I was amongst the birds, another silhouette against the orange-kissed heavens. Only an hour ago we had been pale against a blue sky, but the twilight was advancing and soon we would be lost in blackness.
To the outside world, I was just an ordinary pigeon. No one would suspect me. I could fly for hours - I could see the world! I could fly as high as the clouds, perhaps even beyond the endless white mist until I was lost in space. Nobody could stop me.
Well, nobody except for him.
He had cornered me, preventing me from fleeing. His claws were wrapped around my neck; his eyes raging with fire as I had defied him once again.
I squirmed helplessly, trying to break free from his iron hold. "No one saw me-!"
"How can you be so sure?" He sneered at me, baring his teeth at me as if he wanted to bite my head off. "You're just a stupid little brat, after all. What do you know?"
Writhing and thrashing around, I pleaded for him to let go, but the more I struggled, the harder he clung onto me and the weaker I became.
"No! Plea- nghhh."
Couldn't talk. Needed air. Black spots. Dizzy.
"If anyone finds out about your..." His voice dropped an octave in disgust, " ... malformity, I won't hesitate to eliminate them on the spot."
Finally he lowered me to the ground and let me go. I could breathe again.
"And then I'll finish you off," he growled. "Do I make myself clear?"
I nodded in cowardice.
The sky was nothing at all. It was like a child began to draw on it with a pencil and then erased it in a way that smudged and spread the gray. And all the while the rain streaked down, invisible until it hit the sodden ground. Typically, a day like this would make the world feel so dreary and devoid of color. Yet seeing Ayana walking ahead of me, holding an umbrella to shield her and her friends from the rain, it was as if the streets became colorful and vibrant with her presence.
The girls chattered amongst themselves, oblivious that I was lurking nearby like a shadow. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I felt compelled towards Ayana. There was something about her. Something about the way she moved, how she presented herself - it reeled me in like a powerful magnet. Hearing her carefree laughter, mixed with the pitter-patter of rain, made this moment feel so enchanting and peaceful.
As Ayana neared towards the campus entrance, I jogged ahead and opened the glass door for her. I didn't care that her friends were thanking me - I merely nodded a greeting to avoid appearing rude. There was only one person's attention that I craved. And just as I wanted, Ayana noticed me and gave me a smile of gratitude. That warm smile that reached her eyes, lighting up an entire room.
I used to wonder why men would go to war for their women. Now I could finally understand. I would do anything just to keep that beautiful smile on her face.
There was so much that I wanted to tell her - I wanted to pour my heart out to her. I wanted to tell her that certain songs made me think of her. That no matter what singers I listened to, her voice was my favorite sound. That just thinking about her made me smile. That I admired her confidence, yet thought it was precious when she would get shy about some things. That I could be in a room full of five hundred and more people and feel so lonely, yet when I was alone with her, I felt so complete.
These words were on the tip of my tongue but, whenever I was around her, I became tongue-tied. Usually I was so calm and composed, but something about her made me lose the basic self-control I had. She was barely doing much, yet the smallest things she did left such an impression on me. It was frustrating, and some days I felt like I was losing my mind, but still I was addicted to the way she made me feel.
She turned me into a mess and I loved and hated it.
Until I couldn't take it anymore.
I gathered up all the courage that I could muster and I finally asked her the question that had been haunting me ever since we met.
"Go out with you... this weekend?"
It was a Friday afternoon, when I had found Ayana sitting in a lonely corner in the university library with her head down reading a textbook. She looked up from her book with a thoughtful expression, contemplating my question.
Every second felt like a minute. My breaths came in sharp pants and I tried to gain control of it, but nothing was working. With each passing second, my anxiety worsened as I waited in anticipation for the words she would say.
"You see, I'm a little busy this weekend..."
My breathing stopped. It was the most awful feeling I had ever felt in my life. Rejection. I could see the future I built for us fading before my eyes. No... this couldn't be. No... please no...
"How about next weekend?"
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. In that moment, it seemed as though time had slowed down to zero mph, while my mind was trying to process her words. Lord knows how long I had been standing there gawking at her like an ape. I couldn't help it. I had been dreaming of this moment for so long - it didn't feel real.
But it was real. And it was happening. And I just wanted to dance around and celebrate this sweet moment, but I forced myself to keep it cool.
"Yeah, that's awesome! I mean, that's... great," I smiled, probably the biggest goofiest smile of all time.
Way to play it cool.
"Can I get your number?"
She nodded in response and typed her number into my phone, while I was shifting my weight around on the spot. I was so giddy with excitement, I could barely contain it.
Ayana Omenuko wanted to go out with me!