The meal was simple; fried chicken balls, mixed-vegetables, rice, sweet and sour sauce, with both red and white wine to wash it down. The wine! She had purchased both wines and forgot to put them in the fridge. She quickly did so. She loved Nigerian dishes but not all the time; variety was the spice of life. She hoped Daniel wouldn’t forget to bring the cake and ice-cream for dessert.
She checked the chicken balls that were frying, as well as the other vegetables she was steaming. She loved cooking. It eased her mind away from stress and it gave her immense pleasure when she saw the joy on the faces of those who ate her food. Today she was hosting friends; Daniel, Ebuka, Dele, John, Audrey and her crazy room-mate, Funlola. The crazy girl pissed her off with her care-free and promiscuous nature.
She still had an hour before her guests would be here and had little time to paint her nails to a bright pink and give herself a nice bath. She smiled to herself. Daniel would be arriving earlier on to ‘help’ out as he had said but as usual he was late. She was sure he would be here for something else as well. She had chosen the perfect outfit for the dinner; a backless, knee-length black dress and at the back of the gown, had a little bow at the waist.
The door-bell rang then and Adesewa tightened her silk, pink house-coat and walked across the wooden floor to open the door. The peep-hole revealed Daniel’s huge grin. She chuckled and pulled the door open.
He pulled her close and pressed his lips against hers. His after-shave doing wonders to her body. “Hey baby. Hmm . . . Something smells delicious. Chai! I’ve missed your cooking sha.”
He rubbed his nose against hers and gave it a small bite. She smacked his arm and shifted to the side. Daniel walked into the apartment and she closed the door after him and took quick steps to the kitchen to check the chicken and vegetables.
“Are you done cooking?” He called out from her sitting-room.
She placed them in separate coolers and took one of the small chicken balls with her to the living room. She found Daniel seating on the three-seater and popped it in his mouth.
“Oh my – babe this is delicious! Can I have one more?” He licked his finger tips and smacked his lips.
“No, wait for dinner.”
In one swift move he pulled her down to his laps and began tickling her. “Would you give me now?”
“N-No! Daniel l-leave me a-al-alone!” She said in-between laughs. “Please!”
“Okay.” He stopped and removed his hands from her waist. “So would you give me now?”
She jumped up to her feet as she was catching her breath and backed away from him. A mischievous smile on her face. “I would give you something better.”
The twinkle in his eye said he approved of her second option.
Her guests were all seated in her living room and chattering about different things; a glass of wine in their hands, except for John who had requested for a glass of orange juice. There was music playing in the back-ground. Daniel had told her about Funlola refusing Dele’s offer to marry him; so the tension between them was obvious, at least from Dele’s end. Funlola looked like she was having fun.
“I don’t know why I let you talk me into inviting her. The girl is just too shameless! She breaks a guy’s heart and feels no iota of remorse. Did you see what she wore? She looks like a prostitute with that red hair and short white dress. Why did you even bring her again?” Adesewa said to Audrey; in her eyes Funlola looked like a witch.
She and Audrey were both in the kitchen sorting out the food from the cooler into large serving dishes.
“I can’t leave her all alone nau. She just lost her job and has been moody these last couple of days. Besides, Funlola actually felt bad about it. She told me she wasn’t ready to get married to him and felt it was too soon. Dele should have calmed down with the whole proposal thing.”
Adesewa stopped midway of putting the sweet and sour sauce in a small dish and eyed her friend. “Just tell me you are happy she’s out of the picture so you can finally be with Dele.”
It was no news Audrey had harboured a crush on Dele for a long time now.
Audrey shrugged her bare shoulders. She had on an off the shoulder yellow gown that hugged her body. “I wasn’t the one that made their relationship break, biko. Babe this food smells great. Zainab is so miffed she can’t be here. Thank God you’re back in Lagos. This is what I’ve been missing.”
Adesewa chuckled. “I don’t know why she won’t just relocate to Lagos.” She carried two dishes out to the dining table. “Guys, dinner is served!”
Everyone got off their seats and walked over to the dining area. She had placed cards on each plate for the sitting arrangement. Daniel was seating next to her. Audrey next to Dele. Ebuka and Funlola didn’t like each other so she placed John in-between the both of them.
Ebuka remained on his feet and raised his half-empty glass of white wine. “Before we eat, let’s toast to our favourite couple. Daniel and Ade. May your love know no obstacle again.”
Everyone clinked glasses and Daniel locked lips with Ade as their friends cheered on to their bliss.
“Eghosa, you know I didn’t raise my son this way. You know we raised him together. I don’t know where he got his stubbornness from.” Felix leaned closer to him and whispered, “I’m sure it was from his mother.”
Eghosa would have laughed if not for the severity of the matter. “Felix why blame a woman for this? I know both of you are good parents. What is going on here is neither your fault nor your wife’s, only Daniel’s. What was it he said when you mentioned the wedding to him?”
Felix settled back on his seat, anger visible on his face. “He said there was no need to force them to get married. That your daughter isn’t interested in getting married to him and he would accept responsibility of Ulunma.”
Eghosa nodded, wondering if his daughter had spoken with Daniel and they had agreed on it. He knew his daughter loved Daniel but the problem was surely from Daniel; he didn’t love his daughter. What was he going to do now? He had prayed to God but everything still looked difficult. He had to talk with Daniel soon.
“What do you think about it all? What is the best solution?”
“I have always liked the thought of our families becoming one. Efe is a wonderful young woman and it baffles me that my son is so blind to see it. He goes after women that lack sense and integrity. Women that would never take him to his future. But what can I do? I talk but he doesn’t listen. In this matter I’m putting my foot down. He must do the right thing and marry Efe!”
Eghosa drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. He had passed the stage of being angry. If someone else had told him his godson would be like this, he would have denied it. Daniel had always been a good boy. Where had his change come from? Was it when he had schooled abroad? He was beginning to wonder if he even deserved his precious daughter.
Dele had not expected to see Funlola at Adesewa’s house. She was looking drop-dead gorgeous in her dress. The white dress she wore made him imagine how beautiful she would look as a bride. Did she wear that dress to taunt me? Right from when she had walked in with Audrey he had wanted to take her out to his car, drive over to his house and let her scream his name as she usually did when they made love.
He tore his eyes away from her as she spoke to John and focused instead on the meal in-front of him.
Audrey nudged him gently.
“Hey, are you okay? You’re barely eating.” Audrey asked, concerned.
“Yeah, I’m good.” He picked up his fork and took a bite of the small brown balls on his plate. It was delicious.
“Ade great meal.”
She beamed at him. “Thanks.”
“Yes, Ade this is really good. Where did you learn how to cook?” Funlola asked and he chanced a glance in her direction briefly and joined everyone else to look at Ade. Everyone knew she disliked her.
Ade forced a smile. “Thanks. Actually, I took few courses in catering while waiting to gain admission into the university. When I couldn’t get a job after school I went back to catering school. Nowadays, I keep myself up-to-date by researching on-line for recipes.”
“Oh, that’s good. You should consider owing a restaurant or starting up your own catering company.”
Daniel looked at his babe proudly and winked at her. “That’s what I told her, but she prefers being behind a desk all day than wearing an apron. One day I’m sure she would be able to sort it out.”
“Maybe . . .” She said.
He looked back at Funlola, sighed and went back to his meal.
Efe’s dad. Daniel stared at the phone as it vibrated. He excused himself from the table and went to the living room to pick his call. He could feel Ade’s eyes on him but he smiled at her reassuringly that all was well.
“Good evening sir.”
“Ah . . . Daniel. How are you?”
“I’m fine sir, and you?”
“I’m stressed out. You and my daughter are giving me a hard time.”
Daniel closed his eyes and said, “Sorry about that sir.”
“I would be fine in due time. We need to see. I’m in Lagos and would like to see you tomorrow morning at your father’s house. Hope that’s okay by you.”
I have a choice? “Actually sir I -”
“Let me rephrase my statement. I want to see you tomorrow morning at nine. Please be punctual.”
Daniel nodded. “Yes sir.”
“Good. Have a wonderful evening.”
“And you too sir.”
The call ended and Daniel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He quickly snapped out of his demeanour and went to sit beside Ade once again. She asked him questions with her eyes but he smiled. Telling her it was all going to be okay. He knew why Efe’s dad had called him.
He looked at John. He got out his phone and pinged him.
J.N: What’s up?
Daniel: Efe’s dad is in town. He wants to talk about the wedding.
J.N: There’s still a wedding? So why are you back with Adesewa?”
Daniel: I don’t have any intentions of marrying Efe. I love Ade.
J.N: Hmm . . . Cuz this is serious. So what are you going to do with Efe?
Daniel: Dunno yet. But I’m going to tell him I won’t marry his daughter.
From the corner of his eyes Daniel noticed Ade leaning close to him and he looked up at her.
“What are you doing again?” Ade whispered to him.
Daniel shoved the phone in his pocket. “I was chatting. Work stuff.”
“Oh okay.” She resumed her conversation with Ebuka.
Efe was lost in the book she was reading. Her lecturer had asked them to read a literature book and discuss it in class. She knew if she stayed in her room she would sleep off. If she went to read in the library she would be bored ‘cause of the quietness and dullness. She hated it. So she had decided to stay in the cafeteria and have her head-phones on as she read.
She flipped the page and kept reading. Not noticing when a male figure spotted her and walked over to her table. He cleared his throat and Efe kept reading. He reached out to her and removed an ear-piece from her ear.
She looked up to see one of her lecturer’s standing before her. “Mr Benson.” She removed the other ear-piece. “Good afternoon sir.”
“You and this sir thing. Good afternoon Efe. How are you?”
“Fine thanks.” She noticed he had dropped a plate of food on the table.
“May I?” He wanted to join her on her table. She shrugged but at the same time scanned the cafeteria to see if any of her class-mates were there. She sighed inwardly when she didn’t see anyone. She didn’t need another gossip of her spreading around. He pulled a seat out and sat down.
Efe turned off the music she was playing.
“You enjoying the book?”
She nodded and placed it on the table. “So far so good. It’s a good read.”
“I read it a while back and was spell-bound by the writer’s imagination and creativity. I’m looking forward to the discussion and what you guys can bring out.”
“I’ve jotted a few things I found interesting. To me I feel there are some vague areas in it. The author left some unfinished things”
He gave a lopsided smile. “Must all loose ends be taken care of in fiction? Is everything prim and proper in reality? Does everything we want in life come to us? Not everything is neatly tied up in life.”
“Hmm . . .” She could agree with him. Her love for Daniel was mundane. It was never going to lead to what she wanted. Even after she had purposely done the worst thing in sleeping with him to hook him. It was a mistake she regretted; a mistake she couldn’t tell anyone.
“You agree right?”
He took a fork of his food and chewed slowly before saying, “You are hard to read. From a distance you seem offish, but when you get close-”
She raised a brow. “I’m such a nice person?”
“No. You’re very secretive. Let me say you look like you’ve been hurt and now you’re guarding your emotions. You’re friendly but would rather not mingle.”
Interesting. Efe didn’t know if she should be angry or amused at his remarks. “Are you done psycho-analysing me?”
“And you have a lovely smile.”
She was starting to get uncomfortable. What does this man want?
“I’m not trying to toast you or anything. I simply like your person. That’s not a bad thing, and I would like to get to know you better.”
I don’t feel the same way. “Mr Benson-”
“I hope I haven’t offended you.”
“You seem to be going off line.”
Efe picked her book up. An awkward silence building between them. She used the time he focused on his food to study him a little. He wasn’t bad looking with his low cropped hair and the moustache that was growing into his mouth. His nose was slightly big. . . His bushy eyebrows that hung over his droopy eyes.
She looked down at his almost-empty plate. Where does all the food go to in his skinny body?
Efe shook her head from the thoughts and decided to break the silence.
She cleared her throat.
“So where did you work prior to this place?”
He looked up at her; shock written on his face briefly before he quickly cleared it away. “I worked at a university in the north. The fear of Boko-Haram chased me.”
“I can imagine how scared you must have been.”
He pointed at his chest. “Me? I wasn’t that scared. I just didn’t want my poor mother weeping over my roasted body.”
Efe chuckled. “But seriously it must have been scary. It hurts to think about all those people; men, women and children, that had to suffer in the hands of those wicked people. I pray it all comes to an end soon.”
Chukwuemeka nodded. “Me too. What I saw. The dead bodies and parents and children weeping over their loved ones. It was terrible. The horror is not something I ever want to relieve again in my life.”
Efe could see the terror in his eyes. She recalled the picture of a dead girl she saw on the internet. She shook at the thought.
“Anyway! Let’s change the topic and move on to other . . . Less depressing topics.”
She nodded. From there they spoke about movies, books they liked amongst others. They had steered clear of their love lives and Efe was glad. She wasn’t ready to talk about her past and anything that had to do with Daniel.
The silence thickened as they sat opposite each-other. He had never been in such a situation before and had never had to look down when he was in-front of his god-father. The old man had raised him alongside his parents, and Daniel knew he had failed him with his irresponsible behaviour. He could feel the sweat trickling down his back despite the standing fan that occasionally blew in his direction.
His god-father was a man of few words. He never took nonsense and wasn’t as stubborn and hard-headed as his father. Whenever he spoke, everyone was forced to listen; whether they liked it or not.
“I asked you a question Daniel. What are your intentions towards by daughter? A year ago we had decided on a wedding. And now? It seems you aren’t sticking to your word.” His god-father broke into his thoughts.
God how did I get myself into this? Everything had changed for him after he met Adesewa and got another chance with her. It was like life was giving him another chance to right his wrongs. But he also had to right the wrong with Efe as well. He felt trapped in a prison he alone had put himself into.
“Sir, in all honesty, I had every intention to get married to Efe this year. But I’ve also had time to think it through, and Efe and I want the same thing . . .” He quickly added so it wouldn’t look like he was the only one with the same thought process.
“Efe and I feel we shouldn’t get married since we don’t even love each-other as people who want to get married should. We don’t want to be forced –”Daniel glanced at his father who looked back at him in anger and faced Efe’s father again, “- into getting married when we don’t want to.”
“Who told you Efe doesn’t love you?” Mr Eghosa asked calmly.
Daniel’s face scrunched up to a frown. “Efe? Efe doesn’t love me sir. I know that.”
“Have you forgotten the crush she had on you when she was little?”
“Sir that was only a teenager’s crush. A crush fades away with time. . .”
“What if that crush turned to love, my son? What would you do?”
Daniel was at a loss for words. He hadn’t even considered that. Can Efe really be in love with me? He shook his head. It had been close to ten years since she had crushed on him. When she was twelve. “I don’t believe she is.”
“Okay, I won’t push it. I came all the way here to speak with you face-to-face and divert you not picking my calls and blaming it on being busy at work; though some of the excuses may be true I have a feeling not all of them are.”
Daniel felt shame over his actions. He shifted his eyes away from him. “I’m sorry about that sir.”
“You just keep proving to me how stupid and irresponsible you are!” His father shouted from where he sat. He pointed at him. “I don’t know where along the way you decided to be like this.”
Efe’s father glanced at his friend and shook his head, smiling calmly as he did so. “Felix please let’s not go down this route. It won’t help matters. If Daniel is making a decision he’s doing it ‘cause that’s what he wants and not because he was forced to.”
He faced Daniel. “It’s entirely up to you. I want an answer within two weeks. Not before or after that. Pray about it. I know it’s a hard decision to make considering you had a girl-friend back then you told me about, and things turned sour for the both of you when the – incident, occurred.” He checked his watch. “I would be leaving for Ibadan this morning. Get in touch with me on the phone.”
Daniel nodded. “Thank you sir. I- I’m sorry you had to come all the way here.” Two weeks was okay by him. But he knew his answer already. He wanted Adesewa. That was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
He was still trying to understand what exactly was happening.
God was that You I heard or just my mind playing tricks on me? Am I lusting after her? I know she’s attractive and all, but God I don’t want to marry someone just because of my passion. Give me someone You approve of. . . That and more had been on his mind. At Ade’s house he had barely spoken to her. He didn’t want to mess his mind up with her presence, especially when she was practically wearing a cloth fit for making a man lose his senses!
He tossed his keys on the black coffee table and collapsed on the couch beside it. He let out a breath and rubbed his eyes tiredly. It was still the same thing he heard. He called the senior pastor in his church and explained everything to him. Telling him exactly what he felt about Funlola.
“She’s a beautiful woman. Very beautiful. Smart. But there’s really nothing else that appeals to me. From what I heard she sleeps around. She refused to marry her boyfriend for reasons unknown to me and now God is telling me to marry her? Pastor is this some kind of mind – game or what?”
Pastor George chuckled. “John calm down; I can sense your frustration. But on a serious note,” He cleared his throat, “I know you aren’t new to this but how does God speak to you?”
“I always have peace about it and get confirmation from His word.”
“And so have you gotten any confirmation?”
“I feel uneasy about the whole thing . . . But that’s just because I find it weird. Pastor, I need a woman who would support me in ministry. This woman would never do that! But- I know I heard God speak to me clearly.”
“If you heard God speak to you then ask Him. Let Him also tell you the reason, and if peradventure He doesn’t tell you the reason. Accept it. Obey first. He’s God and knows all. I would pray along with you.”
John kept the conversation he had with his pastor aside and yawned. He let his head fall back on the chair and a sigh escaped his lips. “God what do I do? Was it really You that spoke to me? Or am I harbouring secret lust for her? Please give me a confirmation. Or . . . could we perhaps negotiate if it’s really true? Maybe this is a joke you’re pulling on me?”
He thought about Funlola and shook his head. He heaved a heavy sighed. “God just let me know your will. Please erase all doubts within me. Tell me that it’s You and I won’t disobey.”
Philippians 2: 14, Do everything without complaining or arguing . . .
John was sure of what he heard and knew it was indeed God speaking to him. It was the same thing Pastor George had told him. Obey first. His doubts were still there, ‘cause he knew approaching Funlola would be another thing entirely, but he was sure if God led him to it then there would surely be a way.
His stomach churned at that moment. He got up and walked over to the kitchen. He had denied himself food for the past three days, hoping to get clear clarification, and now that he had that he could go ahead and eat. He pulled the fridge open and searched the contents for something decent to eat. All he had were three eggs, half-loaf of bread that was probably stale, two bottles of water . . . He hadn’t done any major shopping since he moved there.
He closed the fridge and checked the time. Quarter past six. He would rush down to a supermarket and get some things, after he got a bite to it at an eatery. All of a sudden he envied Daniel. Adesewa was a fantastic cook. Can Funlola cook now? There was a time he had gone to their place after service and she had offered him nothing but water and juice.
“Can’t you cook?” He had asked her.
“You don’t eat?
“Of-course I do. I buy take-out. Besides there’s one lovely joint I know where they sell Amala and Gbegiri with Ewedu soup that would make you even lick the bowl.”
He let out a breath. “God I’m in your hands.”
He picked his car keys and headed out the door.
She combed her hair and watched as strands of it followed the pink comb. She combed the other side and watched the same thing happen. Very soon I would have no hair left . . . She packed what was left of the hair. Her human hair wig was on the mannequin’s head. She took it and placed it on her head. She adjusted it to suit her perfectly and brushed the rough edges until it was straight and hanging perfectly on her shoulders.
She applied little make-up, something she had always detested, and walked out of her bathroom. Before taking three steps her stomach churned and she dashed back to the toilet seat that was already open and poured out the contents of her breakfast.
Tears stung her eyes as she spat and flushed the toilet. She got up and rinsed her mouth with water and mouth-wash. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her make-up was ruined, her hair scattered. Terrible was an understatement to describe the way she looked. Her eyes seemed to have sunk deeper into their sockets; giving her a hollow look. She felt she was half-ghost, half-human.
She raised her hand to her neck, her bones were beginning to show. Taking a deep breath she repeated the process and applied her make-up once again.
Of recent, there was no day that went by that she didn’t get sick and throw up. Thankfully no one was around to see her that way. A day would come when she wouldn’t be able to hide it any longer. She willed for strength to help her make it through that day. She would have to tell her daughter she was dying, but how did a mother ever find the strength to break such a news?
She walked out of the bathroom and picked her bag from the bed and walked out of the bedroom. Where the strength in her legs went to she didn’t know, she just found herself tumbling down the stairs and her children’s screams filling her ears.
NEXT . . .
Funlola raised her hand to her head and moaned. She shifted her left leg and hit something hard. She put her hand down and looked at her side. He was still sleeping; his irritating snores as evidence. She had partied hard the night before and followed him home. What’s his name sef? Oh yeah . . . Jide. She swung her legs to the carpeted floor and moved her head from one side to the other, satisfied when she heard little cracks. She stretched and got off the bed.
Her clothes and underwear strewn on the floor at the foot of the bed. She picked them up and walked into the bathroom. She used the toilet, splashed water on her face and rinsed her mouth. She spotted a bottle of mouth-wash on the black marble counter and helped herself to some.
Funlola stared at herself in the mirror. I don’t look bad at all. She fluffed her hair, dressed up and walked out the door to find her new lover pulling on his trousers in a haste, a worried look on his face.
“Okay? What happened?”
“My wife just got back.”
“Uh-Oh.” Funlola said and quickly grabbed her purse and shoes from the floor close to the door. . .