August 26th | Gbagada
Participants: Alero, Esohe, Jennifer
Place: Jennifer’s residence
“You should see your face when you call his name.” Jennifer said. “You light up. Literally. “
Esohe smiled shyly. “Really?
“Eh, laik stove wen dem forget to quench.” Alero chipped in, tongue in cheek.
“And it is a good thing.” Jennifer continued. “A very good thing. It’s about time you were in a happy place again.”
“Eddie for president!” Alero pumped a fist in the air, and the three women giggled.
“I beg you, don’t wake my baby up.” Jennifer cautioned in between chuckles; Itsehme laid asleep in a net- covered cot at a corner in the sitting–room.
“My mum said the same thing last night.” Esohe informed her friends.
“You’ve told her about him already?” Jennifer’s tone was incredulous.
Esohe shook her head. “Not in so many words but she has heard me talking to him at least twice.“ She told her friends. “And when I arrived on Friday, she said I look different. Good different.”
“Ehen?” Alero prompted
“And after Eddie’s call last night, she asked if he was the one behind it”
“Wetin you con tell am?”
“He’s a friend.” Esohe supplied. “She said it was a rather strange one if we were on the ‘phone for hours late into the night two nights in a row.”
“I agree with momsie.” Alero said.
“So how do you feel about him?” Jennifer leaned back on the one–seater she occupied, staring at Esohe as she did so.
“I don’t know. I’ve known the man less than a month and here I am missing him. I mean he’s been away for only two weeks! I like being with him, talking with…”
“Una don kiss?” Alero interjected crudely.
Esohe blushed. “Not yet but I’d love to.” She buried her face in her palms.
Jennifer cackled softly, stopping herself just in time from an accompanying clap.
Alero wasn’t as amused. “You mean say as Eddie dey package himself as guy man, e never kiss lipstick comot dat your mouth? Wetin e dey reason sef?”
“A signal from her perhaps” Jennifer offered. “He might not want to take it for granted that she’d want it.”
“You don hia? Giv am green light wen e come back!”
“And maybe after that, you’ll be able to sort out your feelings for him.” Jennifer continued. “Though I don’t see what there is to sort. When does he return?”
“He was due back last week but something else came up. So most definitely before the end of this week.”
“se Folarin don crawl enter one hole, sha?” Alero switched topics effortlessly. “Thunder wey don do press up go fire am to de corner of hell wey hot pass! E no well! With e strong head! Eranwen! Ekwensu!”
“Lower your voice, Alero!” Jennifer darted a furtive glance at the cot.
Esohe sighed. “Nothing oh. Silence since that afternoon. So I’ve released Tony from bodyguard duties since I’m at my mum’s until next week.”
“Eddie for president!” Without the air pumping and in a low tone. “You for let am gather mend dat Folarin. I talk am say dat e appearance nor pure. Dey form apologise. Bastard! Dat guy eh!”
“Enough of the insults, Alero.” Jennifer spoke. “Folarin’s in the past and Eddie’s looking good for now.” She turned to Esohe. “You have gist for us? About his marriage?”
Alero sat up. “Ehen, na true oh. Yarn us. Yarn us.”
The white, circled imprint of a wedding band might have faded into his caramel skin tone but a decade ago, at 28, Eddie was an up and coming lawyer, five years at B & I, and an expectant father. Life looked good both on the personal and professional fronts. His wife, glowing and increasing in size by the week, was an emerging confectioner.
Her name was Isimeme. They met just days before he was due back in Lagos to begin his final academic session at the University of Lagos. A 300L business student in the University of Benin, she was the reason he returned to Benin several times that year; he couldn’t get her out of his mind even after she finally said agreed to be his girlfriend. Her business course notwithstanding she knew she wanted to be a confectioner. Eddie’s first salary, combined with his savings, bought her first tools of trade.
Five years after their initial meeting, they were married and waited three more years, intentionally, to expand their family. Not because they didn’t want children immediately but because each was settling into individual pursuits. Eddie was on fire and in good stance with his bosses while Isi’s business was gaining local ground and attention. She conceived on their third-year wedding anniversary, and thus began the countdown to first-time parenthood.
He was in neighbouring Ekiti State when the call came in early in the morning; Isi was in labour. The baby was two weeks early. His mother-in-law, who was living with them at the time, allayed any fears he had and promised to be with her daughter every step of the child birthing way.
Nevertheless, he was impatient to finish his business and return to be with his wife. His mother-in- law called twice with updates, the last telling him Isi was being wheeled into the theatre at 10am. With no news at noon, he called during a mini break of proceedings, and got no response. He fired off a message and resumed work. Checking his cellphone again at about 3pm revealed no messages or calls from his mother-in-law. Worry began to set in. The trip back and the Lagos traffic kept him in transit for more than four hours.
The doctors were exiting the theatre when Eddie was ushered into the delivery section of the hospital. They led him into an unoccupied room and broke news he had not been expecting. A long and arduous labour. Birth asphyxia. Hemorrhage. Both Isi and the baby were gone.
“Chai!” Alero’s face contorted in shock.
“Oh my God!” Jennifer exclaimed hoarsely.
All he remembered after that was his mother and in-laws swooping in to ensure his wellbeing – emotionally, mentally, psychologically, physically. There was even an outrageous suggestion of hooking up with Isi’s baby sister who was a diminutive, sharp replica of her.
He declined, and wore his ring for five more years, burying himself, head first into his job, taking out-of-town briefs, working hard, working late, unconsciously becoming a well–rounded lawyer in the process.
But memories of Isi and what they had persisted. He hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye.
He mourned her for three years before he indulged in his first relationship.
“10 years is a long time.” Jennifer was the first to break the silence. “Unless of course he has no plans to remarry.”
“All dese widowers, you know say sum dey marry becos dem get pikin.” Alero added. “Others becos dem no fit hol’ their konji. And dem no dey waste time oh. Two, three years dem don arrange new wife.” She continued in her wisdom. “If na us na, we go hol’ our side, marry our pikin.”
Esohe shrugged. “I didn’t ask if he wanted to remarry. I’m not sure I want to know. At this point, I’m not even sure I want to remarry.”
“So you just want to dey smash for free ‘til thy kingdom come, abi?”
“Okay. This is new.” Jennifer sat upright.
“Yeah.” Esohe admitted. “It dawned on me as I listened to him. What if I don’t get married again? It won’t be the end of the world.”
“No, it won’t be.” Jennifer agreed.
“Eh, Jeje, why you dey support am?” Alero accused her friend. “So wetin be all dese ‘enter the dating scene’ wen she don’ dey sing since beginning of year?”
Esohe fixed her gaze on her friend. “Dating doesn’t necessarily has to lead to marriage. And you’re a fine one to talk, babes. How long have you been engaged to David now? Eight months? Longer? Who has been smashing for free?”
Alero looked away. “De bobo say make we relocate.”
“So relocate.” Jennifer advised.
Alero shook her head. “Which person face I go dey paint for Canada? The place too cold, I beg.”
“But Nigerians are there nah.” Esohe supplied. “Surely your business can thrive over there as well.”
“I no wan comot Naija.” Alero declared rather loudly. “Na hia my pipo, my family dey. David for tell me e plans before e propose. I for refuse ho ha.”
“Oya, return the ring nah” Jennifer uttered in jest.
“I don try. E no gree take am. E say I nor love am bi dat. I just taya.”
“See yawa.” Jennifer mused.
“Abeg, wia Mr. H. and dat pizza wen e talk say e dey go buy?” Alero changed topics, directing her question at Jennifer. “All di tory don make hunger wan kpai me.”