Jimi’s gold-knotted tie gave him a rakish air that was hard to ignore. His shirt was a startling white, contrasting handsomely with his chocolate skin.
Jimi and Busola looked fabulous together, and it made Zaynab’s gut wrench with jealousy. Nnamdi must have felt the same because Zaynab noticed how he was staring at the newly arrived couple. There was a furious look on his face as he watched them take photos with a group of friends. And in that moment, Zaynab realized why Nnamdi had forced her into coming with him to the ball.
He must have had a fight with Busola, and he’d wanted to make her jealous by taking someone else as his date to the ball. Obviously, Busola had paid him back in his own coin.
Suddenly, Zaynab felt sick to her stomach; because right then she had to watch Jimi lead Busola over to the dance floor where he held her close as they moved to the music.
How could he be so cruel, wondered Zaynab with a painfully tight chest. Hurtful as it was, she couldn’t seem to tear her eyes from them. Couldn’t he see he was hurting her?
Nnamdi gave her no time to suffer, as he practically dragged her off to dance as well. Zaynab knew full well he was using her to get back at Busola but she didn’t care. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.
She endured the dancing for a while before telling Nnamdi she was tired and wanted to go home.
He gripped her arm, whispering fiercely in her ear, “Don’t you dare. You can’t walk out on me now.”
Zaynab snatched her arm angrily away, not caring who was watching. “I can do whatever I please. You’re not going to use me to fight your battles.”
“Looks like you’re fighting a battle of your own,” he mocked, throwing a meaningful glance at Jimi. He saw her face go pale and he softened. “At least, wait till they announce the Belle and Beau of the ball, okay?”
Zaynab made to say no, but then nodded reluctantly. She knew that was the biggest part of the evening; and with how narcissistic Nnamdi was, he’d be hellbent on knowing if he won the title. She let out a ragged sigh of defeat. It was just one more ordeal she had to face before it would all be over…
Time had never passed so slowly, or so tortuously. Everyone else seemed to be having the time of their lives. The food, music and the joyous atmosphere overhanging the surroundings didn’t help to improve the plunging sensation in Zaynab’s heart. Going through the motions with a smile on her face was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do.
Ad even when eventually, the crown for Belle and Beau was won by Nnamdi and her Zaynab felt far from thrilled. There was nothing she wanted more than to fling the tiara from her head and stomp it to pieces. What an empty victory, thought Zaynab as tears spilled from her eyes. Everyone seemed to mistake them for tears of joy. If only they knew the misery she was choking from inside.
It wasn’t over yet, though. Because Jimi and Busola had been given the Best Dressed couple award – and Zaynab stared in horror as, once they received their prize they shared a brief, clinging kiss that sent the crowd cheering.
Zaynab gasped, her jaw going slack with dismayed shock. Beside her, she could feel Nnamdi seething and she prayed he wasn’t going to carry out his threat to deal with Jimi after this. Hmm, Jimi was really playing with fire mused the equally furious Zaynab. Come to think of it, before Nnamdi got his hands on Jimi, she’d wring Jimi’s neck herself for doing this to her. This was the final straw!
There was just so much she could take. She’d had enough. She spun to face Nnamdi and said through gritted teeth, “I’m done here.” And before he could stop her she left him, surrounded as ever by his adoring clique. She headed blindly for the exit and was out of the room in moments.
She drew in deep, hacking breaths once she got outside, grateful for the cool, silent night air away from the noise and energy of that fiasco of a ball. She couldn’t wait to get home and dissolve into the buckets of tears she felt welling up inside her. But just as she made to head off she heard a familiar voice call her name from behind.
Zaynab glanced quickly over her shoulder and found Jimi had followed her outside. Her face hardened as she spun around to face him with flashing eyes. “What do you want?” she spat.
“Zaynab, I…,” he began hesitantly, but then blurted, “Where are you going?”
“Don’t tell me you actually care,” she said with biting sarcasm, only to choke out the next words as her hurt feelings came rising to the surface, “Why did you have to kiss her, Jimi?”
For that split second he looked just as shattered as she felt – but just as quickly, his face hardened and his eyes went cold.
“Don’t tell me you really care,” he replied mockingly, throwing her words back at her and making her flinch. “You’re the one who chose Nnamdi. Surely you weren’t expecting me to moon over you for the rest of my life, were you?”
In that second Zaynab would have gladly slapped him. Instead, her billowing hurt and anger made her say what she knew would cause him the same amount of pain.
“Oh sure, I chose Nnamdi,” she sneered in her most bitchy tone. “I guess I was sick of having a puppy that drooled over me and followed me around. Besides, only with Nnamdi could I stand a real chance of being picked Belle of the Ball. ”
In any other situation, Zaynab would have actually laughed at her own dumb-sounding excuse. But Jimi must have taken her little speech seriously, because something seemed to die in his eyes as he looked down at her with an expression almost like pity.
“And I guess you got your wish, huh?” Jimi murmured in a toneless voice. He shook his head somewhat self-deprecatingly. “I should have listened to everybody when they warned me about you. I guess they were right; all that glitters just isn’t gold.”
Before Zaynab could think up a reply to that, Jimi had turned and walked off back into the building, leaving behind an anguished and totally devastated Zaynab.