Hi, hope your week is going well?
Question time, we have seen different types of relationships in this series, the appealing ones and the not so appealing ones. I wonder which one is your favourite and the one you can’t stand or wouldn’t wish on your enemy. It can even be the platonic type.
A special shout-out to two people dear to our hearts. Happy birthday Tbone. Happy birthday to our boy as well for the 26th. I can’t believe it has been twelve months already. Sending you both plenty of love and hugs.
For previous episodes – click here
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//I’m Your Friend//
Anu let Uche in and led the way to her room, their giggling and chatting carrying potent strength she had not experienced in a while. Aleska was with the twins in Jadesola’s bedroom, changing them into outdoor clothing for their buggy walk. This morning she heard her husband telling Aleska to let her sleep. He doled out sleep and rest these days as if they were prescribed drugs.
“Where is my favourite girl?” Uche sat on the bed, inspecting the two black bags on the bed.
“She has started nursery.” Anu tried not to think of the way her daughter skipped into the nursery’s building. “We were supposed to pick her up early today. The nursery told us not to worry.”
“Let me guess, she has already made friends and now you are missing her.”
“This is good for her.”
“You and your man too. You can finally thank him for buying you a gated mansion in Cheshire where footballers live.”
Anu rolled her eyes. “I suppose.”
“So it is true you don’t like your mansion birthday present. I thought Emeka was exaggerating. Do you know how much it must have cost him?”
“I like it.” She sat on the bed, facing her friend. She hoped Idriss did not tell Emeka how she cried tears that were not happy ones. That house was the last place she went to with her father. It had been on sale and seeing it, the agony she felt back then tortured her afresh. He reassured her when she apologised although she could sense his disappointment when he drove them back home after a meal at a restaurant.
What made the timing of her father’s death terrible was how well they were all getting on. His acceptance of Idriss, calling him, son. Their praying together on Fridays afternoons.
“I’m surprised that he was planning to give me a present like that despite everything going on between us. He shocked me, Uche. Now I have told him to go easy with the spending. He bought into the mechanics last week. The big one close to the mall.”
“Why? He wants to turn Austin into a mechanic?”
“It is where Kate’s boyfriend works. He has now made him manager. This is to stop all these talk of them wanting to move away. We sat down with them and the guy said he only wanted to move because their boss was selling up.”
Idriss was holding her when he told her of his plans. She had tried to discourage him at first, worried about him having too many, different expenditures. “I sold the house you secured for me at that London auction when we first met,” he said. “You know that time in London when I tried to put my moves on you,” he had to playfully hold her down by this time to stop her from interrupting. “I sold that house to end that chapter of my life. To give most of the money back to you by buying you the Cheshire house. You and the kids are important to me. So even if it is my last penny, I won’t regret spending it on you and them. Anyway, the ego is still there plenty, thanks to your clever mind.”
“Money talks,” Uche shook her head. “So, the boyfriend is happy now. Anyway girl, how are you? You and hubby are good now, right?”
She smiled and decided not to bother her about not letting him in her bed yet. About the text messages Refiloe sent. The confident claim of love. Her claim of missing him. About the special time they shared together. The way his hands felt on her.
“I suggested couples counselling.”
Uche laughed loud and hard. She started laughing again when Anu repeated couples counselling.
“You expect a Naija man to go counselling with you?”
“I know of this girl that got her lecturer husband to go with her.”
“Does Idriss look like a lecturer?”
She smiled. Laughter suppressed in favour of important conversations. “Talking of therapy, Kam called me yesterday. Apparently Brad is seeing a therapist.”
“He wants to see me as part of his healing process.”
“Then he will never heal because you are not going to see him. What kind of rubbish is this?”
“Same thing Idriss said.”
“I’m glad you are not keeping anything from him. That … Kam enh, taking Bradley’s Panadol, wait until I see him.”
“Sounds like you have been seeing the detective chief inspector a lot these days.”
“I sort of saw him the other night.” Uche picked up one of the bags.
“Please, tell me you didn’t hook up.”
“As in hooking up naked.”
“No. We kissed that’s all. We kissed. The guy can kiss. Now leave me alone.”
Bradley, Kam and her went to the same secondary school. Until the third year, when his mother separated from his father and they moved from the area. Even back then, he knew how to get female friends, prompting Bradley to hold her really close whenever he came round.
“Don’t rush things.”
“Na wa for you sha. Someone seems to have forgotten how she dropped her undies for her boss two days after they met.”
“Idriss has never been my boss.”
“Your father’s business partner.”
“Don’t change the subject. Anyway it is because I have been there, that’s why I recognise the signs.”
“That you will probably let Kam lay down the terms of this relationship.”
“He came to my house. Nothing happened.” Uche grinned and started to play with the bag. Anu inspected her. Her new wavy black hair with dark brown strands. Her tight pink dress. The eyebrows that looked like they were shaped by an expert.
“You really like him, don’t you?”
“Shame because it isn’t going to work.”
“Why darling? What did he do?”
“He was really into the kiss.”
“And? Was Emeka not the kissing type? Is he a straight to the point kind?”
“Kam just turned up, nau. Like very late. I was asleep. He said he wanted to apologise for letting me down. The date thing. Then he said he wanted to see me. Then the kiss happened. The next thing he is holding me very close and asking where my room is.”
“Seriously? I thought my husband was fast.”
“He said it just came out. He hasn’t slept in two nights because of this major case.”
“The old I’m too tired to control my body excuse. I thought my husband coined that line.”
“He has apologised, sha. Now he is trying to get me to go on a date with him.”
“You better don’t use that as an excuse, chick. I know you are scared but you can’t chase away new opportunities because one didn’t end well.”
“Okay. So, are you gonna go get ready?”
Anu glanced at her comfortable track suit bottoms and its grey top. “What is wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“We are not going shopping like that. Your hubby said his American Express and Elite Mastercard are on the dining table. He wants us to put a dent on them. Or you are not going to London again?”
When she volunteered to go to Dollar Bobby’s party with him in London, she wished she could take it back immediately. It came out on one of those nights she felt guilty for not wanting him. It started like something that she could easily be rid of at first. Like a cold that took over her body once. And then it intensified. Last night she clammed up, pushing her legs together when he asked her to come closer.
“I have a black dress,” Anu said. I will accessorise with one of these two bags.
Uche pushed the bags off the bed. “You are not going to a London big boy’s party in a black dress. Come on girl, get up, we have work to do. Shopping, hair, nails and a beauty treatment. Your man was right to call me.”
The two women on the other side of the table were covered in gold. Their fairness was the unnatural kind, yellowy faces, darker feet. Those feet were shoved in heeled sandals that the women struggled to dance with when they went to dance. Anu didn’t feel bad for thinking of the women like this. The two were laughing not long ago after the one with the double chin asked the other if she had heard about the twins’ rumour whilst staring pointedly at Anu.
“That man of yours can dance,” Yetty, said and shifted closer to Anu, carrying with her a waft of her warming fragrance. The pleasant smile that the woman gave her when Idriss introduced them was back on her young-looking face. Anu had wondered how old the woman was. And now following Yetty’s gaze to the dance floor as they both watched Idriss and Dollar Bobby dancing in the centre of their money-spraying friends, all she kept wondering about was Yetty’s relationship with her husband.
“It is good that we get to bring a bit of Naija here,” Anu didn’t have to raise her voice. The music was not as deafening as it had been when they arrived. “I’m guessing you know my husband from back home.”
“Back home?” Yetty laughed. “No. Your husband and I were together. Years ago. Did he not mention it?”
Yetty was quiet after that. When the yellowy women got up to dance again, she followed them. The three of them were laughing as they danced together. Anu glared at her husband covering every inch of Dollar Bobby’s body in pound notes. She picked up her bag and hurried out of the hall. The air outside smelt better. Free of expensive fragrances and unveiled hostility. She wanted to go home and take off her headgear. Idriss helped her tie it after they decided on wearing matching traditional outfits.
“Where are you going, baby?”
She didn’t turn around. She didn’t tell her husband that she wanted to go home either. Despite her feet aching as if they arrived ages ago, it wasn’t that dark yet. And more people had arrived, gliding into the hall with her husband’s enthusiasm.
“You want to go home?” He meant his North London home.
“This isn’t my thing.”
“I can’t abandon Dollar Bobby and the guys right now. I know you don’t like me spraying like that.”
“I couldn’t help doing the maths.”
He wrapped his hands around her waist and kissed her neck. He held her hands when Ikumapayi and Hoya came out of a chauffeured car. “Do you want to stay with Hoya for a few minutes? She is an outsider…a Brittico like you. I will talk to the guys and say goodnight.”
“No. I like Hoya. I will be fine now. Go do your thing.” She turned to him and they kissed.
Ikumpayi and Hoya were with them when he let her go.
“Hi,” Anu greeted.
“Hiya, you look gorg.”
Hoya made to kiss her but didn’t actually kiss her cheeks, blowing instead to save their make-up.
“O seye o,” Idriss slapped his friend’s shoulder. “Where the hell were you?”
“Ask her o. She took an hour to tie that big thing on her head. After two weeks of watching how to wrap gele on YouTube!”
“Well, it looks elegant. Not as nice as my wife’s though.” He kissed Anu’s cheek. “Ready to go back in? I want to dance with you. You and Hoya can chat later.”
They arrived back early in the morning. This was her excuse to plod in bed after a quick shower. Idriss was outside, inspecting the garden as he hadn’t been at the property for a few months.
She was snuggled under the covers when Idriss came into the bedroom and announced that he had spoken to Austin and Aleska and their children were all fine.
“It isn’t that cold, baby.” Idriss stripped out of his bathrobe and slid in beside her. He didn’t pull the duvet back up. Instead he left it covering their lower halves. “Do you really need to wear this long nightdress? It even covers your arms.” He buried his mouth on her neck and started to move on top of her. “I miss this. I miss you like crazy.”
“How many women have you had in this city?”
He stared at her and then as if he had decided to leave her alone, rolled away from her. “Next time go for a better excuse. Goodnight baby.”
“What do you expect? Yetty and two other women at that party were giving me dirty looks. They didn’t do that to Hoya.” At a point she had felt like going to these women, especially to the one who greeted Idriss with a tight hug to tell them to blame her husband for the things he did to them. Not her.
“You know my past.”
“How many women exactly have you been with?”
“Where should I start from?” He sighed. “Tawa? Yes, let’s say Tawa was my first.”
“Isn’t Tawa one of your father’s wives?”
“Yes. Do you remember me telling you she married my father’s best friend two months after those robbers killed my father?”
She nodded. He had implied then that there were whisperings around about Tawa knowing what was coming. She sent her daughter to her village a day before and let Idriss’ mother sleep in their husband’s room, giving up her turn to be with him.
“My mother had this fever. I think I was thirteen. I knew my mother wanted me to stay away from her but we needed the money. My father’s friend had travelled so she asked me to wait for him. She got me busy washing their cars, sweeping the compound and then she asked me to come in to eat. Baby, I hadn’t eaten in days. I wolfed down everything on that table. When she came to my room that night I was powerless against her ugly, fat body.”
“Darling, you must have been confused. You were thirteen for crying out loud.”
“Confused? Nah. My mother’s friend opened my eyes at least two years before then. She just used to touch me up and stuff every time my mother sent me round to go and ask for garri. That one I took like a man. Tawa’s one, that was different.”
“I wish I knew you back then…” She struggled to carry on and grasped his hand.
“Baby, it is no big deal. I remember now the last time she saw me, I had this big beard and I was on my way from camp. She freaked. She told her driver to drive. I didn’t realise what her problem was that day. Then I saw this woman that my father used to help and she said I had grown up to look so much like him.”
“You can get justice now for what she did. For what she did to your dad.”
“I heard she had a stroke. That she is now back with her people. And I’m happy now.”
“I suppose it is good to move on. You know you gain nothing from seeking revenge.”
“What do you mean? Did I not get to take you all night at that hotel the last time I plotted a revenge plan?”
She shook her head and turned her back on him. “You have a sick sense of humour.”
“It was a joke.” He stopped laughing and held her. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Go to bed.”
“My mother would have loved you by the way.”
“Yeah, I named my daughter after her.”
“That was when I realised that you truly wanted to be with me.”
“Did she not have a Muslim name?”
“You have never mentioned it.”
“Aishat. What else?”
“Really? Now I get why you were obsessed with me. Cool. I had no idea. This is probably why you switch to baby when you are trying to get laid.” She wondered why telling her these things did not come naturally to him. And if the small things were difficult, what were their chances when it came to communicating about the big things. Like the one about the kiss and the pictures. “I wish you would talk to me more, darling.” She turned around and found his eyes closed in sleep.
His voice was harsh when he woke her up hours later. The blinds did not protect her eyes from the sun’s glower.
“Kanyinsola is here.”
He had an apron on, over black shorts. She could smell bacon and eggs from the kitchen.
“Did you grill me bacon? You don’t even eat bacon.”
“I wanted to surprise you.” He took off the apron, flung it on the bed and strapped on his bathrobe. “Romance is off the menu now because Kanyin brought her friend along.”
Anu suggested Kanyin come down to London after Ikumapayi hinted that Kanyin wasn’t doing as well as they all assumed she was. What Anu didn’t expect was Nkem coming along too.
“Darling, I’m sorry. I expected her to come tomorrow. And I didn’t ask her to bring her friend.”
Heat welcomed him into the house the following day. His wife and daughter had left the central heating on again despite the warm weather outside. He knew they were out shopping and started to unbutton his shirt from the kitchen after turning off the heating.
The shareholder’s meeting he went to was taxing. If he could have his wife back, he would. His body ached. He hoped the shower would ease his tension. His frustrations. Anu heaved out of his grasp this morning. This time she blamed it on the thinness of the bedroom walls. He had been so close to pleading with her. He nearly did. Remembering how stubbornly she stuck to decisions stopped him.
The girls’ bedroom had been left open. He walked to it to shut it and paused. Nkem was in the room, on the bed, dressed in her underwear. She didn’t rush to cover herself when she saw him and even when she did, she left her top unbuttoned.
“I didn’t know you were back, sir.”
“You didn’t go shopping?” He could hear himself panting. He could hear Ikumapayi’s voice in his head. The one telling him to get out of the house but his senses would not let him stop looking at the swell of her chest.
Anu checked her phone whilst her stepdaughter was in the changing room. It was her chance to thank Uche for listening to her moaning about her marriage the other day. Their shopping trip had ended in her telling Uche how she couldn’t trust him again. How she missed the closeness they had before their affairs. Everything came out. Even the things she had not trusted herself to think about.
Uche’s text had come in not long ago. When she was thinking of how to thank her. She opened it, smiling.
Hi girl, I hope you won’t mind what I have done. Anyway, I was so worried about you the other day. I’m your friend and I worry when you worry. So, I cooked up a plan with Efe so that we can find out if your hubby has really changed. I got Nkem’s number and paid her to help us test him. This is why she didn’t go shopping with you girls this morning. She is home testing him as I’m typing this.
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