It was time to go to work but Ife didn’t feel like it. Since Toshiro left she hadn’t felt like going to the hotel. It was hard not going to his suite and being with him. She missed him so much it hurt. After she met his sister, Miko and learned that he was in love with her, she had hoped that she would have heard from him or seen him but, so far nothing was forthcoming. It was now mid April. Christmas had come and gone and she had gone through the motions of celebrating for Mirembe’s sake. The New Year had come with the hope that Toshiro would return to Kampala.
All the way to the hotel, she thought about him and wondered if she would see him soon. Her life was so empty without him. She wondered if he would return to Kampala even if he didn’t have any business there. Would he travel all that way just to see her? She wasn’t sure. When she went to the hotel last week Friday, she was told to get suite 406 ready because it was going to be occupied over the weekend. Could it be him, she wondered but if it were, surely he would have left a note for her letting her know that he was there. Yesterday was Monday and still nothing. So, she concluded that he wasn’t the person staying in the suite. It was someone else.
Today was Tuesday. She went to suite 406, her heart heavy. She let herself in and got busy. It looked like no one had been there. She started with the bathroom first, then the sitting room and the bedroom last. She walked into the room where they had spent so much time together. The bed looked like it had hardly been slept in. Memories flooded her mind as she replaced the sheets. When she was finished, she stepped back and it was then that she noticed the box on the work desk.
Curious, she went over to inspect it. It was neatly wrapped in red and gold paper and there was a card with her name written on it. She frowned. It wasn’t her birthday. Carefully, she unwrapped it and set the paper aside. She looked at the white box before she opened it. She removed the tissue paper and her eyes widened when she saw the beautiful kimono. She took it out and examined it. It was soft and expensive looking. She walked over to the mirror and held it against her. It looked really good. It was the most beautiful and expensive thing she had ever had received.
She admired it for a few minutes longer and then put it back in the box and closed it. She opened the card and read it. Dear Ife, Do you remember that I once promised you that I would buy a kimono for you? I hope you like the one I got you. I will see you at 5:30 this afternoon. Toshiro. Smiling and heart pounding, she slipped the note back into the envelope and placed it on top of the box. She wished she could try on the kimono now but she had work to do. Besides, she was going to see him later. She gathered up the wrapping paper and the old sheets and left the room. She finished tidying the bedroom and the rest of the suite before she let herself out. She was in better spirits now. He was back and she couldn’t wait to see him.
At exactly five-thirty, he let himself into the suite, his heart racing. He was nervous. She must have seen the box and card by now. Did she like the kimono? He hoped so. It was more than just a gift to him. She came into the living-room when she heard him. They stood there, staring at each other for several minutes and then she approached him.
“I-I wanted to thank you for the beautiful kimono,” she said.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, I like it very much.”
He smiled. “Good. The moment I saw it, I had to get it for you.”
“Thank you. It-it was very kind of you.”
His expression changed. “I didn’t do it out of kindness, Ife.” He moved closer to her, his breathing quickening. He’d never been so nervous in his life. “I did it because I love you.”
Ife swallowed hard, her heart was pounding and her head was spinning. He loved her.
He continued. “I don’t know if you feel the same way about me. I know you want me.” His eyes darkened at the thought. He wanted more, though. He wanted her love too but knew that he wasn’t entitled to it. To be quite honest, he didn’t deserve it, not after the way he took advantage of her in the beginning. “In two weeks, I will be leaving Kampala and returning to Tokyo.”
“You’re leaving in two weeks?” He had just come back and he was leaving again in such a short time. She couldn’t hide her distress.
He saw the expression on her face and hope flickered in his eyes. It gave him the courage he needed to say, “Yes and I would like you to come with me.”
She stared at him, incredulous. “You want me to go with you to Tokyo?”
“But what about Miremba?”
“I want her to come too.”
Ife’s mind was spinning. He loved her and he wanted her and to go to Tokyo with him. The thought of living in a strange country was daunting. She had never traveled outside of Kampala. What would life in Tokyo be like? Would Miremba and she live with him? What kind of work would she be able to do? She wasn’t going to miss Kampala even though it was her home. Life here was a constant struggle and she was tired of it.
He watched the play of emotions on her face and reached for her hand. “I know that moving to a strange country is scary,” he said. “But, don’t worry, Ife. I’ll take care of Miremba and you.” He drew her closer to him, his eyes meeting hers in a steady gaze. “I love you and I want to marry you.”
Her eyes widened. “You want to marry me?” she exclaimed.
He nodded. “Yes, I do. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“I’m a divorced woman.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
“You would take care of another man’s daughter?”
“When I marry you, she becomes my daughter too.”
Tears glistened in her eyes. “I don’t know what to say,” she murmured.
He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out a small black box. “I hope you say yes,” he replied as he got down on one knee. He opened the box and took out the ring. He couldn’t wait to put it on her finger. He held her hand and glanced up at her. “Ife, will you marry me?”
“Yes.” The word came out as a sob.
He rose to his feet and pulled her against him. “I love you so much, Ife.”
“I love you too, Toshiro.”
He bent his head and kissed her. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.
A couple of days later, Ife introduced Toshiro to her brother, Irumba and his family and he was warmly received. They were thrilled for Ife that she was embarking on a new life and they wished her all the best. They promised to visit her in Tokyo. They were going to miss her and Miremba but they were happy for them. Mrs. Sato was happy for them too and vowed that she was going to make the special trip for their wedding. It was tough saying goodbye to them but Ife knew that she was making the right decision. Her life was with Toshiro.
Two weeks later, they were on their way to Tokyo. Miremba was going to join them when the school term ended in the summer. She was beside herself with excitement and had already exchanged several text messages, emails and What’s APP calls with Kento who was looking forward to hanging out with her.
Ife wore the kimono which looked really nice on her. She was happy and as she settled into the middle seat on the plane, she couldn’t help smiling. No more cleaning hotel suites, no more sanitation issues and her daughter would be able to go to a school which had toilets. Most of all, she was happy because she had found love.
Some gifts are big. Other are small. But the ones that come from the heart is the best gift at all – Tinku Razoria