Hello Yarners, it’s your boi back from the moon. First of all I’d like to say a big thank you to my Partner, Jumoke, for working extra shifts so this
young man can go play the forever love game with the love of his life, and next, I’d like to dobale to ‘every’ Yarner for my failure to give a proper notice on my wedding, forgive me.
I apologize from the depth of my heart.
To everyone that sent kind wishes our way, thank you so very much, we appreciate you. And in my little way of bribing my way back into your hearts, it’s my privilege to announce that from the second quarter of 2016, we’ll be going on our promised run of two posts weekly.
For now, enjoy our feature presentation, ‘Playing The Love Game’.
** *** ***
That was the word Uche started her week to. A word that now haunted her and prodded her awake every time she tried to shut her eyes. She examined the word, analysing it like a psychiatrist would a patient’s mind.
Staring at Doctor Vatani, a middle-aged senior doctor of the general practice at the health centre as he chatted about swimming topless on his holiday, she came to the conclusion that her life was going at the slowest pace possible.
At age fifteen, she had her life mapped out. She would get married after graduating university. Children would follow. A boy and a girl. If her husband’s amazing law career allowed, volunteering at a motherless babies home could be an option. They would travel the world before their third child. All of this before her twenty eight birthday.
How was she to know that she would fall for a man whose most favourite phrase happened to be ‘let’s take things slow’. A man who choked on his drink every time she told him about one of her many cousins or friends getting married. Or every time his friends asked him when they were going to get married.
Emeka’s commitment phobia had always been there. Raised by parents who fought constantly, his fear had worsened when one of his brothers announced he was leaving his wife and the other revealed he got his wife’s cousin pregnant.
“I know you have a Nigerian boyfriend.” Doctor Vatani pronounced Nigerian as if he had indigestion, his South African accent thickening around it.
Doctor Vatani had done his best to woo her since she started co-running the health centre’s baby clinic. Well, his pitiful attempts at wooing her. The first time he attempted to straighten his flabby body in front of her, his podgy stomach fighting his efforts to flatten it, she didn’t understand what he was trying to do. Tia, the receptionist kindly explained what his intentions were at lunch time.
Not long after, he declared, he would die happy if she considered him. He showed her pictures of his palatial house in Johannesburg. Tia had been kind enough to inform her his palatial home already housed three wives. This was in case his podgy stomach and bald head were working on her.
“I hear stories about Nigerian men.” He scratched his head with a rather hairy hand. “Don’t let him fool you.”
She noticed the different patches around his armpit area on his greying-white shirt as he scratched and wondered how many days of sweating caused this.
“Thank you, doctor.” She saw a woman come in with a baby through the glass window and jumped up. She picked up the tray of vitamin-drop bottles and started to head out of the room.
Doctor Vatani walked with her taking steps slower than that of a snail. “If you need an African brother to talk to, knock on my office door. I will take you as a sister.”
“Thank you.” She greeted the new mother when she reached her, gushing over her baby the way she always did with new babies. She had discovered early on in her career that it was best to ask about babies first as most new mothers loved the chance to talk about them. As she listened, she tried not to think of her own problems. How long before she could boast of a little one like this.
Yesterday evening at Emeka’s house, she found herself asking him the dreaded question, ‘when’.
“When are we getting married?” She asked.
He spent a while talking about Idriss and Anu before telling her he wasn’t sure if he wanted to get married anymore.
“If you give me more time…” Emeka did not look at her as he got another can of beer out of the fridge. “I simply need time. Let’s take things slow. No point rushing.”
“You realise we have been together for four years, don’t you?”
That was all she could ask, despite knowing that he tended to be more upfront after having a beer.
“Uche, I need time. I’m not ready. In fact, I won’t get angry if you find someone whilst you are waiting for me. Let me not ruin your life.”
At that point she gathered her things together and left for her flat. Deciding he was too drunk for anything he said to be taken seriously.
Idriss’ ears were present in the house with Aleska, his eyes however struggled to stay present. Both of them were at the window, Bashir was on his chest and Aleska was showing him how to burp his son. Yet, his eyes would not stop straying outside.
The wet weather wasn’t what he was staring at. It was the red sports car that arrived on the opposite side of the street a few minutes back that had his attention. He had almost yelled out, when the door of his father-in-law’s house opened up and Anu let Bradley into the house.
Why did she let him in?
His wife did not let go of Bradley when they became a couple. He convinced himself that what she felt was merely pity. Guilt, maybe. They were once a couple too and they would have married if Idriss and Anu never met.
All this while, he refused to see the friendship as a threat. Now, he knew different.
“Take the baby,” He passed the baby to Aleska, picked up his phone from the table and started walking towards the stairs.
Aleska rushed after him. “I go soon to de Adam families. I look after dere children.”
Idriss turned to his Polish employee whilst dialling his wife’s number. “I will pay you double what the Adams family are paying you.”
“Thank you. Thanks. I stay forever.”
A sly cough from the table interrupted them. Austin caught a funny picture, feeding Jadesola cornflakes with one hand whilst his other hand held Abdul.
“See, how hard I’m working, boss.”
Idriss grinned, pointed at his phone and continued on his way upstairs. Kanyin’s bedroom door was shut. He banged on her door to wake her up. Missing meals had become her favourite pastime. He had only noticed because Anu commented on how skinny his daughter had become last night.
Inside the bedroom, he positioned himself by the window. He could see his father-in-law’s house clearly. Anu was at the door with Bradley, holding what looked like her phone from his distance. Bradley had started to head to his car. The call had gone to voicemail. He ended the call and tapped on the screen again. He could hear himself breathing heavily when her voice eventually came on the line.
“Hey, wifey. What took you so long?”
“Sorry, darling. I just got out of bed.”
He watched her go back in, failing to steady his breath. “So, what have you been doing? Anything I should know about?”
“No. Nothing. I got out of bed two seconds ago. I’m going to shower and come over. Or do you want to come round?”
“No. I’m calling to cancel. I’m so busy here and I need to be at the Manchester office soon. Later, yeah?”
“Okay, darling. Enjoy your day. I will be at our Ribble base if you need me.”
When Kanyin volunteered to help her father look after the twins on Saturday, she didn’t do it genuinely. It came from the part of her brain responsible for scheming and planning. She thought of a clever plan to rid herself of Bayo forever.
He hadn’t stopped ringing her since the time she saw him and Dogo. Fuming from the state she had been in for weeks, thinking he had impregnated her, she was looking forward to a combat with him.
As she changed Bashir’s nappy for the third time that day, barely able to breathe, the last fragment of her plan fell in place. Getting a negative result for both pregnancy and STI checks at the clinic had done this to her. Reenergised her. Made her believe that Bayo could be conquered.
Having washed her hands in the sink, she picked up Bashir and left her father’s ensuite bathroom. He was on the bed, stroking Jadesola whose head was on him whilst his other hand typed on his laptop. Abdul, cradled in the mesh-side, foldable baby cot close to the bed seemed to have drifted off to sleep.
“When is Aleska coming in?” He didn’t look at her as he spoke. “Tell her she needs to work tomorrow. These kids… dia wahala na something else.”
“She will be in soon.” Kanyin moved towards the baby cot and checked on Abdul. Their curly hair and brown eyes constantly chipped at her anger. Although that anger was all directed towards Kate, sometimes it prevented her from truly relaxing with them. “Anu called, Daddy.” She gave her sister a warm smile. “She wants Jade to spend the day with her tomorrow. Should I tell her to come and see you tonight?”
“Why?” He looked up from the laptop.
“Don’t give up, Daddy.” She pointed at the jewellery box on the dressing table. It belonged to Anu’s mother. “She didn’t take her mother’s jewellery box. You know how much she loves it. It means her heart is here. She wants to come back home.”
“If only hearts belongs to one person.”
“What?” She didn’t understand what he meant. “She asked of you this morning. She even told Austin where to go for the babies’ toys.”
Her father left the house two days ago when Anu arrived to pick up her daughter. Yesterday morning when she dropped her off, on her way to work, he did not come out of the study.
“Stay out of it, Kanyinsola. I know you mean well. Everything is cool the way it is.”
She was trying to think of something to say when Austin came into the room after a quick rap on the door.
Austin had barely spoken to her since she told him of her plans to quit the university. Last night he retreated into his bedroom when he got back from the agency.
“Can you ring the guys and cancel tonight.” Her father addressed Austin.
“No,” she jumped in before Austin could respond. “Aleska will help me with the food, Daddy. Austin can get the drinks. Don’t cancel.”
“I’m not really in the mood for this get-together. Cancelling it this month will not kill anyone.”
“Emeka is looking forward to it, boss.” Austin grinned. “I saw him yesterday.”
“Okay,” her father grunted. “Let’s see if the three of you can pull it off.”
Although Kanyin had to call Anu twice at work for tips about her father’s monthly soiree, she was smiling when his friends and acquaintances with their wives and girlfriends arrived. The kids were in Jadesola’s bedroom with Aleska and Austin seemed to shine with the two waitresses they hired.
It was easy to sneak Ikumapayi out of the house. She told him the barest minimum about Bayo. He wouldn’t leave her alone. She didn’t like him.
Her father’s friends, especially Ikumapayi and Emeka had told her in the past she could rely on them. She saw this in the way Ikumapayi raced towards Bayo’s car. He was waiting at the bottom of their street as he threatened in his messages to her. Although Bayo started the car and started speeding away, Ikumapayi did not stop chasing the car. He charged at the car with the speed of a predator after its first meal in weeks.
“You are dead if you come back. Oloshi.”
Kanyin was smiling as she reached him. “Thank you so much. I have told him I’m not interested. I don’t know why he won’t listen. If Daddy sees him …enh… I will be in so much trouble.”
“Don’t worry, omo babe e. If he comes back, call me, I will come and handle him. Leave him to me. Small boy like him. Im wan die ni.”
“Please don’t tell Daddy.”
“No prob, daddy’s girl. Now, let’s go back in before your father sees us and breaks my legs o.”
Uche was in Emeka’s bed clothed in the black lacy bra and panties she bought with a tenth of last month’s salary when she heard him arrive. Normally, she would have cooked him his favourite meal and littered the place with scented candles and red roses. This time she decided against this. Opting for what Emeka saw and liked all those years ago.
‘You.’ He had said when she asked him with a shy smile what he liked about her. ‘I like you. The whole you, Uchenna.”
They met at an African club in Manchester, one of the ones Africans patronised to reconnect with home. She had gone with Kelly, her former flat mate. A young woman from Addis Ababa whose waist made Uche workout at night.
Having recently lost her boyfriend to a flexible dancer who he met whilst back in Lagos to visit his family, Uche had not been on the look-out for a man. That night was particularly hard, as his cousin had called to let her know he declared he wouldn’t leave the country without marrying the dancer.
Kelly encouraged her to dance with a couple of men. Men that were not only lacking in height but also lacking when it came to communication. The men were both from French speaking African countries and she remembered feeling the need to rant when the second man started with, ‘No English. Bonjour mademoiselle.’
She was in a corner drinking her coke through a straw when Emeka approached her. She assumed then because of his fair skin, soft-texture hair and quiet confidence rather than the self-importance she observed in past boyfriends that he wasn’t Nigerian.
That was until he asked her if she was missing Lagos. In the middle of their introductions, he confessed to missing Enugu. They fell for each other and despite the occasional comments he made about the state of the marriage institution, she believed and he encouraged her to believe that they would marry someday.
She could hear him laughing as he walked around the house. He sounded like he was on the phone, a bit merry too, the way he talked after having more than a few to drink. He had been at Idriss’ monthly get-together.
She realised that he didn’t know she was in the house with him, she had parked her car at the top of his street.
Uche sat up in bed. She could see a partial reflection of herself thanks to the mirror mounted on the wardrobe in front of the bed. Despite thinking herself average in terms of looks, largely due to a mother who never complimented her, friends and sometimes even people she wouldn’t call friends had called her beautiful. Her fair skin had a radiant glow to it. Her breasts were perky. She was quite slim, perhaps due to the gross diets her colleagues were always introducing her to. She loved food and considered cooking a type of art so her obsession with cooking usually led to the failure of the diets.
What sort of girl would chomp on carrot slices or live on cabbage soup after discovering pounded yam and egusi stew? Why would she choose coffee and water for breakfast when she loved buttered toasts too much?
Uche loved food, simple.
This wasn’t why she asked her colleagues not to include her in the one boiled egg a day diet. It was the smell that the nurses who had begun the diet at the hospital left wherever they sat down that discouraged her. Luckily, the diet was soon ruled as unsafe after a pharmacist collapsed due to hunger.
Despite her failure to stick to diets, she felt that physically at least, Emeka had no reason not to want to be with her. She was, after all good enough to share his bed, cook his meals and carry his and his friends’ problems like they were her own for four years.
“Stop it o,” his voice sounded closer now. The tone had a familiar seriousness to it, the way he spoke during their ‘when’ conversations. “I told you not to get Uche involved. I know say you wanted to get your wifey back, but dude… how can I finish with this chick if you and Ikumapayi keep ringing her.”
She got up to listen to what he was saying but he had moved away again. His voice was muffled now, at times inaudible as water gushed from –what she assumed to be – the tap in the kitchen.
Uche grabbed the tunic and pants midwife uniform she took off moments ago. Different types of nightwear that belonged to her were in his drawer but dressing up in a revealing nightgown for him was the last thing on her mind.
Emeka nearly jumped out of his seat when he saw her. He placed his can of beer on the table and moved his phone nearer to his mouth. “Dude, Uche is here in the house. I didn’t even know. Let me call you back.” He planted a big grin on his face after putting the phone on the table. The grin didn’t hide his fear. “When did you get here? Babe, I didn’t even know you were here.”
“Shut it.” She slapped the hand coming towards her legs away. “I heard you Emeka. Just tell me why you want to dump me and I will be on my way.”
“What are you talking about again?”
“One of us will die tonight if you don’t start talking.”
“Why would I want to dump you? Uchenna, the conversation you heard was about Anu. You know I love you.”
“I heard what you said to your friend. I heard you say how can I dump this chick.” She pulled him up with his ear lobe without meaning to. She let go of it and he sat further back. “You have wasted four years of my life Emeka. Where do you expect me to start from? Where? You made me wait this long knowing your intentions. Why!”
She staggered back as he tried to get hold of her. “Touch me and I will scratch your eyes out.” She wanted to get married. She wanted children. Yet, the main reason her tears fell was because of her mother. The woman who told her a woman’s achievements if she didn’t have a husband were worthless. And although her mother stopped asking her when Emeka would make her a respectable woman a while back, each call between them now were filled with uncomfortable pauses.
She reached into the pocket of her tunic hoping for something to wipe her eyes, pulling out a urine sample bottle. Earlier at work, she had lost a sample bottle she wanted to give to a patient and blamed it on the state of her mind.
“What is that?” Emeka looked alarmed. What are you planning to do with that? Are you trying to infect me with a disease? All because of this marriage thing?”
She latched on to his idea. Waving the sample bottle at him. He couldn’t have seen through the label covering the bottle. It might as well be put to work to get the truth out of his alcohol-induced, muddled state.
“Yeah, it is nimokokulus ofungunlus pathogen. I will unleash it on you if you don’t tell me what’s going on. Did you get back with Efe when you went to Nigeria?”
“Eh?” He had slumped back on the armchair, face flushed from fear. “The Efe I used to date from the Abacha years. Fear God naa, a girl I haven’t seen since 1997.”
“Emeka, your refusal to tell me the truth is something.” She advanced towards him with the sample bottle, laughing as he gasped. “
His phone started to ring, he picked it up immediately. “Idriss, please come. This chick has gone mad. Please.” He placed the phone back on the table, his eyes on her hands. “This is crazy. Please put that thing down. Do you want to risk your life? Or is this thing not real?”
“You will know if it is real when boils, German measles and small pox cover you from head to toe.”
“This is crazy.”
“Tell me the truth then! What’s going on?”
“Nothing. No affair, nadda. Please.”
He reminded her about how they loved each other at the beginning. How they couldn’t go through a day without seeing each other. She made him believe in the concept of a family unit.
Although she ignored him, the hand she placed on the lid of the sample bottle did not shift. She decided to stay and get the truth out of him. Four years of her life deserved an explanation.
“If it is not Efe, then it is someone else. You are seeing someone. Your best friend is a dog, so it makes sense that you are cheating.” She studied him through wet eyes. He didn’t look guilty. For the first time since they started drifting apart, she noticed how unaffectionate towards her he was. In the past he would have held her and soothed her. He would have dried her tears and whispered into her ears. He would have held her the way Idriss did his wife in front of them all on his birthday. They were having a quiet row. Uche was to learn later on Idriss had been too complimentary to Ikumapayi’s pretty cousin.
She remembered the evening Anu made the comment about her friendship with Bradley. They all saw the slight anger that darkened his eyes but less than an hour later when Ikumapayi’s fiancée, Hoya turned the stereo on Idriss had pulled his wife up to dance with him.
“You don’t love me anymore, do you? Emeka?”
“Stop talking rubbish.”
Uche rushed over and sat on him. She unscrewed the lid of the sample bottle and held it to his nose. “Tell me the truth. You owe me that much.”
She felt someone pull her away from Emeka and just as she saw it was Idriss started to lash out at him.
“Please Uche, stop it.” Anu was standing at the door.
As if someone had turned on the light for the first time, Uche saw the state she was in. Her tunic had not been fastened, revealing the bra underneath. She straightened her length and ran into the bedroom.
Anu followed her and held her whilst she cried on the bed. When the tears stopped coming, Uche told Anu what she heard. Telling her too how stale her relationship had become.
“You could have misheard him.” Anu said, leaning closer to her on the bed. “Try to sit him down to talk to him.”
“After all the talk my cousin and sister gave me about dating a yes man, I know this time-waster would never open his mouth to tell me to keep walking. Not even if I threaten to cut off his balls. He would rather ruin my life than hurt my feelings. I should have gone with that locum doctor that tried to snatch me from Emeka. If not that my talk of getting married and wedding dresses scared him away.” Her friend appeared preoccupied. They hadn’t spoken properly since she moved back to her father’s, mostly because Uche didn’t feel like she could listen to anyone’s problems with her own torturing her. “What are you doing here anyway, girly?”
“I was at the house when Idriss called Emeka. I went to see Jade, they said she was crying, asking for me.” Anu rubbed Uche’s back and smiled. “Then Idriss asked me to come here with him. I couldn’t believe it when he said my angelic, sweet friend has gone crazy.” Her phone beeped from her jeans’ pocket.
“You can take the call.” Uche flicked a polite smile on her face and ran her fingers through her hair. “It could be about Jade.”
Anu smile’s changed to a frown after checking her phone.
“Who was it?”
“A text from my stupid husband. Anu read the message out. “Ask Uche if this disease thing is real o. Emeka just coughed on me.” She shook her head. “This man is stupid I swear. Since that head injury biz, sometimes it feels like he never went back to how he was.”
“Girl, your man has always been an idiot, don’t lie.” She laughed with her friend, a genuine laughter that felt better than the dark feelings that had taken over her for a while. “You love him, though. Please, fight for what you have. One of us deserves happiness.”
“I slept with Bradley.”
Uche gasped. “Why?”
“I was so angry that I would have done anything. Now, I detest myself. He said he can forgive me. He is very angry, though. I see it with the way he looks at me. He avoids me too.”
“Give it time.”
“I bet he is planning what to do to Bradley to punish him.”
“A real man. Emeka would have handed me to the competition himself and bought us wedding gifts.”
Uche stopped when her friend didn’t smile. She understood her. Beyond Idriss’ polished appearance, designer suits and twinkling eyes lay traditional values.
They were all together one Saturday evening when he told them about one of his friends from Kashmir divorcing his wife. The man, a friend from the mosque said his brother saw his wife and their neighbour hugging. Whilst they had all insisted it might have been a friendly hug, Idriss had disagreed, stating that a married woman didn’t have to have slept with her lover to have committed adultery.
That a married woman committing adultery was worse than a married man committing adultery, even if the acts were similar.
“The problem is…” Anu shifted.
“There is another problem?”
“Bradley says he is not going anywhere this time. He wants me to leave Idriss.”
“He practically proposed to me… ring and all when he came to mine a few days ago. I just told him to go.”
“I need to start going to church,” Uche blurted out before she could stop herself. “Me, I can’t even get one ring.” She reached out and grasped Anu’s hand, “stay away from Bradley. He knows too much about your husband.”
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