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“What happens now, Frank?”
The subject of Fola’s question shook ash from the cigarette he was holding, made to take a puff – and then abruptly changed his mind. His hand thumped on the table a bit harder than he planned and he winced.
Pain could be heard in his voice; pain and some impatience when he asked, “Happens concerning what?”
The question was rhetoric; considering he’d just told them about Efe and the abortion and everything in between, but left out Igo’s affair. He didn’t feel that concerned them.
Priye, sounding subdued a lot more than was usual for him said; “Folly baba abeg leave the guy small you hear? You no understand wetin dey happen ni?”
“I understand; I understand it has already happened. Igo knows. What else is there but to move on?”
Frank grabbed the whisky glass not too far away from him and emptied it once. The liquid hit him low in the belly and his head swam. Everything went out of focus for a short minute; his sight seemed to be stuck in a whorl –
The world straightened itself out suddenly, enough for him to know Priye was talking.
“Ehn…wetin you talk?” he asked.
“I talk say wetin me I go like know na whether Igo know na im dey pain my guy, or na say e give woman bele she go commot am.”
As one, Fola and Priye shifted in their seats, unconsciously forming a triangle with Frank at the apex of it. He could see the question on both their faces; a question he had been shying away from asking himself too closely because he was afraid of the answer.
“I swear I don’t know. I think it’s a bit of both. I hate to hurt Igo; I hate to do something so mean. I’d like to say it wasn’t my fault, but I’m not a child. I knew what to expect.”
He dragged air deeply into his lungs. Then he repeated the process, this time with the cigarette in his mouth. “I also don’t like that the first actual pregnancy with my sperm in it ended up being aborted; but what was Efe supposed to do? I mean; think about the story of David and Bathsheba. See what David had to do to her husband at the end of the day because of complications.” He looked directly at Fola. “See why I say God hates everybody?”
“Come first bro. I’m no saint and I’m not trying to preach here, but God has absolutely nothing to do with this. NOTHING.”
Frank shook his head. “But look at how events conspired to lead me to Efe’s house that night.” He paused. “Maybe He has nothing to do with anything; maybe He just happens to be an easy target. At least she’s out of the hospital.”
“All dis una talk just dey spoil my belle. Abeg make we commot.”
Fola nodded and got to his feet. “Not a bad idea, there’s this real cool spot I know on the island. Fish and booze and all that.”
As one, both friends looked at the head of the triangle. “Frank?” Priye said softly.
“Of course I’m coming. You think I’ll stay home?” He struggled to his feet. “Let me put a shirt on.”
“Ol’ boy; this joint dey bang!”
It was lively for a Sunday evening. The setting was just a bunch of canopies arranged neatly in a space – but it was right next to the ocean which lent it refreshing ambience. Soft mood music played, to which a couple of couples moved to in the space between the canopies.
It was relaxing.
Priye extended his right fist across Frank’s chest towards Fola. “Chop knuckle jo!” he said.
“How did you find this place?” Frank asked.
“Well – “ Fola cleared his throat several times. “There’s this girl…this girl I do some things with,” he avoided Frank’s steady gaze; looking instead at Priye. “She brought me here one night and I just fell in love with the fish. It’s the best I’ve had so far.”
Priye, walking as though it was a place he’d been before led them to a table set beside a small fence overlooking the ocean. There were four chairs around the table until Fola lifted one and moved it away.
As though synching their movements, they sat down together.
Fola waved at a girl; pretty with long hair and dimples. She hurried over, smiling and greeting them politely. “Yes? What will you have?”
Priye spoke. “Give us Big Stout.”
“All of you?” she asked.
Frank shook his head. “Heineken for me.”
As she turned to go Fola held her hand gently. “Please call Amaka for me.”
“Who be Amaka?” Priye asked as the girl nodded and walked away.
“That’s the girl who makes the fish.”
Frank looked over the water; appreciating the breeze in spite of himself. The joint was across the water from Ozumba Mbadiwe; he could see the Civic Centre and Lagoon Front from his seat. He liked how the buildings’ lights reflected on the water, sparkling and glittering. He heard Fola’s phone ring; heard his friend say something in a low tone.
“Hope that wasn’t madam o,” he said, turning towards the table.
“At all,” Fola responded. “She knows I’m not coming home tonight; I gave her the gist but summarized it. It was her idea to come spend time with you sef.”
“So who called?”
Fola winked. “You’ll see soon.”
The pretty girl came up just then, bearing a tray with three bottles and just as many glasses.
They were halfway through their drinks when Fola looked up. “Amaka!” he said sourly. “Where were you since, didn’t they tell you I asked for you?”
The light-skinned short girl walking towards their table smiled. “Oga Folly, you supposed understand. My madam is around and she doesn’t like when I leave the kitchen.” She came up beside him and curtsied briefly. “No vex.”
“Vex?!” Priye chirped in. “Why e go vex for fine girl like you?”
Amaka looked at Priye and drew back. “Area!” she saluted.
“Area!” Priye responded with a huge grin and nodded at Fola. “This girl know how far.”
Frank, lost in thought, picked at the fish with fingers that didn’t exactly feel like his. Somewhere in the distance he heard the phone from earlier ring again; Fola’s. He could tell his friend had gotten up, but everything seemed to be happening close enough for him to notice but too far away for him to care.
He didn’t like what he was drinking; not that anything was wrong with it. He was just in the mood for something harder.
“Priye,” he started to say. “Is there – “
Whatever else he intended to say never got said, because right then Fola appeared on the edge of his vision. Frank wondered if he’d drunk more than usual, because when Fola left the house he was wearing white traditional wear; a buba and sokoto. But the Fola he was looking at had somehow spilled red all over himself.
He blinked and looked again; properly this time.
Fola was still wearing white; the red Frank was seeing came from the girl walking beside him and smiling in his face. Two other girls walked up behind them, two exquisite-looking members of the opposite sex. One of them thick and curvy; the other one slim, short black gown exposing light brown thighs that gleamed.
Frank swallowed a small hill that was growing in his throat.
“Ol’ boy, na the orobo me I like o. You know I like big tins,” Priye whispered roughly in Frank’s ear and elbowed him at the same time. Frank nearly fell off his seat – saving himself only by grabbing the table in time.
“Are you okay?” Fola asked as Frank righted himself, suddenly standing next to him as though he’d just materialized. Frank gently but firmly shook off the condescending-seeming hand on his shoulder and nodded.
“Sure. Who are your friends?”
The girl in red stepped forward. “Me, I’m Bukola. This is Nndidi,” she added, pointing to the slim one. “And that is Halima,” waving at the curvy one. Priye was already holding one of her hands as he spoke.
“Baby, I be Priye and na only me you need know. Here,” from his sitting position he pulled a chair from the next table and set it beside him without liberating Halima’s hand. “Sit down. Let’s talk.”
Somewhat duly, Frank pulled a chair from the same table and invited the shy-looking Ndidi to sit down. “Hi. I’m Frank,” he said, proffering his right hand as she sat down. She took it, squeezed it softly with hers and dropped it.
“Hi, Frank. Pleased to meet you.”
She spoke in a sing-song pattern and a definitely-affected accent. He was about to ask what that was about when Fola’s voice came from somewhere around Bukola’s chest area.
“He’s a correct guy o, Ndi. Take care of him you hear?”
Frank’s gaze wandered to Priye, a question on his face.
He was answered with a wink.
That was the pattern – at least for Priye and Frank – for the next few days.
Frank went to work every day; same as before, but he slept through most of it and jumped out as soon as the skies began to darken. He drove home, met up with Priye and repeated the night before; jumped into whatever car they felt like driving and hit whatever night spot they hadn’t hit yet. And as always, there was always some girl to come home with.
After one of such nights – or mornings; as the case may be, he lay on the bed in his room and blew cigarette smoke towards the ceiling.
He wasn’t doing much else, just smoking and thinking.
I suppose I should be happy that at least, I can actually impregnate a woman. Even though the doctors all said I was fine – we were fine, nothing beats proof.
I cannot get over Igo’s infidelity, no matter how I try to turn it about in my mind. He took a long drag of the cigarette and exhaled, watching the smoke cloud up the ceiling. How could I have not seen the signs?
Something made the bed vibrate, something close to his position. He turned over and spotted his phone gleaming. Reaching for it, he pulled it close and looked at the screen; Idowu.
Shaking his head, he put the phone away and took another pull of the cigarette.
It stopped vibrating – and then it started again, humming away. And like before, its plaintive wails for attention were ignored.
“Guy,” Priye sighed from his corner of the couch in the VIP section of Road Runners. “You go fit do one more for the road?”
Frank nodded, trying to focus bleary eyes on his friend. “Sure, why not?” He waved a cigarette-bearing hand. “I nor go fit drive sha o,” he concluded.
Priye, eager eyes seeking out the girl who had attended them mumbled. “Dat wan sef dey na. You no see me? No shaking!”
“Fola would drive if he was here o.” Frank exhaled cigarette smoke. “Why didn’t he come sef?”
“Dem dey do sixtieth birthday for im oga, so serious parry dey. Why you dey ask – no be you say we no go fit show?” Spotting the girl, Priye waved her over.
Frank wasn’t listening but he heard Priye order for one more bottle of Jack Daniels. He was about to ask his friend why they didn’t stick with the Johnnie Walker they’d had two of before – he’d actually opened his mouth when suddenly;
There was a girl standing before him; a small-framed girl wearing a dress that seemed too long and too short at once. He had to tear himself away from her high breasts to look at her face; she had said his name.
Her eyes were familiar. He’d seen her before; but his brain was sluggish. He just couldn’t think of where.
“How are you doing and how is your friend? Hope he’s out of the hospital.”
Friend? What friend?
Frank took in her figure again. “Fine, fine,” he said, pronouncing the words one by one so as not to slur them. “What are you doing here?”
Her hand waved in circles as she spoke. “Oh, pretty much what everyone else is doing I guess.” She stepped aside to let the serving girl put down the tray she was bearing and continued to eyeball Frank.
Priye hurriedly grabbed the bottle; snatched it open and poured a healthy dose into his glass. And as he reached for the ice bucket, he glanced over at Frank who was staring;
“Tell your friend make she siddon drink with us na,” he said.
Frank looked at the girl. “Well, how about it? Want to sit in my lap and see what comes up?”
For a moment, indecision struggled on her face. And then, calm understanding cleared her features. “I don’t think so. Thank you, and enjoy your evening.” There was a pause – “I’m sorry I misjudged you.”
She turned to go.
Afterwards – much later, she would ask Frank what made him do what he did next. And with an apologetic look on his face, he would say he has no idea. And as absurd as it would sound to her, he wouldn’t be lying about it.
But all that came later.
She turned to go; and Frank slapped her butt.
He was conscious of her gasp; he was conscious of Priye’s chuckle, he was conscious of two liquid eyes that looked familiar – eyes that suddenly looked like they had the fires of hell burning in their depths.
And then a hand connected with his cheek and sparks exploded in front of his eyes – but it wasn’t till he heard the sharp crack that he realized what happened.
She’d slapped him.
The second woman to do so in a week.
When it rains…
Written by Seun Odukoya
Chai! I dey feel the slap from here sef.LoooolFrank oooooooo