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Fola refused to meet Frank’s eyes as he opened the door – he just stepped aside to allow his friend walk into the house. Some early morning moisture followed Frank in – and as he wiped his feet on the huge mat in front of the living room door, Fola cleared his throat.
“Guy – I apologize for how I spoke to you yesterday,” he finally mumbled through a layer of embarrassment.
“No wahala,” Frank said, still wiping his feet on the mat. “I was just – “ He froze as he turned and saw bruises around Fola’s mouth and neck.
“Ehn?! Wetin happen?”
Fola’s eyes roved everywhere but at Frank. “Well – me and Stella had a small argument yesterday – “
“I heard the shouting and screaming and more than a few things breaking.” He moved till he was in his friend’s space – and then leaned forward. “She did those to you?!”
Fola winced and staggered backwards as Frank’s poking finger hit a scratch beside his right eye. Frank looked at his friend, mouth gaping – and then he asked; in a voice heavy with surprise;
“Stella beats you?!”
Fola touched his eye – winced and stared at the blood that coated his fingers. “No need to announce it na,” he said.
Fola watched Frank ball up the last of the bloody cotton wool and throw it in the dustbin – and then shifted as he came to sit beside him.
“How do you feel?”
Fola shrugged. “It’s not the first time, actually. It’s happened like twice before – but who will I tell?” He looked away – and Frank thought he saw the gleam of tears in his friend’s eyes. “Hi! My name is Fola and my wife beats me.” His voice trembled like a leaf tossed in wind. “Great conversation starter.”
He wiped his eyes then turned towards Frank. “Why didn’t you come last night – is it because of what – “
Frank wagged his injured finger in front of his friend’s face. “At all – mesef get accident yesterday – dey stitch am.” The finger still ached – especially after what he had put it and its nine brothers through last night – but it felt as lot better thanks to Efe.
“That rain last night get k-leg o, I swear.” He said.
“Omo – K? That had to be an X-leg!” Both friends chuckled. “It’s been a while rain fell like that. What happened na?” Fola asked.
“We don provoke God ni,” Frank added. They both laughed.
“Guy – can I – I go fit hold like two k for this morning? I forget my wallet for work, my phone sef spoil – “
“What happened – did you fall off a bike or something?”
“Or something,” Frank said coyly – and chuckled. “You go give me the money or not?”
“Oga how ya hand now?”
Frank nodded absently, fiddling with his wallet as he was. Momentarily he left the wallet long enough to wave his left hand in James’ direction. And then, he continued struggling with the wallet – and just as James was moving around the table to help, Frank said – “Aha!”
He extended his right hand towards James holding something.
An ATM card.
“I need you to help withdraw some money – and then you’ll go to Shoprite and help get me a new phone. Then you’ll call Baba Soji and give him some money – and then you’ll call Afo…” Frank’s voice trailed off as James slowly raised his hand.
“Wetin?” He asked impatiently.
“E be like say e go better make I go collect money – come go buy phone fest o. Den I fit come back here, make you come tell me other things wey I need do.”
Frank scowled at the young man who looked away uncomfortably. But he realized the sense in what James said.
“Ehen?!” he yelled. “Wetin you still dey wait for?!”
James grinned and ran out of the shop. He understood his oga very well.
The first call he received the moment his line came back to life was from Idowu.
“You won’t even allow a woman retain some dignity. Na wa for you o, this guy!”
Frank sighed. “It’s not like that, and I think it would be so much nicer if you’d just ask what happened.”
She was instantly contrite. “I’m so sorry – I guess it’s the excitement of trying to reach you since and then finally getting through.” She inhaled. “Oya, tell me what happened.”
“Nothing much. I injured myself at work – and somehow damaged my phone in the process. And I was too tired to even think of getting a phone yesterday…”
But not too tired for sex; his conscience sniggered.
“….understand. Pele. How do you feel now?”
He thought about that. “Actually I feel very much better than I did yesterday.” He paused. “Sorry I haven’t called. How are things with you?”
The pleasure in her voice tickled his ear. “Ah – I’m doing good o, the thing sha is just that all I do is work!” She sighed. “I suppose I should be grateful – after all, some people are looking for work, they can’t find.”
Frank chuckled. “Well – that’s one way of looking at it.” She laughed before they both fell silent.
Her laughter pleased him.
He could feel as though she was waiting; she wanted him to ask her something –
“When do I see you again?” he asked.
“Ah – let me see…” she trailed off – and Frank suddenly felt as though a robot was speaking in her place. “…I don’t know…can we do Saturday?”
“Hmm – mmm. I’ll call you to be sure.”
“Sure.” Her breathlessness was back. “Thanks Frank.” She laughed. “That sounds nice…’thanks Frank’…”
“You know want to know what else sounds nice?”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that.” She was quiet for a bit. “I’ll be waiting, okay Frank?”
“Sure. Thank you for calling.”
“It pleases me. Bye now.” And then she disconnected the call.
It pleases me?!
He placed the phone on the table and was about to reach for his wallet when it started ringing again. This time it was Afo, his mechanic.
“Abeg – just talk say my car don ready,” Frank said as soon as he picked.
“I wan ask weda make I bring am come now…” Afo said.
“Which kain question be dat?”
“How you see am?”
Frank grinned at Afo the mechanic. “You no see as I dey happy ni?”
“I see am, oga mi. I just say make I ask noni.”
Frank nodded. “You don begin dey feel yourself be dat o.”
“But I try na.”
Frank nodded as he accelerated. Indeed, the mechanic had outdone himself. The last memory Frank had of the car handling so beautifully was in the early months after he’d bought it, going on rides with Igo…
Afo saw the frown appear between Frank’s brows. “Oga wetin happen na?” he asked, worry roughening his voice.
“Nothing,” Frank answered. “Make we reach Ita Lori I go drop you. I get pessin wey I suppose see for that side.”
The ride continued in silence; Frank frowning at the unfolding road, Afo trying to figure out if staring hard enough at Frank would reveal what was on his mind.
Frank watched as the okada carrying Afo sped away – cringed as the madman swerved roughly to avoid a danfo – and then exhaled as the okada continued moving.
“These guys won’t kill somebody,” he mused, impatiently fishing in his pocket for the pack of cigarettes. He found it, pulled one out, put it in his mouth and lit it – dragging deeply.
He adjusted himself till he was sitting properly on his car bonnet, before looking around.
He wanted to think.
Efe came to mind – Efe and the torrid night they’d shared. He remembered how intense her kisses were – how she had kept moaning his name, over and over like it was something special; like it meant anything.
Unbelievable. I’m still responding to her – even now.
And then, his mind closed in on what she had told him about Igo – Igo and a guy named Dapo.
Igo had cheated on him. Impossible.
…’ask her about that,’ she had said. ‘Ask her about Dapo.’
Slight pain in his right hand made him look down – and he realized he was crushing the pack of cigarettes and the few sticks left inside it. He cursed and threw the pack towards the gutter, watching as it turned over slowly and, with a splat landed inside the greenish-black water. His eyes followed as it drifted slowly, flowing with the gutter water.
Frank spat and looked away.
An image flashed in front of him, an image of Igo in the arms of a faceless guy, sighing and talking softly as she usually did as the guy moved firmly between her thighs…
He jumped as his phone screamed.
“Ah!” he swore. And then, he threw the cigarette in the same direction as the pack – and then pulled the phone out of his pocket. It was Priye; one of his old friends.
“Guy how far?” Priye sounded alive – as always.
“Man, I dey o! Wetin dey?” Frank injected some excitement into his voice. He didn’t want Priye bugging unnecessarily – and besides, he was happy to hear from the guy.
“Man, life is good. We’re pushing o.” There was a bit of silence – and then Priye started talking as if he was in hurry to say what he wanted to say. “I heard about you and Igo bro. I’m so sorry.” He sounded as though he was responsible for the split. Frank’s mouth cracked open in a smile – a bitter one; but still a smile.
“It’s one of those things jo.” He paused and inhaled. “So – wetin dey happen?”
“I dey come Lag ni! My company don finish their ten-year contract with the government – and dem come decide say dey no do again at the last minute. Dem dey move go South Africa, na im mesef look say I suppose jus’ blow Lag.”
“Dat one sef dey. E dey. So when you wan come – and na where you go dey?”
“You remember Uncle Rufus? E get one kind duplex for Gbagada so e say I fit come manage wit am till I get my bearings. Maybe you fit come stay with me sef – because I know say Folly house go dey dull you one kain.”
“Who dey give you information this man? How you take know say – “
“E no matter as I take know. Wetin important be say you dey free to come stay with me.”
Frank had to laugh. “Okay. Thanks man.”
“We go yarn,” Priye said – and the call disconnected.
Frank cradled the phone before putting it in his pocket.
He was a man with a lot on his mind.
The door was open when Frank arrived the house – so he just went inside.
But his step was cautious – as the events of the previous night still rang clear in his mind. He didn’t want any nasty surprises.
All the lights were on, but the house was silent. He shut the door behind him and opened his mouth to call –
“Babe, I’m so sorry. You know how I get when I’m upset,” Stella’s voice was coming from the couple’s bedroom.
“You’re apologizing now – and then it’ll happen again and then you’ll apologize again…”
Frank swallowed laughter and continued listening. Fola sounded like a whining child whose mother was apologizing for an unfair smacking. Stella was entreating; sounding more like what he was used to.
Her screaming – the screaming he’d heard the night before still unnerved him.
He brought himself back to the present. Stella’s voice was becoming more and more inaudible – and then; sounds that would have made him blush were he of a different complexion started making their way out of the room.
That was his cue.
He stepped lightly away – and carefully climbed the staircase; muscles screaming at the softness of his stepping. He made his way to his room, turned on the lights – and took off his clothes. He turned on the AC and stepped into the bathroom for a quick shower.
Minutes later, shivering slightly from the cold of the room he roughly toweled his body – and then his phone started to sing. He had a text message.
It was from Efe – short and straight to the point:
I miss you.
Frank put his phone aside and went to sleep, a very worried man.
Written by Seun Odukoya