He was passing by the store when he saw it. He stopped in his tracks and stared at it for several minutes before going inside. He asked the woman there to see it. It was a very beautiful and made of very fine material. It was soft to the touch. It would be perfect for Ife. He bought it and asked the woman to wrap it for him. He thanked her and left the store. He walked to where the rental car was parked and got in it. As he drove off, he tried to imagine Ife’s reaction when she saw it. Would she guess why he bought it? Theirs hadn’t started out as a conventional relationship.
He had returned one afternoon and caught her using the toilet. She begged him not to report her because she could lose her job at the hotel and she needed the money to take care of her daughter. He agreed not to report her on one condition–that she slept with him. It wasn’t something he ever imagined that he would force a woman to do but he wanted her. She had no choice but to accept his condition and after she finished cleaning that afternoon, he took her to bed. After that, he made sure that he was there when she was. He always felt guilty afterwards but his desire for her was stronger than his sense of decency.
He thought about the day when he had rushed back to the hotel to be with her. It was raining cats and dogs and he got caught in it. By the time he got to his suite, he was completely drenched. She was cleaning out the bathroom when he opened the door. She turned to find him leaning against the frame, in his wet tee shirt and trousers. “You’re soaking wet,” she exclaimed. “You should get out of those clothes.”
“I’m going to take a shower,” he said.
“All right,” she said, moving away from the wash basin. “I’ll wait in the bedroom until you’re done.”
“No,” he said. “I want you to join me.” He removed his tee shirt and the rest of his clothes, his eyes never leaving her. He stood there naked, his desire for her obvious.
She nodded and undressed. He closed the bathroom door and taking her by the hand, led her to the shower. They stepped inside and he slid the door shut. After turning on the water, he turned to face her. Without saying a word, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her. His kisses deepened when she responded and soon he was pressing her against the tiles while his lips plundered hers, the water beating down on his back. They made love in the shower and afterwards, he ordered room service.
Over the course of time, he fell in love with her. His time there in Kampala was drawing to an end and soon he would be returning to Tokyo. The thought of not seeing her again was unbearable. He had to think of something. Right now he was considering moving to Kampala and start a business. He couldn’t imagine returning to his life in Tokyo after having met Ife. Life without her was no life at all.
Ife looked at the neatly wrapped package on the table. It had a card with her name on it. She frowned. It wasn’t her birthday. Why was he giving her this? He didn’t have to. What did it mean? She was hoping that it meant he had feelings for her.
Carefully, she unwrapped the present 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 head wrap scarf. She took it out and examined it. It was soft and expensive looking. She walked over to the mirror and wrapped it loosely on her head. It looked really good. It was the most beautiful and expensive thing she had ever had.
She admired it for a few minutes longer and then she took it off. She put it back in the box and closed it. She left the box where she found it. It was time to go to work.
He let himself into the suite, his heart racing. He was nervous. His eyes fell on the unwrapped box. Did she like the scarf? He hoped so. It was more than just a gift to him. She was in the bedroom, tidying but came out 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 scarf,” she said.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, I like it very much.”
He smiled. “Good. The moment I saw it, I wanted 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 realized 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?” She knew that it was inevitable and that one day, he would be leaving but so soon? 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 my daughter, Amahle?”
“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 Amahle and she live with him? What kind of work would she be able to do? She wasn’t going to miss Kampala even 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 Amahle 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. This day was just full of surprises. It was surreal.
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 child?”
“When I marry you, she becomes my child 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.”
“I love you too, Kaito.” It was the first time she had ever said his name.
He bent his head and kissed her. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.
Two weeks later, they were on their way to Tokyo. Ife wore the head wrap scarf which looked really nice with the new dress he had bought 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 –