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His mother was in the kitchen when he came back from work. Balanced on one of the dining chairs, the white, laundry basket on the table beside her.
“Nno, my son,” she greeted and placed the kitchen rolls she was folding on the pile of folded beddings and towels on the table. “Did you go to see Isio?”
“I went to Aspire, Mama.” He dropped his bag on the table, walked over to the fridge and picked up a bottle of Lucozade from it. “I have to work.”
“So, you could not go and see her from your office.” His mother was not letting go. She held on sometimes with such stubborn rigidness. “Chibuzor said she lives near your office.”
“Did Chibuzor also tell you I went to see her last night. And her flatmate, Habiba threatened to pour dirty water on my head from the window.”
“Why would Habiba do that?”
“The girl is crazy.” He opened the Lucozade, threw the lid in the bin and drank from it. “I’m done begging Isio. Her friend can come and barricade the house for all I care.”
“You don’t mean that.” His mother picked up one of the opened envelopes from the table and passed it to him. “You need her for that. Letter from the school. Even Annabel was asking of her today.”
“Parents’ evening meeting at the school. Annabel said she put Isio’s name down when they asked her last month. She rang Isio this afternoon to ask her if she can still come and Isio did not pick up.”
“I will go to the meeting.” He folded the letter and put it in his jeans pocket. “I’m Bell’s father.”
“You are busy that day. She said she checked your diary. You are at a conference or something like that. Just call Isio.”
“I don’t intend to disgrace myself again.”
His mother picked up the laundry basket. “You will eat the yam pottage I cooked. Then you will put your thinking cap on. How can Habiba, a mere child stop you from entering a building you own.” She pursed her lips, “if you are tired of Isio just say so. Or is it because you have gotten what you wanted?”
He glanced at the sheets and shook his head. “You know me. I didn’t take advantage of her…”
“It is not me you have to convince.”
Kanyin rambled on about different issues. Biba had only gone to her apartment to escape Isio’s gloom mood.
The tears, she could cope with. But the increasing questions of what to do with the phone that wouldn’t stop ringing, what to say to his mother, Biba had no answers for.
When Biba announced she should be going back to check on Isio, Kanyin picked up the carton juice box and started topping up her drink.
“You need to stay here,” Kanyin disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared with a tin of mini chocolates. “Tuck in. We will order food and catch up on box sets.” She picked up the remote control and turned up the volume of the music video playing. Shaking her head to the beat alongside the dancers.
“Food and box sets?” Kanyin had never welcomed her like this to her home before. She placed the empty salty crisps bag in the bin beside them. “You have already fed me, babes.”
“You are my special guest. Just stay with me for a while.”
“Give Issy some space.”
When Kanyin walked her back to the apartment and she saw Obinna’s friends in the living room, Biba suddenly realised why she kept her out of the way. Kanyin had spoken in favour of Obinna since it happened.
Isio’s door that had been partially open when she left was now closed.
“Please tell me Obinna is not in that room.”
Ikumapayi’s muffled chuckling as a response annoyed her as though she was not mad enough. How did they even get in?
She could not remember locking the door. But all her anger was directed at Kanyin for now. “What kind of a friend are you? Issy needs us.”
“No, she needs Obinna. Not us.”
“Tell her, Kanyinsola.” Her father was sat on the armchair, legs stretched out like he was in his own home. “We can’t stop their love.”
“So, he loves her so much yet he let her down,” she hoped the door would open soon and her friend would show the men she had enough strength in her.
“He messed up,” Idriss said. “We men do that sometimes.”
He was good looking. Exquisitely fashionable. She had never looked at older men this way before. Perhaps it was because Obinna and Idriss were not like the men with big bellies and awful fashion sense her father socialised with when she was young.
“Uncle Ikumapayi,” Kanyin linked hands with her father’s friend. “Where are you going dressed up like this? Your wife will not be happy, shey you know?”
“Leave the wife alone,” he grinned. “She went on holiday last month with your stepmother and Uche. This month is my turn.”
“You can come with us,” Kanyin’s father stared at Biba as he spoke. “We are going to this Naija joint. A famous singer is in town.”
“We’re in. Let me go get ready.” Kanyin rushed out of the apartment.
“What about you? Gives me a chance to make it up to you. Plus, it will be superb.”
She stifled her laughter. “You wanna make it up to me?”
Idriss was beaming.
“Okay, I’d love to hang with you. Give me a minute and I can slip into something nice.” She glided as she walked towards Isio’s room and knocked on the door. “I just need to check on my girl.”
“Are you sure? They might be getting busy.”
“Olowo baba,” Ikumapayi laughed. “Let her go and see something, nau.”
“My friend is not like that. She doesn’t get busy with a man that she’s dumped.” She ignored the men’s laughter and opened Isio’s door.
It was dark in the room. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she realised the men had been right. Obinna and Isio were on the bed, kissing. He let go of her and shifted to the edge of the bed when he saw Biba.
“Hi Habiba,” he smiled as he put his shoes back on. He blew Isio a kiss and left the room.
“You told me you never wanted to see him again, Issy! I was rude to him.”
“I’m sorry. Don’t be angry. He has explained everything.” Isio stood up, picked up her hair brush, lip gloss and compact powder from her dressing table and set to work.
“You mean you saw him and thought, boy, this man is fine.”
“Yeah, you talked with your lips.” She opened the wardrobe door and took out a red dress, she encouraged Isio to buy last year. The slit dividing the dress, almost in two, had prevented her from wearing it. “Kanyin’s dad wants to take us out. Are you and Jay coming?”
“We will just stay here. It’s his birthday, remember. That’s why he has gone to the shops. We need… you know…for tonight.”
“Protection?” Isio’s embarrassed face was heart-warming to look at. “You can say the word you know.”
“Don’t you dare make fun of me.”
“Wait until I see Kanyin.”
They were trying to decide on the dress and a more conservative one that Isio chose when Obinna came back shortly after he left.
“I bought cake as well, sweetie,” he said. “We will leave you some, Habiba.”
“Thanks.” She wanted to ask him how he came back so soon from the shop, but he had sat on the bed and had started to tell her the men looked impatient downstairs.
Biba applied her make-up carefully. Ignored Kanyin when she came to ask her how long she would be.
When she took the lift downstairs, Idriss was waiting in his car. It was an Aston Martin. A colour that reminded her of the many nights she spent ordering Champagne and cocktails at bars.
“You know how to keep a guy waiting.” He didn’t compliment her but his eyes did.
“I like to look good.” She waited for him to strap her seat belt on, the slit of her dress winning all the attention. “Where is your daughter?”
“She has gone in Iku’s car. Let’s go have fun.”
“Sure your wife won’t mind?”
“I’m hanging out with my daughter and her friend.” He winked. “What’s the worst that can happen.”