Dinner with the Queen
“Oh my God, Mike! I still can’t believe it! And I was just thinking of you right before I actually saw you. That is so crazy…” Angela was saying, but Mike only managed to mumble a one-liner in response, he was feeling a little dazed.
About five minutes ago he was trekking his way home which was about eleven kilometres away when she came out of nowhere. Angela Nwolisa, his Angela, Angel. How many times had he thought about seeing her again? So many times.
So many times he had thought about the scenario of their meeting and exactly what he would say if he ever saw her again. So many times he had tried to look her up or call her, but he always chickened out at the last minute. Not wanting to seem like a stalker. Or worse, to seem like someone who only wanted her money. Rich people were always suspicious of their middle-class peers.
But now sitting right here beside her, so close, after so much distance between them was…unbelievable. He had even thought he would never see her again. After all, in what scenario would a movie star meet someone like him? Maybe if she ever needed a handyman to pick up her trash.
“Mike, do you remember that time Chibuzor and you had a fight? Wow, that was so intense. I can still remember it like it was yesterday…”
“Yes, I do.” He said, not really listening to her. He rubbed his hands on her car’s armrest trying to get warm because she had on the AC and he was still a little wet from the rain and so he was starting to feel cold, he was too shy to say so. Not wanting to offend her or interrupt her nostalgic reminiscence in any way. But she noticed.
“Oh, let me turn that down for you.” and she turned down the AC without much thought.
“Thank God, I came this way or else I might never have seen you. I only came because I had a hard time at rehearsals this morning, my co-star was being difficult again and I just had to leave there before I lost my cool, you know? I don’t like to flare up in front of the crew like that, it’s bad for my image. So I asked to be excused and I was. You see the director’s a friend of mine.”
He was surprised at the way she was treating him! She was talking to him the way she used to long ago, when they were friends. It was like the gap in their lives had never happened. Like they had never lost touch and had been all these years!
Well, Mike couldn’t help but feel intimidated. So, all he could give were one-sentence responses like; “yes”, “okay”, “fine”, “thanks” or “no”. And who could blame him? He was a nobody while she was Lisa Angels; Nollywood’s Queen of Soap Opera, very successful and her car’s fueling alone would cost about two months of his salary.
Even her car alone was awesome. A cherry red 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. With silver and brown leather skinned upholstery that felt so smooth and cool to touch like baby skin. He was so comfortable in his seat that he felt like sleeping in the car. It was more comfortable than his bed, than his entire house.
The car’s dashboard looked like an aeroplane’s cockpit panel. And she drove it so well, like a seasoned pilot in his aircraft. He was awed by the way her hands glide over the compact steering wheel. Michael couldn’t even ride a motorbike not to mention drive a car.
Riding beside her was so smooth, like floating on clouds. It all felt like a dream. He imagined this is what it must feel like being the royal escort of a queen.
They arrived at Willies, a newly established confectionery that was said to be very pricey. Immediately she drove in; the valet and the security men all became instantly animated and began to dote on her.
“Welcome, Ms Lisa. Please let me help you with that.” the valet asked reaching for her bag.
“It’s fine, Oga Bassey. Thank you. Good morning.” she replied
“Morning Ms Lisa.” said the security. “How is your day?”
“Fine, Mr Thomas. Morning.”
As Mike quietly followed beside her, the men gave him a nod too. Some fellow shoppers along the hallway glanced at her, some stopped in their tracks and nudged their partners to have a look at the famous Lisa Angels.
“Good morning, ma. Welcome, what are you having today?” asked the waitress already bobbing up and down to wait on her.
“Ah, Lily, please I will be having my regular mini chicken and chips with water and please bring a menu for my friend here.
“Okay, ma. I’ll be right back.” and the waitress left them alone for a minute and even though there were few people dining at Willies at that time in the morning the few people there were staring at them both. They started at her because she was a celebrity, the heroine in many soap operas on the Nigerian television network and they stared at him too because quick frankly…
“What was a guy like that doing with a girl like her?” they thought and if you saw them together, especially Michael’s clothing…you would think the same thing too.
“Wow, so you’re now Ms Lisa Angels, famous soap star, wow?” he gushed finally finding his voice.
“Guilty,” she responded, raising up her hand and they both laughed.
“Please, I’m confused. How did you get into acting and when did you change your name to Lisa Angels?”
“Oh, Michael. You remember that last time we saw each other I was leaving for Zaria right? I had gotten that admission to study Nursing and I was going to live with my aunt?”
“Yes, I remember that. It was the last time I ever saw you.”
“Yeah, so I got to RNU, Zaria and I really like the place. For once, life was a bit chill with none of the hustle and bustle that my mum and I were always doing to make ends meet in Lagos. In Zaria, I could fall into the slow ease of life there, I could breathe finally. And my aunt Juliet, she was amazing! She really took care of me and never made me feel like a burden or want anything, she and her husband.
So, there I was studying Nursing and unfortunately, I hated it! The endless lectures, the labs, and trials, it was such a grind. In nursing school, you study a lot and can’t have any distractions. You constantly have to be on your toes because a life practically depends on it. If you mess up a medication, you could kill a patient. If as a nursing student, you can’t find a way to balance your classes and studies well, you’re finished. It was highly challenging and took all of my time and thank God my aunt and uncle were very supportive, they almost always left me alone to study and never asked me to do chores whenever I had a quiz or exams to prepare for. But I didn’t want that type of a highly demanding course.
“Oh, but isn’t it worth it at the end? I mean, then you would be a qualified nurse? Which is wonderful” he said.
“Well, yes! Becoming a nurse would be amazing, and at the end that would make it all worth it. But I didn’t want that type of a high demanding life. I don’t know if you remembered how rough it was for me and my mum back then, how hard it was when my father left us and we had to struggle every day.”
“I remember. ” He said.
“That time was really tough and I just wanted to let my hair down and relax a bit you know? I had already had enough of struggles. High school was all about; always exerting myself to keep my head above water, to attend school and help my mum with the shop and hawking her wares. I just wanted to ease up a little.”
So I wasn’t happy, and i realized that…It wasn’t my dream to be a nurse. It was my mother’s, and I just followed along to make her happy, but I still didn’t know what I would want to do If I didn’t want to be a nurse.”
“But early in my second year. A friend managed to convince me to watch her class rehearsals of a play, you know Ola Rotimi’s; The Gods Are Not To Blame?”
“Yes, I…I know that one.”
“Well, while watching them, I suddenly felt the urge to join them. To be on stage and act, you know? I never felt like that before and I managed to convince them to let me join their troupe. They gave me a small role as an extra but while performing that small role, I felt alive and never wanted to do anything else in my life.”
“But I still couldn’t think of letting my mum know about it, so I kept it a secret. It was my aunt’s husband who was a lecturer in the school where we performed a play in which I was the lead that first found out. He wasn’t even angry about it but instead he just had a straight talk with me about what really I want to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be an actor. And surprisingly, he was very encouraging! He offered to talk to my aunt about it, which he did. My aunt was disappointed, but eventually, she came around. So early in my second year of nursing school I dropped out and enrolled in theatre arts. But none of us could still muster the courage to tell my mum so we all kept it a secret and do you know how she found out?
“No, I don’t know.” he confessed.
“Our neighbourhood chemist told her! She was always bragging about me to him that she had a nurse for a daughter I would someday own a chemist like his and sell cheaper drugs.” She laughed.
“And so one time while at that same chemist shop, he told people I was a nurse and they kept asking me questions and, one thing led to the other, I told them I was in fact and actress and not a nurse. He told her soon after and she nearly collapsed.” she grinned.
“Woah!” he said.
“Yeah, we almost had to have her hospitalized, but…she also accepted it with time.”
“Okay. But why Lisa Angels? Why did you change your name from Angela Nwolisa?”
“I have actually…not changed my name at all. I’m still Angela Nwolisa, Lisa Angels is the name of a character I played in school and it just stuck me with it, since the audience loved the character. And I kept acting in different shows and plays while in school that by the time I graduated there was a job already waiting for me and I sort of blew.”
“Oh, Wow… Interesting. Hmm!” he said thoughtfully.
“I know what you’re thinking Mike.” she said playfully.
“You’re thinking that it was selfish of me to drop nursing, don’t you? That I should have stuck with it so as to help people, right?” she asked teasing.
“No, not at all.” he said “I was just thinking that it was really brave of you to find something you love and go for it regardless of anything.”
“Awwww.” she melted. “Thanks, Mike. You know, I’ve really missed this! I’ve missed talking to you. I always did feel better by talking to you. So tell me what about you? What interesting things happened in school or your life?”
“Well, not much really. There’s nothing much to say.” he hesitated.
“Oh, come on Mike I just told you everything about me. Now it’s been ages, come on. Fill me in on the blanks of your life.”
“Alright… if you insist. Well, after high school my dad died, unexpectedly.”
“What! Oh, Mike. I’m so sorry.” she said.
“Yeah, thanks and things sort of went downhill from there. We lost everything, my mum got sick from the grief and she was hospitalized a couple of times. She still hasn’t fully recovered and so we became strapped for cash and I had to take over caring for my mum and my little brother anyhow I could. I have only managed to graduate two years ago because I had to pay for school myself and take care of my family. And so far the jobs aren’t forthcoming and so I have been taking odd jobs here and there to survive.”
“Oh, Michael that’s awful.” she said.
She reached out across the table and held his hand to comfort him. He stiffened from the contact, wondering where the electricity came from.
“It’s… Ahem” he coughed “it’s okay.”
Just then the waitress brought the chicken for Angela and a menu for him.
“Oh, thank you Lily. I was starving.” And she began eating with relish. While Mike only stared at the prices on the menu. He couldn’t bring himself order anything yet. He was wondering if the restaurant would be willing to accept his dishwashing skills as a means of alternative payment. She sensed his trepidation and said;
“You know what, Mike? They make great Jollof rice here, you have to try it.”
She called Lily, the waitress who was hovering above them and she was by their side in seconds.
“Please, Jollof Rice, Chicken and a Malt drink for my Michael.”
“No, erm… no malt please, water is fine, thank you.” He said not wanting to cost her unnecessary bills.
“A bottle of water please.” She told Lily.
“Alright ma, right away.” And Lily left them blushing away.
“You know Mike, I had no idea things were that tough. Now, I feel very bad. I should have contacted you sooner and tried to help.”
“Oh, that’s alright, Angel. My brother is about rounding up his secondary school and he would soon be in the university and my mum’s health is a lot better these days. She still a little hypertensive but it’s a lot better now.”
His food arrived and it looked amazing. He planned to eat it slowly, with style but after having a spoonful of mouthwatering Jollof Rice, he could no longer control his hand or his mouth. He finished his food before she finished hers.
“So Mike, what course did you study?” She asked.
“Oh, I er…” he swallowed ” I studied engineering, Electrical Engineering.”
“And knowing you, you probably came out with first class.” She teased. Trying not to brag, he admitted it.
“I knew it, efiko. You put the rest of us to shame.” She laughed, he joined in.
“You know what? I think I might know someone who can help you with a job.” And she fished out her card.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that. I don’t want you to bother yourself about me.”
“Nonsense, we’re friends. You’ve helped me a lot before, remember? And besides, I want to. Here, take one. Now, you have to come see me next Thursday. We really need to talk, okay?”
“Great. Now, I’ll call you a cab. And then I’ll see you next week, alright?”
“Oh, no. I haven’t done anything yet. Come, let’s go.”
They left the restaurant and she got takeaways for both of them and still gave him the two and as they left she tipped the valet, security and the waitress nicely. And waited with him outside, talking about everything; the weather, high school, life, until an uber came. He got in and she reached through the window for a handshake and also squeezed something in his palm and closed his hand over it.
“Thank you very much.”
“Shh. ” She shushed him.
She went over and paid the driver on his behalf and they said their goodbyes. As she drove off, he watched her car disappear in the opposite direction from the uber’s rear window.
“Wow,” he said “Angela still remembers me.”
He finally had Angel back in his life. Now, everything would be better. He could feel it. He opened his palm and saw the cash she had given him. He became giddy. He couldn’t believe how wonderful his day had turned out. It was perfect. He only wished she hadn’t called an uber. The money she paid was too much. He would have preferred to be given the money instead.
How things have since he last saw her, he thought as him mind drifted to a time, almost a lifetime ago, where they met and became friends.