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Almost six months after Sofia’s burial, Frank woke up in his house for the first time in his house.
It was a few minutes past four in the morning and there was power, so for the most part everything was quiet. The only thing interrupting the silence was the hum of the air-conditioner. He sat up in bed, and then stood up.
The curtains whispered as he parted them. Outside, everything was deathly still.
It was a short walk to the small cabinet in the corner of the room. He opened it and withdrew a Jack Daniels bottle and a glass. The dash of drink he poured into it barely covered the bottom, which was fine by him. He covered the bottle and replaced it in the cabinet and, carrying the drink walked out of the room and into the living room.
He wanted to think.
He flicked on the light switch and reached for the remote, wanting to play the Bez cd which; as far as he was concerned was gathering dust in the CD player – and then he abruptly changed his mind. The silence was calming.
He turned the light off and sat in the darkness, sipping Jack Daniels and thinking.
Some light made their way through the curtains and ended up against the wall, giving some illumination for the room. He thought about the curtains and smiled, mentally thanking Igo for changing them. After finding himself unable to stay long in the house because something about it unsettled him – almost violently, he spoke to her about it. She’d taken his keys, one weekend under the pretext of cleaning out the house.
When he’d gone there the following Monday, the curtains and wallpaper were gone.
Igo’s image stayed in his mind, long after he had stopped thinking about the curtains. Igo.
It made him happy; happy even though he couldn’t explain how they had just fallen into the groove of lovers. They spent time together, saw movies, talked, walked – she came to his shop and he visited at her store. He liked to sit on the shop’s verandah, sip diet Pepsi while listening to her banter with her customers. She always wanted to leave whenever he got there, but he sometimes calmed her and sat with her until it was evening. And then, he would stand and she would bade goodbye to her staff, and they would get in his car or hers – depending on what the plans were – and they would just go.
He liked to be around her.
Watching her talk was some kind of pleasure to him – it was like listening to Tuface sing. He liked how her lips moved when she pronounced words; how she cocked her head when listening, how she flicked her fingers impatiently when she was listening to something she didn’t agree with. He liked how she wore her clothes; how she didn’t wear them…
He liked the last one best.
He had avoided asking her if she was seeing anyone; it didn’t look like she was considering she always had time for him, was always willing to see him no matter what time it was. But he didn’t want to assume. He had learnt the worst way that you never knew with women.
What if she wasn’t seeing anyone? What did he want from her?
He knew he was in love with her; he had stopped trying to figure out when that happened because he realized he had never actually stopped loving her.
That was unsettling. As unsettling as the suddenness of his phone ringing.
He took the call; Fola.
“Oga you no dey sleep?”
His friend laughed. “Man, I just remembered I didn’t tell you something Stella asked that I tell you.”
He was out of the hospital; had been out for some months now. He and Stella were living together in the same house, still husband and wife. They seemed to be making a go of it; he liked that.
“What’s that?” he asked, sitting up and cursing silently as he almost spilled whisky on himself.
“She’s cooking some kind of treat later today and wanted me to invite you guys; ‘you guys’ being you and madam.”
“Okay. We’ll be there – what time would be good though?”
“I’m thinking six-ish.”
“Sounds good. Tell her I said we’ll be there, and thanks for the invitation.”
“Oga, tell her yourself. Me, I want to sleep.” The phone clicked.
Standing up, Frank downed the last of the whisky. And then he went to the kitchen, rinsed the glass in the darkness and carried it to his room.
And that was it for the day.
The bed was rocking a bit too sharply for him to sleep in it comfortably. “I like what you’re doing but you’re doing it too fast,” he mumbled. “Slow down baby.”
The chuckle that followed his words were completely unexpected. “Wake up jare!”
He snapped up to find Igo regarding him with a smile, looking as though she’d stepped right out of his dreams. She looked good in light blue blouse and white jeans that hugged her curves quite closely, with a black scarf wrapped around her neck. He mentioned how beautiful she looked; she blushed and kissed him softly.
“Thank you,” she said.
Rising off the bed, Frank stretched. “What time is it?” he asked.
“Something past ten, I think. James had made you very lazy, abi? You hardly go to the shop anymore,” she said teasingly.
“I think you’re right,” he answered, looking serious. “I have been relying on him more and more lately. Maybe – “
“Maybe nothing,” she interrupted him. “I was teasing – besides, there’s nothing wrong with taking things a little easy. Life’s too short.”
He nodded his agreement. “What me to make you breakfast?”
“No o. Breakfast ke? What I need you to do now is to have your bath and dress up. We’re going out; there’s something I need to show you.”
“Where are we going?” Frank asked for the hundredth time.
“Will you be patient?” Igo grinned at him. “You’ll see when we get there – which will be soon.”
They were driving along Adeniran Ogunsanya, and for a small moment Frank thought they were going to their old house. As though she could read his mind she said, “That’s not where we’re going, though I think it would be nice if we said hi to mama. She would like to see us – if you don’t mind.”
“I wouldn’t mind that.”
Before long, they were driving into a side street. Igo parked behind a huge palm tree and got out of the car. “Come,” she said, holding his hand and running across the street.
“Here we are,” she said as they stopped in front of a building with a locked space in front of it. She eased back her shades and reached in her bag for a set of keys.
“Close your eyes,” she said to him, bubbling over with excitement.
“What?” he asked, more surprised than anything.
She giggled. “Trust me jo!”
Nodding, Frank closed his eyes. He could hear the turning of the key in the locks, the click-clacking as they opened, and then he felt her warm hand in his again.
“Come, and walk carefully,” she breathed in his ear.
They walked slowly, he leaning heavily on her as she guiding him carefully. They made it into the room without bumping into anything, Frank observing that his feet were now on a smoother surface – similar to tiles. He heard a light switch click, and then Igo spoke.
“Oya open your eyes.”
He blinked at the harsh fluorescent – and then his mouth dropped open.
They were in a store, a store way larger than her other one. There were aisles and rows of stuff upon stuff – he was impressed.
“Baby! Wow – when did you put this together?”
She smiled prettily. “Well, I’ve been wanting to expand for a bit now but I wasn’t sure. You coming back…” She looked away – and then looked back at him, trying not to cry. “I just knew I had to do it. It was time. It felt – feels right.”
He pulled her close and kissed her. “I’m so proud of you. Well done.”
Her hand fluttered excitedly as she led him from aisle to aisle, talking him through stacks of product after product. His smile was genuine when he reached over and hugged her again.
“This is impressive, darling. When does this come open?”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “Hmmm, you know I haven’t really thought about it, but maybe in two weeks or thereabouts.” She shrugged a pretty shoulder. “I just want some…some other things cleared up, so I can jump into this with both feet.”
Frank thought he heard a note of uncertainty in her voice but wasn’t sure.
“You know, maybe you should pick a bottle of white wine – or maybe red for the Akanjis for when we go there later,” she perked up again.
“That’s – that sounds good,” he responded. “Let me go find a bottle.”
He walked down the aisles again, looking around admiring Igo’s handiwork. He wasn’t surprised about the store; she had always been the ‘doer’ in their relationship. He was content with his tailoring something; wasn’t looking to expand or anything. It was part of why he’d liked her – been drawn to her in the first place. She challenged him.
He found the aisle for wines and he looked through; remembering a particular one he’d had back in Priye’s place…Picpoul de Pinet; it was called.
Sure enough, he found a bottle and was starting to turn away when; on sudden impulse he took a second one. “Found a good one,” he said as he hurried back to where he’d left Igo.
“Great! I was going to ask you to take two, I always feel somehow about giving someone just one of something.”
Frank grinned. “Okay, remember that when it’s time to buy me a car!”
She laughed. “Let’s go see mama, and then zip home quickly to freshen up before going to see Stella and Fola.”
“Hmm?” He turned away from his perusal of Ikorodu Road and faced her.
“Are you okay?” she asked, also turning away from the windshield to look at him. Her hair; her natural hair stirred softly in the car air-conditioning; she must have applied a fresh coat of lipstick because they looked shiny. Her brown eyes were tinged with concern; as was her voice.
He felt a sudden urge to kiss her.
“I’m fine. I’m just thinking how good it was sitting with mama and talking about old times. You know, she knew us during the best years.”
“Yes,” Igo agreed. “I could see she wanted to ask us what the next thing is – but she also didn’t want to make things awkward, you know?”
“I’ve been thinking that myself,” he said as he reclined his seat. And then, he laid back in it and just looked at her.
“Well,” looking away hastily when she turned to find his eyes on her. “I’m happy – more than I have been in years. It’s like I’m getting to know you all over again, and the sex? Oh. My. God.” She pinked around her cheeks and neck.
Frank laughed quietly.
“What I’m saying is; I like where we are now, and I will follow you wherever you lead. You’re happy too, Frank. Your cheeks are filling out again.”
He smacked her thigh lightly. “You would know, won’t you?”
His hands trembled as he placed them on her waist. The ankara gown she had on was of a blue, black and gold pattern; it shimmered as she shivered. She smelled of tangerines; soft and tangy at once and he buried his nose in her neck, covering it with soft bites that made her jump, zipper a soft whisper of sound as he pulled it up.
“You better stop that or we’ll never leave,” she sighed as she turned and put her arms around him. “See what you do to me,” she said.
Frank held her gently, shaking his head in wonder at the soft tremors that shook her. “You this woman, you love me.”
She nodded slowly, keeping her eyes on his. “I do, Frank. I don’t think there was a time I stopped.”
He cocked his head, his face an expression of wonder. “You love me,” he said again, this time surprise giving his voice a high note.
She pushed at his chest. “Like you don’t know. Go jo,” she said, pushing him again, playfully. “We do need to go, baby. You look amazing by the way.”
He turned this way and that, showing the grey buba and sokoto off to her. She didn’t speak again, but the look in her eyes told him everything he needed to know.
And then some.
Fola looked a lot better than the last time they saw him. His skin was almost back to normal; the dead look that hung around it was finally dissipating. His face was normal again, the only discord note was the left socket where an eye used to be. Now, a glass replica sat in place; but it reflected light in an unnatural way Frank found disconcerting.
Whenever he was around people, Fola wore shades but that night being what it was…
“Hey man,” he hugged Frank. “The graft is taking; quite nicely too,” he said, waving his arm in his friend’s face.
“The kids are holidaying with their grandparents so we have the house to ourselves,” Stella added as she hugged Igo. She; on the other hand was quiet, demure even. She held her end of the conversation; making jokes and laughing when necessary, but there was something different about her, something calmer.
Frank mentioned it to Fola when they were done eating and stepped out onto the balcony.
“Yeah, she’s a lot different. I guess she didn’t think I would take her back; you know, after…” he waved a hand over his face. “But I thought about it; thought about the kids and so on. Besides, her mother sat her down and talked a lot of stuff into her head. Things are a lot better now, especially since I behave myself too.”
“I’m happy for you, man. I like what I’m seeing, and I hope it continues to be just like this.”
Fola nodded. “Thanks – and you know, I could say the same thing to you. I saw how madam just held onto your hand and kept feeding you stuff. You guys back together?”
“You know, I think I should go see her. There’s something I would like to ask. Thanks, Folly!” he yelled over his shoulder as he darted into the house, leaving his friend wondering what suddenly happened.
Frank followed the sounds of the women’s voices; they were in the kitchen. Stella was washing the dishes while Igo stood against the cooker, arms folded over her chest.
Stella was talking. “…and have you told him?”
“Told me what?” Frank asked, startling both women. Igo recovered first, shrugging indifferently. “What makes you think you’re the ‘he’ she’s talking about?” she asked him, smiling.
“Well…” he let his voice trail off as he realized Fola was standing behind him. “Er…”
“Are you okay? What is it?” Igo went from asking him to asking Fola. “What did you do to him?”
Frank grabbed her shoulders roughly – and then released them. “I’m sorry,” he said, watching Igo wince and rub her shoulders. “I’m really sorry.”
Suddenly he knelt down. “This is really not how I wanted to do this, but I cannot wait anymore. He looked up, at Igo’s shocked expression, complete with streaming eyes. “Frank?” she said, “You’re scaring me.”
“I don’t mean to, look – “ he scratched his head. “Look, you’ve just been so wonderful to me, you know? I really wasn’t the best husband, and even after we went our separate ways I still went and did – “
“Frank – “ she started but he cut her off.
“No wait. Let me finish. You have been my friend, my partner, my guy – and I mean that in the most sincere way. I think about the things I forgot, I think about the things I took for granted. How some guy hasn’t seen you out there and took you away, all this time will forever baffle me.
“But I’m grateful and I’m not waiting anymore. Igo, will you please marry me?”
“Again?” Igo breathed softly.
“Again,” Frank agreed.
By now Igo’s tears were a torrent that ran into her mouth and off her chin; but, oddly did nothing to dim the brightness of her smile. She nodded dumbly, putting her arms around Frank as he stood up and then they hugged each like old friends being grateful for one another again.
Frank, liking how he could feel her heart beating against his chest heard Fola comment somewhere in the background; “This is the best yet.”
Suddenly, Stella spoke up. “This might be a good time to tell him, ‘go girl.”
Frank pushed away from Igo and looked down at her. “Tell me – tell me what?”
He could see some fear hovering around the smile she gave him, and before he could query the reason for it she said, “I’m pregnant.”
He was quite sure someone set off fireworks somewhere behind him; for the next few moments all he heard were loud popping sounds. And then, other sounds began to filter into his hearing; Fola screaming excitedly, Stella laughing – but he couldn’t see past Igo and the bright light that seemed to be coming from her mouth.
“You’re pregnant?” he repeated slowly. She nodded, clasping her hands nervously. He shouted and carried her off the ground and against his chest. And then, in the midst of her excitedly laughter, he kissed her.
Later, when they were all sharing a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, Frank gently rubbed the stomach of the woman sitting across his lap. “So you’re pregnant,” he said playfully.
“Yes indeed,” Igo answered, not missing the light mischief put in his eyes.
“Well,” he began, “Are you sure it’s mine?”
Amidst frenetic laughter from the Akanjis, Igo eyed her man. “No o, it definitely isn’t yours. It’s the landlord’s.”
Frank shrugged. “Forget liquid content only. If the bottle is mine, definitely I own the content!”
And tickled her until she agreed.
That’s All Folks!
Written by Seun Odukoya