I walked into the living room with so much pride in a face lift well done.
“Hmmmm you look flawless as ever!”
“I bet I do”
“So where are you taking me to this time? The place where we first met? KFC?”
“Actually. . .” he said stammering and picking his words one by one.
Jide held me by the arms as he moved closer
He kept mute still
“Oh! Don’t tell me it’s what I’m thinking. . . cos if it is, I’m sorry but ain’t going nowhere.
“Well it is. . . I want you to meet my family again. I need you guys to start afresh. My Mother wants to meet you officially this time.”
“Yea. . . at least you were nice enough not to spring it on me this time but I still don’t wanna go.”
“I understand you are scared and traumatized. . .”
“Yes, I do. . . Remember I told you we are in this together. It traumatized me too. We are all having a chance to start over again. . . don’t deny them their own right to start over again.”
Jide sat by my side, holding my hands, he lifted my chin.
“You can’t overcome your fears if you are running away from facing them. . . Please do this for my mother, for me. . .”
The drive to Chief and Mrs. Jones’ house was a silent one. Jide and I never uttered a word to each other unlike our usual routine of jitterings and glances whenever we were on the road. The situation was unexpectedly awkward. Jide and I never had a slight disagreement as this but I guess it was a signal that we were in a relationship and situations as this happens.
It was almost an hour drive plus the traffic jam from my place to Jide’s parents’ house. I was sure Jide’s pressing of the horn literally sent the gateman jittering with the manner with which he opened the gate and at the same time he was screaming ‘welcome sir’ in Yoruba without a pause.
I couldn’t get down from the car. I had a rush of flashbacks from my first time meeting the Jones. The gateman’s screams that were initially becoming annoying was overshadowed by my thoughts. I found myself looking through the window of the house from where I was seated and I could see someone; it felt as if she was looking at me. . . Now I didn’t want to get down from the car; not ever!
Jide’s Yoruba sprung me back to the moment. He was telling the gateman who was roughly in his late fourties in Yoruba to stop putting ‘sir’ when greeting him again and that he should be the one to do the greeting first and not the other way round.
I love Jide’s humility but not as much as I love the accent that comes with his Yoruba pronunciation. It’s the sexy kind of accent every woman would want to wake up to in the morning.
‘Do I have to drag you down?’
I didn’t even have an idea that he was already at my side of the car. I couldn’t smile, I couldn’t laugh. I was just staring at him but I knew I couldn’t hold Jide down for so long. I just have to muster the courage to talk.
‘I don’t want to get down from the car. . . Can’t we just go back?’ I asked with so much plea in my eyes.
Then he opened the side door.
‘We can’t go back cos we are already here!’ he replied looking into my eyes.
‘But no one really knows I’m here except for this elderly man and he’s not going to tell that I was here and if he does, you can come up with some sort of explanation to your mum and all. . . Please!’
‘Seriously? Explanations like what?’
‘You can come up with something na. We don’t have to discuss that now. . . Like I had a flu, running stomach or something.’
‘Jesus! Babe, who are you!’
‘What now? Stop screaming jare.’
‘No worry sef, my mum has drugs for all these ailments you are coming up with. Maybe you should come up with something better.’
‘What’s your point now?’ I asked feeling frustrated.
‘The point is there’s no turning back. We are here already and just be positive. This is never going to be like the last time and if it is going to be. . .’
I didn’t even allow him to finish that sentence before I cut in.
‘If it is going to be. . .’ I asked with a very stern look on my face.
‘All I’m saying is you are stronger than what you are scared of. So, brace up and expect the good and not the bad and stop being paranoid. . . Will you get down now or you need me to carry you?’
‘Carry me!’ I said with a smile and ecstasy in my voice.
Jide literally brightens my world. There is a way he speaks that changes everything seeing he carried me from the car to their doorstep at the amusement of the gateman who was smiling coyishly at the sight of young love.
He kept on looking at me with one of his hands in mine.
‘What?’ I couldn’t help but ask.
‘Won’t you press the bell?’
‘What does it matter who presses it?’ I asked feeling lost.
‘It does. . . It will help boost your self-esteem and courage level.’
‘Really! You are unpredictable Jide, I tell you.’
‘Sha press the bell.’
With my eyes closed, I could feel a bang in my chest while I try to press the door bell with Jide whispering it’s fine like someone who is trying to make a young child overcome his fears.
‘Just in time for lunch!’
I opened my eyes to the glaring face of Mrs. Jones staring into mine. I was lost for words. Her voice was as stern as Jide’s. I guess that was where he got it from.
‘Yes ma’am.’ I replied not knowing what to say.
‘You are doing just good baby!’ Jide whispered into my ears with his hands on my waist as we followed his mum’s leading into the living room.
The shortness of my visit last time to the Jones didn’t allow me to notice the magnificence and beauty of the Jones’ home. It was an exquisite décor from the outside of the house to the inner. The house had two living rooms; the first one was very cool and not too large and the second was amazingly cool and awesomely large. I guess that’s where they enjoy the family moments.
We walked past the first living room into the second living room. Mrs. Jones definitely has good taste. She was dressed in an Adire-made jumpsuit. She’s a beautiful woman with an amazing shape at her age. She should be in her early 60s though; I wasn’t sure. She plaited her hair in the all back style. She has a warm smile that calms me each time I try to show the apprehension gripping my heart.
The house was full like the first day except for the absence of Chief Jide Jones (Snr.) and Jide’s elder sister’s husband. Jide’s sister, Aunty Kayinsola; was breastfeeding her baby. She greeted me with a warm smile. Jide’s two other siblings responded to my greetings with a nod of the head and a wave of the hand. I tried not to read meanings into it.
‘Make yourself comfortable my dear.’ Mrs. Jones said.
‘Thank you ma.’ I responded.
‘Sade, come and help me set the table for lunch.’ Mrs. Jones said beckoning to Sade who was the last child of the family.
‘I can help ma.’ I said with so much enthusiasm. I was beginning to feel jittery and I needed to do something to distract myself from the feeling.
I followed Mrs. Jones into the dinning section to set the table. The aroma from the meal alone is enough for me to conclude she’s an amazing cook. I became hungry immediately. My love for fried rice and grilled chicken cannot be hidden.
Mrs. Jones hit a small bell with an iron rod to announce to the rest of the family that the table was set. . . It looked like a typical American family to me. I guess I have only seen stuffs like that in American movies.
I felt like knowing Mrs. Jones better with that single act of hers.
The chairs were filled. Jide and I were sitting beside each other followed by his elder sister, his younger brother, his younger sister, Sade who was sitting directly opposite to me. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve caught her eyes staring into mine ever since we arrived. Mrs. Jide Jones was sitting at the edge and there was a vacant seat left which automatically belongs to Chief Jide Jones.
A little prayer was said by Aunty Kayinsola. Everyone served themselves after except for Jide who opted to serve me. It was as if he knew what was going on in my mind. I was a little bit shy to serve myself because I was yet to know my place in the family. Who knows maybe it’s the amount of food I ate that would be the point of discussion after I have left. . . I know it was demeaning to think of them that way but I couldn’t help it.
‘So you and Jide met a couple of months back right?’
That was Aunty Kayinsola asking.
‘Yes.’ I replied. . . Do I have a choice?
Gone were the days when people were particular about table manners but now, people tend to enjoy the dinning talks especially me.
‘How was he when you met him? You should be put off a little bit.’ She said looking into my eyes.
‘He was a complete nerd but I couldn’t resist him!’ I said smiling.
I’ve loosened up a bit and the tightness around me was beginning to fade off.
‘He has always been a nerd but he’s evolving. I think we have you to thank for that.’
‘I guess. . .’ Sade responded with a smile and I couldn’t help but think wasn’t real.
‘You know I don’t understand something but I won’t mind if you’d shed some light. . . Do you mind?’ Sade asked with so much smile and friendliness.
‘I don’t mind. . . Anything at all.’
‘Did you ever had sex with my Dad cos I don’t know how y’all could be acting as if it’s not an issue!’
I uncontrollably sprayed the food in my mouth on the table like someone was spraying baygon.
Turning my mouth into a sprayer wasn’t enough scattering of the peaceful gathering; my wild apetite for the meal became cold. I couldn’t stare into anyone’s eyes in particular. I was just gazing at emptiness but I could feel Jide’s hand in mine.
Mrs. Jones’ voice broke the silence and then it dawned on me that everyone had already dropped their cutleries except for Sade who was biting hard into the chicken laps not really giving a damn about the obvious silence that resulted from her question.
‘Will you drop that chicken or I’d be forced to drop it for you!’ Mrs. Jones said on top of her voice looking at Sade with the kind of eyes that could make someone tremble.
‘Mum, what is it this time? I only asked a question. . . Is that too much to ask? It’s okay that you all are being okay with this, with her, with whatever my brother thinks he is doing choosing to ignore Dad to pay attention to some s.s.lut!’
‘Afolasade Jones! Are you out of your mind? What has come over you?’ Mrs. Jones rose from her seat with so much anger in her eyes.
‘Mum, nothing has come over me! I’m not just convenient sitting at this table pretending as if we are all one big happy family with a latest soon-to-be addition whose integrity we really need to question. . . I think I should be the one to say what is wrong with y’all! Something is wrong with this family.’
‘Something has always been wrong with this family right from start so. . .’ Jide responded with so much disgust, I guess he couldn’t take it anymore while I just sat there not knowing what to do or how to stop the ensuing banter of words.
‘If you knew that you wouldn’t be convenient sitting at this table, why bother to sit at all? It wasn’t forced or was it. . . You can still leave Sade!’ Jide said.
‘Seriously! You’d ditch your family over this thing? Your own family Jide?’
‘Why am I so surprised? Should I really be? You don’t seem to respect me cos it seems like we are age mates now!’ Jide fired back.
‘Are you kidding me? You want to make this situation about not adding brother in front of your name? You’ve always been convenient with that. Haba! It’s old-fashioned. . . How many families call themselves brother, sisters now? Respect is not in appellations. . . You know I respect you, you know I love you and that’s why I don’t want you to make a mistake this terrible. . . Can’t you see or has she fed you with something that’s making you turn your backs on your family now?’
‘I’m not turning my back on anyone, you are the one who is being unnecessarily disrespectful to her! Jeez! Sade! When did you become this?’
‘Become what?. . . Seriously, Sister Kayinsola, you just gonna sit there and not talk some sense into your baby brother?’
‘Oh! You can call her sister?’
‘Stop being petty Jide! I’ve always called her sister and you know that. . .’
‘Enough!’ Mrs. Jones said with a loud bang on the table that sent the eating plates hitting each other with a loud noise.
Her action sent us back to the previous situation of ultimate silence. . . Aunty Kayinsola seemed to be the extremely cool one in the family. While the show was going on, she maintained her peace; she was just breastfeeding her baby while she gazed at everyone. . . I think I should go.
Rising from my seat with my bag in hand, I let go of Jide’s hand.
‘I’m sorry that my presence has done nothing more than disrupt the peace of this family. . . I wish it hadn’t happened and it was never my intention to split your family. . . I should go now.’ I made that long speech looking and staring into oblivion and avoiding faces.
I took a step to leave!
‘If you leave, don’t ever pick up your phone to call me. . . It’s over between us!’
‘What?’ I couldn’t hide my surprise. . . Jide was literally breaking up with me in front of his family.
‘Are you breaking up with me?’
‘Only if you leave!’
‘What do you expect me to do?’ I was beginning to feel lost in a tangle.
‘I expect you to sit, be calm and only leave if my mum asks us to.’
‘Really! Do you even understand what it is to be me? Sitting here and being the cause of discord between people? I understand the repercussions of leaving but I’d take my chances.”
I guess Aunty Kayinsola couldn’t take it anymore this time.
‘I have somewhere I’d rather be!’ Sade responded.
‘Young lady, sit your ass down! For a minute I thought you are educated and then you started talking about feeding him with something. . . Girl, what is going on with you!’
‘Now, you want to interfere! A few minutes ago you seem to be enjoying the little soap opera sister!’
‘You know I don’t like to trade words young girl. . . Mum, and I would excuse you two; unless you apologize to your brother and to his girlfriend, you are not gonna leave here anytime soon. . . You can call us when you are through!”
‘What about me?’ I thought!
Didnt spend so much time figuring that out as I helped Mrs. Jones clear the table of left-over and hardly-touched meals, I watched Jide and Sade sorting their issues out at the other side of the living room. Aunty Kayinsola literally continued with breast-feeding her baby while Jide’s baby brother got busy with the television.
I was scared to be alone with Mrs. Jones in the kitchen. Yes, life is absolutely crazy I could tell ‘cos some minutes ago, I wished to be closer to this woman and know her better but not like this.
She gave me a deep stare that says I know so many things are going on in that mind of yours.
“You shouldn’t blame yourself for this evening’s turn-out.” She said.
“Ma?” I asked pretending as if I didn’t hear and would love for her not to say it again though.
“Don’t pretend as if you didn’t hear me young woman! Whatever happened today was not your fault.” She said looking at me with so much calm.
“I know ma.”
“No, you don’t!. . . I know you feel like if you hadn’t been here today, none of this would have happened. . . Yes, maybe if you weren’t here it might not have happened but you’d still have to be here someday so far you intended to be with my son! This argument would have happened, it might just have been postponed. . . So you see, be glad it happened now and not later. . . Do you understand?”
“Okay ma.” I said with a nod.
“Don’t just stand there with those plates, nodding your head like a lizard’s. I don’t know you to be such a super cool person! Be free with me, like I’m your mother, I don’t have fangs so I’m not gonna hurt you.”
“No ma! I didn’t mean it that way ma.” I replied.
“It’s fine. . . Take a seat and come sit beside me.”
I took a small kitchen seat to sit beside Mrs. Jones. I looked at her very keenly like I was just seeing her for the first time. I love the control she has over her family and the strength to keep them all together which is indeed a motherly character. At that moment, I wished to be her; the kind of woman that exerts so much strength and authority. I want to experience the kind of mothering I never had through her.
“I was so much of a flawless woman. . . You don’t have an idea how beautiful and priceless what you had is. . . They’d help shape you to be a better and more useful person. So don’t try to be ashamed of what you were, it helps you be what you are meant to be.”
“Really?” I asked now feeling very comfortable with her.
“Yes, really. A flawless life is too ordinary.”
“So you don’t hate me?”
“I don’t hate you dear. . . After the first time you were here, I knew if my son ever came back here with you, I’m sure he was convinced it’s you. . . See, Jide is a good kid and he has always made the right decisions, so I trust his judgment. He could be very stubborn but he’s a good one and I’m sure he feels lucky to have you too. . . He adores you and never doubt that for a moment.”
“Can I ask something ma?”
“Sure. . . Go ahead! Anything at all.”
“Why is Jide so mad at his dad? He hardly wants to talk about him and I can’t help but feel this has a lot to do with me.”
“Hmmm. . . I wish I could satisfy your curiosity but all I can tell you is that it has nothing to do with you. Just pray for him and ask him.”
“I do ask him but he keeps on avoiding the discussion anytime I tried discussing it.”
“You are a woman my dear. Give it time. He’d tell you. . . Just let it grow, let it evolve.”
I couldn’t believe how much we have said in just a little while until Aunty Kayinsola walked in on us.
“Mum, I have to go.” She said.
“Go where? I thought you were gonna stay for dinner.”
“Yes, I thought I would but something came up.”
“Something very serious?”
“I can’t really say but the tone of the message sounded urgent. . . It was from Mrs. Coker. She said she needs to see me and it’s very urgent.”
“Is she alright? Maybe I should give her a call. . . I’ve been worried about her a lot lately.”
“Mum! Let me go see her first and if there’s anything you have to worry about, I’d let you know.”
I couldn’t keep my calm at the mention of Mrs. Coker. If it was possible, I really wished I could be excused just to follow Aunty Kayinsola to go see her.
“Do you know the Cokers?” I asked without even knowing when it flew from my mouth.
“Yes. Yetunde and I go way back from the University while her husband and my husband are more of political friends.” Mrs. Jones replied.
“Wow! I see. . . I never knew.”
“Now you do!” she replied with a smile.
“You should hurry now. . . Just give me a feedback as soon as you are through with her.”
“I will Mum. . . Take care of yourself, one of these days we’d catch up” she said looking at me.
“We better go downstairs, Sade and Jide should be through by now. . . And please, do not worry about Sade, she’d come around.”
“Thank you very much ma.” I said.
I couldn’t stomach the warmth and comfort. It was too good to be expected. . .