“So, you don’t have a girlfriend?” Ashanti asked and lowered her red lips on the straw to pull a sip of the orange juice. She knew the question was unnecessary – because she’d already guessed the answer – but she merely asked it to kill the awkward silence; and she didn’t know what else to say or talk about. The question may as well have been a statement. 

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend,” Edward replied in his lisp. He sniffed again and again to pull back the mucus from flowing out of his nose. But he’d still feel the wetness on his nostrils and under. He quickly swiped the side of his hand on his nose to wipe away the mucus and sniffed it back inside again. But then, he felt the cold line of wetness from the nose to the left cheek. It seemed his try to wipe away the mucus only made it a smear to the side of the face.

And Ashanti’s brown eyes were glued on him. She took out a tissue and threw it next to him on the table. 

“Thanks,” Edward said, tried to compensate for the embarrassment by giving her his widest smile. There was a gap at the front of his teeth, a gap so long people had often asked him when will the missing tooth grow back, until he’d tell them there’s no missing tooth; the gap is natural, and it’s one of the reasons for his lisp because air would pass through that gap when he speaks. 

Edward wiped his nose, plugged in the tissue and sniffed out. 

Ashanti had been the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. First time he saw her he had to pull out his glasses to get himself a clear look at this beauty standing next to him. 

“Ashanti, this is my cousin, Edward,” Nelly had said. “And Edward, this is my best friend I told you about. Ashanti from–”

“–East side Piccadilly, how could I forget?” Edward said. “How are you, Ms.?” Ashanti had offered her hand for a handshake, and Edward, with his glasses still off, had quickly grabbed her yellow bone warm hand and shook it, careful not to hurt her. 

Although a five-minute hug and a French kiss is what he would have preferred. That was two years back. Now he was sitting opposite her at a KFC table.

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend,” he said again, once certain that his nose was now clean and dry. He wondered if maybe the reason for her question was to steer this conversation tothe direction he himself was too scared to get it to. 

His face seemed to shine, “don’t worry you’ll find someone one day,” she said, but immediately his face lost all its glow. He frowned. If she’s not interested in being his girlfriend, then why the hell did she ask him if he has one? The words wrecked his heart again: “don’t worry, you’ll findsomeone one day.” As for the “don’t worry” part. Was she really that blind? Couldn’t she see that all this time his efforts and excuses to get close to her and chill with her meant that he wanted her to be that “someone”? 

“Who do you think that ‘someone’ will be?” Edward asked. But Ashanti just shrugged off the question. 

“Can we leave now?” She said. The plate she was eating from was now empty, only left with grease and crumbs on it. She poked a toothpick between her gorgeous canine to get out a bit of chicken meat stuck in there. 

“Okay,” he said. They got up to leave the restaurant. For two whole years, he had to gather up the confidence of asking her out, of which he did so by a blurt which surprised him. He had never prepared himself to face her possible rejection to the idea of going out. 

But she never declined, something that surprised him even more, surprised him and filled him with hope. 

But really as they went to KFC he realized that she only agreed to go out with him because she was having a boring day. There was no way she’d say no to KFC food; all those burgers, chips and sauces, chicken and milkshakes. Edward had allowed her to order whatever she desired, and she had ignored him to look at the menu for full three minutes before deciding on what to order. 

It needed no genius to see that the date had a been a disaster–on his behalf. Because for some reason, he still couldn’t t bring out the confidence of telling Ashanti his true feelings. 

The date was mainly occupied by intervals of silence and her loud chewing. 

She was busy munching the chicken non-stop, getting her fingers covered with grease she’d paused once on her chewing to look up at him. “You saying something?” 

“No, no,” he had said with a smile that wasn’t there when she wasn’t looking at him. “I didn’t say anything,” he’d told her.

“Okay,” she had said and continued eating.

Tell us: if he had told her that he likes her what do you think would have happened?