“Earth to Valentina,” Sondra said, throwing a tee shirt at her, startling her. “I’ve been talking to you but you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“What were you thinking about?”
“Something that happened a long time ago.” She was remembering last year Christmas when she saw Raoul. “So, where are the guys taking us for dinner this evening?”
“To a Mediterranean restaurant which recently opened. It got really good reviews so I thought we could check it out.”
“I feel a little under-dressed,” Valentina remarked, glancing down at her black top and denim skirt.
“I have a red dress you can wear.”
“Great. So, you finally wrangled a date with this guy you’ve been telling me about.”
Sondra beamed. “Yes. I was coming out of the pharmacy when I ran into him. We got to talking and then, he asked me to have dinner with him. I told him that you and I had already made plans so he suggested that we make it a double date. I agreed.”
“Well, I hope his friend is nice.”
“I’m sure he is. Don’t worry. It will be fun. I think we should get ready.”
“Come for the dress.”
It was a nice red dress with elbow length sleeves with a V neck and flare knee-length skirt. “Very nice,” Valentina exclaimed, holding it up.
“I’m sure it will look great on you. You can change in my room while I change in the bathroom.”
Valentina examined herself in the mirror. Sondra was right. The dress fitted her nicely. She checked her face to see if she needed to touch up her makeup.
Sondra walked in the room, wearing a black dress with broad straps and a pencil skirt. She looked great. She was the prettier of the two. “I told you the dress would look great on you,” she said. “Fortunately, you and I wear the same size in shoes. I have a pair of red pumps that would go well with the dress and your bag.”
“Thank you, Sondra.” She took the pumps from her and slipped her feet into them. They fit.
“You’re all set. Let’s go. We’re meeting our dates at the restaurant. The reservation is in my name.”
Twenty minutes later, they were sitting at their table. It was a very nice and trendy restaurant. The people were very well dressed. “This place is nice,” Valentina said. “It looks expensive too.”
Sondra nodded. “Yes, it is. I’m sure that my date can afford it, though. Or else, we will end up washing dishes.” She laughed.
“It has been a while since I’ve eaten out so this is a nice treat for me.”
“I know what you mean. I’ve been so busy at work that when the weekends come, I just want to hibernate until Monday morning.”
“I’m starting a new job next month.”
“Really? What’s wrong with the current one?”
“Nothing. I just need a change, that’s all. The new job is more up my alley. It’s closer to where I live and it pays better.”
Sondra leaned forward and said in a low voice, “Don’t look now but there’s a gorgeous man at the bar, staring at you.”
Valentina waited a few minutes before she turned around to see whom her friend was talking about. Her heart leapt in her chest. She quickly turned away. “That’s Raoul, my sister’s brother-in-law.”
“What’s the matter? Why are you so upset? Is there bad blood between you two?”
“No, there isn’t any bad blood between us but–” she had been about to tell her that they had become lovers but their affair ended when she found out that he was engaged. Maybe that was why he was here now. He was probably meeting his fiancée for dinner. How ironic that they had both ended up at the same restaurant. She wished she could get up and leave but their dates had arrived. Hers was a nice looking Ghanaian guy and Sondra’s was Nigerian.
“Hello, Ladies,” Sondra’s date greeted them with a smile before he introduced his friend. After shaking hands, they sat down. Valentina tried to ignore the fact that Raoul was there at the bar, probably still watching her. Her heart pounded at the thought. She tried to concentrate on the conversation at her table but was distracted when she saw a stunning brunette walking towards the bar.
It had to be Galena. She looked exactly as how Loraine had described her. She was dressed in a lilac pants suit which flattered her figure and accentuated her olive complexion. Her hair tumbled past her shoulders in thick bouncy waves. Several eyes followed her as she joined her fiancé. Valentina tried not to think of them exchanging a hug and a kiss.
Sondra leaned over and said to her in a low voice, “Your sister’s brother-in-law’s date just showed up. They are coming this way.”
Valentina’s hands withdrew her hands from the table and gripped her handbag with sat on her lap. She glanced up as the two walked past her and went to a table in the center of the room. Raoul sat in the seat facing her direction while his date sat with her back to her. Why did he have to sit there? She wanted desperately to change seats with Sondra.
“What’s the matter?” her date asked her.
She forced a smile. “Nothing. So, which part of Ghana are you from?”
“Kumasi which is the capital city of the Ashanti Region. My mother is a vendor in the Kejetia Market.”
“Really? What sort of things does she sell?”
“Beads, sandals, soap.”
He told her about himself and she listened politely. He seemed like a really nice guy but…Every now and then, her eyes drifted over to where Raoul was and caught him watching her.
“What are you looking at?” Galena asked him.
“Loraine’s sister is sitting over there.”
“Your sister-in law’s sister whom I haven’t met?”
“Yes.” He looked over there again. Valentina was listening very intently to what her date was saying. It made him jealous to see her with someone else although he had no right to be since he was engaged to Galena.
“So, why didn’t you stop at the table and say hello?”
“I didn’t want to intrude.” If I had stopped by the table, I wouldn’t have been able to hide my feelings.
“Maybe she’ll stop by on her way out. Are you ready to order?”
“Yes.” He had lost his appetite. He wanted to leave and blow off some steam. If only he had met Valentina before Galena…
While they waited for dessert, Valentina excused herself and got up from the table. Heart racing, she walked towards the table where Raoul was. She thought of walking right past but how would that look? Instead, she went over to him and smiling, she said, “Hello, Raoul.”
His expression was guarded as he rose to his feet, towering over her. “Hello,” he said quietly. “How are you?”
“Fine, thank you,” she lied. “And you?”
“Fine, thanks.” He was anything but. “Meet Galena. Galena, this is Valentina.”
Valentina turned to face his fiancée. “Pleased to meet you.” She tried her best not to be resentful and to hide her jealousy.
Galena smiled although the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Likewise,” she said.
Valentina’s eyes dropped to the engagement ring. Seeing it was like a knife piercing her heart. “Congratulations,” she managed to say.
“Well, enjoy your dinner.” She turned away, her eyes met Raoul’s briefly before she walked away.
In the washroom, she leaned against the sink and closed her eyes. He looked so gorgeous. It was hard being around him and not think about or long for those times when they were together. Heat surged through her body as images of them making love flashed across her mind. She had to get over her feelings for him. It was foolish and pointless being in love with a man who was engaged to another woman. She had to forget about the past and move on.
Raoul sat down, a muscle throbbing alongside his jawline. He was tempted to leave the table and find Valentina. How he longed to be alone with her. How he missed and yearned for her and those times when they were together. They would still be lovers if she hadn’t found out about his engagement.
The rest of the evening was tough for both of them and when Valentina and her friend left the restaurant with their dates, Raoul couldn’t help thinking that it was pointless dwelling on the past. She had obviously moved on with her life.