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Fola couldn’t hide his excitement. “Man! Isn’t this what you’ve been praying – “ He saw Frank’s frown and corrected himself. “ – what we’ve been praying for? I don’t understand. Why aren’t you bringing the house down with excited noise?”
Frank sighed. “You don’t understand…”
“Oga, I am not a woman. Make me understand. What is the issue?”
Sofia, standing away from Frank, nodded. He rushed towards her excitedly and carried her off the ground, swinging her around and yelling.
He snapped back to himself and put her on the ground gently. “Sorry,” he said. “You’re right. We don’t want to hurt the baby.”
She turned her nose at him. “Yimu, baba pikin. I’m not at that point yet – “
“But you have to be careful! You cannot just be saying – “ He broke off as he noticed her frown and folded arms. “I’m sorry.”
He put his arms around her gently. “You’ve made me very happy, Sofia.”
She looked up at him. “Are you sure, Franklin?”
“Of course I’m sure. What do you mean?”
Sofia pushed out of his arms. “I’m pregnant, Franklin. I thought you were going to ask who the father is.”
Frank’s eyes widened. “Why would I ask that?” He said, walking towards her. “Who else could be the father?”
He was going to hug her again, but changed his mind when she put her hand against his chest.
“We need to talk – or I need to, and you need to listen.”
Frank nodded. “I’m listening.”
“I’m pregnant for you, and I’m happy about it. But I really want to know, what do you want?”
“Uh? What do I want?”
Sofia smiled. “Listen. I love you, I do. And I want to…I like the idea of carrying your baby. But I won’t be your baby mama. I don’t want to have a child without a father. So here’s what I think. If you want me to get rid of this pregnancy,” her voice shook at that. “…I will. But if you want me to carry it to term, you’ll marry me.”
She walked to Frank and kissed him softly. “I know that’s a lot for you to take in at once, so I’ll let you think about it.” She carried her bag from where she’d dropped it and went into the house, leaving Frank staring after her.
“So what’s the problem?” Fola asked again.
Frank looked at his friend angrily. “For someone who’s supposed to be smart you can be a mumu sometimes,” he retorted.
“Oga calm down. I’m saying this is what you want, isn’t it? A child of your own? And a woman to go with it? You could do worse – “
“I’m not sure I want to get married ever again o. Do you know how scared I get just thinking about it? Man, if someone had told me Igo and I wouldn’t make it…” He shook his head. “I’m not sure I can go through all that again.”
Fola put his arm around Frank’s shoulder. “I think I understand, bro. I’m married to a woman who beats me! If I was the abuser wouldn’t everybody be telling her to leave? But where do I go? Where do I start from? I’m just trying to make the most of the situation man. Live day to day. Even I have had to rethink my ways, and become a better husband.
“I know you, Frank. We’ve been friends for a while. I was there when you and Igo started, remember? Sofia’s no Igo; and that’s the best part! Like I said before you could do a lot worse. And really, fair is fair. Do you think she’s being unreasonable; or you just want to eat your cake and have it?”
There it was.
It occurred to him that maybe he spent too much time thinking about himself and his problems. He had been all indignant about Igo cheating on him with a younger man, so angry and hurt he hadn’t bothered to find out why. He still wasn’t talking to Efe…
It’ll be nice to think about someone else for a change.
Frank squeezed his face. “Man, I hate it when you make sense. I prefer the fish-eating beer-drinking you jare.” He patted Fola on the back. “Thanks man.”
Fola nodded. “So what are you going to do?”
“Marry her na.”
The smell of vegetable and afang welcomed the couple as they walked into the house on Ibeju street. Mama Omure hovered in the background, waiting impatiently for Frank to enter the house. As soon as he and Sofia were in, she grabbed the poor girl and hugged her to her bosom.
Mama Omure had an impressive bosom.
“My daughter! My daughter!! See how beautiful you are! Eh – hope my son does not stress you o! Eh! Welcome! Welcome!!”
Sofia was blushing, unable to look at the older woman. Mama Omure released her and stood back, turning to precede them. The moment her back was turned, Sofia faced Frank and pulled her forefinger across her throat. He laughed.
Mama Omure led the way to the back of the house where her husband sat in his usual chair, fanning himself and wondering what the noise was about. When he saw Sofia, his lined and aged face cracked and made way for a smile.
“Hehehehe! He haff bring me – brung me a daughter! Ah, I can go and die now! Fine gehl, come and sit down with me!”
As a blushing Sofia went and settled herself gingerly in the older male Omure’s lap, Frank’s mother pulled him aside. “My son,” she began, choosing her words carefully, “Frank…I don’t know o, maybe she hasn’t told you but I think…”
“Yes, mama. She’s pregnant for me.”
Have you ever seen a sixty-something year old woman dance shoki?
“Ah!” Sofia belched and leaned back in her seat. “Mama you have killed me o! This food is mwuah!!!!”
Laughter rippled across the table and Frank followed it with grateful eyes. His mother was beaming; feeding fish into his father’s mouth as she was. Sofia held his hand under the table and the warmth in her hand flowed into his heart.
He was happy.
Later, he helped his father to his room, waiting till the man was comfortable. As he made his way out of the room his father called him.
“Frank, come hia.”
“Yes papa,” he said, and walked back to the man’s bedside.
“Takia of dis pikin, you hear? Na good pikin o.”
“I know, papa.”
“Okay. Gerrout of my room. I wan’ sleep!”
Frank chuckled as he obeyed. He walked to the kitchen, where Sofia was helping his mother tidy after the meal. They were having a conversation about the government and change; but Frank wasn’t interested. He was watching Sofia.
She looked over her shoulder at some point and caught his eyes on her. Smiling shyly, she blew him a kiss. He looked away, feeling some kind of warmth in his belly, and then with unusual suddenness he moved till he was standing behind her, dipped his hand into his pocket and whipped out an imaginary ring.
“Will you marry me?” he asked the stunned girl.
“How old are you, Mr. Frank?”
Everyone within vicinity of the woman’s voice looked up at the question, ‘everyone’ being Frank, Sofia, Sofia’s brother and her father. Sofia’s mother, who looked something like Diezani Alison-Madueke was the one who asked the question.
She was sitting in a love seat directly opposite the couple. Frank and Sofia were holding hands; Sofia’s left hand displayed in such a way that the elegant engagement ring was obvious to the eye. She squeezed Frank’s hand reassuringly, all the while trying to catch her mother’s eye. The older woman pointedly ignored her daughter and keep staring at Frank.
“Well?” she said.
“Ah – “ Frank started to speak but Sofia’s father, a copy of Papa Ajasco except he had a full head of hair left his position beside the sitting room window and came to stand beside the couple.
“Walk with me, will you Frank?” he said.
“Yes sir,” he responded and let go Sofia’s hand. As he rose, the older man winked at his daughter, walked to his wife and kissed her gently on the forehead. Then he put his arm around Frank’s shoulders and led him down a corridor. Frank tried to ignore the weight on his shoulder, choosing instead to stare at pictures that lined the walls. And then the man stopped in front of a door, took his arm off Frank’s shoulder and opened it.
“In here,” Sofia’s father waved him into a room that looked like a mini office, complete with file cabinet and desktop computer. He showed Frank into a sofa facing the desk and he took a seat on a stool facing it.
And then, he cleared his throat.
“I hope you understand; it is not my wife’s intent to be disrespectful. She’s just concerned for her little girl as I am.”
“I understand completely sir,” Frank said.
The older man shook his head. “I don’t think you do, Frank. But that’s okay. I mean, I have nothing against anyone wanting to marry my daughter, I just wish you had waited and married her before impregnating her.” He waved Frank to silence. “Now, you want to tell me why you haven’t married till now?”
Frank sighed and slowly began to tell his prospective father-in-law about his failed marriage. The man listened without interrupting, and when Frank was done he stood up.
“Thank you for being frank with me, Frank,” he started – and then he chuckled loudly as he realized what he’d just said. “I appreciate forthrightness and I think you have that. I won’t ask you to take care of her; I know you know your job. And I have to admit; I haven’t seen her this happy since.”
The man led the way out of the room, and laughter pointed them in the direction of the living room. Both men stood by the door and watched as Sofia, sitting on her mother’s lap showed off her ring to her mother and brother. Her brother; Ales was pulling her cheeks and laughing as Sofia acted shy.
“My son, the recovering addict. Did Sofia mention him?”
Frank shook his head. “No – I mean yes; she tells me about him but she never mentioned anything about addiction. What’s his substance?”
Nodding approvingly, Sofia’s dad answered “Codeine, sedatives, cocaine, hash – you name it; he has done it before. This is the most sober I have seen him in a while. I try to enjoy it while it lasts so I don’t have my hopes dashed. Sofia’s ever the optimist; never gives up on him.”
Suddenly the man leaned close to Frank. “Take care of my little girl.”
Before he could recover, the man was in the room laughing along with his family. Frank definitely felt threatened.
“Your father’s rather…intense,” he said.
Sofia grinned happily. “I hope he didn’t scare you or threaten you. He’s like that, but really he’s just a big teddy bear. Think of the Kung Fu panda.”
Frank blinked. “Who?” he asked.
“Never mind. Just be as you’ve always been and everything will be fine. Okay?”
“Okay.” There was a pause. “He asked if you’d discussed Ales’ drug issues with me. Of course I said no, that you only mentioned you had a brother.”
Sofia kissed him. “Oh baby, he was testing you. He knows I told you already; have you forgotten how we met?”
Frank stared at his fiancé, mouth open. “Na so,” he muttered after a short while. “My father-in-law to be already thinks I’m a liar.”
“No,” she shook her head, weave flying this way and that, “your father-in-law to be knows you can protect his daughter; from him if need be.”
“Okay o. I’ll tell him you said so.”
She looked at him fondly. “Will you stop your worrying? Everything will be fine, I promise.” Taking his hand, she held the back of it to her mouth. “Say it with me: everything will be fine.”
“Everything will be fine,” Frank repeated.
“Okay then.” She grabbed his neck and pulled him towards herself, kissing him fiercely for about six seconds. “Goodnight, my darling.”
He watched as she exited the car and walked into the house gate, turning to wave at him once. He waved back and she disappeared within. He exhaled and, catching himself in the rearview mirror, grinned.
I’m happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
As though in answer to his question his phone started to ring.
He pulled out the device and took the call. “Hey Igo, how are you – “
A barrage of words he barely heard assaulted his ears. “Calm down! Calm down – I cannot hear what you’re saying! What is it? What happened?”
He heard her swallow over the phone. “FRANK!” She yelled excitedly – and then she seemed to calm herself. “Frank, Fola is in the hospital and it’s really bad!”
Frank didn’t know when he dropped the phone.