A Conversation – Short Story
By: Stanley Courage Duoghah
“What will you steal from me if today was declared World stealing day?” she asked as we sat facing each other for the Unusual Questions Time.
The UQT was a period of 30 minutes in which both participants and instructors involved in the Youth Awareness Campaign program were expected to sit in pairs and ask one another odd questions just for fun.
“Your heart,” I promptly replied. Lola was a girl I have had my eyes on for a long while, and her choice of a first question to ask played perfectly into my hands. I couldn’t resist answering so. Not only was she decent in speech and manner and thought, but also of a calm and collected disposition, and a precocious intellect. A remarkable young woman. She was.
“Why my heart?” said she, knowing very well that my brief and blunt answer to her query wasn’t to be taken in jest. My month-long behavior of stealing glances at her and being overtly and overly affectionate towards her wasn’t something she was ignorant of. Or, so it seemed. “Why my heart?” she repeated as I remained silent, thinking how best to answer her.
“Because it’s beautiful to behold, and I want it to be mine,” said I.
“And what do you need it for?” she asked in much mirth, as if we were only keeping to the theme of the UQT.
“Because it’s made of gold and I want it to be mine, dear. I want it to be mine so that I can treasure it and take good care of it, Lola. You have a heart of gold, dear.”
For awhile, her thin lips remain closed, and a frown flickered on her forehead. Then she said, “I don’t understand. How can my heart come to belong to you if it’s already mine?”
I wondered whether she was being candid. There’s no way an active intellect like hers would be ignorant of the heart as the symbol and seat of all emotions and sentiments, most importantly love? She knew what I meant? Or, so it seemed.
“I can steal it or you can choose to offer it freely,” said I in answer to her question. “You offering it freely will be more desirable, by the way.”
A smile hovered on her lips, and then with the aroused curiosity of the school girl that she was, she leaned forward and asked, “How do you steal a person’s heart? How will you steal my heart if you want to?”
“Find a way to make you fall in love with me?” said I. “That’s how.”
She leaned back into her seat and frowned a little then laughed. “You’re serious,” she said.
“I sure am,” said I, bracing myself for the worst. Be it hell or anything else. Maybe she had always thought that my affection for her was mere liking? Maybe she thought it was improper for a man almost twice her age to fall for and desire her?
I never found out the answers. Time was called on the UQT, and she had avoided me ever since. I took that as a clue that she wasn’t interested in having anything to do with me, but for a long while afterwards I treasured hope of being with her, of making her mine. I believed in things like destiny, soul mates, and thought she was the one.
It all started sometime in the first week in camp. We were all praying, holding hands, and she happened to be standing beside me—to my right. Prior to that, I never harbored any desire for her. Her linking hand with me in prayer was the turning point. Upon our hands touching, I felt a surge of warmth from hers into mine and onward into the deepest depth of my heart, and once there, her warmth took root and grew, until I couldn’t help it any longer, and soon found myself deliberating how to make her mine.
She was way younger than me, and that made me doubtful at first. But I was given hope.
Once, she was seated alone reading, and I approached her. Then without any words uttered I placed my hand onto hers, which was flat out and faced down on the table. She said nothing for a prolonged period of time in which my hand still remained on hers. Then she looked up at last and smiled benignly, with her eyes dancing in delight at the knowledge of my affection for her. She knew! So it seemed.
Subsequent days saw her becoming more and more intimate with me, and evidently delighted whenever she was in my presence. Hope in my heart further soared. Her young age wasn’t going to be a problem. After all, and despite my 20-odd years, I was fortunately of youthful appearance, and looked far younger than my years.
Filled with hope, I settled on the best time to tell her. I was already in the know that she wasn’t with anyone, and what could then prevent her from becoming mine?
Alas, age did, and her liking for me was mistaken for love.