, he laughed at her but still helped her out. She felt ashamed, standing with only a bra and pant before the gardener.
Then one day, after so much work and sweat, Joe had taken permission from her mother to use the guest bathroom. He needed to freshen up before heading to his second job in town.
Eloho was about taking her bath at the same time but her bathroom shower wouldn't run. She decided to use the guest bathroom. Joe had just finished and was towelling up when she barged in and saw him in all his glory.
Her jaws dropped at his size and length, but no scream escaped her open mouth.
"Can you please excuse me?" He quickly tied the towel around his waist and headed out of the bathroom, leaving a stunned Eloho to find her bearing.
It was a week later she summoned courage to meet him when he was mowing the lawn. She apologized for what happened and he accepted. Since that day, a series of unusual events happened almost all the time and it made them closer. They soon started a relationship and she gave herself to him.
Two months later, she was so pregnant. Her father was mad with rage when she confessed that Joe was responsible and that they were a couple. How could she stoop so low to allowing a common gardener between her legs? Her father reasoned? Her mother was mad with anger too. But the deed had been done. She fired Joe and then tried to work on Eloho, to get her to abort the baby. But she wouldn't. So they sent her out. Disowned.
She managed to put her life together. And since then she had been searching for Joe.
Joe too had been searching for her. But after many years, they had completely given up, only to meet again under such a not so funny circumstance.
Joe normally breezed in to his restaurant, Tasties, twice a week to ensure a smooth running of his business. He had worked hard, saved up money and invested in several businesses. He had really done well for himself. So much so, that no family would be able to turn him away again. But he cared for no family, just the one in front of him. He was lucky to have arrived at the restaurant in time to see a customer coughing. This was surely God blessing his long years of search. He knew she was pregnant when he was kicked out of her parent's house. So his eyes rested on the 5 years old boy sitting next to his mother.
"Is he...? His voice trailed off.
"Yes." She replied, still feeling dazed and surprise and confused. "I looked for you everywhere."
"I did too." He said, his emotions getting the best of him as he looked from mother to child. "Did you get married?" He eyed the ring sitting around her finger.
"Oh, no." She chuckled. Her other hand reached for the ring, turning it around before pulling it out. "People laughed at me. So I used it as my disguise."
Joe nodded, a smile on his face. "I'm sorry you went through a lot alone. You think..... You think we can get back together? Like continue from where we stopped?"
"Did you marry?" She asked instead.
"No. I haven't cared about anyone else."
She nodded and smiled. "I guess we have a chance then."
All the while, little Joe looked from his mom to the strange man sitting across from them. He didn't like the way the man looked at him or his mother. But being the shy type, he said nothing.
Maybe he is just another one of those men that come to mummy and mummy chases them away. He thought. Maybe she will chase him away too. He thought. But when he looked at his mom and saw the broad smile on her lips, he changed his mind. Maybe not. He looked again at the man in front of him. There must be something about this one. He concluded.
©Karo Oforofuo.October 2016. All rights reserved