August 12th | Iganmu
“e fit be one prophetess don yarn your guy if e nor beg better beg, e go die by fire.” Alero offered in her wisdom, her royal blue skirt suit matching her straight-faced expression before turning to the squirming bundle in her arms and began making cooing noises. The infant squealed in delight in response, her chubby, light -skinned face wreathed in adorable, gummy smiles.
“Mtchewwww.” Jennifer hissed good-naturedly and turned to Esohe by her side as the trio walked away from the church’s entrance and towards its sprawling car park which flanked the building on all sides. “So what else did he say? What did he want?” She inquired, touching the fiery red gele adorning her head in sharp contrast to the snow-white buba and iro attire she had on, with a pair of 2’ strappy, red, bejeweled slippers.
Esohe shrugged. She looked resplendent in a purple, v-necked, studded boubou whose drawstring function at the waist, accentuated her trim figure. “Beside the apology, he wants back into Osayu’s life. I told him I never prevented him before now. He chose to stay away.”
“Back in Osayu’s life. How?” Confusion marred Jennifer’s light-skinned, pretty face.
“More face-to-face visits. Be responsible for his upkeep, education.” Esohe elaborated. “Like I said I never stopped him before.”
“na lie!” Alero interjected. “na so e go use that weak levels enter your life again. Tufiakwa! E nor go happen!”
“Good morning ladies!” A smoky voice prevented any response, serious or silly, to Alero claims, as they neared a grey-coloured 4WD belonging to Jennifer and her husband.
Surprise washed over Esohe’s expression even before she turned around to acknowledge its owner clad in a well – fitting, mustard-brown, short -sleeved guinea ensemble. The hue melted with his skin tone and appearance. He looked good and, she was certain, was aware of it. “I didn’t think you’d make it!” She blurted out before he enveloped her in a brief, unexpected hug. Another surprise.
“Good morning.” Jennifer’s gaze was guarded as she assessed the stranger and her friend.”
“You be IK?” No airs, no filter, just blunt and straight to the point. Alero regarded him openly.
“No, he’s not!” Esohe’s tone coming out sharper than she had intended it to, a hint of her exasperation at her friend’s forwardness. “This is Eddie.” One look at him. “Short for Edosa.” She added. “My friends, Jennifer…” A nod in her direction. “And Alero.” Completing the introductions.
Alero took a step closer to him, a demure smile playing on her lips. “How una take know? Because we nor know you.” Alero wasn’t going to let her friend’s attitude make her back down. “Abi you dey work with am?”
Jennifer’s gaze was still fixed on Eddie as she offered a hand.
“We met last week.” He took and shook it briefly. “In the line of duty.”
“Eddie.” Jennifer finally spoke, shifting her gaze to her friend before swinging it back to him. “Do you always hide your native name like that?”
Esohe’s eyes widened. She knew what Jennifer was up to. Mad that none of them knew about Eddie, taking her on a guilt trip for exactly that and thus taking it out on the unsuspecting, innocent man.
“I don’t like being typecast.” Was his comfortable comeback, shoving both hands into his pockets and resting his gaze on Jennifer who was clearly, in his opinion, the leader and mother hen of the pack he had just breached unannounced and without permission. If he could win her over, then it would be an easy ride to Esohe’s attention and affections. “The natural Nigerian response to Edosa, for the ignorant amongst us, is ‘Where are you from?’” He continued slickly. “I want people to relate to me as the person before them and not as a preconceived notion due to past experiences or the popular stories doing the rounds about various ethnicities.”
Jennifer smiled a little then. “Relax. I was just yanking your chain. You should hear how I came to answer Jennifer.”
“A spicy story?” He inquired.
“A hilarious once. “ Esohe replied for her friend. “Embarrassing too.”
“Are you willing to share it with me?” He wanted to know.
Esohe’s look turned quizzical. “I thought you normally did that with food and drinks in front of you?”
“Only when I’m looking for a date with the individual in question.” His eyes twinkled at her.
Jennifer and Alero exchanged looks.
“And this must be the reason for our gathering.” Not entirely oblivious to what had just transpired, Eddie closed the gap between Alero and him to stare down into the now drowsy bundle she held as the infant yawned sweetly.
For the next few seconds, his eyes ping-ponged between the infant and the woman bearing her, trying to fathom the similarities, the familial resemblance, the connection to go with the complimentary quip probably at the edge of his lips. But he found none and was at a loss as to how to express this observation politely.
As though planned, the trio of ladies staring at him maintained silence, allowing him to stew in his discomfiture. Moments later and as if on cue, they all burst out laughing at once.
“I’m the mother.” Jennifer relieved him of his sorrows. “Alero is her godmother.”
He was gallant in recovery. He let out a slightly crooked smile. “She’s her mother’s daughter. Adorable, attractive with striking eyes that can cut a man to size with one single look.” He paused. “What’s her name?” He asked in a loud whisper. The child’s eyes were firmly shut now on the journey to somnolence. He didn’t attempt to touch her either.
“Itsehme.” Jennifer whispered back. Her voice somewhat filled with emotion at the mere mention of her daughter’s name, though she had been the one to do so.
“Indeed, she’s precious.” Eddie murmured. “And definitely yours.”
Jennifer was surprised. “You know what it means.”
He nodded. “Don’t be taken in by all of this.” Expansive gesture at himself. “I’m proper oviedo. Grew up in Benin until I left for university. Son of the oba’s soil, that’s me.”
“But I’m not Bin…”, Jennifer began.
“Had friends from Estako too. Itsehme is not new to me.”
“no be laik this one wey be Bini-Lagosian.” Alero jutted her nose at Esohe.
“Do you have any children?” Jennifer asked idly.
Both Esohe’s friends didn’t miss the look he threw her way when he replied with: “I’m working on it.”
But she did; her attention was drawn somewhere else, specifically to the entrance of the church building as more people spilled out of it. “Jeje, you didn’t tell me you knew IK.”
Her friend followed her gaze and landed on a trio of males; two men and a little boy of five.
What Jennifer saw – her husband, her first child and son, and a tall, fair stranger in white native walking towards them.
What Esohe saw – IK walking alongside Jennifer’s husband and her son.