Adesewa held on tightly to her bag and pressed her legs together to hold back the flood of liquid threatening to come down. She moved her hips from one side to the other as if dancing to a rhythm.
I can’t take it any-more.
She stepped out of the queue and hurried off to the toilet. A man’s laughter ringing in her ears just before she took the turning where the toilet was. She didn’t care to look. It was either him or her bladder which was about to burst.
Feeling a lot lighter after relieving herself, she went back to join the queue which suddenly seemed to have gotten longer. Her eyes searched for where she stood before. She couldn’t find the person who was in-front of her, neither could she find the person behind her!
“What’s going on?” She asked no one in particular. Is someone playing a bad joke on me this afternoon? She turned and noticed the tall figure a few feet behind. He was openly staring at her. Seeing that she had no choice but to start over, she adjusted her bag on her shoulder and went to queue behind the tall man.
“You could stay in-front of me.” He said to her before she could stand behind him.
She eyed him, suspicious at his act of generosity. “Why?”
“I saw you here before you ran off to the toilet. Running stomach?” He asked casually.
Her eyes widened. What the heck? Was he the one that laughed? Adesewa felt her self-image diminish before his eyes and suddenly felt concious of herself.
“No! I just had to pee.” She flashed a fake smile at him. “Thanks for your concern.” She stood in-front of him as he moved backwards to accommodate her small frame; the people behind making comments at his action. He didn’t answer them. Adesewa turned and looked at him before darting her eyes back to the front. Her head was practically competing with his elbow.
As if reading her mind he asked, “Intimidated by my height?”
Adesewa shook her head. She shifted her head to look up at him and eyed him from head to toe. “No. We are both normal in our own spheres. No need for intimidation.”
He chuckled. “I like that.”
She almost hissed out-loud. Who cares what you like? She turned back to face the queue, uninterested in any conversation with him. She had to get the pizzas over to her friend’s house for her birthday get-together. Adesewa flicked her wrist and checked the time. Zainab would soon start calling me. . .
“This people should hurry up nau! How hard is it to take people’s orders?” She said out-loud and had a couple of people agreeing with her.
“You seem to be in a hurry.” The tall stranger behind her said.
“Obviously,” She muttered. She brought out her phone and chatted with a few friends to let time pass. It took ten more minutes before it was finally her turn. The tall guy was also being attended to by another cashier.
Adesewa placed her orders and went to a corner of the pizza-house to sit down till her order was ready. Unfortunately, the only available seat was beside the tall stranger. Grudgingly, she made her way to him and sat down. She could feel his eyes all over her. She played it cool and continued tapping away on her phone until she got her order. She didn’t say goodbye to him but quickly got out of the pizza house to where her car was parked at the back of the building to find two young boys trying to get into her car.
Without thinking twice she rushed over to them, pizza in hand and struggling not to let thirty-minutes of her time fall to the ground.
As soon as she shouted thief one of the boys turned her way with a crow-bar and Adesewa stopped in her tracks and took a step back in fear. Oh no! Big mistake. . . Adesewa why are you so stupid? God is it going to end this way? I’m not ready yet . . .
Finding her voice she asked, “W-what are you doing with my car?”
The boy gave a toothy grin. His teeth disgustingly yellow. He looked about eighteen years old. “Aunty why you dey call us thief? We no dey do anything nau? Your car dey dia. We just dey look am.”
Adesewa looked at the other boy who seemed younger. Her eyes searched if anyone was coming and found no one. Even the security guard at duty wasn’t there. She took another step back and bumped into something hard.
“If you get brain comot from here sharp sharp!”
She didn’t turn around to see who was talking but she had an idea. The boy looked at him angrily and ran off, the other boy running after him. Adesewa sighed in relief. She turned around to face her rescuer. The anger on his face and intimidating look he had gave her the shivers. No wonder they took off. Her arms shook. They were starting to ache from the three boxes of pizza she held.
He smiled down at her. “You’re welcome. By the way my name’s Daniel, and you are?”
“Nice to meet you.”
Present day . . .
Adesewa could remember it as if it were yesterday and not three years ago. The memory lingered in her mind as she closed her eyes. She let out a breath and opened her eyes again. The voices and music in the background reminding her of where she was. She would reminisce about it later on.
She got down from the high stool and was off to check out her order when she saw him. Deja-vu. It was just like the first time they met. Her heartbeat picked up pace. He was really here?
Adesewa blinked her eyes and looked him over. It was really him. There wasn’t much of a change in his appearance. He was still as hot as ever. His beard nicely trimmed. His pink lips stood out of his dark face. His hair was fuller now and he seemed chubbier. What happened to the muscles she had ran her hands through too many times all those years ago? She shook her head. Those naughty thoughts had no place in her mind after all he did to her. She straightened her back and forced a bright, confident smile on her face.
“Adesewa.” The expression on his face a mixture of shock and joy.
He looked her down from the brown Agbani Darego gladiator sandals on her feet, up to the short red dress and her human-hair waves that flowed down her back. “You look amazing.”
“Thank-you. You aren’t looking bad yourself.”
He nodded, his eyes still taking her in. “I can see life is treating you well.”
She was slowly getting irritated but kept the smile on her face. Of-course you moron! What did you expect? That I would be looking like I just came out of Yaba-Left (Psychiatric home) after what you did to me? Hell no!
“Yes, Thank God.”
She glanced at the TV Screen that allowed customers know if their orders were ready and saw her name. She looked back at him.
“Please, excuse me.”
She walked gingerly to the counter, making sure her gait was as confident as she pretended to be and not how his presence had shook her. She collected the large box of pizza and turned to leave without saying goodbye to him. She just wanted to run out and not get into a conversation with him. Just like the last time. But this was different. Now she couldn’t stand looking at him. It hurt to see him.
Adesewa heard hurried foot-steps behind her but she didn’t stop until she heard him call her name. He stood tall in-front of her. Trying to catch his breath from the little sprint.
“H-how come you just left like that? Why?” He said in-between breaths.
She shrugged. “’cause I have somewhere to be.”
He stood up straight, his hands on his waist. “If I recall properly, today isn’t Zainab’s birthday.”
She smirked. “Oh really? I can see your memory hasn’t failed you in that one.” Inwardly she loathed him; when he had cheated on her he had forgotten he had a girl-friend.
He blinked at the jab she just gave him. He raised his hands high. “I deserve that. Can we please talk? It’s been a year already Ade. Please.”
In as much as she wanted to turn her back on him and walk away, she also didn’t want him to think her as a weak woman who became miserable and bitter just because a man left her. She was strong and had survived this long without him. She wanted him to see that very clearly.
“I can’t do that. I’m not avoiding you or anything, but I have somewhere to be right now.”
“Then can I have your number? We could meet up when you’re less busy.”
Adesewa literally felt her heart break. He misplaced my number? He has truly forgotten me . . . The thought pained her but she made sure her face concealed it. She had always been in control of her emotions. She shrugged and rattled off her number to him.
“Take care.” She turned on her heels and walked away from him.
As she drove out of the pizza place she told herself to breathe calmly. Seeing him again had brought a lot of feelings within her. His smile. His voice. His mannerism. The soft way he spoke only to her. And yet she felt hatred for him. She hated what he did to her. How he had destroyed what they had. Still . . . there was no doubt about it; she loved him. She gripped the steering-wheels tighter. The fact that she still loved him ticked her off. She couldn’t wait to tell Zainab everything that happened when she got home.
Zainab turned on her stomach and sighed heavily. Ikechukwu had left thirty minutes ago and she was alone in her apartment. It was Sunday evening and she was tired and bored. She wasn’t too sure why she was tired, probably because she had lazied around all day after hitting the club. Or maybe it was because of the vigorous exercises she and I.K had been up to.
She could do either of two things to pass the time: call Adesewa and gist about everything (mostly men), or take herself out to the cinemas. Neither of the two appealed to her at the moment.
Zainab looked up at her calendar that hung high up on the wall. Three weddings and one birthday party. She was booked for all the Saturdays in January and she loved her job. She loved how she got to meet new clients and decide what colours would go well with their skin-tone. She loved being a part of the whole beauty process; of when a client transformed from a seemingly ugly-duckling to a beautiful swan. She loved everything about art. She loved the quote by Ralph Waldo that she had stumbled upon on the internet when she was searching out design concepts for her studio; Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art. She saw herself as a creator.
When she was a little girl, she had been so engrossed with her friend’s mother’s make-up. Not her own mother. No. Her mother had never been a make-up person. She valued simplicity. According to her, it was the pride of an African woman. Zainab recalled what her mother had said when she announced she wanted to be a make-up artist. Her step-father, as usual, had given her freedom to do whatever she wanted to do. Her mother was the issue.
“Make-up artist? For what? I think it’s just a waste of time.”
“And why is that mum?”
Her mother had shrugged her slim shoulders in an aloof manner. “An African woman boasts of many things. She has beautiful curves and features. She has soft full lips that are perfectly shaped, back-side that was care-fully moulded in heavy heaps and a skin-colour that boasts of richness.” Her eyebrows drew together, her mother ever the poet. “Those ‘oyinbo’ people that use chemicals to create a tan for themselves, they made make-up from chemicals to beautify themselves.”
Zainab had raised her brow at that. “But mum . . . Tiro was made in Africa nau.” Tiro was a Yoruba word from the western part of Nigeria. What everyone saw as Kohl or Kajal. It was one of the make-ups Zainab’s loved ‘cause of it’s power to draw attention to the eyes and make it extremely attractive.
Her mother had frowned at her. “You know they have found it hazardous to the health. Heavy with lead poisoning. So don’t act too smart.”
Zainab didn’t bother continuing the conversation. It was pointless.
She let out a breath and pushed the conversation far from her mind. African woman my ass! Even the thought exasperated her despite her mother not being there to carry out the action herself.
Zainab had always believed make-up to be a plus. A boost to a woman’s confidence. Something to accentuate the beautiful features she had been blessed with. On the other-hand, her mother saw it as something evil. She and her mother were obviously from different worlds.
She laughed and finally got out of the bed. The cold brown tiles welcoming her and greedily sucking her body heat. She walked over to the other room where she kept her make-up kits. As she opened the door, a vanilla scent greeted her nostrils.
She smiled and walked into the room and straight to the dark mahogany shelves which held her brushes and other make-up necessities. She had the room painted in sunlight yellow. There was a large window that looked out to the beach. A full-standing mirror stood tall at a corner of the room as well as a three-in-one mirror that had studio light-bulbs all around it, with three high-stools opposite each of them. Her clients always found it a pleasure coming to her studio but were a little ticked off at the distance, urging her to move somewhere closer for easy access. She appeased them with a job well-done and threw in free pedicures and manicures for the eccentric ones.
Zainab had invested a lot in Art-zee’s Make-up studio. Little by little, her dreams were becoming a reality. But her life was still screwed up! Her step-father thought her to be eccentric and crazy. A bad example for her step-siblings. It was part of the reasons she had moved out of his house. She wanted her freedom. She wanted to live her life as she pleased. She had met I.K that offered her the kind of life she desperately wanted.
He was the bad sexy boy. The ying to her yang. She had been dating I.K for a year now and it didn’t look like their relationship was headed anywhere. She wasn’t like other girls though, caring if her relationship status would elevate to married. All that didn’t matter to her. She just felt something was missing. She was in search of more meaning to her life.
Zainab walked out of her studio and back to her room to get out a stash of weed I.k had gotten for her as a new year present. She had been working on getting over her addictions but it was hard. She rolled one up and lit it up, sitting at the foot of her bed. This was her distraction from her problems. A new year had come and she had no idea what was in store for her.
Daniel recalled how beautiful Adesewa looked. She hadn’t changed much. She had added a little in all the right places and was a little fairer. He had been tempted to pull her in his arms and hug her. But he knew his desires were far-fetched after what he did to her.
“Are you for real?” Ebuka asked. “You saw Adesewa? How is she doing?”
“If you’re asking if she’s still as hot as she was, then yes. She looked amazing.” Adesewa had transferred to Abuja after what happened between them and refused to see him. Her move had left him broken. But now that she was back, it filled him with hope.
Ebuka slapped his knee. “Damn! You know I still can’t figure out how you could be with Adesewa and still be able to do what you did with Efe. Where you jazzed? Or you were just super horny that day.”
Daniel also couldn’t understand what happened two years ago. He couldn’t remember what made him do what he did. But at the same time he knew he wasn’t jazzed. Efe wasn’t that kind of girl. She wasn’t into those desperate attempts women did to keep a man. Everything that had happened had been consensual. He guessed he had been too horny.
But why didn’t I push her back? Why didn’t I resist? He asked himself. Efe had always been his younger sister. So why did he let it happen? Was it her innocence that had appealed to him?
Their fathers were the basis of their friendship. Her father a pastor and his father a business man; both long-time friends. Daniel was six years older than Efe and saw her as nothing but his second baby sister. Someone he could look our for. They rarely kept in touch when he went abroad for university and his masters, but she remained friends with his younger sister. By the time he got back from the UK he had found a young woman and not the little girl he had left. But in his eyes she still remained his baby sister . . . He couldn’t bring himself to see her otherwise.
“So what do you want to do with this latest turn of events?” Dele asked.
“I don’t know. Get her back? I took her phone number but haven’t called yet.”
Ebuka shook his head. “Why did you collect her number? You want to give her false hope? Guy you should just let the babe go and let her move on. You don’t even know if she’s married or engaged or has a boyfriend. Just free her.”
Daniel raised his brows. “Why are you being all negative? I didn’t see any ring on her finger.”
“So? Na every babe dey put ring for finger?”
Daniel chuckled. Knowing Adesewa she would demand for the biggest rock and flaunt it like no man’s business. “Ade is not every babe. She would never drop the ring.” Especially if she loves the guy. Daniel wondered if she was seeing anyone at the moment. The thought didn’t sit well with him.
“Guys, speaking about rings et al . . . I’ve proposed to Funlola.”
Daniel’s eyes widened and Ebuka shouted ‘Chineke!’
Dele threw a pillow at Ebuka, hitting him on the face. He looked at the both of them. “What? Why are you guys forming bamboozled?”
Ebuka threw the pillow back at him but Dele ducked. “You guys don’t fit at all! She’s a lousy chick.”
“Ebuka mind yourself.” Dele warned with a stern look.
Daniel stepped in before the guys started with their usual fits. “Seriously Dele how far na? Why did you propose?”
“’Cause I wanted to. Besides the girl hasn’t agreed yet. Said she wants to think about it. Had me kneeling on the floor with a ring and smiling like an idiot in-front of strangers.”
“Crazy babe!” Ebuka burst out in laughter. “No be you dey talk say na better babe? Better babe fi show craze for outside like Funlola? Abegi sit don dia dey talk marriage.”
“You guys don’t know her like I do.” Dele countered.
“Neither do we want to know her. She’s too self-absorbed and controlling. Acting like the man should be falling at her feet just because God blessed her in all the right places. Na only she fine for dis world? Later she would be asking you to drop money just to get down.” Ebuka hissed.
Daniel stared at Ebuka, amazed at his dispassion for Funlola.
“Whatever . . . Be carrying my personal business on your head when I didn’t ask you to.” Dele shifted his attention to Daniel. “Your wedding is coming up soon. When you guys are ready for the pre-wedding shoots you have to tell me ahead of time so I can make myself available.”
Daniel leaned back on his couch and scratched the back of his ear. “Guys please could we talk about something else.”
“Why do you always avoid talking about it? You’re scared?” Dele asked.
“You guys no it’s not my intention to get married to her. I’ve told her I’m not interested but her parents and my father are giving me a hard time.”
“You sure sey she no drug you?
Monday Morning . . .
“So you couldn’t ping me yesterday right?” Adesewa said over the speaker phone as she drove to work. She had tried Zainab’s phone severally but couldn’t reach her. It had pissed her off’ making her restless and think of Daniel the more, when everything had been going smoothly before the storm hit.
“So sorry darl’. Yesterday was just not my cup of tea. So what’s up? What did I miss?”
“I saw Daniel at the pizza house.” Adesewa blurted out.
There was a brief pause on the other end and Adesewa was going to ask if she was still there when Zainab screamed. “Shit! Are you for real? You saw that gorilla of a man!” Adesewa shook her head when she referred to Daniel as a Gorilla. “So what happened? Gist me.”
“I would gist you as soon as you stop talking.”
“I’ve stopped. My ears are too itchy to hear this gist.”
Adesewa narrated every single detail to her without leaving anything out. She even told her how he had looked at her.
“So how did you feel?” The sound of heavy rush of water filled the car.
“Are you in the toilet?” She wriggled her nose as if she could smell whatever she had done in the toilet. “Was that why you didn’t answer me on time?”
“Maybe. I was in the toilet but I’m out now. Oya, continue the gist. Unless you want to hear sordid details of what I ate last night and what came out this-“
“Never-mind.” Adesewa rushed to say. “I was shocked to see him. But Zainab, he’s still so handsome!”
“And you’re clearly still in love with him. . .” Zainab stated the sad fact.
Adesewa turned to the street where her office was located. There was no way she could just forget about him and stop loving him. She hadn’t been able to find another gut that met up to her standards, mostly because she always compared them with Daniel. What they had was a fun love, a crazy love. An intoxicating love that had you asking for more and more . . . That was the kind of love they had with each-other. But the love had not lasted. Making what transpired between them seem like a far-away dream or her imagination. How could something so good turn so sour?
“I can’t deny it Zainab. I still love him.”
“Then what are you going to do about it? Any word on that babe he got pregnant?”
“No. I didn’t wait to chit-chat with him. He lost my number and I gave him my number again but I haven’t heard from him yet.” She sighed. “I’ll talk to you later babe. Have a great day.”
“Yeah you too love. Don’t worry about it, things would sort themselves out in due time.”
“But I have a question I want you to think about.”
“Would you be willing to accept him if he comes back?”
“No.” She said it without any hesitation.
“Makaryaci!” Zainab shouted in Hausa. “I said think about it, not make a hasty decision and lie. Anyway, I can’t wait to tell Audrey this. Bye!”
The call ended and Adesewa knew that her initial answer would be yes.
Efe tossed her books on her bed and strands of braids fell down her back and on her shoulders as she took of her hair-band. She dropped on the bed and closed her eyes. It had been a tough day. The lecturer had given all of them a test and dictated a long note to them. Everyone had complained but then it had amounted to nothing. She expected them to read up and prepare for a test for their next lecture. Why were female lecturers so heartless?
“Efe!” Chinyere called out as she walked into the room. “Efe!”
“Yes Chinyere?” Efe replied from her bed.
The scent of Chinyere’s body spray greeted Efe before her room-mate showed her face. “What happened?”
“I passed my test!” She screamed and danced skelewu.
Efe laughed as her fat legs didn’t accede to the dance with her; limiting her efforts to go down. “That’s good.”
She stood up straight. “And if you see the man vexing and looking like maalu. He was annoyed that someone could pass his test. He’s on the look out for me now.”
Efe didn’t like the sound of that. “Babe you should be careful o. All those lecturers can like to purposely fail someone.”
“Chineke Machibidoro!” She said and slapped her thigh. “It’s his children his evil deeds would fall upon.”
“Sha be careful is my own.”
Efe’s phone rang then. It was her dad.
“Hello Efe. How’s school?” He asked in his baritone voice.
“Good afternoon daddy, school is fine.”
“Good good.” She could imagine her father saying that as he nodded. “I just spoke with Daniel’s father and we have picked a date for the wedding.”
Efe looked at her room-mate and got up from the bed. She walked outside their room to continue her conversation. “Dad, shouldn’t Daniel and I be the one to discuss it? I just started the session and -”
“If I had done things my way you both would have been married as soon as you said you were pregnant.”
Efe held back a sigh.
He continued, “Daniel’s father would talk to him.”
“But dad -”
“I have to go. Have a great day dear.”
The call cut. End of conversation on his end. Efe massaged her forehead, a headache suddenly building-up. She hadn’t even asked him what the date was . . . It had been almost two years since it happened. The only reason they hadn’t gotten married then was ‘cause of Efe’s schooling. She had been in three hundred level then. Now she was in her final year, after deferring a year to give birth and nurse the baby. The wedding was back on schedule and Efe didn’t think she was ready.