A BOUQUET OF PROMISES
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September 11, 2019 at 10:02 am #1338868
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A BOUQUET OF PROMISES
There was one thing that annoyed
Motunrayo more than anything else:
people forgetting her birthday. And
by “people,” she meant Folarin.
In their three years of dating, he
never remembered her birthday.
The day always slipped by quietly
without any special celebration. For
days after, she would give him the
silent treatment. Eventually, she
would forgive him and move on.
Until the next birthday.
Even her roommate, Cynthia weighed
in on the matter.
“It’s like this your Folarin is a serious
miser o! Or he’s just an unserious
guy. Na wetin? No calls, no texts, not
even ordinary Coke or Malt to say
‘Happy Birthday.’ And he calls himself
your boyfriend! I no want dat kain
Motunrayo chuckled bitterly.
Cynthia’s words stung like nettles
especially because they were true. All
she managed to say was,
“Some guys are just like that. But
he’s not all that bad sha.”
“He’s not all that bad?” Cynthia
sneered. “So you’re waiting for him
to get worse, abi?”
“It’s not that serious, come on,
Cynthia,” said Motunrayo. “It’s just a
“Is that what you tell yourself?
Downplay it for his sake when it
means so much to you? I’m your
roomie. Every year it’s the same
thing. On your birthday, you’re
morose. You spend the whole day
frantically checking your phone to
see if he remembered. It doesn’t
matter if anyone else wishes you a
Happy Birthday. It doesn’t mean
anything unless it comes from him.
And it never does. Don’t even get me
started on the sadness. It’s like a
dark cloud that follows you around–”
“Cynthia, abeg, abeg! E don do,” said
Motunrayo. “Stop carrying my matter
on your head.”
“Na your own you dey talk,” Cynthia
What Motunrayo did not want to tell
Cynthia was that she had discussed
this issue with Folarin countless
times. He always promised to make it
a priority, but he never did.
In spite of everything, Motunrayo
believed that even if the Folarins of
this world had flaws, they also had
their good points. No man was a
living, breathing, massive flaw.
Her Folarin was a polite, punctual,
well-mannered man, who didn’t care
for birthdays. Not even his own.
They met at the campus car park and
had to share a taxi going off-
campus. She remembered distinctly
telling him that her birthday was May
24, exactly three days before
Children’s Day. He had nodded, told
her his own – October 13 – but only
one of them had walked away
remembering the other person’s
And it certainly wasn’t Folarin.
But that was not why they broke up.
The break-up was triggered by one
What is my best asset?
Motunrayo had asked Folarin this
question when he came to visit her
in her room one evening. She was
standing with her back to the
window, leaning against a table, and
he sat close by, on her bed.
“Just drop the ‘et’ in ‘asset’ and that’s
your answer,” said Folarin grinning.
And just in case she didn’t get it, he
smacked her hard on the derriere.
Motunrayo was stunned. “So you
skipped my brain, even my eyes?
Kpata-kpata you could have said my
lips. Instead, you picked my
“You want me to lie to you?” Folarin
“I want more than you’re willing to
give. It’s over.”
It was Folarin’s turn to be stunned.
“Call me when you’re in a better
mood,” he said, before leaving.
She never did.
Five months passed. Then, another
door opened for Motunrayo. A dream
on two legs, with strong shoulders
and full lips, walked into her life.
His name was Nnamdi.
One look at him and one wondered:
Which Folarin? Who … What is a
It might be unfair to compare one’s
current relationship with the past
one. But Motunrayo couldn’t help
herself. When she stacked Nnamdi
up against the person of Folarin, now
her ex-boyfriend, Nnamdi stood
much, much taller.
Was a comparison even fair?
It was hard not to, especially when
she had met both men on the same
university campus. But meeting
Nnamdi was fate. Or destiny as her
father called it.
On a Monday morning, her 9:00 a.m.
lecture was canceled. Motunrayo
went to the library to snooze for a bit
until hunger woke her up. It was the
same hunger that sent her on a
journey to the cafeteria, an hour
before she usually did. She was
standing in line, in front of a certain
gentleman, when she heard him tell
the food seller:
“Madam, I’ll pay for her.”
Motunrayo turned around to look
into the face of her mysterious
benefactor. In her haste, she slapped
his face with her long, ponytail. As a
frantic stream of apologies
consisting of “I’m so sorry” and “Are
you okay?” came gushing out of her
mouth, Mr. Free Lunch did not
“I need to do my hair like yours so I
can drive away mosquitoes and
miscreants just like that …” he said,
flicking his imaginary ponytail with
Motunrayo laughed. Who wouldn’t?
And she laughed in such a loud voice
that Mr. Free Lunch said:
“I need that type of laughter in my
And in that pause, she gave him her
“It’s Motunrayo. And please drop the
‘Miss.’ Haba! I’m not a teacher. You
can call me ‘Tunrayo.”
“Why would I do that?” said Mr. Free
Lunch. “Your name is beautiful, just
Of course, Motunrayo blushed. Who
He introduced himself as Nnamdi, a
Master’s of Architecture student at
the University of Lagos. She never
forgot what he did when she told
him her birthday.
He pulled out a small pocket diary
and wrote down the date.
May 24: Motunrayo Ajibade’s
“You wrote down my birthday?
Why?” she asked.
“Because you should always write
down what is important to you,” he
replied with a smile. “And when you
meet a lady whose name means ‘I
have found joy again,’ it’s important.”
Motunrayo stared and stared at
Nnamdi, a look of wonder on her
face. What planet did this guy fall
from? Were there others like him
there? Or was this just a charade, an
elaborate play to get into her pants?
Because men these days can be so
Instead of asking the questions that
crossed her mind, Motunrayo found
herself telling Nnamdi,
“Oh, that’s just not fair, you know.”
“What isn’t fair?” he asked.
“You know the meaning of my name,
but I have no clue what yours
means,” said Motunrayo.
He smiled a smile that reminded one
of a fact of life:
The sun rises in the East, and sets in
Nnamdi’s smile started from the
corners of his mouth, slowly
spreading to his cheeks and then, his
eyes until his whole face was a
gorgeous, radiant burst of sunshine,
beautiful to behold, warm and
“All you had to do was ask,” he said.
“It means ‘My father is alive’ or ‘My
God is alive.’ ”
“For some reason, I thought it was
the same as Babatunde,” said
“Do you know what Babatunde
means?” said Nnamdi.
Motunrayo nodded. Although she
had no proof, she believed that at
least one Tunde lived on any given
street in Lagos. The name was that
“Of course,” she replied. “It means
‘Father has returned’ or ‘Father has
come back,’ because of Yorubas and
their belief in reincarnation.”
“That is correct, Professor
Motunrayo,” he said, leaning back.
By now, they were both sitting at a
table in the noisy cafeteria. The food
they had purchased sat in front of
them, untouched and the rest of the
cafeteria just faded away. They were
so wrapped up in their conversation
that the surrounding noise did not
Motunrayo’s face must have betrayed
Who takes time to explain such
“You’re uh … interesting, you know,”
was all she managed to say.
“Just because I told you the meaning
of my name?” Nnamdi asked
incredulously. “It’s easy when you’re
sitting across from a fine girl. I fit
give you my bank account number
“Ta! Gerraway jo!” said Motunrayo,
Motunrayo felt her cheeks burning as
her face slowly underwent the
transformation Nnamdi’s own had
She was smiling. And blushing. A
few weeks later, their relationship
The next year whirled past like a
dream. Motunrayo entered her final
year as an English student and the
day for her Project Defense drew
closer. In that time, Nnamdi finished
his Master’s degree program and
continued working full-time at the
architecture firm of Olusola &
Okadigbo. Although he was no
longer a student, he gave Motunrayo
all the moral support she needed to
complete her final year.
Finally, the day of her Project Defense
arrived. She had written her thesis
on “Alluring Alliterations and the
Evolution of English Language.” That
morning, she received the most
extraordinary text message from
Today we celebrate the latest
graduate and the best girlfriend in
Motunrayo laughed. “How can he be
calling me a graduate when I haven’t
even defended my project? What if I
have a carry-over and have to stay
back for one more year?” she said to
But she didn’t share any of these
fears with Nnamdi. Instead, her
You mean “future graduate,” right?
And how are we celebrating?
Dear Graduate, it’s a surprise!
The last few times Nnamdi surprised
Motunrayo, his calls and text
messages did nothing to alert her
that anything unusual was afoot. In
fact, this was the first time he had
actually used the word “surprise.”
What was this man up to?
But Motunrayo didn’t have time to
worry about that. Rather, she
dressed up in her interpretation of
business casual: a formal-looking lilac
blouse tucked into a black pencil
skirt. On her feet, she wore flat
leather sandals. Her black leather
pumps, which her mother called
“court shoes,” were hurriedly shoved
into a nylon bag. She could not walk
all the way from her room to the
lecture hall in those heels, but they
would make an appearance when it
She dressed up quickly and went to
the hall where her Project Defense
would hold. After undergoing severe
grilling by panel members, she
successfully completed her defense.
As soon as she stepped out of the
lecture hall, she saw Nnamdi
standing outside. He wore a wide
grin and a look of anticipation on his
face. In his hand, he held a single red
“Sweetie, Congratulations! I knew
you’d ace it,” he said, scooping her
up in his arms. Motunrayo wrapped
her arms around his neck and closed
her eyes as she inhaled the musky
scent of French cologne. She felt his
taut muscles under his shirt before
she pulled away.
When she was back on her feet, he
still held her close. So close that their
lips could touch if she simply leaned
Was he going to kiss her? Nnamdi
read the question in her eyes, but all
she got was a light peck on the
“What’s the ribbon for?” she asked.
“Oh, this? It’s part of the surprise na,”
he said, stuffing the ribbon into his
trousers pocket. “But that’s later.
Right now, you’re going to change
and I’ll take you out for a special
“All this hush-hush. Did you buy me a
car or a house in Lekki?” Motunrayo
teased, patting his b----t pocket for
a hidden key of some sort.
Nnamdi chuckled. “You are worth so
much more than that. Just wait and
And with Motunrayo’s curiosity still
unsatisfied, the pair went to Madam
Tinubu Hall a.k.a. MTH, the hostel
where Motunrayo lived. Nnamdi
waited downstairs in his car.
Meanwhile, upstairs in her room,
Motunrayo slipped into the little black
dress she had received as a
Valentine’s Day gift from Nnamdi that
But the dress was not the best part.
Along with the dress, as with all the
special dates he marked, was an even
more special gift: a paper flower. A
From the day they started dating,
Nnamdi had given her gifts
accompanied by paper flowers,
handcrafted by none other than
But these were not ordinary flowers.
What truly elevated them from works
of art to keepsakes, was that each
paper flower was covered in
promises, words written in Nnamdi’s
cursive, dreamy handwriting.
On days when she wanted to re-live
the experience of receiving these
promises, she would spray each
flower with the sweet, floral perfume
that Nnamdi had gifted her on
Valentine’s Day was the day she
received the first flower and the first
promise. It was an exquisite red
rose. The outer petals were covered
with Nnamdi’s words in black ink:
I promise to love and cherish you,
now and always …
Motunrayo who had never received
something so beautiful, made just for
her, was speechless.
“Won’t you say something?” Nnamdi
asked, a worried expression on his
“Do you … Did you do this for your
ex-girlfriends?” she finally managed
to say, as if from a dream.
Nnamdi chuckled. “You’re the only
woman who has compelled me to
explore that side, my artistic side.
The Val’s Day gift bag also contained
a box of chocolates, a teddy bear,
and perfume. But who can forget a
paper flower with such sweet
Those paper flowers always came
with all Nnamdi’s gifts.
In March, on Mother’s Day, Nnamdi
came bearing gifts … and Flower
Number 2. This one was fuschia
pink, a delicate rose.
“But I’m not a mother yet,”
Motunrayo protested. “Abi you want
to make me your Baby Mama ni?”
Nnamdi chuckled. “That would make
me your Baby Dada, but I want to be
so much more than that. You are
mine, the future mother of our
“Whoa! Whoa! Slow your roll,
Nnamdi,” said Motunrayo in a
panicked voice. “I haven’t even
graduated and you’re skipping so-o-
o many steps–”
“No. I’m sharing my plans with you.
Plans for our future,” said Nnamdi.
Motunrayo calmed down on hearing
“I believe honesty is the best policy.
I’m just speaking from my heart,”
said Nnamdi. The fuschia rose bore
I promise to support you as the
sweet mother to our lovely kids.
“You mean children, right? Only baby
goats are kids,” said Motunrayo.
They both laughed.
The third flower arrived in April,
on Administrative Professionals Day.
Nnamdi gave her a cobalt blue
flower, filled with these words:
I promise to support your dreams,
your career, your ambitions, however
many and varied they are. Your
vision for the world is a precious gift
that should be shared.
The fourth flower came on her
birthday: May 24. It was a lovely mint
green rose. Motunrayo noted that
the color would make a nice, chiffon
blouse. He wrote:
I promise to celebrate the wonder
that you are, this beautiful gift God
gave to me.
Three days later, on Children’s Day, he
gave her a lilac rose. This was Flower
Number 5 and on it, another promise
was scribbled in black ink:
I can’t promise children. It is God
who gives children. But I promise to
provide for our children and to love
them as fiercely and passionately as I
love their mother.
I promise to protect, instruct and
correct them, and treat them like the
precious gifts they are.
On Father’s Day in June, he gave her
the sixth paper flower: a yellow rose.
The petals bore these words:
I promise to be a loving father, a
responsible leader and role model for
On July 31, the International Day of
Friendship, he gave her the seventh
paper flower: a purple rose. On the
petals, Nnamdi had penned these
I promise to be your best friend, to
hold your hand and walk with you
through life’s many seasons. We will
weather every storm together, and
emerge victorious, side by side.
Motunrayo kept all these roses in an
old shoe box under her bed. But the
promises were stored in her heart,
the place where the most precious
things are kept.
As she was about to leave, Nnamdi
sent a final text message.
Bring all the flowers with you.
They drove to a restaurant tucked
away in a quiet corner of Lagos.
There was a live band playing jazz as
they walked in, hand-in-hand.
As soon as they sat down, and
ordered drinks, Nnamdi pulled out
the ribbon and before her eyes, tied
all the flowers together into a lovely
Taking her hand in his own, he said:
“This ribbon is red, the red of love.
It’s been an amazing year, and I can’t
wait to spend the rest of my life
keeping all these promises to you.”
And then, he got down on one knee,
pulled out a blue velvet box and
“Will you marry me?”
With tears in her eyes, Motunrayo
gave the answer that had been in her
heart since she received the first
Then, he kissed her.
###0September 11, 2019 at 8:51 pm #1338952
- "Posts & Comments"3317
awwwn0September 11, 2019 at 8:53 pm #1338953
- "Posts & Comments"3317
this one is truly heaven sent0
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