Two men sat on a couch, in the living room of a tiny flat behind the main house. They had a plate of grilled chicken wings and some cans of beer on a table in front of them. The only sounds in the room were from a basketball game on ESPN.
“There’s some history between you and the chic, right?”
Both eyebrows were raised, as he turned to look at his friend. “History?”
He nodded, leaned back on the couch and took a bite from the chicken wing in his hand. “Yeah, history,” he said, chewing.
“We grew up together.”
“That explains the hood you wore and why you didn’t want to be involved with the assignment, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it. I sensed some unfinished business out there.”
“TJ, abi na Loony…” He started laughing. “Loony!”
“No mind the babe. Why she come give me that kain name sef?”
“Don’t you think you were acting a little bit crazy? I almost started laughing when you turned on the music and started bobbing your head. For a kidnapper, you were acting too comfortable.”
TJ held his piece of chicken tightly and snapped his fingers. “God forbid! I no be kidnapper o! I no even understand why Otunba go send us on that kain errand sef.”
“What errand was that, Tijani?”
Startled, they looked up to find Agnes at the doorway. Shortly after they came in, she had come in from the main house and had gone to her room immediately. They hadn’t heard her come to the door.
“Good evening, mum.”
Tijani picked up the remote control beside him and switched off the television. “Good evening, ma.”
“Good evening, my sons. Did Bunmi come here with both of you?”
They looked at each other. “Yes, mummy. She did.”
She pursed her lips. “Please come with me, Kunle.”
As soon as they got into her room, she spun around to face her son. “How could you?”
“How could I what, mummy?”
“Come off it, Kunle. I overheard you and Tijani talk about kidnapping Bunmi.”
He looked around, discomfited. “Mummy, that was nothing, really. She was never in any danger.”
She shook her head in dismay. “Nothing? I raised you better than that, Kunle.”
He came closer and put his left arm around her shoulders. “Mummy, you know how Otunba is when he wants something. Tijani and I had to be there or he might have sent people who wouldn’t have adhered to his instructions, not to hurt her.”
She shrugged his arm away and waved a finger at him. “I’m so disappointed in you, Kunle. She would have been terrified, especially as she was with young children.”
He rubbed his hands over his face. “I didn’t know she was going to be with children. I didn’t even know she had children!”
She turned her face from him and muttered, “I didn’t either.”
She looked at him then. “I assume you guys will stay here tonight. I’ll make the bed in the other room for you.
He was silent as he searched her face. She was distraught. Yes, we’ll stay here tonight. It’s too late to go home now.”
She walked pass him, opened the door and went across the hallway to the room opposite hers. He shook his head gently and went to join Tijani in the living room.
As Agnes lay on her bed a few minutes later, she wiped the tears that seeped from her eyes. We’ve made such a mess.
Stretching, hours later, Bunmi opened her eyes. The events of the previous night came rushing back and she quickly sat up, as she remembered where she was. The heavy brocade curtains prevented light from coming in so, she didn’t know what time it was.
She pushed down the duvet and swung her feet over the bed. When her feet made contact with the cold marble tiles, she flinched. Going to the wide single window, she opened up the drapes. It was bright and sunny outside and light flooded in, through the sheer blinds. Did I sleep that long? The kids!
Hurriedly, she looked around the big room for her sandals. They were in front of the wardrobe and beside them were a pair of furry slippers. She smiled as she put them on. Mummy must have brought them in at some point.
When she opened the door, a folded piece of paper fell to the floor. She picked it up and scanned it anxiously.
Sleepyhead (I see that hasn’t changed),
I enjoyed giving the kids a bath and we’re downstairs now. Your old clothes are still in your room. You might want to shower and come join us.
She smiled softly. Trust mummy to take charge.
She went into the room her children had slept in. The bed clothes were still rumpled and the duvet was almost on the floor. She smiled and went to pick it up. Straightening up, she slowly looked around.
Almost everything was still as she remembered. The carpet had been replaced by cream-coloured marble tiles and there were small colourful rugs by the sides of the bed. However, the walls were still in the girly pink of her childhood. A large poster of the members of Boys II Men, on the wall beside the dressing table, made her giggle, as she remembered when she had a crush on Shawn. She had sworn then, that she loved him and had drawn a heart over his head.
She ran her right hand over her belly and frowned. What did I know about love then?
Quickly, she walked to the wardrobe and opened the door. She was surprised to see them exactly as she left them. She reached out a hand and touched some of them. A pink dress caught her eye and she pulled it out. She draped it over her body and ran her right hand over it. Soon, she had to shut out the memories that came flooding to her mind.
Twenty minutes later, she was in the living room. Her mother was reading a book to the twins, but looked up when she came in. “Hello, princess.”
She smiled widely. “Good morning, mummy.”
The twins looked up, at the sound of their mother’s voice and shrieked. Jake scrambled down from Sade’s laps and flung himself at her. Joanna followed immediately. She stooped to hug and kiss them, then putting an arm around each waist, lifted both of them. Holding on to her hips with their legs, they rested their arms on her shoulders.
“How are you able to do that?” Sade asked, laughing.
Bunmi laughed too. “I’ve had years of practice.”
When she set them down, she looked them over. They had slept in some old tee shirts their grandmother had brought to Bunmi, after they had a bath last night. Now, they wore clothes that were obviously new.
Sade laughed, when she noticed the scrutiny. “You remember Yinka, right?”
Bunmi looked at her mother. “Yinka?”
“Oh, yeah. How’s she?”
She smiled. “She’s fine, I guess. She owns a kiddies shop in Ikota shopping complex. I called her about seven a.m., because I knew the shop won’t be open yet. She drove out, herself, to come sell the clothes to me. She can’t wait to see you.”
Bunmi looked at her children. They were now pouring out lots of colourful bricks from a yellow bucket. “Mummy, you shouldn’t have gone through all that trouble, you know. They have loads of clothes and toys at grandma’s and we’ll be leaving soon, anyway.”
“Leaving? I already called Mrs. Okeke to come take your measurements.”
“For the family aso-ebi materials I reserved for you. The burial is in less than a week and she has to make your clothes quickly.”
Bunmi frowned and sat. “Mummy, I already have…”
“Indulge me, baby. Please.”
She sighed and stared at her mother for a while. “I’m starved. What’s for breakfast?”
Sade smiled widely. “I’m sure Agnes will prepare whatever you ask her to.”
She stopped short as soon as she entered the kitchen. Kunle was in front of the open fridge.
She turned to leave and had taken a few steps away, when his voice stopped her. “Good morning.”
Turning back, she noticed he had closed the fridge. She looked around the big kitchen and frowned. “Where’s Ma Agnes?”
Holding a carton of juice, he smiled. “She’s outside, having a chat with the gardener.”
They stared at each other till, breaking eye contact, he ran his eyes down her body. It was apparent that she still worked out. Her arms were perfectly toned. She wore the pink lace dress and the halter was tied in a bow, behind her neck. The bodice was fitted and he stared at the tiny buttons that held it in place. Slowly, his eyes went down the length of the dress, to the point where it swept the floor, hiding her feet.
She still looks so beautiful in it.
When he looked up, her eyebrows were raised. “Done gaping?”
He gave a lopsided smile and extended his right hand. “I’m sorry about last night.”
She ignored his hand and frowned. “I understand. I was just a job, right?” She turned and walked out of the kitchen, leaving him staring at her back.
The tailor had just left, with promises to deliver Bunmi’s clothes in three days, and the women were in the living room chatting.
“She insisted that the will be read a week before she’s buried. That was one of the reasons your father was trying to get in touch with you.”
Bunmi dropped the glass of juice on the stool beside her. She was shocked. “That’s strange.”
Her mother smiled gently and stood. “Your grandmother had a mind of her own, you know. Her lawyers are already here. They came while Mrs. Okeke was with you.” She stood. “Come let’s go to the study. Your father’s with them.”
When Bunmi glanced at the children, who were watching a cartoon, Sade touched her arm lightly. “Don’t worry about the kids. I’ll ask Agnes to take care of them.”
Thirty minutes later, they were all in the study listening to Gregory Olabode, one of the senior partners of Olabode and Thomas Law Associates.
“And to my granddaughter, Oluwabunmi Williams-Akanbi, I leave eighty three percent of my sixty percent shares in Williams-Akanbi Conglomerate. The remaining seventeen percent of my shares, I give to my son. Since he already owns forty percent of the business, this gives them equal percentages in the family business.”
He paused to look at Bunmi, who was sitting on the edge of her seat. He pushed back the reading glasses on the bridge of his nose and continued, “However, this comes with a condition.”
Bunmi’s heart beat fast. She hadn’t been surprised that her grandmother had given her the house in Ikoyi. She had expected some shares in the family business, but not enough to give her an equal interest with her father.
“… father of her children.”
She broke out of her reverie, at the gasp that came from her mother. Her father was staring at her, his elbows on his table and his fingers in a steeple. She turned to Gregory. “I’m sorry. Please could you repeat that?”
He nodded briskly. “However, this comes at a condition. Bunmi gets all the afore-mentioned, only if she moves back to Nigeria and if she gets married to the father of her children.”
She leaned back on the chair, threw her head back and put her hands behind it. Bringing her head forward again, she placed her hands on both sides of her face and tapped her fingers furiously on her temples. “No way!”
Gregory ignored her and continued. “She is expected to come to a decision within four weeks and is expected to stay married to him for a period of a year, at least. In that time, they will live in the same house and will have a proper marriage.”
He looked around the room and continued, “If any of these clauses are broken, all sixty percent of my shares, including the ones I have willed to her father, will be reverted to my estate. My lawyers will then begin the process of liquidating them and all proceeds will go to charity.”
Niyi hit a hand on the table and jumped up from his chair. “No way! That is not going to happen!”
Gregory glanced at him and continued, “However, if she moves back here and decides to marry him, even if the marriage is dissolved after a year, she and her father will retain those shares, just as I willed them.”
He removed his glasses and nodded at his younger associate, who opened a briefcase and brought out a sealed envelope. Walking over to Bunmi, he handed it over.