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“When was the last time any of you saw a rainbow?”
It was a Sunday evening, roughly two weeks after Fola and Stella’s fight. Frank and Priye were cradling glasses of whisky on the balcony of Priye’s uncle’s duplex in Gbagada – Fola’s glass was empty. A heavy rain had just stopped falling – and the sun was struggling to display once more before calling it a day.
Priye looked up at Fola’s question. “How you wan see rainbow na? You no know say as gay people don kilobi de tin begin use am represent their anyhow sometin, God just leave am for dem?” He drank from his cup. “I dey tell you, God hates gays.”
“God hates everybody,” Frank said, restrained vehemence startling his friends.
“Guy,” Fola began. “E never reach like that na.”
Frank shrugged. “E no matter.” He sipped from his cup and nodded in Priye’s direction. “You never lose your skills, I see.”
“Fish dey forget how to swim?”
Their loud and carefree laughter startled few people who were walking back and forth in the street below the friends. They looked up and Priye, grinning widely, waved. Frank and Fola shook their heads.
“You still dey craze too.”
Priye bounced into the living room. “Yes o,” he said over his shoulder to the two who were following slowly. “Man gast to be something na.” Making a beeline for the bar set in the corner of the house he continued; “Refills, anyone?”
Frank nodded happily while Fola shook his head, glass making a quiet clink as he set it on the bar. “No man,” he heaved as though talking on a full stomach. “I have to drive home na.”
Priye looked at Fola like he was a stranger standing naked. “And so?! Shey you don dey waka ni?”
“Leave the guy jo – and pour me mine!”
“How’s your finger?”
Frank waved the digit in Fola’s face. “It still aches every now and then – but at least the stitches are out.” He looked away – and then turned back towards Fola as Priye dumped cubes of ice in his glass. “Things are better between you and madam now abi?”
Fola shrugged. “Things are quiet for now – until the next time she goes crazy.”
“But you know you’re the one fueling her craze – “ Frank halted. “Sorry – I forgot you said to mind my business.”
“C’mon, Frank. How long are you going to hold on to that for? I said I was sorry.” He patted Frank’s hand almost condescendingly. “I’m listening, please.”
“Well – I just think you’re responsible for her behavior is all.” Frank sighed.
“I still no fit believe say you don free Igo sha,” Priye injected, partly because he wanted to change the subject – partly because well; he still couldn’t believe it. “Twelve years! I still remember when you dey find am come my side – “
“Those were good times,” Frank interrupted, accepting the glass Priye pushed into his hand. “Remember the first time we met – me and you? I was throwing stones at a window I thought was Igo’s but was actually yours.” He pushed his elbow into Fola’s side. “You won’t believe what this madman did.”
There was a question on Fola’s face when he looked at Priye who grinned.
“I opened the window, pushed my head out and yelled ‘you dey craze?’”
The friends laughed, shaking heads and pounding each other’s backs. “Who would have thought there was a lifetime friendship waiting to be born?”
Fola nodded at Frank’s words. “It’s true o – you never know.”
“But no be dat one sweet pass sef. Anytime e show like dat,” Priye was talking directly to Fola now, “I go jus’ waka go Igo dem flat, tell am say I wan see am.” He took a pull from his glass – ice clinking softly. “We go come siddon for staircase. So if her mama look, na me and Igo she go see. She no know say my guy sef dey corner dey yan di babe!”
There were more guffaws at that. Frank looked at both his friends, realizing that a few months earlier he would have been unable to laugh at all.
Maybe time does heal all wounds.
Just then; a name dropped into his consciousness. Dapo.
And just like that, his smile faded.
Maybe time does heal all wounds. Or not.
“Frank?” Fola started. “What’s wrong?”
“Igo – “ he started. Just then his phone rang. He pulled out the device and looked to the caller ID; Idowu.
“Hey yourself. So – I’m on my way o.”
“Okay. In case you get lost or something – “
“I have Google map, thank you. See you soon.”
“She don dey come, abi?” Priye asked, still behind the bar.
“Yes o – so let’s try clean a little bit.”
Priye frowned. “Wetin she dey come do if she no fit clean?”
Frank stood, aghast. “Seriously, Priye?”
Fola shoved him lightly. “Leave Priye jare – let’s do some cleaning.” He picked up a magazine lying on the couch – and placed on a rack beside the television. Priye reluctantly came out from behind the bar and moved a chair back in place.
“Dat girl must wan marry you o, guy,” he said to Frank.
“I don’t much care. Frankly, I don’t think I’m ready for anything serious right now. I’ll just be lying to her and myself.”
“Frank feels frankly about speaking frankly,” Fola interjected. “Feel whatever you feel – that’s not what’s important. What matters is she doesn’t know how you feel. She doesn’t have to know!”
“You no feel say Frank too old to dey play dat kain small pikin game? De gehl sef suppose know as e dey go na. Frank no need lie to am.”
That was Priye.
“Who said anything about lying? In fact, who said anything about saying anything? Just close your mouth until you hit the – “
“Fola! You’re married o!”
The accused shrugged. “When then?”
“I’m outside the house – the grey duplex.”
Frank disconnected the call and placed his empty glass on the bar. “She’s here, guys.”
Fola stood up. “Time for me to bounce.”
“Ah, Fola – “ Frank started but his friend waved.
“No, guy. You should spend time in the company of another female. It’s been a while.”
Frank frowned. “We’ve gone out a couple of times na,” he protested.
“Well,” Fola reiterated. “You should spend time in the company of a woman without other people present.”
Priye also rose. “Make mesef waka. I go dey uncle side in case you need anytin.”
“How is uncle sef?” Fola asked as they walked towards the door.
“E dey. E go Spain – abi na Brazil? E sha travel sha.”
Frank nudged Fola. “In short, he doesn’t know!”
“Take am easy o, you hear?” Priye said, hugging Fola. “Help me greet your madam.”
He gave Frank the thumbs up signal and ducked into a small passageway that led to the door connecting both sides of the duplex. Frank, preceding Fola led the way outside.
“This is Fola. Fola – meet Idowu.”
Frank was expecting Fola to stretch out his hand – he had a strict no-hugs policy when meeting new women. Therefore his surprise was reasonable when Fola pulled Idowu into an enthusiastic hug.
“He cannot seem to stop talking about you. Take care of him, you hear? He’s…er…fragile.” Fola opened his arms and let Idowu go.
“He makes it easy,” she answered Fola all the while keeping her eyes on Frank’s face.
“Okay then. I’ll see you, Frank.”
As Fola jumped in his car, Frank opened the gate for Idowu. As he made to follow her in, a car hooted. He looked over his shoulder and saw Fola wave as he drove away.
“So – you want a drink or something?” Frank asked, looking through row after row of bottles stacked on the bar.
Turning on his heel, he found Idowu standing beside the door – looking very much like a lost puppy. But it wasn’t so much her position by the door he found unsettling – it was the fixed way she was staring at him.
Something hard and cold settled in the bottom of his belly; moisture gathered in his palms as he walked towards the staring woman. “Idowu, are you okay?”
He was close enough to notice the rapid rise and fall of her splendid bosom – when he saw her tongue dart out and touch her upper lip. Stopping in front of her, he leaned towards her and started to speak;
“Are you – “
That was as far as he got before she kissed him.
Frank’s hands flailed, looking for purchase as desperately as a drowning man clutching at imaginary straws. It was so unexpected he did not know what to do with his hands for a moment – and then he stilled and allowed himself settle into the kiss.
His hands drifted, moving slowly like falling leaves – and then came to rest on her hips. She seemed to let herself go, putting more of her weight on his chest and giving him more of her tongue. She kissed like she behaved; cool, calm and always in control. Her ring-wearing left hand caressed his jaw – played with his stubble; the right one lying gently on his chest.
It she who broke the kiss. Sighing softly, she leaned away – eyes still closed. Then she opened them.
“Good afternoon, fine man.”
“Do you like the hair?”
Frank swore silently – before turning from the fridge beside the bar carrying a pack of juice. He had noticed that she’d cut her hair and intended to say something about it – but other things had gotten in the way and well…
“I like it. I was just wondering why you cut it.” He lingered at the bar, pouring a healthy draught of juice into a glass. And then, with both cup and juice in hand he walked to the couch. Handing the glass to Idowu, he sat beside her and placed the pack of juice on a side table nearest him.
“Like the gown too,” he continued. “The way it shows off your – “ he was going to say ‘many curves’ but hesitated; feeling that might be too familiar.
So he said; “ – the way it shows off your legs.”
She had nice legs.
“You confuse me you know,” Idowu set her drink aside and pulled a pillow into her arms. “One moment, you’re frustratingly naïve – you have no idea what to do with a woman. The next moment you’re saying all the right things.”
Frank chortled. “I’m just being me. I thought you’d like that.”
She nodded eagerly. “Oh – I do. I just don’t know what you need – protecting or loving.”
“Ah – I better go check the soup,” he said, rising quickly. “Just wait here I’ll be – “
His phone rang shrilly.
“Sorry,” he said to Idowu who nodded. Pulling out the device, he looked at the number – Igo. He frowned and silenced the phone before putting it back in his pocket.
He didn’t want to talk to her – not after –
“Lead the way,” Idowu said, rising and carrying her glass.
“I understand you might be feeling uncomfortable but don’t worry. I’m not asking you for anything – at least not yet. Besides, I have to know what I want before making any demands of you; and I’m yet to figure that out.”
Frank stopped stirring the soup and looked at Idowu. “What then do you know?” he asked.
She sipped from her glass, looking at him over the rim. “Well for one, I do know you still love your wife – ex wife – very much.”
Frank had a question on his face. “How do you know that?”
She smiled and came close to him. “This is the innocent you again.” Patting his arm, she continued. “Love is sometimes like porn, Frank. You just know it when you see it.”
“Wait – what?”
Idowu chuckled. “Feed me already, Mr. Man!”
He shook his head. “You’re a strange woman,” he said.
“Beautiful too – don’t leave that part out.” She stuck her tongue out. “Beautiful – and smart.”
He had to agree.
“When was the last time you spoke with your parents?”
Frank paused from carrying eba to his mouth. “That would be last week – last week or so. Papa keeps asking about you; when I’m going to marry you and so on.”
She laughed. “Your mum is nice. She brings me things almost every night.” She watched him closely. “I think they’ve married us in their hearts.”
“Well – that’s for them. I don’t think I want to do the whole ‘marriage thing’ again.”
“But you want a child, right?”
He thought about that. “Yes,” he answered finally. “I do want a child.”
She had nothing to say to that – so they continued eating in silence. And then she said, “I think your dad’s sick.”
He chuckled. “He’s always sick. It’s old age.”
She shivered. “Old age. It makes one sober; doesn’t it?”
Frank cocked his head sideways. “Sober?”
“Yes na – the realization that someday soon – “ she paused. “Nothing lasts forever, Frank.”
It was almost totally dark when they made their way out of the house again. Her lips lingered on his as he kissed her softly. “Goodnight, Idowu. Good night and thank you.”
She hugged him. “Thank you for being so nice. And sweet.” She pushed away slowly. “I’ll call you when I get home, okay?”
He nodded. “Okay.”
Hands in pockets, he watched as she slid behind the wheel of her CRV. She waved as she gunned the engine – and he turned to go back into the house as she drove away.
As though on cue, the phone started to ring as he shot the bolt of the gate. Sighing deeply, he looked the phone.
He was going to ignore her – ignore the call and just put the phone away. But something occurred to him; something that stayed his hand. She hadn’t called him in weeks – months even; and then suddenly she called twice in one evening.
Something must be wrong.
He picked the call. “Hello?” he said into the receiver.
“You bastard,” Igo said softly.
She had been crying.
Written by Seun Odukoya