The evening before classes started back up again for the term, Kevin was the one to take me back up to campus. I couldn’t have been happier as I threw my things into the trunk of his car. I had left for the break single and was now going back with my dream boyfriend. I secretly hoped that as many people as possible would see us when we got up to campus. I wouldn’t mind at all if the local gossips started talking about who they saw me with now!
As we started on the drive down to UWI, I thought about when I’d successively told each of Gary, Omar and the other guys I was dating about my new relationship. I hadn’t enjoyed any of the conversations but I thought it was only fair to tell them straight out instead of just avoiding their phone calls (which I’d really been tempted to do!) The conversation with Omar had been the easiest since we were just friends now, but the other three had not been too pleased. Mark especially had been disappointed because he had hoped to bring me to Accompong this year for the celebrations. The high school teacher had the worst reaction, calling me a very rude name that I would rather forget and then hanging up on me. I would have been really offended if I wasn’t so happy to be with Kevin.
Besides making those phone calls, the last few days had been really busy for me, balancing spending time with my parents before they left and spending time with my new boyfriend. I still felt strange using that word! We’d had a dinner with my parents the night before their flight back and they had both loved him, just as I knew that they would. My mother had managed to behave herself relatively well in front of him, but had actually called several of her friends afterward to tell them what a good catch her daughter had snared.
When we parked the car in the Rex parking lot that evening and walked up to my cluster hand in hand, I was quite satisfied to see people staring at us with interest. I could hear a few excited whispers as we passed by a group of girls known on hall to be especially chatty. Everyone’s going to know about us by the morning. And I couldn’t have been happier.
Arlene was puttering around in the kitchen when we entered the flat and her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw who was standing at my side. “Hi, Nadiya, welcome back!” she greeted, eyebrows raised. “And…you’re Kevin, right?”
I smiled at my friend’s failed attempt to be casual. “Arlene, let me officially introduce you to Kevin, my boyfriend. I had a very eventful holiday, as you can see.”
“Oh wow, I’m so happy for you guys!” Arlene came and gave me a big hug as Cassandra came out of her room to see what all the fuss was about.
“What is going on here?” she asked with a sly grin, when she saw Kevin.
“I’m just bringing my girlfriend back to her room, that’s all,” said Kevin with a wink. “No big ting.” I was glad to see that he wasn’t put off by my friends’ reaction.
Cassandra shrieked and nearly knocked me over. “Congratulations! You have to tell us everything! Once Kevin is gone, of course.” She turned and gave him a pointed look. She knew she wouldn’t get the story in all its glorious detail with the subject of the story standing right there.
He threw his hands up in mock defeat. “Alright, alright, I get the point.” He turned to me and pulled me in for a tight hug. “I gone. Mek sure you call me tomorrow, alright? And remember, you have a new semester ahead of you starting tomorrow so mek sure you get a good night’s sleep. Don’t stay up all night gossiping with these girls.” I could tell that he hated to leave me, but he had an early morning too.
I spent the next hour telling the story first to Arlene and Cassandra, then to two other of the girls that lived in the flat, who came in near the end. I was more than happy to repeat it over and over again.
“I can’t believe that all this time, Lily was just his friend!” squealed Cassandra, in disbelief. “How did we have that wrong for so long?”
I shook my head. “I know, it’s absolutely crazy, isn’t it? But I don’t even care. All I care about is how great things are now.”
“Wow, you can’t keep the grin off your face!” Arlene teased me. “You look like you’re on cloud nine.”
“I’m just so happy with him. I mean, really, it’s only been a few days, literally, but you guys know I’ve wanted this since the first day I got here.” I stifled a yawn. Kevin was right, I realized, I had early morning class and really needed to get some sleep. My body had gotten too used to being on holidays. By the time that I finished hearing about everyone else’s time off, I was utterly exhausted and stumbled off to bed.
“Come on, Jeremy! Give us a goal!” I was on my feet, once again screaming at my cousin at the top of my lungs. At this point in the year, inter-hall football was over but he and some friends still played just for fun. I missed watching the matches, so I had asked Adrianne and Kevin to come with me that night.
“Nadiya, just relax,” teased Kevin as I plopped back down. “You’re just going to stress him out yelling at him like that.”
“I am not! If he’s a real athlete, me cheering for him shouldn’t distract him.”
He raised an eyebrow. “And is he a real athlete? I mean, don’t get me wrong, your cousin is good, but…Well, let’s just say he’s no Kevin Crawford. But then again,” he muttered pensively trying not to smile, “who is?”
“Ha! This is the first time I’m hearing about these athletic abilities of yours. If you’re such a superstar footballer, why aren’t you out there playing?”
“Those days have passed now, Nadiya. I need to focus on my academic pursuits, focus on saving lives. Let others have a chance to shine.”
Adrianne looked at us, half-amused and half-annoyed by our ramblings. “Are you guys always like this?”
“Like this? You make this sound like a bad thing! Nadiya, are you going to let this girl talk about us like that?”
Adrianne giggled. “So how yu so paranoid? I never said this was a bad thing.”
“No man, you didn’t say it, but I could hear it. If you’re going to lie, you need to learn how to lie better than that.”
She kissed her teeth. “Can I get back to watching football please?” She pretended to be angry, but I knew she really liked Kevin. All of my friends really liked him. I, on the other hand, was absolutely crazy about him. Sometimes, when you finally get what you’ve wanted for so long, it turns out to be a huge disappointment. That was not the case with Kevin. The closer we got, the more crazy I got about him. He was hilarious, but also could have some really serious and deep conversations. He was sweet and loving, but wouldn’t hesitate to tell me if he disagreed with me. And did I mention that he was gorgeous?
He glanced at me and saw me staring at him. I must have been looking all googly-eyed because he smiled at me and gave me a big kiss. “Sorry to disturb you, Adrianne,” he said politely, tapping her on the shoulder. “Can I just make one more comment?”
She sighed loudly. “What is it now?”
“Your cousin here, this Nadiya Foster gyal here, is the sweetest, most charming, most beautiful girl I’ve ever met and I’m lucky to know her.”
Even Adrianne couldn’t pretend to be angry after that statement. “Nadiya,” she declared, “he may be a fool but you should still hang on to this one.”
For their New Year’s resolutions, both Cassandra and Aneeka, one of our other flatmates, had decided that they were going to start jogging every evening, and somehow they had eventually managed to convince me to join them. Arlene adamantly refused to participate, stating that “Jamaicans are sprinters, not joggers!” Aneeka had retorted that she was sure Veronica Campbell and Asafa Powell didn’t get to be among the best sprinters in the world without doing some training, but Arlene wouldn’t budge.
As the three of us started to jog at a slow pace around the track, Cassandra suddenly burst out, “So while we’re on the subject…” And then she stopped talking again.
“Did I miss something?” I asked, puzzled after a moment’s silence. “I could swear that we weren’t talking about anything at all!”
“Yeah, exactly what subject are we on?” laughed Aneeka.
Cassandra giggled. “We are on the subject of guys that we’ve been interested in for a while.”
“Oh, we are, are we? Wow, this sounds juicy,” I said, intrigued. “Who have you been interested in?”
“I don’t want to say!”
Aneeka rolled her eyes. “You are such a drama queen!” she declared, starting to pant now. “You obviously want to say, seeing as you are the one who brought up the subject. So just tell us, nuh?!”
Cassandra hesitated again, but an elbow in the side from me got her talking again. “Alright, alright! The guy that I’m interested in…is Jeremy. As in your cousin, Nadiya.”
I was completely taken aback. “Jeremy?!” I had had no idea that Cassandra had been watching my cousin!
“Yes! He is so cute! I’m telling you right now, he’s going to look just like Michael Lee-Chin when he’s older.” I had to snicker at any comparison between my goofy cousin and the Jamaican-Canadian businessman who was one of the richest men in the world. Cass continued, short of breath, “I noticed him from the first time he came by to visit you. And I see him on campus sometimes too. But I always see him with a girl so I thought he was taken. I’ve come to realize, though, that he’s always with a different girl. Then I started to think that I don’t know if I want to be competing with all these girls. But you’ve inspired me, look at how things turned out for you and Kevin! So what do you think? Would that be strange for you since he’s your cousin and I’m your friend?”
“Of course not! I say go for it.”
Cassandra squealed and did a little extra skip. “OK, good. Listen, just get him over to our place and I’ll do the rest.”
“But yu nuh easy!” exclaimed Aneeka. “You’ll do the rest, just like that?”
I would have burst out laughing if I wasn’t so out of breath. If I’d had only a little of my friend’s confidence and boldness, Kevin and I would have been dating from the start. “Honestly though,” Cass went on, “I see you and Kevin, and I want that for myself. You guys are the best couple I’ve seen.”
As I thought back to us at Jeremy’s soccer game a few nights before, I couldn’t argue with her. I thought we were the best couple I’d seen too! He and I were spending as much time as possible together, even though now that school had picked up again, a lot of that time had to be spent studying. But I didn’t mind. I was perfectly happy sitting in a room with him, both of us reading and not talking. As long as I could glance up and see him sitting across from me, I was happy.
When we did both have time to just relax, we spent a lot of time talking about our futures and what we wanted to do in our careers. Kevin was trying to figure out what specialty of medicine he wanted to go into, but he found himself liking every possibility. I pointed out that that was better than the alternative of hating everything, but he still was confused about what he wanted to do. He had more time to decide than I did though. I felt that there was a clock ticking right behind my head. Then it would be Kevin’s turn to point out to me that there really was no rush, but I was a forward-thinking kind of person and didn’t like the uncertainty.
“So will you help me out, Nadiya?”, Cassandra asked impatiently.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’ll get him over to our place one of these days.”
“Don’ mek me wait too long, yu’ hear?”
A few days later, I had kept my word. Kevin was over, and I had invited Jeremy to come by to eat.
Kevin kissed his teeth as he listened to Cass and I plotting beforehand. He knew exactly what was going on but had been sworn to secrecy. “What kinda plan yu’ have fe de poor bwoy, eeh?” he asked teasingly. “Yu gwine obeah him or sum’n?”
Cassandra winked. “Don’t worry about me and what I’m going to do. So he’s coming for sure?” she asked again, turning back to me.
“Yep. I asked him if he wanted to come over here to eat, and he said he would come by in about half an hour.”
“Wow! That gives me enough time to get ready!”
Kevin raised an eyebrow. “Get ready? How yu mean? You plan to have on an evening gown when he comes over?”
Cassandra gave him a withering look. “Kevin, you are a male, so you can’t understand. I’m going to spend the next half an hour getting ready, but when Jeremy comes over, he’s going to have no idea and he’s going to think that I just look that great naturally.”
“Is that what all girls do?” he turned to me.
I grinned impishly. “I may have done that a time or two.”
“And trust me,” interrupted Cassandra, “I was always the one to help her do it! Now if you two will excuse me, I am gone to prepare to look casual.”
When Jeremy showed up at the door, Cassandra answered it, looking fabulously casual. “Oh, hi Jeremy!” she greeted, appearing surprised to see him.
Even from where we were in the kitchen, Kevin and I could see the appreciative look on Jeremy’s face as he looked Cassandra up and down. Kevin nudged me hard, and I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing.
“Hey Jeremy,” I greeted him as he walked in. “I’m not done cooking yet. Should be ready soon.”
“You need any help?” he asked halfheartedly. The last thing that he wanted to do was help me, I could tell from his tone.
“No, no, no,” I waved my hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it, Kevin’s helping me. Just sit down.” He breathed a noticeable sigh of relief and sat down on the couch. Cassandra had already gone back to sitting on the other end of the couch, appearing to be completely engrossed in a book.
“So Cassandra, what book are you reading?” he asked as he sat down beside her. “You look really into it.”
I was wowed by my friend’s acting skills. She looked up from her book as if she really had been riveted by it. I knew for a fact that Cassandra wasn’t paying any attention to the book and probably didn’t even know what it was about.
“Oh, this? It’s a book about football actually. I took it out from the library today.”
His eyes brightened even more. “So you’re a football fan!”
She smiled sweetly. “Of course I am! Who isn’t?”
“Very good point. So you know I play football all the time. How come you’ve never come along with Nadiya to watch me?”
Cass giggled like a shy schoolgirl. “She never invited me!”
I turned to Kevin and mouthed, “Lie!” She’d been invited several times but told me football was too boring. Clearly, I was going to have to keep that to myself.
“Well, I’m inviting you. Next match, I’m going to look to see you there.”
She giggled again. “Deal!”
By the time that the four of us had finished eating dinner, it was clear that Cassandra’s plan had succeeded. Jeremy was clearly infatuated. When my cousin finally left for the night, clearly not eager to leave, they had exchanged numbers and had made lunch plans for a few days later.
Cassandra squealed with delight as soon as he and Kevin had gone out of the door. She rushed over to me and gave me a big hug. “Oh my God, Nadiya, he likes me! Don’t you think so?”
“Yeah, that much was obvious. He didn’t even thank me for the food I cooked for him because he was so caught up in you,” I added, rolling my eyes.
Cass completely ignored me, lying back on the couch and looking dreamy-eyed. “Can you imagine how cute our children are going to be?”
I envisioned little children running around, a mixture of Chinese, Indian, white and black. Talk about “Out of many one people!” I thought. That was Jamaica’s national motto, and if my friend and cousin ever did go on to have children, they would certainly embody that. But we were probably getting just a little bit ahead of ourselves!
“They would be very cute, I’m sure, but why don’t you take it one day at a time, Cassandra. Maybe you should have a first date with him before you start to think about children!”
Cassandra kissed her teeth. “Gweh. Mark my words, you will be dancing at our wedding in a few years.”
I laughed and shook my head. I should have known not to question Cass when she had her mind set on something, she had proven that tonight. “OK, OK,” I threw my hands up. “I’m not going to bet against you on that one, let’s just see what happens. Anyway, you stay here and think of your children’s names. I have some work still to do for the night.”
“I wish I could give you some of mine to do, but I’m just in too good of a mood!”
“Aren’t you worried about fixing them up?” Adrianne asked me on the phone later that night, as I was lying in bed. “You said that Jeremy is a notorious ladies’ man.”
“He is. But if there’s anyone that can make him settle down, it will be Cassandra. I feel good about the two of them.”